Peter Garrett has well and truly let the cat out of the bag, his “Real Agenda.” He has been talking about this for weeks. Had two journalists not done their duty we would have been kept in the dark.

The latest admission was made in the serene club–like atmosphere of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge, where people speak more openly than they normally would. To Steve Price’s comment that the current campaign was turning into a “me too” election, Garrett told him, “with a straight face,” – that this wouldn’t matter.

“Once we get in, we’ll just change it all.”

It was no joke, says Price. Garrett later contradicted himself by saying his unguarded comment was at one and the same time both a joke, and a serious reference to policy differences with the Coalition.

This wasn’t the first time Garrett revealed Labor is planning an agenda entirely different from the “me too” one Rudd daily proclaims. A month earlier another respected journalist, Charles Wooley, told Bob Brown on 7AD that Garrett had been giving people, “even some journos” an extraordinary line: “Mate, what we say now and what we do then could be two different things.” When Wooley said to Brown: “Now you know he’s been putting that out,” Brown didn’t try to deny this. He feebly explained “We’re all facing an election.”

The other Garrett revelation was that Labor’s climate change policy was so inane it had to be changed when it became obvious that he and Rudd were prepared to ruin the Australian economy in pointlessly adopting obligations nobody else in their right mind would accept. Rudd rushed to correct this later the same day by doing what he has proved so adept at: he simply lifted Howard’s climate change policy.

The undecided must be beginning to wonder what would happen if Rudd didn’t have Howard and Costello to copy. There would have been no tax cuts, no tax free superannuation (now under threat) and no NT intervention to deal with the appalling consequences on children and women of failed policies. Independent schools would be out of favour, and the Medicare rebate removed.

It has long been obvious that Garrett has been a most unhappy man since he accepted John Faulkner’s and Mark Latham’s imprudent offer of a seat in Parliament. He fears the price for this Faustian compact was far too high. He has been reduced to having to endorse before all the world a thousand and one policies he once denounced and which he still so evidently loathes. The fact is that Bob Brown is actually saying what Garrett is thinking. Garrett hopes that it will all be worthwhile, that he can obtain redemption in reversing those hated policies once Labor is in power.

Note that in all his statements, Garett does not purport to speak just for himself. It is always “we” – “we” will change those “me-too” policies. The point is that Garrett is but the tip of a vast iceberg of Labor politicians who share his moral shame. They think as he does – the evidence is there in the Australian Electoral Study. They grit their teeth as Rudd endorses yet another Howard policy, believing that Canberra is worth the moral indignity of remaining silent.

Once the capitol is captured, and all nine parliaments are under their control, a new era will open for the nation and the Howard agenda can be finally jettisoned. It will be replaced by the Garrett-Brown Real Agenda. The costs of the new layers of bureaucracy, the income redistribution, and the policies to burden small business, farms and the use of fossil energy will demand new streams of revenue-and there is nothing much left to sell. Hawke and Keating flogged off the family jewels to pay for their profligacy, well before Howard followed because he believed it and, at least in part, to reinvest it. That governments should take more of the GDP is consistent with their view that they know best how to spend our money.

In the remaining weeks of the campaign, the Coalition will be at pains to ensure that above all, the key one in five voters whom Mark Davis estimates are both undecided and not much interested, are at least aware of this Real Agenda.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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