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Rudd Labor, health reform, modernization « Previous | |Next »
March 10, 2008

Nicola Roxon, the federal health Minister, talks in terms of root and branch reform of health care. Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister, talks in terms of a hefty injection of federal money and a set of selective federal performance targets bringing the state's performance of their public hospitals up to a level where they are out of the headlines. The inference from Rudd is that he is not embarking on a basic structural reform.

Since Wayne Swan, the Treasurer, and Lindsay Tanner, the Finance Minister, talk nonstop about cutting back the federal budget and government spending to fight the inflation monster, I cannot see how that fiscal conservatism will lead to the 'root and branch' reform that Roxon is talking about. From what I can judge there is not going to be much 'root and branch' reform to provide better health care services in the first term of office.

So what then of Rudd Labor's reforming, modernising programme? What does it consist in? What is it trying to achieve? Are there dominant and subaltern elements of Rudd Labor's reforming, modernizing programme. Is the conflict between the two going to be managed by spin?

Will the modernising centre-right cause Rudd Labor to become the 'great moving right show' that pre-empts any substantive move of the government in a leftward direction. The left's old welfare state positions have been marginalised.The traditional left binary, antagonistic vision of an alternative future based on public health (modelled on the NHS) that is opposed to private health and the market has little credibility, and its appeal is now residual, a demand for recognition of what seems to be a social force in decline.

On the other hand the strategy by the right to ‘roll back’ these gains (via ‘modernisation’, ‘flexibilisation’, and ‘reform’) continue to make up the main agenda of democratic politics in Australia; but this remains stalemated after the last election when the Australia electorates do not vote for a worsening of their own conditions of life.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:08 PM | | Comments (9)
Comments

Comments

Gary,
One strategy being deployed by Rudd Labor is 'triangulation'.

This was the name given by Clinton’s New Democrats to the strategy of positioning a potential government between both of the contending political parties, including his own. This was Blair's New Labour’s strategy too.

‘Triangulation’ places a political leader above the party struggle (which is the nearest we get to political embodiment of class relations).

Nan,
It's not clear that the traditional left of the ALP have adequate answers for the set of problems to which Rudd Labor is abliged to address. has a particular set of solutions.

The traditional position of the left has been to seek to construct a contrasting, binary alternative to the world-view of its antagonist, and to base its politics on that. Thus, state versus market, equality versus opportunity, collectivism versus individualism, and the embodiments of these oppositions in each sphere of policy. This position was formerly underpinned by manifest class differences and antagonisms.

The "socialist" world-view could reasonably be held to represent the perspective of the working class and its far-sighted, universalistic, or merely instrumental allies drawn from more favourable class locations.

Gary,
Economic reform is back on the agenda. Inflation has been outed as the bogy facing Australia. Budget cuts are back, as are competition policy, deregulation, and engagement with the states on reforms. Rudd Labor looks serious on this.

Nan,
Tim Colebatch in the Age says Rudd has been adept at seizing the political middle ground, while dodging hard decisions that would cost him political capital. At some point, like Hawke and Keating, he will have to start taking risks, or fail to clear the challenges he faces.

Nan,
Yes, Rudd adopts a strategy of 'triangulation', as he stands above the factions as well as being as fiscal conservative. He is positioned as the modernising leader against the ‘retrogressive’ demands by his party. ‘Triangulation’ places a political leader above the party struggle and factional conflict.

Peter,
Do you think that Rudd Labor will open up spaces ‘to renew social democracy’? Is possible to breathe life back into the political language of social democracy? Does it require a new conception of the individual and a new model of public life and the social realm?

Wasn't it a pious hope that a decade in opposition, with all the the traumas and tribulations that would have entailed, would have weaned them off economic rationalism when all else had failed?
On the other hand, the mindless and infantile borrowing/leveraging/spending habits of both household and corporate Australia, encouraged by that ultimate delinquent Howard, would have surely had genuine observers aggreived and at a loss to communicate to Australians the need for contmplation of a belated return to a relation to the real world and reality.
Yet Henry and his neolib boffins have the ear of the economics ministers, who are too ignorant of real economics to discern these from ideology and sado-economics, so the shocks are again directed at the vulnerable rather than the comfortably- off, middle class welfare and corporate welfare.

Paul,
yes the blunt weapon of increased interest rates and the 2008 budget cuts are going to hit the vulnerable and Labor's 'working families' hard. The politics of this is the "two Australias" as the Rudd Government walks a tightrope between inflicting pain to cool the economy and fulfilling its promise to look after working families.

paul,
A survey out yesterday, by credit-checking company Veda Advantage, found more than 3 million Australians spend over 40 per cent of their income paying off debts.