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Canberra watch: Gillard's retreat « Previous | |Next »
July 16, 2010

Julia Gillard's speech to the National Press Club was designed to show Gillard's record as a reformer in education and industrial relations and to point to the future reforms. I found it disappointing in understanding what "moving forward" slogan stands for policy wise. Moving forward to where?

Most of the Canberra Press Gallery commentary is about the Laurie Oaks bomb (based on a leak from Rudd) that reminds us of the nature of Australian politics.

In her speech Gillard says that the upcoming campaign will have strong elements of ‘clean' and ‘green' but above all else it will be very lean. So how will moving forward to clean and green be delivered, given that Gillard says that the context of heightened global uncertainty caused by the global financial crisis time for prudent and careful economic management. She adds:

In the 1980s and 1990s, Labor Governments led economic reform by recognising that in changing global conditions, only an open, market-driven economy could prosper. That meant floating the dollar, reducing tariffs, ensuring wage restraint and implementing sweeping competition policy reforms. But as conditions change again, we need more than economic stability to ensure future prosperity. We need active reforms to improve Australia's ability to compete, to make sure that all our assets are utilised productively, and to make the most of our value-adding capacity.

She adds that the sectors which may need renewal and reform are often those that were relatively untouched by the Hawke-Keating reforms - sectors like health and education that meet essential public needs, delivered largely within the domestic economy. There was no mention of energy at all.

The strategy is this:

As far as I am concerned, there is no inherent superiority in a public sector or a private sector provider – certainly not on ideological grounds. The challenge is not whether to combine public and private resources in these essential sectors, but how best to do it.Simply applying the extreme free-market medicine of liberalisation and privatisation without thought or care is not a solution. Maintaining an instinctive hostility towards the public sector and all it provides is equally wrong...the microeconomic challenges of the future are not a simplistic choice between the market and the state, but the more sophisticated challenges of market design so that we bring public and private resources together to deliver better services and increased productivity.

Despite the mention of strong elements of lean and green nothing was said about addressing climate change. The goal of public policy is increased prosperity and fairness.There was one mention of a sustainable economy being a goal:
Economic reform should benefit families, boost national prosperity, enable more Australians to enjoy the dignity of work and deliver a more competitive and sustainable economy. Over time, there should be a virtuous cycle between investment in human capital and resilient communities and economic growth.

The emphasis in the speech was on prosperity---advancing an agenda that moves Australia forward to a more productive, modern Australian economy; one whose dividend to Australians is better quality services, better quality jobs, more competitive firms, a better quality of life and greater financial security for the future. This is old Labor. It has little interest in making the shift to a low carbon economy. It is conservative Labor --- exemplified by Gillard's educational reforms which were about testing students not fostering critical thinking.

Labor has retreated from using the market as a mechanism to address greenhouse gas emissions. Gillard says that what matters is:

methodically working to create the conditions in which markets serve the public interest through vigorous competition, transparent information, the freedom to make choices and a responsiveness to the needs of service users.

Using markets to serve the public interest has been rejected in terms of climate change and making the polluters pay for their greenhouse emissions.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:02 AM | | Comments (18)


'lean' implies fiscal conservatism and bringing the budget back to surplus. It is becoming clear that the Gillard Government , like the Howard one before it, is riding the same commodities boom to riches - only it is using the proceeds to paper over a hole in revenues created by its miners tax backdown.

Jessica Irvine in the National Times draws a sketch of Australia's economic future:

As the mining sector streaks ahead, other parts of the economy are being left behind. Household spending growth is slowing as the stimulus fades and interest rates rise. The pace of home construction has stalled, putting upward pressure on house prices. ...Australia's growing pains are back... Infrastructure bottlenecks are back...he boom in one part of the economy is ripping out the heart of other industries, as resources and labour shift to the faster growing parts

She adds that for a government that came to power three years ago promising to ease the squeeze on families, the inflationary squeeze could prove difficult to explain.

Nick Bryant's picture of Australian politicsNThe Australian Ugliness (2) is fascinating.

Ruminating on the schizophrenic streak in the national character, [Robin] Boyd described his fellow countrymen and women as "cruel but kind". When applied to Australian politics, his analysis is surely two words too long...Certainly, the brutopia of Rudd's departure adds to the sense that Australia is out of kilter with the rest of the political Anglo-sphere. Its cadres of professional politicians have become more tribalistic, clannish and intensely partisan at a time when office-holders in America and Britain are heading in the opposite direction.

He says that Rudd's execution has been an ugly phase in national and state politics, and he suspects that we are on the verge of an ugly campaign.

