Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who is the real Rudd?

He has no principles, only a love of power, the usual Leftist defect. Unlike John Howard, he just goes with the flow, displaying neither courage nor convictions

During question time last week, as debate frothed about the Rudd Government’s $42 billion spending package, a voice in the background made a plea: “Will the real Kevin please stand up?” It was one of the more astute observations amid the orchestrated pronouncements and intervening pandemonium of parliament.

True prime ministerial character can never be judged before taking office or in the honeymoon period that follows. It emerges over time in shaping policy and responding to events. Worryingly, the emerging Kevin Rudd persona has at its core the convictionless pursuit of power.

It is difficult to construct a firm set of Rudd principles. As Prime Minister, he has mastered the art of slippery politics. He speaks with hyperbole to suggest conviction that, on closer scrutiny, is not there. He darts from one piece of Rudd rhetoric to the next, only to move away from each of his sweeping pronunciamentos with alarming speed.

There are two tests of political conviction. The first is one of consistency, delivering on promises made and adherence to core beliefs over time. The second test of conviction is courage: whether a politician has held beliefs before they emerged as the orthodoxy or simply jumped on a bandwagon only when it was popular and safe to do so. So who is the real Rudd? You be the judge.

Rudd was the Labor politician opposed to a broad-based consumption tax who rose in parliament on June 30, 1999, speaking with apparent passion to declare the passing of the GST legislation “a day of fundamental injustice. It will be recorded as the day when the social compact that has governed this nation for the last 100 years was torn up.” In 2006, he wrote about John Howard’s “regressive consumption tax”. Rudd’s heartfelt belief opposing the GST has not been aired since he became Prime Minister. GST keeps all the states afloat.

Rudd was the Opposition leader who described global warming during the last federal election as “the great moral issue of our time”. It was a vote winner. Kyoto was signed with the conviction that climate change was “the defining challenge of our generation”. And then the Rudd shuffle. By last December, the great moral issue was reduced to a meaningless carbon emissions reduction target of 5 per cent by 2020. Rudd ignored the findings of the UN panel he once lauded, which laid down a minimum target of 25 per cent to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 as necessary to prevent the sort of catastrophic climate change that Rudd once believed in. In October 2006, Rudd wrote his “light on the hill” Labor agenda for Australia was “taking the lead on climate change.” Now, there is no mention of leadership at Copenhagen 2009.

As Opposition leader in October 2007, Rudd committed a Labor government to taking “legal proceedings against President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad on a charge of inciting genocide” when the Iranian President spoke about wiping Israel off the map. The tough language of conviction was followed by inaction. Last December the Rudd Government announced it would not pursue legal action.

There was more tough-guy talk about Japan’s annual whaling hunt during the final term of the Howard government. As Opposition leader, Rudd spoke in grave tones about taking Japan to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. That promise has evaporated into the political ether of office.

In addition to dumping promises, Rudd has a knack for discovering beliefs only when they are politically popular. Rudd boarded the responsibility agenda of indigenous politics only after it was politically safe to be on that side of the ideological divide, buffered by black leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine. By contrast, John Howard staked out his ground on the dangers of victimhood politics and the need for practical reconciliation long ago, attracting scorn and derision for not kowtowing to the then accepted orthodoxy of symbolism and treaties.

Similarly, as Labor leader, Rudd morphed into an economic conservative when it was electorally popular to carve out those credentials. His language of fiscal prudence wooed voters as he assured us not a “sliver of light” separated Labor and the Coalition on fiscal policy. Now, amid a global financial crisis, when it is fashionable to attack the free market, Rudd’s stripes have changed. Now he is a social democrat who writes tomes about a conspiracy in Australia of neo-liberals who have left the country financially wrecked. As his more astute critics have asked, which social democratic country would Rudd rather govern in place of neo-liberal Australia, where a handy surplus enabled him to turn into a big-spending Keynesian PM? While he still claims to be an economic conservative, saying so does not make it so. Billions on cash handouts and “social” spending look like Rudd’s down payments on the next election dressed in the slippery language of “stimulus”.

Since his elevation to the ALP leadership in 2007, Rudd has sought to be taken seriously as a responsible leader with philosophical underpinnings and core beliefs. Writing in The Monthly in October 2006, Rudd said his mentor, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, would “caution against inflammatory rhetoric that seeks to gain political advantage”. Rudd attacked Howard’s “radioactive language”. Hypocrisy, thy name is Kevin. Bonhoeffer’s dictum has been dumped. Again and again, Rudd has conjured up the imagery of crisis to pump prime his political leadership: saving future generations from climate change, rescuing Australia from Howard’s “Brutopia” and now liberating Australia because “the great neo-liberal experiment has failed”. His war-footing language serves to undermine the confidence that is sorely needed and by not negotiating with the Opposition he exposes the emptiness of his language, given that a true economic emergency would demand genuine co-operation.

