Cockroaches coming out of the operating table, so old it cracks during an operation. A pregnant woman, left in a waiting room for hours, miscarries in a lavatory. While a parliamentary inquiry is hearing this evidence about Sydney’s Royal North Shore, doctors and nurses are complaining because they haven’t been paid. Yet NSW has more health bureaucrats than “needed to run the Kremlin,” as one observer puts it. A large number are on an unattached list, and unlike the doctors and nurses they’re paid for doing nothing. It’s the same with transport, water, law and order. This is New South Wales under Labor.

On every indicator, interest, employment, work for the dole, unemployment (including the outsourcing which so enriched the Rudd family), exports, waterfront efficiency, increases in real wages, inflation, taxation, skills measured by the massive increase in the number of apprentices, industrial disputation, immigration policy, border control, indigenous policy, our standing in Asia, our relations with the US and China, Howard is streets ahead of the Hawke/Keating governments.

Over the last decade Australian GDP growth led the Western world. Of course his government isn’t perfect. As the editor of The Australian points out, Howard had the effrontery not to walk for reconciliation, and when it comes to the theory of anthropogenic global warming, he did not immediately and willingly suspend disbelief. (Incidentally could someone tell the editor that Howard was never a suburban lawyer.)

And yet, with the exception of the latest Galaxy, the polls say the same franchise grossly misgoverning NSW and the other states and territories, will tomorrow win a mandate greater than the landslide against the failed Whitlam government. But as Sol Lebovic told Alan Jones today, about one in four voters finally decide in the last week and one in 10 on Saturday.

In the meantime, watching Kevin Rudd on the 7.30 Report was like the news which used to come from Radio Moscow. “The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Comrade Malenkov today met with the President of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Deputy President of the… etc., etc.”

The similarity is in filling all available time with waffle. Pointing out that Rudd’s claim to be an economic conservative doesn’t sit well with the fact that he’d voted against every significant economic reform proposed by the Coalition, Kerry O’Brien asked him whether he would now agree that the GST, a growth tax funding the states, was right for Australia. In an exercise in obfuscation which would be the envy of a filibustering Southern Senator, Rudd used just under 800 words to avoid answering the question. That is the size of an opinion piece in a newspaper, and it was typical.

Most viewers would have been lost in following Rudd’s weaving, circumlocutory answers sprinkled with spin, especially the ubiquitous “working families.” Perhaps this is the intention. As George Orwell wrote, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

By way of contrast the program the night before with John Howard was lively, with O’Brien interrupting the Prime Minister frequently. Journalists rarely interrupt Rudd – are they afraid, is it deference, or is it just a continuation of the dream run? The contrast with Howard is remarkable. When the Prime Minister gave an excellent address at the National Press Club, most of the questions were about trivia rather than issues which interest, dare I say, “working families”.

Mr Rudd’s plans, which have so dazzled many in the media, are mainly vacuous. Just take the “education revolution” which centres on computers, necessary tools in the modern world. But once, before IT, we had a first rate educational system, which delivered. The evidence is in the numeracy, literacy and knowledge of the older generations. We have slipped behind because state governments have “dumbed down” education at the behest of the teachers unions.

Take another, anthropogenic global warming, where scepticism, the badge of true science, has been declared anathema by the elites. Rudd will ratify the useless Kyoto 1, declared a failure in the respected scientific journal Nature. Fortunately he has lifted Howard’s policy on Kyoto 2, lest vast numbers of jobs be exported overseas, a process begun with Whitlam’s unilateral tariff reductions. Rudd has still committed us to long term carbon emission reductions before any cost benefit analysis was done. We have just learned that the 20% renewable energy target was chosen again without any such analysis. Don’t the editors spot this flaw?

While Rudd fails to submit vast amounts of his proposals to Treasury scrutiny, or delivers them too late, we see a rush of last-minute assurances to counter reservations disclosed in focus groups. Having decided to create 81 new bureaucracies and 119 reviews, he now claims he will take an axe to the bureaucracy. When the Labor-Green alliance really wants an open border policy, and used immigration as a tool to create election fodder, we are now told that Rudd will “turn back boat people,” solve the hospital crisis created by State Labor, and put off moving to a republic where the head of state will be yet another politician.

Australians, in that moment of truth tomorrow, are not likely to dispatch one of the best prime ministers in the history of the Commonwealth, merely because of this vacuous puff and spin.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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