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What should Rudd do first

November 26th, 2007

Ratify Kyoto – it’s a stroke of a pen, needs no legislation, is a simple Yes-No decision and will have a big impact.[1]

Straight after that, though, something much harder. Rudd needs to reverse the decline in ethical standards that we’ve seen under Howard, and which began much earlier, going back at least to the 1970s. Arguably, Howard’s ultimate fate was sealed within a few days of taking office with the abandonment of what he later called ‘non-core promises’. That set the pattern for the many lies and improprieties that followed.

Unless the government acts now, before it has anything it wants to hide, the temptations of office will be too much. Some of the elements needed:

* An end to political advertising on the taxpayer’s dollar. After Howard’s disastrously counterproductive blitz on WorkChoices, this ought to be a forced move. But no doubt there are already plenty of self-rated smart operators in the backrooms thinking about how to use the resources of government in the interests of party

* A ministerial code of conduct. John Howard’s 1996 code would be a good starting point. His abandonment of this code to save Warwick Parer was a defining moment in his government’s decline and ultimate downfall. By contrast, Peter Beattie’s willingness to lose his own deputy premier and numerous other ministers has led to political success despite numerous scandals.

* A revival of the Westminster system. It’s too late to go back to the old idea of an apolitical public service, but a clear statement of the roles of ministers, departmental heads and public servants is needed. In my view, we should accept that the departmental head is the personal appointee of the minister, and they should share responsibility for the acts of the department. In particular, any information known to the department head should be presumed to be known to be minister. All public servants below that level should be permanent and apolitical

* Keeping promises. Rudd made some pretty bad promises to get in, such as matching tax cuts and keeping the private health insurance rebate. The standard approach of incoming governments in Australia has been to fabricate a crisis and dump the promises. While this has an obvious appeal, its long-run effect is corrosive, and is reflected in Howard’s downfall.

fn1. As pointed out in comments, it’s not as easy as that. But the fact that some exceptional measures need to be taken to get an immediate start on ratification will only increase the impact of the decision.

UpdateA more comprehensive guide from Miriam Lyons at the Centre for Policy Development

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  1. November 26th, 2007 at 10:23 | #1

    Also Rudd’s power as leader over the party machine will slowly ebb the longer away we get from the election – so I think tackling issues relating to political advertising and party funding might be a good place to start.

  2. Peter Wood
    November 26th, 2007 at 10:38 | #2

    On the subject of promises. There is a problem with the badly thought out tax cuts having an inflationary impact which would lead to higher interest rates etc. Rudd could auction most emission permits in emissions trading scheme and keep his promises while having some dampening on the economy. Normally the money raised would be spent on other emissions reduction measures or on reducing the regressive effects of a carbon price by compensating people on low incomes or reducing the taxation impact on people with low incomes.

  3. gordon
    November 26th, 2007 at 10:44 | #3

    Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan would be higher priorities than any of the above as far as I’m concerned.

  4. gandhi
    November 26th, 2007 at 10:46 | #4

    “The standard approach of incoming governments in Australia has been to fabricate a crisis and dump the promises.”

    When it comes to financial commitments, there won’t be any need to fabricate a crisis: there really IS a huge global finance tsunami on the horizon!

    I think both parties knew they could promise the moon and not deliver it. Of course I would like a tax cut, but I’d also like to see money spent on schools and hospitals. More importantly, I’d like to see Rudd convene an all-states meeting ASAP, especially to work out how much money can be saved by not duplicating effort.

  5. brian
    November 26th, 2007 at 11:21 | #5

    Problem with party politics is that party members are made to feel that the party is more important than the community. Witness the depressing behaviour of Peter Garret.

  6. rog
    November 26th, 2007 at 11:29 | #6

    It will be a dilemma for Rudd, how can he break his promise of being a fical conservative so early in the term without blowback?

    And dumping a decade of AWAs may also be inflationary.

  7. brian
    November 26th, 2007 at 11:38 | #7

    politicans break promises all the time…but only those that are socially beneficial

  8. Sam
    November 26th, 2007 at 11:54 | #8

    I reckon his first move should be to start a weekly blog from the PM’s site. This sort of thing has proved pretty successful in the UK and was used rather successfully by David Cameron to re-badge the Conservatives as ‘in touch’, ‘future orientated’, ‘progressive’ etc etc. If Rudd doesn’t do it then Turnbull is sure to jump at the chance!

