Wayne Swan versus Clive Palmer:

John Richardson writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Having accused the kettle (one K. Rudd) of being “a man of great weakness”, the pot (hailed as the world’s greatest treasurer), Wayne Swan, was quick to demonstrate his own outstanding qualifications in that regard.

In trying to vilify Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart, while clumsily attempting to cast himself as the noble defender of Aussie battlers everywhere, Swan simply succeeds in making himself look weak on the one hand and hypocritical on the other. As Paul Barry rightly observes, Swan is a member of our national government, allegedly elected to run the country in the interests of all Australians, so why not just get on with it?

Is it Palmer’s fault that Swan and his mates have no character or determination? Is it Rinehart’s fault that Labor can’t lie straight in bed, compromising every principle and squibbing every policy initiative at every turn?

Listening to Swan, we could be forgiven for thinking that Clive and Gina are the first Australians to try and influence or derail government policy . “The infamous billionaire’s protest against the mining tax would have been laughed out of town in the Australia I grew up in …” Swan opines. Oh really?

Where was Wayne when the Packers, the Fairfaxes and a thousand other movers and shakers over the years turned the manipulation of government policy in this country into an art form?

Justin Templer writes: Wayne Swan believes that wealthy Australians are using their influence to threaten our democracy. I agree — there are many serious threats to our democracy, but Swan has selectively chosen only the one that causes him the most trouble.

There are other influence groups with vast war chests pursuing an entirely self-interested agenda — as example, the government is only able to lead by forming a coalition with the Greens and independents, which gives these lesser groups influence totally disproportionate to the votes they received. Or the undue influence of the unions and the factions on Labor policy.

And then there’s the massive campaign launched by the clubs and their associated interests to kill the pokie reforms. And donations to political parties — why would they be made unless there was an expectation of influence?

It is a very imperfect democracy, Mr Swan — but the imperfections extend far beyond your irritations.

Martin Gordon writes: Wayne Swan’s line about vested interests implies that only he and his party is on the side of righteousness and have the public’s interest at heart. Swan is simply promoting class bigotry of old. The ALP simply is the political front for its industrial wing the unions, a significant vested interest, which has long ago ceased to represent “workers”.

Swan has simply embarked on a newspeak of propaganda to denounce critics as in effect enemies of the people. Apparently opposing the carbon tax (which Gillard once did) makes you such an enemy. If the public react against it, it may well be because they work out they have being conned and are worse off for no environmental gain. He likes the media that run his line, and criticises those that are not so amenable.

Swan is simply deploying divide-and-rule politics the most base but very traditional ALP approach.

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “The Power Index: rich crusaders, Clive Palmer at #8” (Friday, item 4). It’s great that Clive Palmer boasts of his meeting Vladimir Putin. I would love Putin to come here and deal with our oligarchs.

All of my few Russian acquaintances express great admiration for Putin, mostly for his perceived willingness to stand up for normal citizens against rampant business interests.

We don’t need Clive Palmer to sell coal to China, and we don’t need Gina Rinehart to flog our iron ore, either.

Cabinet making:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Surprise! Gillard brings Bob Carr to Canberra” (Friday, item 1). It might seem petty, but I object to the phrase “western Sydney MP David Bradbury” in Bernard Keane’s card-count of the cabinet reshuffle.

In the analysis, it is only Bradbury who is given a geographical designation. By my count, there are 13 federal parliamentary seats that in common parlance would be counted in western Sydney (only Macarthur not held by Labor). This is roughly one tenth of Parliament. Chris Bowen and Tony Burke are not usually described as “western Sydney MPs”. Bradbury’s distinction is that his electorate of Lindsay was famously held by the Liberals’ Jackie Kelly and thence became a nonsensical talisman for political commentators.

As a citizen of western Sydney, it seems to me that Crikey views the area as the antithesis of inner-city Melbourne and uses it as a scapegoat on which to unload a litany of ills. When will social prejudice become as unacceptable as racial prejudice?

Fuel taxes:

Mark Duffett writes: Re “Keane: the $8 billion industry policy no one notices” (March 1, item 2). Call me dense, but I still don’t understand how exemptions from fuel taxes end up being counted as subsidies of said fuels.  Are fuel taxes somehow revenue-negative?  Would Keane deign to furnish an explanation?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey