Thursday, February 4, 2010

On the QT: Step up to see the freak show!

This morning, the Shadow Minister for Tourism, the Arts, Youth and Sport Steve Ciobo put out on his twitter page the following tweet:

feels conflicted about whether he wants the PM's XI to win against the West Indies today...on balance, yes.760533-chris-gayle

Now I have to say I don’t know all that much about Ciobo – his is not a career I’ve followed with much interest, though I gather he was a Turnbull supporter, so (as Bernard Keane mused) he’s probably conflicted about whether he wants Tony Abbott to win let alone Rudd. And while I am sure Ciobo was just having a bit of a laugh, it is an example (though a small one) of what has become endemic in politics since Abbott’s rise to the position of leader, and it is similar to what Barack Obama commented on during his question and answer with the Republicans last week. Namely things have become so partisan that there is no room for agreement on anything. 

Ciobo jokes that he is struggling to support the young guys who played in the Australian team today against the West Indies, because they are playing in the Prime Minister’s XI – that is, because it is “Rudd’s team”. Now again, yes it is pretty minor, but it reflects the way the Right wing of politics is playing the game at the moment: anything to do with Rudd is bad, and should be opposed. Tony Abbott cannot make a speech or press conference without having a personal attack at Rudd – whether it is about him being a “Christian socialist”, or because he co-wrote a children’s book, or because he it a “terminal bore”. You see it as well in the columns of right wing commentators like Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Janet Albrechtsen – anything Rudd touches must be despised. Even if it is a cricket team.

As I say, Ciobo no doubt actually had no problems supporting the team – but that he thinks it’s ok to joke about not supporting them because Rudd is attached, says a lot about where politics is at the moment – Ciobo would have had absolutely no worries about being criticised by those Right-wing commentators because he is just following their lead. These same Right-wing commentators who would have been up in arms had some Shadow Labor Minister said the same thing when Howard was PM.

And you know what, they’d have been right. One of the main things that most kept the ALP out of power for 11 years was its blind hatred of John Howard. The ALP attacked him thinking that everyone would sooner or later agree with them. When Rudd came into power, he stopped that completely. The Liberal and National Party are falling into the same trap, and it won’t work. 

Now look, in the end I don’t really care if Abbott keeps attacking Rudd (which we know he will because he cannot stop himself), but the problem with this current attitude (and I’ll admit the anti-Abbott invective is powering up on the ALP side) is that if you spend all your time telling your supporters that Rudd is the worst PM ever and every policy he ever comes up with will kill the economy, then you can’t do any negotiations with him at all. The Liberal Party might think that is a wonderful scenario, but it is not the best outcome for Australia, especially as it means every bloody thing keeps getting blocked in the Senate. Last year the Liberal party negotiated with the ALP on the ETS. They made a deal, they then welched on it and will now block everything from here to the election. Now they might think that is a funny situation, to which I say enjoy the next parliament, when the Greens have the balance of power and you are impotent.

To be honest, because of the way the Liberals have behaved in the Senate it is hard to judge the ALP because so much they have been unable to do. Take the Fuelwatch scheme which the LNP shouts out loud as being a failure. Well sorry, it wasn’t a failure: it was blocked. It didn’t even get a chance to see if it worked or not. Blocking something doesn’t make it a failure – it just means a petty opposition played petty politics. Both sides went to the last election with an ETS as policy, now without having gone to another election, the Liberal Party has changed its mind. It then has the absolute gall to attack the ALP for trying to means test Private health insurance.

Whenever any side talks about the other’s election promises you know you’re about to greeted with a hail storm of manure.

At least last year there was a chance of some negotiation; under Abbott there is none. Maybe that’s great democracy; I think it’s just petty.

Which brings us to Question Time!

Today’s QT was all ETS all the time.

