17 October 2007

Wider than the generation gap

We've come a long, long way together
Through the hard times and the good
I have to celebrate you baby
I have to praise you like I should

I have to praise you
I have to praise you
I have to praise you
I have to praise you like I should

- Fatboy Slim Praise You

Wider than the generation gap is the credibility gap of the Howard government, and those of its boosters who have not turned dingo like Albrechtsen.

There is no connection between what they're saying now and what will actually happen. I realise that Costello timed the $28 tax cut for what he hoped would be maximum effect, but it is possible that - and media should examine this - time had run out and he strategic decision was flawed wrong. The fact that so few people believe that the Coalition will get back in is reflected in the poll results, and in that reflection the credibility of the Coalition in seeking re-election is further dimmed.

Into this credibility gap wades Josh Frydenberg, not to bury Costello but to praise him:
One of the central planks of Latham's campaign was the claim that a vote for John Howard was a vote for Peter Costello to be prime minister.

Latham certainly failed to make the case why he should become Prime Minister. In typical Frydenberg style, you know that a solid, unimpeachable fact is merely a battering ram for one of his more airy confections, which could not possibly stand on its own:
Far from having a negative impact on voters, it became a timely reminder of Costello's successful stewardship of the economy and is thought to have contributed in no small part to the Government's victory with an enhanced majority.

And "is thought" by whom, Josh? By Victorians who have ended up as Liberal staffers and who realise that Peter Costello is the last best hope of their generation to work for a Prime Minister, for them to experience being at the heart of government. Previous generations of Victorian Liberals from Deakin to Fraser had simply assumed this as a birthright. This quote could only come from people determined to portray Costello in the best, shiniest light possible, so that any refraction on them may be all the brighter.

What Josh is doing here is going the suck, trying to draw his political career upward by some form of capillary action. Costello blocked him in Kooyong and Josh clearly can't just wait until Costello expires. Having been a staffer for Howard and Downer, Josh would not only have heard his fair share of anti-Costello invective - ever eager to please, he would have engaged in it - and Costello cannot have failed to be aware of this. Josh has a lot of grovelling to do if he isn't going to miss out on such benefits as may come from a Costello-led government. This article is a first shuffle in a thousand-mile journey of crawling and kissing Costello arse.
Rudd's pronouncement that "Mr Costello has never been in touch with working families" invites a comparison of the economic conditions enjoyed today by working families compared with those that existed when Costello became Treasurer in March 1996.

Over any 11 year period in the history of this country, jobs will have been created and real wages will have increased. This is why nostalgia is not that potent as a political weapon, a lesson that should have been learned for all time when in Britain, Churchill's Conservatives lost the 1945 elections.
Costello is the undisputed architect of Australia's $1 trillion economy

No, he is not. Andrew Charlton points out in last month's Monthly how little Costello had to do with the economic prosperity we now enjoy (and consequently, how little blame he'll deserve when the steam comes off it). Anyone who works in finance knows this is bullshit. It is extremely illiberal to build this image of The Great White Father who holds our very living standards in his own two hands. In economic policy terms, government's role largely involves getting out of its own way as well as that of hard-working Australians: Costello knew that in his H R Nicholls days, and however high he might rise he is poorer for not keeping to this.

This isn't to denigrate Costello's performance as Treasurer, but it doesn't do to overstate it either. Mind you, I'm not looking for Costello to get his foot off my throat so that I can slide into Parliament.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has praised Australia's commitment to structural reform as "a model for other OECD countries"; leading economist Paul Krugman labelled Australia the "miracle economy"

Indeed they did. They also took pains to mention that much of this reform took place under the Hawke-Keating governments. This kind of sleight-of-hand that makes you look like a hack, Josh.
Indeed, should Labor continue to focus on Costello's ascension to the leadership, it will offer the Government an important opportunity to showcase the Treasurer's breadth of experience and expertise beyond economic matters.

Oh, yes! Let's!
From the time of his maiden speech to Parliament in 1990, he has emphasised the subservience of government to the citizen, warned against the danger of ideology and made it clear that his allegiance is to the individual over monopoly control.

If you're going to emphasise a man's experience and achievements, it does not to do hark back 17 years and demand that his words be taken at face value. The onus of red tape and paperwork has shifted very squarely to the individual, unthinkable for a "Burkean-type liberal" in a technological age. Monopoly control? Perhaps not, but there's scarcely been a cosy duopoly over the past eleven years that Costello didn't like, in typical Melbourne style.
These fundamental precepts dovetail neatly with Howard's view of the world

No they do not. Government bloat persists well into this government's second decade and the overall size of the public sector has grown, not decreased, with size not necessarily boosting effectiveness (and let's not engage in any lame claim that the states are entirely reponsible for public sector bloat). Any "dovetailing" seems only to have made the Costello-Howard personal rivalry more bitter.
Costello's ... understanding such critical policy areas as demographic change, competitive federalism and the welfare of our indigenous communities make him well able to implement the Government's reform agenda.

This understanding has not manifested itself in significant policy responses. Such responses as there have been came from the PM's office, gazumping and often bypassing Treasury entirely. Nowhere has Costello demonstrated a policy agenda in a non-economic area and imposed it, as Keating did.
it involved the Treasurer saying "no" to the spending "wish lists" of his colleagues.

Yeah, they all do that Josh. Trying to make a virtue out of a necessity again.
a re-elected Coalition government will find itself again swimming in a sea of state Labor governments.

Wrong imagery, wrong thinking. The idea that the Commonwealth is at the mercy of the states is absurd. Not since Gorton was monstered by Bolte, Askin and Bjelke-Petersen have we seen such a weak response from Canberra. I'm still amazed that a seven-time-loser hack like Steve Bracks has become a political colossus, and frankly it's the fault of people like Josh who want to perpetuate this bi-polar bullshit about Big Daddy in Canberra/small swimmer in a raging sea (a bit like Fatboy Slim, really). No-one wants to be governed by people who don't know who they are.
Costello should have few problems translating his experience dealing with state treasurers, who have included new premiers John Brumby and Anna Bligh, into productive relationships at the head of government level.

And Wayne Swan won't?

This is a reprise of the only claim Costello has to the leadership: it's my turn. John got a handover, Anna got a handover, why can't I?
As a proponent of Australia's engagement with Asia and a longstanding advocate of our alliance with the US, he has been a regular visitor abroad.

Yeah, just like Kevin Rudd.
last November's G20 meeting ... was the scene of some substantive discussions on the pressing issues of energy security, aid and debt relief, and demographic change.

No substantive outcomes, just discussions.
With the combination and qualities of Howard followed by Costello firmly in place, leadership may be a subject the Labor strategists would be well advised to avoid.

It is just not possible to be well advised by Josh. The question-begging, the sliding around of difficult issues, the weak arguments and sleights of hand about sources in his articles indicate that Howard and Downer were poorly served by his advice. Somewhere there is a seat in Melbourne that will foist Josh into Federal Parliament and into the Parliamentary Liberal Party for two or three decades, squandering further opportunities available to this lucky country now and into the future. Let me curse you in advance and hope that climate change forces the Yarra to rise and swallow you all.

Yes, the "lucky country" reference was deliberate: "Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck", wrote Donald Horne in 1964. For all the boosterism in the Mann article linked above, it looks like this will continue into the coming century thanks to the resistable rise of Joshua Frydenberg.

No comments:

Post a Comment