6 March 2012
He used to be such a mild mannered, Clark Kent-ish Treasurer.
Even Wayne Swan admits he would worry about criticism from the top end of town in his early days controlling the nation's purse strings.
But no more.
Within hours of Kevin Rudd announcing his resignation in the middle of a Washington night, the Treasurer unleashed the most blistering personal attack seasoned political observers can recall.
He's now followed up by launching a spray at wealthy mining magnates for apparently “poisoning” our democratic process and putting the spirit of the “fair go” in grave danger.
Their sin? Using their deep pockets to fund advertisements against government policies they don't like.
The most famous (and effective) campaign was the $27 million series of ads attacking the original Resource Super Profits Tax.
That campaign, in part, led to Kevin Rudd's downfall.
But it's worth pointing out the campaign wasn't funded by the likes of Twiggy Forest or Clive Palmer.
It was the big miners, BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.
And it seems they had some reason to react in the hostile way they did.
As the Treasurer has belatedly acknowledged, the government should have sat down and negotiated with the miners before announcing the RSPT.
When they finally did, he says they “got for the first time from the companies, information that neither the Henry Inquiry nor the Treasury had, which was the real story about volumes and price”.
In other words, the original tax was too harsh.
The big miners had reason to complain.
It takes some chutzpah for Wayne Swan to now accuse the miners of “profoundly anti-democratic” behaviour.
But this is politics.
And it's about a lot more than just the mining tax.
The Treasurer is trying to build a case that on every policy from the mining tax to the carbon tax and means testing government hand-outs, the Coalition is taking the side of the super-rich.
That Tony Abbott is doing the bidding of Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Twiggy Forest.
Expect to hear a lot more of this from Wayne Swan as he prepares to hand down a tough budget in May.
The wealthy are likely to lose more hand-outs.
And Wayne Swan will be making no apologies.
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