Thursday, October 21, 2010

On the QT: Nothing like a little bit of slag and bag

The morning laughs started early when Joe Hockey went head to head with Louise Yaxley on AM (so good it is here in full):

JOE HOCKEY: I want the Treasurer to exert the influence that a competent and respected Treasurer can wield and I think the banks do listen when a Treasurer uses all the levers in his armoury to place pressure on them, but this Treasurer's not being listened to and on 30 different occasions he's been ignored.

Yaxley asked the very obvious question:

LOUISE YAXLEY: What levers does he have that he could be using that would make them pay attention?

JOE HOCKEY: Well the banks have a constant interaction with government, be it from a regulatory perspective, a credential perspective or even since the global financial crisis, in a commercial perspective getting government and tax payer support for their own fundraising endeavours. So I would say that the Treasurer is not using the obvious levers available to put pressure on the banks to stop them from raising interest rates outside of the changes brought about by the Reserve Bank itself.

Ah, I see: “obvious levers”. Yaxley ain’t letting that hogwash get past her:

LOUISE YAXLEY: Just to go back to the levers, you've made it very clear that one of them is to point out that what the minutes of the Reserve Bank have said about bank costs, what else should he be doing?

JOE HOCKEY: Well there are a range of different initiatives that are available to a Treasurer. The banking system itself is heavily regulated.
I think you can use a whole lot of levers and as a former financial services minister from time to time, I used them, to persuade the banks not to gouge consumers. It's up to the Treasurer to use those levers.

Oh, a “range of levers”. Nice Joe, you’ve fronted up with out any details. Hmm wonder if that’ll pass muster?

LOUISE YAXLEY: Can you give us any further indication of what you mean when you talk about the levers though, what the things are that he could be doing?

Nope – Yaxley drills him for the third time in a row to come up with some specifics.

JOE HOCKEY: Well there are a raft of levers that are available that may be punitive in measure when it comes to the banks, but the banks ought to understand they rely heavily on a government and a parliament that delivers good will and if the banks trade off that good will to gouge the Australian consumers, then if the Government doesn't move to put pressure on the banks then the parliament will.

A “raft of levers now”? large_tobecontinuedSo we’ve got an obvious range of a raft of levers. Gee that sounds impressive. And to top it all off he’s got some ideas for parliament to do some things to the banks… oooh interesting. Yaxley poses a question which you would think Joe would be expecting:

LOUISE YAXLEY: What do you mean by that?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, we'll wait and see.

Wait and see?? Oh dear. Economics policy for Joe has become a bad 1980s two part episode TV show. Oh my God, will Jake get himself out of that trap in time to save the Fatman? Oh wait it’s already 8:29pm, oh no it’s a two part episode! And here it comes: to be continued…

imageLuckily for us before the second part we had a comic interlude from Liberal MP Don Randall, who arrived at Parliament House to do a doorstop and noticing that the place where the cameras wanted him to stand was an ABC logo he stomped on it and then when someone suggested it was “your ABC” he scoffed and said "Not my ABC. Gay-BC”

Gay-BC? Huh? Seriously, what?

Firstly it would be nice if Randall could explain why he thinks the ABC is particularly “Gay”, and also why is he deciding that using “Gay” as a slur is ok? I guess it is just one of those cases where because he is considered a bit of a nothing; a bit of a colourful character, he’s allowed to get away with such things. He didn't bother to make a personal explanation on the matter after Question Time, so obviously neither he nor the Liberal Party thinks is is that big a deal…

He did however make a personal explanation about the next thing he said at the doorstop when he was asked about the policy to getting parliament to take action to intervene on banks raising interest rates:

“Well, you know, this is typical of, you know, Bob Brown before the election and during the election wanted to talk about a super profits tax on the banks. This is just another one of their, as I said lunatic fringe-type ideas.”

Oh dear. Your day isn’t good when making a joke about Gay-BC is actually a high point.

Needless to say Joe had to come out and front the press before Question Time. He stood in the Parliament House courtyard and gave one of the most baffling press conferences this side of Tony Smith trying to talk about broadband. All that was missing from Hockey’s talk was mention of the opposition having a secret plan to fight inflation.

imageIt took him 15 minutes and the entire press gallery shouting “what levers!” (one wag even asked him to name three!) before he provided some specifics.

