New direction or old path?

Kevin Rudd is the new leader of the Australian Labor Party. He beat a highly uninspiring Kim Beazley for the top job and will now attempt to beat John Howard at the 2007 Federal Election. The latest polls put the ALP ahead of the Coalition and yet the commentariat still believe Howard can’t lose.

In many ways, today’s result could change everything, yet simply reinforce the status-quo. In the last day’s media coverage, little has been written about Rudd’s policy positions. What does he believe on climate change, industrial relations or the Australia/US alliance?

The record would suggest that Rudd is a “steady pair of hands”, unlikely to change much, especially in terms of foreign policy. Being against the Iraq war is no longer a radical position, simply common sense. Would he really pull Australian troops out of Iraq?

The real issue is whether the slowly decaying ALP carcass actually believes that winning an election next year is enough to convince voters they have a plan for the future on the major issues of the day. Oppositions are always beset by never-ending infighting, but the last ten years have shown an ALP all-too-willing to sell-out on key human rights issues, such as refugees and ongoing support for the mission in Afghanistan, a nation now re-engaging with the Taliban.

In the current circumstances, replacing the leader may well get a boost in the polls, however momentarily, but the underlying issues remain. The ALP is a party of reaction, conservatism and policy deficiencies. Furthermore, the Hawke/Keating years may be fondly remembered by some ALP members, but both men contributed greatly to the slow dissolution of the welfare state.

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