February 12, 2007 | Graham

Keep the bastards honest – another reason to vote Howard.

Friday’s breakfast meeting between Rudd and the Labor State Premiers suggests Howard may have another potent weapon to shift voters away from Rudd.
Labor is in power in every state in Australia, and with the possible exception of South Australia, is almost uniformly seen as incompetent and corrupt. The only reason that it holds power is because the Opposition in each state is regarded as being even worse. The dynamics are quite different at a federal level. While voters don’t particularly warm to Howard they don’t regard him as corrupt, and they do think he is competent.
Out of all the governments in Australia, only one is seen to be truly functional – John Howard’s.
In fact, if you look at many of the problems identified by Kevin Rudd, they are quite frequently problems which have been created by Labor state governments. Education, which was the basis of his pitch in his Australia Day ad, is a state problem. Local water infrastructure, where Rudd thinks some of Howard’s $10 billion fund ought to go, is a state issue. So is the shortage of tradespeople. The problems in health aren’t federal, they’re state too.
The dysfunctionality of the states can be clearly seen in the negotiations over the Murray-Darling. It appears that their only real objection to the Prime Minister’s scheme is that he is not buying them off with enough money.
Rudd’s plans to reform federalism can be seen as a tacit acceptance of the misgovernment by Labor of the states.
The states more than tacit endorsement of Rudd can be seen as part of a scheme to prop-up their own maladministration by putting their own man in charge of the federal cookie jar.
This doesn’t mean that Rudd is just a cog in the Labor machine, just that he can be made to look that way. It’s a perception that Rudd and the Premiers reinforce every time they decide to co-operate and sit down together. Rudd doesn’t help when he quotes his time with Wayne Goss, a former Labor state premier, as proof that he has economic credentials.
Australians have a history of voting for checks and balances. It’s most commonly seen in Senate voting patterns and has been the motivating factor that has kept the Australian Democrats viable for around 30 years. That doesn’t mean it has to be limited to the Senate. I think it will be a theme that Howard will develop over the next nine or so months.
The games not up for Howard yet, even though the latest polls must be very discouraging.

Posted by Graham at 6:19 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. It is fair to draw the voting connection between one party in power in the states, and the other having or vying for power in Canberra. However, at the moment there appears to be different factors coming back on Howard. For example, growing public awareness about climate change includes growing public awareness about inaction and lost opprtunities at the federal level. On the Murray-Darling Howard/Turnbull initiative, the combined position of the satates may be seen to produce a disclosure of the hidden matters, and ultimately a better outcome.
    as for health and education, the Commonwealth holds the trump card, and that is the money. In this respect, the States have been slow to attack the Commonwealth on funding and have allowed themselves to cvarry too much flack.
    The electorate is also forming views (albeit late) about Commonwealth matters which may override their consciousness about balancing power between the States and Canberra. For example, the connection between Howard and Bush and the Iraq disaster, David Hicks and a number of other issues. These individually may add up, but all of them combined may create the impression of a regime in decline. In this scenario, the regime in decline is being challenged by a young, fresh intellect that doesn’t frighten. State/Canberra balance may not loom large in the conscienceness of the middle 20% that decide federal elections.

    Comment by George Papacotis — February 12, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  2. Opinions are just that,and nothing to go by,so are predictions

    Comment by Karooson — February 12, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

  3. Howard has been in power for 10 years. I am so tired of watching the country that I love being a slave to the US government, aswell as to the foreign British royal family monarch. When are my fello Australian patriots going to stand up and put this country first? People who follow Howard I ask you, cant you let this country stand up with pride for once? Let us get our own Australian head-of-state. If you continue to support Howard, he will support prince Charles to be our next king. How sad could this country get? (And yes, you won’t even be able to vote for him).

    Comment by keith podella — February 12, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

  4. “Labor is in power in every state in Australia, and with the possible exception of South Australia, is almost uniformly seen as incompetent and corrupt.”

    I disagree, in Victoria the ALP government is very well liked. Ted Baillieu has been a very good opposition leader, but he is up against Steve Bracks, who in my opinion is the most popular and most competent politician in power in Australia at the present.
    The only problems Victoria is having at the moment is with the Melbourne metropolitan rail network, but the buses and trams work well. I think people realise that the State government doesn’t have enough money due to the vertical fiscal imbalance to fix the problem itself and I think they also realise the underlying reason (ok, I’m biased on this one) that the system has deteriorated is the privatisation policies of the Kennett government.
    In theory private transport operators can be punished through clauses in the contract if they fail a to deliver minimum standards. Instead what has happened to date is that governments ignore this and subsidise the company even more because they are afraid that they will make good their threat to pull out altogether.

    Comment by Benno — February 18, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

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