Now here’s the problem for Joe and the opposition. First off – why was he even bringing this issue up today? The story for the Libs today should have been the MRRT and the kerfuffle over whether or not future royalty increases are included in the deal or not. I mean if Libs are going to ignore the guidance of The Oz, you’ve got to wonder what is the point. Oppositions only need one issue a day – oppositions can focus on the news cycle,  they don’t actually have to do anything like govern the country, so all they need to do is pick one major issue each day that they know the Government would rather not talk about.

Poor George Brandis has been battling away in estimates finding out that the Resources, Energy and Tourism Department didn’t know that Treasury was getting legal advice on the constitutionality of the MRRT  and yet Joe blows that off. (OK it is pretty irrelevant given RET doesn't need to know if the legislation which is only in the drafting stage might be unconstitutional, but hey, at least George is trying!)

And so firstly Joe is bringing up an issue that could have been left for next week – or at the very least before the next RBA meeting. Secondly, the big problem for Joe is when he did finally get around to coming up with some “levers”, they actually deserved some discussion:

JOE HOCKEY: There are a range of levers that are available to the Government. Well name three; okay: three of them are - they're funding the residential mortgage backed securities market right. They could differentiate between support for smaller banks, smaller entities and the banks, larger banks themselves if they are getting any support.

Step two; fees are paid to APRA and they can be varied as well.

Step three; the banks have new capital and liquidity rules associated with Basel 3. The Government can negotiate on some of those as well with the banks.

Step four; the banks are always looking for greater opportunities through financial services reform to deliver better outcomes, include reducing red tape for the banks themselves and so on it goes on and on and on.

Problem is by this stage he had pretty well blown his credibility. He had wished and washed all over the place, back flipped (or as The Oz calls backflips when done by the Liberal Party – he “shifted ground”) and blathered, before finally saying what he should have been saying when he was sitting across from Louise Yaxley early this morning. 

The other problem is his blather about the banks ignoring Swan 30 times is a tad stupid – really they’ve ignored him 30 times? So each time he has told them not to raise interest rates they have raised them? Gee I must have missed that. And he should also stop referring to brave Peter Costello standing up to the banks. The only things that scared the banks back when Costello was treasurer was Rams and Aussie Homes Loans.

So Hockey is right when he talks about the residential mortgage backed securities market – if that is bolstered there is a better chance that the banks will face some competition again.

The other problem for Hockey is his quoting of the RBA saying that borrowing costs are now down and interest margins are up (ie banks are making good money on their borrowing) is that is rather kills his whole “crowding out” thesis.

So only a few problems, for Joe. Not a bad morning’s work.

And so on to Question Time.

The first question was by Abbott on the MRRT. Was Julia troubled? Well no. She was even less troubled by Abbott’s supplementary. Thus far Abbott really hasn't come to grips with the whole supplementary process – mostly because he plans them in advance and thus he asks them even when there is little reason. The other problem is having just one supplementary per Question Time is rather pointless. It’s a bit like only being able to bowl one bouncer per over.

Wayne Swan had the first Dorothy Dixer. To say he had good material to work with is an understatement. Unfortunately he took his free hit and missed. Not for the first time in three years I sighed and wondered what the great PJK would have done with Hockey’s statements. Swan had another go with the next Dorothy and he was much better as he made use of Randall’s stellar morning work. It was obviously better because Chris Pyne was up and down quite a bit:

Mr Ripoll, 2:11:39 PM, to Mr Swan (Treasurer), Point of order, Mr Pyne, 2:13:06 PM, Mr Swan, 2:13:52 PM, Point of order, Mr Pyne, 2:14:50 PM, Mr Swan, 2:15:56 PM, Point of order, Mr Randall, 2:17:37 PM, Mr Swan, 2:18:37 PM

But even still, Swan’s answer really didn’t leave you remembering any of his lines.

Gillard was asked about East Timor (again) and again she did it easy, though her response did stray into John Lennon territory when she started listing the things she didn’t believe in:

I do not believe in three-word slogans, I do not believe in boat phone and I do not believe in the Prime Minister of the nation pretending that he or she is in a better position than a patrol boat commander to deal with a situation at sea.

A few journos rightly pointed out that during the election she was pretty happy to believe in a two word slogan, and they are right – neither side can look back to that four week campaign with much pride.