    In terms of policy, I certainly think that Kyoto will be first cab off the rank. Then, given Rudd’s love of administration, I think we’ll see the announcement of a couple of inquiries (Defence White paper, petrol, competition in the supermarket industry) and movement on tendering for broadband. There’ll also be some federal-state meeting thrown in amongst these things somewhere. After these meeting

    Those as an act of selfishness, I’d also like his government to think about formalising a system of superannuation for PhD students. Though some how I think I might have to wait until he’s dealt with climate change and war before I get a hearing!

  9. gandhi
    November 26th, 2007 at 12:15 | #9

    Funny how the stock market hasn’t crashed today, innit? 😉

    Now corporation-bound “economists” are warning Rudd not to fulfill promises, heed the RBA’s advice etc.

    I think he would be well advised to gather a few nuts before the global financial storm hits us harder. I think both parties knew they could promise the moon, with the tsunami still brewing, and never be held accountable. Rudd was only matching Howard’s profligacy and I suspect many Australians wont blame him if he doesn’t deliver the full $60 billion plus in promises.

    That said, there are countless opportunities to save money on Federal-State duplication, and I’d sooner see real improvements on education and health than premature tax cuts. Rudd should also slash the budgets of Defence and the AFP.

    And maybe he can ask Rupert to give back some of that government advertising money. Heh.

  10. 2 tanners
    November 26th, 2007 at 12:40 | #10

    He’s already trickling out the agenda for his first hundred days including Kyoto and a Ministerial code of conduct. I’m waiting for the detail to see what will happen.

    I’ve got to admit, I’d like him to find a politically acceptable way to back out of the huge tax cut (i.e. not just by executive fiat, like the fistful of dollars from the 70’s). I think that would take a very clever politician to deliver this one. Certainly the promise couldn’t be regarded as ‘non-core’.

    And unlike Bomber, I don’t think he’s Defence’s hostage. I understsand that Defence is immune to the efficiency dividend that all other Departments pay. If Tanner jacks up the efficiency dividend to 3.75% from 2% and applies it to Defence, they’ll be swimming in it.

  11. November 26th, 2007 at 12:49 | #11

    i believe pollies are as smart as dogs, at least. maybe even smarter than a 5th grader. consequently they explore their environment and maximize their reward. they will in short, do as they please.

    in a parliamentary society, there is no check on their egotism beyond personal morality and being ‘voted out’. success within a political party does not select for morality, and those who wish to prosper soon leave behind most of their initial precepts.

    the fear of being ‘voted out’ is commonly touted as the people’s check on power. for several reasons, it is not useless, but quite ineffectual.

    for one thing, the government can initiate an action 3 years before they have to face the electorate. that 3 year period can ruin a lot of lives. worse, reversing this policy may also be destructive. many people who would never have supported the war in iraq are yet well aware that leaving now might also be disastrous.

    then there is the problem that a government has the power of secrecy. this conceals any number of stinking messes indefinitely. difficult to punish a government’s crimes if they are unknown.

    sometimes, crimes, corruption, and incompetence are known but the vagaries of club-house politics in gang ‘b’ brings the to the polls with a visibly incompetent front bench. gang ‘a’ is returned while many of their voters are holding their noses.

    a parliamentary society is doomed to repeat these problems, for ever. democracy, with citizen initiative and direct election, can do much better.

    i don’t invite political parties to become more ethical, anymore than i ask hyenas to give up killing and eating little baby antelope. hyenas eat meat, pollies are amoral. in both cases, nature is filling an ecological niche and i never argue with mother nature.

  12. jquiggin
    November 26th, 2007 at 12:56 | #12

    Al, I’m going to start deleting any comment which includes reference to the defects of parliamentary system and related hobby horses. We know your views on this and they don’t become more convincing with indefinite repetition. Feel free to post once a week on this topic in the Monday Message Board.

  13. Peter Wood
    November 26th, 2007 at 13:07 | #13

    Re #7: while the stock market has gone up I am very pleased to see that the Gunns’ share price is down by 5.8% 🙂 I don’t know if it means anything though – we shall have to wait and see!

