John Singleton said everything you need to know about the philosophical pretensions of our politicians back in his 1977 classic Rip Van Australia: “Malcolm Fraser says he admires Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand says she admires Malcolm Fraser. Neither has an idea what they are talking about.”

The “socialisme sans doctrines” of Keith Hancock and the early commentators on Australia’s federation has just become politics sans doctrines. Not that it stops politicians sticking tags on each other in the silly season.

Parliamentary Secretary Greg Hunt got it off to a great start in The Australian with his claim at the start of the month “In economic terms, Rudd’s social democracy flows from the work of people such as Australian anti-market academic Verity Burgmann and US writer Noam Chomsky”.

It is between a vibrant, pro-market social democracy that simultaneously promotes higher productivity, equality of opportunity and environmental sustainability, and John Howard and Peter Costello’s over-regulated and reactionary-populist ‘mates’ rates capitalism’.”

Perhaps the bloke who’s been closest on the mark has been Lindsay Tanner. “Taxation and welfare spending are at record levels, with even millionaires receiving welfare cheques,” he says. “So much for the champions of small government and free markets.”

Not that it’s stopped the Libs. In The Australian today, Patricia Karvelas reports that another party sec, Chris Pyne, has got into the game.

“I’m concerned that the public knows that when they are buying the Labor Party they are buying a lot more – they are buying a leftist agenda,” he says. “Kevin Rudd is presenting himself as a conservative Labor leader, but behind Kevin Rudd are the same old people who have always been there, nothing has changed.”

Nothing’s changed in either party. This is all about ambition and positioning.

Swan and Tanner would like the opportunity to be ministers. So would Hunt and Pyne.

And – naturally – they’re not going to let philosophy stand in the way. It’s only relevant as long as it helps with the point scoring needed to win or hold government.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW