In retrospect, the timing of Kevin Rudd’s essay in The Monthly [discussed in this earlier post] was obviously significant. There’s been a concerted messaging campaign going on for about a week to lead up to today’s stimulus package, which is really more like a mini-budget. Wayne Swan’s remarks about deficits, leaking of the insulation measures, and Rudd’s move to paint the opposition as died in the wool free marketeers are all of a piece.
As well as the economic impact, the measures have also been chosen carefully for their political impact:
Its primary targets are Rudd’s core constituencies and concerns: the ill-defined “working families”, education, housing. Criticism of the package will become criticism of taxpayers, of our schools and the right to a decent home. The Opposition, which has painted itself into a corner backing tax cuts uber alles, has to either take those on or look even more confused than it already does.
This is stimulus à la Rudd.
So has Malcolm Turnbull fallen into the trap? Early signs aren’t encouraging for the opposition – Julie Bishop’s embrace of Laffernomics, Warren Truss’ claim that “our kids” will be paying for the deficit, and Turnbull’s rather silly call for Swan to explain his “plan” to return to surplus. The “plan” is obvious – stimulate growth counter-cyclically and wait for tax revenues to recover.
It’s pretty clear that voters don’t blame the government for a world crisis. What will be interesting is whether voters take Rudd up on his invitation to blame the opposition for their negativity. Will bleating about tax cuts and raving about deficits do the trick? Quite possibly.