Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the QT: So what are we trying to do?

The Liberal Party tried a unique attack on the ALP’s asylum seeker policy today. They decided to lead with their big gun Scott Morrison, who blasted Julia Gillard for softening the detention policy, and then they followed up with John Forrest and Tony Abbott trying to get her to agree that the ALP were only doing what John Howard had done in 2005. It appears that first step to stopping the boats is stopping the logic. 

What was done in 2005 seemed to be of paramount importance to the Libs. They really nailed Julia as she agreed with them and then wondered how they could both want to take credit for the policy and also to criticise it. All I know is that it sounds like the Libs 2005 asylum seeker policy is really good. I hope it serves them well in the 2007 election, they must really fancy their chances at winning that.

The other big target of the day was Tony Burke. He was asked five questions and while he might be getting in some nice exercise by getting up and down a lot during the hour and a half, he thus far isn't close to breaking a sweat due to panic from the questions.

The whole Question Time is to be honest a bit of a waste at the moment. You would have no idea from the first two days’ of questions this week that there was an estimates period on. Estimates are the time for the opposition to have fun and find out things the Government wishes it doesn't wish to talk about. When done well, questions asked in the morning of an estimates sessions will feed into the questions asked during Question Time. image

This week? Nothing.

Fro example, the “grilling” today of Air Chief Houston only served to reveal that Abbott’s attack last week of the Government's approach on the three soldiers charged over a deadly raid in Afghanistan was way off base.  Which is why there were no questions on that issue today.

Tonight NBN was before estimates, so maybe Turnbull will get to ask a question tomorrow, because thus far he hasn’t had anything to do.

Greg Hunt got elevated up the order from question number 19 to number 17 today. He asked Combet about not releasing the results of inspections on insulation batts – ie wanting to know how many of the inspections have resulted in work being redone. Combet answered that he wasn’t going to release them as yet because the sample is not random – ie those who have received an inspection are more likely to have had an installation that requires redoing – if your insulation didn’t need redoing you most likely would not have requested an inspection.

Combet offered Hunt a confidential briefing of the current results. What he should have also done is offered to give Hunt a link to Possum's latest blog post where he reveals (through some very good digging through a number of reports) that prior to the insulation program the number of fires per thousand installation was 1.31, whereas the number of fires resulting from installations done by the program was 0.16 per thousand.

Yep a fall by a factor of eight.

A stunning success on that score. Absolutely stunning. But it’s too late to say anything about it now. That ship sailed a long time ago, but it’s nice to know that mathematics still wins through, even if the spin doesn't.

If I had to say one thing about Question Time since the election it would be that it lacks passion. Dull questions, dull answers, all seemingly done in manner that makes it appear like all participants are viewing it like a visit to an unloved relative, or perhaps like eating a big bowl of bran. Nice and regular, but seeming to take a hell of a lot longer than it does in reality.

This lack of passion fed nicely into the beginning of the “debate” on Afghanistan that occurred straight after. First Julia Gillard spoke for 36 minutes, and then Tony Abbott followed. Was it a debate? No

Who said the following: Gillard or Abbott?*

Australia’s mission in Afghanistan is still to suppress the threat of terrorism. It’s still to be a reliable member of the Western alliance but it’s also to build a society where merely to be different is not to risk death. By resisting those who would impose on all a particular version of Islam, our soldiers are asserting the universal right to a society where women are not discriminated against, dissent is not a capital crime and religion is more a reproach to selfishness than an instruction manual for everyday life.

image The usual point of a debate is for there to be two points of view that have some sense of opposition. There is also generally some desire to convince the listener that the speaker’s view is the one deserving of support. Both Gillard and Tony presented nice, well intentioned and no doubt well thought out speeches. But hell, we’re talking about war here – get passionate.

Julia quite often adopts a considered, quiet, point by point manner when she is prosecuting a case. And it is often very effective. But today I felt the tone was just wrong. It was too reverential, as though there was a great desire not to upset anyone, not to come across as war hungry, not to make it seem like she was disrespecting the troops in any way. Treating the whole issue with sombre reason.

Abbott as well took this tone.

When you read the speeches, they seem quite passionate, but there was none of that in the delivery. I’m not asking for the Battle of Agincourt or fighting on the beaches, but hell, we are at war – get fired up.

I don’t know who the two leaders were speaking to, but they were not doing anything that would have convinced anyone who thought otherwise that what we are doing in Afghanistan is the right course of action.

