Saturday, July 31, 2010

Election 2010: Day 15 (or Let’s Keep Working!)

Today over in Perth Julia Gillard held a press conference to talk about jobs.

About bloody time.

I’m not sure if you know it, but Australia got through this thing called the Global Financial Crisis without going into a recession. I’m not sure if you’re aware but interest rates at the moment are lower than in 2004 when John Howard bragged about keeping them at record lows. I’m not sure if you’re aware but at the moment inflation is well within the Reserve Bank’s 2-3% band.

If you’re not aware of those, send a message to those advising Julia Gillard and those running the ALP campaign and say “Oi!!! Talk about the bloody economy!!!”.

The problem with the ALP’s campaign is not the leaks. I mean yes they are a bloody problem, but if the best they can now get is the one on the front page of The Oz, I think they’ll be ok. It screamed “beat-up” as soon as Alexander Downer was brought in for a quote. However Julia still had to deal with it in her press conference, and then of course had to deal with being asked if it was frustrating to deal with such questions (sigh). But still that’s life, she hit the issue out of the park (though I doubt that’s how it’ll be reported) . The problem with the ALP campaign is not the removal of Rudd. I mean yes that is a bloody problem and at the time I thought it a terrible mistake.

No to discover the problem to the ALP’s campaign you have to go back to November 2008. The ALP just seen the abyss on the horizon and had thrown out a stimulus package. In hindsight it was shown to be a brilliant move. At the time most economists were saying the same thing. Some wanted tax rate cuts, but most thought the cash bonuses were the way to go. Except Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swann were actually embarrassed about them.

They wanted to talk about stimulus but not the reality of stimulus. Remember this stupidity on the 7:30 Report:

KERRY O'BRIEN: So let me hear in plain English, that the Budget is within a hair's breadth of going into deficit. It seems silly to me that anybody would bother to argue that proposition. Will you accept going into deficit, if you have to, to maintain appropriate stimulus of the economy under the threat of recession and high unemployment?

WAYNE SWAN: Kerry, it would be silly to speculate along the lines of your question?


WAYNE SWAN: Because I've made it clear. We are projecting modest growth and modest surpluses but if the situation were to deteriorate significantly it would have an impact on our surpluses and it may well be the case that we could end up in the area that you're speculating about.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, say it. In deficit.

WAYNE SWAN: I am not going to say it because we're projecting modest surpluses Kerry.

And then remember Wayne Swan in the 2009 Budget not even saying “deficit”?

Madness. And it is costing them now.

The reason is back then they should not have been scared about the deficit, they should instead have been proud. They weren’t going into deficit because they couldn't manage the economy; they were going into recession to save it! They got so spooked by what the Libs might do if the budget went into deficit that they ensured the Libs would be able to attack them on the deficit – because the action and words of Rudd and Swan made it seem like deficit was this horrible economic condition which must dare not speak its name.

And so we have the Libs convincing everyone that deficits are bad. They’re not.

The Libs have everyone convinced that a deficit means the Government is living beyond its means. It does not.

The Libs are also trying to convince everyone that just because you’re in deficit it means you can’t spend money on certain things. It does not.

Now I’m not sure who was advising Rudd and Swan, I’m sure they were all smart folk – after all Rudd’s economic whizz Andrew Charlton was a Rhode’s Scholar and I am nought but the lone Keynesian in the Flinders-Adelaide Uni Economic Honours Class of 93 – but how is it none of them could explain a deficit so people who do not study economics could understand?

Did anyone compare it to a house mortgage? Did anyone try and say going into deficit to stimulate the economy and save jobs during the GFC essentially was like a parent whose son has lost his job and who needs a roof for his family to stay under for a while. So the parents build an extra room for his son’s family and to do so takes out a small loan against their house. The parents wish they didn’t have to do it, but do you think they are going to stand by and let their son and grandkids be out on the street just because they didn’t want to have mortgage repayments? Of course not.

The stimulus wasn’t done just for larks; it was an emergency. Arguing against it should be like arguing against emptying a pool to help put out a fire because you don’t want to use the water. Madness.debtbombshell3

And as for the total figure? Who cares, really. Sure you don’t want it too big but even at the greatest it was predicted to be about 14% of GDP. Pfft. Did anyone say to the Australian people that the average home loan is around $400,000. Do you think people with that loan go around worried because they are $400,000 in debt? Of course not. What they worry about is whether or not they can make the mortgage payments. And Australia can afford to make its repayments. How do we know? Well the debt was forecast to be $315b. Now it is forecast to be $57b. If we couldn't afford it, it would be growing not shrinking. 

We may have a structural deficit but that’s another debate for another time – and Howard and Costello have much to blame for that…

You see a deficit is just a home loan. You may own a home but if you want to build on, or maybe put up a pergola to make the house better – ie increase its value – then you’ll take a loan against the house to do so, and that’s ok – so long as you can afford the repayments. The Libs would have you believe the current budget situation is like someone paying off their MasterCard with their Visa Card.

