Monday, May 31, 2010

On the QT: Mining for Hypocrisy

It was a rowdy start to the Question Time week. During one of Rudd’s answers both Scott Morrison and Chris Pyne were booted. No one missed them.

The issue of today was the Resources Super Profits Tax and advertising – more specially the decision of the Government to circumvent its guidelines on Government advertising to spend $38.5 million on ads the RSPT.

The line directed at Rudd all day was his pledge in 2007 to have the Auditor General take control of approving such advertising. Rudd actually had set up such a situation, but then subsequently revoked it.

The problem however with today’s line of questioning from the Liberals is that is came from the Liberals. This was the party that in Government set new benchmarks (heretofore unchallenged by Rudd) for disgusting wastes of money on taxpayer paid advertising. So whether the question was being asked by Abbott, Hockey or (God help us) Phillip Ruddock, Rudd had a pretty easy response – namely you guys were worse.

LifetimeIt was not terribly edifying – kinda like two drunks involved in a brawl arguing that the other had a higher blood alcohol reading and thus was more to blame. And given that Abbott couldn’t even bring himself to say this morning whether or not he supports legislation to stop such advertising it’s a sure sign that he is just as hypocritical as Rudd – after he was in a Government that effectively ran taxpayer funded adverts for the private health insurance industry (not to mention the plethora of WorkChoices paraphernalia).

The Government was actually quite happy to talk on the issue – the first Dorothy Dixer to Rudd was specifically about the advertisements, and he was in a very upbeat and spritely mood. His attack was also very much to tie the Liberal Party and Abbott to Clive Palmer – which is a good tactic given Palmer pretty much sprouts little of sense in any of his media performances.

Sussan Ley asked a couple decent questions of Rudd in relation to when was the decision made to do the advertising. Rudd said it had been decided while the Government was also making the decision to introduce the tax (and it was included in the Budget). This supposedly was some big scoop, because apparently the Government cited “urgency” as the reason for bypassing the guidelines. But this is not quite the reality. Joe Ludwig when announcing the decision stated:

The Campaign Advertising Guidelines allow the Cabinet Secretary to exempt campaigns for different reasons, including extreme urgency or other compelling reason.

He was just stating the guidelines – but the reasons given afterwards are all to do with “compelling reasons” rather than “urgency”. (I’m not suggesting this gives the Government a pass on the matter, but I don’t think anything ‘discovered’ today contradicts Ludwig’s statement – after all his statement also said:

“The cost of this communications campaign was clearly and publicly announced in the budget papers.” In other words the campaign was planned. The issue is the exemption from the guidelines, not the actual planning of the advert campaign itself. )

All of these questions led up to a motion to censure Rudd. And I have to say at least this motion had some momentum – unlike last Thursday’s pitiful effort.

The problem is it once again gave the public a chance to see Shouty Tony and Angry Joe.

Abbott went back into his 2007 attack-Rudd mode where he referenced Rudd's admiration of Dietrich Bonheoffer. It’s almost as though Abbott gets so incensed that someone else in parliament could be considered more religious than he. It is rather ugly to watch, and also quite pathetic on Abbott’s part. If the only way for Abbott to attack Rudd to is to belittle his admiration for a someone, then you have to think Abbott is basically petty and small minded. We don’t admire people because we think we are like them – we admire them because they inspire us – we may seek to be like them, but seriously if someone admire Martin Luther King, do we belittle him for that admiration purely because he doesn’t always act like him? No doubt Abbott think we should aim lower in our admiration.

Abbott accused Rudd not only of hypocrisy (to which the easy retort, was, well you’d know all about it), but also that he had lied to Parliament, because last week in Question Time Rudd destroyed Abbott’s argument of the impact of the RSPT on the stockmarket. Abbott thought he was on a winner because in Ludwig’s statement the following point was made:

“I have also accepted the Treasurer’s advice that, as the tax reforms involve changes to the value of some capital assets, they impact on financial markets”.

