Today, we get Kevin Rudd’s riposte in The Australian  to the PM’s punditry:

John Howard offers a form of market fundamentalism in this country that Bob Menzies, the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, would never have supported… driven in large part by the neo-liberalism of Friedrich Hayek, who argued that the only determinant of human freedom was the market…
By contrast, social democrats offer a different narrative for our country’s long-term future. To values of liberty, security and opportunity, we add social democratic values of equity, sustainability and compassion…

Why the hell does Kruddy keep banging on about Fred von Hayek? Unless it’s some sort of play on subliminal racism, there can’t be a single vote in it. Our mate The Labor Dry thinks it’s a Queensland thing about people with funny names.

“Howard is no Menzies and all that?” he says. “Phew, for a minute I was concerned that Howard might be like Menzies.”

The Labor Dry has some good advice to the new opposition leader. He reckons Kruddy might do well in remembering how Labor correctly unravelled Menzian sclerotic economic policy, with its rampant protectionism and fortress Australia:

From Whitlam’s 25 per cent cut to tariffs (always a forgotten policy from the dewy eyed Whitlamites) through to the bell ringing Hawke/Keating reforms – floating the dollar, cutting tariffs, deregulating the financial markets, superannuation, tax rate alignment (we forget how Keating cut the top rate from 60), welfare reform etc – it was federal Labor that took us out of the Menzian economic mausoleum. And just as well we did.

So c’mon Krudd. You can’t travel the economic credibility road by just making spending announcements – dental, infrastructure, child care – and calling for a return to Menzies. Get with the program. Let’s see more hard eighties stuff and less of this soft c-ck critique.

That hard 1980s stuff is genuine economic reform – like tax reform. “Social democrats believe in the market,” Kruddy’s critique claims. “Social democrats believe in a strong economy, but one where we still have a fair go for all, not just for some.”

But as we said yesterday, John Howard isn’t serious about delivering either.

The Prime Minister has gone several bridges too far with his middle class welfare – squandering the proceeds of a boom on bribes rather than using it to fund reform and support the policies that put more money in our pockets will increase national wealth.

Kruddy’s smarter frontbenchers – Lindsay Tanner and Craig Emerson – know this is the case. Does their boss? Will he say it?

Peter Fray

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