Picking fights with Glenn Stevens

The Coalition are still in search for a strong position to take to the media and the electorate when it comes to matters of inflation and interest rates. To be honest they have it bloody difficult; the Rudd Government has all the running on this issue, given that the Howard Government can in some respects be judged politically culpable for the current situation. We have not quite reached the point from which the Coalition can implicate the government in the blame for future potential interest rate rises, and any attempts to do so would no doubt draw an immediate and likely quite convincing rebuttal from Messrs Rudd and Swan.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson’s latest approach seems to be to beat up on the RBA. He does not seem to be ready to question the economics of the bank’s recent decisions to raise interest rates, but rather to question whether the RBA is taking into consideration the stress being placed on those with home loans:

In an unprecedented swipe at the bank chief, Dr Nelson said he supported the independence of the Reserve, but added: “I don’t believe that independence should be incompatible with sensitivity to and caring for the people that are affected by (monetary) policies.”

I am not particularly convinced this is a wise line of argument to run with, although one can see it starting to resonate with the electorate should the interest rate hikes continue to come thick and fast over the next year or two. If it does resonate, of course, it will only be for somewhat dubious reasons. The reality of course is that the Reserve Bank board does not invite mortgagees with their tales of woe into meetings, and base their decisions on their lamentations. The board bases its decisions in relation to interest rates on what it thinks is most suitable for the national economy, given the prevailing conditions. The measures at the board’s disposal are simplistic and really quite blunt; it does not really have the instruments at hand to treat any wounds it may be inflicting on the faceless thousands with mortgages across the country. If such “treatment” is indeed deemed necessary, it can only be realistically be meted out by the elected government of the nation, not the unelected board of the national bank.

In short, if Nelson wants to speak out on behalf of those Australians who are suffering financial stress as a result of the state of the national economy, he should be encouraging the Rudd Government to do something about it, and not pestering Glenn Stevens.