The only problem with a deficit is if you are doing so when the economy is ticking along nicely. Do that and it’ll be inflationary. However even being in deficit is not a mortal sin in such cases IF the things you are spending money on that puts the budget into deficit are not inflationary – ie infrastructure (you know that thing the Howard Govt thought states should worry about). Things that are inflationary are middle class welfare policies – you know things like giving people who earn $150,000 a year or more $75,000 when they have a baby…

If the Rudd Govt had been more proud about the deficit and actually explained it to people – in terms we could all understand – then all this bull about paying off the debt would be gone. Hockey for example wants to sell Medibank Private. Why does he? Not for efficiency reasons. No he just wants to sell it to pay off the debt. Why?? If you can afford your mortgage repayments do you sell your car so that your overall mortgage is less? No of course you don’t – unless you are stupid enough to employ Joe Hockey as you financial advisor.

All these things should be the focus of the Government. They need to embrace their stimulus, embrace the GFC and what they did.

Were I in charge (yeah yeah, I know) Moving Forward would not have been the slogan it would have been

Let’s Keep Working

There would be adverts like:

During the Global Financial Crisis the following countries went  into recession:

United Kingdom
New Zealand
Hong Kong
The United States of America

The countries that didn’t:



Who cares that France, China and Canada didn’t go into recession, if the Libs want to point that out, go for it. Or how about:

The unemployment rate in

New Zealand is 6 percent
Germany is 7 percent
Brazil is 7.3 percent
Czech Republic is 7.5 percent
United Kingdom is 7.8 percent
Canada is 7.9 percent
Italy is 8.9 percent
Russia is 9.2 percent
Sweden is 9.5 percent
The United States of America is is 9.5 percent
France is 10.1 percent
Spain is 20.1 percent

The unemployment rate in

Australia is 5.1 percent


Or then there’s:

In November 2007 the official interest rate was 6.75%
In August 2010 the official interest rate is 4.5%
That will save you $568* a month


Then there’s the NBN:

Labor wants to build a National Broadband Network that will
Provide super fast broadband coverage to 93 percent of Australia
That will improve small businesses
Improve the provision of health for all Australians
Improve education possibilities
And create 25,000 jobs

Tony Abbott wants to scrap it

Sorry Tony


Or how about:Fig2_large

In February this year Tony Abbott says we should be like New Zealand

During the Global Financial Crisis:

New Zealand’s unemployment rate reached 7.3%

Australia's unemployment rate reached 5.8%

New Zealand went into recession

Australia did not

Sorry Tony, but LET’S KEEP WORKING


Or if in doubt show them this graph:


The polls out today with the LNP ahead 52-48 should be a wake up for Labor. They’re not gone yet, not by a long way.

But they need to sell their message better and they need to focus on what they did right.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Election 2010: Day 14 (or waste and mismanagement – the media)

Here’s a note to all the news directors around the country: Do you want to save some money? Well then bring home your journalists following Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard, because they are not doing anything of any worth except having a round-the-country twitter and booze  tour.

It is a sad thing to say but we could lose 95 percent of the journalists following both leaders and the nation would be none the poorer for it. In fact we would probably be better off because it would leave the 5 percent who have some intelligence and are not there to run their own narrative a chance to ask some decent questions of the leaders. Some questions which might actually reveal who would be the better leader of this country.

Emma Rodgers writes decent copy for the ABC, so she can have one spot on the bus, and AAP’s Sandra O’Malley ends up writing most of the copy that gets put on the main news’ sites (before it gets twisted by the slant the organisation wants) so let her have the other spot (also she is resplendent in her vivid red jacket that always seems to make an appearance on TV just before the press conference is about to start). Maybe there are one or two others (guess the nightly news needs someone, so how about let Hugh Riminton do all three networks), but for the most part you might as well not bother.

This morning John Bergin tweeted that Tony Abbott was making an announcement about disability support for students. As I noted yesterday I have a vested interest in the topic so I quickly put on the Sky News stream to watch the press conference. He announced that:r610160_4026757

[severely disabled] students would be given a $20,000 education card, with the measure costing $314 million over four years.


the Coalition would also nationalise disability definitions across the country in a bid to ensure people in different states are treated the same way by authorities.

They are good policies. They don’t “trump” the ALP’s policy of yesterday because the ALP’s focuses on early intervention for pre-school aged kids. Both are good, and in fact in my dream world both would be introduced (and expanded).

But I had some issues – what is meant by “severely disabled”. Now my daughter has Down Syndrome, and it might sound surprising to people, but I don’t actually view her as severely disabled. I assume she would come in under the clause, but as someone who just views her as my little girl and often forgets about the DS, I was wondering if she would qualify.

So I waited for some questions from the journalists. They came and guess what, they were all about politics. They were about Mark Latham’s comments about his believing Kevin Rudd leaked to Laurie Oakes. They were about foreigners owning our farms and whether he disagreed with a National’s senator. They were about nothing to do with the press conference. Did they test the policy? Did they ask who will qualify and why? Nope. Not at all.

You see my wife is a school teacher. She has a student who though in Year 6 has the reading Level of a Grade 1. He does not have an “intellectual disability” – he’s probably one of those kids who is just called “slow” – but he needs special help. The school however doesn't get any extra funding for him because he doesn't have a specific intellectual disability. Would there be any money for him?  If not, why not? And why not all disabled, and not just ”severely disabled”? And don’t let Abbott just say that, oh we have to pay off the debt and deficit. When he uses that line, how about calling him on it and pointing out that Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on the 7:30 Report said of the stimulus and supposed questions of waste:

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: If you hadn't spent the money, there would have been waste. The waste would have been the fact that the economy would have been weak, there would have been a gap between what the economy could have produced and what it actually produced - that's waste. You would have had high unemployment, you would have had capital assets not fully utilised - that's waste. So your choice was one form of waste verses another form of waste. And so it's a judgment of what is the way to minimise the waste. No perfection here.

