In opinion on October 15, 2007 by karan Tagged: , , , , , ,

John Howard finally got the guts up to call the election, now set for Saturday the 24th of November. Instantly, he was on the attack and up to his old tricks.

His attack against the opposition was clear and upfront – they “are inexperienced” and his team “had the experience to serve”; if Labor came to power, it would remove “all checks and balances” with Labor parties in government in all the states. You could almost sense Howard going for that sense of inertia keeping people pinned back, relying once more on the status quo to prevail for the sake of it.

Howard also trotted out a new take on the economy, given the previous Coalition claims that interest rates would always be lower under them was now transparent to the public – he claimed unemployment would be lower – from 4.2 today to “something with a 3 in front of it”, and “better sharing of the benefits of strong economic growth.”

Please, can we have enough of this same-old clap-trap left outside of this campaign? Clearly not, I suppose.

Were experience always in question, we would never have switched governments – or oppositions would have to be filled with the same old fogeys going backwards and forwards. This argument should persuade no-one, and it’s clear from previous voting patterns that sometimes, those less experienced do manage to jump through even unexpectedly (Bracks in Victoria is probably the best example). And it’s not as if these people are absolute outsiders to the world of politics, either – this rings clearly as Howard’s weakest attack, targeting the “trust” image of the new Labor – polls suggest though that the people are fairly confident in Rudd, and he’s been prominent for the last year at least.

Checks and balances is a pure matter of misrepresentation; the division of areas of responsibilities between the states and the federal government was something that worked for years before the current government’s reign. To suggest that somehow the federal government is in place to counteract the states is purely ridiculous, and symptomatic of Howard’s downward-reaching policies which has seen the federal government replicating functions the states should be performing, or otherwise reducing the usefulness of the second tier of government, or at worst pushing them down one more tier and leaving councils entirely maintenance oriented. If you’re going to do that, remove them altogether and empower councils. The check and balance for the party in power should be the upper house, the Senate – that is what it was designed for, and what purpose it serves well enough when the government party doesn’t hold a double-majority as with the current Liberal-National government.

Having failed to make his point with taxes, Howard (and by proxy, his “economic manager” and heir-apparent Costello) has chosen to ‘tackle’ unemployment down from 4.2 percent to, at the least, 3.9%. And how does he propose to influence such outcomes? The implication is the answer to more employment lies in the WorkChoices industrial policy – and this shows exactly how Howard is missing the point of the electorate that has rejected WorkChoices out of hand.

Let us not forget that the “unemployment” rate is inevitably a slightly arbitrary figure – it only counts the numbers of those looking for work in comparison to those with, leaving out the disenfranchised entirely – and that its defition can (and has) changed; the barrier for entry to the total ’employment’ figure counts those on limited hours too, which is parcilarly misleading. Finally, further employment rises are more likely to expose inflationary pressures and also is a good indicator of the fact that we have a severe skills shortage. For something he’s got limited control over, again, it’s a bit much of a claim.

Better sharing of economic growth? From Howard? Does he think he’s a socialist all of a sudden? Ha, if you can’t see through this…

Finally, last but far from least, Howard’s sudden contrition around Aboriginal reconciliation; 10 years after he adamantly threw out any sign of caring for reconciliation with these most disadvantaged of Australians, he suddenly finds it within himself to propose a referendum on getting an entirely symbolic passage inserted into the constitution. Wow, Howard, did you come up with that over your lunch break, or did you scramble it in on the limo ride on the way to your speech? He even went so far as to admit that he comes from a time when Aborigines weren’t a political issue, and yet he should recall that his peers and predecessors were able to approach the issue openly, and it has only really been Howard who is most recalcitrant about this issue.

In summary?

Howard, your approach to this election is even more cynical than I could have expected. The Liberals deserve a leader, not another cynical power grab, and i’m afraid that’s what you’ve gone for, quite evidently.


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