  14. November 26th, 2007 at 13:15 | #14

    it’s your bat and ball. i hope i make a great many people uncomfortable at being reminded they live in a society whose fundamental structure precludes good planning and simple morality. it’s the only way i can hope to awaken in thoughtful people a need to strive for a better society.

    i will continue to write what i want, you have the power to prevent boredom or embarrassment. is censorship an integral part of being a ‘social democrat’ in a monarchy?

  15. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 14:04 | #15

    A top priority is to plan for the complete abandonment of income tax(and GST, payroll tax, stamp duty, etc)for the switch to complete reliance on carbon and resource taxing http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,23636,22822406-31037,00.html
    The race to tie up the world’s resources, begun by BHP Billiton’s takeover offer for Rio was the advance warning of the tsunami of cash ready to flood over us and ultimately threaten the tax base with transfer pricing. There are other very good reasons for reliance on carbon and resource taxing, but the writing is on the wall now. Right up there in neon lights.

  16. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 14:06 | #16

    Did you all buy Billiton, Rio, Woodside, etc when I told you so?

  17. David
    November 26th, 2007 at 14:21 | #17

    Three conservative leaders in three days; watching their heads roll is more pleasure than any one person deserves. Now I know how much pleasure those old French women must have had sitting front and centre with their knitting watching the guillotine re-order French society. Oh dear I think I may have dropped a stitch.

  18. John Bignucolo
    November 26th, 2007 at 14:29 | #18

    A revival of the Westminster system. It’s too late to go back to the old idea of an apolitical public service, but a clear statement of the roles of ministers, departmental heads and public servants is needed. In my view, we should accept that the departmental head is the personal appointee of the minister, and they should share responsibility for the acts of the department. In particular, any information known to the department head should be presumed to be known to be minister. All public servants below that level should be permanent and apolitical

    A revival of the Westminster system, which depends heavily on convention, and a willingness of participants to “do the right thing” is desperately needed.

    Prof Quiggin, in your list above, there is a group missing: ministerial staff. One of the characteristics of Howard government ministers was their continual refusal to permit their staffers to appear before Parliamentary committees and inquiries. From my understanding, staffers are able to operate in a legislative limbo/twilight zone, free of the obligations and constraints of public servants. The Howard government regarded this as a feature, not a bug.

    To his credit, Kevin Rudd indicated during the campaign that this will change. I hope he quickly follows through on his promise.

  19. John Bignucolo
    November 26th, 2007 at 14:32 | #19

    Oops, the initial link, above, should have been to an extract by Anne Tiernan from her book Power Without Responsibility.

  20. November 26th, 2007 at 14:50 | #20

    One of the most necessary reforms was never mentioned in the campaign, the banning of political donations, to be replaced with public funding of campaigns. Surely by now it must be clear that donations can never be anything but bribery with corporations having the deepest pockets and the worst motives. Any move in this direction will of course be howled down by the corporate media.

  21. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 15:02 | #21

    “Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan would be higher priorities than any of the above as far as I’m concerned.”
    No, no Gordon. Haven’t you heard about the good war and the bad war? You know, troops home by Xmas from bad Iraq and then off to good Afghanistnam in the New Year to stay the course until it’s mission accomplished, or possibly run out of troops. It’s the only morally superior path to take now and the new govt will explain it all to you in due course.

  22. Fred Argy
    November 26th, 2007 at 15:08 | #22

    John, all the issues you mention are important (although I believe ministerial responsibility will always have to be a matter of Prime Ministerial judgment).

    But your list leaves out other important issues –

    * more freedom of information (buckley’s chance of change here because of bureaucratic resistance);

    * greater accountability, through the Audit Office, of regional grants (rorts and pork barrelling);

    * tighter disclosure rules on financial donations to political parties;

    * review of parliamentary allowances (which now give the incumbent government too much advantage);

    * restructuring of the methods of appropriation (to improve accountability);

    * action to stop the corruption of Parliamentary question time and Senate Committee processes;

    * greater transparency and independence in the process of selection of statutory positions like on the ABC Board and High Court;

    * and finally greater use of referendums and plebiscites (one of the few good ideas of Howard when he was debating Council amalgamations).

