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Will the real Kevin Rudd please stand up?

By Peter Costello - posted Friday, 18 May 2007


Kevin Rudd, an economic conservative?

A few years ago Mr Rudd spoke candidly about his philosophy. “I am an old-fashioned Christian socialist” he told the Australian Financial Review in 2003. Now Labor is running TV ads with Kevin Rudd claiming “I’m an economic conservative”. Socialist or conservative? Mr Left or Mr Right? Which one is telling the truth here?

Let’s look at the record.

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In his time in Parliament and as a Parliamentary candidate Mr Rudd has been quite consistent. He has consistently opposed economic reform.

Kevin Rudd opposed those measures which balanced the Budget and paid off Government debt. Mr Rudd opposed the introduction of the GST claiming that it would be the “highest form of fiscal vandalism”.

He has supported a nationalised telecommunications sector. He opposed the privatisation of Telstra. He opposed legislation to enhance competition. He opposed the tariff reduction schedule for manufacturing industries.

He opposed industrial relations reforms. He supported union control of the waterfront. And when the Government introduced tax cuts in the 2005 Budget, he took the left-wing route, opposing them too.

Every time a hard economic reform has been made Mr Rudd has been on the opposing side. Just like an “old fashioned socialist”.

Now some people might say that he was just toeing the Labor Party line and that despite his words, his actions, and his parliamentary voting record, he really did believe in economic reform.

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That would be a forgiving view of cheap, opportunistic and dishonest conduct. But those who want to believe it should look a little closer.

Mr Rudd has not just opposed the government’s reforms, he has opposed them with gusto, employing a scorching rhetoric that bespeaks a passionate opposition to recent economic reform. As recently as last November Mr Rudd was delivering a lengthy fire and brimstone diatribe on how conservative economic policies in Australia had created a brutal  “Brutopia”.

While true economic conservatives were applauding balanced budgets, repayment of debt and industrial reform, Mr Rudd wrote that they amounted to “unrestrained market capitalism” where the “neo-liberal experiment has now reached its extreme”.

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About the Author

Peter Costello AO is a former, and longest serving, Commonwealth Treasurer. He is a company director and a corporate advisor with the boutique firm ECG Financial Pty Ltd which advises on mergers and acquisitions, foreign investment, competition and regulatory issues.

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