Friday, August 22, 2008

A time for vision

An opinion piece in last December's Herald has turned out to be rather precient - or perspicacious, more likely.

A scant couple of weeks into Kevin Rudd's initiation as Prime Minister, Ross Gittens, the Herald's economics editor, took the liberty of commenting directly on the politics of the contrast between Rudd and his predecessor, John Howard.

He pointed to his background as a public servant and diplomat, as well as his reputation as a "detail man", to conclude that Rudd would be "more a manager than a leader", someone who is "stronger on tactics than strategy".

Emerging from an era of mean-spiritedness under the Liberals, where refugees were not given a hearing and dental aid was stripped from the disadvantaged, the specifics of Rudd's nature are very easy to overlook. If he was tweedledee to Howard's small-c conservative temperament, he would be a world of difference in Australia's engagement with the world.

That stands. But Gittens' words ring true today: more a manager than a leader. Thus far, and maybe further. An unsurprising hangover from Howard's legacy: after four election losses: the Opposition had been actively presenting as small a target as possible.

And that remains. If Australia still embraces that feeling of fresh air (Rudd remains high in the polls), it is not due to vision.

We're already on the back foot on some really pressing issues. If Rudd's eye is on the next election cycle (2010), then he's missing the wider focus needed on Australia's - and the world's future.

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