Clearly the third-term agenda of the Howard Government should be to heal divisions in the community, relating to both race, and the clear division that exists between those who feel they are benefiting from globalisation and those who are not.
The Howard Government needs to show how their reform agenda will be shaped by genuine community need and desire, rather than simply being imposed from above.
The vital issues of the Howard third term will be repairing the damage done to the budget in the lead-up to the election, improving the quality of health and education available to ordinary Australians, managing the impact of international economic forces on the domestic economy, reducing unemployment and ensuring that the states meet their service obligations.
I think the Howard Government will try to claim that they are managing a series of crises and that each requires extraordinary measures to deal with - this will see issues such as industrial relations, welfare etc. come to the fore as issues where Howard can exercise extreme social conservatism while at the same time exploring a particularly radical form of economic rationalism. In this way we will see many of the insulating layers of our society that protect people from dynamic change will be lost.
We will be told, however, that this is inevitable and by way of appeals to our aspirational characters, even a desirable thing.
This may well be another of those risky plays by Howard, if it goes well, if the economic cycle is right, then it may result in a period of great prosperity and economic growth. On the other hand, there is already a large population of individuals who are very familiar and very dissatisfied with this practice and they may well reach the critical mass required to produce a political backlash similar to "One Nation" style politics.
Howard has consistently shown that, while he is prepared to shift to the right on social issues, he is extraordinarily difficult to budge from his conceptions of how economic reform should run.
His real challenge then will be to create an enabling economy, but not one that exists without the safeguards of a strong and healthy education, health and welfare sector. These are the insurance policies that give people a sense of security when going forward with change.
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