Wednesday 28 May 2008


Kevin Rudd's capitulation in the face on a cheap 5 cent argument to a non opposition has not been a good look

Not a pretty picture. Kevin Rudd must have received some very nasty advice that the petrol price issue was hurting his working families - and more importantly their view of him and his government. Presumably Brendan Nelson's five cent discount offer must be getting a reception in the electorate. Of course it would.

Labor's announcement that it would review the GST on fuel excise as part of its broad tax review sounded lame and it was.

With almost three years before an election, an opposition in disarray and stratospheric approval ratings - not to mention the fact that any goose can see that petrol price rises are a global issue - Kevin blinked. It's worse that it happened after the case had been reasonably put that the government's hands were tied. But then Kev said "we have done as much as we physically can to provide additional help to the family budget".

It seems more than likely that this political blunder and the opposition's response backed Kev into a corner and produced the policy turnaround we've seen over the past couple of days. It seems Kev panicked.

During the election campaign, most progressives and those with their eyes on the country's best long term interests squirmed when Kev matched the then Howard government's proposed tax cuts. The argument was that it was a necessary compromise to get Labor over the line. We listened. Labor got over the line.

And since then there have been plenty of decisions to be proud of. The new government has had a great opening six months. Australia is a better place. But we've only focused on the symbolic and the political low risk agenda to date. And there hasn't been an opposition.

Kev needs to hold his nerve. He will face far bigger challenges than this in the years ahead. And the opposition will certainly become a more formidable foe.

Australians are going to need him to rise to the issue rather than stoop in the face of Nelson's faux outrage - or a Turnbull charge. The debate about fuel prices has been shocking. The ugly confluence of fuel, food and interest rate inflation must be causing real pain to many. A week of argument and now a Labor capitulation over five cents a litre has been a distraction, diminished the government and helped nobody.

We're going to need Kev to show some nerve.

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