And what your government did was exactly right. So, Australia had the shortest and shallowest of the downturns of the advanced industrial countries. And, ah, your recovery actually preceded the - in some sense, China. So there was a sense in which you can't just say Australia recovered because of China. Your preventive action, you might say pre-emptive action, prevented the downturn while things got turned around in Asia, and they still have not gotten turned around in Europe and America.

But no, we had none of that. It was all politics.

Now I don’t write this to criticise the policy – because it looks good (and you know I don’t say that often about the Liberal Party!), but I really don’t know enough about the policy because the media has given me next to bugger all information on it. I can’t get anything from the Libs themselves, because it isn’t up on their website yet – their most recent policy on the site is still their anti-gang idiocy of yesterday!

So here I am, a guy with a genuine interest in the policy, a guy who lives on news websites and I couldn’t find anything. Over on The Oz (that champion of the any news but policy news style of media) had instead a story by the always consistent Matthew Franklin:

Labor's 'waste' has left little money for campaign promises, says Tony Abbott

the other story he wrote was a bullshit side issue that had seen the Libs and Nationals in a bit of a split (but seriously, who gives a damn):

Abbott to keep tabs on foreign ownership of farms but rejects need for register

And the Disability announcement? Sorry it ain’t to be found. scan0014

Over in the Julia Gillard camp, today they found themselves in Perth where she was announcing the NBN was to encompass 93% of the population and not just 90% as was previously announced. They were also going to release the maps outlining where the optical fibre would be rolled out, where there would be wireless coverage, and where there would be only satellite coverage. 

As guy who grew up in country SA, I was eagre to find out more – to see the maps, to see if my old town where my parents still live would get coverage.

I wondered how NBN Co could now get to 93% instead of just 90%. I wondered if the Government was going to consider the impact of the net filter. I wondered, and so I waited for the end of the press conference so the journalists who are apparently at the top of their profession could grill the PM over this policy.

And the first question to Julia was about Cheryl Kernot running as an independent for a spot in NSW for the Senate. The second question was about Mark Latham. And on and on it went. One journalist in a moment of utter self-importance asked Julia if she was annoyed that she kept getting asked questions about Kevin Rudd, and if it was distracting to the campaign. 

Yep a member of the media who keeps asking Julia about Kevin Rudd asked if it was distracting that the media keeps asking her about Kevin Rudd. Kieran Gilbert back at the Sky News desk prior to Julia’s press conference said in response to his co-host suggesting the policy will be a good positive message for the ALP that it would be “if it got coverage”. Yep a member of the media was suggesting it would only be a good story for the ALP if the media decided to cover it. I looked on news sites for links to the maps. I couldn’t find any – but go have a look, they are quite fascinating – especially when you look at just how much work is going to be involved. This my friends is infrastructure at its finest.  Once the NBN is finished you will all wonder how the hell we ever did without it.

r610364_4029163 But the journalists? Nup. Not one question of policy. The closest they came was to ask given the BER and Insulation scheme “bungles” how could the public trust that the ALP could do this on budget.  But that’s not a policy question – it’s a political one. There were none about the actual nitty gritty of the policy.

As I say 95 percent of you can go home. You are, as they say in the army, a waste of rations.

And when it was announced that Kevin Rudd was in hospital to have his gall-bladder removed,well that was definitely it for the day for policy. The news was gone for the day. Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard might as well have spent the day playing tennis and golf.

And to top it all off, the journos decided to then have fun at Rudd’s expense on twitter trying to make up joke song titles about his having surgery. Because yeah surgery is such a laughing matter. Classy.

This blog to be honest was spurred by my reading of one of the best articles you’ll read this year. It will come as no surprise to many that it is by Laura Tingle. She writes of the media during the RSPT period, and of how the role of lobbyists has changed since the Hawke and Keating days:

Keating’s argument encapsulates much of what has changed since 1993 in the way public debates about policy and politics are conducted. In the age of major reform in the 1980s and 1990s, it was policy that ruled. These days it is politics.

Then, the community assumed governments would act in the interests of the community as a whole while business would act in its own interest. A reforming government made policy the base from which its political performance was assessed.

The ramifications for the way the media worked, for the way lobby groups worked and, as a result, for the way politics worked, cannot be underestimated.

A policy issue would be put up and debated not primarily on the basis of whether it was good or bad for the government’s fortunes, or whether industry groups would like it, but whether it was good or bad policy.

Lobby groups were seen as rent seekers or, pragmatically, as groups seeking greater advantage from a policy outcome, not ‘potent political opponents’ or representatives of the national interest whose claims about the impact of policy could go unquestioned.

In such an environment, Keating was able to assert Canberra’s better grip on the country’s needs and get away with it despite the devastation of a savage policy-induced recession.

This started to change under the Howard government.

It is fascinating reading from a journalist who, unlike 95 percent of her colleagues, has a memory that goes back more than 6 months. Read it!

