Deconstructing Swan’s arguments is as challenging as picking a dead man’s wallet. Shop-worn tropes go round and round, like unclaimed bags on an airport carousel: Labor is the party of opportunity, a sentiment to which Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and John Maitland are presumably living testimony; Tony Abbott, accused of every possible malfeasance short of starting a leprosy pandemic, would destroy what this country retains of good and true; and only Swan and his colleagues stand between Tony Abbott’s Visigoths and the “fair go”.
It gets better from there.
Given the confusion in which Swan’s views are mired, these delusions appear to spring less from a surfeit of ideology than from a deficit of clear thought. Having gained office after losing the battle of ideas, Labor was left with an operational code that belongs to another time and place: one still seething from the humiliation of the Howard years and nostalgic for a 1950s unionism that disappeared before today’s cabinet ministers were in short pants.
It is thus unsurprising Swan and his colleagues have proven subservient to a union movement that combines the relentless pursuit of self-interest with a startling disregard for its policies’ long-term consequences. Sheltered from market disciplines, the public-sector unions that dominate the ACTU see public spending as the key to prosperity, regardless of the costs it imposes in wasted resources, distortionary taxation and upward pressure on the exchange rate. As for their private-sector counterparts, they have shrunk to such narrow bases that the economy-wide effects of their inefficiencies escape them.
Little wonder they seem like dinosaurs: dangerous, dim-witted at all but violence and doomed to extinction. And little wonder the government they control has excelled at transforming opportunity into disaster.
In its own way, that unbroken record of failure is impressive.