Today’s Question Time was prefaced by dopey reports this morning regarding Kevin Rudd’s appearance on the 7:30 Report last night – an appearance where he finally did what I suggested he should have done three weeks ago, and got some passion into his explanation of why the ETS was put on the back burner. The interview (you can watch it here) that the 7:30 website in all its stupidity has subtitled: “Angry Rudd Defends ETS Backflip”, pretty much merely involved Rudd giving as good as he got from Kerry. And yet this morning, half the Canberra Press Gallery were calling it a meltdown, or gleefully repeating Greg Hunt’s claim that Rudd was acting like Latham (a claim that surely means the use of Latham as an adjective has well and truly jumped the shark).
“The Punch” decided to get Tim Wilson from the Institute of Public Affairs to write about it under the heading of 7.30 meltdown shows PM is hot under the collar, which I guess shows what The Punch lacks in intelligent articles it makes up for in dumb hyperbole.
What really showed out was that the old heads of the press gallery knew it was all a bit of nothing – Laurie Oakes on twitter wrote:
Those who claim Rudd on 7.30 Report was "ranting" or "Lathamlike" must have watched a different interview from the one I saw.
He then had a go at his colleagues in the press gallery tweeting to Samantha Maiden (of The Australian):
Greg Hunt first made Latham comparison, but media have pushed "cranky pills" "ranting" line that gives it substance.
As I wrote yesterday, Laurie Oakes use of twitter is putting many of his younger more tech-savvy colleagues to shame.
But to Question Time:
Abbott started things off with a slow long hop to Rudd based on a report in The Australian that Ken Henry had been heard saying in private that a slow down in the mining industry would be no bad thing (by the way, once again proving, that if you want to know what line the Liberal Party will take each day, you should be reading The Australian). Unfortunately for Abbott, Henry put out a statement refuting the story, so Rudd dealt with it easily (most likely because he had also read the report in The Oz).
The first Dorothy Dixer of the day was to let Rudd talk up the Govt’s achievements. I have to say it was all a bit by rote, he really didn’t fire up until the next question from Julie Bishop (she who could fly home to Perth on a plane powered by her own sense of self-satisfaction) who asked if Rudd agreed with his speech of last year where he said that to delay action on climate change was to be a coward and lacking leadership.
Once again, like yesterday, Rudd had no problems with the question – and seemed to enjoy it, no doubt due to the delicious irony of the opposition "being the party who voted down the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme blaming the Government for not passing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”. The Libs can be as gleeful as they like about Rudd backing down over the ETS, but they don’t seem to have cared that bugger all of the ALP Primary vote went to them – and that part of the reason might be that those annoyed by the ETS back down, know that Abbott is a complete flat-earther when it comes to climate change.
It all goes to the wonderful Liberal-Party Catch 22 electoral fortunes. If Turnbull were still leader they would have picked up most of those lost ALP votes, because he believes in climate change, but if Turnbull were still leader there would be no lost ALP votes to pick up because the ETS would have been passed.
During Rudd’s speech the opposition got a bit excited, and Speaker Harry said that he thought they might be a bit quiet as he thought they would like to be able to sit in the Parliament for Abbott’s Budget reply speech later that night. Albanese quickly chimed in – only 51% of them do (referring to Abbott’s slim victory in the spill last November). This Harry said was not helping things (but it was really).
The first Dorothy to Swan on “budget discipline” allowed him to say that the nation under Abbott would “feel the full steel of a recession”; given that small business would already have an “iron fist up the bracket”, the ALP is painting a positively medieval picture of life under a Tony Abbott Government.
Albo also had much joy at Sophie Mirabella declaring earlier in the week that she would like to see the return of the Regional Partnership Program (known pretty widely as the Regional Rorts Program). Mirabella raced to the dispatch box for a dopey point of order, and as he came back Albo muttered of her – “she never saw a trough she didn’t like” (and yes he had to withdraw it).
The best other Dorothy Dixer was Julia making great fun of poor Paul Fletcher (who we know from “When Julia Attacks” fame). Fletcher made the foolish error of turning up to the opening ceremony of a BER project in his electorate – and not only that he gave a speech on the day. Julia was pretty ruthless as she showed the house the glossy photos of him at the event, smiling and looking so proud of the building that he would have voted to not be built. Poor bugger, wait till next sitting week when Julia will no doubt have a copy of his speech to relate to the House.
