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Future Matters More Than Past: Sunday Telegraph Election Editorial

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in Sydney has called for a change of government in next weekend’s federal election.

The News Corporation paper says that Prime Minister John Howard has given up on reform and “his Government overtaken by policy initiatives which have blown the Budget surplus”. Howard has failed to deliver a clear vision, according to the paper. It says the government has “been driven by opinion polls and vote catching, rather than the economic and social well-being of our nation”.

The paper says Opposition Leader Kim Beazley “has articulated a sound domestic policy vision for Australia” and is best equipped to govern after November 10.

Editorial from The Sunday Telegraph, November 4, 2001.

Future Matters More Than Past

Next Saturday the nation’s estimated 13 million voters decide who will govern Australia for the next three years.

All elections are important but this one, the new millennium’s first, is particularly so.

It comes at one of our most difficult times.

The September 11 terrorist attacks on America have created global insecurity and alarm. Australian troops have left our shores .and Australia has been identified as one of the Western democracies most at risk of attack.

As well, the world economy is entering a downturn that could lead to recession. While Australia’s economy after the 1990s’ vast reforms has weathered this well, we cannot remain immune to world trends.

The mood of the electorate is also volatile as uncertainty plays on fears. Our optimism showcased by the successful Sydney Olympics has faded.

The election is also the culmination of a five-year struggle between Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, and Labor Leader Kim Beazley.

Both parties can win: Labor needs just six extra seats to seize power.

In focusing on this election, Australians should look at the leaders’ visions for our future.

Elections are about the future, not the past. They are about determining where the country ought to be going, not just where it is coming from.

Mr Howard has portrayed himself as the leader Australia needs to feel secure in tackling terrorism and the boatpeople problem. On domestic issues, he has championed himself as the defender of family values through initiatives such as the baby bonus.

Mr Beazley. has also portrayed himself as a strong leader on security, arguing his many years as defence minister make him the most experienced senior politician on such issues. He has policies to enhance our education, health and welfare systems

There is no doubt Mr Howard has run a sound government and its economic management has been good. The economy has grown better than almost all other Western nations, the massive tax reform of the GST has been implemented, inflation has stayed low, industrial policies have reduced stifling work practices and interest rates are at historic lows.

The boatpeople issue has also increased Mr Howard’s electoral support. However, while he has shown an understanding of what drives many ordinary Australians, voters must question how he can resolve this problem if the Indonesian President won’t take his calls and his handling of it has led to international perceptions – rightly or wrongly – of an Australia tainted by racism.

Mr Beazley, meanwhile, still has questions to answer. He has remained too vague about how his Knowledge Nation and boatpeople solution will work and he must clarify how his government would resist trade union demands to undo much of the good of Mr Howard’s industrial reforms.

But Mr Beazley has presented a sound policy platform for the next term that promotes social cohesion, rebuilds our relationships with the region, works towards harmony on the Aboriginal issue while improving the services Australians value highly – education, health and employment.

These are areas at the heart of our nation and future: they create opportunities for our children and our growth while allowing us to have a peaceful lifestyle the envy of the world.

In contrast, Mr Howard, sadly, appears to have given up on any reform agenda so necessary for Australia’s future. The past year has seen his Government overtaken by policy initiatives which have blown the Budget surplus. Worse, they have been driven by opinion polls and vote catching, rather than the economic and social well-being of our nation. During this election campaign, Mr Howard has failed to deliver a clear vision for what a third-term Howard Government would bring Australia.

Mr Beazley, on the other hand, has articulated a sound domestic policy vision for Australia. His agenda is one that would transform Australia into a 21st century country with quality schools and universities, more research opportunities, improved health systems, and innovative job creation.

The Labor Party’s domestic policy platform would create a better Australia for the future and this makes Mr Beazley the best equipped leader to govern after November 10.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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