Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Election 2010: Day 25 (or, pity they don’t have broadband on Nauru)

Today was a day that showed where Tony Abbott’s priorities lay. The Liberal Party announced its broadband policy in Canberra. In attendance were the usually unsighted Tony Smith and holding his hand was Andrew Robb. Tony Abbott? 100810_election_fp_3Where was he for this $6b announcement on the major issue that distinguishes the Liberal Party from the ALP? He of course was in Sydney doing what you would expect in a week where the attention has firmly become fixed on the economy – he was talking about asylum seekers in Nauru with Scott Morrison.

The press conference had a real odd vibe about it – like everyone in the room knew this was a side issue that had long since been passed by. Abbott – no doubt having seen the front page of the SMH – had his “Last question face” on right from the get go, knowing that most of the questions were not going to be on his favourite topic. To his small credit he answered 18 of them – beating his average by three. And to the credit of the press pack following him, they were good questions.

Malcolm Farr for example pointed out that over 90 percent of those who were sent to Nauru under the Pacific Solution ended up in Australia. Another wanted to know what was in it for Nauru – why would they do this if there was no financial incentive. Abbott’s line that Nauru just wanted to be of help was not exactly a winning argument.

Ben Packham asked a ripper about debt saying that given debt was about 6 percent of GDP and most people’s home loans were massivly greater than their income – including Abbott's own, didn’t that make him personally a bad financial manager? Abbott umm’d and ahh’d and talked about how he had a “normal family”, and then he talked about how much debt we would owe in 2013-14. Packham quickly followed up by saying it was minor compared to our GDP, whereupon Abbott pulled out the standard tosh about how he would rather be spending all that money on hospitals and schools rather than interest – yeah because the Howard Govt did so much of that when it was in surplus…

It was topped off by Abbott having to admit that the Liberal Party’s media release which claimed to have found a black hole in the ALP’s election promises costings had “a couple of typos” – namely they added one program twice and they also claimed that one ALP program would cost $15m, when in fact it would cost $1.5m, . Whoops. Don’t you just hate those pesky decimal points.

All in all it was pretty much a nothing press conference – evidenced by the lack of attention it was given on the nightly news.

Meanwhile in Canberra, Robb and Smith were having the time of their lives answering over an hour’s worth of questions from a media pack that had the smell of blood.

Tony Smith might be a nice bloke, but he would be great to play poker against because his face betrays when he is bluffing. And the entire press conference his face screamed “look they told me to say this, why are you asking me all these questions??” It got particularly bad when one of the journalists suggested, “Isn’t this a bit of a joke – you’re offering us what we can get already!”

And the policy was a joke. It essentially boils down to: Telstra will do it, because they are nice. Anyone hearing Smith say that 97 percent of the country will be guaranteed a minimum high speed of 12mps must have wondered if we had gone back 10 years. And anyone hearing Robb say people will get high speed broadband wherever there is a demand for it, should have laughed out loud. Demand ain’t got nought to do with it – it’s all about cost and profit – if it is not cost worthy for Telstra to do it – because they figure people will keep paying for their ADSL – then Telstra won’t do it. I have an ADSL 2 connection, but because I live more than a mile away from the exchange my line speed is a slack 3.92mbps.

The Liberals’ plan won’t help me. When Smith was asked in the communications debate at the press conference today whether or not the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin would get fibre to the home, he couldn’t say. It would be up to the market, he said. Well I can tell Smith, the market hasn’t done it, ain’t doing it, and won’t do it.

Smith looked so lost during the debate and the press conference that I was sure he was going to start talking about the “internet doohickey” and the “broadband thingummy” – and when talk got on to spectrum, well geez, you just wanted to rush the stage and say, there, there, don’t worry, you’ll never actually be in charge of all of this.

The industries response was hardly in raptures. They all pointed out that yes $6b was a lot less than the ALP’s NBN, but telecommunication’s analyst Paul Budd put the policy in perfect frame when he said:

“….the opposition’s talk of improving competition doesn’t add up. For 10 years under the Howard government they were unable to create competition and there are no details about how they plan on changing that. The only way to get to 100Mbps for 97 per cent of the population is to build a fibre network. But without measures to address Telstra’s dominance there will be no competition, because Telstra will use its network to control the sector."

