21 November 2007

Back to 1996 with John Roskam

[Paul Keating] may yet have the last laugh on Saturday night. But not in the sense that he'll win the election — although that's not beyond the realms of possibility.

Rather, the Prime Minister's triumph rests with the truth that the only way the [Coalition] can beat him is by running a candidate on a platform that is practically identical to his own. In terms of policy inclination as well as personal style, there's a bigger difference between [Ralph Willis] and [Paul Keating] than there is between John Howard and [Paul Keating]. Saturday night might not so much be the ending of an era but its continuation under a new leader.

[The Coalition] might ponder what therefore will be the point of its victory. Members of the [Coalition] expecting that their party will satisfy the commitment to be the party of the "[right]" won't want to consider too closely what it means when Labor's tax policy is basically the same as that of the Liberals. The Greens can talk all they want about being the true party of the "left", but this rhetoric is hollow while their preferences go towards electing ALP candidates.

The dilemma for [the Coalition] is that because it has presented itself as conservative and safe, as soon as it does something that is neither of these things it will alienate the voters who delivered it government. Peter [Reith]'s comment that the ALP will change all its policies once it's in power wasn't an expression of his humour — it was an expression of his hope. What he forgets is that [the Coalition] will have been elected to keep things as they are. Change is the very last thing being demanded by voters in marginal seats.

The [ALP] might soon be starting some soul-searching of their own. As they begin arguing over [Paul Keating]'s legacy, they'll begin from a position that sees Labor more than happy to endorse the scale of the Liberals' taxing and spending policies.

Given that above all else in the mind of the public the Liberal Party stands for fiscal prudence, when it is the ALP promising to cut public expenditure and reduce the size of government, the Liberals have a problem. The problems get worse when it is appreciated what else has been lost. The principles of federalism and constrained government have been a core doctrine of the party since Menzies. Now they exist in name only.

The [1996] federal election could, for the moment at least, signal "the end of history" in Australian politics. Aside from some inconsequential differences, the major parties are characterised by the extent to which they agree. "Vision" hasn't featured in this campaign — possibly because the Liberals and Labor share the same vision.

There are few groups more disappointed by this policy convergence than the country's academic and intellectual left. And there are few groups that will have had less of an impact on the election outcome. The totemic issues of the left will not determine the election result...

It is ironic that it will be the votes of those the left disdains that could determine the election result. The ... rise of the families who aspire to own a McMansion and who are willing to take large mortgages to do so, has been the social phenomenon of the decade that has done the most to raise the ire of the left. Anyone concerned about keeping their job and paying their mortgage has been castigated as materialistic and voting out of "self-interest".

By using the phrase "working families", [Howard] has effectively repudiated this sort of mindset while acknowledging as legitimate the concerns of "working families". Indeed, the entire campaign against [Howard] is based on economic self-interest.

Those who hate [Keating] and everything he stands for have for [13] years deluded themselves with a convenient fiction. According to them, the Prime Minister is to blame for everything from the failure of the [L-A-W tax cuts] to the fact that the Japanese still hunt humpback whales. If only it was so simple. The frustration of the left is that to a large extent John Howard merely reflects that attitudes of his, and their, fellow citizens.

How [Paul Keating] changed Australia will be debated for years to come ... someone such as Paul Keating who had the arrogance to imagine ...

[Click here for a pathetic retread of the above, like Costello trying to dish it out in Question Time.]

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