Tingle is the pick of the very few journalists in this country who has the intelligence and wit to be able to understand policy. You see it is easy to suggest the media doesn’t cover policy because it is boring. I don't think that is the reason. I think they for the most part ignore it because analysing policy is hard – you actually need to have some understanding of the issues and how they will affect the economy, the people, the Government. It is even harder to then crystallise it in to an informative and interesting 1000 words.

Many in the media when they try analyse Government documents get it completely wrong.

Take for example The Oz’s recent coverage of the Auditor General’s report on the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. They screamed “rorts!!!!” Though their argument lacked any logic or intelligence. You see it is not enough when analysing such things just to read the executive summary and re-write what you see there – or even what you will find on page 35. You actually need to pause and think it all through. To see how it is done – go over to Possum at Crikey – it is brilliant work. 

Of the journalists who are any good at policy I only rate Laura Tingle, George Megalogenis, Peter Martin, Bernard Keane and Ross Gittins for domestic/economic issues (and Possum of course!). Greg Sheridan sadly is about the only decent one who can write about foreign policy – though Philip Dorling for The Canberra Times is also very good (but The Can Times doesn’t get much of a reach, and he reports more than he analyses – which is a pity).

The rest such as Michael Stutchbury or Terry McCrann bring with them such prejudice that 99 percent of what they write is easily dismissed. I find it very hard to dismiss any of the five mentioned earlier. They all will criticise either side, and when they bag the ALP more often than not I find myself thinking, bugger, they’re right.

That’s not to say all other journos are useless. Not at all. I’ll read anything Lenore Taylor, Laurie Oakes, Phil Coorey and a few others write. I’ll sit up to watch Leigh Sales and the Lateline crew, and Lyndal Curtis each morning on AM gives sharp interviews. (By the way Oakes’ opinion piece today is spot on.). 

But policy? There’s a dearth of ability to write and comment about such things in Australia's media. It is why blogs such as Possum’s and others flourish. And it’s why 95 percent of the media following Julia and Tony around are pointless – they don’t know what questions to ask, and lack the ability to explain the complexities in a way that non-specialists would be able to understand or find interesting. And so we get “The NBN: How much it will cost you” or some such.

If I had one wish for all the journalists following the leaders around it would be this: Before you ask a question say to yourself, “What would Laura ask?” And do likewise.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Election 2010: Day 13 part 2 (or I wish they had this when I was at school)

On Twitter I came across this great project by the “Year 8 Civics students at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in Braybrook, in Melbourne's inner-west”. It is blog called Australian Democrazy, that is “aiming to learn about politics by reporting on the 2010 Federal Election and beyond”.

It’s a cool little blog that has seen some of the students interview a journalist, and had them conduct their own class poll (pretty obvious they’re located in a safe ALP seat) (geez, imagine being the lone Family First voter in your class, poor bugger):

They’ve even been getting active on twitter – the students tweet questions and see if anyone who follows them on twitter can give them the answers – questions like what happens to the government when there’s an election? They also had an interview on twitter with the Greens senate candidate.

It’s a great idea that I would have been absolutely salivating over when I was in Year 8. Back then I think our lessons on the political system were all about…err actually no, now I think about it we didn't learn anything about the political system.

I only was introduced to the Australian Constitution in Year 10 when I took Legal Studies. Those who didn’t do that subject would have quite easily gone through 12 years of education without having the slightest understanding of how our political system works.

That is not a good thing.

It leads to people thinking Tony Abbott talking about state law issues is the right thing for a prospective PM to do…


On a totally different topic, while there have been a few good youtube adverts around (and many bad ones) this one by “thecleanersptyltd” Called Tony Abbott 50s man is a cracker, and just shows how taking things out of context can really be used against you:

Election 2010: Day 13 (or why is Abbott running for Premier?)

Today was a very interesting comparison between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott that tells a lot about what their respective Governments would be like, and what type of campaign they’re running.

Both were in Melbourne, both made policy announcements. Both parties made policy announcements on crime, both mentioned knives. The ALP put out their policy through an announcement by Brendan O’Connor. You all know Brendan O’Connor right? Well if you’re his family and friends you do, the rest of us? Nup he’s effectively a nobody – sand that says a fair bit about how much importance the ALP is giving the issue. During campaigns many things are announced, but only the big ticket item get the leader’s stamp.

The Liberal's policy on knives and crime was announced by Tony Abbott at a press conference. Yep he gave it the full leader’s press conference treatment – it was his big announcement of the day. He went all the way to Melbourne to announce he would be cracking down on gangs. Yep gangs. I know, we’re all so worried about gangs in Australia because it feels like Australia has become a huger sunburnt South Central LA. All those schools with Crips and Bloods and with their crack and what not.

I mean geez. For a start it’s a pretty small issue in the grand scheme of things, and secondly law issues like gangs is pretty much a state issue for state police – certainly not a Prime Mininsterial issue. Sure there are concerns about crime and sure bringing in new laws for knife importation etc are all good, but if Abbott wants to be a Premier, he need only resign and tell Barry O'Farrell to bugger off. We all know what he was doing – scare the oldies about those teenagers, let them know strong Mr Abbott won’t stand for any of that even though when you really get down to it, he as PM can do next to bugger all about it.

