The Sydney Morning Herald reported this morning about a matter of vital public importance: the Prime Minister’s preference for free tomato sauce on her meat pie.

It is a matter of some debate in Townsville about whether sauce should come free with a pie. It probably should be a debate elsewhere, were the rest of the country as advanced as those north of the Tweed.

”I grew up in the days when the tomato sauce did come for free,” Ms Gillard said, after being quizzed by a local radio journalist. ”It was put on out of the bottle at the bakery. I know in the modern age, I’m not sure but perhaps for health and safety reasons, we’ve moved to plastic packets you squeeze and you pay for. I guess it is better when the sauce comes for free.”

The coverage of this election has become so farcical, it’s surely only a matter of time until someone at the Australian uses the parable of the PM and the sauce bottle to illustrate the follies of social democracy. In the interests of saving conservatives’ time, I thought I’d write a draft op-ed that, say, Paul Kelly can use:

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Tomato Sauce Socialist Demands ‘Fair’ Shake of the Bottle

Julia Gillard’s tomato sauce revelation reveals much about her plans for the Australian economy. The Victorian Socialist Left MP’s preference for communal sauce demonstrates that this generation of Labor parliamentarians has forgotten the lessons learned by the great reforming generation chronicled in my new book, The March of Patriots (RRP $59.99, available now).

Past generations of Labor leaders knew that there’s no such thing as free sauce. The Hawke Government progressively dismantled the sclerotic, inefficient Australian Settlement, opening up our sauce markets to foreign competition and enabling Ms Gillard’s generation to inherit a modern, productive economy with ample sauce for all. This dynamic period of reform is, of course, chronicled in my book, The End of Certainty (RRP $35, available now).

What the Prime Minister and her comrades in the trade union movement fail to realise is that by advocating a system of sauce distribution in which consumers do not pay the marginal cost of the sauce, they merely force non-sauce consumers to bear the burden of profligate sauce users’ extravagant habits. What would the Productivity Commission say? We don’t know, of course, because Ms Gillard has espoused her sauce principle without the support of any rigorous cost/benefit analysis.

This is symptomatic of a deeper malaise within The Left. Recall that Bob Carr, in 2003, declared himself to be an enemy of the sausage roll, imitating the nanny-state tendencies of his Blairite cousins in the UK by steering his constituents away from the Australian favourite. Modern Labor is showing worrying signs of return to its past habits of an interventionist industry policy that seeks to ‘pick winners’ among baked goods.

In her policy speech, Gillard endorsed the philosophy of her parents, that of the “fair go, not the free ride”. By this logic, Gillard should stop advocating a return to the pre-1980s system of sauce distribution (the failures of which are chronicled in my book November 1975, RRP $39.99, available now) and embrace the hard-headed economic pragmatism that served earlier Labor leaders so well.

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To see a column like the above in tomorrow’s Australian would hardly be more surprising than some of the dross that has been printed over the past few weeks.

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