Today marks the first anniversary of the Rudd Government.

We asked Crikey’s readers for their impressions of the first year of the post-Howard era. As usual, we have received a flood of responses which we will run everyday this week.

Oliver Tobias writes: Let’s face it; a stubborn old mountain goat has more compassion and eloquence compared to Howard and his 11 years of economic rationalism at any cost. But fortunately Kevin Rudd is a little more than a stubborn mountain goat. His national apology and early actions on climate change gave me the feeling that we had not just changed a leader, but changed direction altogether. Perhaps this sense of relief and change of direction is what many in the US are feeling now. Something about getting on with creating a society that holds inclusiveness, discussion and action above any effect they might have on the precious economy.

Because if there’s something I’ve noticed, particularly in some European countries, it is a cohesive and thoughtful society that generates a good economy, not the other way around. I don’t think Kevin Rudd should fill his plate too much in his first term, likewise with Obama, because there’s clearly so much to be (un) done. So whilst they do this, somewhere on a mountain far far away, a stubborn old goat is teaching ex-leaders a few lessons on how to see other humans as humans, rather than cogs for their hair-brained master plans.

Craig Moore writes: I’m shocked. He’s started leading the country?

Judy King writes: It is very disappointing when an ALP government:

  1. Invoices over 300 refugees $168,000 each for the cost of their incarceration in Australian detention camps and then claims that all complaints from social justice activists must go to the finance minister as the matter is not the concern of the Dept of Immigration;
  2. Indulges in teacher bashing, threatening to sack principals and teachers of schools where kids under perform in national tests (using identical anti-teacher rhetoric so loved by the Howard government);
  3. Reneges on promises to dismantle WorkChoices;
  4. Locks in the same Howard government’s corrupted and discredited SES formula for the period 2009-2012 for overfunding publicly funded private schools and further entrenching the 2.9 billion shortfall in public school funding in the Howard period 1996-2007.

I welcome the appointment of our first female Governor General and the national apology to Aboriginal Australians but I am increasingly alarmed at the failure to engage with social justice issues. It is one thing for the Tories to indulge in the politics of fear and division but it is galling for long time Labor supporters to question a Labor government’s commitment to social justice.

Patrick McMaster writes: I think it would have been more exciting if they had given Mark Latham a second chance.

Lois Frederick writes: I think Kevin is doing quite a good job. The sorry speech was excellent; a watershed in Australian history, and joining the Kyoto Protocol immediately was the right thing to do. Spending time commissioning reports on various matters seems sensible to me as long as their recommendations are acted on substantially.

The Garnaut Report was too timid on targets and we should be taking this opportunity to re-think the way business is done to build in strong elements of environmental responsibility in any ways we can. The conditions of life on this planet are not negotiable and the changes in mindsets need to be so great that strong leadership is essential. We simply cannot ask poorer nations to make material sacrifices unless we, who have benefited most from the degradation of the planet since industrialisation, show that we are prepared to act first. If Kevin wants a war on unemployment, put in an all out warlike effort and start creating jobs that work for, not against, the environment. A sensible population policy would be a good idea too.

I think Kevin is not too ambitious concerning a Pacific Powers group. Australia needs to be in a group that has influence and we need to regain some international respect after the damage Howard did. Aligning ourselves too closely with the US (even with Obama) makes me very uneasy. The US only ever looks out for itself and we should show ourselves to be independent as well as a good global citizen. Pushing for the abolition of nuclear weapons and other nefarious WMDs may be an idea whose time has come.

Having a PM with good Chinese contacts should be very useful and exploited to the utmost. Having a leader with his feet on the ground and inspirational ideals cuts a lot of ice with me. I want to be inspired for a change. The Canberra confab about our future, the COAG meetings in different states, the meeting with local government officials all give good signals … even if I know that show doesn’t always hold substance.

I believe Kevin wants to do a lot, and so he should, there’s a lot to do. He clearly works hard but I worry about the staff he’s going through. He needs to be able to delegate and he needs to be able to get some time to think properly. He also needs to explain clearly, in simple language, the overall problems and policy directions that need to be taken. Jobs, standards of living, interest rates, etc. dominate the news daily, but we need to see and think more broadly and Kevin could help that. I’d like to see other ministers talk about their own portfolios, an independent public service and less concentration of power at the top.

If we’re going to have a recession, let’s admit it and let’s go into government debt. Just explain it to people so they can understand. People will be angry if they think they have “lost” wealth. Explain that the wealth was never actually there, it was a mirage perpetrated by an out of control financial industry. Please Kevin, just say it.

Call Telstra’s bluff, keep working on water, stick up for multiculturalism, give us the big picture and get corporate culture under control — it’s a bloody cancer. There’s so much more to life than competing, making money and buying toys!

Robert Bruinewoud writes: I was going to write a bit of a rant about Rudd’s, not entirely unexpected, lack of any substantial progress since coming to power, but a fresh piece of graffiti on the bridge over East Richmond station on Church Street in Melbourne sums up my thoughts nicely: “RUDD IS LAME”.

Alan Hatfield writes: Just pleased to see Howard gone (at long, long, long last!). Even First Dog on the Moon would have been infinitely preferable to Howard.

