It was a rowdy start to the Question Time week. During one of Rudd’s answers both Scott Morrison and Chris Pyne were booted. No one missed them.
The issue of today was the Resources Super Profits Tax and advertising – more specially the decision of the Government to circumvent its guidelines on Government advertising to spend $38.5 million on ads the RSPT.
The line directed at Rudd all day was his pledge in 2007 to have the Auditor General take control of approving such advertising. Rudd actually had set up such a situation, but then subsequently revoked it.
The problem however with today’s line of questioning from the Liberals is that is came from the Liberals. This was the party that in Government set new benchmarks (heretofore unchallenged by Rudd) for disgusting wastes of money on taxpayer paid advertising. So whether the question was being asked by Abbott, Hockey or (God help us) Phillip Ruddock, Rudd had a pretty easy response – namely you guys were worse.
It was not terribly edifying – kinda like two drunks involved in a brawl arguing that the other had a higher blood alcohol reading and thus was more to blame. And given that Abbott couldn’t even bring himself to say this morning whether or not he supports legislation to stop such advertising it’s a sure sign that he is just as hypocritical as Rudd – after he was in a Government that effectively ran taxpayer funded adverts for the private health insurance industry (not to mention the plethora of WorkChoices paraphernalia).
The Government was actually quite happy to talk on the issue – the first Dorothy Dixer to Rudd was specifically about the advertisements, and he was in a very upbeat and spritely mood. His attack was also very much to tie the Liberal Party and Abbott to Clive Palmer – which is a good tactic given Palmer pretty much sprouts little of sense in any of his media performances.
Sussan Ley asked a couple decent questions of Rudd in relation to when was the decision made to do the advertising. Rudd said it had been decided while the Government was also making the decision to introduce the tax (and it was included in the Budget). This supposedly was some big scoop, because apparently the Government cited “urgency” as the reason for bypassing the guidelines. But this is not quite the reality. Joe Ludwig when announcing the decision stated:
The Campaign Advertising Guidelines allow the Cabinet Secretary to exempt campaigns for different reasons, including extreme urgency or other compelling reason.
He was just stating the guidelines – but the reasons given afterwards are all to do with “compelling reasons” rather than “urgency”. (I’m not suggesting this gives the Government a pass on the matter, but I don’t think anything ‘discovered’ today contradicts Ludwig’s statement – after all his statement also said:
“The cost of this communications campaign was clearly and publicly announced in the budget papers.” In other words the campaign was planned. The issue is the exemption from the guidelines, not the actual planning of the advert campaign itself. )
All of these questions led up to a motion to censure Rudd. And I have to say at least this motion had some momentum – unlike last Thursday’s pitiful effort.
The problem is it once again gave the public a chance to see Shouty Tony and Angry Joe.
Abbott went back into his 2007 attack-Rudd mode where he referenced Rudd's admiration of Dietrich Bonheoffer. It’s almost as though Abbott gets so incensed that someone else in parliament could be considered more religious than he. It is rather ugly to watch, and also quite pathetic on Abbott’s part. If the only way for Abbott to attack Rudd to is to belittle his admiration for a someone, then you have to think Abbott is basically petty and small minded. We don’t admire people because we think we are like them – we admire them because they inspire us – we may seek to be like them, but seriously if someone admire Martin Luther King, do we belittle him for that admiration purely because he doesn’t always act like him? No doubt Abbott think we should aim lower in our admiration.
Abbott accused Rudd not only of hypocrisy (to which the easy retort, was, well you’d know all about it), but also that he had lied to Parliament, because last week in Question Time Rudd destroyed Abbott’s argument of the impact of the RSPT on the stockmarket. Abbott thought he was on a winner because in Ludwig’s statement the following point was made:
“I have also accepted the Treasurer’s advice that, as the tax reforms involve changes to the value of some capital assets, they impact on financial markets”.
Abbott thought he had Rudd skewered. The only problem is Rudd never said there was no impact on share prices of the RSPT, nor that the RSPT did not afect the value of some capital assets. What he was refuting was Abbott’s statement about the impact. Here’s what Abbott asserted:
Mr ABBOTT (3.41 pm)—My question is to the Prime Minister and it refers to the damage already being done by his great big new tax—the collapsing dollar, the falling stock market, the suspension of projects and the evaporation of jobs….
Now to suggest the RSPT was the cause of “the falling stock market” is a hell of a lot more than to suggest the RSPT “involves changes to the value of some capital assets”.
And anyway here was Rudd’s response to Abbott:
Mr RUDD ….The second is this: the stock market. This goes to the other point he has made. I quote him from an earlier remark when he said, ‘Our share market is under pressure because the government has totally mismanaged its proposal of a big new tax on mining.’ He said it was so, at least in part. Let us go to the facts of this matter.
Share prices around the world have fallen because of the crisis in Greece and the honourable Leader of the Opposition would know that. Here are some discomforting facts for him. First of all, if we look at the stock market we see that Australian shares have fallen by less than in other countries over the past month. Since 30 April, the Australian Stock Exchange has fallen by 10 per cent, the London market has fallen by 10.4 per cent, the US Standard and Poor’s index by 11.5 per cent and the Japanese stock market by 12.8 per cent.
That is fact one. Fact two: let us look within the Australian share market itself and the performance of mining shares relevant to other shares. Australian mining shares have fallen by 8.9 per cent but all Australian shares have fallen by more than 10 per cent, the banks and financial institutions by 12 .3 per cent—that is, the second crux of his argument today demolished again by the facts.