Julia Gillard meanwhile was in Melbourne announcing a major initiative on disabilities. Now I’ll admit right off the bat that as the dad of a 4 year old girl with Down Syndrome, I’m going to be pretty well in favour of more fund for kids with disabilities, but Julia’s announcement that:

Children with a disability would be given $12,000 to help pay for early intervention treatment and also funding an extra 150 supported accommodation places for people with disabilities and $1 million to help them find work.

was just marvellous. 447935-gillard-disability-announcement

She was passionate when she made the announcement – and the reaction from the audience made it pretty clear that this was a very welcome.  Now what about the reaction from the sector? How about:

Gillard's disability pledge 'an historic achievement'

Now that’s what you want to see! Far from the disappointed and let down reaction to the metal health policy, today we had:

Anthea Green from First Voice, a coalition of organisations representing hearing impaired children and their families, told PM it was the first time the Federal Government had agreed to fund early intervention strategies.

"For us this is a very significant commitment from the Labor Party and really quite an historic commitment," she said.

"This service has been funded primarily by fundraising activities, we're trying to provide multi-disciplinary services of a professional nature like speech pathology, audiology, social work and counselling.

"So this is a very very fundamental shift in social policy, it's a great commitment and I think it's quite an historic decision."

That’s who you do it Julia!

The announcement was also made with Jenny Macklin and Bill Shorten. I have to say Shorten was excellent. His passion was just wonderful to hear. That he has spent the past two and half years cooling his heels as a Parliamentary Secretary just shows how dumb Rudd was at managing people. The guy is a gun. He can persuade people – he’s what the ALP has needed. If the ALP does win, I don’t care if the dumbass media will say it’s a factional deal, Shorten should be straight into the Cabinet.

And so there we have it: two leaders, in the same city, both announcing policies. One decides to go the shitty scare the oldies and talk about crime  and laura norder and act all tough route; the other reaches out to a small group of pretty powerless people with a positive policy that will do good.

Today was a good day to be an ALP supporter.


A couple polls came out tonight – one from Morgan had the ALP up 53-47 and a Galaxy Poll which had the result 50-50. Is it the start of a trend towards a Liberal Party win, or is it the ALP seeing the results of a bad 5 days?

x2_21d7d39I think Gillard’s announcement on Friday of her climate change plan had the ALP hitting rock bottom – and it is no surprise that it feed through to these polls. For those who doubt the impact of her 150 citizens’ assembly idea, you only needed to watch The Chaser last night (which about 1.4 million did) at one point they asked the audience to give their views on the policy and they all shouted “It’s shit!”

Now since then of course there has been “the leaks”!!! And yeah the oldies have got on to 2GB etc to voice their concerns about Julia the communist. But they were already voting for the Libs anyway. And the past two days Julia has got her campaign back on track – today she did another meet’n’greet in the shopping centres and she was well and truly mobbed (ass this pic by journo Ben Packham shows).

Tomorrow she’s off to Perth. Sure WA may be the worst state for the ALP, but she needs to keep getting out among the people – they actually like her.

So yeah it was a bad start to the week, but it ain’t time to thinking the campaign is over. There’s a long way to go and Julia seems to have worked out what to do, and how to do it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Election 2010: Day 12 (or let Julia be Julia)

There is an episode near the end of the first season of The West Wing where due to a damaging leak from an advisor in the White House, and a general feeling that the Bartlet administration has been pretty poor, the staff become worried about the Government’s performance. The staff realise it is because they and the President have been too timid – too worried about the polls. There is a conversation between Bartlet and his Chief of Staff:LetBarlet

President Josiah Bartlet: We've heard it all before, Leo. You drive me to the political safe ground. It's not true.
Leo McGarry: I know it's not true.
President Josiah Bartlet: Good.
Leo McGarry: You drive me there.
President Josiah Bartlet: What the hell did you say?
Leo McGarry: We're stuck in neutral because that's where you tell me to stay.

By the end of the episode Leo resolves to “let Bartlet be Bartlet” – let him say what he wants and to back him all the way.  It is a theme that recurs throughout the series – coming back most prominently in his re-election campaign.

Well after a leak from inside the Government – quite likely by an advisor – this morning Julia Gillard came out and gave a press conference where she let herself go and we saw the true Julia. The Julia which so many political watchers have been loving these past 2 1/2 years. It was the Julia of Question Time, where she attacks, where she counters with reason, where she uses ridicule, where she is just riveting to watch, and where she looks like a leader.

About bloody time.

Stephen Spencer from Channel 10 tweeted the line “Big lesson for Labor here: Let Gillard be Gillard” – it echoed what many watching the press conference were thinking (especially given many watching the press conference would also be politics nerds who view The West Wing as close to perfection!).

She dealt with the leaks about her supposed opposition to paid parental leave and the rise in the pension. I say “suggested” because all we had from Oakes was couple lines which were taken out of context, in that we had no idea when in the cabinet discussion they came. Oakes stated that Gillard had said that “the idea that paid parental leave would be a political winner was being misconstrued. That people beyond child-bearing age would resent it, as would stay-at-home mothers”.

Now that is not actually suggesting she opposed it. That is merely stating that she didn’t think it was as big a vote winner as others around the table may have thought. You can actually think that and still be in favour of it. She may in fact have been cautioning those in the room who thought it was going to be a boon for them in the polls.

But Julia’s response was to state that she did actually question the pension increases and the PPL scheme because she was worried about whether or not the Government could afford them – stating:

"I wouldn't have put this country in a position where we increase the pension and then have to increase taxes. It's not my way, so I had to satisfy myself that the pension increase was affordable. For paid parental leave I needed to do the same."