Laurie Oaks did ask some pertinent questions. He asked Gillard whether Rudd had told her in his office the night before he was deposed that he was planning an October election.

Oakes continued: "Is it true that Mr Rudd indicated that closer to the election if polling showed he was an impediment ... he would voluntarily stand aside?

"Is it also true that you agreed that this offer was sensible and responsible?

"Is it true that there was then a brief break during which Rudd went outside and briefed his colleagues on what he thought was a deal, while you contacted your backers; and when the meeting resumed you said you had changed your mind; you'd been informed that he didn't have the numbers in caucus and you were going to challenge anyway?"

This was no Kirribilli style agreement. Rudd knew he'd gone. He was trying to hang on. Gillard just cut him loose. She had the numbers. That was all that mattered.

"In the 1980s and 1990s, Labor Governments led economic reform by recognising that in changing global conditions, only an open, market-driven economy could prosper. That meant floating the dollar, reducing tariffs, ensuring wage restraint and implementing sweeping competition policy reforms".

There is history being re-written before our very eyes. Tripartism? What's that? Industry policy? Never heard of it. Economic Policy Advisory Council (EPAC)? Huh? "Australia Reconstructed"? Never read it. Industrial democracy? You must be kidding!

As a guide to what a Gillard Government will do it was a singularly uninformative speech, full of vague platitudes. The ideological embrace of the virtues of government surpluses as having some intrinsic merit was economically illiterate and a blatant pandering to the uninformed. How nice it would be one day to see a prime minister using the office to try to lead and educate voters instead of offering populist nonsense.

The Coalition has abandoned its support for an ETS in favour of paying big emitters to stop or cut back. The Victorian Labor Government appears to be heading in the same direction with its request to the Federal Government to help fund the partial closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria - the "dirtiest" power station in Australia.

And Gillard? Direct action but no price on carbon either as a carbon tax or or an emissions trading scheme. Direct action is expensive and that comes up against lean and the need to establish a community consensus for action. It's code for inaction. There is "no moving forward" here. It is moving back.

to be fair Gillard has said that the Government will stick with its intention of reviewing global progress at the end of 2012 before deciding whether to proceed with the emissions trading scheme.She told ABC TV's Lateline.

The pricing of carbon I think is best done through a market-based mechanism, that is the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and the 2012 timeframe stands there.

Her direct action would be a set of things that they can do prior to 2012.

Laurie made a startling claim to me about John Gorton in 1970. He's my source. I wonder about his sometimes.

Can't lose if your ask questions that you know won't be answered. He was making a speech: look what I found out. It's one side of conversation that the other participants can't dispute because they are keeping their confidences.

It will come down to jobs,job,jobs whoever wins the next election. Look at Obama and how popular he was. He is now sitting on 44% and falling.
N.B.N will create jobs and the E.T.S wont.

I might as well get it out now... In the next federal election, I'm voting Green.

I am well aware that my vote will probably go to Labor on preferences. It's just that I cannot hold my nose and pick Gillard's mob straight up!

Maybe there's enough like me for Labor to take notice. I really don't know how many voters have stayed firmly put while Labor hurtles to the right... I don't know how many feel that there's now two right-wing parties dominating Australian politics. Perhaps there's only a handful... perhaps most of the folks in the 'burbs aren't too concerned about ideology.

But, for me, it's a matter of principle.

I'm voting Green for the House of Reps and the Senate. It will make no difference in my electorate as Mayo is a Liberal stronghold reinforced by One Nation.

Make sure you vote Green in the Senate --that is where it will make a difference. If the Greens gain the balance of power--as I hope-- that means the Gillard Government will be forced to negotiate with them.

That may help to counter Labor's drift to the right due to the influence and power of the NSW Right.

Senate... Reps... it's already a done deal for me. One of Rudd's positive points was (simply) that he WAS NOT John Howard. Gillard..? yeah... ah... eh...

What I'd like to know is if there is a substantial bucket of voters who are thinking along the same lines a me.

I suspect that the answer is... NO!

Quite understandably, most of the electorate is going to vote based on their IMMEDIATE self-interest. That's only natural. And the major parties know that very well.

The political class are a caste apart who see us as "cynics and sneerers".

It is said that people like to vote for the candidate that most resembles themselves...

Oh damn! We are SO in the shit!

The good thing is that it will all be over in 5 weeks which coincidentally is the gestation period of a mole or weasel

Green preferences could well decide the election

We don't want to return to Labor's emission trading scheme.---it issued far too many free permits to the industries such as aluminium smelters, steel producers and cement makers etc.

The principle should be one one of the polluter pays. Will Labor retreat from this?