Today, the day after the second debate, the election campaign was a bit muted.
Maybe it was because there was a story that the make-up artist for the debate last night thought Rudd was rude (or at least not as polite as Abbott). Perhaps it is because after the AFL/Essendon story broke yesterday both sides know that no one in an AFL state is listening.
But there was some policy.
The ALP’s big move was to cut red tape. This is one of Kevin Rudd’s pillars of the economy, and so it was good to see him provide a bit of detail.
The main detail was it adopting the LNP policy with relation to the Paid Parental Leave being administered by Centrelink rather than small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) .
It’s a good move, and the LNP can rightly say the ALP is playing catch up. Given the cost is just $10.3m it’s actually quite surprising it wasn’t done this way from the start.
Kevin Rudd also announced measures to expand the free “Small Business Superannuation Clearing House” from businesses with less than 20 employees to less than 100.
The Clearing House is a free service that enables small businesses to pay their employees' superannuation to a single location in just one electronic transaction.
Again a good move, and again we’re talking just $4.8 m over four years.
So further evidence that the parties are not viewing this election as a spendathon.
It certainly wasn’t the type of policy that is going to stop anyone in the street. That doesn’t make it bad policy, it just means the LAP is doing a bit more a “look at all of the small things we have done” rather than going for the big wow of a policy.
The Liberal Party did a very odd thing, they provided us with a sighting of Peter Dutton.
It was to release their health policy. This was going to be a “cracker” of a policy Peter Dutton told Laura Tingle back in June.
And yet right up front Abbott was almost trying to play it down:
You'll notice when you look at our policy that it is a policy for significant incremental change. It's not a policy for shaking up a system which in broad terms works well. I don't say our health system is perfect. No system is perfect. Our health system is always a work in progress but by the standards of other countries, Australia does have an outstandingly good health system.
“significant incremental change”? Bit like say that you’re going to run a race slowly fast.
He then tried as bit of stand up:
I don't want to be too Party political just in this stage of the discussion but the current Government infamously has cut Medicare, it has cut hospital funding, it has tampered with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme approval process, it has managed to alienate many of the professional groups in the system.
Good thing you don’t want to get too party political during an election campaign, you just want to say the ALP destroyed pretty much everything in the health system.
The policy announced was indeed :”incremental”. It was the type of policy you introduce when you don’t want to have to rely on Peter Dutton saying much. And indeed once he finished his spiel he wasn’t required to answer one question.
The big things were changes to the PBS way of doing things. But mostly this is about “resorting the independence”.
Also they announced:
- Bring forward the proposed roll-out of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme;
- Develop a new National Diabetes Strategy as well as provide $35 million to find a cure for Type One Diabetes;
Although the Diabetes strategy had already been released.
Then came the spending:
- Strengthen primary care by providing $52.5 million to expand existing general practices for teaching and supervision and invest $119 million to double the practice incentive payment for teaching in general practice;
- Provide 500 additional nursing and allied health scholarships for students and health professionals in areas of need as well as $40 million for 400 medical internships;
So how are they paying for it?
Well probably with this next bit:
- Review the Medicare Locals structure to ensure that funding is being spent to support frontline services.
During his press conference Abbott said of Medicare Locals:
Now, can I say that absolutely no Medicare Local will close? I'm not going to say that, but I am giving an absolute commitment here today that the overall levels of health funding will be maintained. Overall levels of health funding will be maintained. We just want to ensure that we get the best possible bang for the buck that we want to maximise health services while minimising health bureaucracy.
Which is pretty clear that it means Medicare locals will be cut and they’ll point to the health scholarships and anything else slowly floating by as “overall health funding”.
No one ever calls for a review to do nothing.
And also you do a review to get the outcome you want.
Fact checkers might be right to say that the ALP’s claim that the Libs will cut Medicare locals is false because they have not said they will cut them. But cripes, journalism is about reading between the lines and seeing what is being said that they don’t want anyone to hear.
They’ve got to cut them because they need the money.
The other thing is the private health insurance rebate. They want to restore it. I guess because they think the above middle class deserve some more welfare – you know budget emergencies are always fixed by giving money to those who don’t need it…
To be hones though, Abbott seems more interested in suggesting he’ll restore the Medicare rebate to the way it was rather than actually doing it. The best he can give is:
QUESTION: Will to be your intention to restore it within a first term of an Abbott government?
TONY ABBOTT: I'm not making a commitment to do so at this time. I simply want to restore it as quickly as we can.
The main reason he can’t do it is that he is running out with money on the savings side of the ledger. Saul Eslake, who in my view is one of the best economists going around, estimates they’re currently $30 billion short.
Thus far Abbott and Hockey have been having it easy with the handouts, but they continue the delusion that announcing policy is just announcing how much you are going to spend.
Their strategy appears to be to release the bad news after the advertising blackout occurs in the last week.
If that is what happens every media organisation that once to retain any sense of worth should slaughter them for it.
On the front of The Oz today Eric Abetz revealed the Libs new IR policy, It is utterly insipid, but I’ll be writing about that for my next Guardian post, so I’ll leave it till then (yes, that’s called a tease)
And yet tonight despite the LNP releasing its health policy, the ABC’s 7:30 Report did not cover it, nor the red tape stuff from the ALP. Yes they had a debate on climate change policy, but nothing on today’s news.
Instead we were treated to a 5 minutes dullsville piece of how life is like on the press but following after Kevin Rudd.
Apparently next week we’ll get the lot following Abbot.
BREAKNG: The hours are long, they’re not told where they’re going.
End of story.