Monday, 8 March 2010
And I’d say to state health bureaucrats and disgruntled State politicians and other opposition types, I think it’s time just to get out of the way of fundamental reform.
K Rudd 5 March 2010
What is striking about those “opposition types” or, as we used to say, “political opponents”, is that they now stretch right across the political class.
The panel on Insiders were bemused at Rudd’s political aggression towards the states, while noting the lack of policy detail in Rudd’s health plan. But this is all about a political attack, dressed up in the guise of a policy initiative. After all, if the issue here is about federal funding to make up for inadequate state revenue, Canberra could just give them more money like it did last year. The only real policy meat in the proposal is to take control off the states and give it to local boards, as Abbott wanted to do. This is above all a political attack on the states and it is that political attack that has made it such a popular proposal.
The general view in the media appears to be that Rudd has abandoned ‘cooperative federalism’ and followed Howard in his war on the states running up to the last election. But Rudd’s attack on the states this time is quite different. In 2007, Howard used the wall-to-wall Labor states to try and make a traditional political point about Labor’s inability to manage spending compared to the Coalition. In reality, either at the state level, or in Canberra under Rudd, there was no real difference in approach to government spending between the two parties. Howard was trying to make a political point that didn’t exist. So he left it open for Rudd to accuse of him merely playing politics and “the blame game”.
That was the real basis to Rudd’s cooperative federalism, namely that given the lack of real political difference in mainstream politics, the states and Canberra were unjustified doing anything else but cooperating. This applied as much to Liberal state governments as Labor. This is essentially the same point behind Rudd’s attacks now. He is taking advantage of unpopular state governments unable to make a political case why they should oppose power being taken away from them, other than wanting power for its own sake. Gillard on Friday morning’s Today made the point bluntly to Abbott:
If you want to back state Premiers on health, you do that. We’ll be backing the national interest.
Rudd and Gillard are campaigning against an arm of government. However, it is worth noting that they are also campaigning against the parties running them, including their own. Of course, this is not the first time state and federal governments on the same political side have fought each other in public. The difference this time is that Rudd is now challenging the state government’s right to do so.
Pretty well from the moment Rudd stepped out of Parliament House to meet the insulation employers to tell them, and everyone else, “he gets it”, the government has been slowly recovering the poise it lost following Copenhagen, Abbott’s anti-political attack and the insulation saga. Rudd’s political agenda that he used in 2007 is coming back into place. Empathy? Check. Anti-politics? Check. The only part he is still missing from what he had in 2007 is the international agenda that would give him the moral high ground and prevent his critics from accusing him of playing hollow political games as well. Without it he is vulnerable and forced to raise the levels of attack on any critics. Fortunately he has Obama’s visit at least in March to presumably play the traditional role US Presidents play for their Australian counterpart at this stage in the electoral cycle.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 8 March 2010.Filed under Tactics