After this it was question upon question based on either something some mining executive has said to the press or in a meeting, but not to the ASX (here’s a note to journalists around the traps – when a listed company does something that will affect its earnings outlook, it has to inform the ASX, so it might be best to check if they’ve done that before breathlessly announcing that mining explorations etc things are being “shelved”), or on the effects of the RSPT on prices.
This latter type of question gave us the joy of Andrew Robb, who I am told again and again, is an excellent economic mind, asking Swan about the price of fertiliser under the RSPT. I mean… geez. Robb got quite angry (or was that “passionate”) when the ALP laughed at his question. But seriously, if the RSPT is so bad the Libs should be able to pull it apart without resorting to asking what would the price of x and y be under it.
Hockey then tried to attack the budget asking Swan what would happen if the RSPT didn’t raise what it says it would raise. Well hell Joe, they’re called budget projections. Every Budget makes projections about how much each tax in the budget would raise – if the taxes don’t raise what they predicated they would the budget goes more into deficit, if (as happened last year, and most years) the taxes raise more than they predict, the budget deficit will be reduced by more. If Hockey thinks he has uncovered a massive big budgetary scandal, then I have major concerns about what their economic strategy will be…
Now I have to say I had low expectations, but Abbott to his credit well and truly kept under them. For the first 20 minutes he showed that he had learned nothing from the Health debate, as he went in negative against Rudd and the Government and even threw in a couple of his “jokes”. His body language was odd – sort of hunched forward – and he spent crucial minutes railing against the Government without offering any of his own policies.
In 2007, Rudd’s Budget reply speech out rated Costello’s Budget Speech. People knew he was likely to win the election, and so wanted to have a look at what he had to say. I doubt many tuned in tonight, and many that did would have switched back to Masterchef after the first 10 minutes of negative ranting. And by the time he did get to policy it was rather underwhelming.
He confirmed they’ll continue with the classic sell the car to repay the house mortgage policy of selling Medibank Private. I predict the ALP will run hard on this issue especially in Queensland where privatisation is going down like a bucket of Andrew Robb’s fertiliser. I would have more respect for the policy if they had an efficiency reason for selling it, but no, they’re just selling it to pay off debt that is already being paid off. It lacks common sense – which I guess is why Hockey and Abbott like it.
He also stated he’ll dump the NBN. Well there goes Tasmania, where it is already being rolled out.
He said he’ll “restructure” the BER projects – whatever the hell that means (it means he doesn’t have to say which ones he’ll be cutting the funding for).
He said he’ll put a freeze on Public Service recruitment for two years. Interesting jobs policy… so what are all those university graduates who each year get a job in the public service now going to do Tony?
He admitted that WorkChoices had gone too far, and that mistakes had been made… and then said how great it was! As Vizzini would say, Inconceivable!! He might as well have said, please make WorkChoices an issue at the election – and so it is to be – Bernard Keane tweeted soon after:
Took Julia Gillard exactly 42 minutes to produce a Workchoices press release.
Abbott then pledged to cut Government advertising by 25%. (That sound you heard was every person who ever saw a WorkChoices advert or a Private Health umbrella advert throwing up). I wonder if he’ll base the 25% cut from John Howard’s final year?
He then made his big announcement… that Joe Hockey will be announcing more policies next week!! Which is kind of like saying, I don’t really get all this big economic stuff, so I’ll handball that task on to someone else.
If Abbott was hoping to convince people he knew his way around a budget balance sheet, he failed dismally.
But of course that wasn’t what he was about. His strategy is that the Resource Super Profits Tax will win him the election – he’s going to fight Rudd on the issue. The problem of course is he likes to paint Rudd as a coward for not taking tough decisions, and yet he is essentially forcing Rudd to take a tough stance that will essentially hurt the argument that he doesn’t take tough decisions.
But I’ve given up looking for logic – probably because there’s too much focus group work going around on both sides.
The Government now has to sell its RSPT well –a whole lot better than it did the ETS – and a good way to start is for Rudd to keep up the same attitude he took to the 7:30 Report last night. Be bold in your sales pitch; be confident, and be clear. (Oh and maybe let someone other than Penny Wong do it).