Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Slow Politics - It's the New Zeitgeist

... Let me make this point, Virginia, when you have a change of government, by this stage shouldn't you have had the announcement shock horror, Budget secretly in deficit, books cooked?
You know what's amazed me? Just the quietness of this week. There's been no revelations about the Budget...

Let me tell you when I was elected, the Monday afterwards, what had supposedly been a Budget surplus was $10 billion in deficit and the thing that amazes me about Labor is you know, all the equanimity around the place.
No hidden skeletons, no hidden shocks.
(Peter Costello on Lateline)
Well, that was last week. My first serious dip into current affairs this week was the first ten minutes of last night's 7.30 Report and Kerry O'Brien's interview with Wayne Swan:

WAYNE SWAN: Well Kerry, we have had six interest rate rises on the trot and they have flowed from the inflationary pressures in our economy that have been building for a long period of time.

Now, I could go on in this interview and bag the Opposition for the fact that they didn't deal effectively with inflation. I'm not going to do that tonight, because what I'm really interested in doing is putting in place the necessary reforms that expand the productive base of this economy and put downward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on interest rates...
Swan's refusal to bag the Opposition was a bit of a personal disappointment, but it's an interesting contrast with Costello's first major act as Treasurer - the revelation of the "Beazley Black Hole". A big shocker of an announcement, clearly intended to discredit Kim Beazley in the eyes of the electorate and dismay Australian Riff-Raff Party and its supporters. Fast politics, played for maximum emotional impact.

Naive optimist that I am, I think the days of fast politics - of manufactured crises, dog-whistling and campaigns based on vacuous promises ("Interest rates will always be lower under the coalition") and fear ("70% of the Rudd front bench are former trade-union officials") are over for now. We won't be seeing any triumphalist humiliation of a defeated Opposition for a while either.

As for the hidden skeletons - well it's early days yet. There are plenty of areas outside the budget - areas of substantive policy - where they might be found. See, for example, this post by Peter Martin and this AM interview with Kevin Rudd. Rudd's response is nothing like the "OMFG, we're nowhere near meeting our agreed Kyoto target and it's all the Opposition's fault!" that we would have got from He Who Has Passed Into Political Oblivion.

Over the next few months, as Labor gets to grips with the administration of areas like national security and immigration, I expect more of these revelations. They may lack drama, but the cumulative effect on the Coalition's credibility as an alternative government will be just as damaging as Costello's dramatic announcement of the "Beazley Black Hole".

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo in Exile)

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