3929707 The Libs are all about “wireless broadband”; completely ignoring that with it you can’t get anywhere near 100mbps. Kelly O’Dwyer – the bright young hope of the Liberal Party – on Sky News said that fibre to the home could well be outdated by the time it is rolled out. This is quite amazing because it seems the Liberals have a plan up their sleeve to alter the laws of physics. I guess the speed of light will always be faster under a Liberal Government.

scottatpodium The debate at the press club between Smith, Stephen Conroy and the Greens spokesperson Senator Ludlam was interesting, if only for displaying that both Ludlam and Conroy actually understood the subject and that Smith couldn't quite keep the “geez this wasn't in my cheat notes” look off his face. Ludlam was very good – once again displaying that he is the future leader of the Greens. The only issue Conroy was troubled on was his dopey net filter. But Smith had that covered, by essentially telling everyone that if you like the NBN and hate the filter that you should vote ALP in the lower house and the Greens in the Senate. Win-win.

In fact with the Libs now opposing the filter and the NBN, there is not much electoral need for the ALP to change its position on the filter, because it is effectively dead. Those who are most against the filter would likely also include those most in favour of the NBN, so they’ll be happy to vote the ALP to get the NBN, and know that as the Greens will get the balance of power the filter will be dead as well.

Tony Abbott’s performance on the 7:30 Report didn’t help things either when he repeatedly admitted to Kerry O’Brien he wasn’t really across all the technical stuff – and yet he had no problem signing off on spending $6b anyway….


Over in Adelaide Julia was (as I predicted she would)  stopping by her old alma mater of Unley High. 100810_election_fp_5

The local paper did her a huge favour by giving her glowing front page treatment with her announcement on the buy back of water for the Murray.

The press conference she gave (another chock full of policy directed questions – 22 of them) questioned how the ALP could pledge to do what they were saying to do given they didn’t know what the National Water Authority would recommend. Gillard responded:

We provisioned $3.1 billion in the Government’s budget - $1.4 billion has been expended to date.

We’ve made provision in the budget.  There is money in the budget to keep undertaking water purchases and we will. Then we will get the Murray Darling Basin Authority plan and we will, as necessary in the future, make the allocations to keep buying water. But we can keep buying water now because we have money in the Budget to do it.

Either way she didn’t give herself much wriggle room, and South Australians will take her announcement as meaning she’ll fix the Murray. Good luck meeting those expectations…

Coming off her strong work on QANDA last night, and another excellent and easy performance on the 7pm  Project tonight, Julia is looking like a good thing. And if the Lib’s biggest policy is a $6b one that is as dud as their one today she’ll stay a good thing till Aug 21.


SM said...

Tonight's 730Report was a glimpse of the Abbott we have all seen. The way his jaw set I though he was going to punch KO'B.

Not being up on technical details was the sucker punch that allowed KO'B to suggest maybe the economy might be, actually pretty technical and when he tried the BER bollocks Kerry had the three part trap all set to spring.

Finally seeing a bit of policy is reassuring, lets hope we can continue with it.

Anonymous said...

It was absolutely hilarious when KOB had to explain Tony Abbott's own communications policy to him and what "peak download speed" actually was. Tony Abbott just stared at him like a deer caught in the headlights.

lyn said...

reHi Grog

Brilliant column again and again.

Grog, Abbott said he isn't a Tech head, and I thought it was very funny when he said to KO he had a premonition, KO said is that how you will Govern the country by premonitions.

What about when KO asked Phoney about peak speed, Phoney thinks that is high tech.

Grog, I know how fussy you are with your work so check this
"constings" had “a couple of typos”

Also sleeve (sleave)

Just helping.

This doesn't give you permission to take any notice of mine though, because some days I do shocking muck up's.

Tell you what , my keys have been sticking, I have sprayed the keyboard with silicon. I am a trained touch typist, been employed as a Private Secretary in various companies all my life.

Cheers Lyn

Grog said...

cheers lyn - writing the blog while watching Abbott on 7:30 Report does not make for a typo free event! (hard to type while laughing)

Anonymous said...

