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Dear Mr Rudd (Minister for Propaganda)

By Chris Lewis - posted Monday, 27 July 2009


Dear Mr Rudd,

I remain amused by your ongoing bid to offer rhetoric under the guise of what policies are needed to solve the big issues that confront Western nations (especially Australia), and your ongoing attack on the so-called economic right as if supporters of freer trade and smaller government have no idea.

Your reliance upon rhetoric is shameful, as again indicated by your recent Sydney Morning Herald effort (July 25, 2009). With your attack on the so-called economic right, you somehow remove yourself from your own role in the very trends you are criticising? Did you not help rationalise Queensland’s public service when working for Premier Goss, thus earning you the nickname Dr Death?

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Perhaps I am being too harsh. Can you inform Australians of your longstanding concern about such adverse trends caused by so-called neoliberalism? I ask this because you expressed little awareness about any global economic problems ahead back in 2007.

Anyway, as a tutor who is about to assess 2nd year ANU students on their essays about public leaders, my first impression of your essay is to give you a credit. It does express intellectual aspiration but, unfortunately, the argument mostly offers rhetorical support for Labor policies with too many words citing data to show how clever you are.

However, as a piece of propaganda the essay is brilliant. You would make an excellent Minister for Propaganda in any country. By getting ahead of the game in terms of what policy trends are likely to emerge, you can lead the debate and portray yourself as the great leader with a sound grasp of the issues. With the Coalition struggling to offer any effective policy alternative as they bicker over key issues, most notably in regards to addressing greenhouse gas emissions, it appears that only an economic disaster can threaten a Labor victory at the next election.

Your emphasis on pain ahead is correct. Declining budgetary revenue from slower economic growth in coming years is likely to emerge which makes the task of balancing budgets much tougher. I hope that a Labor government makes the reforms on a fair basis rather than a strategy to win the greatest number of seats.

And you are wise to admit that your government can do little to prevent rising unemployment, interest rates, food and petrol prices that could emerge in coming years. This is a vast improvement from your past rhetoric of promising to do much but doing little about important everyday considerations for ordinary people such as food and petrol prices.

Similarly, you should highlight the mistakes made in the past with the heavy reliance on debt, although your argument incorrectly attributes much blame on the US despite acknowledging that most Western nations (including Australia) were also reliant on such debt to fuel both national and international growth.

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But when you make judgments about the past you should not use the same evidence to support your own efforts. It is not clever to gloat that Australia has the 2nd lowest level of debt of all the major advanced economies without giving due credit to the Howard government’s efforts.

Similarly, with your attack on so-called neoliberal policies of the past 25 years, particularly those of the US leadership, you need to show what policies should have been implemented, which countries could have taken up the void caused by the US abolishing capital controls in order to compete, and just how freer trade could still work to help both rich and poor nations prosper without mobile capital. As the above sentence indicates, these three dimensions to policy need to be answered together.

And are you also criticising the US most when you express an observation that some nations adhered to principles that government “should get out of the road of the market altogether and that the state itself should retreat to its core historical function of security at home and abroad”? After all, it was the US Federal Reserve which encouraged lower interest rates to attract investment and maximise profits, a stance supported by most major Western governments, and an example of government intervention which helped fuel the sub-prime housing disaster and many national housing bubbles.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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