Here was Tony Abbott in August 2008, talking about Peter Costello: "I suppose we are all publicly saying what a terrific bloke he is, what a fantastic political talent he is, how much we miss him. We love him. We want him."
Methinks the love ain’t being felt so much today, after Peter Costello wrote in The Age of Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave scheme:
Abbott undoubtedly thought he had to say something on International Women's Day - he keeps being told he needs more appeal to women voters - and so he adopted the Crocodile Dundee approach. In the movie, a New York mugger pulls a switchblade on Mick Dundee. Our hero laughs at the blade, saying, "That's not a knife, this is a knife'', as he pulls out his 30-centimetre hunting blade. The terrified mugger disappears into the night.
And the point of Abbott's proposal is to tell the public that Rudd does not have a maternity leave scheme. "This is a maternity leave scheme," he declares.
In this kind of politics, if your opponent has a bad idea you try to outflank it. Your opponent has a mildly bad idea, so you come up with a more extreme one and have a race to the bottom.
But strangely I do suspect there is some love between the ALP and Tony Abbott – there must be, after all remember how when at Primary School when a boy likes a girl he does everything he can to annoy her? Well the ALP seem to be doing something similar to Abbott on the issue of Health. They are really annoying the hell out of him – it can only be their way of showing love!
The issue of course is again the “ripping out of $1b from the health budget”. As I said yesterday it’s not really true, but it’s not really false – and so the ALP will keep saying it again and again, and they’ll be able to provide enough proof to justify their argument. The Government today used six Dorothy Dixers to ask about Health. Rudd in response to the first used the $1b line and it had Julie Bishop on her feet asking it be withdrawn because saying it “causes disorderly responses”! Yep, Bishop wanted it withdrawn because it made the Libs get all cranky and annoyed, and it forced them to be disorderly! Little wonder that Rudd was able to scornfully say later that “You know when the Member for Curtin [Bishop] takes control of the tactics things are going real bad”.
The Opposition was again on the issue of Insulation – Abbott warning that each roof was a “ticking time bomb”, and he wanted Rudd to commit to inspecting all 1.1 million of the houses that have had insulation put in (though we presume he doesn’t think Rudd should do it personally). Rudd pointed out that the number of fires caused by insulation has dropped massively since the introduction of the scheme. He of course is absolutely correct. Will it matter? Probably not. Quite often in politics, truth is a fudgy thing (as demonstrated by the $1b figure). The media is not interested in the facts on either issue – to explain the facts takes more time than to run with the “perception”. And thus we’re reduced to both sides seeking to run with their skewed facts as hard as they can.
Next up was Asylum Seekers. The Libs were commenting on the finding by the NT Coroner that he believed three of the asylum seekers on SIEV 36 deliberately set fire to the boat. The Libs wanted to know why the three had been granted a permanent protection visas, and when would those visas would be cancelled. Each time (he was asked four times) Rudd responded that the Government would wait till the outcome of any criminal proceedings before taking action. I’m not actually sure why the Libs want the visas cancelled – they haven’t really explained their reasoning. Surely they don’t want them to be deported, because one would think they would like any criminals to face justice here? No doubt they’ll explain their case eventually…
The only other topic to get a run from the Opposition was Education Spending. Gillard played a pretty straight bat to the question.
Some of the Libs were cheering when Gillard got up – as though that would annoy Rudd. You see there is a very dumb line being run (mostly by The Australian) that because the last Newspoll showed Abbott with a slightly larger “net-satisfaction” rating, this meant Rudd is now a drag on the ALP vote! Yes it has gotten that dumb out there in media land. The problem with that line is that it assumes leader’s satisfaction ratings are zero-sum – ie you can’t be satisfied with both Rudd and Abbott – which you can (you can also of course be dis-satisfied with both). It also assumes Newspoll is the Gospel, and the other polls don’t matter at all.
It also assumes that you ignore everything else that is polled – most crucially Preferred PM which has Rudd currently leading 55% to 30%. Yep, the ALP is going to ditch a PM who is 25 point ahead. What dills.