Abbott looked believable about wanting to front up to Kerry next week.
Tomorrow at Rooty Hill where not all the questions will be scripted.
The difference between someone comfortable with the process of talking about what they are doing and someone running through a series of "talking points" is clear.
Its not so much that Abbott will self destruct - he will just keep saying the same things - like a series of slogans - regardless of what the question was.

Checkers said...

Kelly O’Dwyer – the bright young hope of the Liberal Party – on Sky News said that fibre to the home could well be outdated by the time it is rolled out. This is quite amazing because it seems the Liberals have a plan up their sleeve to alter the laws of physics. I guess the speed of light will always be faster under a Liberal Government.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

Oh dear. It just gets better and better. They have completely shot their credibility on this one. Unbelievable.

Reminds of the famous and always relevant last line in Richard Feynman's dissenting report on the Challenger space shuttle disaster:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

And neither, in this case, can the Australian public.


Just discovered your blog, courtesy of Poll Bludger, and I am loving it. Don't stop, no matter how much coffee you inflict on keyboards around the country. It is worth every stuck key and resultant typo.

Kevin Rennie said...

Tony had the noddies o &.30 tonight. Not looking Prime Ministerial at all.

Andrew Elder said...

As I've said elsewhere, Smith's lack of industry consultation is a fail in itself, as is his inability to link broadband to wider economic/ health/ education/ other policies - meaning this policy is ripe for budget cuts.

megpie71 said...

I keep wondering when someone is going to ask the Liberals which of their promises in this election are "core", and which ones are "non-core". After all, they are the party who pretty much codified the whole notion of flat-out lying to the electorate while in campaign mode by making promises they have absolutely no intention of keeping (i.e. "non-core" promises), and being rather blatant about the whole business. Possibly someone in the media pack has this all saved up for tomorrow in Rooty Hill.

db said...

Grog - you are fast becoming my favourite blogger in the universe and I am no fickle reader!

Your daily summaries are a highlight in what has been a barren election campaign until recently.

ScreendoorSlams said...

Best part is that Bolt is in print the following day stating that Abbott looks like 'a real leader' and points to a (previous) 7.30 Report interview as evidence.

Michael said...

As the broadband non-interview on 7.30 Report displayed, Tony Abbott doesn't care where Australia can be. He just wants it back where it was. "Turn back the boats"? Turn back the clock.

Since so much of Abbott's plans for a future Australia seem to hinge on what will be of advantage to his daughters - paid parental leave becoming legitimate, indeed essential, "visionary", as his daughters enter the age of fecundity - perhaps he should talk with one of them about modern technology. Maybe the one who reckons it's "gonna be awesome living in Kirribilli House". She seems to have the vocabulary and social priorities of a modern girl.

RodH said...

Abbot's views on deficits and broadband highlight one of the massive problems that the Howard Costello government did a great deal to increase.

Its all very well to be frugal with your budget , but if you take it too far when you are looking after your own home, the gutters start falling off, the drains ultimately clog up and , the paint begins stripping off , the roof starts to leak. The fact that you have some money in the bank when this is happening is no good to you, and eventually you reach a point where you have to build again from scratch at far, far greater cost.

That was where we were headed when Howard left us, just so Costello could skite about the few quid he'd managed to keep in the bank. Infrastructure problems were beginning to appear everywhere. Our rickety old third world quality broadband network was just one example. Ports, power lines, rail, roads, hospital, schools, you name it, were all showing signs of serious wear and tear. Costello should have got out the chequebook long before and parted with some of those sheckels of ours that he so loved hoarding, to fix them up. He didn't, and we are still paying a price for it, even though Labor have at least started to make a bit of headway in dealing with some of the earlier neglect.

THe huge danger that Abbott presents to Australia isn't really "WorkChoices 2" (though that is bad enough). It is that he wholeheartedly embraces the same "penny wise, pound foolish" philosophy that epitomised the Howard era. He measures economic success and failure simply in terms of whether he can claim a 'surplus", regardless of the damage that this does to Australia's "house" along the way, and how much others have to pay later to rebuild it after he has gone.

lyn said...

Hi Grog

As you know I collect links to blogs, during my travels I have noticed a lot of references to your blog Grog's Gamut. In most cases I have been highlighting those references on The Political Sword in today's links.

