New PM for Australia

Waking up to a new PM…

So yesterday, like everyone else, I found out that the Labor Party power brokers got together and decided it was time for Australia to have a new Prime Minister. I realise in the Australian political system we elect political parties, not individuals – so this is well within the rules of the game.. but that doesn’t make it feel right that you can wake up one day and have a new PM that never fought an election.

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Now that he’s gone…

What do I think of Kevin Rudd… when he was elected I admit I had high hopes. I was glad to see the end of John Howard’s government which:-

  • volunteered our armed forces for combat in Iraq
  • failed to make any progress on reducing carbon emissions
  • had a backward and heartless approach to refugee applicants
  • continued to adopt American approaches to health policy which promoted profit in the private sector rather than provide health services
  • undermined equal opportunity in universities by introducing courses for wealthy students with lower entry scores and removing funding for university student unions

In Rudd I had hoped for such things to turn around, and in particular the new Labour government carried the hopes of Australians looking for a positive and active response to climate change. Initially Rudd provided a few glimmers of hope –

  • apologising to the ‘lost generation’
  • signing the Kyoto agreement
  • withdrawing troops from Iraq

But then economic stimulus blunders and political point scoring seemed to take up all the time of the Labour Party.  Major change was not implemented – to avoid offending various sections of the electorate.  Rudd did not even get to complete his first term, but for many the progress was already too slow.

The ETS (Emission Trading Scheme) was a complex and overly compromised plan to enumerate, cost and create an emission commodity which could be traded in markets. In my mind the concessions to polluters were such that the sectors of the economy that most needed change were intentionally sheltered from the responsibility of the pollution they generated – in effect subsidising polluters rather than creating significant financial incentives for innovation and change. Australians recognised the need to change the polluting practices of the past and were willing to bare some of the cost of change. When the ETS was continually submitted to the Senate, rejected, compromised further, and then shelved indefinitely. The report on taxation proposed significant changes to simplify taxation, remove complexities and this was ‘cherry picked’ by the government and most recommendations were ignored.  The promises of the Labour government were shown to lack the conviction and courage when implementing change could prove to be unpopular with some sections of the electorate.
How Julia Gillard rises to the challenges facing our economy and our environment will undoubtedly determine her success or failure in the eyes of voters.  I’m particularly interested in whether the Labor Party will continue to propose mandatory internet filtering and forcing ISPs to ‘eavesdrop’ on all internet traffic and store results for years – proposals that are unpopular with almost everyone as far as I can tell.

I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it either way!

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