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We Stand Behind A Man Of Our State And Our Times: Courier-Mail Election Editorial

This is the election editorial from Brisbane’s Courier-Mail.

The Courier-Mail is a News Limited publication.

Editorial from the Courier-Mail.

We Stand Behind A Man Of Our State And Our Times

Kevin Rudd is a man for his times: outward looking in a world where our circumstances will be increasingly shaped by events we do not control; intellectually capable in a climate that demands considered responses to rapid change; and in touch with popular sentiment.

As Opposition Leader, he started the year talking about the need for the Commonwealth government to act on climate change, education, broadband and our decaying urban infrastructure. And he ends it with the very strong possibility of taking government tomorrow against a Coalition that has only belatedly embraced those issues.

He deserves the public’s support. And he has the support of The Courier-Mail, only the second endorsement we have given federal Labor since the newspaper was established 74 years ago.

We do not do so because he is a Queenslander, although the prospect of having the nation’s leadership understanding this state and its needs and priorities is appealing. The Coalition Government of John Howard has failed, until recent months, to come to terms with the growth pressures confronting modern Queensland. But, like the Coalition’s grudging acceptance of climate change, voters are entitled to be cynical and regard this as being too late.

Mr Howard is right when he says that changing a government usually involves changing the country. In 1996, his first Coalition victory did just that. The Coalition has promoted greater choice in most spheres of life – especially education, health and welfare. And Mr Howard fundamentally reshaped national revenue-raising with the Goods and Services Tax. Australia also has a better, more flexible labour market because of the two waves of reform carried out under Mr Howard. The challenges thrown up by the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US were met with resolve and courage by the Prime Minister. Our commitment to fighting terrorism in the Middle East, Afghanistan and our region is both correct and necessary. In all of these things, Australia has much for which to thank Mr Howard and his Treasurer Peter Costello.

The country is in good economic shape and the Coalition is rightly proud of its achievements but it celebrates them as if the task were complete. It is not. The nation still needs further tax reform, Commonwealth-state relations need work and the drought again demonstrates that more needs to happen on water reform. A change sooner to Mr Costello might have re-energised the Government’s reforming zeal but it has been replaced by a series of naked grabs for votes.

Mr Rudd calls himself an economic conservative with good reason. Those who watched him during his time as the head of former premier Wayne Goss’s Cabinet Office know his conservatism. And no one could reasonably call shadow treasurer Wayne Swan reckless. Labor’s workplace policies are, for us, a step too far but the red-tape burden of Mr Howard’s “fairness test” makes the industrial relations policies of both sides less than acceptable. Mr Rudd can only hope to succeed on workplace reform if he continues to stand up to the Left and the union heavies of his party. He cannot buckle on this.

Prosperity has undoubtedly generated a mood for change in the country and Mr Rudd has responded to that mood with a positive approach to the future. Mr Howard has been caught in a campaign that, almost by necessity, has been unduly negative.

Mr Rudd’s life story is a compelling Queensland and Australian story. He grew up in the canefields, lost his father young and has succeeded in every venture he has since pursued. Through the experience of his wife, he has a strong feeling for the value of enterprise. He has taken a stronger grip on his party than any former leader and, if he wins, will not have to bow to factional demands. His time has come.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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