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What Kevin Rudd can learn from Gordon Brown

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Gordon BrownEconomists marked the Rudd Government down on its first budget. Rudd gave priority to honouring election promises such as tax cuts, over tapping into the collective economic wisdom to do whatever it takes to cool the economy and arrest inflation.

To this point, Kevin Rudd has shown himself to be a man of his word. As Michelle Grattan put it in The Age on Friday, he has a 'refreshing fetish about keeping promises'. The Budget's announcement of the scrapping of temporary protection visas delivered on yet another election promise.

More work remains to be done. Frank Quinlan of Catholic Social Services Australia wrote in Eureka Street last week that the Budget 'may mark a shift towards a fairer more inclusive Australia'. He said the government has released some very encouraging policy under the 'Social Inclusion' banner, but 'policy and speeches will only be converted to action once substantial funding is allocated to the task of engaging with Australia's most marginalised groups'.

Words are easily lost. We only need to look to the UK, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears to be leading the Labour Party, and the country, into the wilderness.

On Thursday, Peter Scally SJ, editor of Eureka Street's sister publication in the UK, Thinking Faith, asked what has become of the 'moral compass' of the man dubbed 'Son of the Manse'. Brown's values were strongly influenced by his father, a Church of Scotland minister. He was known to be a strong believer in the 'old Labour' values of public service, social justice, the sharing out of wealth and concern for the poor.

Delivering the Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture for the British Caritas affiliate CAFOD, in 2004, Brown said:

If we could together by our actions... collectively change the common sense of the age so that people saw that poverty was preventable, should be prevented and then had to be prevented … then all else we do in our lives would pale into insignificance and every effort would be worth it.

But Scally nominates a series of moves in which he 'appeared to abandon his high principles in an attempt to be clever and outwit the Conservatives'. These include the '10p income tax band', which means more than 5.3 million people on low incomes will be worse off. Scally lists not-so-clever blunders, and their aftermath. 'Every time it blew up in his face.'

As a media performer, Kevin Rudd has shown himself adept at remaining on message with his words. May he do the same with his actions.


Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street. He also teaches in the Media and Communications Department at the University of Sydney.


Flickr image by World Economic Forum

Topic tags: michael mullins, editorial, budget, kevin rudd, gordon brown



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Existing comments

Don't know how Rudd's regressive tax cuts have escaped critical attention of Eureka Street and others.

Am I missing something? The way I see it is that these cuts are, firstly, a shameless copy of Howard's greatest ever pork-barrel outrage. (Who cares if they are good for the country?)

Secondly, although uncritically accepted as helping working families, I don't see that the tax cuts deliver a cent to anyone earning $30,000 or less, as tax rate changes don't alter below that threshold. So the lowest paid workers (there are in fact plenty of people who earn much less than $30,000) and part-time workers (women prominent) get zero. Ditto pensioners of course.

Do these people not matter to commentators? I wouldn't have minded if he had modified the bribe a little, e.g., start rate cuts at lower level (which would still benefit families, and the rich), rather than interpreting his 'word' quite so preciously when there was plenty of room to move/interpret.

Is this morality or obsessiveness? 'Fetish' perhaps, but 'refreshing', I don't think so. Let's not let hope blind us.

David Moloney | 19 May 2008  

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