So Parliament is back. Let’s get excited.
There are Private Members Bills on Wild Rivers, Going to War, $2 ATM fees and NBN Transparency. The times they are a changin’. But Question Time? Meet the new Question Time, same as the old Question Time.
Actually that is not quite true, it is worse. Julia started in brilliant form today, letting rip into Abbott when up piped Speaker Harry Jenkins calling her to order and to get back to the question. You get the feeling Harry goes to the cricket to watch Billy Bowden umpire. The rest of us want to see the game played. Let ‘em go Harry; the changes to Question Time were pretty well a joke once they made sure Dorothy Dixers remained, so stop pretending the world is new. There has been one rule change which does give Harry a new job, and he should keep strictly to it – that of time keeper.
The opposition attack was opened by Tony Abbott. It was pretty obvious early on that the Liberal Party has been spending what little remains of its funds on focus group testing the phrase “lost its way”:
"I remind the Prime Minister of her statement in June that the Government had lost its way. When does she expect to find her way by setting out some clear, direct, specific and deliverable policies to stop the tax rises, to stop the cost-of-living rises and above all else, to stop the boats?"
The question was in effect a Dorothy Dixer that allowed Gillard to talk about anything she wanted to. She quickly got into stride:
“You’ve got to give the Leader of the Opposition this: once he’s told a slogan by a focus group he never deviates from it… driven by focus groups every day of the week…. He's showing all the political maturity of a two-year-old in a tantrum after the election. It's about time he got over it and actually started contributing to national debates”
The problem of course is that Abbott will never do any such thing. He got where he is in the polls (or at least where the Liberal Party is) through the three word slogan. He received lavish praise for his discipline during the campaign of sticking to his mantra (discipline is much more important than policies). Whenever he accidentally utters something of his own, it is almost guaranteed to be a thought bubble that has the rest of the Liberal Part front bench wondering why they hell they elected this goose. So there is no way he will deviate from it now.
Abbott as is his usual form – followed up with a supplementary (seriously, who came up with this dumb rule about allowing only one supplementary per Question Time?). The supplementary was as dopey as it gets:
"Does she agree with former Labor minister Graham Richardson that the Government has no agenda and no plan?”
Yes, the Liberal Party are now holding up Richo as the bastion of judgement on the need for vision of political parties. The supplementary allowed Julia to absolutely rip into Abbott by listing off all the challenges facing the nation and comparing Abbott’s attitude:
I say in answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition: would it not strike Australians as strange that, in a world where there are so many challenges—how do we keep our economy strong and how do we ready our economy for the future? How do we tackle climate change? How do we make sure that every child in this country gets a great quality education and how do we make sure we have the healthcare services that Australians deserve not only today but in 10, 20 and 30 years time as our society ages? How do we make sure that we have world-class infrastructure right around the country? How do we make sure that we have balanced growth in an economy where our resources sector is obviously going so strong but things like the high dollar are impacting on other industries and other parts of the country? How do we reconcile and improve the prospects and life expectancy of Indigenous Australians; how do we close the gap? How do we as a world deal with the challenges of food security, development and freer trade?
In the face of all these challenges, that the Leader of the Opposition would come into this place and use the precious minutes of question time to yet again play politics—we do not expect anything more from a man whose entire philosophy can be reduced to a few three-word slogans.
Now that is a long bloody list, and I am in now way saying the ALP is all over these issues, but Gillard listed them off without as need for prompting. It’s a good list Perhaps one that we should keep in mind when we want to think about what the ALP stands for.
Chris Pyne at this point got up for a pointless point of order (except to try and stop Gillard’s attack) whereupon she responded that she didn’t agree with John Howard about much, but she agreed with him on Chris Pyne – alluding top Howard autobiography where he pretty much dismissed Pyne as just a Costello activist who mishandled the issue of Costello’s leadership.
At this Jenkins piped up for the PM to get back to the question (which earned him a bit of a sharp glance from Gillard). She then proceeded to tear into Abbott, at which point Jenkins seeing a chance to get involved again tried to stop Gillard from “debating the question” and then after a few more “orders” told her to conclude her answer.