  23. Sam
    November 26th, 2007 at 15:11 | #23

    Rudd’s just come out and said that cabinet’s 1st priority will be his education policies (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/my-first-priority-rudd/2007/11/26/1196036792917.html)

    hmm if only it included my superannuation pitch for PhD students above…

  24. John Bignucolo
    November 26th, 2007 at 15:13 | #24

    One of the most necessary reforms was never mentioned in the campaign, the banning of political donations, to be replaced with public funding of campaigns.

    The Greens have done a sterling job in recent years of tracking the donation flow to political parties, particularly in NSW. The sums involved are really quite large.

  25. Ian Gould
    November 26th, 2007 at 15:54 | #25

    Actually John I believe formally ratifying Kyoto requires a vote of the Senate.

    Furthermore, isn’t there a delay between the election and the new Senators taking their seats, meaning that ratification at the next Senate sitting would actually request coalition support.

  26. Brendan
    November 26th, 2007 at 18:08 | #26

    Question time was a pretty good way to see the Howard government’s attitude from the start. It will be interesting to see how the Rudd government treats Parliament.

  27. November 26th, 2007 at 18:42 | #27

    Three words not mentioned so far would go a long way to reclaiming that Aussie generosity of spirit:
    Nauru, Christmas Island.

  28. melanie
    November 26th, 2007 at 18:42 | #28

    He’s going to say Sorry!

  29. Mark U
    November 26th, 2007 at 18:58 | #29

    On education policies:

    Can someone tell me how the laptop policy is going to work in practice? Are the laptops going to be able to be carried between home and school? If so, how will issues like theft and damage be handled? Will the laptops become the property of the student or remain the property of the government? What happens where a student already has their own laptop? Will this constitute an arbitrary form of “means testing”? (- ie. if you are “rich” enough to have already bought your child a laptop, stiff cheddar.)

  30. chrisl
    November 26th, 2007 at 20:04 | #30

    Kevin Rudd has ordered all of his government members to visit a public and private school in their electorates. He could follow this up by ordering them to visit public and private hospitals, go to work on public transport, and visit some public housing estates. I realise these are all state’s areas but one of his promises (or was it a slogan?) was to end the blame game

  31. johng
    November 26th, 2007 at 20:52 | #31

    Another mechanics of government task is redoing the budget papers so they become informative again. This task has interestingly been given to Senator Andrew Murray of the Democrats.
    Nice to see the information now coming out about the bullyboy tactics of the Coalition Ministers eg Peter Martin in the Canberra Times today about Peter Costello.http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/news/opinion/opinion/exit-costello-the-flawed-master-of-quip-and-lip/1092746.html
    On reducing fiscal pressure, there are lots of ways to do this which don’t abandon the promised tax cuts. There are many relatively ineffective programs which can be pruned. Taxes on alcohol and tobacco could be dramatically increased which would have good health effects.

  32. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 21:15 | #32

    “Can someone tell me how the laptop policy is going to work in practice?”
    Umm, please refer to your own answers MarkU. The moment it left their policy lips I just shook my head. Can you imagine the troops giving them out to aboriginals in the Territory?

  33. Hermit
    November 26th, 2007 at 21:43 | #33

    Rudd has prudently said there will be a period of consultation before the indigenous apology. Note that in Tasmania this has lead to compensation claims. There is a danger that those who voted for him may feel he is imposing too high a burden as taxpayers, borrowers or energy consumers. Rudd has to achieve several early milestones at modest cost.

  34. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 22:00 | #34

    “Rudd has to achieve several early milestones at modest cost.”
    Cost? Who mentioned anything about cost? He’s just supposed to say sorry so we can all move on.

  35. observa
    November 26th, 2007 at 23:25 | #35

    OK MarkU, think logically about the question of laptops for all Yr9-12s.

