Mind, messed with.

John Howard didn’t look at all happy tonight. He’d been wedged. He’s a clever politician, that Kevin Rudd.

Howard, far from pulling rabbits from a hat, is actually very predictable. Even the cynical press gallery, I think, were shocked by the extent of Monday’s spendathon, but his past form should have meant that it could have been picked a mile off. While there are some who correctly point out that the difference between Labor’s spend and the Coalition is a drop in the ocean when considering commonwealth outlays over the next four years (which appears to be the time frame everyone is using in announcements), that’s to miss the point that the razor gang promise is serious, and Rudd made a downpayment on that tonight by cutting existing programmes to fund the technical training plan. There’s also some truth in the Labor claim that such initiatives build capacity, but the bigger picture is, as Peter Martin eloquently puts it, that Labor have now demonstrated an understanding of the need for fiscal restraint.

There’s a bit of symbolism about it, but it does suggest that when Ken Henry knocks on Wayne Swan’s door in the event of a Labor victory, there won’t be any surprises. In fact, that shouldn’t be a surprise as Swan has been very careful to note on several occasions the respect he has for Henry – and that is also an important pointer – not least to the fact that Labor understand that there’s no future in inflationary spending which the Reserve will quickly claw back until the message finally gets through.

When the story of the campaign is written, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the “me too-ism” turned out to be a deliberate tactic to trap Howard into spending like a drunken sailor, and Rudd’s call – “stop, enough!” had already been scripted. Howard’s fallen into a hole he dug himself, as any further attempt to go with his instincts and spend his way out of electoral oblivion reinforces the interest rates/inflation message and shreds his own economic credibility while changing tack accepts the validity of Labor’s critique.

It also wasn’t a good look that when some astute beancounters noticed that Howard was close to spending more than would ensure the fetishised 1% of GDP surplus was maintained, he resorted to telling the Fin that Treasury forecasts were usually wrong and he anticipated bigger revenues. This makes him look reckless, or complacent, rather than responsible.

And Peter Costello, who also must have seen all this coming, undermined the “repealing WorkChoices will see the end of the world arrive” narrative by boasting today that wages were growing under the Coalition. It just doesn’t make sense, and there’s enough evidence around that voters understand the connection between reckless spending and interest rate rises to make this particular convoluted argument (whose premises in any case are entirely false) a bit too much to swallow.

We live in interesting times. But, fortunately, good times for those who genuinely are concerned to see something done about the cost pressures on working women and men of Australia. (Oh, and their families…)

Cross-posted at PollieGraph.

Posted in federal election '07
15 comments on “Mind, messed with.
  1. […] Cross-posted at LP in Exile. […]

  2. wbb says:

    It’s also good times when the reaction from stuffed shirts like Paul Sheehan at Geelong Grammar (a bloke who usually never misses an opportunity to spruik private over public education), to Howard’s tax rebates is: grow a brain!

    Tell’s me that Paul Sheehan has personally decided to vote Labor and so can’t positively rationalise Howard’s pork barrelling. Tell’s me the voter is not for turning this time. S/He wants a change.

    Been a damn good campaign. Fingers crossed.

  3. Jenny says:

    I think that’s checkmate.

  4. mbahnisch says:

    I think it may well be. All they’ve got left is ranting about unions and “wall to wall”.

  5. Sam Clifford says:

    I read in today’s “The Australian” that the Liberals’ spendathon had reduced the projected budget surplus to less than 1% of GDP. Howard non-core promised to keep the budget in surplus at greater than 1% of GDP and this represents a huge amount of pork that Howard’s spending to try and win. Any attempt to cut spending in other areas will be seen for what it is and spending cuts aren’t politically popular anyway. We don’t like our pork being taken away from us.

  6. philiptravers says:

    Wait and see what happens after the election for though it is robot like now not trusting anyone..surely a truth resides in that,and to me Rudd remains untrustworthy…and I am not a Lib-Nat voter.It seems odd to me that when the big bikkies of economics are displayed for comparison, things muttered on a day to day basis previously and on such days are somehow drowned out.

  7. Ambigulous says:

    Mind, messed with.

  8. Megan says:

    Yeah, conservative spending and all that but will the public buy it? The last 10 years has seen every election time degenerate into an unseemly scramble for handouts. People like to say they respect fiscal conservatives, but when it comes to the crunch would they prefer the money? It’ll all come out in the wash at the election I suppose – not long now!!!!

  9. Foucault A Go Go says:

    The way the MSM has been treating all these spending pledges as though they are no more than calling a horse race has been disguting. Last night, all the nightly TV “News” bulletins lead with which party promised the most on Wednesday compared to Monday, by what %, followed by a follow-up opportunity of reply to both sides but only the % difference.

  10. Paul Burns says:

    I was intrigued by the look on Howard’s face when he whined, “He’s spending more than meee!” He looked like the kid caught shoplifting a Mars Bar from Woolies.

  11. mbahnisch says:

    Yeah, it’s really quite pleasurable to watch Howard being very deftly boxed in.

  12. Katz says:

    Leunig’s cartoon in The Age this morning is balm for the soul.


  13. jinmaro says:


    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune–without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

    Emily Dickinson

  14. Paul Burns says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve sent it all round the world.

  15. aidan says:

    I’m thinking that Howard thought he could get away with spending more because he has that economic credential bollocks sewn up in punterville. Probably true but he looks a right goose relying on dodgy treasury forecasting to fund it. Can you imagine the sheer frothed-mouth spittle-flecked invective hurled at the Labor party had they tried a stunt like that!?

    The MSM are worse than sheep. They are the ones who are trained to lead the others to the slaughter house. Fuckers.

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