Friday, June 28, 2013

Do you know what?

Kevin Rudd is back. He is rocking around the place, cooking with gas. But will he be able to save the Labor party? On the face of it, there is a natural complementarity between his two philosophical approaches and a complementarity that could be developed further in the direction of some form of conceptual synthesis. All he has to do is to reverse engineer and start at the third year and move back to the first.

You might be thinking that is just a load of balderdash, a load of absolute bunkum. Well, fair shake of the sauce bottle! Let’s be fair dinkum.

It seems to me that Kevin 07’s second coming has brought humour back into Australian politics. I had to laugh when, just after his re-election to leadership of the Labor party, he said that there is too much negative personal politics in Australia and that ‘all this must stop’. He didn’t seem to be aware of the irony of saying that after having told us earlier in the day that he was contesting the leadership of the Labor party in order to ‘prevent Mr Abbott from becoming prime minister’. It would be hard to imagine anything more negative and personal than a political campaign to prevent another person from being elected.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Kevin would have known he was joking. I don’t think he knew he was joking either during the 2007 election campaign when he accused John Howard of engaging in an ‘irresponsible spending spree’ and said that this ‘reckless spending’ must stop. I didn’t know he was joking then, either. I thought that we had seen a convergence between the two sides of Australian politics and that the Labor party under Kevin Rudd would give high priority to responsible economic management. I even hoped that it might pursue productivity-enhancing reform with some vigour.

Looking back now, I must have been aware that some of the policies announced by Rudd were jokes played on a gullible electorate. For example, I must have suspected that fuel watch and grocery watch were political exercises designed to tell voters that Kevin was listening to their concerns and was prepared to engage in frenzied activity to give the appearance of doing something about them without actually doing anything. I suppose I thought that all governments have a tendency to play those kinds of games.

However, it is now clear that nearly all Kevin Rudd’s policies were like that. Rudd’s first government was like a swan attempting to do backstroke. Rather than gliding effortlessly across the surface of the water, with all its energy being expended below the surface, there was a lot of splashing around in public and a tendency to move backwards. It was as though Rudd saw his purpose in politics as being to just splash around and improve his popularity rating.

My book, Free to Flourish, contains the following suggestion:
‘A more critical attitude should be taken toward the efforts of politicians to be seen to be responding to public opinion. Democratic politics is reduced to comedy when individual members of the public look to politicians for leadership when forming their opinions and politicians look to public opinion polls in developing their policies. Politicians should be expected to maintain principled positions that are not blown around by changes in public sentiment.’

There is no prize for guessing which politician was at the forefront of my mind when I wrote that.

Like many other people in this country, I feel that the Labor caucus has righted a wrong in restoring Kevin Rudd to leadership of the Labor party. It is pleasing that those voters who are able to see through the practical jokes that Kevin 07 played on them (and himself) when he was previously prime minister have now been given the opportunity to vote against him.

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