    1. Of course they’ll have to take them home to do their homework, but more importantly so that schools don’t have classrooms full of 25-30 laptops to be burgled and subsequently burned like cars to remove any incriminating DNA.
    2. Whether they belong to the govt or the kids, you can’t sue minors for damaging or losing them.
    3. If they are given to the kids, then if middle class kids lose them or damage them, their middle class parents will replace them cheaply from Cash Converters or unredeemed pledges at the payday lenders. Struggletown will just get their kids to ‘acquire’ some classmates identical laptop. Certain Territory aboriginal parents will trade them for grog, drugs and pornography and not care about replacing whitefella culture.
    4. As for the possibility of not giving one to those who already own a laptop, a national survey for the purpose will find that all the laptops currently brought to school are really owned by dad’s work, a close relative or Yrs1-8 siblings and are being borrowed.
    5. Just before the finalisation of tenders, some leftist professor of economics will raise a hue and cry about the magnitude of the sum going to Bill Gates for all the software, raising a further hue and cry from the usual suspects, forcing the Rudd Govt to turn it all over to a lengthy Commission of Enquiry as to whether open sourced software should be used. That will defer the whole matter to be the burning election issue in 2011. In the meantime free Mem Fox books will be given out to the littlies with great fanfare to soothe hurt feelings.

  36. Jill Rush
    November 26th, 2007 at 23:29 | #36

    The issues that Prof Q touches on are not expensive but do go to the heart of a democracy. An independent public service can never be achieved whilst people are employed on AWAs. The Libs made this mandatory in DEWR which is why nobody mentioned that it was a stupid idea ( and riddled with red tape.

    Ministerial responsibility and a process to ensure that it occurs, a public service that is apolitical are not so difficult. It would also establish very early that we are travelling in a new direction.

    The rort of the parliamentary electoral allowance being dropped back to its previous level, the declaration of donations over $1,000, the clsoing of electoral rolls after two weeks would be simple steps and yet would signify that there is a pact for better governance with the Australian people.

  37. rog
    November 27th, 2007 at 06:29 | #37

    Repealing workchoices and reregulating the labour market will come at a cost and Rudd will be battling to contain erosion of disposable income – a key election argument of his was to increase not decrease personal prosperity.

  38. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2007 at 08:27 | #38

    From the Labor website:

    “The National Secondary School Computer Fund will allow secondary schools to apply for capital grants of up to $1 million to acquire new or upgrade information technology equipment.

    This could include personal laptops or computers, thin clients with virtual desktops[1] and internet network infrastructure to plug our secondary schools into the information superhighway.”

    Nothing there about giving every child their own laptop to do with as they will.

    But who needs the actual policy when we can manufacture fantasies about abos selling government property to feed their booze habit. Next you’ll be asking who’s going to be buying all these laptops in places like Utopia.

    It’d be a relatively simple matter to provide kids with wireless smartphones (or the new $200 computers just released in the US) tied to the school’s intranet.

    But by all means keep up the “we’ll all be roon’d” whining, it makes a nice change from the constant complaints about Howard’s critics being a bunch of knockers.

  39. observa
    November 27th, 2007 at 08:47 | #39

    Thanks Ian. That settles it. More burglaries and burnt schools it is.

    Meanwhile Canada’s PM has some advice for Rudd on the really burning issue-

  40. derrida derider
    November 27th, 2007 at 09:33 | #40

    Yeah, I’d reckon the $200 laptops locked as thin clients off centralised servers is the way to go. Apart from being cheap, easy-to-manage, secure, obsoloscence-resistant and a boost to open systems (with all those kids becoming familiar with them), it would radically reduce the sale-for-booze and break-in problems that worries observa so much.

  41. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2007 at 09:36 | #41

    Derrida – it’s also the best way to stop the little buggers from using it to look at porn (for the first week or so until one of them hacks the system).

  42. ken nielsen
    November 27th, 2007 at 09:43 | #42

    Good grief! I agree with JQ – that is a first.
    What is sad, though, is the tribalism that remains so strong in Australian politics – the viciousness of the commentary about Howard. It reminds me of what people said when I was a kid – if Mr Menzies ever lost to the ALP the world would come to an end. Then the tribalism was class and religion (protestant v catholic)based. I really don’t know what is depends on now. Doctrine is just about neutralised but people are expected to accept the whole package from a party (particularly who you must hate) or be “hypocritical”. As an economic rationalist civil libertarian atheist who believes PJK was our best treasurer and EGW and JMF close rivals as our worst PM, I find it all very strange.

  43. Paul Mason
    November 27th, 2007 at 13:25 | #43

    Re JQ’s wish to restore the Westminster system. Firstly I would like to see legislation formalising the role of ministerial advisors.

    In particular I would like to enshrine a revised principle of ministerial responsibility: if a document has been registered into the ofice the minister is deemed to have seen it for purposes of determining if Parliament has been misled.