Abbott thought he had Rudd skewered. The only problem is Rudd never said there was no impact on share prices of the RSPT, nor that the RSPT did not afect the value of some capital assets. What he was refuting was Abbott’s statement about the impact. Here’s what Abbott asserted:

Mr ABBOTT (3.41 pm)—My question is to the Prime Minister and it refers to the damage already being done by his great big new tax—the collapsing dollar, the falling stock market, the suspension of projects and the evaporation of jobs….

Now to suggest the RSPT was the cause of “the falling stock market” is a hell of a lot more than to suggest the RSPT “involves changes to the value of some capital assets”.

And anyway here was Rudd’s response to Abbott:

Mr RUDD ….The second is this: the stock market. This goes to the other point he has made. I quote him from an earlier remark when he said, ‘Our share market is under pressure because the government has totally mismanaged its proposal of a big new tax on mining.’ He said it was so, at least in part. Let us go to the facts of this matter.

Share prices around the world have fallen because of the crisis in Greece and the honourable Leader of the Opposition would know that. Here are some discomforting facts for him. First of all, if we look at the stock market we see that Australian shares have fallen by less than in other countries over the past month. Since 30 April, the Australian Stock Exchange has fallen by 10 per cent, the London market has fallen by 10.4 per cent, the US Standard and Poor’s index by 11.5 per cent and the Japanese stock market by 12.8 per cent.

That is fact one. Fact two: let us look within the Australian share market itself and the performance of mining shares relevant to other shares. Australian mining shares have fallen by 8.9 per cent but all Australian shares have fallen by more than 10 per cent, the banks and financial institutions by 12 .3 per cent—that is, the second crux of his argument today demolished again by the facts.

Everything Rudd says is spot on, and in no way contradicts Ludwig’s statement. How often though will the Liberal Party accuse the PM of misleading Parliament? It used to be a big call – now they throw it around like it is just a meaningless debating point.

Abbott himself said in his censure motion that the Government had sought a “national emergency exemption” to the guidelines. Yet nowhere in Ludwig statement is there mention of a national emergency. This spin was merely a Liberal Party invention, one that journalists last Friday on twitter were using before they realised that no one in the Government had actually used the term. So by using Abbott’s own logic, I guess you could say he mislead parliament.

6a00d83451f25369e200e54f18e6f08833-800wi Angry Joe followed Shouty (and in bad need of some Strepsils) Tony, and by the end of his 5 minutes I seriously worried for Hockey's blood pressure. He looked ready to burst, and was seriously out of control – kind of like Homer Simpson in Angry-Dad mode.

He even had the temerity to suggest Rudd’s use of the phrase “cancer” when in 2007 describing the proliferation of Government advertising as a “cancer on democracy”  was somehow disrespectful to cancer sufferers. Oh geez Joe, get me a bow and let’s see how long we can draw it…

I’m not sure why they think shouting will win over voters – the only people impressed by shrill bleating and negative attacks are the back benchers and party faithful.

Rudd by contrast used a was loud of voice, but never shouted and definitely not shrill. He had all the numbers of Liberal Government ad spending, and also a few quotes from Clive Palmer – one where Palmer referred to Rudd as a socialist – Rudd joked that he’s been called a few things in the Labor Party, but never a socialist (a line that was perhaps the truest things said in Parliament this year). and he also repeated the line that Abbott and Hockey were for dale, and their policy had been been bought and paid for by the mining industry. He also made much of Abbott’s line on “Gospel truth” – a line that we will hear again and again and again.

I have to say, as much as I am disappointed that the ALP has decided to go the advertising route (or should I say, I’m disappointed with the way they have done it), I have a deal of sympathy with them, especially given how the RSPT is being represented in the media. Take Alan Kohler, who as the ABC TV’s main economics/business guy is held in some high esteem by the public. Today on The Drum he wrote this of the current mining royalty regime

The royalty regime is a delicate web of about 50 different ad valorem (based on value) charges covering a variety of minerals and states. It's arguably a mess, but everyone is used to it and accepts it.