Michael Brown writes: Feel the change, mighty and expansive;

Issue Honest John K-Rudd
Environment Give polluters long leash Give polluters long leash
Gay marriage No No
Human rights in China (Looks other way, whistles) (Looks other way, whistles)
Freedom of speech Roasts ABC, OK for Hanson Roasts artists, OK for China
Japanese whaling (Looks other way, eats sushi) (Looks other way, eats sushi)
Anti-terrorism Spineless in a gung-ho way Gung-ho in a spineless way
General perspective Christian conservative
white male
Christian conservative
white male
Economy Mining is GOOD Mining is GOOD
<crosses fingers>

I feel blessed to live in such changing times (yawn).

Peter Burns writes: Disappointed, but not yet disillusioned.

Bill Dowsley writes: Overall, I am satisfied. Gough was accused of doing too much, too quickly, something of which Mr Rudd may not be accused. Rudd is no Gough or Paul but he is doing well, in my opinion. My wish, never to be granted of course, is that the Fairfax and Murdoch media give our Government a fair go.

Adam Johnston writes: Does this mean yet another review? Kevin 07 will forever be known as the man who came to the nation’s most powerful job and then said: “Now what?” His answer was to be seen with the beautiful people, and whereas Billy McMahon had at least done one sensible thing and married Sonia, Kevin found he did not have the same luck.

But then Queen Kate arrived and, with the future sleeping conveniently in her arms, surrounded by a nursery of paparazzi, she launched the 2020 Summit. Now convinced that the Third Way meant publicity was the new policy and policy was the new publicity, Kevin decided to visit 20 capitals in 20 hours. In making careful plans, Tokyo was one place he thought his Mandarin would not be well received, so very diplomatically Kevin decided not to go there.

The Japanese were more than a little stir fried, but this was soon to be overtaken by a financial crisis that could fry the economy far quicker than global warming could cook the globe. Suddenly, Kevin discovered that inflation did not matter if no one was buying anything. So, as he took credit for Howard’s surplus while emptying it faster than the Murray-Darling, someone asked whether the former PM had indeed opened a political consultancy. We await the leaking of the relevant telephone conversation with anticipation!

Heathdon S McGregor writes: Another “Blair” private school boy right wing leader of the worker’s party. The results: WorkChoices not gone — merely the attitude to WorkChoices watered down. We know what happened to the Democrats when they campaigned one way and did the opposite once elected. Time will tell.

Les Heimann writes: The first year of Labor in power has been very much like the curate’s egg. Until the “financial crisis” came along one would have had to say the first year of the Rudd Labor government was a major yawn; oh and a major disappointment too. However, lo and behold come the hour come, finally, some decisiveness and, it seems, some good work.

Despite all this recent effort one imagines a minority of the jury is still very much out. Opinion polls suggest the working families of Australia — the jury that counts — actually love the man Rudd. I for one remain unconvinced. Coming from a position where I, and most of my friends and acquaintances, had learnt to become both bored and angry with John Howard — and his sycophants it was quite a pleasure to see him — and them — go. So any alternative would be measured coming off a very low base indeed. Rudd himself is not really inspiring but then neither was Howard.

Rudd is not so much a mess of contradictions but more an obsessive, prissy man who works his butt off, loves the control thing, is sometimes quite indiscreet, does display strength (at times) and is an extremely able politician. He has in Julia Gillard (and a few others such as Lindsay Tanner and Simon Crean) great talent to help him. Nevertheless he is (or was) essentially one who delights in the process not the vision and this has marked his government up until recently. Having said that it just may be that he is assiduously laying the foundation for a very long reign.

I am prepared to lean toward the benefit of doubt. I look forward in 2010 seeing a lot of roosting chickens clucking contently on working conditions, education, health, welfare, tax, climate change and a whole lot more. Otherwise the fox will get in and eat them all. The first year of the Rudd Labor government has been either a careful, planned, platform building exercise or a blundering, dithering, uncertain flounder in the dark. We shall see!

Peter Scott writes: In November 2007 the best thing about Kevin Rudd was that he wasn’t John Howard. In November 2008 the best thing about Kevin Rudd is that he isn’t John Howard.

Barry John Moat writes: He’s doing alright mate.

Sally Webster writes:

I once worked for the Nationals
The CLP too
Which may taint my opinion
At least give it a hue

Still, I like a good biff
Of the blue and red kind
But in the air is homogeny
Even bland comes to mind.

The landscape’s not a contrast
In political terms at least
We can’t hang round water coolers
Or toast over a feast

The colourful language of Keating
The poeticism of Gough
The anti- glam of Pauline
and her raging red quaff

Rudd might be bi-lingual
Or mandarin speaking I s’pose
But it all seems spray painted
Skin deep — a pose.

It’s frankly not natural when a red wears blue ties
Simply to enhance the colour of his eyes
Once political principle went far deeper than that
Blue blood, the union family or RM Williams hat.

Today all is faded — I’ve packed away my boots.
I’m a mother, a wife not a voter who shoots
|It could be climate related – how all the colours go
But my curtains are fading and soon you will know…

It’s daylight savings — a conspiracy, a spin no less
To blame greenhouse — the climate- what a hell of a mess
Now I feel impassioned there is redness in my cheeks
My curtains. cows and I will campaign for weeks

I feel alive with the cause, the principle, the tome
Of keeping colour in the world, in my state in my home
Australia — my nation will ride on the back
Of a coloured woman with curtains who’ll give Rudd the sack!

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