    No more advisors as fall guys.

    In the short run it will lead to a few ‘unfair’ resignations. In the long run it will confine the employment of these little pests to a few, highly trusted ones.

    Departmental heads, should be selected by ministers from a short list of say, three chosen by the Public Service Commission on merit grounds. Ministers should be allowed to replace a Head they can’t work with.

    Then there’s FOI. Shouldn’t the governing principle be that we the citizens are the owners of all information in the hands of our servant, the government?

    In the Google era shouldn’t we just be able to surf a digitised file registry

    We should be entitled to this as of right unless the rights of our fellow citizens are infringed. If the government wishes to contest this right it must do so in the courts.

    The judges who might hear such claims should be security cleared to the highest level before appointment and this might have to be extended to counsel as well.

    Where an FOI application is knocked back the principle should be that it will be met to the fullest extent possible at the earliest time possible, again determined by court order.

    Again there would probably be some embarrassing incidents to start with. Eventually everyone would adjust and the unnecessary power of politicians and bureaucrats would be curbed.

    Ahh! Snuffle, snuffle. Yawn. Gee that was a lovely dream. I must have some more of that new herbal tea.

  44. melanie
    November 27th, 2007 at 14:08 | #44

    An electoral redistribution would be a good idea.

    According to my (rough) calculations, about 48% of the electorate live in safe seats. About 21% of these are in safe Coalition seats and about 27% are in safe Labor seats. There are not only more safe Labor seats, but they are, on average 3% larger than safe Coalition electorates. I believe this hasn’t changed since I did undergrad polsci 4 decades ago. What may have changed, however, is that it’s no longer a rural gerrymander (except for Lingiari which basically covers all of the NT and is safe Labor). The Nationals’ seats aren’t significantly smaller than city seats. But Labor still has to get 52% to win.

  45. Andrew
    November 27th, 2007 at 15:10 | #45

    I’m with you Ken Nielsen. I voted ALP this time. I just thought it was time for a change – 11 years for one party is long enough. Time to see what the other mob can do. I’m also surprised by some of the negative commentary from some quarters on Howard (ala Alan Ramsey – what an unhappy little fellow he must be!).

    I think the Howard/Costello years were fantastic for Australia. As a country we’ve gone to a whole new level of prosperity. Ironically that’s why they’ve now gone. We are all well off enough that we can afford to experiment with the other side of politics for a while – especially because the other side of politics is almost indistinguishable from the Coalition that I voted into power in 1996. Kevin Rudd has cleverly steered the ALP into the middle ground that Howard used to occupy.

    The interesting thing to watch will be whether Rudd can use his emphatic victory (driven almost entirely by himself) to keep control of the party and stop it drifting back to the left. If he can do that then he could be PM for a long long time. The first test will be whether he gets the cabinet he wants or whether he allows caucus to interfere.

  46. Andrew
    November 27th, 2007 at 15:19 | #46


    I was listening to PM last night on the way home – the discussion was naturally about what Rudd will do first. Ratify Kyoto was high on the list – but one of the interviewees (Prof Don Rothwell from the ANU) was suggesting that it is not that simple – it will require some legislative changes.


  47. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2007 at 15:30 | #47


    “Ratifying Kyoto Protocol takes time: law expert

    Posted 2 hours 4 minutes ago

    An international law expert has cast doubt on whether the newly elected Federal Government will be able to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the short term.

    Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd has nominated ratifying the treaty quickly as one of his top priorities.

    But Professor Donald Rothwell from the Australian National University says the normal ratification is a lengthy process requiring a National Impact Analysis, a parliamentary inquiry and development of new laws to support the treaty.

    He says even if this is cut short, the treaty cannot be ratified quickly because of the need for new laws.”

  48. Bruce
    November 27th, 2007 at 15:57 | #48

    The tax cuts have to be dumped or delivered as super (savings) to reduce the pressure on interest rates. Otherwise we are guaranteed a recession.

  49. John Bignucolo
    November 27th, 2007 at 16:58 | #49

    The tax cuts have to be dumped or delivered as super (savings) to reduce the pressure on interest rates. Otherwise we are guaranteed a recession.

    And have a repeat of the L-A-W tax cut fiasco? I think the ALP will take its chances on a recession.