She said any hesitation in backing the welfare spending was pragmatic.

"You can be passionate about doing something and hard-headed about getting things done," she said.

She was absolutely passionate about her support for the PPL scheme. And on this issue I have to say her not supporting it doesn’t really pass the smell test – the highest ranking women in Australian political history, a woman from the left, not being in favour of a paid parental leave scheme? At worst the leak suggests she was too worried about the polls, but name me one politician who isn’t? And the thing is she had been advocating a PPL scheme long before it came to Cabinet, so again I say suggestions she opposed it don’t pass the smell test and as a result on that score I don’t think there’s much damage.

On the pension increase and the suggestion she said old people don’t support Labor, however the potential for damage was higher. Mainly because if she did say it she was only saying what everyone knows is true.  But on this issue she knew there was no room for (as she called it) “shilly-shallying”. She emphatically denied saying it. 3805260710_awm_L

It was an excellent performance because she turned a negative into a positive. She made it about economic responsibility and also and made it into an issue about what she believed in – and she put forward a very forceful case.

She then went out and did a meet’n’greet in the streets and shops in Adelaide in the Sturt electorate.

She needs to do more of it.

She also needs to keep being Julia. This will be hard because part of her attraction is as an attacker and she needs to be positive as well. But I think there is plenty of Liberal Party policy that deserves scorn and rebuke, and she needs to do it. Be positive, but also show she can take down any opponent. Let fly with the barbs. Anyone telling her blokes won’t like her being strong are fools. The one thing blokes will worry about a woman is that she is too soft. They want to know she’ll kick arse and and heads if need be. Let the public see you rip into Abbott I say Julia. It will be a winner.

She doesn't need to worry about the soft side – that’s been taken care of by her front cover on the Women's Weekly where  have to say I think she looks like Cate Blanchett’s older sister. It’s a very nice soft piece that doesn’t contain any of the controversies associated with Tony Abbott’s appearance earlier in the year. Don’t underestimate the AWW – 12% of the population read it – even if you don’t buy it you see it, and it will do her no harm whatsoever.

The next question of course is whether there will be more leaks? And of course who is the leaker? Some in the media have started reporting musings by Labor insiders as fact – ie because they’re shooting the breeze about who it could be means they actually think it could be that person. Some seem to be suggesting even that it could be Lindsay Tanner, which to me suggests they need to get a grip. My reading of him is that he is a Labor man to the core, and far too principled to want to undermine Gillard like this – plus he has no reason to do it. Yes they were combatants in the ALP Vic Left, but you only had to listen to Tanner talk in his valedictory speech in parliament of what he felt he owed the ALP to know he wouldn’t do it.

Rudd – or Rudd “supporters” (all what, 4 of them? 5?) – remains the most likely source. Rudd’s endorsement of Julia has been pretty lukewarm (if that). If it is not Rudd it has to be someone from his camp (suggestions it’s someone from Gillard’s camp doing it to take down Rudd are the stuff of spy novels, not reality – in election you don’t do such risky things – other times maybe , but not now). I’d be getting John Faulkner on the phone to Rudd and telling him in typical ALP terms that any leaks will be laid at his feet so he better bloody well shut them down if he wants to play a role after the election.

But then does he?

On the weekend I was talking to a Labor “insider” (as you do) and he suggested the feeling was there would be a by-election in Griffiths very soon after the election and Rudd would go off to some UN gig or some such. No one, he said, could really imagine him sitting around the Cabinet table.

So will there be more leaks? Who knows – but if there are Julia has shown she knows how to deal with them.


Last week I suggested that the campaign was in phony war mode and that it wouldn’t begin until today. I was right, but my reasoning was that today the inflation figures would come out and it would be crucial to an interest rate increase, not Oakes’ story .

The suggestion was that if the underlying rate for the quarter was 0.8% or above the RBA would have to raise rates. But today the ABS released the figures and the underlying inflation rate was 0.5%. Therefore chance of an interest rate rise have disappeared:

Trading Day No Change Increase to 4.75%
19-Jul 87% 13%
20-Jul 78% 22%
21-Jul 76% 24%
22-Jul 76% 24%
23-Jul 73% 27%
26-Jul 76% 24%
27-Jul 73% 27%
28-Jul 100% 0%

And thereby a massive part of the Liberal Party economic argument has gone. Expect the ALP now to ramp up some adverts focussing on interest rates. In November 2007 , when they came in with the interest rates were at 6.75%, now they are 4.5%. Now sure the GFC has been the cause of it, but the Liberal Party has no problems indulging in GFC myopia when it comes to talking about debt and deficit, so the ALP should as well. imageThere’s a huge difference in mortgage repayment between 6.75% and 4.5% they should play that for all it is worth. And then play it some more. And more. And more.

On the economic front, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey came out today to announce that they would drop the Company Tax to 28.5% – a whole 0.5% more than the ALP is promising (as blatant a “we’ll do better than you can” policy as you’ll ever see). The journalists immediately asked about the PPL scheme which will put a 1.7% levy on businesses, and does that mean the company tax for them will be 30.2%? Tony Abbott was very cagey saying:

"I just want to make it crystal clear that we will have a formal release, an election campaign release, of our paid parental leave policy in coming days. We will be formally launching, or relaunching if you like, our paid parental leave policy later in the campaign.”