An interesting aspect to Question Time is to look at who is asking the questions. Here was the line-up today:

Mr Abbott
Mr McCormack
Mr Secker
Mr Wyatt
Ms Griggs
Mr Hockey
Mr Vasta
Ms Gambaro

You’ll notice after Abbott, only Hockey (who was almost forced to ask a question after his morning work) from the front bench asked a question. Now it is good to give the back benchers some questions to show their electorate they care, but no minister is really going to be troubled by a non-shadow Minister. Where has Turnbull been? Yesterday he introduced a Private Members’ Bill to try and force the Government to do a Cost Benefit Analysis of the NBN and yet he gets no questions?

Chris Pyne has Garrett now as his opposite and yet he gets one question in a week?

I think the Opposition doesn't really know what it is doing yet. It is almost like they are waiting for the Christmas break and then desire to start afresh next year. They certainly don’t seem to have their hearts in it, otherwise their tactics committee wouldn’t let Gambaro bowl up such a long hop to Gillard:

Ms GAMBARO (3.15 pm)—My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to Solar Wise, a small business in Queensland almost sent broke by the government’s roof batts program. If Solar Wise and other small businesses like it that trusted the government to get its roof batts program right now cannot rely on the government to fix it after it went wrong, why should they trust the government on anything?

Now the first part was fine, but ending with the smarmy “trust the government on anything” gave Gillard the opportunity to talk about “anything” – which she did, with ease.

It all was part of what I guess in retrospect was some sort of a cunning, subtle plan by the Liberals to lead up to a Matter of Public Importance by Abbott after Question Time on “The failure of the Government to keep its commitments to Australian industry”. It is again interesting to see who responds on behalf of the Government. Today to counter the Leader of the Opposition, the ALP put up Jason Clare, the Minister for Defence Materiel. Clare is believed to be a bit of a comer, but it says a bit about how the ALP is feeling at the moment that they didn’t even bother putting up a cabinet minister to counter Abbott.

Perhaps their confidence may have come from them winning the first division called during a questions time. It occurred when Chris Pyne moved that Simon Crean no longer be heard– he had been bagging them for wanting to bring back Work Choices. In the division all the independents except Crook voted with the Government – giving them an easy 75-72 win.

Pyne had worked himself up into a bit of a lather today. During an answer by Albanese he made a point of order in which he said: “I had thought on a general point that these ‘slag and bag’ answers were going to end with the new standing orders”.

Personally, I like nothing more than some slag and a hell of a lot of bag in my QT. But maybe that’s just me.


L said...

So when Hockey was Financial Services Minister he had a whole armoury of rafts made out of punitive levers that he could wield to persuade the banks not to gouge, but now only the Treasurer can wield the obvious levers (especially the ones that are in a credential perspective)?

I mean, none of that makes any sense on its own but all put together it clearly says "credible alternative government".

4747MLas said...

Much appreciate your summation of the day's events, particularly as I can usually never see or hear QT. Very informative.
Never seen an Oppo as incoherent as this lot. If even the ABC are getting a bit antsy about them, they're in deep trouble.

Bondles said...

During today's QT, Pyne blurted out my favourite line of the 43rd parliament (and I think it's going to take some topping):
"Past history is not relevant to the government's policies for the future." (Hansard p. 56)

Says a lot.


I read a little further in Hansard, and I'm now somehow even more angry at Randall (who was my local MP prior to my move to Canberra) than I was before. He rose to "clarify" that his remarks this morning pertained to Greens policy and none other. Looking at his comments this morning, I'd say that statement is dangerously close to misleading parliament.

But what makes me more angry is that while he was on his feet spouting that lie, he didn't feel that it was necessary to apologise for, or in any way exlain, this morning's homophobic slur.

Jaeger said...

Stop the rafts!

Pip said...

Grog said, "I think the Opposition doesn't know what it's doing yet".
That's it in a nutshell. After 3 years there's no sign of improvement.
As for Mr. Randall one can only assume he really isn't that important.

Casablanca said...

And Randall's homophobic comment came a day after anti-homophobia day.

Must confess that I don't know whether it is a UN designated day or something more local - just know that a friend's teenage daughter urged us to wear something purple on Wednesday to show our disgust for homopobia.

Sonia said...

I see Malcolm Turnbull was out doing damage control last night. He seems to be their go to guy. Joe and Andrew better watch out. He has more economic credibility then those two and Abbott have put together. It wasnt a good week for the coalition. They've lost alot of traction with the "pink batts and I think Tony Burke has done a pretty good job this week and should go well on the water issue
Also Julie Bishop had better take Natasha Griggs shopping for some new suits. Theat outfit might be fashionable in Darwin but I doubt it

MissHeliotrope said...

