Sunday, February 01, 2009

What does Kevin Rudd really stand for?

Fact is who knows? In 2006, he touted himself as a Christian socialist, then as the 2007 election loomed, he was all of the sudden, an economic conservative. In Rudd's words:

A number of people have described me as an economic conservative, when it comes to public finance it’s a badge I wear with pride
Now in 2009, says Bolt, “a year after his election ads, and in the very same Monthly, Rudd has pinned yet another badge to his chest".

“Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself:..(T)he time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes ...(T)he social-democratic state offers the best guarantee of preserving the productive capacity of properly regulated competitive markets, while ensuring that government is the regulator, that government is the funder or provider of public goods and that government offsets the inevitable inequalities of the market...”

Do we really know what Rudd stands for? Is he a socialist, economic and fiscal conservative or, a social democrat who rejects “great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years” and demanding a “a new contract for the future”?

On the question what Rudd really stands for, Peter Costello flagged his concern before most.

It brought to mind a Time magazine article following the November ’07 election:

Whether a Labor government would manage Australia's $1 trillion economy as adeptly as have Howard and Costello remains a voter concern, according to polls. However, Rudd has largely defused economic management as an issue. The thrust of his case is that Australia's strong economy is less the result of any judicious handling on the part of the government than of the ongoing minerals boom and watershed reforms undertaken in the 1980s by Labor governments. He's repeatedly cast himself as an economic conservative and tried to prove it by declining to match the government's spending promises.

Rudd is offering the country just enough tinkering around the edges of government policy in the areas of Iraq (a phased pull out of Australia's 1,400 troops), industrial relations (abolition of an unpopular Howard program) climate change (ratifying the
Kyoto Protocol), education (more laptops in high schools) and communications (faster Internet access) to convince Australians that it's worth making a change. "After 11 years, it's now time to turn the page on this government," Rudd says. "Australia is a great country but not as great as we can be."

All this temperance has injected one big question among Australians: who is this man who is likely to become the country's leader? Traditional, left-leaning Labor voters are generally lukewarm about Rudd and his softly-softly approach, but hope he'll fire up once in power. Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett gave them encouragement when he told an off-duty talkback radio host: "Once we get in we'll just change it all" — a remark condemned by the rest of his party as a monumental gaffe. That's precisely why Australians are uncertain of Rudd: is he the Steady Kevvie who's been on show this past year, or is he simply an old-fashioned lefty play-acting the only role that can undo John Howard's rule?

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