Abbott opened the bowling with a mid-tracker about how Obama maybe dropping the ETS so why should Australia still have one. It was an easy one, that Rudd should have done better with (though he wasn’t exactly under pressure), because the reports about Obama dumping the cap and trade system (which is essentially an ETS) are a tad overheated. At worst Obama is thinking about splitting the Climate Change Bill in the US to do the cap and trade later because he realises the politics of the American Senate are a bit iffy at the moment. Here’s what Obama actually said:

"The only thing I would say about it is this: We may be able to separate these things out.  And it's conceivable that that's where the Senate ends up….

Obama said that his energy agenda is centered on promoting energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, including renewables, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants. Cap and trade also needs to be in the mix in order to promote cleaner forms of energy at the lowest cost to industry, Obama said.

Going for an energy bill alone, Obama said, is equal to saying, "let's do the fun stuff before we do the hard stuff."

"And so the question then is: Does it make sense for us to start pricing in the fact that this thing is really bad for the environment?" Obama added. "And if we do, then can we do it in a way that doesn't involve some big bureaucracy in a control-and-command system, but just says, look, we're just going to -- there's going to be a price to pollution. And then everybody can adapt and decide which are the -- which are the best energies."

A White House spokesman said Obama's remarks about the Senate debate were only an "observation." “The president made his commitment to comprehensive energy and climate change legislation clear in last week's State of the Union address," the spokesman said. "Nothing has changed."

So it’s pretty clear Obama is still in favour of an ETS – because it is a market based solution - but that he realises the non-ETS things are the “fun stuff”, and thus are easiest to get through the Senate. This is essentially the Australiana political situation. The Liberals just want to do the “fun stuff”; the ALP is trying to do the “hard stuff” (though you might argue they’re not doing it very well). Either way it is not a case, as Greg Hunt says, of Rudd being friendless on an ETS. It’s just that Obama too faces a dumb bunch of right wing climate change deniers in the Senate.

After a Dorothy on the ETS, Abbott asked Rudd what could have been a curly one about the impact of the ETS on electricity prices, and whether it was 5%, 10%, 20% or 25%. He was following up Rudd yesterday saying prices would rise by 7% when Treasury documents said 18%. Rudd responded, pretty calmly, by saying they’d rise by around 7% in the first year and around 12% in the second (or roughly 18% over the two years)… which basically has put an end to that particular question.

Next up Greg Combet had lots of fun answering a Dorothy on (yep, you guessed it) the ETS. Now there had been some rumbles by Liberal Party that Rudd and Co were backing away from the ETS, well today’s QT put that to bed completely. Every Dorothy Dixer bar the last two were about how Australia must have an ETS. Combet had great delight in comparing the sanity of Barnaby Joyce in recognising that climate change denier Lord Monkton was a member of the lunatic fringe, whereas Abbott actually met with him. (I wonder if Abbott will be meeting with some Holocaust deniers any time soon? Or how about the “Capricorn-One-was-a-documentary-and-the-whole-moon-landing-was-faked  Society”?) Anytime you are compared with Joyce and you are the one being regarded as the dopier, it is time to wonder about your actions….

Up next Joe Hockey asked Rudd about compensation under the ETS for single income earners on $45,000. The whole point was to get Rudd on camera saying they would be worse off. Rudd of course is far too much of a politician to fall for that dodge, and so he blathered. Incidentally if you are interested in how you’ll be compensated under the ETS, it’s all on the Dept of Climate Change website here. In answer to Hockey’s question I can say if you are single and earn $45k, on average the cost of living will go up by $430 a year, and you’ll be compensated on average by about $390 a year. So yeah, you’ll be $40 a year worse off – damn guess the trip round the world is cancelled…

Hockey’s next question was the usual low-grade politics one expects nowadays. It was again on compensation, but instead of just asking about the income level he talked about a police officer and his school teacher spouse (you see, Rudd hates good honest policeman and teachers!!). Once again Rudd was not going to give the Libs a free advert and so he blathered about averages and incomes etc etc. So once again I can tell you that couple on $120k would see their costs rise by on average $1000 a year, and they would be on average compensated by $780 – so they’d be $220 year worse off combined.

