As Ken L reports over at Surfdom, Howard is flicking the switch to philosopher king, giving a speech in Brisbane today which as Guy at Polemica writes, is supposed to “position him as a political visionary”.
Mr Howard will today go on the offensive with the first in a series of speeches setting out a wide-ranging coalition agenda for the future with an address to the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane today.
His speech, entitled Australia Rising, will attack Mr Rudd’s workplace policy.
Mr Howard also hinted at a strategy focusing on a future dominated by the economic powerhouses of Asia.
“Today’s speech will focus, amongst other things, on the kind of world that we will all face, by say the year 2020,” Mr Howard said in his weekly radio address.
Obviously Howard is trying to counter the view that he’s old and out of ideas, and that he has no imagination and no policy creativity in the areas that will count in the future – climate change and productivity. Labor under Rudd has been very successful at demonstrating that the Opposition understands the imperatives facing the nation, that the government has dropped the ball on them, and that the ALP has pragmatic and appealling policies to meet our most pressing challenges.
At Ambit Gambit, Graeme Young argues that Rudd is being trusted on policy, and that consequently the Government will continue to attack his integrity. I think that will prove to be a mistake, and that the negative focus of Howard’s argument about WorkChoices is also a mistake.
(And as Tim Dunlop argues, a big business ad campaign in its favour is only going to reinforce perceptions that the IR regime is slanted towards employers, which is its biggest negative. Rudd is on a winner in portraying his IR reforms as balanced for that reason. The government’s rhetoric, seconded at high volume by the media, that business rejects Labor’s IR plan adds to the perception that WorkChoices is a law which plays to a sectional and powerful interest, not that it’s in the national interest.)
The Asia focus of today’s speech is obviously also an attempt to counter Rudd’s argument that WorkChoices has the effect of sending jobs as well as coal to China, but again it runs the risk – through its basic negativity – of reinforcing Labor’s themes.
Howard’s basic problem is that he has no coherent positive fifth term agenda, and is (as usual) resorting to the tactics of negativity, fear and smear. I strongly suspect no one is listening anymore, which is why this speech is potentially important. He has to articulate a compelling reason why he, and his government have an effective vision for the medium to long term circumstances this country faces, and this has never been his strong suit.
Here’s a question, though. Whyever call the speech “Australia rising”? What’s that supposed to signal?
Ps: The speech, apparently, will also be groovy:
Prime Minister John Howard will arrive in the federal battleground of south-east Queensland today to begin explaining to Australians why they should give the coalition its fifth electoral victory later this year.
But Mr Howard says he has not been spooked into his second visit to Queensland within a week by poor opinion polls ahead of this year’s federal election.
“You shouldn’t microanalyse my program; I go all around the country on a regular basis. I love going to Queensland and I love going everywhere else in the country,” he said on ABC Radio.
“It’s a perfectly normal, in the groove, thing to do.”