09 March 2009

Opposition leader crosses line?

"PM's cheap money shot" Malcolm Turnbull's article in The Weekend Australian has attracted a lot of comment criticism, especially for its references to Therese Rein, the PM's wife: .

In 1998, the Howard government closed the Commonwealth Employment Service and outsourced its functions to the private sector, and one of the private firms that benefited conspicuously from this deregulation was the Rudd family business.

I congratulate the Rudds, especially Therese Rein, on their success. Their business grew into a very substantial one in Australia and as other countries followed the Australian approach, grew there as well exporting the expertise developed by them when they seized the opportunity created by Howard's decision in 1998.

But what are we to think of the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has ever had, a man greatly enriched by the privatisation and outsourcing of government services, standing up again and again to denounce the very policies from which he and his family have profited so extensively.

Other politicians eg Foreign Minister Smith on yesterday's ABC TV Insiders have condemned Turnbull for attacking the PM's wife

You know, you can have a go at me, you can have a go at the Prime Minister, we can have a go at Mr Turnbull. That's regarded as fair play, however inelegant from time to time the Australian public might think that is.

But you cross the line when you bring in spouses. And I think some of the wiser, older heads in the Liberal Party, Mr Howard, Mr Costello, Senator Minchin, they might just want to have a quiet word to Mr Turnbull and tell him he has crossed a line here and he might actually want to retract it and get back to having a conversation about policy rather than attacking people's wives.

And many others, eg letter writers to The Australian have had their say.

Some extracts:

  • Turnbull is quite wrong is to cast Rudd, indeed the ALP, as socialist. It is safe to say that there are no socialists in the ALP.
  • Mr Turnbull made his money off the backs of employees in the financial sector while Ms Rein made her money getting workers back into jobs via her workplace rehabilitation and participation programs. I know which one I think is worthy of having made a considerable income and contribution to Australians.
  • Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein are multi-millionaires, thanks to the eleven years of the Howard government.You can’t separate Ms Rein’s financial business successes from Mr Rudd, because he has always been a beneficiary. And good luck to them. But for Mr Rudd to now blame the “neo-liberal’ system for this crisis, spinning off further blame upon George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Howard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, is hypocritical.

Ms Rein has done nothing illegal, and has obviously worked hard to take advantage of the changing employment services environment which the previous federal government set up in the face of what I, as someone with some knowledge of the industry, thought at the time was toothless Labor opposition.

I don't begrudge her and the PM the wealth they've earned but do think, as Mr Turnbull might have put it without overstating his case, that Mr Rudd's attempts to distance his and the ALP's positions from responsibility for the Global Financial Crisis rest on shaky logical ground.


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