“I believe in an open, strong, modern, competitive economy,” Julia Gillard told ABC Radio this morning.

La Gillard deflected criticism that she was from the left of Labor and therefore could not claim to be a fiscal conservative.

Of course. We are all economic conservatives now.

Labor has dumped the principal policy platforms it took into the last few elections – Medicare Gold, rollback and the like – soon after each defeat.

It is John Howard, though, who is having to deflect constant claims that he has sat on his hands.

The only original policy plans the ALP has been able to conceive in this time have been reactive – rollback – or flawed and fiendishly expensive – Medicare Gold.

Now, all they can do is say “me too”.

The Coalition can’t get traction with their big issues, so they are now picking off the states one by one with tailored ads that target public transport issues.

They might be more on the mark here. Take one state public transport body that’s been in the news lately – Sydney Ferries.

Sydney Ferries is a basket case. It’s a union and Sussex Street stranglehold. Sydneysiders know this. It’s the perfect case study.

The Liberals should be pointing time and time again at bodies like Sydney Ferries and asking: is this what you get with Labor governments? The unions, the spinmeisters, the hangers-on and toadies, their sons, their daughters, their wives, their girlfriends, their boyfriends, their partners, their exes… They should ask these questions – and then they should also ask:

  • Do the current crowd in the parliamentary ALP have the bottle to deregulate the capital markets and lower tariffs?
  • Do the current crowd believe in smaller government if this comes at the expense of the unions?
  • Would the current crowd ever take a non public sector option or, better still, shed a government responsibility to the private sector?
  • Would the current crowd have the bottle to go beyond not increasing tax to GDP but instead actually lower tax to GDP – cut spending and give the savings as tax cuts?

Going by the state Labor governments, there’s one answer to all of these question – not a chance.

The state governments are prospering from growth, but most of the money they get is going on their mates, their significant others and on union featherbedding. Still, they cry poor.

The report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Sydney Ferries, released last week, essentially found that the organisation was run from the minister’s office. The Labor state government simply slot in their own to run the show.

What would “fiscal conservatism” under a federal Labor government really mean? An ex of Reba Meagher’s running Treasury? PM&C?

And their advice? You can’t prevent black kids being abused because Clare doesn’t support it. You can’t improve the postal service because the CPTU doesn’t like it. You can’t have an open skies policy and cheaper travel because of the airline unions. And so on and so on and so on – just like in the states.

So much for fiscal conservatism.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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