  50. swio
    November 27th, 2007 at 18:58 | #50

    I’m more interested in Rudd’s longer term agenda. At some point Rudd’s term in office will be over. At the end of it I would like to see the following acheived by then. I believe all the below can be made to happen by a determined Federal government over a period of about a decade.

    * The Federal/State health mess sorted one way or another and a properly funded top class health system

    * Superannuation contributions at 15% instead of the unworkable 9%. We have a whole generation of retirees that are going to find themselves stuck in a twilight zone of insufficient super.

    * Multiple Australian universities ranked in the world’s top 100 with rest of the higher education system not too far behind

    * Several world beating highly successful technology based companies along the lines of Cochlear. They don’t have to be huge but they do have to be world leaders. And the research/govt/business infrastructure to make this a happen regularly.

  51. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2007 at 20:02 | #51

    The first thing Rudd should do is fix that bloody intersection at the Agnew Street rail bridge – seriously what use is it having the PM as my local member if he can’t stop people going the wrong way down a one way street?

    More seriously: he should remove the tariff on imported ethanol and scrap the excise on ethanol; then he should zero-rate renewable energy and renewable energy equipment (wind turbines; solar hot water systems) for GST purposes.

    Speaking of GST, I really don’t mind that much that counting GST; company tax; my own income tax and the withholding tax from my employees I personally collect and pay to the tax office each year enough money to buy a house (admittidly not a particularly nice house)but I do object to the amount of time I have to spend on BAS paperwork – especially for the smaller of my two companies.

    I’d love to see the threshold for mandatory GST registration raised from $50,000 to, say, $500,000.

    While we’re at it, how about copying the UK and having a lower rate of corporate tax for the first $50,000 or so of income?

  52. observa
    November 27th, 2007 at 20:47 | #52

    Actually you’d have to say putting an affordable roof over everyone’s heads has to be numero uno http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,23636,22831184-31037,00.html
    If wall to wall Labor fail on that, they’ll quickly be dead meat.

  53. observa
    November 27th, 2007 at 20:54 | #53

    Perhaps when all is said and done, that whole election was really all about interest rates and housing/rental affordability?

  54. rog
    November 27th, 2007 at 21:13 | #54

    When it is all said and done, it was about identifying the group most at risk and working them over

  55. rog
    November 27th, 2007 at 21:19 | #55

    On housing shortages, the NSW industry property group has been warning for some years about the shortage of the “land bank”, it takes a long time to develop large tracts of open space into housing.

    The previous Premier was against more housing saying that the city couldnt cope with more people and he created more national parks and prevented land moving from the crown to freehold.

  56. observa
    November 27th, 2007 at 21:38 | #56

    If the conventional wisdom is that Howard largely won the last time on interest rates, then it stands to reason he lost this time on that same issue, given the succession and timing of hikes. Not such a problem in WA because they had those mining boom incomes as a buffer. Easy to check where the biggest swings took place. Mortgage belts eh?

    Also as I look around the building sites there’s a huge gap between the 50 somethings and the thirties and unders, as well as a large discrepancy in the respective group numbers and we larger group of oldies are dropping off fast. The die is now cast and Rudd and Co need to understand that and react swiftly, or their coming ownership of housing affordability will make Howard’s look positively sublime. Remember it’s- Gotta problem? Blame Labor now.

  57. swio
    November 27th, 2007 at 22:28 | #57

    I don’t think housing affordability is going to be an exclusively Labor problem. Yes they’ll be in government everywhere but in order for that to matter politically either the electorate would have to believe Labor produced the high housing prices or the Co-alition has to up come with a credible plan to do something about it. The first is unlikely since the entire housing boom happened under Howard and the second just ain’t gonna happen because there is no practical way to fix high house prices except time or a recession.

  58. observa
    November 28th, 2007 at 07:43 | #58

    If you say so swio, but to me it looks like you can have a good economy, humming along with record employment, along with some popular side issues like tough on terror and illegals and yet still get swept away by a few interest rate rises and no doubt concomitant rent hikes. Perhaps staying in govt is really all about keeping the great Australian dream alive and if you don’t, the Opposition only has to sound concerned and have a gabfest of handwringers and they’re in, until they fall victim to the law of incumbent responsibility. I guess we’ll see how signing Kyoto, fixing up draconian Workchoices, education revolutions, etc all stacks up if the Aussie dream sours even further as all the indicators portend.