Gillard especially needs to be aware of the dangers in this calm approach. Peter Lewis in a very good piece today in The Drum noted how the main problem the Rudd Government had with its approach to climate change was the increase in apathy. People went from supporting an ETS to “don’t know” rather than to opposing it – in less than a year the “Don’t know” response in the issue went form 17 percent to 34 per cent.

If we are fighting for a good cause, a right cause, a just cause then our leader should be bloody proud of it, and be proud in her advocacy of it.

Both Gillard and Abbott are adversarial creatures – they work best when opposing someone. On this issue they don’t really know what to do because they know each other is in basic agreement. But the public is not. Sixty one percent of the public according to a recent Essential Poll want our troops brought home.

If the war in Afghanistan is just, right and good (and I believe it is) then it needs some leaders who are prepared to go out there and try and change the minds of that 61 percent.

If the leaders don’t think it is worth advocating, then you have to ask if it is worth fighting.


The RBA minutes of the previous meeting came out today. Stunningly there was no mention of stimulus, waste, debt or deficit. God knows what game they think they’re playing up there in Martin Place, but they really are not helping with the narrative.


In my post yesterday on Andrew Leigh’s speech I did not mention that Malcolm Turnbull was in the chamber listening to it. I think it is worth mentioning, because it shows the level of respect Leigh is held by those in the Liberal Party with the sense to know that Leigh is not some standard political hack. Peter Martin tells us that Turnbull was the only member of the opposition front bench listening….


*it was Abbott


Sonia said...

For mine the highlight was Bob Kattar trying to fit his question into 45 seconds. Like that was ever going to happen. One would think that 4 minutes to answer a question that was more than a minute long would need longer but when most of the question doesnt make sense I guess you are safe.

Greg Jericho said...

lol Sonia, that was very good, especially as Harry Jenkins had even given him warning before he began that the "45 seconds starts now"

Niall said...

Yes, I'd have to agree on the QT critique. As for the Afghanistan debate, there isn't going to be one because both sides have this mindless and utterly baseless belief in the need to pay an insurance premium for the US alliance. That's all we're there for, any other excuse is touchy-feely rhetoric. Actually, I thought the high-point of the day Chris Bowen taking the mickey out of that detestable Morrison. 'Nauru!' 'Nauru!'

Ben Harris-Roxas said...

Question Time's been unedifying for a long time. Sadly that looks unlikely to change in this parliament.

Lulu said...

I disagree that passion and emotion is required when confirming that both PM and Opposition Leader agree about staying in Afghanistan. QT and the most recent Federal election brought much disrepute to politicians. The election result confirms this. The public expect tomfoolery and childishness in QT. There has been so much pretense at passion, no-one would believe any of it anymore. I think they have both managed this properly.
The new paradigm is here. If not really in Parliament House yet, it is out here in Australia. Passion/emotion/drama looks like pretending to us and we have seen it all before. And we recognise it as folly!

Pip said...

Another funny thing was in Estimates when Senator Johnson/Johnston, [who cares], roared 'I'M ASKING THE QUESTIONS, SENATOR' followed by a polite but firm serve from Defence Chief Angas Houston which left the good Senator Johnston in no doubt that he was barking up the wrong tree. Very entertaining.

L said...

Dull questions, dull answers, all seemingly done in manner that makes it appear like all participants are viewing it like a visit to an unloved relative, or perhaps like eating a big bowl of bran.

It's funny you say that, because every time I set out to visit one of my unloved relatives or sit down to eat a big bowl of bran, I think "this is going to be just like Question Time".

Mark Heydon said...

Grog, you state:
"If the war in Afghanistan is just, right and good (and I believe it is)".

I don't believe it is. Can you elucidate us on your point of view?

Sonia said...

The relevence of some senate estimate hearings was probably highlighted by Eric Abetz and his questioning about changing the lightbulbs in his office. Good to see the big issues being tackled

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

Don't forget Sen. Fieravanti-Welles questions in Estimates about Therese Rein's Veggie patch and Chicken coop and whether the First Bloke will be maintaining them!?!

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

So, did you actually finish 'War and Peace', Grog, or did you just give up at p1050?

Iain said...

Stopping the logic? No, its all perfectly logical, they're just trying to say the John Howard, like all past Liberal PMs, is now "too far left" for the present-day party ... ;)