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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Keating lets rip « Previous | |Next »
June 8, 2007

I caught the Lateline interview with Paul Keating last night. It was a gem, a sterling performance, that went beyond just defending his reformist legacy. He starts thus:

Hawke and I have been put out to grass because we had interest rates up in 1989. That's 20 years ago in two years from now. Bear in mind this Tony, Bob and I won the '90 election with interest rates, cash rates at around 16 per cent, housing rates about 16 per cent. I won in '93 when interest rates were not an issue. They were not an issue in 1996. So how come they became an issue in 2004, or in any way an issue now? The answer is because the Labor Party's inability to get across the argument and put it.

So what is the argument? Keating says that:
The real question today with the economy growing so rapidly and unemployment so low is why doesn't the tinder box go off? That is, why don't we get the big bang? The big bang in inflation and in wages back into the old dismal cycle? The answer is because of the structural changes. Nothing to do with Mr Costello's economic management.

The structural change was opening up the economy, floating the exchange rate, doing away with tariffs, and real wage reductions to get that competitiveness. So maintaining low inflation now is all about these structural things.

Today we have a focused group ALP that turns its back on the Hawke Keating years. Keating's response is that:

They'll do him no good. Because in the end those kind of conservative tea-leaf-reading focus group driven polling types who I think led Kim into nothingness, he's got his life to repent in leisure now at what they did to him. They're back, they're back....The Labor Party is not going to profit from having these proven unsuccessful people around who are frightened of their own shadow and won't get out of bed in the morning unless they've had a focus group report to tell them which side of bed to get out.

The current Federal secretary is the author of "don't fight them on interest rates" at the last election. So you wouldn't put much faith in the ALP embracing the Hawke/Keating heritage.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:30 AM | | Comments (11)


I was not around for the Keating era, but I wish I was. It seems that we could use a bit more straight talking with this generation of politicians.

I too worry about Rudd taking a cautious approach. He is by nature cautious and surrounding himself with cautious people may not be the way to go.

I caught the interview, very entertaining and pretty interesting!

He was a major economic reformer and proud of it, as Australia has benefited from the Hawke and Keating reforms. So he was defending his record, or his legacy, against the misrepresentations of the past decade as well as arguing that Howard and Costello have m been the beneficiaries of these reforms not it’s architects.Keating is the architect.

Keating can also rip up an opponents argument and leave them little credibility. He has a clear understanding that Costello ($Sweetie) has done little in terms of major economic reforms:

Everything in those national accounts yesterday, everything, that is the growth in the economy and the low unemployment, the reason the system is not blowing, the tinder box has not taken off is because of the float, because of the tariff changes and because of the IR changes [under Keating + Kelty], structural changes. That's why they're there. Not because of any superior management by Mr Costello.

Keating has few peers in selling the big picture economic narrative and putting things into perspective.
So he asks, 'What's Costello really done?'Who in the ALP asks that these days? Keating's answer is direct and savage:
He's taken the money, spent most of it to leave the surplus on empty. That's what he's done. Outlays are pinned at about 24 per cent of GDP. If revenue to GDP is 26 or 27, ipso facto you run a surplus of 2-3 per cent of GDP. That's all he's done. The idea quite frankly we need those characters, what structural change has he done? The only one he claims is the GST, but it does not change behaviour. I'm not going to eat any less, you're not going to eat any less because our food is GST taxed or our hair is going to stop growing. The GST changes nothing. It's not a behavioural structural changer.

It's analysis charged with passion.

Rudd, Swan and Smith cannot touch him in the grand narrative or the demolition of an opponent. So they play safe--go dead on the economy. Just as the ALP did under Beazley.

Yes, what a marvelous tongue he has.
Shame about the recession though. Remember that? The recession we HAD to have.

Keating! Keating! Here Boy! KICK Get back in ya box!

yes it was entertaining--eg., this in reference to centralised wage bargaining:

That is, I was the guy who had to get the ACTU in a headlock and pull its teeth out with a pair of pliers. But it was like administering, pulling a set of rotten teeth out. This is comparative ways justice which couldn't last.

