The prelude to today’s Question Time started last night when Tony Abbott was interviewed by Kerry O’Brien. To put it mildly, he did not do well. To put it bluntly, he was embarrassing. He admitted the cost to consumers of the Government’s ETS was not really $120 billion as he had been saying, and he could not really bring himself to declare climate change is an actual fact – he used the type of language used by deniers everywhere about needing to recognize that CO2 is an essential trace gas etc etc.
This performance was followed by Barnaby Joyce on Lateline. Rarely has there been such a bizarre appearance by a person holding such an important position. Consider his response to a question on interest rates:
LEIGH SALES: Turning to interest rates and the decision by the RBA today to keep them on hold, what do you think is behind the Reserve's thinking on that?
BARNABY JOYCE: There's uncertainties around the globe. We see that, we see China is tightening up on its credit, and we see that America has massive unemployment. There is, it is not a solution that clearly we are completely out of the woods.
I guess the last sentence means something. Let me know if you can work it out.
Not to be discouraged, Joyce then fronted up at lunchtime to the National Press Club. It was a truly IQ reducing event. Everything he said about debt, the stimulus, interest rates, the exchange rate, heck anything to do with the economy, was the same things he said to Glenn Stevens last year at a Senate Committee. This was the same Committee during which Stevens refuted everything Joyce said (and in fact made Joyce look like a complete fool). But like their arguments against climate change, when it comes to the economy the Nationals don’t care too much for facts or rational thought.
I hope a transcript gets put out of his speech and Q&A, because it was one of the most pathetic speaking efforts I’ve ever witnessed at the Press Club by a politician – during which he confused trillions with billions. It was Grade 8 stuff. (And the type of Grade 8 stuff after which the teacher writes, “Needs improvement”.)
This brought us to Question Time. Prior to 2pm word around the twitterverse was the Rudd wanted to delay QT to talk about the anniversary of the stimulus package. It was a dumb idea, and thankfully it was delayed till afterwards.
And so Tony Abbott came off a very long run (he always does) to deliver the first question. After running in from beyond the boundary fence he threw down an absolute long-hop question on the ETS. One reason it was so bad was he was probably tired from lugging along some 820 pages of stuff he’d printed out from the Treasury website. This was a response to Rudd yesterday saying you could find out about the impact on prices of the ETS by going to the Treasury website.
Abbott and the Liberal Party decided to print out everything they could find on the Treasury website about the ETS to show that it comes to some 820 pages in the attempt to make a point. Their point I guess was that they are all so obtuse that they haven’t yet worked out the basics of searching the internet. It takes four clicks to find what they said required the reading of 800 odd pages. It’s here, under an obscure title of “Impacts on Households”. (The clicks by the way are start from google type in “Treasury”, then click on the” Treasury.gov.au” link, on the Home Page click on “Australia’s Low Pollution Future”, which is prominently displayed; then click on “Summary Report”; then click on “Impacts on Households” – it ain’t hard Tony, don’t assume the entire population is thick as your front bench).
Rudd responded by bringing up Abbott’s performance on the 7:30 Report. It was pretty pedestrian stuff, but Rudd was certainly not feeling any heat.
After a Dixer on the stimulus anniversary, Joe Hockey picked up the 820 pages again and referred the PM to page 173 and asked how come Rudd was saying electricity prices would go up 7% when the Treasury document said 18 percent? It was a good question, and all Rudd did was read out his Question Time Brief that reiterated the 7 percent figure. I expected the Opposition to hone in on this discrepancy, but they left it there, and instead Abbott followed up with a question about the future electricity prices in NSW. It was all a bit weak really.
What was more weak was that that was it for Rudd. No one from the opposition front bench asked him another question. At this point the opposition seemed to be out of questions for Ministers and so tried to ask a question to backbencher Michael Danby about detention centres. It was ruled out of order, but why the Libs even bothered I have no idea – surely they could ask it of the responsible Minister? It was all rather dumb, and once again did Parliament no favours. Here’s the minutes of that question:
Mr Morrison, 2:53:57 PM, to Mr Danby, Point of order, Mr Albanese, 2:54:58 PM, Point of order, Mr Pyne, 2:55:06 PM, Mr Morrison, 2:56:59 PM, Point of order, Mr Morrison, 2:58:31 PM (Question out of order)
How about the minutes of a question to Craig Emerson:
Mr Hartsuyker, 2:40:38 PM, to Dr Emerson (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy), Point of order, Mr Albanese, 2:42:15 PM, Dr Emerson, 2:43:05 PM, Point of order, Mr Hartsuyker, 2:44:16 PM, Dr Emerson, 2:44:35 PM, Point of order, Mr Hartsuyker, 2:45:29 PM, Dr Emerson, 2:47:12 PM
As I said on Monday. Question Time needs some major reform – more so now than ever before because now the Liberal Party is led by a guy who revels in the the Standing Orders and thinks it is clever to twist and tease the Parliamentary procedures, when in reality it makes him (and the others) look like a wanker.
