Monday, October 13, 2008

On the QT: Adopt the appropriate tone please

Today's Question Time was pretty dull. They generally are when things are serious in the real world. The funny answers to Dorothy Dixers are put in the drawer for a while so the Government is not seen to the public like they are being petty or too partisan (or even worse enjoying itself).

Most of the early questions were from Turnbull, desperately trying to sound like a financial wizkid - reeling off phrases like "wholesale term funding guarantees" and "additional prudential supervision". Mostly he was asking Kevin Rudd if the Government was going to do anything to make sure the banks don't take advantage of the Government's guarantee on all deposits. Rudd pointed out that APRA already has pretty much limitless powers, and expressed surprise that Turnbull wasn't aware of the fact (yes he got a bit snide there).

Julie Bishop got up and asked one about what the Government was doing to make sure banks didn't engage in reckless "credit default swaps". Rudd seemed to wonder if Bishop had been listening to his previous answer and got a bit angry when he challenged the opposition to think about getting behind the banking regulators instead of trying to find fault.

The opposition's tack then changed to a recent IMF report which suggested that the best way to create a fiscal stimulus was to lower taxes or give out cash payments. So firstly Julie Bishop wanted to know why the Government wasn't doing this instead of spending money on infrastructure.

This isn't a surprising question really. The Howard Government loved cash payments and lowering taxes (to certain tax brackets at least) and hated spending money on infrastructure.

Rudd pointed this out to Bishop - invoking the phrase "nation building" a few times. He also pointed out (after some dolt on the opposition front bench mentioned alcopops) that the main tax cut the Libs wanted to give at the moment was "to a bunch of booze companies".

Hockey then in his woefully uncomfortable guise as opposition Finance spokesperson asked when the Government was going to bring forward "the Coalition Government's tax cuts due to come in to place July 1 next year". Rudd just about jumped to his feet ready to answer this one (he loves answering Joe's questions). He came up with the best phrase of the day when he again derided the Liberal Party's short-term economic policy of the last 12 years; and stated with a fair bit of venom,

"We stand proudly by our nation building agenda; we intend to build the nation's infrastructure; we intend to deploy the capital of the nation in building future economic growth. We will build the roads, we will build the ports, we will build the railways, and we will build the high speed broadband; because it's in the long term interests of this economy to do so, and because it supports economic growth along the way."

I have to say if the Government does do these things, it'll have no problems getting re-elected in 2010 or 2011.

Though now Rudd has said it so definitively he must deliver.

Hockey tried again asking when will Rudd abandon the tax increases in the budget. Rudd slapped him across the chops with his answer, pointing out (yet again) that Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP went down in the last budget, and the "honourable member should reflect on that fact before he asks another question like that".

That was pretty much it. Tanner had a Dorothy in which he had a bit of fun pointing out that Senator Fielding was now agreeing to pass the Government's budget measures, but all in all he held back his remarks from their usual level of spite and gleeful disparagement.

A boring QT - another thing we can blame on the financial crisis.

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