Monday, December 18, 2006

Howard in defence of Howard

So John Winston Howard has felt it necessary to write an op ed piece for the Oz to respond to Kevin Rudd's claims Howard is "an extremist and a market fundamentalist".

It is an interesting defence that Howard puts up. Lots of arguing that the welfare state is still in place, therefore the charge is wrong kind of stuff. He is big on the idea that the Government has its eye on both the private sector camp and government services. He says "policies such as the private health insurance rebate and support for non-government schools are especially attractive to many low income earners. Why should only high income earners enjoy genuine choice?" It is a cute line but quite misleading - despite all the funding elite private schools charge over $20,000 a year.

The modern Liberal equation of competition equals choice really ignores the reality that such policies only generate choice at the top end of the market. And underneath it all is devoid of any concept of a moral dimension - except a highly inconsistent moral dimension that the role of the state is to get out of the road of economic endeavour other than to guarantee property rights (defence, contract, police), yet at the same time run a line of "ethical" moralising on issues historically associated with the Church.

This gets to the point where the likes of Tony Abbott believe that what is important is choice, except a woman's right to choose whether to become a mother.

The real issue of concern to me is that Kevin Rudd has rattled off his view of still being a social democrat, being a christian concerned with fairness, but not showing any sign yet of how he brings that about.

At least he should take heart that the PM is already digging himself in on a strategy of labelling Rudd as "the same old ALP" - because I suspect that if his Shadow Ministry stops being lazy on policy, they will genuinely surprise Howard.

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