Australia: Evidence is a stranger in Labor policy push

Australia: Evidence is a stranger in Labor policy push, by Judith Sloan.

Earlier this week, The Australian columnist Nick Cater undertook a forensic comparison of the Labor Party’s platform in 2007 just before the election of the Rudd government and the current platform endorsed by the party’s biennial conference this week in Adelaide.

He notes that there are now 43 “enduring values” in the Labor platform compared with only 11 ­in 2007. Back then, working families were given top billing and Kevin Rudd told us that he was a fiscal conservative at heart. Individual aspiration was even mentioned.

Today, individual aspiration is out, replaced by no one being left behind. It’s the “fair go” vibe.

Rudd was never a union man but, under Shorten, government policy will be implemented via the “the timeless truth of solidarity … alongside the mighty trade union movement”. That would be the mighty trade union movement that commands only 15 per cent coverage of workers and less than 10 per cent in the private sector. (It was 19 per cent in 2007.)

Labor is far to the left of the policy platform it took to the 2007 election. While determined to run a competent administration, the primary concerns of Labor today are bound up in identity politics, inequality, redistribution, climate change and social issues such as domestic violence and the treatment of refugees.

Gone are the days when Labor focused on the factors that would promote wealth creation (free markets, limited government, light regulation of the labour market, incentives for hard work and investment), thereby laying the groundwork to assist the most disadvantaged in the community.

Nowadays, Shorten is keen to use the organising principle of inequality to increase the size of government, to add to the overall burden of tax, to touch up higher-income earners and companies, and to spend big on health, education and welfare.