It is to be hoped that the pollsters have not been leaving the selection of their samples to Channel Nine, whose “undecided” voters chose Kevin Rudd as the winner, 65:29. It was of course no surprise at all that most media “analysts” chose Rudd; they have wanted Howard out since 1996.
An emerging issue in the election must be whether the voters trust the same franchise to run all nine governments, something we have never seen in Australia. In previous elections we have seen a tendency for voters, especially in New South Wales, to prefer a different party in Canberra to the one running the state. They clearly see this as an important check and balance. A comparison with the record of the franchise in New South Wales could encourage this view to come back with a vengeance.
The Daily Telegraph’s front page yesterday summed up the growing exasperation of NSW voters: “HAS IEMMA GIVEN UP?”
“In a month when the Government has failed dismally on public health and child protection,” the high circulating paper reports, “the Premier can now add law and order. Mr Iemma announced to a community already stunned by the killing of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth and the miscarriage scandal at Royal North Shore Hospital that he would now decriminalise serious offences.”
Today’s Telegraph front page leads, “We find a supporter of Iemma’s pathetic crime laws-he’s a17 year old shoplifter.”
The telephones to Sydney’s top rating talk back programmes have been close to meltdown with queues of callers anxious to voice their extreme indignation about what is being seen as an extraordinary incentive to the criminal classes to commit even more crime. If the citizens have overlooked the obvious, that the same franchise is offering to take over the federal government, the Coalition will.
Rudd has cleverly presented himself as the son of John Howard. There is every indication that a principal feature of a Rudd government will be to do what the franchise operators in the states have done with the rivers of GST gold they all campaigned against – pour most of it into new layers and layers of highly paid and convoluted commissions, inquires, reviews, area health and education services.
The Coalition will ask whether this will ensure that the citizens of Australia receive the same standard of service as say, the patients of Sydney’s Royal North Shore hospital. Rudd’s promise is what New Labour offered in the UK –an experiment in the capacity of government to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly and effectively.
As The Spectator says, Labour has always been good at “stealing Tory ideas and repackaging them in pastel colours.”
The Spectator warns that UK Labour’s experiment has been a failure: Britain has higher tax levels than Germany’s, “yet the untold billions poured into our public services have not brought about the revolution in health and education promised in 1997 — very far from it.”
In the meantime, Rudd’s claim to be an economic conservative has been slammed in The Wall Street Journal. Australian economists Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson say that Rudd has “cleverly mimicked” the Government’s record, but a closer look at his record reveals that he’s not a reformer but, rather, “an unreconstructed interventionist masquerading as a free-market conservative. Call it Ruddonomics.”
Whatever the polls say, a large number of voters are yet to make up their minds. As Federal Labor has no track record, the Coalition will ask the undecided make their decision by considering how Labor’s franchisees operate in the states and territories.
Rudd has been successful so far in distancing himself from them; can this last until 24 November?