Formally launching or “relaunching” a policy?? Hmm smells like a lot of changes afoot. Most likely given the heat they’re taking on the ALP’s “Woolies and Coles Tax” line that they will get rid of the levy and say they will pay for it through cuts or some tricky accounting – you know through selling Medibank Private or not doing the NBN.

The ALP should be quickly workshopping such an occurrence. They would do worse than start with Abbott’s appearance on the 7:30 Report in May where he said:

TONY ABBOTT: And, the point I tried to make at the time was that I didn't like the levy very much, but if we were going to have a paid parental leave scheme any time soon, a decent paid parental leave scheme any time soon, it had to be paid for and this was the least bad way of doing it.

Expect Abbott to be soon saying he has found a less bad way of doing it…

And so the campaign has now started for real. Tomorrow both Gillard and Abbott are in Melbourne. Game on. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Election 2010: Day 11 (or a Woman PM needs a man like a fish needs to be gutted by Tony Abbott)

Well today we witnessed what happens when the supposedly leading newspaper in the country decides to act in concert with the Liberal Party. The Australian decided all this news about Tony Abbott having a problem with women was obviously hurting their man’s chances of a win and so they did what any scum-bucket, shit sheet would do – it ran a front page story about how Julia has a problem with men.

Now Julia hits man trouble

TONY Abbott's problem with women is well known. But as the campaign enters its second week - and the nation grapples with gender muscling its way into an election for the first time - it's becoming clear that Julia Gillard may have an equally big problem with men.

The Coalition clearly believes the Prime Minister's problems are greater than the Opposition Leader's, subtly playing up his status as a family man for an electorate untested on their response to an unmarried, female leader.

Mr Abbott pointedly opened Sunday's debate by reminding voters that he and his wife understood what it was like "to raise a family, to wrestle with a big mortgage, with grocery bills, with school fees".


And then to really ramp it up they put on the front page as well (no I’m not making this up) a piece by light-weight comic writer Kete Legge on Julia’s earlobes.

The ears have it, in a deluge of distraction from campaign themes

"HECK, there must be a surgeon who can help," worried one voter yesterday in a web debate over Julia Gillard's pendulous earlobes.

The discussion drowned out any serious post-debate analysis of her policies or performance.

"I can't remember a thing from the debate - just those earlobes," said another, who was struck dumb by close scrutiny of an anatomical quirk that has zero bearing on the Prime Minister's capacity to govern, but could derail her ability to keep the electorate focused.

And people wonder why I have a problem with The Australian. James Massola before he took up a position with The Oz asked me on twitter why if I hate The Oz did I read it. The problem isn’t that I want to read it, it’s that if you want to follow politics closely you have to read it – otherwise how else are you going to know what are the talking points of the Liberal Party for that day.

There were times when The Oz wasn’t too bad, but I have to say virtually every day this year, and most of last year reading the political coverage of The Oz is like taking a swim in a pool filled with vomit. Every story has a slant against the ALP if at all possible, and if there’s a chance to sow some discordance in the electorate then it’ll do it: sometimes subtly, or other times, like today, it’ll be obvious.

But you see biggest problem with The Oz is not its stories but that other feeble minded journalists take up their stories – so today Julia Gillard at a press conference got questions about her partner, even about attention on her earlobes (all in the context of “are you disappointed with discussion of…). One utter fool who apparently gets to call himself one of the Canberra press gallery asked Gillard if she intended to be the first de-facto couple in the Lodge or would there be a Prime Ministerial wedding.


r608342_4003266And, in an example of complete coincidence, on the day The Oz decided to highlight that “Julia has a problem with men” Tony Abbott went to a fish market and gutted a fish, with his daughter by his side.


I guess if this was America he would have gone hunting for deer.

We know the Liberal Party have been behind this line of story because Fairfax journo Latika Bourke asked Abbott today why Liberal Party MPs have been backgrounding journalists about Gillard’s childless and marriageless state.

You know how it goes – a Lib MP goes up to a journo says, “You know off the record I’ve gotta say a lot of people have been coming up to me about how Julia doesn’t have any kids… I didn’t think it’d be a big issue but it’s really resonating out there – I think it’s something you guys should be taking more notice of”).

Most journalists would ignore it – but then there is The Oz…


The day started badly for Julia because she apparently made a gaffe in an interview with Alan Jones on 2GB. Now Jones is an old piece of work who if pensioned off would go someway to increasing the average IQ of Sydney. Unfortunately if he were to retire there would be some young right-wing version of him ready to take his place, because shock-jock talk back hosts like Jones are dime a dozen.

Jones was asking her when the company tax rate would be reduced to 28%. He was looking at the budget papers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that when Gillard did the deal with BHP etc they scraped the lowering of the rate to 28% and said 29% would be the limit.

Julia took a while to answer and then said it would come in in 2012-3. Jones jumped in and said she was wrong it would come in in 2013-14. Julia then came back saying for small businesses the drop would come in in 2012-13 but for all others it would only come in in 2013-14.


It was a small glitch, and won’t be noticed, especially because on tonight's Channel Nine news, Laurie Oakes delivered a true bombshell when he announced a Cabinet leak that Julia had opposed the introduction of the Government's Paid Parental Leave scheme and also questioned the increase in the pension.

