Perhaps the Government has had a happier time in Parliament than today, but I doubt it. When the March quarter GDP figures came out showing a 0.4% growth, thus avoiding the dopey "technical recession", you just knew Rudd and Swan were going to be doing impersonations of cats having recently partaken of a huge bowls full of cream.
The Liberals on the other hand had absolutely no fight in them. Hardly a point of order was raised. They all spent the entire time engrossed in the reading material in front of them (most likely an in-party newsletter with the words "whatever you do, don't look up" written on it).
Rudd and Swan strutted with a fair amount of vigour, and why wouldn't they? Here's a list of the major industrial nations' GDP growth in the March quarter (thanks to Peter Martin). Any Government would be happy with that ranking - and so should the ALP.
Turnbull and Hockey were reduced to arguing that the GDP growth was due mainly to a decline in imports and a rise in exports (some truth there - but given the boom times were due to exports, I don't think the Liberals can pooh-pooh them now), or to argue (as Turnbull did in his first question) that because we didn't go into a technical recession Rudd had been making stuff up when he said we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The fact is we are still in trouble, and the Government still knows it - but at least today's figures give it some political breathing space.
Turnbull attempted to portray Rudd and Swan like George W Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished" despite the fact tough times are still coming (which rather contradicts with the implication of his first question that the recession isn't that bad). Swan and Rudd of course did no such thing. In Swan's statement about the figures he stated:
Despite the positive GDP result, today’s data provide clear evidence that the global recession is hitting the Australian economy, and reinforces the urgent need for the Government’s nation‑building investments to support economic activity and jobs until global conditions improve.
Hardly saying let's break out the champagne.
Possum Pollytics has an excellent graph that shows just how precarious things are - and how amazing it is that Australia hasn't completely gone off the edge of a cliff.
And so Rudd and Swan will sleep very well tonight - as too should the heads of the Treasury Department. For it is true that exports contributed greatly to the rise in GDP, but so too did consumption. Just as without the rise in exports we would be in recession, so too would we be without the stimulus package.
Will we get through the year without another decline in GDP? I doubt it. But what I don't doubt is the need for Turnbull to come up with a coherent argument. Here's what he said today:
"I was disappointed however to see ... the Prime Minister claim victory for his economic policies," he said in Canberra. "We have to recognise that the domestic economy remains weak. Mr Rudd said after he got over his initial triumphalism ... that we are not out of the woods and we certainly agree with him there."
Mr Turnbull said the good result could be attributed to the strength of the private sector and to the legacy of the previous coalition government. It demonstrates the strength of our economy, an economy that's strength was built up over the period of coalition government," he said.
So the economy is still weak, and the only reason the GDP went up this quarter is because of the Howard Government?? C'mon Malcolm, you can't demand Rudd take responsibility, but then claim he isn't. Labor tried that tactic for 11 years - saying everything that was good with the economy was due to things done by Hawke and Keating. That may be right (and I think there's a lot of truth to it) but the public never bought that argument, and they won't buy it now.
He then goes after the stimulus:
Mr Rudd's two multi-billion dollar economic stimulus packages were not responsible for fending off an Australian recession, Mr Turnbull said. Instead they had sunk the nation deeper into a debt which would ultimately lead to higher interest rates and taxes.
"What Mr Rudd has done is borrow and spend an enormous amount of money with no discernible effective positive economic impact," Mr Turnbull said. "What that has done is put a larger and larger and less sustainable burden of debt both on our shoulders and those of our children."
Sorry mate, the stimulus has worked in every way it was meant to - this last figure absolutely proves it. I guess that means Malcolm is arguing it would have been better for us and for our children for us to be out of work now, rather than have to pay back debt later. Good luck selling that. I'll take my job now, thanks.
Question Time was notable only for the re-emergence of Peter Costello from his cave of self delusion. He couldn't shut up, though nothing he said was of any worth. He heckled Rudd calling him "you dope", and when Swan was speaking he yelled out "You're a moron". Yep such wit from the Liberal Party's great hope.
For myself I hope he does stay in politics. The longer the time he spends on the backbench displaying to all how bereft he is of point and use in the current political world is pure joy to me.