Wayne Swan has had his John Howard moment. Bernard Keane writes in Crikey today:

“Whatever it was, Swan in his attack on mining magnates has produced something Labor has been sorely lacking, an agenda-setting moment that shifted the political debate, played his opponents off a break and sent a message about the government’s values.

“John Howard produced such moments regularly and easily, setting loose issues to which the Left would react with froth-mouthed fury, not realising they were playing into Howard’s hands by linking him ever more closely to the values of middle Australia. Labor long appears to have thought that the political agenda could be controlled through set-piece policy events. Howard understood that it requires an ongoing conversation as well, and set out to shape that conversation to his own purposes.”

Yes, Swan has taken one straight out of the Howard play book, after all, it was Howard and his cultural warriors who targeted “elites” who controlled major institutions and imposed their chattering, undemocratic, PC-and-snobbery based agenda on the rest of us. Swan is again taking aimed at the elites, urging voters to see beyond the hard hats, safety vests and utes to really scrutinise the mining magnates’ behaviour.

It’s simplistic, it’s certainly not nuanced, and there are all sorts of caveats attached but this is what it boils down to: Swan’s Press Club address made for good politics. And coming from the Labor government, that’s the most surprising kind of sound bite to come out of the Treasurer’s mouth.

It’s rare that we urge readers to ignore the substance and concentrate on the theatrics, but in this case the theatrics are the substance.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey