In reflecting on the Labor policy launch last week, I wrote:

Rudd is banking on the fact that there are future-oriented Australians out there in sufficient number who believe that as far as John Howard is concerned, they’re the forgotten people.

Kevin Rudd has now released a new “chapter” in his home town pitch. While the best mates of the Coalition leadership might take some time out of their ongoing love-fest to rubbish Rudd’s aspiration to make Brisbane a financial hub for the Asia-Pacific, all that proves is how out of touch they are with the Sunshine State.

It’s not all battlers, stupid.

In a sharp piece of analysis at the ABC’s Unleashed, former Keating advisor Bill Bowtell looks at the four components of the progressive coalition which has formed behind Kevin Rudd:

The 2007 election will cap Queensland’s transformation from provincial backwater to a powerhouse of Australian politics and economics. The Australian political system will finally catch up with the hundreds of thousands of people who have voted with their feet and made Queensland the youngest and most dynamic growth region of Australia.

To no one’s surprise, bar the Liberal leadership and the national punditariat who rarely venture north of the Tweed, Rudd and Swan are honing in on a vision of the new economy as the provider of high value-added services to the region, to supplement the folksy “boy from Nambour” theme.

It might come as a shock to Howard and Costello, but there are lots of people who can see beyond digging stuff out of the ground and realise that a highly educated workforce is our best bet for a sustainable future.

The Beattie and Bligh governments have known that for a long time – hence the “Smart state” policy suite, which goes far beyond rhetoric. Queensland now has the benefit of articulated education and training policies and institutions which seek to capitalise on our smarts – in key areas like creative industries, biotech and aviation. Queensland led the way with an agenda to ensure that all young people of senior school age are either in education or training, if they’re not in the workplace. And the government has invested innovatively to build on and develop existing knowledge strengths.

It’s a very strong contrast with the “3 Rs” nostalgia and culture wars carping that have characterised the Howardian approach to education, and with largely non-existent industry, innovation and research policy.

Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan have learned their lessons well, and have cleverly covered both modernising and traditional bases in their appeal to voters in their home state. That’s why Labor is looking to pick up a swag of seats in Queensland.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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