Yep, here’s a guy who holds himself up as bit of a guru on finance and economic matters suggesting we should stick with a mess of a regime, purely because everyone is used to it! Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

Sure the Government could have done a better job selling the RSPT, but when you look at writing such as Kohler’s, you have to admit the media isn’t doing them any favours – especially when it comes to repeating everything Palmer says as though it is unbiased (how often does he have to appear on the ABC?), ditto utterances by Rio Tinto execs or Twiggy Forrest – even George Megalogenis on the weekend was comparing mining companies to unions as though they were similar organisations! Perhaps if the media showed some more reason and less hysteria the ad campaign wouldn’t be as needed.

It’s no excuse of course, but when they say, ‘We get the Government we deserve’, the “we” includes the media.

UPDATE 1:

I only just discovered this one bit of interesting news on the impact of the RSPT in The Age’s online site:

Full steam ahead in the Pilbara - despite tax clash

The big miners may be raging against the proposed resources tax, but it's still business as usual in the booming Pilbara where the plans aren't expected to result in significant losses of future production.

Since May 2, when the federal government announced plans for what it labels a 40 per cent super profits mining tax, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Fortescue and others have made no changes to development schedules that collectively will add 200 million tonnes more for export by the middle of the decade.

The closest thing to a cancellation was a pair of projects proposed by Fortescue penciled in for later in the decade, pending the company's ability to raise the $US15 billion ($17.7 billion) development cost.

If anything, it's full-steam ahead to supply China's ravenous appetite for iron ore imports - which rose more than 41 per cent in 2009 to 628.34 tonnes from a year earlier.

Interesting don’t you think – and not quite agreeing with the advert run by the Mining Council that jobs are set to be lost….

UPDATE 2:

The latest Newspoll just came out – ALP 51 – LNP 49. But the big figure is the Greens’ primary vote of 16%! Given this is double what they scored at the last election I don’t think it is realistic (actually it is completely unrealistic) – but it does show that there is a lot of annoyance with both the ALP and Liberal Party.

Rudd’s satisfaction rating continues to drop – down to 36%, with his dissatisfaction rating up to a massive 54%. And yet on the preferred PM rating there is no change – Rudd still leads 49 to 33. It seems the only person Rudd looks good next to at the moment is Tony Abbot (his satisfaction rating also dropped – 5% to 37%, and his dissatisfaction rating increased 4% to 49%).

If this were any other political year, these numbers would spell certain death for Abbott as the Libs would be stupid not to try and get some of those moderate swingers who seemed absolutely pissed off with Rudd by having a more moderate leader. The problem is Hockey is no real choice as he has gone as feral as Abbott – and so is essentially in lock-step with him – and Turnbull has no backing in the party room.

Interesting times ahead. The one person perhaps most aggrieved at his poll is Lindsay Tanner. He and a few other ALP types in Green friendly seats – eg Tanya Plibersek – may start wondering if there is someone else who may win back some of those disaffected voters. And unlike the Libs, they do have a leader in the wings who has credibility and party room support…

I’ve never thought Rudd would be knocked off so long as the ALP is in the lead (or equal) and so long as he maintains a healthy preferred PM lead. Any party would in past times have been stupid to contemplate such a thing.

But the inner city-marginal seat electoral maths might make such figures a bit old hat – especially if the Greens vote holds up...

***

Incidentally I’ll be away from home on business tomorrow, so will unlikely blog on QT (though I’ve said that in the past!)

16 comments:

Agnes Mack said...

I think it is also possible to differentiate between the effect of the actual RSPT and the impact of the noisy propaganda campaign being waged against it by the miners and the Opposition.

The result of a sustained campaign left unchallenged by facts would surely eventually depress the share prices of mining stock. The mining CEOs preparedness to blithely talk their own share prices down demonstrates how determined they are to stop Australia from setting an unwelcome international precedent.
Rio, BHP et al are prepared to lose a little now to hang on to a lot long term.

My ears can confirm your observation that Tony Abbott's delivery has become very shrill of late. His shouting is definitely a tad high pitched - could it be he's spent too long in overly tight budgie smugglers?

Grog said...

Agnes, you're right - for some reason the minng execs all seem happy to talk down their own company's share price. As a BHP share holder, I'm not altogther joyous about this...

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

Fair dinkum, they should name a grandstand at the SCG after Tony Abbott.

Agnes Mack said...