Yeah thanks Harry. We’re so indebted to you to ensure keep things in check.
Julie Bishop was up next, and she didn’t need to wait for a supplementary: she named checked Richo straight up! She thought she had Julia a beauty when she asked when was she going to stop using the three word slogan on asylum seekers of “Regional Processing Centre”. It got an incredibly forced “ha ha ha” from Abbott and a wonderful “Puerile!” from Albanese. And I can’t really better that for commentary.
The interesting aspect of the opposition’s questions was the utter lack of acknowledgment of the OECD Economic Report on Australia released yesterday. The Report contained this about the NBN:
“Empirical studies have stressed that value of competition between technological platforms for the dissemination of broadband services”
Yes I know, you’re shocked. It certainly got Michael Stutchbury all frothy. Usually you would expect the opposition to use such a report to attack the Government – especially on a day they were debating the NBN. But Turnbull didn’t even get a question, instead Alan Tudge asked a question on the NBN. Tudge??! So much for Turnbull being charged with destroying the NBN. You’d think the tactics committee might actually give him a few questions with which to do it… (it suggests perhaps that Turnbull doesn;t hold a hell of a lot of sway in the tactics committee – or perhaps more that Abbott is worried about giving him too much oxygen)
The OECD report had some interesting things – Peter Martin has 4 good excerpts – but I do like this bit on the NBN:
“Such a monopolistic incumbent [theNBN Co] could forestall the development of as yet unknown technological advances”
Wow, the OECD must be watching a lot of Star Trek if they think something that is faster than the speed of light is going to be invented. I can’t wait for the hyper-drive broadband network.
This is an often refrain of those against the NBN – that it is picking winners and we don’t know what the future holds. The problem of course is that it cuts both ways. We don’t know what we will be using the NBN for in 20 years anymore than in 1990 we knew what would be using the internet for in 2010 – but we’re supposedly not allowed to consider that.
As for the rest of QT, well Joe got in a question on the banks. It was not exactly a yorker – mostly because it was all ties up in the laboured “lost its way” spiel.
My favourite question was Greg Hunt once again getting up and refuting his pervious views on a price on carbon:
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to President Obama’s abandonment of a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme for the world’s largest economy. As the Prime Minister herself rejected an emissions trading scheme during the period of the Rudd government, which she said had lost its way, can she explain how increasing electricity prices for Australian consumers rather than cleaning up power stations is somehow the government finding its way?
Whew. Glad to know that all we need to do now is clean up those dirty power stations and all will be good! And does Hunt really suggest we should just follow America’s politics? That we should just do something because the Republican Party are against it? The Republicans voted against a pretty piss poor health care bill last year, does that mean the Libs think Australia should dump Medicare? What idiocy.
Gillard dispatched this weak delivery over the fence:
Australia is not an American state. We will make our own decisions in our national interest. The mid-term elections in America did not determine policy for us. We are Australians; we will make our own decisions. …. The most efficient way of reducing carbon pollution is to put a price on carbon pollution. I am of that view; economists are of that view; President Obama is of that view. Right around the world nations are working through how best to deal with carbon, including pricing carbon.
She then pointed out something that those who would have us believe we’re rushing to lead the world do not want us to know:
If the member does want to slavishly follow American examples—and I believe we are Australians and we will make our own decisions—then perhaps he would want to look to the example of California. As he would well know, if California were a nation it would be sitting at the table of the G20. It has moved to price carbon in its economy.
Members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, have had every position possible on this, the Leader of the Opposition changing his mind every 24 hours—famously called a weather vane by the member for Wentworth. Now is the time to put those politics aside and to work with the government on something so clearly in our national interest. National interest before political interest: try it just once.
It was a good response, and Gillard certainly showed some good mojo – she seems to need parliament to get some. Lets hope after her Christmas break she finds it outside of the chamber as well.
The rest of QT? Have to say I couldn't be bothered – get a copy of one from earlier this year. You won’t notice much different.
There’s been a few interesting things written about Paul Howes’s comments on anonymous trolls on the internet. I was going to write a response, but Chas Licciardello pretty much said it all for me.
Will not be blogging till Friday – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday see me having a life!