Rudd snubs the ‘Hoff? The decision to call a national ideas summit suggests that Kevin Rudd is now spurning the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer whom he once claimed as the man he most admired. After all, it was Bonhoeffer who declared: “It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.”

Poor pay for interest rate rises. It always seems a little perverse to me when our system of government forces interest rates up as the weapon of choice to combat inflation. Borrowers suffer and lenders gain which, broadly speaking, is another way of saying that the poorer pay and the richer gain. Certainly today’s interest rate rise will first hit the minority of Australians who have a housing mortgage. The Reserve Bank back in September 2005 used figures indicating that 70% of households owned their home with roughly half of those having debt and half being without. Some of that 36% of households with debt are people who have taken take on a larger loan for other purposes when the value of their property rose and some are in the category of investors with some debt secured on their primary residence. Take those two categories out and there is a minority of families, albeit a sizeable one, paying off a standard mortgage that is bearing the brunt of the Reserve Bank’s desire to curb consumer demand in the name of fighting inflation.

ALP still more conservative. One third of Australians pay so all Australians can gain from a form of regressive indirect taxation levied by the Reserve Bank through financial institutions. These working families, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is wont to call them, have every reason to feel hard done by and will surely be unimpressed by the true claim of the Labor Government that it has inherited the inflationary pressures from its Coalition predecessor. Luckily for Mr Rudd the Liberal and National Parties went to the last election promising $34 billion of tax cuts so in opposition they cannot make the obvious point that using fiscal policy and not delivering Labor’s promised $30 billion of tax cuts would be a much fairer way of sharing the burden.

One down and three to go. Mitsubishi has succumbed to the combination of a rising dollar with cheaper imports and dearer exports, lower tariffs, changes in the taste of motorists and a design that failed to capture the public imagination. We can now expect the remaining GMH, Ford and Toyota to put out their begging bowls to keep motor manufacturing in Australia. For Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this will be a severe test as he is the man who told the last Labor national conference “I don’t want to be a prime minister of a country that doesn’t make things anymore.” The speculation this morning that planned further tariff reductions will be postponed suggests the Rudd way with words is about to find a fork in the road inside his babushka doll that describes rent seeking as a meaningful industry policy.

Pharmacists benefit from sickies. Hop down to the local pharmacy, buy a bottle of cough medicine and pick up a bit of paper to give the boss to justify your Mondayitis. Welcome to the new world of medical certificates. The Federal Finance Department likes it because the $15 or so you pay for the certificate does not cost Medicare a cent, unlike the old system of fronting up at the doctor’s surgery. Convenient for the worker too – no waiting around for hours at the 24 hour medical centre. Tough luck for medicos but a nice little earner is being handed to pharmacists. A recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found about one in 60 patients visit their doctor primarily to get a certificate – 800,000 a year in total and about double what it was nine years ago. That provides pharmacists, who donated $266,385 to the major political parties in 2007-07, with the chance of sharing in what is potentially a $12 million a year market.

Poor 2020ers. One last comment on that ideas conference. Poor people clearly have no ideas about the future of Australia that are worth considering. The public relations brilliance of avoiding the criticism that the summit in Canberra would be costly means the 1,000 delegates will all pay their own costs. So, no money no start. Yes, the socialist ideals of Labor are truly dead.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Rudd weighs tariff freeze for remaining makers – Katharine Murphy, Andrew Heasley, Ian Porter and Barry Park, The Age
Swan wrong to blame inflation on Howard – Malcolm Turnbull, The Australian
Cut-price loan perks for Reserve Bank staff – Kelvin Bissett, Daily Telegraph
Charge of the bright brigade – Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun
Al Gore wins NEWS.com.au presidential election – Lincoln Archer, News.com.au
MP backs removal of some indigenous kids – AAP, no byline

The Daily Reality Check

I think we can take it as true that working families struggling with a mortgage are under-represented among readers of news on the internet. Of the 50 stories in our top five most-read stories survey on 10 Australian sites this morning, yesterday’s Reserve Bank decision appeared only three times – or four if you count the Daily Tele’s analysis of the Reserve’s staff getting the benefit of half price interest rates. Clearly panic about inflation and the draconian way it is curbed has not yet reached the more affluent masses. Posh, Britney, Scud, Matt, Heath and Elle are what news on the internet is all about.

Peter Fray

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