What’s John Howard going to do about Mark Latham you ask?  Reslease a new work and family policy in time for the election.
“A radical overhaul of family assistance payments, childcare subsidies
and access to part-time jobs for parents returning to paid work was
secretly approved in principle by the Howard Government more than a
year ago,” is how the Australian leads today.

“A leaked cabinet minute obtained by The Australian reveals that the
Government agreed in December 2002 to a menu of far-reaching reforms.
However, it has continued to sit on the package rather than put the
reforms to work.

“This is despite the cabinet minute’s acknowledgment of deep and
persistent problems facing Australians balancing work and life issues…”

Why?  Timing, sillies.  Why make life easier for ordinary Australians when you can do it just before an election.

In a second item, the Oz  details just what the Government might have planned:

“After the success of John Howard’s ‘baby bonus’, his 2001 election
pitch to families, the Prime Minister described work and family balance
as the Government’s big domestic policy priority for this term of

“He rightly called it a barbecue stopper. As a result, in 2002 a group
of bureaucratic heavy hitters came together and produced a 100-page
cabinet submission: ‘Work and family. Initial report of
inter-departmental taskforce. On December 17 of that year, cabinet
considered the issue. Discussions were held, resolutions made, courses
of action agreed upon.

“And then, abruptly, the barbecue stopped. The snags grew cold, the
beer warmed up and, 15 months later, the guests have long since gone
home. But now, both the taskforce report and the cabinet minute that
records the Government’s discussions have been dusted off and leaked.
It now seems clear from their contents that we will see a fully formed
package of work-family measures pulled out of the Prime Ministerial hat
as part of either the federal budget in May, or in the lead-up to the
election later this year.

“A good, well-constructed work and family policy could be just the
domestic attention grabber that Howard needs as he tries to slow the
momentum of a rampant Mark Latham – the Opposition Leader whose pitch
is to the young, struggling families of Australia.

“And there are good policy reasons to put such a policy in place…”

Yeah, well we’ve been going on about them for a while. 

And if Iron Mark has got an ounce of political nous, if Labor are
worthy of governing, they should be able to utterly crucify Howard and
all the ministers involved for their contemplibly cynical timing
on this matter.

It’s not a barbecue stopper.  It’s a burnt banger – one that should leave a bl**dy awful taste in the mouth of voters.

How dare their government exploit their problems in such a way?

Glen Milne writes in his coy little way today “Liberal backbenchers are
anxiously watching their electorates for signs that Labor’s line is
beginning to cut through; that all tax cuts represent is what’s owed to
voters by way of bracket creep after seven years of the highest taxing
government in Australian history.”

It had actually made an impact by May last year, Glenn.  Under
Crean, too.  That’s why the Government was forced to make tax
concessions in the Budget, piddling though they were.

If Glenn got out a bit more, he’d probably see marginal seat voters
marching on their local Liberal MPs’ offices looking for all the world
like peasants storming Frankenstein’s castle at the end of a Hammer
Horror feature.

A Labor Party that’s capable of governing should be able to stitch this
altogether for a week of Question Times that will make the week just
gone look like simple warm-up exercises.

Labor, go get ‘em.  Show us you can.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey