Labor to overhaul state-federal ‘blame game’: Howard to “ism” you to death, in response…

I mentioned a few days ago that the insistence by Team Howard/Costello that the states were to blame for interest rates was a little … stretched, to say the least, considering the big surpluses that the federal government was receiving, keeping and generally playing around with.

Today’s papers tell me that Kevin Rudd has an idea or two about that:

The states will have freedom to determine how they spend money given to them by the commonwealth under a Kevin Rudd plan that could radically change federal-state financial relations.

A report prepared for the federal Opposition Leader, to be released today, says state governments should be freed from the restrictions now placed on the way they spend $30 billion worth of commonwealth “specific purpose payments”.

The report calls for a dramatic cut to the number of areas that are dual state and commonwealth responsibilities so that only one tier of government would take charge of previously shared functions.

Mr Rudd’s overhaul of commonwealth-state relations is designed to end the “blame game” between the two levels of government, particularly in health and education.

The Prime Minister’s response was, as one would expect, not encouraging. For a start he would have been pissed to learn that his party was, yet again, second in the Ideas Race for this election. Given, also, that Howard can barely put a foot right, while Rudd can barely put one wrong, he must have been worried. Rudd’s plan looks little like devolution, on first glance – meanwhile the Prime Minister’s idea of governing is taking over State responsibilities.

If Being Popular’s love affair with Kevin Rudd continues, Howard has definitely zigged in some heavy zagging country:

Howard attacks Rudd’s ‘federalism’

“They want their national government’s solving problem, they are not much fussed about theories of federalism or theories about blame games they want outcomes,” Mr Howard said.

He said Australian people wanted the Federal Government to play a more not less of a role.

“In 2007 the two great sentiments regarding governmence are nationalism and localism. They want their national Government solving problems.”

Where to begin? Non-Australians, Howard is, here, trying to tap into the ‘silent majority‘, originally made famous by Nixon, that he has used previously. Brits, remember the Tories’ “Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking?” campaign? Short-lived, though it was, due to just how unsubtley racist it was. Americans, just think of so-called ‘wedge’ politics. Gay marriage, abortion – shit that Bush never did a damn thing about except use to win elections by attracting the votes of suckers.

Speaking of the Tories, I found this:

Tory poster

The relevance of which is only humour, really. Go deface a political poster at your earliest opportunity. Billboards are evil, anyway. Anything larger than those neat lawn posters should be fair game.

Back to Barking John Howard – I really didn’t follow his argument. I objective, in principle to him telling me what I want out of my government (here’s a tip: you). But to say, barely breaths apart, that we are not interested in theories about federalism (itself offensive) and then to say we want Federalism and Localism (what does that mean, anyway?) strikes me as A Desperate Politician, Spinning Furiously.

The idea that he is above blame games, after playing them every fucking day, does little to help. I don’t know how generous his opinion is of the electorate, but we’re a lot more well-informed and cynical that he thinks. We are not, in short, the fools for which he thinks he can play us. Or rather, hopes he can play us – the Prime Minister seems more and more aware that we just aren’t buying his electoral paternalism anymore.

What we understand, more and more, is government, as opposed to politics. We want the former, but Howard spent his time mastering the latter (not unlike – up yours, Orwell! – his chums up this way, and not unlike what ultimately soured the Blair Prime Ministership).

Personally I like Labor’s idea. It will not remove the blame game – as though anything could – but it will make it a lot more transparent. Now the states can be held accountable for what they spend money on, and/or how effectively they do so, while they can blame not getting enough money from the federal government. Those are rules anybody can follow.

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