The Corner

A Decent Record?

With an election coming up, The Economist has concluded that Australia’s prime minister,  Kevin Rudd, “just about” deserves another term, a (supposedly) reluctant endorsement to add to that magazine’s increasingly, uh, interesting selection of electoral picks.

Writing in the London Spectator,  Tom Switzer of Spectator Australia is not happy:

The Economist magazine is beginning to look a lot like the Guardian, the New York Times and the Age in Melbourne: its editorial pages are so dripping wet that one has great difficulty in turning them. How else to account for this endorsement of the Australian Labor government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for re-election on 7 September?  Labor’s ‘decent record’ in recent years, it argues, makes it the best party to face the challenges of the future.

Yet this is a government that has turned a $20 billion surplus it inherited from John Howard’s Coalition in late 2007 into a whopping budget black hole and rising national debt. A government that has imposed a carbon price that is five times as high as that under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme at a time when Australia’s trade competitors chug up the smoky road to prosperity…. Tony Abbott, the conservative Opposition leader, is hardly the reincarnation of Milton Friedman: his support for a big-spending paid maternity scheme, for example, suggests he is sometimes prone to paternalism. But Abbott’s broad agenda consists of cutting taxes to help create incentives for private enterprise to take risks and invest.

Rudd, however, has no truck for genuine liberal principles of small government and free markets that purportedly define The Economist’s editorial philosophy. During his first term, he blamed ‘neo-liberalism’ for causing the global financial crisis, and he has since credited his government’s record stimulus spending and pro-union policies for saving Australia from economic contagion. Never mind that Australia actually weathered the global storm thanks to a record commodities boom and free-market policies Rudd so likes to deride. Labor had inherited a dozen years of budget surpluses from the previous conservative government, of which Abbott was a senior minister, giving Rudd a strong fiscal position from which he could try to use tax dollars to fuel a recovery…..

…As for border protection – a red-hot political issue down under – The Economist attacks Tony Abbott’s ‘populism’. And yet the Opposition leader merely seeks to emulate John Howard’s sound policy of temporary protection visas, refugee offshore processing and turning back the boats, which helped stop unlawful arrivals and boost public confidence in orderly, large-scale and non-discriminatory legal immigration…

Read the whole thing.

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