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There's something about Kevin Rudd that really sets my teeth on edge. Had I gone to school with him I'm sure I would have been tempted to give him a regular smack on the back of his head. I'm sure he got a lot of that. I can picture him sitting at the front of the class thrusting his arm up at every opportunity, "Miss…miss…" There is something in his manner highly disagreeable, and to many others too, rightly or wrongly.
I've been reminded of my distaste by a sound bite on radio this morning where in his typically prim and smarmy way he defends his decision to get the Indonesians to intercept a boatload of refugees. Putting aside my ongoing opposition to policies like that, it's his manner and his transparent need to be popular that gets my back up. I know a lot of politicians do it, but more than most he plays to the crowd. This has resulted in some very ill-advised interventions in cultural debate – the Henson affair for one, then describing Gordon Ramsay as a lowlife.
This a personal reaction to him. I don't like him particularly, but even if I don't agree with everything he does or how he does it there is a bigger picture. I don't expect to find a leader in my lifetime with whom I'm perfectly attuned. I take that as a fact of life, and if the worst thing I feel is a personal antipathy then it can't be that bad. (And I think his wife is a gem.)
That's the paradox here. I wouldn't want to be in the same room as Rudd, yet I think he is a pretty good Prime Minister. I don't agree with everything he does, but by and large I respect his intellect and determination. The government's handling of the GFC has been first rate, and Rudd particularly has taken a leading role in the G20 in tackling it internationally. I suspect he's good deal more intelligent than most world leaders. I support his ambitions to find us a bigger role in world affairs – I think we've earned it. If there was a vote tomorrow I would put aside my personal objections without a second thought and throw in my lot with him once more.
That decision, if it came to it, is much easier given the abject rabble the opposition have become. What an immature, irresponsible lot they are. I have often thought that politics has a lot in common with the school yard, and the Libs at this moment epitomise that. I tell you, they're kidding themselves if they think they are a serious rival to the government. They're a long way off that.
What I find so annoying right now is the internal debate about emissions schemes. Self interest has trumped national good. Ratbags from every section of the party are getting up on their soapbox and saying their piece. Their leader is undermined by this disunity and indiscipline to the point that his position is becoming untenable. What then? Another leader? And for how long? The local scout troop could show them a thing or two about teamwork and working with a common purpose. They're a joke.
Putting aside the politics (ie members terrified of offending their electorate) the debate boils down to whether the greenhouse effect and climate change are scientifically proven realities. It seems a tired argument these days, but there are still a few hold-outs who refuse to acknowledge what is plain to most of the rest of the world. They're the ratbags, the extreme edge holding the rest of the party to ransom. Then there are the nervous nellies without any particular opinion, but unwilling to commit themselves to anything. Let's wait for the rest of the world to do something, and we'll follow. Right.
By far the minority view in the party at the moment, as personified by their leader Turnbull, is that this is a reality that Australia has to deal with. He is trying to get agreement to take a bi-partisan approach to the issue and to get some resolution in place before the Stockholm talks. Just between you and me I figure climate change is big enough an issue that politics should be set aside and a common approach forged. Except it looks very likely that Liberal bickering means they will be left behind.
In the meantime it looks likely that the government will forge ahead, leaving the Libs behind and making them look very silly. Don't they understand that?
Once more, I'm not in agreement with everything Rudd has done in regards to climate change – I think there could be greater effort (and investment) to find alternative energy sources – but by and large I think he has done a good job, and taken a leading role internationally. I think it is imperative that Australia comes up with a scheme we can take to Stockholm, and be on the forefront (and front foot) when it comes to tackling this huge issue.
Just in conclusion it's worth making reference to a subject that has reared its head again lately: nuclear power. Australia has the largest stocks and is the leading exporter of uranium in the world – yet we don't have one nuclear power station. Historically nuclear power has been very much on the nose here. A strong green sector have successfully made it seem an unpalatable evil. That was easy while Chernobyl and Three Mile Island lingered in the public's consciousness.
It's different now though. There are over 400 nuclear power stations worldwide, and many more coming online. They are cheap, much more efficient than coal burning stations, and obviously a hell of a lot cleaner to – which in this age of environmental alarm is a very big tick.
The fears in the past have been about safety and in disposing of the used plutonium. Technology has advanced to the stage that there has not been even the slightest issue for many years, and that disposal of waste is a lot safer and secure than it used to be.
I'm of the view that given the environmental constraints – as well as our geographical limitations – that Australia as a nation must consider the nuclear power option. It is irresponsible not too look at it at least. I doubt that will happen though, and perhaps I should close with that thought. Nuclear power is a political hot potato unfortunately. No matter which side of politics may propose it you can be guaranteed that their opponents will oppose it on principle, seeking the political capital to be made by taking the populist option. Australian politics has to be better than that. Unfortunately I see this as one of Rudd's big deficiencies – we need someone strong enough to champion what is right regardless of popularity. We need a statesman, not a politician.
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