Just quickly because I did do an update on this last night, but if you haven’t seen Tony Abbott’s interview on the 7:30 Report last night, firstly you can disqualify yourself from membership of the political nerd club, and secondly you should do so now
Geez. I mean geez!!!
Now, there have been many a column inch written on the interview, the one I agree with most is that by Phillip Coorey, where he writes:
Abbott cultivated his image by cleverly managing to direct the focus away from the many policy positions he has had on climate change, for example, or his broken "no new taxes" pledge, and to concentrate on the government's track record.
Abbott's performance on the 7.30 Report last night makes a mockery of that straight talking claim. By his own admission, Abbott urges people to treat with caution anything he says during the so-called heat of discussion.
The only utterances that can be taken as gospel truth were carefully prepared and scripted remarks such as those made during speeches or policy announcements.
If you believe anything else he says, then you are taking a punt.
Coorey then gives us a nice example of how this now causes us to question everything Abbott has said:
The heat of discussion includes radio interviews, press conferences and, surely the most heated forum of all, the Parliament. These various forums comprise the great bulk of public comment by politicians. Abbott, like the rest, now prefers talkback radio as the medium to get his message across.
Indeed, it was on talkback radio in February that he promised no Coalition policies would be funded by new or increased taxes, a promise he broke a month later when he announced a paid parental leave scheme funded by an increase in company taxes.
If this caveat now applies to talkback radio, does it mean, for instance, that when Abbott told Alan Jones yesterday he did not back Fred Nile's call to ban the burqa, that he was possibly lying and could well change his mind?
Coorey also brings up the attempt by the Liberal Party MPs (and some right wing talkback radio hosts) to spin what he said:
Abbott's boosters were claiming this morning that all the Opposition Leader was saying was that politicians sometimes do not tell the truth and that he should be applauded for this.
The problem of course is that Abbott was not saying anything of the sort, he was specifically saying when the heat is on he’ll make stuff up to win the argument. Here’s his words (note that Kerry is actually giving him a chance to correct himself, but Abbott doesn't see it, and instead hangs himself some more):
KERRY O'BRIEN: So every time you make a statement, we have to ask you whether it's carefully prepared and scripted or whether it's just something on the fly? No, seriously; this is a very serious question.
TONY ABBOTT: But all of us, Kerry, all of us when we're in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that go a little bit further.
Some are trying to equate this with broken promises – ie Rudd lies about climate change, he lied about child care centres etc. But this is not about breaking promises, this is about not even intending to keep the promise in the first place – and Abbott in this case has specifically admitted that on the promise not to bring in a new tax he didn’t mean it at the time he said it.
We know Rudd meant to introduce an ETS – because he actually did introduce and ETS! You can say he should have done better, and he should call an election on the issue, but that’s a different point. All politicians always will break some promises – things change; things that sound good in opposition don’t look so good when you’re meeting with the folk from the Treasury and Finance Departments and they tell you how much things will cost, and how much money you have to spend. They should be criticised when they break them – and it is up to them to give damn good reasons why they have broken them.
But the one thing every single political journalist and opposition MP is after is proof that when the Government said they would do something, that they had already decided not to do it – ie to catch them in a lie. You know – How does the Minister’s statement to introduce Program X square with this leaked Minute from his Department dated two weeks prior stating that the Program X was to be scrapped?
Catching a Minister/ PM / Opposition leader in a lie is the whole ball game.
But Abbott is saying that that whole thing doesn’t matter because if it isn’t a “carefully prepared and scripted remark” you have to assume it could be a lie or not – it’s up to you – if you’re foolish enough to believe it, then it’s not his fault.
Wow! I mean wow!
In politics your word is your bond. Yes we know not everything will happen as planned and promised, but geez, voters have to believe that you actually believe you will do everything you planned and promised when you actually do plan and promise them. Otherwise, what the hell are we doing listening to anything you have to say?
And as I wrote last night, the one statement that has been lost in this kerfuffle (and it still has been lost in today’s news) is a non scripted and non prepared remark that Abbott made in the same interview:
KERRY O'BRIEN: But we are going to hear a lot from you over the next few months leading up to the election and what you are saying ...
TONY ABBOTT: You're not gonna hear any big promises from me.
Really Tony? No big promises from you during an election? None? Nothing? So what are you intending to say during the election campaign – “Vote for me, because I promise nothing”? You see as soon as he does make a promise to do anything, journalists are well within their rights to ask why is he making such a promise given he promised not to do so on the 7:30 Report. They can then follow up by asking whether if the promise he is making is carefully scripted.
Not good, not good at all.
I don’t think this will make too much of a hit in the polls – the polls at the moment are still mostly about the Government, but I think this has pretty well killed the election for him, because it will follow him around like the proverbial bad smell.
But there’s one bright spot from the interview – it also provided the Liberal Party with its election slogan: Vote Liberal – The least bad way of doing it.
Now that’s winning marketing!