The parliamentary nonsense started this morning with the latest Newspoll coming out in The Oz showing that the the ALP’s 2PP vote had increased 2 points and narrowed the LNP’s lead from 46-54 to 48-52.
Naturally this was reported as “Coalition’s Election Winning Lead Survives Internal Squabbling” and had Dennis Shanahan writing that “ALP Fails to profit from Lib ructions”. You can see this poll prominently there on the front page of The Oz… well if by “prominently” we mean squeezed into one lousy column over on the right.
Apparently Hockey and Turnbull having a bit of fit in one week was, according to Shanahan, meant to destroy his leadership and put the ALP back in front. Yeah right.
But hey, when you need to make up a story that has Abbott looking, it is always best to start with a strawman.
On the personal ratings, the poll confirmed what everyone knows – no one likes either Abbott or Gillard.
The poll – like all polls – of course is flawed due to the premise of asking who would people vote for were an election held on the weekend, and we can pretty much bank on there not being an election till late 2013. The ALP will hope that is long enough to get enough people to change their minds; the LNP hope it is not so long that people will start to use them.
Firstly the announcement of the deaths overnight of two soldiers in Afghanistan. Such events always immediately serves to make politics so putridly stupid – especially when the politics seems not to include discussion of this real thing that matters.
The graph on the left shows the deaths in Afghanistan of coalition military servicemen and women.
The trend ain’t good.
Is it going to get better? Is it worth sticking out? I suspect there are a few on both sides of the political aisle who are having private reservations but both the ALP and LNP are trapped in a “can’t debate it” mode, for fear of looking like they are advocating “cut and run” or God forbid, suggesting that any of the 26 Australian servicemen will have died in vain.
When a death occurs, both sides adopt the appropriate tone, and we certainly mourn the loss and feel for their families. But we seem to dismiss debate. I have always been behind the Afghanistan War. It was a just war, and had Bush and Co not decided to go wandering off to Iraq in March 2003 there actually was a chance of success (just look at the casualties back then). But now?
How will we really know we have achieved success? Better still, how will we know we have failed?
Surely the lives of the men fighting and dying for their country deserve us having a bit a of a proper discussion about it. I doubt we’ll get one any time soon.
The other big discussion was that via Ross Garnaut, who announced his final review. It came in at 244 pages, and his summary a nice brisk 48 pages. So you’d figure that with all that meat the debate in Parliament would be pretty solid.
Well you would if you had never watched Question Time before.
Tony Abbott opened proceedings with a quote from Page 17 of the summary:
Australian households will ultimately bear the full cost of a carbon price.
He (and Hockey and Bishop after him) thought this belled the cat and also had shown Gillard and Swan (and I guess Combet) to be liars for saying that the carbon tax will be paid by the top 1000 polluters.
Yep, this is where we are.
Firstly no one since this debate has started has suggested the cost of putting a price on carbon won’t be passed on to consumers. Here is Julia Gillard back on 1 March in Parliament:
Ms GILLARD —… We will put a price on carbon, a price on every unit of carbon pollution. It will be paid for by businesses and as a result, because our business community is smart and adaptable and innovative, they will work out ways of pursuing their business and generating less carbon pollution. They will work out ways of making sure they pay less of a price when carbon is priced. Then they will enter into contracts, they will make investments on the basis of understanding the rules and understanding that carbon will be priced. And as they go about making those transitions, innovating, making the new investments of the future, we will work with those businesses in transition to a clean economy.
Having priced carbon and seen that innovation, yes, there will be pricing impacts; that is absolutely right. That is the whole point: to make goods that are generated with more carbon pollution relatively more expensive than goods that are generated with less carbon pollution. But because we are a Labor government this will be done in a fair way. We will assist households as we transition with this new carbon price.
Or then there was this on 21 March:
Ms GILLARD —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. As I was indicating, the division here is whether you want to put a price on polluters and give assistance to households or whether you want to take money off households and give assistance to polluters. We will put a price on pollution. That price will be paid by polluters. We will generously assist households for the price impacts that they will experience. I have been very upfront about that.
One of the best things in my opinion in this debate has been that Gillard has not been afraid to state that a carbon tax will make prices go up. For Abbott, and other Liberal shills to suggest Garnaut’s report says something new, or something opposite to what Gillard or Swan or Combet have been saying, requires indulging in the most absurd levels of self-delusion.
The reason of course Abbott is making this argument is because he wants people to think a carbon tax is like a GST – in that 10% gets added on at the checkout – or even worse, like income tax, and so each fortnight people will see a deduction from their pay. It is not in Abbott’s interest to deal with facts. Facts are awful for Abbott – expect him to continue to steer well away from them.
In the long run, households will pay almost the entire carbon price as businesses pass carbon costs through to the users of their products.
Again we should file this under “No sh*t Sherlock, see above”. But no, he thought he had nailed Gillard with this.