Wasn't there a suggestion that Gillard should expel that stupid conspiracy trade union guy? And she offered to send Abbott a list each week of his idiots?
Who would be the last one standing in either party? And how long would it take?
(& weren't Gillard & Swan wearing purple the other day - it was mentioned on Pollbludger or somewhere...)

Robbo said...


"Find a topic the government would rather not talk about." None of the so called experts can put it as eloquently as you. And be as nuanced for that matter. Honestly mate, I feel like you're watching those idiots so that we don't have to. Jake and the Fatman? Both those guys would ask better questions and critique the government better than this mob. Seriously, I felt a burst of nostalgia when you mentioned Jake and the Fatman. "Secret plan to fight inflation" had me nearly falling out of my chair.

Cantbeeffed said...

Not enough has been made about Hockey's comments being completely at odds with core Liberal party ideology. It is supposed to be the party of the free market, small government and little regulation. Instead he's pushing policy that is so far left of the Labor party that one of his fellow Liberals thought it was a Greens' statement.

It just goes to show that people who support political parties do so out of a sense of tribalism akin to following a football team rather than a believe in any particular ideology. Labor has shown a similar contempt for its core values, particularly at a state level.

That's why I believe that people who label themselves as a 'Liberal voter', 'Labor voter' or 'Greens voter' are mindless political automatons who permit this tripe because political parties aren't held to account. Why should they when, regardless of what they do, they know a huge core of their support will never abandon them regardless?

They're all populists. There is no left, right, progressive, conservative or centre any more.

2353 said...

Quote Pip Grog said, "I think the Opposition doesn't know what it's doing yet".
That's it in a nutshell. After 3 years there's no sign of improvement.
The sad thing is that the ALP's marketing team are just as bad. Nearly 1/2 million Public Servants to lose their jobs in the UK as a direct result of the GFC stimulus package over there while its business as usual in Australia - yet this mornings headlines are old news about Costello's ability to have a discussion with Howard (from Howard's viewpoint). Unbelievable.


Grog said -
“ some sort of a cunning, subtle plan by the Liberals to lead up to a Matter of Public Importance by Abbott after Question Time on “The failure of the Government to keep its commitments to Australian industry”. It is again interesting to see who responds on behalf of the Government. Today to counter the Leader of the Opposition, the ALP put up Jason Clare, the Minister for Defence Materiel.”

AAP said -
“Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare have both declared potential conflicts of interest in relation to family members who hold contracts with the armed forces.”

No, I’m not casting doubt upon the ministers honesty.
They’ve been good enough to publicly declare their respective families interest in a couple of businesses with defence contracts. Good on them.

But since I’ve been in that line myself for a few years up to and ‘almost’ through the Howard regime I believe I’m reasonably well qualified to expand on a theme surrounding the word ‘almost’.
For you see I’d almost gone berserk during the Howard reign making submissions to his courtiers about the topic mentioned above - “The failure of the Government to keep its commitments to Australian industry”.

I do have some lovely mementoes of that time – some letters from Gillian Marks just before she went on sick leave and one from Steve Gumley which confirms for the record that it was okay for me to expend considerable time and money on defence projects without one red cent recompense for the effort.

So you might see that I’d like my MP to ask some questions of the new Minister/Defence Materiel.
Questions like – “How come, according to the record of Senate estimates, one Australian firm gets well paid yet another gets nothing for their work solicited by Defence on exactly the same project?”

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

The problem with the Abbott-led Opposition is, they are obsessed with soundbites and slogans. THAT'S why Hockey only gave a bare bones interview to Yaxley and didn't pout any meat on those bones till later. They obviously don't think the meat is sexy to the bogans in the outer suburban marginals who only read The Hun or The Daily Terror. Just shows what a sad bunch of clowns the Coalition have become under 'Action Man' Abbott.

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

Another interesting point to note is that the MSM appear to be tiring rather quickly of Mr Abbott's MPIs. They used to report them avidly on the 6PM News, with plenty of grabs of Abbott's smarmy putdowns of the government and visuals of him waving his arms about crazily etc.
In fact, I've seen more of Malcolm Turnbull's interviews of late, since he came out of his shell, than I have of Abbott. Maybe Abbott won't be allowed to be an election-losing Liberal Leader for much longer huh?