Labor leader Kevin Rudd dared to voice an unpleasant, but undeniable, truth over the weekend: one day the resources boom will end.
Campaigning in key marginal seats in Western Australia, Rudd said now was the time for the state – and by extension the country – to start thinking about how it will maintain economic growth once China’s voracious appetite for minerals comes to an end.
Rudd said building on WA’s expertise in mining services, and using its proximity to Asia to act as a financial or property services base, were possible options for the state.
Prime Minister John Howard, who until this year has been the chief political beneficiary from Australia’s resource-fuelled prosperity, was quick to draw a distinction between Rudd’s assessment of what the future might require and his own.
“Why does Mr Rudd keep talking about the end of the mining boom?” Howard said. “Why doesn’t he have the confidence that I have and Mr Costello has that the mining boom, properly managed with the right policies, can go on?”
Rudd has also taken some tentative steps towards mapping Labor’s policy priorities should it take government. In a newspaper interview yesterday, Rudd said attending the United Nations Bali conference on climate change and holding a summit with state premiers to co-ordinate action on cutting business red-tape, and hospitals, would be priorities in his first 100 days as prime minister.
On red-tape, Rudd said his promise to appoint a “minister for cutting red-tape” in his cabinet would be a key measure in reducing the burden on businesses. “I will not tolerate us reaching three years, if we are elected, and having any greater volume of federal regulation for business,” Rudd said.
Labor also provided some further detail on how it would implement its promise to abolish full-fee paying places for university students yesterday.
Education shadow spokesman Stephen Smith said that Australian students would continue to be able to enrol in full-fee places until 2009. Students taking full-fee paying places before that time would be allowed to continue in those places, meaning students could still be paying full-fees until as late as 2012.