Kevin Rudd actually has premiers who can introduce him. He doesn’t need to fall back on lord mayors. He has former prime ministers from his party prepared to back him. He even seems to be able to get Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to sit together without any strife.

But all the focus at Labor’s launch in Brisbane today was on new leadership – on Rudd himself.

The closest we got to a radical gesture was Christine Anu singing the national anthem with backing from an acoustic guitar.

Fiscal conservatism took centre stage. It almost seemed as if Rudd’s main announcement was that he was committing just a quarter of the nine and a bit billion the PM promised on Monday.

“I have no intention today of repeating Mr Howard’s irresponsible spending spree,” Rudd said. “I will say it loud and clear. This sort of reckless spending must stop.”

The party faithful applauded. How the ALP has changed!

There was a major attack on WorkChoices, but this segued into wider themes. “Mr Howard is so used to being in office that he no longer understands what fairness means,” Rudd said, before promising policies to help – you guessed it – working families.

The centrepiece was the education revolution, with a plan to provide every child from years nine to 12 with access to a computer.

“I want to turn every secondary school in Australia into a digital school,” Rudd said.

He also announced funding for 450,000 extra training places – including 65,000 apprenticeships – in a bid to overcome the skills shortage.

Dental health, hospitals and petrol and grocery prices all got a name check. So did broadband. Rudd filled the vacuum left by the PM and promised to ratify Kyoto. Infrastructure was there.

But Rudd’s “knowledge economy” was the main thing – and it can mean many things to many people.

It’s better education for some. It’s a job for others. With a bit of spinning it becomes a major economic reform.

It’s the perfect pivotal part of “a positive vision for the nation’s future”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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