By Joe Bish
Major papers in the United States, reporting on ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s resignation from office on June 23rd, have completely failed to report on one of the most important domestic issues leading to Rudd’s downfall – population policy.
It is arguable that Rudd, once noted for his sky-high approval ratings, saw his fall from grace begin on October 22nd of 2009, when he stated unambiguously on national TV:
“I actually believe in a big Australia. I make no apology for that. I actually think it’s good news that our population is growing. Contrast that with many countries in Europe where in fact it’s heading in the reverse direction. I think it’s good for us, it’s good for our national security long term, it’s good in terms of what we can sustain as a nation.”
Unfortunately for the political health of Mr. Rudd, subsequent opinion polls showed that 69% per cent of the Australian people want the nation’s population to be 30 million or less in 40 years time, which contrasted dramatically with Rudd’s enthusiastic support for Australia to reach 36 million or more by 2050. Australia’s 2010 population is estimated at 22.3 million.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian have both been forthcoming and plain talking — the population issue was obviously one of several that led to Rudd’s demise and to new Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ascension. For example:
The Australian (Tony Burke in Push for Sustainable Population, 06.29.2010) reported Ms Gillard saying “she did not believe in a Big Australia and that she did not want Australia hurtling towards a massive population in the future.”
The Sydney Morning Herald (PM Population Views Differ From Rudd, 6.29.2010) reported that “Ms. Gillard has shifted away from her predecessor’s embrace of a ‘big Australia’ toward ‘balanced’ sustainable population growth.”
However, while population policy is one of the most talked about issues in Australian politics today and was undeniably a significant part of Rudd’s downfall, you would not know it from reading the coverage in most major daily’s in the United States. In fact, the difference in coverage could not be starker. If you did not know better, as a US citizen, you would have no idea that the majority of Australia’s people are opposed to perpetual population growth and that the failure of Kevin Rudd to acknowledge that reality in no small way cost him his office as Prime Minister.
Below are listed references and examples showing the demonstrated reluctance of US corporate media to report on the population issue in Australia. This reluctance should come as no surprise given the ferociousness with which the ideology of unlimited growth is defended in the US – but may also indicate the trepidation with which growth acolytes view the situation in Australia. After all, if the majority of people in one western style democracy that practices modern capitalism can choose a principle of sustainability over growth, there is no reason why it couldn’t happen in the US as well.
See below for several links and excerpted text from Australian based news stories on the fall of Kevin Rudd, followed by links and excerpted text from the coverage in the US.
“In another attempt to distance herself from predecessor Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected his stance on population growth. Mr. Rudd last year said he believed in a ‘big Australia’ but his former deputy does not agree…. ‘I don’t believe in a big Australia,’ she told the Nine Network on Sunday. ‘Kevin Rudd indicated that he had a view about a big Australia. I’m indicating a different approach…. I think we want an Australia that is sustainable’.
“While the former prime minister strongly backed the idea of a much bigger population, Mr. Burke, who is now the Minister for Sustainable Population, yesterday indicated a significant change in policy was coming. He told The Australian consultation always had a starting point. “That starting point from government has fundamentally changed in the past few days,” he said. “Julia Gillard does not support a big Australia, and sees sustainability as the cornerstone of a population strategy.”
Australian Wall Street Journal:
“What a pity Julia Gillard has defined her leadership by opposing a confident and vibrant Australia. She could have embraced the vigor and ingenuity of a frontier people who built this country into what it is today. Like her, she could have said, most of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants…. Gillard’s new focus on “sustainable” population aims to mollify battler concerns over urban congestion, housing pressures, rising utility charges and asylum-seekers on the one hand and left-progressive worries over the environment on the other…. once implanted, the rhetoric can become an excuse to avoid the policy changes needed to accommodate growth.”
“A day after succeeding her former boss, Kevin Rudd, Ms. Gillard said she had already begun reworking some of her predecessor’s unpopular policies and intended “to get the government back on track…. She offered few specifics on Friday about her agenda, except to say that she and two of her senior ministers were working on a new strategy for negotiating with Australia’s powerful mining industry over a proposed tax that has been a thorn in Labor’s side for weeks.”
“Rudd had been one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made major policy reversals, including a decision in April to shelve plans to make Australia’s worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions. The leadership change is unlikely to alter Australia’s key policy positions, such as its troop commitment to Afghanistan.”
“The biggest change will probably be in style. With a schoolteacher’s manner and an Australian twang that betrays nothing of her Welsh origins, Gillard is considered more personable than the wonkish Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former bureaucrat who led Labor to a landslide win in 2007.”
“Rudd’s downfall was astonishing, given his broad victory in 2007 that in some ways prefigured Obama’s a year later. Rudd’s appeal was especially strong to younger voters, and at his peak the surveys showed he was the most popular prime minister in Australia’s history. But he had dropped sharply in the surveys this year after abandoning his commitment to a cap-and-trade program — this alienated his younger and greener supporters — and in the wake of a bitter fight with industry over a mining profits tax. But the core factors in his defeat were the party’s fears that it would lose this year’s election if Rudd stayed on…”
“Rudd, elected in 2007, had been one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made a series of policy backflips. Many voters then abandoned Labor for the left-wing minor opposition Australian Greens party, earlier Newspolls indicated. But with Gillard at the helm, Labor support had climbed seven percentage points to 42 percent since the previous Newspoll was conducted June 18-20. Greens support had slipped from 15 to 10 percent while the main opposition coalition remained steady at 40 percent.”
“He came in making a lot of promises on the nation’s health and economics, and delivered on few of them,” Hughes said. “In recent months, his message became confused to most voters. They no longer knew what he stood for.”
Rudd rode high in opinion polls until he made major policy backflips, including shelving plans in April to make Australia’s worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions…. John Wanna, an Australian National University political scientist, blamed Rudd’s style and inability to clearly communicate for his plummeting popularity. “He’s not been a bad prime minister, but he comes across as a smarty pants, policy wonk and when he does the human face stuff, he seems a bit disingenuous to the ordinary person,” Wanna said.
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