Thursday, December 6, 2007

Roskam plain wrong on Howard loss

The Institute of Public Affairs' John Roskam was pushing his skewed take on national affairs in the opinion pages of The Age yesterday in a piece entitled, 'It wasn't because they weren't "liberal" enough that the Libs lost'. It was part confused rationalisation of the Howard loss, part prescription of where to from here for the Liberal Party.

To me the piece was badly argued, and I responded in a letter to the editor that was somewhat shortened in the published version ('A vote on values'). Here's the full version:

John Roskam is clearly bewildered by the Coalition's deserved loss of the election – he's also confused. While Kevin Rudd did play small-target politics and the charge of me-tooism was not unjustified, his strategy highlighted significant differences between his alternative government and the Howard Coalition. These differences were of policy and value.

If, as Roskam suggests, values can guide the Coalition's future policy formulation, it is also true that the policies it took to the election reflected underlying values that voters emphatically rejected.

WorkChoices was both an abhorrent policy and indicative of a Coalition that valued an exploitative inequality favouring employers over workers. The failure to endorse Kyoto was again symptomatic of valuing a narrow, big-business construction of economic prosperity over the health of an environment shared by us all.

Unfortunately, calls by Roskam and others for the Liberals to be the party that 'defends and extends personal freedoms' are too often code for removing constraints from corporations (so-called 'legal persons') to the detriment of the public interest – the Coalition's WorkChoices and climate change policies were just two, electorally disastrous, examples.

That's why Howard lost, John, and why, in terms of policy and value, Rudd's election brings a promise of fresh, carbon-free air.

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