I just got home from watching Inception and so I’m not sure if everything is real or some dopey dream because today I kept hearing on ABC news and other assorted outlets that Julia Gillard was being dogged by more claims about Kevin Rudd – this time that 10 years ago he had conspired with the Alexander Downer to leak information that would embarrass Laurie Brereton. Apparently Julia was dogged by the issue even though Rudd denied it – and it threatening to sue – and also by around 8:30am this morning Alexander Downer – the very person the Sunday Telegraph had used as its primary source – was saying the story was a load of bull:
"The interpretation placed on my comments to the Sunday Telegraph is wrong," he said.
"Kevin Rudd was not used by me or other members of the Liberal Party as a so-called 'double agent' to leak material against other members of the Labor Party."
First off, Alexander Downer probably hates Kevin Rudd more than he does anyone on this planet. Kevin Rudd thinks the same of Downer. To think that these to vicious enemies would ever work together on anything is utterly preposterous. And thus whenever Downer says anything about Rudd you need to make sure you’re taking it with about a shipping container load of salt.
But here’s the real kicker. If this story was true don’t you think Downer might have used it earlier – you know at a time when he and the Liberal Party were fighting for their political lives, like oh I don’t know… the 2007 election when Kevin Rudd was actually leader of the opposition?? For someone to believe this story they have to believe that Downer decided not to tell this damaging story in the 2007 election because he was waiting to tell it when Kevin Rudd was no longer leader of the ALP or PM, but was in fact just a back bencher.
Yep, because of course the Liberal Party left so much in reserve when it came to attacking Kevin Rudd in 2007.
Sometimes you want to give the media in this country a collective Biff Tannen slap to the head and say “Hello!! Anybody home?? Think McFly! Think!”
I’d also like to give them slap for giving Andrew Robb any credence for suggesting the ALP giving journalists copies of things said by Tony Abbott constitutes a “smear campaign”.
That’s a smear campaign? Please, that’s just giving journalists free research – any journalist worth their salt should already have those quotes on hand and be ready to use them – like Laurie Oakes did today. In his interview with Oakes today Abbott was squirming and umming and ahhing his way through as Oakes threw more and more of his old quotes back at him. Abbott has a terrible poker face – when he is in trouble it’s obvious, and it is even more obvious because he ramps up the umms and ahhs as his mind tries desperately to think of a way to squirm out.
Anyone interviewing Abbott one on one who doesn’t get the ums and ahhs, should know she or he has been beaten.
In fact a good majority of the Canberra Press Gallery should have been watching the Oakes’ interview this morning and looking down at the ground wondering why they hadn’t asked any of those questions. Because I have to say, while it was a good interview, it’s not like Oakes was dragging stuff from the never-never. This was all stuff that Abbott has said in the last three years or written in his book. Yesterday when he was announcing his dental plan for ADF families Fairfax journo Latika Bourke asked him about the national dental plan policy he had written about in his book Battlelines. It was a good question – journalists should know his book off by heart – it’s a gold mine of things to throw at him.
The best journalists have memories like elephants. When a politician says something that contradicts a previously stated position, the good ones jump on it – the best ones will have gone through second reading speeches, or boring on the stump speeches to nobodies. There’s gold to be found there.
If Robb thinks that telling journalists about things candidates said in the past is a smear, then I guess he’d be worried if someone reminded the media that back in 2007 Robb was the idiot going around telling journalists that there was a stack of ALP candidates who were ineligible because they hadn’t resigned their Government positions. The only problem was that Robb it seems had based all this on a Google search of names and that his claims were completely bull. I always remember that little episode whenever someone tells me Robb is a sharp operator. And so should we all – just because Andrew Robb says something does not make it so.
But you know what is a smear campaign? How about talking about whether or not a PM has children, or is married, or whether her partner had speeding fines incurred prior to his meeting her. That’s a smear.
If the ALP was engaged in really attacking Abbott they might be reminding the media that in February 12 2009 Abbott missed five crucial votes on the economic stimulus plan because he was asleep in his office after drinking a couple bottles of wine….