This morning Woolly days has impressed me greatly.

You may have read woolly days but just in case, I will post the link here for you and your other readers:

Gambut's Gamit: Blogging the failures of journalism, Derek Barry, Woolly Days

Grog’s post has been re-tweeted 266 times with many influential people including ABC boss Mark Scott, Lateline host Leigh Sales, The Chaser’s Chas Liacciardello and The Australian’s media writer Amanda Meade chiming in. As a result Grog caused journalists the most severe bout of introspection seen in this country since blogging took off in the early 2000s.



Storm said...

Brilliant insights and opinions Grog, thank-you very much.

It seems the Libs have a stranglehold on the general media though, and he may get in purely because people believe the lies in the press. It seems some are upping their game though, so who knows, we may get some more balanced reporting a-la K O'B.

btw you said Smith said to vote Labor and pref Greens in your article... I think you meant the Greens guy, not Smith.

Alistair Baillieu-McEwan said...

What concerned me more related to yesterday's broadband anouncement was what appeared to be Andrew Robb's behaviour. I watched on A-PAC which continued even after Tony Smith had left. Andrew Robb had the appearance and responses of someone who has far too much on his plate at the moment. He seems to be carrying an extremely high load at present in trying to keep some semblence of coherance in relation to the Liberal's current economic credentials. It was painful to watch both him and Tony Smith during the course of this election announcement.
It seems to me that in future there should be some discussion around having at least one day free each week during an election campaign for politicians to relax a little and regroup their thoughts. I know it's a bit odd to think of an election campaign as an Occupational Health & Safety Issue but putting politicians under the kinds of stress they undergo during such times clearly has some elements which would not be allowed in an ordinary workplace. Yes, it's all taken to be part of their job but really should it have to be like this?

Pip said...

Tony Abbott says he's not a tech head. No, he's a dickhead.

Michael said...

Andrew Robb, should the Coalition be elected, will have single-handedly changed Australian history. How so? By haranguing the Liberal party-room meeting to reject their current leader, and in doing so completely betraying every expectation he had nurtured in Malcolm Turnbull that he was behind him, he swung enough people behind Tony Abbott to see him elected leader of the Liberals, even if by only one vote

That one vote for Abbott was very likely to have been amongst many more on Turnbull's side if Robb hadn't betrayed him.

Because the election of Abbott saw the cancellation of the deal on an ETS, Rudd couldn't go to Copenhagen with a pace-setting piece of legislation to present to, and quite possibly, embolden other national governments worldwide to introduce their own.

With no ETS on the legislated books, when Rudd eventually was convinced to shelve it until the governments of the world will be forced to take action by the running out of the aegis of the Kyoto Protocol, his popularity fell away to the levels that saw him removed from the Prime Ministership by his own party.

Now, we see a backwards-looking backwards-tracking Coalition within striking distance of claiming the government of this country. A claiming that will have been made through a three-years-in-Opposition campaign of lies, willful distortion of the facts pertaining to government policy, and a mocking dissertation of the failings of minister after minister that can only be 'understood' when seen to be fed by a vocabulary more pertinent to the 'abilities' of the relative shadow minister in each case. Can anyone really nominate one Coalition Shadow that objectively might be superior, in exactly the same role, as any government minister?

And yet the Coalition are considered very likely to take government on the basis of having a 'straight-talking' leader who avoids answering any question popping out of the "too hard basket", and when unable to avoid answering, offers comment that is at variance with any other given shadow minister addressing the same issue. An alternative PM and his Shadow Treasurer, two weeks from election day, who can't even agree on what their total budget savings are???

Here we are because Andrew Robb, back early from treatment for depression, decided to stab his leader in the back.

The man is incompetent, as today's press conference on alternative national broadband provision showed. He is untrustworthy as a member of the senior levels of his own party, just ask Malcolm Turnbull.

It may well be that we find ourselves with Prime Minister Tony Abbott a fortnight from now because one man decided he didn't really need his medication that day, as he steeled himself to look Malcolm Turnbull in the eye across the party room (or more likely avoid meeting his eyes) and say, in effect, "more fool you if you believed me for a minute".

Anonymous said...

it was a good day for the true believers as the liberal opposition fell apart