It's like having one of those nightmares that seems to grow more horrible as it drags on. We've been looking forward to the next federal election for a chance to get rid of John Howard, but with each day federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd sounds more and more like Howard.
First Labor's millionaire leader gave us "Work Choices Lite" and, matching the euphemistic sophistication of Howard's Ministry of Truth, named Labor's new industrial relations policy "Forward with Fairness".
Then — on May Day no less — Rudd's deputy, Julia Gilliard, brazenly told ABC Radio that the ACTU's Your Rights at Work Campaign would be illegal under the IR regime Labor was proposing.
Her justification was astounding: "Well, we'd be in the happy situation where people would know that they would have a fair industrial relations system, so they ... wouldn't have to mass in the streets in order to get a system that treats Australian working families fairly. It's been [because of] Mr Howard that they've had to mass in the streets to deal with his unfairness."
It's so obvious: We'll be getting capital "F" fairness from Labor, so workers should give up the right to strike for political reasons.
Then, in his budget response last week, Rudd came out boasting about the "bipartisan consensus" on "conservative fiscal policy".
He recited a sort of neoliberal proclamation of faith: "If elected, the government I will lead will be grounded in the discipline of not spending more than we earn ... We will also not increase taxation as a proportion of gross domestic product ...
"If elected, the government I lead will maintain the absolute independence of the Reserve Bank and the Bank's inflation target ...
"Equally we must remain committed to keeping taxes low."
Rudd pledged "to help get government off the back of business and free them up to create more jobs and more wealth for the future".
And so on.
Rudd should reflect on the departure from office, in public disgrace, of another "Labour" conservative, Tony Blair, because that's where he's heading.
This bipartisan conservatism has horrible real costs and society is forced to stay on the path of social and environmental vandalism no matter which side wins the election. Despite Rudd's claim to take on the challenge of climate change, neither Labor nor the Coalition are prepared to make the massive investment in renewable energy generation that is needed now if we are to heed the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that global emissions would need to peak no later than 2015 and then decline by as much as 50% by 2050 to prevent dangerous global warming.
The conservative bipartisan consensus has produced two shameful and irresponsible budgets. But you have a chance to make a wise budget choice by helping keep Green Left Weekly afloat.
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