Everything Rudd says is spot on, and in no way contradicts Ludwig’s statement. How often though will the Liberal Party accuse the PM of misleading Parliament? It used to be a big call – now they throw it around like it is just a meaningless debating point.
Abbott himself said in his censure motion that the Government had sought a “national emergency exemption” to the guidelines. Yet nowhere in Ludwig statement is there mention of a national emergency. This spin was merely a Liberal Party invention, one that journalists last Friday on twitter were using before they realised that no one in the Government had actually used the term. So by using Abbott’s own logic, I guess you could say he mislead parliament.
Angry Joe followed Shouty (and in bad need of some Strepsils) Tony, and by the end of his 5 minutes I seriously worried for Hockey's blood pressure. He looked ready to burst, and was seriously out of control – kind of like Homer Simpson in Angry-Dad mode.
He even had the temerity to suggest Rudd’s use of the phrase “cancer” when in 2007 describing the proliferation of Government advertising as a “cancer on democracy” was somehow disrespectful to cancer sufferers. Oh geez Joe, get me a bow and let’s see how long we can draw it…
I’m not sure why they think shouting will win over voters – the only people impressed by shrill bleating and negative attacks are the back benchers and party faithful.
Rudd by contrast used a was loud of voice, but never shouted and definitely not shrill. He had all the numbers of Liberal Government ad spending, and also a few quotes from Clive Palmer – one where Palmer referred to Rudd as a socialist – Rudd joked that he’s been called a few things in the Labor Party, but never a socialist (a line that was perhaps the truest things said in Parliament this year). and he also repeated the line that Abbott and Hockey were for dale, and their policy had been been bought and paid for by the mining industry. He also made much of Abbott’s line on “Gospel truth” – a line that we will hear again and again and again.
I have to say, as much as I am disappointed that the ALP has decided to go the advertising route (or should I say, I’m disappointed with the way they have done it), I have a deal of sympathy with them, especially given how the RSPT is being represented in the media. Take Alan Kohler, who as the ABC TV’s main economics/business guy is held in some high esteem by the public. Today on The Drum he wrote this of the current mining royalty regime
The royalty regime is a delicate web of about 50 different ad valorem (based on value) charges covering a variety of minerals and states. It's arguably a mess, but everyone is used to it and accepts it.
Yep, here’s a guy who holds himself up as bit of a guru on finance and economic matters suggesting we should stick with a mess of a regime, purely because everyone is used to it! Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.
Sure the Government could have done a better job selling the RSPT, but when you look at writing such as Kohler’s, you have to admit the media isn’t doing them any favours – especially when it comes to repeating everything Palmer says as though it is unbiased (how often does he have to appear on the ABC?), ditto utterances by Rio Tinto execs or Twiggy Forrest – even George Megalogenis on the weekend was comparing mining companies to unions as though they were similar organisations! Perhaps if the media showed some more reason and less hysteria the ad campaign wouldn’t be as needed.
It’s no excuse of course, but when they say, ‘We get the Government we deserve’, the “we” includes the media.
I only just discovered this one bit of interesting news on the impact of the RSPT in The Age’s online site:
Full steam ahead in the Pilbara - despite tax clash
The big miners may be raging against the proposed resources tax, but it's still business as usual in the booming Pilbara where the plans aren't expected to result in significant losses of future production.
Since May 2, when the federal government announced plans for what it labels a 40 per cent super profits mining tax, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Fortescue and others have made no changes to development schedules that collectively will add 200 million tonnes more for export by the middle of the decade.
The closest thing to a cancellation was a pair of projects proposed by Fortescue penciled in for later in the decade, pending the company's ability to raise the $US15 billion ($17.7 billion) development cost.
If anything, it's full-steam ahead to supply China's ravenous appetite for iron ore imports - which rose more than 41 per cent in 2009 to 628.34 tonnes from a year earlier.
Interesting don’t you think – and not quite agreeing with the advert run by the Mining Council that jobs are set to be lost….
The latest Newspoll just came out – ALP 51 – LNP 49. But the big figure is the Greens’ primary vote of 16%! Given this is double what they scored at the last election I don’t think it is realistic (actually it is completely unrealistic) – but it does show that there is a lot of annoyance with both the ALP and Liberal Party.
Rudd’s satisfaction rating continues to drop – down to 36%, with his dissatisfaction rating up to a massive 54%. And yet on the preferred PM rating there is no change – Rudd still leads 49 to 33. It seems the only person Rudd looks good next to at the moment is Tony Abbot (his satisfaction rating also dropped – 5% to 37%, and his dissatisfaction rating increased 4% to 49%).
If this were any other political year, these numbers would spell certain death for Abbott as the Libs would be stupid not to try and get some of those moderate swingers who seemed absolutely pissed off with Rudd by having a more moderate leader. The problem is Hockey is no real choice as he has gone as feral as Abbott – and so is essentially in lock-step with him – and Turnbull has no backing in the party room.
Interesting times ahead. The one person perhaps most aggrieved at his poll is Lindsay Tanner. He and a few other ALP types in Green friendly seats – eg Tanya Plibersek – may start wondering if there is someone else who may win back some of those disaffected voters. And unlike the Libs, they do have a leader in the wings who has credibility and party room support…
I’ve never thought Rudd would be knocked off so long as the ALP is in the lead (or equal) and so long as he maintains a healthy preferred PM lead. Any party would in past times have been stupid to contemplate such a thing.
But the inner city-marginal seat electoral maths might make such figures a bit old hat – especially if the Greens vote holds up...
Incidentally I’ll be away from home on business tomorrow, so will unlikely blog on QT (though I’ve said that in the past!)