What is going on in Kevin Rudd’s mind? The decision to spend $38 million of borrowed money promoting the government’s mining ‘superprofits’ tax will surely create more problems than it solves.
For a start, it is not clear that it will have much impact over and above the arguments and assertions the government is already presenting in the normal way. Despite the millions spent by the mining lobby, and the Opposition’s stance presumably helping bring Coalition partisans on side, the Morgan Poll suggests that public opinion has moved the government’s way over the last couple of weeks.
The millions spent by the previous government on its WorkChoices campaign had no discernible effect on public opinion. While admittedly industrial relations is a bit different, in that there are long-established public beliefs on the subject, it is a warning that simply spending a lot of money does not guarantee that views will change.
Against the quite possibly small or non-existent mining tax political gains had to be weighed the risk that this decision would contribute to a far more dangerous political problem for the government than recalcitrant miners, the perception that Rudd is a promise breaker or worse. The kind of shameless hypocrisy on display here seems to be a larger failure of character than deciding that circumstances have changed and a past promise either cannot or should not be fulfilled.
Certainly the media reaction to this decision has been harsh, with TV news services replaying Rudd’s previous strong criticisms of exactly the kind of practice he is now engaging in.
To me, it also highlights the serious dangers involved in the government proposing to regulate third party political activity. While they plan to use statutes to regulate and reduce their political opponents’ campaign spending, we now know that the guidelines purporting to regulate government-financed campaigns have loopholes so large as to make them near useless.
As this latest government political advertising scandal demonstrates, no government can be trusted on these matters, and they should not be allowed to regulate the political activities of their other-party or third-party opponents.