How long will ‘economic conservatism’ last?

Kevin Rudd may be reluctant to call Labor left-wing, but he’s happy to cloak himself in conservatism. It started last year when he invoked – albeit inaccurately – British conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott in his criticism of market forces. After becoming leader, he endorsed – albeit inaccurately again – Australia’s most successful conservative leader, Robert Menzies, as preferable to Howard.

And more recently Rudd has been calling himself an ‘economic conservative’, which Josh Gordon wrote about in The Age on Saturday. As Gordon says, not so long ago this would have been a negative term, but such is the general agreement that has built up around the main component parts of ‘economic conservatism’ – Reserve Bank independence and a balanced if not surplus Budget – that ‘conservatism’ on these matters is uncontroversial.

Even Labor’ s once-true believers are getting in on the consensus. If Howard being cheered by CFMEU members was the most bizarre aspect of the 2004 campaign, for me the most bizarre aspect of the 2007 campaign was the enthusiastic applause from the party faithful at Labor’s launch when Rudd said:
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