By far the best answer in Question Time today came from Craig Emerson as he related views of the Shadow Minister for Communications, Tony Smith, on the National Broadband Network. He cited a television interview he and Smith had where Smith in response to Emerson listing all the aspects of the NBN, said “oh that’d be good, but we’ve all got wants, I mean I’d like a ‘53 Corvette”.
Doesn't it say everything… we’re talking about the 21st Century and the Shadow Minister for Communications says ‘I want to go back to 1953’. This guy would make John Howard behind the white picket fence look like a progressive!
Mister Speaker I actually had a look at the features of a ‘53 Corvette – if you go to the top of the line for a ‘53 Corvette, you know what you can get? An AM radio! That’s it! The 21 Century!! Oh and if you want to pay a fair bit more you can actually get doorhandles that open the door form the inside!
It was an answer that had the Government benchers laughing loud, and was a definite case of the Minister for Vaudeville hitting his mark perfectly.
It summed up a pretty easy Question Time for the Government, mostly because the opposition asked the same question to Rudd on the RSPT four times, ignoring the fact that Rudd had answered it the first time, and thus they were allowing him to have virtual Dorothy Dixers on the issue of tax reform.
Apparently Abbott had told his party room this morning that they “were on the verge of a famous victory”. This I guess is based on them being in a worse position than any opposition party in the last 30 years at this stage before an election and still actually trailing the Government on a two party preferred basis. It seems however that Tony was a bit worried that that statement might come across as being full of a bit of hubris (that lovely term that got a huge workout in 2007) and later this evening he clarified that he had not said that, but rather he had merely said “the next election is winnable”.
But regardless of what Abbott said, it was really the Government that looked the more happy group – most likely because the Prime Minister was performing well, and this was because the opposition’s tactics were so woefully bad...
Abbott’s first question was in regard to a statement made in a speech by Ken Henry yesterday at a conference for taxation academics (yeah a barnburner of an occasion that one), where he suggested that the RSPT would be a good theoretical model for all industries in the long term. He stressed it was something he was encouraging taxation academics to investigate, and that he was not referring to current public policy (which is kind of obvious, because he didn’t recommend it in his own tax review!). So of course the opposite added 1 and 1 together and made 11., and Abbott listed off all the industries in the economy and suggested Rudd had a secret tax agenda (yeah I know it was that dumb).
Rudd could have stood up and said he ruled out bringing in an RSPT type tax, instead as Rudd does he used many more words, citing Henry’s speech (and giving it complete context) and then quoting the Business Council of Australia's submission to the Henry Tax Review which suggested something similar and had also pointed out that other countries had tried such models. Rudd however, then said:
“the Government will not be adopting that model in Australia”.
Now maybe that wasn’t definitive enough for some, but to me when I read that sentence I don’t see much wriggle room – and to make it even more clear Rudd pointed out the only reason the RSPT was coming in on resources is because “they are non-renewable”.
So what happened? Well Joe Hockey got up the very next question and asked Rudd to rule out introducing an RSPT on Woolworths, Telstra, Coca-Cola, JB Hi-Fi. Now had it been me who was asked that question, I would have said, “Look dopey, did you even listen to my last question? Are you so thick that you can’t change tactics if a response essentially renders them irrelevant?”. Rudd instead drew Hockey’s attention to his previous answer and then went on to list all the share price movements of mining companies since the announcement of the RSPT and made merry with the Government proposing to reduce the company tax etc etc.
Then Patrick Secker got up to ask a question, and after first forgetting to say who he was asking it to, he asked Rudd to rule out introducing an RSPT on Woolworths! I mean seriously, are the Liberal Party so useless that they can’t see they were giving Rudd a free hit with all of these questions? Obviously no, because later Abbott asked yet another one on the exact same issue, saying if the RSPT is so good, why won’t he introduce it for all other companies!
These tactics help make Rudd look very good to his backbenchers. Maybe the Libs are purposefully playing dumb to help keep Rudd in power because they are so scared of Gillard. It’s the only reason I can think of why they continued with such idiotic questions.
Julia herself ripped into the National Party with respect to rural education (anticipating a Matter of Public Importance on the issue moved by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott after QT), and Wayne Swan also gave a very strong performance on a Dorothy with regards the RSPT. Both he and Rudd laid out their case for the RSPT and pointedly referred to the fact that their model included applying the tax to existing projects. Anyone thinking the Government is backing down on the tax should actually watch QT – if anything they seem to have gotten more embolden on the issue this week.
And in other news, Chris Pyne was booted for one hour. Unfortunately there was only 15 minutes left of QT, so we weren’t able to enjoy his absence for the full extent.