But I digress…
Yesterday on twitter there was a little discussion about my Friday post on the press packs following the leaders. News.ltd journalist, Ben Packham, put out a tweet asking for questions that we’d like them to ask. At the time I was busy doing real life stuff, but I said to him that it was hard to come up with questions without knowing what the press conference was to be about.
This of course is wrong. Abbott has one policy that he should be asked about with regard to whatever he is announcing, because he mentions it at every press conference. Namely:
“Pay back the debt”
I’d like someone to ask him “WHY?”
Why do we need to pay it back when interest rates are now 2.25% lower than they were when John Howard was in power and Australia was in surplus?
Why do we need to pay back the debt when inflation is falling – meaning the deficit is obviously not putting pressure on prices?
Why do we need to pay back the debt when we obviously are paying it back already? Does he think people who have a mortgage should stop everything and pay it all off now?
Why is it that he says the Government can’t afford to spend on infrastructure or disabled education because we have a deficit that is actually only 6% of our GDP, and yet families with a total mortgage that is around 618% of their annual income still find the money to buy a car, spend money on kids schooling, go on holidays, and even buy luxury items?
If he says that Governments have to make choices and can’t spend everything they’d like to, ask him doesn't that mean that he is just using the debt as an excuse when the real reason he is not spending more on disabled education is because he would rather spend the money elsewhere on more Liberal Party constituent friendly spending – like ADF dental coverage?
If he mentions the $100m a day debt figure ask him why that matters when Australia’s taxation revenue is around $881.5m a day? Does he think Australia is in danger of defaulting?
If he or Hockey mentions the concerns over “crowding out” ask him why given Australia operates in an open financial system where we borrow and lend on the international market, and that given the international annual debt market is around $82.2 trillion dollars, why does he think the total Australian Government's bond issue of $151billion (or about 0.18%) is crowding out borrowers?
Ask Abbott why do we need to pay back the debt when the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens says "There is virtually no net public debt in the country at all in contrast to much of the developed world. The most recent figures out of Canberra was a peak of five or six per cent of GDP. So far from that being the highest in history, it is closer to the lowest."?
Ask him if he thinks Mr Stevens wrong? Ask him if he thinks he and Joe Hockey understand Australia's financial position better than does the head of the leading financial institution in the country?
Ask Abbott why if the debt is putting pressure on prices why aren’t interest rates going up this week? Why isn’t the Reserve Bank agreeing with him? Hell, ask him why aren’t the ABS inflation figures agreeing with him?
Ask him why does the Liberal Party advert mention cost of living pressures featuring a woman in a supermarket when food prices over the last 12 months have risen by less than the CPI average? If he mentions electricity prices ask him how will he do anything to reduce them? If he mentions a carbon tax ask him what did a carbon tax have to do with electricity prices going up in the past 12 months when there is no carbon tax yet?
Ask him why do we need to pay back the debt when under the entire period of the Menzies Government we had Government debt of over 20 percent and yet we had a period of strong prosperity?
And when Andrew Robb or Tony Abbott says utter bullshit like:
Six interest rate rises in a row, much of it due to the reckless spending which is added to the debt at the rate of $700 million a week. That’s a new hospital a week we’re borrowing as a country.
Instead of saying “thank you”, how about pull him up and (once again) point out interest rates are 2.25% lower than under John Howard when the budget was in surplus, and also ask if that means when he is in Government and the budget is in surplus they will build a hospital a week? Why when John Howard was in Government and the budget was in surplus didn’t they build a hospital a week? Or it is just that Robb's comparison is utterly stupid?
I mean geez, guys! Tony Abbott should be getting drilled every day on this stuff. It’s important stuff; it’s the whole box and dice. If you don’t understand how an economy works then you shouldn't be in power, and Abbott’s own inane policy of “Pay back the debt” in itself reveals he doesn’t understand how the economy works.
And look let’s just quickly go over to IR and Workchoices, because it again goes to his honesty and ability to exaggerate when under pressure. In his recent 7:30 Report appearance he said:
TONY ABBOTT: But, Kerry, no democratic politician can or should defy the wishes of the electorate.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But this is the wishes of the electorate that you suddenly came to a view about a week and a half ago.
