8 March 2009

Rudd should expect no less for his personal attacks in Parliament

Kevin Rudd shouldn't shed any crocodile tears because of Malcolm Turnbull's article in The Australian slamming the Prime Minister's absurd ideological treatise on neoliberalism, given the number of denigratory remarks that Turnbull and the Liberal Party in general have tolerated from both him and Treasurer Wayne Swan in Parliament. Ever since Turnbull became Leader of the Opposition they have attacked him for his wealth and past career in the finance industry at every available opportunity.

The remarks play to voters' prejudices and not only were they totally uncalled for, they were simply wrong. The global financial crisis was not caused by greedy merchant bankers and neoliberalism. China ran up huge trade surpluses that were lent to the US and fuelled an asset bubble. Also, the US government intervened in the mortgage market, further inflating housing prices until the housing bubble burst.

Here is one appalling attack he made on February 5, 2009, in the House of Representatives, where he insults merchant bankers and outrageously suggests that Turnbull should apologise for the global financial crisis because of his profession:

Mr RUDD —I know those opposite do not wish to actually debate that which is real here, which is: how do you deal with providing the stimulus which the Australian economy needs because of the global economic crisis? We have a program put forward. It is costed. The assumptions have been backed by the Treasury, and we stand by those because they represent for us a credible strategy to see Australia through this crisis.

The alternative is not just sitting on the fence, not just carping from the sidelines, but an avalanche of politically opportunistic negativity from those opposite. But here is the ultimate irony for those opposite. There they are, representing the forces of neoliberalism around the world. There they are representing the forces of unrestrained greed. There they are, representing the forces of unrestrained markets, representing the forces also represented by unprincipled merchant bankers operating with under-regulated markets—their entire ideology, which has brought this crisis about—and yet they are unprepared to lift a political finger to support this government’s efforts to deal with the consequences of that crisis. This is the ultimate irony, the ultimate hypocrisy of those opposite: the unrestrained greed, unprincipled merchant bankers, under-regulated financial markets—at the absolute core of neoliberalism—causing this crisis worldwide, and there they stand back, smugly, seeking to take political advantage of this government’s attempts to deal with the consequences of that crisis for working people. Those opposite have contested whether in fact they are really neoliberals. Remember, as the Leader of the Liberal Party has said in response to this debate on unregulated financial markets: ‘Let us simply let the market run its course.’

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would just ask the Leader of the Labor Party to refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his proper title, please.

The SPEAKER —Order! Members should be referred to by their parliamentary titles.

Mr RUDD —The Leader of the Opposition has said on multiple occasions, ‘Let the market run its course.’ That is the very heart of the neoliberal agenda which has brought about this mayhem on markets worldwide, with impacts on working people, who now pay the price through the loss of jobs right across the world and in our country as well. The Leader of the Opposition reinforced that in the debate in the parliament on Tuesday when he began citing as his new authority on fiscal policy Professor Taylor from Stanford University in the United States, who is himself one of the archdeacons of neoliberalism. Remember what Professor Taylor said? He always asks himself each morning: ‘What would Milton do next?’—that is, what would Milton Friedman do next? And then you have not just these statements of ideology but also the action itself of ideology, which is to block this government’s efforts in the Senate to actually deal with the stimulus needs necessary to repair growth, growth which has been undermined by neoliberal wanton behaviour around the world which has brought this crisis about in the first place.

So there you have this extraordinary contradiction—their ideology wreaking havoc on the world economy and them refusing to support any course of action to deal with the consequences of their ideology’s spectacular failure. How about, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, you just stand up one day and say, ‘Maybe this neoliberalism, maybe this market fundamentalism—maybe we just got it wrong.’ How about a word of apology about all of those investment bankers around the world who creamed it, who scored tens and hundreds of millions of dollars out of this? How about just a word of apology which said you might have got it wrong? And how about a word of action to support a government’s efforts to clean up the wreckage after you? That is the moral challenge here, a moral challenge which has been failed by the Liberal Party corporately and by the Leader of the Opposition personally.

Wayne Swan is probably the worst in Parliament for playing the politics of envy:

Mr SWAN —I was making the point that the Liberal and National parties in this House are simply out of touch with the everyday lives of average Australians. The shadow Treasurer said only last week that Australians have never been richer. That is what he said only last week. Despite the fact that the stock market has halved in value in recent times, his view is that the champagne is still flowing. Of course, when you have the opposition led by a merchant banker and lawyer for merchant bankers, it is no wonder that they are so far out of touch.

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