Kevin 'Mini-Me' Rudd is no John Howard

aug 07 OLO

No doubt, Rudd will also fail to continue the Coalition’s trade liberalisation. Comments made by Labor Party representatives and trade union officials after Ford Australia announced the closure of its Geelong factory confirm this. The Australian Manufacturers Workers’ Union demanded intervention by the PM to save jobs. Rudd responded with protectionist rhetoric, saying "I don't want to be prime minister of a country where we don't make things any more. And making things means still having a viable automobile industry in Australia."

The only way to do this would be to protect the economy, stop free trade and expose Australian consumers to higher costs of an inefficient home market or the burden of heavily taxed imports. You cannot claim to be in support of free trade and then expect government intervention to save jobs when faced with the inevitable costs of comparative advantage. But, true to his real ideology, Rudd’s first reaction was “intervene” and protect ...

Rudd himself has both explicitly stated that he is and is not a socialist (he told the Australian Financial Review in 2003 that he's "an old-fashioned Christian socialist", and he told The Age in December 2006 that he has never "been a socialist and - never will be"). The flip-flop on something that one might think fundamental has attracted a little media attention ...

Whether or not he is a socialist himself, due to the machine that put him where he is and nurtures his ambitions for power, Rudd possesses loyalties and obligations that mean that, at heart, he remains diametrically opposed to the Coalition and its values. As long as Rudd is the Leader of the Labor Party (with its left and right factions) and, ipso facto, representative of Union interests and all that is of the left, he will have to stay true to what is essentially a socialist agenda. Although in policy terms Rudd currently offers little to differentiate himself from Howard, in his fundamental outlook he remains completely different.

In a piece in the Australian Financial Review on November 16, 2001, while he was still a backbencher, he famously called on his party to “repeal the socialist objective” and adopt a Blair-esque new approach, a “Third Way”.

Significantly, the apex of this approach was Rudd’s attempt to remove socialism from the ALP’s constitution - an attempt that floundered in the face of resistance of his party and was ultimately abandoned.

A number of lessons can be drawn from this rejection of Rudd’s reform.

At its core, the Labor Party’s ideology is dominated by a fear of progress, coupled with skepticism of the importance of the individual in creating his or her own wealth that results in an interventionist, bloated government. It may not be obvious from seeing the clean-cut Rudd on TV, but by being the Leader of the Labor Party he is still beholden to the socialist interests of the vast majority of Labor Party members.

A Labor government’s central aim would be the redistribution of wealth, rather than the stimulation of growth. Those purposes necessarily conflict, and when the emphasis is on redistribution, economic growth is destined to suffer. This is ideology that, contrary to an overwhelming wealth of economic studies that prove free market economies grow at higher rates for longer and sustained periods of time, fears market forces. Its first instinct is to intervene. Its second instinct is to resist reform.

What’s the moral of the story? You cannot have your Liberal Party Policy cake and be a Labor Party comrade too. A socialist can never be trusted to deliver the real reforms needed to deliver continual growth to the Australian economy. And, despite his best impression, Kevin Rudd is no John Howard.