Today is the 10th anniversary of the election of the Rudd Labor Government on 24th November 2007. Kevin Rudd sold himself during the federal election as the natural successor to the Howard Government which was perceived by many voters has having grown stale. He would be a safe pair of hands who would lead a responsible modern social democratic government.
He told us he was a fiscal conservative and even took the moral high ground on economic management decrying John Howard’s spending commitments when he said ‘this type of reckless spending must stop’. Then Labor frontbencher Peter Garrett in conversation with Steve Price at an airport when told their policies were nearly the same as the Coalition Garrett stated that once elected Labor would change it all. It was widely dismissed as a joke by Garrett but it turned out to be the truth.
Some of the grand projects that were promised by Rudd in that election should have given voters some insights into what was to come. There was the National Broadband Network where the federal government would be entrusted to build and operate a world class internet for Australia. Rudd also promised to deliver an Education Revolution, the most concrete part of this policy at the time was a free laptop to every high school student in Australia.
Then of course there was his vow to fight climate change which he labelled ‘the great moral challenge of our generation’. He would sign the Kyoto Protocol and promised to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme and invest in renewable energy.
Despite being warned of the risks the Australia people thought it was time for a change, they had also been spooked by the union campaign against the Howard Government’s Workchoices legislation. Rudd was elected with much euphoria and optimism and the media and intelligentsia told us that a new golden age of Australian exceptionalism had begun.
What a grave error the Australia people made that day, even though the Rudd years and as we were also subjected to later the Gillard years are now behind us we are still paying the price. We had a budget surplus in 2007 and federal government debt had been paid down to less than $60 billion. In 2017 the budget is stuck in deficit with a surplus not projected until 2021, meanwhile the federal government debt is now over $500 bill and counting.
Much of the debt and deficit we are currently burdened with is thanks to the government programs rolled out during the Rudd/Gillard years. Remember the waste of the economic stimulus program with the Building the Education Revolution where schools had halls built they didn’t even need, let’s not forget the pink batts home insulation program which caused 4 deaths and 200 house fires.
The NBN is still yet to be rolled out to all homes, the cost has constantly blown out by tens of billions and our internet is not much faster as a result. If spending on school halls was not wasteful enough Julia Gillard in her dying days as Prime Minister locked in billions of extra dollars into education funding following the release of the Gonski report, yet our education standards have not risen.
There was also the dismantling of Australia’s strong border protection policies with the end of offshore processing and temporary protection visas. That lured 50,000 asylum seekers to Australia on 800 boats, at one point one a day was arriving at our shores, it also saw 1,000 people drown at sea. It is another policy failure which we are still paying for with the taxpayers footing the bill for the men still being held at our re-established offshore proceeding centres.
Then there is the biggest policy disaster of all, energy policy and electricity reliability. Although the carbon tax was eventually repealed the renewable energy target was not which has been pushing up commercial and residential electricity prices. The result has been higher cost of living and contributing to the loss of manufacturing in the Australia. Despite the higher prices our electricity has now become more unreliable with a Coalition Government still unwilling to end the adherence to the climate change religion.
The economy remains sluggish with real wages and economic growth increasing only marginally every year. Australia’s unemployment rate is still too high at 5.8%. We are now at an increased risk of Islamic terrorism with violent crime now rising in our major cities thanks to unchecked immigration.
Our nation has certainly changed in the past 10 years, but defiantly not for the better. As Paul Keating once said, ‘If you change the government, you change the nation’ and even though the Rudd/Gillard Labor Government was voted out in landslide in 2013 much of their policy platform remains.
Certainly, the dysfunctional nature of federal politics is another hallmark with every Prime Minister elected since 2007 has not been able to serve out a full term and that looks like again being the case this term with how Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is fairing. On this day we should all reflect on the disaster we the people unleashed on our nation 10 years and make sure we are not doomed to repeat the same mistake in the future.