Rudd’s hyperbole serves only to make his undelivered promises and inconsistencies even more pronounced. Strip away the big words and solemn phrases and an empty edifice of unfulfilled promises and shifting opportunism remains. Rudd reminds one of the way 1920s US Democratic Party leader William Gibbs McAdoo described president Warren Harding’s speeches: “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea”.

Confidence in a leader comes from knowing who they are and what they believe. Love him or loathe him, Howard was known to friend and foe. His political beliefs remained steady and he pursued them often against the orthodoxy of the time. Pragmatism was, of course, part of Howard’s political make-up. For example, he rejected a GST only to later embrace it as part of much needed tax reform, despite the political risks. But Rudd is an entirely different leader. There is not a single instance of Rudd taking a responsible but unpopular decision. With philosophical principles impossible to pin down, his only consistent and coherent belief is in political power. Every Rudd position has been determined by how to get it and, now, how to keep it.


Thousands of South Australian teachers are opting out

If you had to stand up day after day in front of an undisciplined rabble, you might too

MORE than twice as many teachers pulled out of the education system this year compared to last year, latest figures show. Data provided exclusively to The Advertiser by the Teachers Registration Board shows 3530 teachers let their registration lapse at the start of this school year, compared to 1328 last year. While 1235 new people joined the register this year - including more than 800 graduate teachers - there was still an overall drop of 1950 teachers. Last year, 1214 new teachers entered the system.

Public preschool, school and TAFE teachers on Monday were awarded a 3.75 per cent interim pay rise by the Industrial Relations Commission. The Teachers Registration Board, which covers all school sectors, predicted there would be a "significant decrease" in the number of teachers renewing their registrations because of the "age profile" of the workforce.

SA College of Educators president Wendy Teasdale-Smith said a recent 50 per cent rise in registration fees - from $180 to $270 - and a "significant increase in bureaucracy" also could be factors. "When it was easier (to stay registered), people kept their registration going just in case they wanted to teach, but if it gets too expensive and too hard, then they may think, `I can't be bothered'," she said.

Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said workforce projections showed there were "sufficient overall numbers of teachers to fill jobs" in public schools for at least the next five years and there were recruitment schemes in place. Arbitration over the dispute between teachers and the State Government will still be heard in the Commission from May, and this increase will be part of the final wage rise. The Australian Education Union (SA) lodged a claim for a 7 per cent interim pay rise last October.


Sydney restaurant sued over deadly sauce

People put a lot of trust in a restaurant when they dine there so I hope this prosecution serves as a warning to others

The NSW Food Authority is prosecuting a North Shore restaurant after an elderly customer died from eating sauce which was found to be contaminated. William Hodgins, 81, became violently ill after consuming a fish meal covered in asparagus sauce at Tables Restaurant at Pymble on January 12, 2007. An inquest into Mr Hodgins death found the sauce had become contaminated by a ground-based bacteria known as bacillus cereus after being left out on a kitchen bench in temperatures of between 30 and 40 degrees next to a cool room.

Magistrate Culver found the sauce had been kept out for longer than the four-hour period after which it should have been destroyed. It was then put into a cool room before being used again.

Mr Hodgins was found dead on the bathroom floor by his wife the next morning. His stomach had ruptured after heavy vomiting. Fourteen other people had consumed the sauce at the restaurant that night and some complained of stomach rashes, headaches and in one case nausea and vomiting.

Tables is facing five charges in relation to its food handling, four of which are related to the storage and processing of unsafe food. The fifth charge relates to incorrect labelling of food that needed to be destroyed.


Australia's public radio network censors poll finding that 94% of listeners believe 'global warming is a myth'

By Andrew Bolt

ABC NewsRadio last week asked listeners: Is Global Warming to blame for the current heatwave in Australia? The ABC can't have liked the answer much. The poll, and its emphatic result, has been deleted from the poll archive.

UPDATE Reader Michael gives the results that the ABC won't: 1. Global warming is a myth (94.4%) 2. Yes (2.8%) 3. No (2.8%) Number of voters: 15,451.

UPDATE 2 We're told that the ABC had to junk this poll because 90 per cent of the votes were rigged. All right, let's assume all those 13,906 bogus votes were cast entirely by warming sceptics and remove them from the results. That leaves us with these figures: Is Global Warming to blame for the current heatwave in Australia? 1. Global warming is a myth (40%) 2. Yes (30%) 3. No (30%) I'll accept even these "corrected" figures. Let the ABC publish them.

UPDATE 3 Incidently, reader Tom rang Laura of the ABC NewsRadio's web polling section this morning and was assured by her these polls were proof against multiple voting. But she didn't know until Tom told her that what her poll had just measured.


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