Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Stimulus thoughts

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-17

I appear to be a rare bird in the blogosphere (and the media), prepared to give credit to the likes of Senators Fielding and Xenophon.

I think the ALP team could have scored better both politically and as far as economic responsibility goes.  The ALP strategy was crass, and relied on the Liberals shooting themselves in the feet.

There were two aspects to the stimulus bills: the urgent need to get a message out that bucketloads of money were on the way, and the less urgent need to decide exactly how those funds should be spent.

There is winning ugly, and winning beautifully.  The Rudd Government chose to win ugly when it could have won beautifully without raising a sweat.

The urgency was only about the amount of money, and the timing.  The Liberal line that the money was too much was easily beaten.  There would have been no fight from the cross benches about the amount, no risk to the message going out.

There was no such urgency about the detailed allocation of those funds to particular initiatives.  The ALP was pretty arrogant expecting the first draft of plans for a $42 billion spend to be rubber stamped without going through the committee stage.

Once the $42 billion had been decided upon, the Liberal party would have had to accept it, then contribute to the "If we are spending $42 billion anyway, what should we spend it on?" debate, which deserved at least a couple of weeks of public discussion and committee time to get a better balance…

…or to have time to read some of the submissions made to the inquiry, even in the few days it was open.

How much better would the package be for the extra debate, especially as plans could take into account the fires and floods that caused so much damage, and will need funds targetted differently?

Rudd could easily have kept his preferred-PM bit and voting intentions, while increasing the standard of both major parties.  He could chosen to be more statesmanlike, achieved better outcomes, without giving up political advantage.

That Rudd didn’t take the higher road, even though there was no disadvantage to him, is not encouraging for those situations where good decisions might mean the loss of political skin.

Xenophon used the only chance he could to achieve something absolutely critical.  Fielding pushed for better consideration of the most vulnerable of our citizens.  The Greens were able to achieve only a little of the swing needed from the Rudd giveaway with suboptimal money multiplier effects to something more useful.

I’m wondering if some of the excellent submissions to the overly-rushed Stimulus Inquiry from heavy hitters like Saul Eslake actually had any influence on the final bills that got through.

See Also/Notes:


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