TONY ABBOTT: But, I am a party leader now. I'm not just a philosopher, I'm not just a pundit. I'm not just a speculator in a university department. I am a party leader. And party leaders have to respect what they're hearing from the electorate and also from the people who will be impacted by any change.
Ask him was he party leader when in his Budget Reply speech in May he said:
We all know that the former government’s workplace reforms went too far but they also helped to create more than two million new jobs, lift real wages by 20 per cent and more than double net household wealth between 1996 and 2007. The coalition will seek to take the unfair dismissal monkey off the back of small businesses, which are more like families than institutions. We will make Labor’s transitional employment agreements less transitional and Labor’s individual flexibility agreements more flexible because we have faith in Australian workers who are not as easily pushed around and exploited as the ACTU’s dishonest ad campaign is already making out.
Ask him if they can’t believe what he said only two months ago in a carefully prepared statement, why should they believe anything he says during the campaign?
And then get him onto climate change – ask if he thinks we need a price on carbon to reduce carbon emissions. If he says that we can reduce them through incentives, ask him why he does not support a market based mechanism but instead prefers a system that was shown to completely fail under the Soviet Union during the entire twentieth century. Ask him if he believes the best driver of innovation in the private sector is the profit motive or Government incentives? Are there other sectors of the economy that could do without a price signal and instead operate just on Government incentives?
Look I don’t have the ALP’s list of statements by Abbott – these are just easy economic 101 type questions that need to be asked – the trick though is to be able to follow up any fob offs – perhaps the media pack should act like a pack. One of the reasons I complained about the lack of policy questions from the media is mostly because policy questions are the ones that really bring politicians unstuck.
A good sharp policy based question (and it needs research and understanding of what you’re asking – so yes, there is a bit of work required) can utterly destroy a politician. And I don’t mean “how much will the MRRT increase the price of a loaf of bread”. I mean questions like “why are you proposing to sell Medibank Private to pay off the debt when the debt is already projected to be paid off in three years time, and your selling MBP doesn't mean you’ll pay off the debt any sooner?” Would you sell your car to pay off part of your mortgage even though you were already able to afford the repayments AND if your selling the car wasn't actually going to enable you to pay off your mortgage any sooner? I seriously can’t believe Abbott hasn’t been drilled on selling MBP yet.
So there you go, there’s my questions. Maybe Abbott can answer them – if so well done.
Everyone has pretty well been in raptures about The Chaser returning. And yes it’s good to have them back. But I have to say their first effort was pretty light. At their heart they go for the easy laughs – nothing wrong with that, they do it brilliantly, but let's not pretend it’s brutal satire. Personally, I always liked them best when they destroyed ACA and Today Tonight. Australia needs a Jon Stewart – the Chaser are the closest we got it would be nice to see them try on the role. Would that they would do something like Stewart did last week on Obama going on the TV show The View:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
I know I’m pretty late on the bus with this but geez it’s funny, and after this weekend I needed a good laugh:
Best of all though is Neil Young’s take on the video. And of course because it’s Neil Young, it’s absolute genius (I defy you not to be humming this song later in the day!):
[Have just been told this is actually Jimmy Fallon doing a Neil Young impersonation – which I should have realised given it says it on the Huffington Post page where I got the video!! Oh well that’s some (ok a lot of) egg on my face. But geez he does it pitch perfect – and it’s still a cool song!!]
As I wrote earlier, my Friday post got some attention on twitter. When I wrote it I didn’t think too much of it – it was just a post that had been running through my head that day and I bashed it out as usual after doing the dishes and before saying goodnight to my daughters. But on Saturday morning I woke up and found that The Age journalist Tony Wright had retweeted it with a pretty complimentary comment attached. From there, given all journalists of any worth would follow him on Twitter, my blog started getting a bump in readers. To give you an idea – here’s my hit states for the last 30 days:
Prior to the election I was averaging around 350 hits a day (early July I was on holidays and not blogging). Since the election I’ve been getting around 500 hits a day. On Saturday I got 1838 hits and today 1634.
That is the power of Twitter right there. If my little blog can generate such a spike, it’s little wonder news organisations are (all should be) encouraging their journalists to post on twitter, to engage, and I guess to write articles that generate interesting debate.
So to those new to my blog, welcome. Hope to see you here again.