Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On The QT: My Interest (Rate) Falls

Today's QT was an odd affair: because the Reserve Bank was to announce the expected drop in interest rate 30 minutes after the start of QT, the first part of the session was full of dumb questions, pointless answers and a stream of points of orders.

Once the interest rate fall was announced there followed more dumb questions, some better answers and a hell of a lot more points of orders.

A few highlights:

Julie Bishop asked Julia Gillard a question on how high must unemployment go before inflation will come down. Julia pointed out the Government had answered the question in the Budget papers and thereupon decided to talk about workchoices. This produced a plethora of points of orders. I have to admit I thought Julia could have done much better than she did - she has to decide if she is going to be a head kicker or not - I think she needs to go for it. To be honest the next answer by Rudd on a similar question was better.

Now there is occasionally a supposition that some members on opposite sides of the house are secretly on friendly terms. Well if their performances in QT are anything to go by, I can say without fear of contradiction that Julie Bishop hates Julia Gillard like poison; and the feeling is more than mutual. I actually think the feelings would exist regardless of their situation: if back in the 70s you had introduced young Julie Bishop from St Peter's Girls School to young Julia Gillard from Unley High I bet they would have hated each other on sight.

After the interest rate fall was announced, Nelson asked Rudd if "Australians had paid with this interest rate fall with their job". Rudd's answer provoked the next plethora of points of order mostly because Rudd began to refer to "the Nelson Doctrine" espoused yesterday wherein when it comes to interest rates (and I guess anything else) what Nelson says as opposition leader is not what he would say or do as PM. Rudd was scoring easy runs all around the ground and poor Joe Hockey was reduced to jumping up and down making points of order in a vain attempt to stem the flow of runs.

Hockey was again on his feet during Wayne Swan's answer to an absolute half tracker from Turnbull on whether this rate drop was due to the "slowing we had to have" (questions like that just serve to remind me why MT was so useless during the Republican referendum). Swan danced down the wicket and replied: "Well, Mr Speaker, I was talking before about the political opportunism and the stupidity of those opposite, and it is just so evident in that question". He then kept up the attack by referring to Nelson as Plan A, Costello as Plan B, and Turnbull as Plan C. (Though it took about 10 points of order for him to get to mentioning Plan C !)

Now I guess any day interest rates come down is a hard day for the opposition; but it doesn't help when Malcolm follows up his previous dud effort with a slow long hop asking if Swan regretted egging on the RBA back in March when inflation was 3% now that it was forecast to get to 5%. Though in Malcolm's defence, when you have Nelson fielding at first slip you'd hardly bother pitching the ball up, so you might as well see if Swan will get out going for the big hit.

Such a strategy sometimes works; more often it results in 6 runs.

Swan laughed and spoke with glee like he was the first Treasurer in 7 years to preside over an interest rate cut (which I guess he is, so we'll let him have this day; in fact I think we can say he was top scorer for the Government in this innings).

At this point the ABC telecast of QT ended; what followed highlighted how parliament acts when it knows it's not on TV (and everyone in the place knows when 3pm passes).

After an answer by Rudd to a question from Shadow Finance Minister, Peter Dutton, on the impact on the surplus of the Government's planned $40 billion infrastructure spend, the House stopped business for around 15 minutes due to Dutton saying something which the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, demanded he retract. The Speaker had not heard it but asked Dutton in the interest of orderly business to retract: cue Tony Abbott with a point of order saying he shouldn't have to; Albanese with a response; Joe Hockey with a point of order to Albanese's response and reiterating Abbott's previous point of order; Chris Pyne with a point of order mentioning Salem witch trials; the Speaker asking Albanese to say what Dutton said; Albanese refusing (but from what others were shouting out it seems Dutton had referred to Rudd's answer with "Derr" - yes it's an intelligent place); Tony Abbott with a point of order; Wilson Tuckey with another point of order on something Albanese had said in his non statement about what Dutton said; and finally Dutton withdrawing what he said, and then Albanese withdrawing what he had said about Dutton if Dutton wouldn't withdraw what he had said.

I would like to say that was the end of it; it wasn't - QT kept going with more dumb questions and pointless points of order for a good 30 more minutes.

Was anything important asked or said? I really don't know. I was just thinking about $50 a month less on my mortgage. Though obviously my priorities are different to those participating in QT.

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