Update 1: That should be the next Govt RSPT ad. It's a clincher

Update 2: The thought of Tanner losing is too awful to contemplate. Tanya is also too good to go. Surely Green voters aren't stupid enough to vent against Rudd by destroying two such able ministers - or are they so committed to ideological purity/impotence that they don't care?

Bondles said...

Is my understanding of poll-math completely wrong (a distinct possibility), or does the Newspoll result mean that 6% of voters give the Greens their first preference but prefer the Libs to the ALP? Nearly 40% of Green voters prefer Abbott's neocons? That seems like a bizarre result.

Agnes, I agree that the loss of Tanya and Lindsay would be a tragedy. But the ALP needs to lose some MPs on the left to arrest their headlong tilt to the right, and Melbourne's the best chance of actually sending a message.

Jaeger said...

As Cicero put it: "Cui bono" - who benefits?

Who has been almost a shrill as big mining in their anti-Rudd, anti-government campaign? MSM. Who will be running the ads: MSM. An interesting predicament for Rupert et al.

Grog said...

Bondles I think it's around 80% of Greens preferences go to the ALP - so that gives them about 12.8. PLus about 45% of the "other" votes gives them an addditional 3.6 which with the ALP's own 35% adds up to 51.4% (Newspoll unlike Morgan doesn't do 0.5%)

macca said...

I think it's about time you and other bloggers stopped for a while, take five minutes out to smell the roses!

You've just called the Prime Minister of this country a hypocrite over the advertising campaign.Get Real.

Surely you've all seen and heard the unrelenting, savage attacks on Kevin Rudd over the last 3 years. And they have been savage,... Rudd's pink batts, Rudd's ute, Rudd's big tax on everything. He's been abused and insulted by lesser men such as Abbott, Hockey, Joyce, Minchin the list goes on. Then there is the Murdoch operation. And you call Mr. Rudd a hypocrite for trying to fight back!

Yet after all of this the man is still standing and still fighting and, to your shame, you give him no credit. You seek to undermine him just as the surely as the neocons have trained you to do. You are doing their job for them. They want the left side of the political debate to fight between themselves. The neocons of the Murdoch and other MSM outlets, including Our ABC have conned you all. They can't destroy Mr. Rudd, but they know that you can and they're just letting you do it. You should be ashamed, the lot of you.

Remember this; If we don't have Kevin Rudd, we will have Tony Abbott. Think about that when you cast an informal or minor party vote

Grog said...

err Macca, did you read the blog?

macca said...

err grog;

And given that Abbott couldn’t even bring himself to say this morning whether or not he supports legislation to stop such advertising it’s a sure sign that he is just as hypocritical as Rudd –

yes, I did

Grog said...

well Macca - then you'll see I am not exactly praising Abbott, and that I also have thrown quite a few barbs at the media as well.

Read a few of my previous posts and you'll also see I'm hardly a friend of the mining companies.

But you cannot deny that this goes against what Rudd promised in 2007 on advertising.

Sure the mining companies are "exagerating the truth", but this was poorly done by the Govt - you don't start a marketing campaing by trashing your own integrity.

macca said...

Grog,
I am an avid reader of your site and have been so for quite sometime.

The point I am trying to make is this.

Abbott, the LNP and, importantly, those who own and control them will stop at nothing to regain control of this country. We've all seen the bias, innuendo and savagery with which they have attacked Rudd. They have made it personal. They have hit him with everything that they can, yet the man still stands...and fights. One can only wonder at what they still have stored up.

Other than advertising:....buying the media time to get their message out, what chance has this Govt and Rudd have of getting a fair hearing, a rational debate? Sundays Insiders programme would have answered that question.

IMO Rudd is seriously undervalued by the left and the left leaning blogoshere, as a man, as a fighter and as a politician and calling him a hypocrite does no cause any good. And will only serve to weaken the Govt.

I wish this fight was about integrity, but it's not. These corporations, and those that run them are ruthless in their approach and tenacious in their application. To them, integrity, honour courage and all those other things that make us humans are only a quaint, eccentric fairy tale that the left side if politics indulges on occassion. They are venal, cruel and so very dangerous...refer Goldman Sachs and BP for starters.

