The first day of Parliament for 2009 was a pretty dull affair. Before Question Time Kevin Rudd made the usual announcement of a $42 billion fiscal stimulus package, and then just as QT began, the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to their lowest level since 1964.
Geez, the toughest job at the moment is for sub-editors to come up with a heading for tomorrow's newspapers that don't break the hyperbole world record. The Financial Review must be handing out respirators to its staff. This is truly as good as it gets for financial and political journos.
Due to the standard condolence motions that usually mark the start of a new parliamentary year, and the mention of Trooper Donaldson being awarded the Victoria Cross, things didn't get going till late. And even when they did, it wasn't Question Time that started things off, but rather Kevin Rudd handed down a budget. He spoke for a good half hour, whereupon Malcolm Turnbull did likewise.
Now poor Turnbull obviously didn't have long to prepare (which he noted, saying it was another example of Rudd not being bipartisan - just stupid; it's time Turnbull dropped that line, it just comes across like he's a big sook) and thus he decided to pretty much restate everything he said last night on the 7:30 Report.
It was all pretty lame.
He did well to say it would be nice to see some figures to back up Rudd's claim that the $42 billion will support 90,000 jobs. But really he was stuffed. The 'best' he could do was say Rudd should have used tax cuts, and then deride Rudd for having written his Monthly essay. He also laughed (in his usual superior manner) when he mentioned that Rudd had said the $28.8b towards school spending would build 21st Century libraries and science labs. Turnbull wondered what else could they be - after all we are in the 21st Century (yep that's how bad he has gotten).
He dithered around seemingly saying the budget shouldn't be in deficit, that the government wasn't doing enough to encourage private investment, that it was doing too much and would crowd out private investment... he was all over the shop really. And to be honest, he could hardly be otherwise. At least he didn't do his usual "I support the Government 100%" line.
But really what is he or any of the Senate going to do? Vote against giving voters $950? Vote against improving schools? Good luck with that Malcolm.
QT began with Turnbull attacking Rudd for writing how bad neo-liberalism was - essentially (and they have a bit of a point) he was trying to say Rudd used to say he was an economic conservative, but now doesn't like economic conservatives.
What this shows however is that Rudd has a lot better political antennae than all of the Liberal Party. Rudd savaged Turnbull with his answer - linking Turnbull with right wing economic policy and saying that Turnbull was a Milton Friedman supporter through and through. OK, 18 months ago such a statement would be a badge of pride, but times have changed, and the entire Liberal Party is lagging well back. Rudd knows that in the current climate no one is going to stop voting for him because they no longer think he is an economic conservative (whatever that means), so long as they think Rudd is doing all he can to keep the economy going.
The first Dorothy Dixer of the year went to Wayne Swan, who had a lot of fun with Julie Bishop's statements over the past week on tax cuts increasing tax revenue. When he referred to last December's stimulus package the opposition called out that it had all gone on the pokies (a dumb statement, but the kind of thing you believe if you only listen to rabid right-wing talk back radio). This allowed Swan to rip the opposition a new one and place himself as the patron saint of low income and pensioners (God bless you St Wayne of Lilley).
After a dull question and answer from Turnbull to Rudd on the basis for the 90,000 job claim, Julia Gillard got a Dorothy on the education spending. She probably had a few lines prepared, but once Turnbull used his 21st Century library line she changed her script and ripped him by pointing out those using 19th century style science labs will be pleased to finally get 21st century equipment. She then kept up the 21st Century phrase, again and again and again.
Note to Malcolm, Julia doesn't need help, so when you think you've got a funny line, best to keep it to yourself.
At this point some protesters in the gallery began shouting "Stop the intervention, human rights for all". This went on for 5 minutes or so, and at this point my viewing of QT was finished, until I got home from work and was able to see Julie Bishop make a fool of herself by asking Rudd what he had to say to all those people who took out a fixed home loan when interest rates were 7.25% in March 2008.
Yep, Rudd is responsible for the the financial decisions of everyone in Australia - and here I thought the Liberal Party was the party of individual responsibility. The sooner she is dumped to some portfolio like Tourism and the Arts the better for the Liberal Party*.
*So of course, I want to her to stay right where she is!