It has been an expensive week for the coffers of the Federal Treasury as the Prime Minister John Howard warms up for the election campaign proper.
There were grants of $560 million for health and medical research to more than 50 universities and research institutes, providing a wonderful photo opportunity. And then the big one: an extra $714 million in drought assistance measures to “support farmers through the worst drought in our nation’s history” allowed Mr Howard to be seen as the sharing and caring PM.
There was no opposition to either measure from the Labor Party for this is an election campaign with bipartisan support for spending proposals. It might be Prime Minister John Howard who grabbed the headlines with his drought relief spending but Kevin “Me Too” Rudd is not going to run the risk of losing a vote by taking anything away from anyone.
To my way of thinking this fiscal togetherness of Liberal, National and Labor at last presents an opportunity for minor parties to exploit because my assessment of public opinion is that there are many people in the cities wondering just what is so special about being a farmer that justifies hand outs from the government for going broke however extraordinary the circumstances. There is surely scope for Greens and Democrats to tap in to a significant minority here.
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Kevin 07 is not going to do so. The comments on protection for manufacturing in today’s Australian by Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr show a party more interested in the old Country Party mantra of protection for everyone than the Hawke/Keating credo of protection for nobody.
That Kevin Rudd is more than just a “me too” man is shown by the enthusiasm with which he, like Mr Howard, hands out the goodies as he travels around the country. This week’s examples:
26 September 2007 – A Rudd Labor Government will invest $7.5 million in a GP Super Clinic in Brisbane’s Southside to provide better health services to the Southside community.
26 September 2007 – A Rudd Labor Government will contribute $4 million to developing the Summer Road aquifer* in Salisbury in Adelaide – as the next installment in Federal Labor’s plan to provide water security for Australia’s towns and cities.
25 September 2007 – A Rudd Labor Government will provide more than $50 million in additional health services in Tasmania, particularly in the North and North West where people suffer from very high rates of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and kidney disease.
They will be added to the very imposing list of promises that we published in Crikey a week ago.