Many people wonder why mobile phone plans and mortgages are so needlessly complex. One reason is to prevent "apples for apples" comparisons: once that happens, publicity stunts and marketing gimmicks stop working and suppliers have to compete on price. The items become commodities.
Mark Latham, as a trained economist, is well aware of this. By adopting the Liberal's traditional mix of social conservatism and economic rationalism, he has commodified public policy. In proposing cuts to politicians' super he is offering, in effect, to do the same job for less pay. How could this strategy be approved by Labor's unionist base?
Now that Howard has responded with a price cut of his own (rather than differentiating on policy), the winner will be the party willing to govern for the least pay. This will get rid of the professional politicians, leaving only the "true believers" and the "good haters" in political life. And so Latham's strategy becomes clear: Labor politicians have the fire in the belly to work for free, whereas (except for Tony Abbott) the Liberals don't have the passion.