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First shots fired in economy wars -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: We've had the history wars, the culture wars and now there's the economy wars.

The economic legacy of the Hawke/Keating years have been debated for some time now but things
really heated up this week.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd fired the first shot on Monday when he argued the Howard government
had squandered its years in office.

Since then both sides have had their say, as David Mark reports from Canberra.

DAVID MARK: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched a book by the political journalist Paul Kelly on
Monday.

Kelly's thesis in The March of Patriots is that while the former prime ministers John Howard and
Paul Keating were political foes, they were also collaborators when it came to reforming the
Australian economy.

But that isn't how Kevin Rudd sees it.

KEVIN RUDD: On the economic reform agenda we would describe our opponents as in fact indolent,
perhaps not always opposing the great transformational reforms engineered by Labor during its 13
years in office but barely adding to that reform agenda during their 12 years in office.

We have argued constantly that this represented in fact opportunities squandered rather than
opportunities seized when the public revenue was awash with the proceeds of the global resources
boom.

DAVID MARK: His comments sparked a furious reaction from the Leader of the Opposition. Malcolm
Turnbull told his party room the speech was ungracious and he elaborated on those thoughts in a
speech in Canberra overnight, claiming the Prime Minister was manipulating history.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Now these claims are as audacious as they are mendacious. They are both graceless
and ungenerous.

The reality is that you can't airbrush history aside and that is what Kevin Rudd has been
endeavouring to do. He has the capacity to look down the lens of the camera and unblinkingly say
things which he must know, as an intelligent man, are completely and utterly untrue.

DAVID MARK: Now the conservative warriors are joining the fight. This morning on Fran Kelly's
Breakfast Program on Radio National the man who was treasurer throughout the Howard years Peter
Costello defended his legacy.

PETER COSTELLO: I think the record of our period of government from 1996 to 2007 speaks for itself.
I don't think there's a better period of economic management in Australian history.

What I think is the most interesting in relation to this is that Mr Rudd is yet to find his
ideological position. I think he would be better frankly to say yes I inherited an economy which
was in a very good state, to pay recognition for that and to say and now I intend to take it in the
following direction.

FRAN KELLY: I can hear Paul Keating laughing as he listens to this, if he is listening because you
spent many years of course traducing Labor's economic record, talking about the Beazley black hole
and paying no credit at all to the achievement of the Hawke/Keating years and the legacy you were
left.

PETER COSTELLO: Oh no I give credit to the Hawke/Keating years for deregulating interest rates as I
just did and for floating the currency. But at the end of the Hawke/Keating years - and these are
facts, you can't deny them - unemployment was above 8 per cent, the Budget was in deep deficit, we
had $96 billion worth of debt. So what we were able to do is we were able to take the good things
out of the Keating years and address the failures.

DAVID MARK: John Howard expressed a similar argument in a piece for The Australian newspaper this
morning.

He says Kevin Rudd's "analysis of the economic reform process in Australia since 1980 was partisan,
inaccurate and lacked any semblance of objectivity".

Of course pride is on display here - from both sides. But the debate is also very much about modern
politics. The Opposition is attempting to draw a link between the recession and high debts and
interest rates of the Keating years with the Government's big spending of today.

Labor is trying to tie the positive aspects of the Hawke/Keating years to the relative success of
the Australian economy amid the global economic gloom which is why the Small Business Minister Dr
Craig Emerson put in his two bobs worth today on history:

CRAIG EMERSON: It'd be very difficult to describe the Coalition government as a reformist
government. During its period in power it's probably best described as a decade of squandered
opportunity.

DAVID MARK: And the present:

CRAIG EMERSON: Malcolm Turnbull's call for the early withdrawal of stimulus and their view that it
is acceptable that unemployment goes up is both heartless and reckless and they should recant on
that position.

DAVID MARK: In these economy wars, the battle is far from over.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: David Mark with that report.