And it was interesting in terms of how he would approach the IR reforms, thus:
We'll register all agreements (including AWAs and ingle enterprise workplace agreements) with two provisos…We will introduce a national minimum wage with conditions for annual leave, sick leave et cetera, no agreement will be registered which denigrates from that award. And the second condition is there'll be no positive discrimination against collective bargaining or the ability of a union to represent people. There might not be either positive discrimination for a union, but there won't be one against a union. Now once you've said that you've said the lot.

It's pretty snappy and clear.

A nasty little issue Keating also raised was the "capture" of the ALP by the NSW Right "machine" in particular, even to the extent of policy formulation imposed downwards by unimformed social conservatives and the methods parliamentarians would then be allowed to employ in discussing issues.
Nan's comments of three or four days ago went to the very heart of this change which has been developing momentum over the last couple of decades.
The ALP is no longer the party of discourse and new ideas.
Rather, new ideas and independent thinkers have been discouraged and sidelined. The examples of environmental and heritage policy, education and public broadcasting show just the damage that has been done. The decisions suit consciousness-devoid machine politicians and the vested interests they curry, at the expense of both the public and Labor's own reputation; ie, the aspirations of legitimate ALP people.
It has been easy from this point for Tory politicians and spinners to conflate the influence and dominace of factions in control ( of administrative apparatus ) to equate to "the unions". Unfortunately, the irony is that "the unions", in a meaningful rank and file participation and issues sense, have never had less influence than now.
The likes of Gunns, real estate sharks and that incorrigible old reprobate Pell have more say in the ALP, than the intelligentsia and the rank and file combined!

I remember.I suffered greatly. I detested Keating's arrogance. Bu that doessn't take away is brillance in policy analysis. Look at this bit of the interview:

"PAUL KEATING: Let me make this clear, the Liberals decided that they wouldn't use the conciliation and arbitration power.

Under that power of the constitution you always needed a commission who tested capacity to pay and comparative wage justice. They've now used the corporations power and the High Court for the first time as validated its use. That means a Federal Government can now legislate the wage and the conditions.

TONY JONES: You're talking about a Federal Labor Government using the corporations power to create what, a minimum wage and conditions?

PAUL KEATING: Make a minimum national award by legislation. Now it can have a group which recommends it. You can call it some commission of some kind to give you recommendation. But effectively the Treasurer or the minister for Labor could carry as an act of Parliament the national minimum award. Now once that's done what are we worried about with AWAs?

The people getting them in the mining industry are on $150 and $200,000 a year. They aren't down on a $30 or $40, 000. If you get your national award into place and get enterprise bargaining and the right of people to do collective bargaining you're home and hosed? "

Business ain't going to like that use of the corporation's power in the Constitution. Let's call it Howard's social justice legacy to the nation.

suprisingly, what Keating said about the NSW Right is very close to what Mark Latham said about the machine men in ALP politics----they have no interest in policy only in the fight against the faction---and about Beazley's small target strategy that was devised by the machine men.

I watched Insight(sbs) today. Yes there is a big gap between the miners on $55 per hour and the kid in the garage who was handed a workplace agreement the took $2 an hour of him and gave him Nothing. Sign it or find another job.
Peter Hendy made a good point in that a lot of employers are handing their employees illegal agreements to sign.
Policing these agreements is difficult given the number that are being drawn up.

Gary, I agree. He is definitely not scared to talk policy. I also found it interested how he would go through two or three sentence fragments until he worked out what he wanted to say. By doing the fragments, he made sure that the interviewer couldn't interrupt him.

I'm suprised that the Canberra Press Gallery commentators have not picked up the policy implications, especially the implications of corporations power for IR under a Labor Government.

The consensus holds that Keating is unable to break out from under his insistence that others were to blame for his 1996 defeat, not him. Keating's renewed tendency towards public advice-giving is not all that helpful to the future electoral chances of the party he served. The Labor Party suffers every time he opens his mouth.

I'm also suprised by the hostility towards Keating and his reforms Catallaxy They seem loathe to give him credit for them. Why so?