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Kevin Rudd managed to keep his rising panic in check as he officially launched Labor’s election campaign on Sunday with some modest, practical proposals.
Instead of the impulsive and irrational ideas he had pitched in recent days in his desperation to retrieve Labor’s campaign, he suggested ways to improve job training and aid small business. Hare-brained Kevin stepped back. Helpful Kevin stepped forward.
Sunday’s proposals were targeted at the outer-metropolitan marginal seats that Labor needs to hold and to win, with policies aimed at the blue-collar vote and the small business sector.
For the blue-collar vote, Rudd offered to increase the allowance for apprentices to buy their first tool kit. He also pitched ideas for forcing the states to step up funding for TAFEs, threatening to set up a separate new federal TAFE system if they did not.
If these ideas sound familiar, it’s because John Howard did the same in pursuit of the same voters.
And Rudd increased the size of the upfront tax deduction for small businesses buying new equipment. Howard had similar but different proposals.
These ideas are not likely to save Labor from imminent defeat. As Howard found, when the people have formed a judgment that a government’s time is up, no amount of electoral bribery will save it.
But neither were Rudd’s wild ideas going to save Labor. They just cost more. Even if Labor goes on to lose the election, a prime minister throwing irrational ideas around harms the national debate and the national interest.
Two of the stars at Labor’s launch were Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, the architects of Australia’s economic modernisation.
They would have been appalled at Rudd’s sudden suspicion of foreign investment last week. It’s anathema to the Hawke-Keating achievement in creating a prosperous, open, modern economy. Only the old-fashioned protectionist, Bob Katter, a devotee of a bankrupt economic model, was delighted.
Australia is built on foreign investment. It relies on continuing overseas investment to finance growth, year in and year out.
Australia is on the brink of a responsibility void in the national debate. Who will lead the argument for good policy?
Like his suggestion to move the Garden Island navy base to Queensland at a minimum cost of $6 billion when Defence can’t find the money for planes and submarines, it is irrational policy and desperate politics.
Whether his ideas have been hare-brained or helpful, Rudd has failed to produce a compelling positive reason for a third Labor term and continues to fall back on his scare campaign about Tony Abbott.
Australia is not sure that it can trust the Liberals, but every indication is that it knows it has had enough of Labor.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.