Gillard responded by saying Abbott was:
… misrepresenting the force of Garnaut’s words. You can’t rely on one sentence and ignore the force of others… Instead of looking at the occasional words reads the whole lot.
Well let us not read the whole lot, let’s just look at some words from the very same page Abbott was citing:
Using direct action measures to achieve a similar amount of emissions reduction would raise costs much more than carbon pricing, but would not raise the revenue to offset or reduce the costs in any of these ways. The costs might be covered by budgetary expenditure, but this affects who pays the costs, not whether the costs are there. Other people’s taxes have to rise to pay for expenditures under direct action.
Oddly Abbott didn’t quote that part. Or how about:
In addition, unlike regulatory or direct action measures, a market-based mechanism can collect revenue in a way that is more efficient than some existing taxes, for use in raising productivity, promoting equity, encouraging innovation in low-emissions technology, providing incentives for sequestration in rural Australia, and easing the transition for trade-exposed industries.
Hmm, nope – guess Tony must has skipped over that paragraph. Oh heck, let’s be bold and even read on a few more pages further (page 79):
A carbon price has some short-term negative effects on productivity growth and incomes—although less than direct action that secures similar reductions in emissions.
The summary is not Abbott’s friend either:
We would be damaged in other ways, too, if we sought to do our fair share through direct action. We would rely on the ideas of a small number of politicians and their advisers and confidants. While some of these ideas might be brilliant, in sum they would not be as creative or productive as millions of Australian minds responding to the incentives provided by carbon pricing and a competitive marketplace.
That would not be the end of the costs.
The really big cost would be the entrenchment of the old political culture that has again asserted itself after the late 20th century period of reform. The big rewards in low-emissions investments would go to those who had persuaded the minister or the bureaucrat that their idea was worthy of inclusion in the direct action plan—if not under the government that introduced the direct action policies, then under the governments that followed. That would entrench the return of the influence of the old Australian political culture in other areas of economic policy.
As a public servant it warms my heart that Abbott has so much faith in our ability to pick the winners – though oddly, Abbott doesn't seem so desirous to brag about how and who will be deciding who gets the money under his direct action plan. Curious don’t you think?
And that was Question Time. There was an odd question from Bob Katter of live exports of meat, which to be honest I couldn't quite grasp if he was in favour or against a ban on live exports (though I believe he is not – purely because we shouldn’t foist our Christian non-torturing of animals beliefs on those of starving Indonesians who take delight in being as cruel as all Hell to cattle).
There was also Nicola Roxon having fun with Abbott’s back down on plain packaging on cigarettes.
But the big event (and by big I mean of zero interest to anyone with a life) was when Speaker Harry Jenkins named Bob Baldwin. This resulted in a vote to have him kicked out for 24 hours, which the Government lost – in effect meaning the House did not have confidence in the Speaker. The vote was lost because Tony Windsor and Bob Katter were not present and Rob Oakeshott voted with the Opposition (for reasons, not completely infused with logic).
Now you would think winning such a vote would have the Libs in raptures, but the mini-conference being had by Abbott, Pyne, Bishop, Hockey and a couple others during the vote showed that they were rather worried about what it all meant. What it did mean is that Jenkins announced that he would consider resigning. This would require, under Standing Orders, there to be an election for the Speaker:
19 Vacancy in office of Speaker
standing order 11.
(a) If the office of Speaker falls vacant during a session the Clerk must report the vacancy to the House at its next sitting. The House shall proceed to the election of a new Speaker either immediately or at its next sitting, using the procedure set out in
So the job would not automatically go to the Deputy Speaker, Liberal Peter Slipper. BUT it would have been highly likely that the ALP would have nominated Slipper. This would have meant (had Slipper won) the ALP would need 1 less votes to pass legislation (through their gaining Jenkins vote).
Clearly this was not the election Abbott wants to have. The way he jumped to his feet as soon as the vote count was called betrayed his clear concern that Jenkins would resign. This was no mere politeness and courtesy on Abbott’s behalf – his body language and demeanour betrayed his worry. Rather than be triumphant at winning the vote, his face reminded me of the class clown who has just realised that the teacher can in fact keep everyone in the class in during lunch if they all do something wrong. Bluff seemed to have been called.
But the events did not reflect well on anyone. The Govt did poorly to lose the vote – where the hell were Windsor and Katter (OK Katter often buggers off as soon as he asks a question). What was Oakeshott thinking? Did he grasp the possible impact of his vote? And Abbott has also let the Govt know that he really does not want to push the Parliament to the point where Jenkins has to resign. If and when Jenkins does again name someone, I seriously doubt if any motions of full confidence will stop him from resigning if the Govt loses the vote.
One of the things about Brinkmanship is that when you pull back, everyone knows just how far you are prepared to go.