Later Abbott asked about a single person on $80k a year (though he mentioned it as being a teacher). Again Rudd talked generalities. So again let me say that such a person would see his/her costs rise by on average $677 but he/she would get no compensation. Rather coincidentally, Abbott picked the very income level at which compensation cuts out. The ALP essentially has decided that single people with no kids on $80k plus are not exactly struggling (and they’re right). If that person, however, had a child under 5, he/she would be compensated with $843 – though I doubt Abbott will be asking that question.

The point being that you can go through the charts and pick whatever level you want to suit your own argument. And what the Liberal Party needs to realise is that they helped set the thresholds because they are the same thresholds they fought over last year when they did the deal with the ALP. But of course last November is an eon ago now…

In between these compensation questions were a couple Dorothies to Lindsay Tanner. In the first he tested out the new phrase of “Phoney Tony” (I think he’ll keep using it); and in the second he let fly at Barnaby Joyce – especially regarding his woeful performance at the National Press Club yesterday. He referred to Joyce as “a freak show – the bearded lady of Australian politics”. He had lots of fun. The opposition didn’t. How do we know this? Check out the minutes:

Ms A. L. Ellis, 3:38:56 PM, to Mr Tanner (Minister for Finance and Deregulation), Point of order, Mr Abbott, 3:39:24 PM, Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:40:31 PM, Mr Tanner, 3:41:12 PM, Point of order, Mr Hockey, 3:43:27 PM, Mr Tanner, 3:43:48 PM, Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:47:26 PM, Mr Tanner, 3:47:43 PM

The absolute golden rule of Australian politics – the more points of order, the less fun the opposition is having. But the Liberal Party better get used to it, because Joyce will be the gift that keeps on giving all the way till election day.  That he could raise the possibility of reducing foreign aid just because the budget is in deficit is like someone saying that they can’t give to charity because they have a mortgage. He is a complete fool who has risen to his level of incompetence quicker than any Senator since Albert Field. That Abbott considered him fit to be Shadow Finance Minister should damn near alone rule him out pf consideration as PM. 

Wayne Swan also had a Dorothy Dixer (in fact the first question of the day not on the ETS) in which he got a good laugh by saying Abbott was running around “like Borat” – a nice reference to Abbott’s budgie smugglers. It was a good line. Unfortunately Swan went one step too far and referred to Barnaby Joyce as the caveman of Australian politics – “Barnaby Rubble”. 

Memo to Wayne – go for one joke an answer. You’re not Lindsay Tanner yet.

Question Time was then ended by Rudd just as Julie Bishop got up to ask a question. Given her performance over the past two years,  I must say that in contradiction to my earlier suggestions of the partisanship in politics, that was one decision both sides could agree was for the best.

(oh and by the way – the PM’s XI lost)


anthony said...

I dunno. The republican's "oppose everything" approach doesn't seem to be hurting them that much right now.

Grog said...

We'll see Anthony; it's early days yet - and Clinton suffered bad mid-term elections and still got reelected...

And my point is not that it isn't good politics, it's that it is not good for the country - especially in America where a health care Bill that most other countries would class as pitiful can't even get over the line.

A strong opposition should not mean always opposing everything and saying the Govt is the worst ever.

DJ Maths said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJ Maths said...

Good post Grogs, I liked your discussion of blind partisanship, I think its a tactic working well for the Republicans right now, but certainly its not a good thing for governance as a whole. I think Abbott has really ratcheted up the 'oppose everything', has even said as much with his 'the opposition's role is to oppose' statements.

But I would point out the particular recent event of Abbott getting alot of criticism for his Virginity answers, which when read in context are actually pretty tame, certainly less extreme than I would have expected.

Out of this, I would establish that yes - right now, the Right are absolutely worse in blind opposition than the Left. But there's enough Abbott bashing happening that Miranda Devine can write an article on it every couple of days...

Grog said...

You're right DJ, there's not a lot of love going around from either side to the other at the moment.