Julia Gillard really could not help herself and I can’t say that I blame her. She has a long article at The Guardian, itself an interesting choice on where to speak out, which comes under the title, “Julia Gillard: power, purpose and Labor’s future“. I picked this up at Andrew Bolt who has quite a bit to say on the article as well. But the part that gets to me is that sense of how wonderful Labor has been in all the handouts they have manufactured. She sees no down side in all of the visionary stuff she has been responsible for. Let me draw on just one:
It is impossible to imagine modern Australia without Medicare, our universal healthcare scheme, which was introduced by the Whitlam government, repealed by the Coalition and then introduced by Labor again. This reform has become so significant a part of our national story that the political contest which surrounded its birth is now over. No serious candidate for public office runs on a platform opposing Medicare. Today’s Australia is not home to the kind of conservatives who would be ideological enough or dumb enough to contemplate such a political campaign. If anything, the national mood around Medicare is one of smug complacency. How much smarter are we than the Americans, still struggling with health reform, we think to ourselves.
Let me just stop you right here. Australia does not have a universal healthcare scheme. It has a dual track system which is why ours is the best in the world. Left to Whitlam, there would have eventually been no private healthcare option. It was intended to be a universal health care scheme. We would have been like the Poms, the Canadians and as the US is about to become. But under Malcolm Fraser, before he became a socialist, there was this one change made that has made all the difference: “‘Medibank Mark II’ was launched on 1 October 1976 and included a 2.5 per cent levy on income, with the option of taking out private health insurance instead of paying the levy.” They are slowly slowly introducing the private component into overseas universal healthcare systems as the Americans go about ruining theirs. We have had it all along. For a hilarious look at the Canadian system you have to see The Barbarian Invasions. This is where the Whitlam/Labor approach would have taken us.
This is the economic problem with the sainted Julia’s way of thinking. The government will remove market considerations to the greatest extent possible to fix whatever is not in their minds working perfectly by getting the government to do whatever it is itself. Everything is then fantastic except the outcome. And as for it being “impossible in modern Australia to find an advocate for the Howard government’s Work Choices laws” I wouldn’t be all that sure of this myself. But while on policy, as in making the economy work and that sort of thing, she is utterly wrong; on the politics of what draws votes I am more than sure that if not quite 100% correct she is pretty close. We still do not have the dependency class in the way others do. We have managed to maintain just enough of the ancient work ethic and notions of self reliance to still make an Abbott electable. But how long this will be it is impossible to know. But as these attitudes erode a less certain future beckons.
Even on the smaller question of whether it was right to switch to Kevin, it is not the number of seats that matters but the way in which the lies, chaos and policy incoherence of the Gillard government has more or less disappeared from the active memory of the country. Julia was a disaster and not only would have led her side to defeat but would have remained a symbol for inept governance for a generation. That has now gone completely. There is no horror within the community at the six years of Labor in the way there ought to be. That is why she is able to write this article and maintain her dignified pose. It amazes me how thoroughly Kevin has saved Labor from an entrenched communal memory of incompetence and deceit it so completely deserved. Now, sadly, it is possible to imagine a Labor Government if not quite within three years but certainly in six.