Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Ruddslide

Some readers may be looking to me for a comment on the implications of the recent Australian Federal election. As I see it, one centre-right government has been replaced by another. As Andrew Bolt has pointed out, there are even some ways in which Rudd is to the Right of John Howard. And the policies of the two major parties on social issues such as illegal immigration, abortion and homosexual marriage seem to differ only in the smallest of details.

There are some causes for concern, of course, but nothing major is likely to change much. The Australian Labor party is arguably the world's most conservative Leftist party and they strongly reinforced that in the recent election campaign by their constant "me-toos" to the policies of the Howard government. They NEEDED to do that. Any hint of traditional Leftist policies would have sent them to oblivion again -- as it did in the previous election under the leadership of Mark Latham. In other words, they won by promising that there would be only micro-changes. That is pretty conservative in at least one sense.

There will certainly be a lot of rabid Leftists in the new Labor cabinet (government) but Rudd has immense authority for having led them out of the wilderness and he is also an obsessive bureaucrat who will not let much past him and he knows full well what his victory depended on. So any Bolshevik tendencies in the cabinet will undoubtedly be stared down.

If Rudd WERE to depart from his election promises to any substantial degree that would be a strong confirmation of what his electoral opponents constantly harped on during the campaign: Can he be trusted? And that would almost certainly lead to his defeat in the next Federal election in 3 year's time. And I know without looking that Rudd has far greater ambitions than being a one-term Prime Minister. So, ultimately, it is the electorate that is the watchdog watching him. And his recent success shows that he is too good a politician to be unaware of that gaze.

The biggest danger that I see is in his High Court appointments. Judges generally seem pretty power-mad and Rudd appointments could take the brakes off that. Australia has had a lot less legislating from the bench than the USA has had so it would be a great pity to lose that restraint.

The Rudd stance on the Iraq involvement is certainly weaker than that of John Howard but I again think Rudd will be cautious. His habit of caution and avoiding controversy should see any moves being slow and well-considered rather than hasty. He is certainly a lot less frantic about it than the U.S. Democrats are. Britain is already in the process of pulling out of Iraq, however, so that makes whatever Rudd does fairly inconsequential by comparison.

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