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 every day this week.

Brefney Ruhl writes: There are a couple of areas that worry me.

  1. Environment. A couple of years ago the world’s most advanced base load solar power plant inventor had to leave Australia to build it. Several viable wave power generators have been developed here (notably CETO), but will probably have to go overseas for lack of uptake. While other countries continue to build large scale wind power farms, we are yet to build just one. Our only solar panel manufacturer has now decided to up sticks and move to Spain. What is going on? What have other countries got that we haven’t? Smarter governments?

    Bush clearing in our north continues almost unabated. Tens of millions hectares of clearing in QLD have decimated rainfall. Billions litres of water used to transpire into the atmosphere in wet areas and fall in catchment areas miles inland. This is such a no-brainer! Why isn’t there a massive tree planting industry. The spin offs are all good: sustainable forestry industries, rainfall where we need it and ultimately, pleasantly habitable land to facilitate the coming population growth. I thought Garrett would make a difference … I’m still waiting!

  2. Communications. Hands up all politicians who know what the term Cloud Computing means! Look it up, it’s the next BIG step in the evolution of internet use. It will sweep the world within the next couple of years and will change our lives forever. It will be integral to all facets of our lives in business, education and homes. But it’s only viable over fast networks, and I don’t mean 1.5 meg speed.

    Australia is about 10 years behind the rest of the world, largely due to an ignorant Howard government. Between ‘luddite of the century’ Alston and an out-of-depth Coonan, we lost the opportunity to build a fast nationwide network. Instead we sold our communication system into the ‘greed is good’ hands of the three American amigos, leading to the overpriced low speed internet shambles we have now.

    My worry is that Conroy is not capable of sorting this out. That he will throw up his hands and give in to Telstra’s bullying, when what is needed is a strong arm and if necessary, a split between regional and metropolitan coverage. The commonwealth can build and own a fibre- to-the-home network in all areas outside the five major cities and sell access to all ISPs at a reasonable rate. The entire network could be built within a few years and easily paid off within 10 — and Telstra can go scr*w itself.

    We now have ample evidence that what privatisation brings are large monopolies to which the communities in which they reside only serve as cash cows. Typically thousands lose jobs, infrastructure isn’t updated in less profitable areas and prices always go up (massively in Telstra’s case) … so who benefits? Certainly not the public.

Come on Rudd, your ministers need to get off their a-ses too!

Ross Davidson writes: I think Australians are worse off under a Labor Government and NOT because of the World economy. Kevin Rudd spends far too much time overseas, is spending an inherited surplus on strategies that will fail and will send Australia into deficit like his predecessors within the first three years under the guise of the World Economy is to blame. Labor has NEVER been able to manage Australia’s economy — nothing has changed. Cheaper fuel, lower interest rates are not as a result of Kevin Rudd’s economic management, on the contrary, it is in spite of his management. I am not fooled by cheaper fuel and lower interest rates because along with it my investments are all worthless as well. Roll on the next election!

Paul Coulter writes: November 2007: Q: Could a drover’s dog have won that election? — maybe, maybe not. Most likely not. While Australia traded in their PM for a bigger better plasma screen with KR definition, the real victory of the election was Maxine the magnificent who deserves a statue in the pantheon of Australian political greats. As for Kevin08, it is easy to carp about the photo opportunities, the incessant need to have an opinion on everything from Keating/Gallipoli to Henson/Kids pics and anything in between that impacts on “working families” — whoever that is (what about singles, separated, seniors, widows, widowers etc, our family is a half working family), and believe me carp I can — please don’t start me. But there is no doubt that Kevie’s biggest achievement in 07, 08 and beyond is that there is NO MORE BLOODY JOHN HOWARD and there can be little doubt that our country Australia, the greatest place in the world to live, is a better place for being rid of that.

Joe Boswell writes: Rudd’s better than Howard, but so pathetically timid that his time in office will be all missed opportunities. Anything that meets resistance goes in the “too hard” bucket. No serious action to resolve the Murray-Darling water management crisis; the weakest possible Emissions Trading Scheme, which now looks as if it might be pitched so low it will have the opposite effect to that intended; no serious proposal to address the dysfunctional relationships of Commonwealth and States, just hand-wringing and throwing money; blindly continuing the blundering NT intervention; sucking up to the puritanical at every opportunity, including the atrocious ISP filtering plan. And so on, all mouth and no trousers.