  59. observa
    November 28th, 2007 at 07:51 | #59

    My hunch is the best advice to Labor is- It’s the McMansion stoopids!

  60. November 28th, 2007 at 10:25 | #60

    I think they should abolish the 17.5% tax on clothes (well most clothes).

  61. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2007 at 13:31 | #61

    “If you say so swio, but to me it looks like you can have a good economy, humming along with record employment, along with some popular side issues like tough on terror and illegals…”

    Did you ever stop to consider that those “side issues” might not be as popular as you assume?

  62. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2007 at 13:34 | #62

    Terje – there’s a magnificent piece of cognitive dissonance adhered to by many on the Australian left that says a 17.5% tariff on clothing is fine but that a 10% GST on clothing is a crime against humanity.

    Personally, I’d like to see essentially all tariffs removed – with appropriate compensation and retraining for affected workers.

    But realistically, it’s not something Rudd can do in the short term.

  63. observa
    November 29th, 2007 at 09:03 | #63

    “Did you ever stop to consider that those “side issuesâ€? might not be as popular as you assume?”
    I have, but considering the metoo attitude to dealing with illegals and staying the course in Afghanistan at least, plus no move to slacken ant-terror laws and measures, I discounted any other fanciful assumption.

  64. Andrew
    November 29th, 2007 at 22:47 | #64

    First test passed with flying colours…. Rudd’s ministry looks pretty good. So far caucus has behaved itself.

  65. Michael Angel
    December 3rd, 2007 at 16:37 | #65

    Gee a blog where I agree with everyone!
    I must be getting old and mellow.

    Yes what price computers where kids can’t be trusted with a pencil and the St.V.de P comes in every week with a fresh change of underwear for the week. (The old lot is burnt) And even the downpipes have been stolen? The teacher’s must leave all in a phalanx at 3pm (for fear of leaving anyone behind) -(outer W. Sydney schools).

    One ingenious way of getting rid of the Budget Excess, not fuelling inflation,doing some local Pork baraling, (to keep the back-bench happy) insulating our economy against Bush’s ruination of the US economy, AND meeting all election promises is to take a page from the Coalition’s book-“Future Funds”.
    I think the concept of “Future Funds” could be better developed into something lasting, useful and initially non-inflationary.
    IE or EG
    Say you give your favourite cause (Alternative energy technology, free dentistry,Smith family,hospitals, science research,the ABC drama dept.) a ‘stake’ of $1 million to 1/2 to 1 billion $. You told them (whoever you gave it too-ABC Board etc.,) that they could only spend, in any one year, 50% of the investment income, the rest has to go back to the principle. Eventually the “Future Funds” would become self supporting (apart from the occasional accountant’s flight to S.America).
    If you wished you could allow 105% tax break for donations to the principle of Future Funds to encourage business and corpoarte donations(It is also a good advertisement.)
    This is a way of getting rid of excess tax revenues, meeting election promises and future-proofing us against the end of the mining boom.
    It would be nice to have a FF for ‘Australian Venture Capital’
    even a $100,000 for my falling-down, brilliant, poverty stricken, running-on-the smell-of -an–oily-rag, kid centred, local Conservatorium of Music. It would help the new labor local member’s chances of being re-elected too .
    What price a $1,500 student’s violin Kevin?

  66. Ian Gould
    December 3rd, 2007 at 17:22 | #66

    “Apart from predicting that George Bush would win the 2000 presidential election in a landslide, Steyn said at regular intervals that Osama bin Laden “will remain dead”. Weeks after the invasion of Iraq he assured his readers that there would be “no widespread resentment at or resistance of the western military presence”; in December 2003 he wrote that “another six weeks of insurgency sounds about right, after which it will peter out”; and the following March he insisted that: “I don’t think it’s possible for anyone who looks at Iraq honestly to see it as anything other than a success story.” I miss him, too.”


    But hey I’m sure Mark’s entirely right about the Muslims conquering western Europe within the next twenty years.

    And if he isn’t I’m sure Observa will be bitterly disappointed.

    Isn’t if funny how people who complain about others hating America or hating the west, hate so much about the west themselves?

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