So, to me at least, it is'nt hypocritical to use advertising in this war, and it is a war, it's using whatever is available, because it's a war that must be won by the Govt. and Rudd. If the mining Cos. and Abbott and his bottom feeders win this. Ask yourself what next? What will International Pharma want? What will Big Oil demand. What will international finance want....andhow much will Abbott give them?

Integrity will only win a peace; never a war.

Grog said...

Cheers Macca, I do agree with you - up to a point.

Yep the Libs and miners will play this as dirty and untruthful as they can.

But where Rudd and the Govt erred is in bypassing their own guidelines - a very poor look, especially when they're already having to wear a heap of bull (mostly massively overstated) about how many promises they have broken.

It was badly done. And smacks of desperation - and also comes across hypocritical given what Rudd said in 2007. There was no need to do it this way. In fact I think they're starting to win the fight - the Libs are reduced to debating inanitities, while the mining industry is starting to talk about a resources rent tax of some form.

I think Rudd and the Govt have been absolutely useless at selling their message, and part of that is because they are hopeless at managing expectations - because they (especially Rudd) raise them so high.

This was another example of Rudd failing to meet his own standard. Sure it may be justified, but it looks damn bad - and does the chances of the Govt's ad campaing working no good at all.

I certainly don't undervalue Rudd - but I think he needs to show a bit better judgement on how certain decisions are going to be reported and to better judge whether they are worth it.

Anonymous said...

Macca, I agree with what you say about the press, the LNP, corporations etc, but the fact remains that by using public money for advertising, the Rudd govt has been hypocritical. Yes, they've been pushed into a corner, yes the above a-holes are fighting with every dirty tactic they can, but don't be so blind that you cannot call a spade a spade. They are clearly using govt money for a PR campaign, not 'important stuff'. Not that I don't support it, especially when I hear friends (who I thought knew better than to believe the press) refer to the insulation 'debacle' etc etc.

Perhaps a better move would be for supporters and members to start many more private campaigns in the blogosphere to get the message across, but not being a person of vision, I am not sure how to achieve this. Maybe a 'why TA is a pratt' site would be a good start. Hell, there probably is such a site!

I, like many others, am so very frustrated that the govt is clearly losing the PR war, but my sneaking hope is that the average voter isn't as fooled/hostile as the polls may indicate. After all, life is pretty good for most people: unemployment is low, TVs are cheap (cheaper than under the Libs, how's that for a big sell!), fast food is more abundant than ever, cars are faster, flying is cheaper, Germany won Eurovision (ok, I'll stop now). I think most people don't vote for someone they love as much as vote against someone they hate, and most people seem to hate Abbott. As we saw from the previous govt, polls aren't always indicative of who is going to win.

Anonymous said...

Macca, I agree with what you say about the press, the LNP, corporations etc, but the fact remains that by using public money for advertising, the Rudd govt has been hypocritical. Yes, they've been pushed into a corner, yes the above a-holes are fighting with every dirty tactic they can, but don't be so blind that you cannot call a spade a spade. They are clearly using govt money for a PR campaign, not 'important stuff'. Not that I don't support it, especially when I hear friends (who I thought knew better than to believe the press) refer to the insulation 'debacle' etc etc.

Perhaps a better move would be for supporters and members to start many more private campaigns in the blogosphere to get the message across, but not being a person of vision, I am not sure how to achieve this. Maybe a 'why TA is a pratt' site would be a good start. Hell, there probably is such a site!

I, like many others, am so very frustrated that the govt is clearly losing the PR war, but my sneaking hope is that the average voter isn't as fooled/hostile as the polls may indicate. After all, life is pretty good for most people: unemployment is low, TVs are cheap (cheaper than under the Libs, how's that for a big sell!), fast food is more abundant than ever, cars are faster, flying is cheaper, Germany won Eurovision (ok, I'll stop now). I think most people don't vote for someone they love as much as vote against someone they hate, and most people seem to hate Abbott. As we saw from the previous govt, polls aren't always indicative of who is going to win.

Cheers,
Ro

macca said...

Only in the blogosphere can we cheerily agree to disagree and go home happy...cheers