Vincent Burke writes: It amuses me to read commentary that seems surprised that Kevin Rudd is, first and foremost, a politician. Sure, he has a huge ego. Sure, he indulges in media spin. And, sure, he may be arrogant and reluctant to admit any error. As for the so-called gaffe following the phone call with Bush, has it not occurred to anyone that we might actually be pleased for Bush to have been shown up for the dill he has always been? As someone who remains a Howard hater, I will forgive Rudd for all of this, simply because he displaced such a shameful regime. More positively, I believe he has put runs on the board (Kyoto etc), and the positive wave of emotion he evoked throughout the country when he expressed the apology to the Aboriginal community still remains with me. He has shown a sure-footed approach in dealing with the current financial crisis. Overall, he has begun to restore a sense of decency sadly lacking for the last 11 years, and he has restored some pride among Australians for their Government. I say, ONYA Kev.

Roy Shepherd writes: There’s nothing to say really because there’s nothing there — no substance you might say.

Diana Simmonds writes: Whatever I was feeling about Kevin and Co before last Monday (none of it too bad, I have to say) it was quickly turned to relief, pleasure and gratitude when that bunch of smarmy, self satisfied, grinning and odious miscreants popped onto the teev last Monday in the least anticipated doco series since … well, since whenever, aka The Howard Years. Nothing can be as bad as that or the memory of it. I lasted 10 minutes and switched off.

Marlene Hodder writes: Not much different from the previous decade. Attached is a photo which expresses the feeling of most Aboriginal people in Central Australia, who have been staunch ALP supporters for many years. The translation (from Warlpiri) is “Kevin Rudd — big ars-hole”.

Angela May writes: Yes the country has changed. No more drivel from those mealy-mouthed, fear-mongering mongrels in the Liberal party. They made me feel ashamed at times with their talk and their actions. Kevin’s apology was inspiring, Nelson’s response predictable and embarrassing. I guess on some issues you could say Kevin07 has been all talk not much action, but it’s only been 12 months. Give them a break. Now if we could just get rid of Flint, Henderson, Albrechtsen, Bolt and that lunatic Akerman, this country would be even better.

Penny Morton writes: I definitely feel a greater sense of pride as an Australian living overseas (I’m in Bangkok). I’m now willing to admit it for a start. But it’s all relative. Coming from a position of shame and embarrassment from “The Howard Years” (A syndrome affecting those of us who, until Dec 2007, had endured continual disappointment throughout our entire voting lives. Symptoms include ongoing disbelief and scepticism in government policy).

While it’s great to know that your government supports your beliefs, or visa versa, I worry that Kev is trying to do too much, spreading his enthusiasm too wide, and across too many issues, which is likely to result in very few major changes for any one issue. But still, it’s early days, he has good intentions. I’m willing to be patient. Especially while he continues to provide great fodder for political satirists.

Colin Hyde writes: Some time yet before Kevin can establish that his policies are working. Wait a bit longer to see if they were successful. He is fortunate that the opposition are looking silly. Someone has to give him a hand and Wayne manages to look quite unwell, otherwise his infrastructure support looks very small indeed.

Robert Kennedy writes: In a word; disappointment. Water policy is disingenuous spin with a failure to have a frank discussion about agribusiness, GDP and the export of water via food. Water pricing anyone? COAG has proved a failure and Victoria/Brumby particularly recalcitrant which is not what Mr. Rudd promised: “a new era of cooperation” err no! Bail outs for GMH and Ford when they are likely to face bankruptcy in the USA?

Failure to foster green energy initiatives through the tax system or what about a government backed design and manufacturing facility to provide free solar panels and inverters to all households in Australia! Kyoto target anyone? This is a rather limited and old-fashioned government (like the old general fighting the last war) that put on the lipstick but looks increasingly like a pig.

Glenda Gartrell writes: I remain grateful to the ALP and its leader, Kevin Rudd. On the home front, they rid us of the worst government since Bob Menzies who also presided over a time of plenty and left precious little to show for it — other than wealth for the few. On the international front we can see Kevin Rudd demonstrating leadership at a time none of us ever expected to witness — the law of the jungle on show for all to see and the much vaunted US system all but bankrupted by its own rules of play. The seriousness of the situation and the leadership vacuum at the world level must be too scary for the newspapers to write about. Otherwise we would see space devoted to a discussion of what is at stake and how collective effort might produce the best outcomes.

A.D.Brawn writes: A Dud. All front and no substance. A liar and a stunt man.

Peter Fray

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