After a series of questions to Gillard, which did little other than have give everyone a chance to see what she was wearing and wonder, why Julia why, the opposition got back to Rudd by getting Nationals MP John Forrest to ask about the digital TV switch over (yeah, we’re all worried about that), and then Jamie Briggs from Mayo to ask about a letter Mike Rann wrote to Rudd about the Murray, and asking if he had responded yet. Rudd answered that after getting the letter he had met with Rann and the NSW Premier to do a deal about the Murray flows, and that 148GL of water was to be released by NSW to the SA part of the Murray. So good a answer did Rudd have you’d think it was a Dorthy Dixer he had. And Briggs’s response? Well it was to go on twitter and tweet:
rudd confirms in question time that he has not responded to rann's letter from early january about releasing water for the lower lakes
NSW and South Australia yesterday ended two weeks of bickering over floodwaters flowing through northern NSW when the Keneally government agreed to release 148 gigalitres into the lower reaches of the Murray-Darling Basin.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann was delighted with the decision as "NSW did not have to give us one drop".
"NSW and SA have been working co-operatively to make sure the Lower Lakes are given a reasonable flow from the water from recent floods," NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said.
"These floodwaters have provided at least 148GL for the Lower Lakes, which includes 48GL of water from the Living Murray Initiatives Darling Anabranch water supply project that has been boosted by these floods."
The decision came two weeks after Mr Rann wrote to Kevin Rudd to demand a share of the floodwaters for South Australia. NSW initially refused the request, as experts questioned how much floodwater would reach the stricken Lower Lakes.
Now, I may be wrong, but I don’t think Rann is really all that concerned that Rudd hasn’t written back to him yet formally.
The whole things was a bit of a despair-inducing time to be honest, and was hard to believe it was only the second QT of the year – the Liberal Party already seemed to be out of puff.
The whole hour and a half of tedium and irrelevance was only interrupted when Lindsay Tanner in response to a Dorothy poured great mirth on Abbott’s climate change policy:
The most significant question about this commitment [to climate change], Mr Speaker, is how is it that the nations of the world gathered in Copenhagen only weeks ago to discuss how to deal with climate change and they were unable to come up with this brilliant solution that somehow the Leader of the Opposition has stumbled upon? They didn’t realise that somehow if you commit to spend a quarter of a percentage point of the Government's budget over a few years, that’ll fix climate change!
“Doctor Abbott’s Miracle Cure for Climate Change” – there it is in the little bottle; it’s just a little bit of dirt, a few trees and solar panels, mix it all together, you’ve got Doctor Abbott’s Miracle Cure for Climate Change… We’ll have delegations descending upon Australia from all around the world to see this miracle cure for climate change from Doctor Abbott. Well Mr Speaker, both the Leader of the Opposition and I are waiting for his hair restorer product to come out!
It was a bit of light relief that gave Abbott's climate change policy with the contempt it deserves.
After Question Time we were “treated” to Rudd talking about the stimulus and then Abbott’s response.
Abbott’s speech was a reminder of why many in the ALP were happy to see him elected as leader – it was loud boorish, and full of his own self-belief that he is the wittiest guy ever to stride the hall of Parliament. It was a rehash of his 2007 speeches – talking about Rudd the “Christian socialist”, as if anyone in the electorate gives a toss about whatever the hell that means. I half expected him to say “you can’t risk Rudd”. He also said that yesterday the Government had had a bad Question Time. Geez, if that was a bad one, Abbott should be praying they never have a good one.
His speech was also completely wrong economically. He started by saying that the problem with the stimulus was that the Government had its foot on the accelerator while the Reserve bank was “furiously pumping the brake pedal”. I guess he forgot that yesterday the Reserve Bank kept interest rates on hold. But then that brings us back to the prelude to the days events and Barnaby Joyce prattling on about the economy totally ignorant of the facts.
Get used to it, it seems to be the Opposition’s strategy for the year ahead.