Kevin Rudd says this election is a referendum on the future. Alan Jones’ advice on referenda is apposite: “If you don’t know, vote no.”

The crucial arbiters who will decide this election, the less interested and the undecided, still don’t know how they’ll vote. True, when contacted by a pollster, their off-the–cuff comment has often been influenced by Kevin Rudd posing as an economic conservative, one who cares for “working families”.

But unlike Crikey writers and readers, the arbiters think there are far more important things in life than politics. They don’t have the time in their day for one newspaper, much less three or four. So their vote will be based on TV glimpses, possibly weekend newspaper headlines, and a few words with friends and relatives. They look for similar values in a government to their own, which are mainly conservative, and they rely on common sense.

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They usually get it right, but they can make a terrible mistake. Their most serious was the earlier “It’s Time” election in 1972. It took well over a decade for the economy to recover.

Many NSW voters now think they were well and truly taken for a ride when they swallowed the shameless spin that Premier Iemma was somehow campaigning against Bob Carr. If they join the dots, even as they go into the booths, they’ll realise the same franchise is attempting a federal takeover. The result would be unprecedented — all political checks and balances gone. The facile suggestion the Greens will be a balance in the Senate is as fatuous as saying the Nationals are a balance against the Liberals. They are allies.

The Labor campaign has been designed to hide the fact that the world view of the Labor politicians is now significantly different from their traditional support base, and closest to the Greens. Bob Brown says what many Labor politicians are thinking. In the meantime many blue collar workers have become small business owners, and their economic views tend now to be as conservative as their social values. We see this particularly in Western Australia.

Yet the view among Labor and Green politicians candidates is to see small business as kulaks to be burdened by regulation, taxation and the so-called “unfair dismissals” law. Small business knows from bitter experience that this will only serve to extract vast amounts of money for lawyers and unions as the price of getting rid of completely unsatisfactory non-performers.

The preference of the Labor-Green alliance is that blue collar small business people be converted back to union fodder under the control of union bosses who are now rarely drawn from the rank and file. While these “battlers” may be tempted by the “working families” spin, their views remain closer to those of Coalition candidates than Labor and the Greens. (So, incidentally, are the social and economic views of the ethnic Chinese voters in Bennelong, who have a higher respect both for the office and person of the Prime Minister, and would feel a sense of shame if they were to be seen to be involved in his overthrow without justification.)

As we move into the last days, the Coalition is likely to remind voters that Labor has two agendas. One is the officially spun campaign agenda, the other the real agenda which Peter Garrett referred to not once but on several occasions. Whenever the real agenda slipped out in the campaign, the strategy has been to camouflage this by adopting Coalition policy.

The egregious example was in the very area claimed by the Labor/Greens as theirs, viz, anthropogenic global warming. Labor here caters for those who, unlike Dr Pell, do not reserve their leaps of faith to religion, but believe that a man-made catastrophe is imminent, and will soon lead to the disappearance of Bondi Beach, as George Newhouse claims. Accordingly the Labor has unilaterally adopted targets without any regard whatsoever to the burden these will impose on “working families.”

When Garrett announced he would take this policy to the coming the Bali conference, Rudd suddenly realised the voters would smell a rat.

The arbiters are not dumb. They would ask why we should we export our jobs to other countries, a process Whitlam began with unilateral tariff reductions. It would be Latham and the forests again. Rudd acted immediately. He just “borrowed” without attribution Howard’s sensible policy — any short term treaty obligations will only be agreed if major emitters are also committed.

But Rudd has a long term target to reduce emissions significantly. They are unilateral. By themselves they will close down whole industries. He is still waiting for advice on the cost of that for “working families.” This is the process you would expect from a rank amateur.

The arbiters would expect a government to have all the information before it would come to such a decision which could ruin the country.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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