While watching the health debate between Nicola Roxon and Peter Dutton as the National Press Club during lunch today I bit on something hard, which was rather disconcerting since I was eating a ham and cheese toasty. I quickly realise a filling in my back tooth had fallen out. I thus felt like I was actively getting into the spirit of the topic, but it did mean I didn't pay as much attention as I normally would have because I kept saying to myself “Dental Plan!… Lisa needs braces… Dental Plan!… Lisa needs braces”.
The debate was again a good one – these portfolio debates are generally good things because they don’t have the attention that does the leaders debates, and because the ministers are supposed to be across policy, the debate is very policy heavy and not so big on the waffle and motherhood statements. The debate was also moderated by The Daily Telegraph’s Sue Dunlevy who is hands down the best journalist on health policy in the country, and truth be told, we’d probably be all better off if it was she who was Health Minister.
Both Roxon and Dutton did well. Dutton, by virtue of the fact he didn't start drooling and mumbling incoherently exceeded expectations.
The problem with the ALP’s policy is it is a more wide ranging than the Liberals – the Liberal Party’s health policy is more targeted at doing small thing well – or more to the point focussing on which ever lobby group is in ascendency – and at the moment the mental health lobby is strong. Now I have no problems with people saying we need more spent on mental health, but the way the Liberal Party is paying for their mental health by taking money away from things the ALP is doing. Dutton and Abbott would have you believe they are spending $1.5b in addition to what the ALP is spending on health – they’re not. The problem for Roxon was she was trying to sell a plan whereas Dutton was talking more about specific projects, and ignoring the piecemeal aspect of his policy.
The leaders meanwhile were doing their thing in South Australia and Melbourne. Abbott was down at Lake Alexandria talking about putting more water into lower lakes. It sounded nice and got an okish response from the media – The Advertiser front page wasn't that bad, though it smacked a bit of “he’s not doing quite as much as Julia said she’d do”. And The Advertiser's editorial was pretty equivocal about it:
The Government has made a promising start by purchasing more than 900 billion litres of annual entitlements. Now it has committed to buy back all the water recommended by the scientific assessment contained in the MDBA guidelines. It is a game-changing move.
The Coalition has responded with a plan that promises immediate action where it is needed most - at the mouth.
It may be hard to decide which is superior but that is infinitely better than having no choice at all. Which ever side wins this election, the river may have finally got a score on the board.
Julia meanwhile was in Melbourne talking up welfare and also then whipping off to Sydney to pledge $2.1b for a rail link between Parramatta and Epping.
Now for some (especially the Liberal Party) this is just another promise that won’t happen, for others it is about time. It certainly got good coverage in the Sydney papers:
Whether or not the voters will “buy it” remains to be seen. But someone certainly did buy it, because one punter slapped down $200,00o on the ALP to win, and the odds for an ALP win moved in from $1.55 on the weekend to $1.36, and the odds on a Lib victory blew out from $2.45 to $3.10.
After the morning’s announcements both leaders trooped along to Rooty Hill RSL for no good reason to indulge in a little Sky News/ Daily Telegraph bit of piffle. Basically is was a Sky version of Q and A.
Rather oddly Sky decided not to allow the feed to go out to other networks, meaning probably around 44,000 would be watching – ie it is meaningless.
The audience was supposedly “undecided” but in reality it was about as undecided as the Tony Abbott household. Julia Gillard got a noticeably tougher line of questions – but she did handle them with aplomb. Abbott – who was smart to go and stand with the “people” rather than stay on the stage – was given a long line of slow long hops . One woman essentially read out the Liberal Party’s broadband plan and asked if he agreed with it.
Another supposedly undecided voter was quickly identified as former Big Brother contestant Joel Scalzi –the son of a former Liberal Party candidate in SA , and whose Big Brother bio lists:
Joel is an elite athlete, a neat freak and a Young Liberal.
It was a joke forum that won’t change a vote. Yeah The Daily Telegraph will run it – they did sponsor it, but these things don’t change votes unless you;re actually there, or at least watch it – and not enough people watched it.
And because it wasn't a debate Abbott was able to get away with an inordinate amount of bullshit. He was able to talk about the NBN being like the government building a really fancy car, and he just sprouted away about how much debt there had been built up etc etc.
He was asked about R18+ ratings for computer games, and he expressed ignorance on it, and suggested he was in favour of it, which is kind of interesting given the Liberal Party is not exactly in favour of it. But still I’m sure he’s happy to have publically supported a policy advocated by The Greens.
He also ended by saying that these type of forums where fantastic and that politicians needed them to keep it real. Which is rather interesting given one of the first cuts he made in this election was to dump the community cabinets. Guess he doesn’t like them when The Daily Tel isn't picking the audience.
Yesterday I had a bit of a quick go at the Liberal broadband policy. But for a real take down of it. Head over to Andrew Elder’s blog, and see him take it down line by line.