02 July 2008

Give John Roskam a break

John Roskam has scoffed a fistful of the Tony Abbott Angry Pills and complains that Kevin Rudd isn't giving him a break.

The main thing to say about Rudd is that he hasn't leapt out of the blocks like a sprinter, but has started with a canter like marathon runners do. With all those inquiries and a general refusal to throw babies out with the Coalition bathwater, this is a man settling in for a long time rather than a good time.

It would have been easy to go for gladhanding populism from day one. It certainly would have pleased so-called tough guys in the back rooms of ALP head office - the polls would have stayed up and so would the fundraising. However, there's more to governing than that. So Labor missed the chance to win a seat it has never held - a "rebuff"? Give me a break.
At the moment the most challenging job for Canberra bureaucrats is keeping count of all of the Government inquiries being held.

Really? Well, someone has put together a Budget. Someone is busy rewriting industrial relations legislation. Someone is reworking the way that immigration applications are processed at a time when more people are migrating to this country than ever before. Someone is reworking the way that universities operate. Someone is fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in East Timor. Someone is putting together an emissions trading system (as Roskam points out) in the absence of any workable model for this kind of thing. If the bureaucracy isn't doing that, who is?

Roskam's catalogue of the Rudd Government's activities to date is clearly taken from the kind of shallow analysis we'd expect from the Canberra press gallery. Personally, I despaired for their shallowness - Rudd has built an entire new government but, because he didn't put out any press releases about it, shallow people like Annabel Crabb and John Roskam focused on cocktail parties. You'd hope that an Institute of Public Affairs would examine the activities of government more closely - give me a break.
At his meeting with premiers this week, one of the biggest arguments the Prime Minister faces is whether the Commonwealth or the states will pay for the electrical equipment required to implement his "education revolution".

Really? The biggest state in the country has folded. The Feds have the money, they have the legislative force majeure, and none of the shopworn Premiers/Chief Ministers are going to win politically by holding out on the most popular leader in the country. What is there to argue about? You haven't been sucked in by shallow press gallery hype again have you John?
It's true that some spending has been cut, but means-testing the baby bonus to stop millionaires getting it was also popular.

Damn these politicians for doing something popular! Curse them for wrecking Roskam's vapid little theses! Give me a break.
It's not too tough for an MP to hand over a cheque to the local sporting

Considering that sort of thing didn't save the Howard Government in 2007, nor the Keating Government in 1996, and will be forgotten by whenever the next election is - this could be tougher than you think.
First and foremost, he hasn't brought down the cost of groceries, petrol, or mortgages. It's true that Rudd was clever enough to avoid any explicit promises about these things during the election campaign. But he was happy enough to leave the impression with voters that should he become prime minister he would help alleviate the monetary pressures on working families. Now he says his government has done as much as they can for them. To most people this sounds like a feeble excuse.

What it sounds like is politics as usual. You don't have to be John Roskam to see through non-specific promises. The fact that Rudd's then opponent didn't see household expenditures as a major issue accounts for Rudd's success at and since the last election. Give me a break.
Second, the Government hasn't revealed what it is going to do to improve the quality of life of indigenous Australians.

Did he promise, explicitly or otherwise, to do this? Will this not take many years of extensive consultation (part of which, IPA-style, will inviolve the government leaving them alone)? Hasn't the first step, the apology, been taken? Given that Rudd has never said, nor does he apparently believe, that >2 centuries of Aboriginal disadvantage can be redressed and reversed within a single year - what makes you think that?
Labor has done its best to avoid revealing what exactly is its position on the Northern Territory emergency intervention.

Assuming it has one. I thought that public servants were monitoring and analysing this, but what would I know?
Instead of worrying about things that may or may not happen in 100 years' time, the Government could focus on what's occurring right here and now in indigenous communities.

Instead? What about "as well"? Is the climate debate focussed on 100 years time, or is it focused on the next decade? Are you really sure that there is no focus whatsoever by the Rudd Government on Aborigines?

Can you really make the case that Gippsland voted as it did because of a concern for Northern Territory Aborigines? Me neither. Give me a break.
The third thing Rudd hasn't done is to tell Australians anything about his emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases. All we know is that we're going to have one and it is going to start in two years. We don't know how it will work, how much it will cost, and how many jobs will be lost because of it.

Probably because they are still working this out, John - when they're not having cocktail parties and keeping track of inquiries, of course.

The comparison to Hewson in 1992-93 is more than fair. However, Hewson did this from opposition - Rudd was smart enough to wait until he had the practical help of government and some political momentum behind him. Same with Howard on the GST after 1998.

Roskam can't hold Rudd to Roskam's standards, insofar as he has any. Roskam can't hold Rudd to Rudd's standards, failing to resist a flight of fancy over the living conditions of Aborigines, an issue he clearly considers both difficult and tedious. I wonder why Roskam bothers, and it's a shame he doesn't. Give yourself a break John, because it won't just be you who's better off for it.

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