CANBERRA OBSERVED: News Weekly
Is Kevin Rudd set to trounce the Coalition
, October 27, 2007
If the polls are to be believed, Mr Rudd has Labor within the grasp of pulling off the most stunning political victory in living memory.John Howard has given himself a longer than usual six-week election campaign in the hope he can wear down Kevin Rudd's landslide-threatening lead in the opinion polls.
The Prime Minister will need every day of the campaign, because no incumbent has managed a comeback of the magnitude being asked of the Coalition this time around.
Mr Howard will be hoping that Mr Rudd will falter in the same way that Dr John Hewson did in 1993 when he lost the "unlosable election", or the way Mark Latham imploded in the last week of the 2004 campaign.
But he will not be banking on a repeat of history.
The $34 billion in tax cuts offered on the second day of the campaign were an indication that the Government has no intention of giving up easily.Working mothers
The tax cuts, offered over the next three years, are aimed directly at low to middle-income working families and at part-time working mothers in particular.
More than 65 per cent of part-time working mothers will be paying no more than 15 per cent tax on their earnings once the new rates and thresholds are in place.
These are the very people who have been most upset at the new WorkChoices laws and whose family budgets are being squeezed as a result of higher interest rates, petrol prices and the rising cost of living.
Treasurer Peter Costello has added an extra punch to the proposal by including an ambitious five-year goal to have 98 per cent of all taxpayers paying a marginal rate of no more than 35 per cent.
The tax initiative set the agenda for the early part of the campaign, but also puts the heat on Labor which has been squabbling internally about tax for months.
Some inside Labor believed it should produce either no tax policy or one that had minimal changes because they believed Labor's lead was unassailable.
Now Labor's economic spokesman Wayne Swan (treasury) and Lindsay Tanner (finance) will have no choice but to come up with a substantial alternative.
But it will require much more than money for the Coalition to challenge Mr Rudd's lead.
In fact, economics may be the wrong route completely.
Mr Rudd has pulled off a remarkable feat in the shortest time as Opposition leader and the briefest political career of any aspiring Prime Minister since World War II.
If the polls are to believed, Mr Rudd has Labor within the grasp of pulling off the most stunning victory in political memory - during a boom and against a Government that is neither incompetent nor disintegrating.
He has managed to do this by convincing voters that there is no great danger in changing to Labor and harvesting a myriad of voter concerns from WorkChoices and grocery prices, to the war in Iraq and problems with broadband delivery.
Mr Rudd has professed strong adherence to Christian values, and is a regular church-goer - something that is unusual in modern Labor - and claims his values are mainstream.
He has described himself as a "fiscal conservative" (whatever that may mean), and a politician who takes a cautious and considered approach to policy.
Under Rudd there will be no great breaks with the present, and he has declared the only revolution that will occur under his watch will be in the field of education where he will apply a more rigorous and generous approach from pre-school to university.
However, the greatest trick Mr Rudd has been able to pull off since winning the leadership in December last year is that he and the Labor Party are one and the same thing.
In fact, he and his party are two very different beasts, and, if Mr Rudd completes his coup, voters will soon realise this is the case.
Since the end of the Cold War, the political Left has put up the white flag on economics, and there is no one in the major political parties offering anything other than the conventional Treasury economic rationalist line.
Ms Gillard, for example, was a firebrand socialist at university and the star lawyer for the Builders' Labourers Federation in her early years. But she recently boasted that her economics degree was "conservative".Accused
Ms Gillard has recently been accused of covering up parts of her past, and of eliminating from her CV all reference to the Socialist Forum, the political movement established from the remnants of the Communist Party in 1984.
But during a recent interview, Ms Gillard said her economics studies at university were conventional along economic rationalist lines.
"I studied economics at Melbourne University, and it was not a radical tradition. I come from that conservative school of economics."
The problem for the Left is that, having nowhere to go on economics, their only remaining route is a radical social and cultural policy agenda.
And this is where the Coalition will have to make efforts to expose Labor's dark underbelly, or face a decade or more in the political wilderness.