Monday, 12 March 2007

The Coming Federal Election: The 1999 Victorian State Election Writ Large

John Cain and Joan Kirner in Victoria presided over the Labor Party's longest reign in power from 1982 to 1992; Bob Hawke and Paul Keating federally presided over the Labor Party's longest reign in power from 1983 to 1996.

Labor in Victoria were routed in the 1992 election due primarily to their economic mismanagement; Labor federally were routed in the 1996 election due primarily to Keating's lack of popularity with the electorate and his growing disassociation with the values of the common voter.

Jeff Kennett came to power in Victoria in 1992 claiming he would restore the economic credentials of the state; John Howard came to power federally in 1996 claiming to be more sensitive to the values of the common voter.

Kennett lost power in 1999 because he was excessive in tightening the purse strings and too many services were compromised. Steve Bracks at that election then took power as the nicer version of Kennett even though there were no significant differences in their respective platforms. The Labor leader was, however, the Liberal leader with a kinder face.

Federally, I believe Rudd and Labor will win the coming election for the analogous reason. There is no significant difference between the two party leaders - Rudd and Howard share pretty much the same outlook on most things - nonetheless, and most importantly, Rudd is Howard with a kinder face.

So where Howard is tight with Bush, Rudd is more circumspect whilst still valuing the US alliance; where Howard accepts through gritted teeth human activity has caused global warming, Rudd has Peter Garrett as shadow environment minister whilst acknowledging that changes must come gradually so as not to cause significant economic disruption; where Howard sides unreservedly with business at the expense of everyday workers, Rudd is positioning himself as someone wanting to balance the competing interests of workers and their bosses; where Howard is gutting the education sector, Rudd sees education as the guarantor of Australia's future prosperity.

Thus just as Bracks was to Kennett, so I believe Rudd will be to Howard.

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