Thankfully psephologist, Aristotle decided to shed a bit of intelligence on the issue. He looked at the respective Newspolls at the same time in each of the last 10 election years – looking at Two-Party Preferred and the Preferred PM. He ordered them from best results for the Opposition to the worst. Here’s what he found:
Voting intentions two party preferred
2007 - ALP 61% L-NP 39%....(Opposition led by 22%)
1995 - ALP 43% L-NP 57%.....(Opposition led by 14%)
2001 - ALP 56% L-NP 44% ....(Opposition led by 12%)
2004 - ALP 54% L-NP 46%.....(Opposition led by 8%)
1992 - ALP 47% L-NP 53%.....(Opposition led by 6%)
1998 - ALP 53% L-NP 47%.....(Opposition led by 6%)
1987 - ALP 51% L-NP 49%.....(Opposition trailed by 2%)
1989 - ALP 51% L-NP 49%......(Opposition trailed by 2%)
2010 - ALP 52% L-NP 48%......(Opposition trails by 4%)
Better Prime Minister
2007 - John Howard 36% Kevin Rudd 49%......(Opposition leader led by 13%)
1995 - Paul Keating 35% John Howard 47%....(Opposition leader led by 12%)
1992 - Paul Keating 36% John Hewson 42%....(Opposition leader led by 6%)
2001 - John Howard 35% Kim Beazley 41%.....(Opposition leader led by 6%)
1998 - John Howard 36% Kim Beazley 36%.....(Opposition leader equal)
2004 - John Howard 43% Mark Latham 42%.....(Opposition leader trailed by 1%)
2010 - Kevin Rudd 55% Tony Abbott 30%........(Opposition leader trails by 25%)
(Note: There's no comparable better prime minister figures from 1987 and 1989, as Newspoll only measured these during the election campaign.)
In red are the two times in those ten elections that there was a change of Government (yes, remember it doesn't happen very often). In green is where the Liberal Party and Tony Abbott are now. Yeah, Rudd’s really going to get rolled by Gillard.
Look, I don’t mean to say the ALP can’t lose the election. I’m saying the media – especially The Australian – should show some intelligence when talking about the polls and Rudd’s and Abbott’s “popularity”.
But back to QT.
The Dorothy Dixers today were pretty spritely. Wayne Swan had the most fun with Costello’s comments, lauding Abbott as “a miracle worker” for being the first person to unite Peter Costello and Paul Keating! It was a good line and made up for him referring to the Productivity Commission as “PC” so he could compare them with “the other PC – Peter Costello”. Swan is obviously buoyed by the good economic figures that keep coming out. Today the data on private dwelling constructions were released. They were excellent – a 15% increase in the last quarter of 2009. All those builders will not be thinking the Government has dropped the economic ball.
Tony Bourke got all shirty with Abbott for having appeared a few weeks back at a rally of NSW farmers protesting state vegetation laws because the event was centred around Peter Spencer who protested the laws by sitting on a pole and going on a hunger strike. Bourke pointed out that politicians on both sides had in the past always avoided having anything to do with such stunts for fear of encouraging similar self-harmful behaviour. Tony Abbott however turned up this time to the rally, demonstrating in Bourke’s opinion that Abbott was “erratic, self-obsessed and has a twisted morality”.
And Bourke is bloody well right – and he should have added that the rally consisted of a group of nutters more at home in one of the far-right wing Tea-Party rallies in America. It was so loopy that the National Farmer Federation didn’t want a bar of it.
But it was the last Dorothy Dixer to Rudd that really brought out the love. It was an extremely unsubtle question asking Rudd how was the Government making amends for the “ripping out of $1b from the Health Budget”.
So how did it go down? Let’s check the Hansard minutes:
Mr Melham, 3:18:29 PM, to Mr Rudd (Prime Minister), Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:19:06 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:20:36 PM,
Mr Pyne, 3:21:12 PM, moved that the Prime Minister be no longer heard.
[Div No. 310], 3:21:30 PM to 3:27:34 PM, Ayes 60, Noes 83
Mr Rudd, 3:28:50 PM, Point of order, Ms J. Bishop, 3:29:13 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:29:50 PM, Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:31:37 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:32:57 PM, Point of order, Mr Dutton, 3:33:32 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:33:56 PM
Member ordered to withdraw
Speaker ordered Mr Haase to withdraw for 1 hour for interjecting after a warning had been given by the Chair, 3:34:08 PM,
Point of order, Ms J. Bishop, 3:34:49 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:35:02 PM, Point of order, Mrs B. K. Bishop, 3:36:23 PM, Mr Rudd, 3:36:53 PM
No, I think we can safely say they didn’t appreciate Rudd’s way of saying that he likes Abbott!
Rudd kept repeating after each point of order, how sensitive was the Liberal Party on this issue. He put the $1b in terms of hospital beds – 1,025; he put it in terms of GP training places – 760. It had them extremely riled up – so riled up they even produced some Excel graphs on A3 paper showing the increase in the Health Budget over the 5 years of Abbott’s term as Minister (you always know when you’ve annoyed Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton – because they go straight for a big prop).
It didn’t stop Rudd at all; and it won’t stop him in the future; and it won’t stop the ALP running lots of adverts during the election campaign on the $1b ripped out of Health.
And Abbott knows he can’t do a damn thing about it. If he did he would move a censure motion on the issue, or at least a Matter of Public Importance. But he can’t because there’s enough “truth” in the $1b figure for it to be valid. Just as there’s enough “truth” in the insulation scheme for the Libs (and media) to keep saying it is bungled.
So both sides will keep pushing their version of truth, all the way till election day.
So enjoy – it if annoys you, just think of it as their way of saying they love your vote (but know that they won’t respect you the morning after election day).