We’ve had Rudd = Howard-lite. Rudd = Tony Blair. Rudd = Bob Carr, or Morris Iemma.

What about Jimmy Carter?

A conservative from the progressive side of politics, a workaholic, a micro-manager. Not to mention religious. Sound familiar? As Carter eventually learnt, there are some problems that aren’t amenable to resolution via copious quantities of midnight oil.

Carter also had a problem knowing which battles to fight and which to remain above. The Prime Minister and his brains trust need to acquire that knowledge fast.

Parliament sits again this week and how Rudd and his team handle it will be an important test. They’ve had the weekend to regroup, to establish some better tactics, to work out that as the Government – and a popular Government – they can pick where to fight the Opposition, not the other way around.

But for the moment, there’ll be no escape from petrol. Fuelwatch will again be the centre of focus: it will come on for debate on the House of Reps early this afternoon. The Opposition is promising to quiz line departments about their views on Fuelwatch in Estimates, although they’ll be stymied because bureaucrats can refer policy matters to Ministers, so they won’t have to specifically comment on what they think of the scheme. Watch for some theatrically exasperated Coalition Senators trying to manufacture a grab for the evening news.

Then again, a couple of weeks and we might struggle to recall all this petrol rubbish. Remember the Budget? That attracted a bit of attention some weeks ago, you may recall. Friday’s Reserve Bank figures showing a slowdown in credit has raised the possibility that economic growth has stalled, at least temporarily. In which case, the Government may well have struck the right balance in reducing growth in spending but not seriously slashing it, as a number of commentators (and I) were calling for. Depending on how growth fares for the rest of the calendar year, a few of us might owe Wayne Swan an apology.

Our presence in Iraq has long since dropped out of the news cycle. John Howard and Dennis Jensen are the only people on the planet who still thinks the withdrawal is a bad idea. But it didn’t used to be this way. Support for withdrawal, or “cutting and running” as it used to be called, was, according to the Coalition and its media cheerleaders, evidence of being soft on terrorism and anti-American. Now, the withdrawal – in implementation of its election commitment, the Government carefully noted – attracts only momentary attention.

Marvellous what a little perspective can do. Something to bear in mind when the next political “crisis” hits.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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