Labor’s version of ending the blame game. I can still picture him proclaiming it: Kevin Rudd giving repeated assurances that a Labor Government under his leadership will end the blame game when it comes to the overlapping interests of federal and state governments. Which is what made this item taken from this morning’s Crikey Breakfast Media Wrap so touching: “Blame states if schools complain, MPs told. The Federal Government has advised MPs to blame the states and local grant authorities when fielding complaints from schools within their electorates about projects funded by the $16 billion stimulus spending on primary school buildings — Sydney Morning Herald.”

A Liberal version of playing the blame game. In any of the state election campaigns where I have worked for a Labor Government one of the most awkward tactics to deal with was an Opposition trotting out the grieving parents of a child who died in a public hospital or a patient maimed in some way by careless or mistaken treatment. There just wasn’t anything you could really get a politician to say that diverted public sympathy away from your team When it comes to public hospitals, governments just have to accept that they are on a hiding to nothing.

With his experience as a senior bureaucrat in a Queensland Labor Government, Kevin Rudd got to understand this very well. No doubt it was the experience that led him to come out with his ending the blame game commitment which enabled him as a federal opposition leader to tap in to the resentment and frustration with those public hospitals that benefited state opposition leaders.

The fact that Kevin Rudd raised this issue so well means that it is now lying there full of potential for a Liberal-National opposition. The strange thing is that it has barely tried to do so. There have been a few cursory words about the Prime Minister not living up to the promise to hold a referendum to give the Commonwealth unfettered power if giving the States extra money did not improve things but with this issue it is the pictures that can really do the damage to a government. What is needed are lots of horrid pictures of suffering people all caused by Federal Labor’s inability to carry out the commitments made so blithely by Mr All Talk — No Action man.

Chipping away at health in this way presents a far greater chance of averting an electoral disaster than rattling on in a parliamentary question time about what constitutes an acceptable level of fiscal deficit.

Sarkozy catches up with Keating. Paul Keating when Treasurer, I remember, was once quite dismissive of official gross domestic product figures showing that Japanese were on average better off than Australians. In that cutting and direct way of his the then Treasurer commented that he didn’t think many Australians would prefer to be living with a family in a one room Tokyo flat than where they were in Australia. GDP was interesting but far from the sole measure of the quality of a person’s life.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France certainly agrees with that. Overnight our time he released a report by a panel of international economists led by Joseph Stiglitz, the US Nobel Prize winner which proposes new measures of economic output that would include things like happiness, long holidays and a sense of well-being along with traditional measures of production.

Some extracts from the report: