Though Whitlamite nostalgia can be a poor guide for contemporary public policy, it is at least understandable that Labor’s true believers remember those years fondly. But when they start indulging in Menzies nostalgia something very odd is going on. In his first speech to Parliament after becoming leader, Kevin Rudd said:
…this modern Liberal Party, is that it is not the Liberal Party of old. If you go back and read what Bob Menzies had to say about social responsibility and social justice, there is no way that Bob Menzies would fit into the world view that we are now being offered. You see, the member for Kooyong recently delivered a speech on Bob Menzies?? legacy within the Liberal Party on these questions of social responsibility. It is quite clear when you read that clearly that there has been an ocean of change between that Liberal Party and what it stood for, despite our criticisms of it and our disagreements with it at the time, and the market fundamentalism which has overtaken the current Liberal Party.
It’s another example of the strange meme that recontructs the conservative Robert Menzies as some kind of left-leaning social democrat. In a fiscal fact-checking exercise sadly lacking among those making this claim about Menzies, today I visited the economics library at Melbourne University to see just how the Menzies government’s spending levels compared with that of John Howard’s government.
Continue reading “Some Whitlam nostalgia of my own”