According to Oakes’s source Julia opposed the PPL scheme because it would be unpopular with voters who did not have kids, and she noted that pensioners were not Labor supporters.

The big thing of the story is that obviously someone in Rudd’s former office or a Rudd supporter, or Rudd himself (though geez that would be low) obviously hates Gillard and would be happy to see her lose the election just out of spite.

That’s the pettiness of those who work for political parties folks.

The story also feeds in nicely to the Julia doesn’t have kids bit. Sigh.

Julia’s office responded by denying Julia’s opposition to the policies and added a dumb line about the leak being from the Liberal Party, which just gave Oakes a chance to say it wasn’t and that it came from “closer to home”.

Not for the first time I seriously have to wonder who is advising Gillard. They are doing a useless job. They screwed up the climate change policy with the dumb citizens’ assembly and today’s mental health policy, while good, was criticised by the two people who were absolutely guaranteed to be asked first by the media for a response – Patrick McGorry and John Mendoza. Their responses? McGorry said he was “devastated” and Mendoza said it was “simply patches on a broken system”.

How hard would it have been to get those two onside? How hard would it have been to say – look here’s what we’re thinking of doing, what do you think? How hard would it have been to come up with something that could have got one of them actually there at the bloody announcement? Yeah John Brogden being there was great. But c’mon you knew the media were going to go straight to McGorry and Mendoza didn’t you?

The ALP campaign has been useless. Yeah Abbott got off to a horrible start but he’s getting a free run from the media through basement levels of expectations. He was hopeless on the 7:30 Report last night and yet David Speers tweeted:

Abbott survives #730reportland. This discipline must be driving the alp mad

You see all Abbott has to do is not strip off and run nude around the set for him to do alright.


Am starting to worry about the election result. The wanker who is leaking to Oakes is obviously completely self centred and massively upset that his life at the top was cut short; the ALP policy seems to be conceived by fools who have no understanding of what questions will be asked by the media, and all momentum from last week’s good start is now lost.

Last Thursday I was pretty confident the ALP would win easily, right now I’m not even sure of a win (but I do go into funks, so I’ll be better soon!).

At least tomorrow’s CPI figures should be good news, but the way things are going I wouldn't be surprised if they’re not.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Election 2010: Day 10 part 2 (or polling gravity)

Well the latest Newspoll came out today, and shock of all shock the numbers for the ALP went down from last week’s fairly unbelievable 55-45 to 52-48.

For me that’s not much of a story -  I thought the last Newspoll should have been more 53-54, and this one more like 52-53 – so bugger all movement in reality. And given a Galaxy Poll come out at 52-50 (the same as it did last week), and an Essential Media Poll came out at 55-45 (the same as last week), you’d be hard pressed to say there’s been any great shifts.

Possum over at Crikey has done an outstanding job showing the true trend of all the polls:


It says it all really.

The big shift to focus on for me was that of Julia’s performance. She went from a net satisfaction of 19 to one of 4. A big jump in her dissatisfaction rating. Given the poll would have been conducted straight after her mind numbingly stupid climate change policy, I think this is proof that whoever advised her to adopt the citizen’s panel should be taken out back and shot (or at least told that his or her job would from now on be to get the coffee each morning and do the photo copying).

On Preferred PM, Julia lead was also cut – from 57-27 to 50-34. Effectively halved. Not good Julia. How about you bloody well decide to lead the country??!

(Geez ALP is it so bloody hard??)

Interestingly here are the election campaign Newspolls from 2001, 2004 and 2007:

5-7 October 2001 56.5 43.5
12-14 October 2001 55.5 44.5
19-21 October 2001 52 48
26-28 October 2001 54 46
2-4 November 2001 51 49
7-8 November 2001 53 47
RESULT 51 49


3-5 September 2004 50 50
10-12 September 2004 50 50
17-19 September 2004 47.5 52.5
24-26 September 2004 48 52
1-3 October 2004 50.5 49.5
6-7 October 2004 50 50
RESULT 52.7 47.3


19-21 October 2007 42 58
26-28 October 2007 46 54
2-4 November 2007 47 53
9-11 November 2007 45 55
16-18 November 2007 46 54
20-22 November 2007 48 52
RESULT 47.3 52.7

The lesson being, that even when an opposition is ahead in the polls as it was for a time in 2004 it is hard to win. For an opposition to win it needs to be consistently in front and in front by a big margin – like Rudd in 2007 . There has never been a surprise win by an opposition party at a Federal election – it has always been pretty well obvious that it was going to happen – it was in 1972, 1975, 1983, 1996, and 2007.

There was one crucial question in today’s Newspoll – who did people think would win – 65 percent said the ALP and only 17 percent said the LNP. That’s not enough. If Abbott is to win he will have to do what no opposition leader has ever been able to do.

The problem for him is that this week he has decided to make his big push for cost of living pressures to be the be all and end all. 0.13B2!OpenElement&FieldElemFormat=gif

0.CFC!OpenElement&FieldElemFormat=gif This is based around the CPI figures due to come out on Wednesday, and interest rates next week. The problem for him is that today the Producer Prices Index came out.  It showed they had increased by only 0.3% in the June quarter – well below the expected figure of 0.8%. What does this mean? Well the March PPL figures rose by 1.0% and the CPI for that same quarter rose by 0.9% – so they are closely linked. This suggests Wednesday’s CPI figures will be below the 0.8% quarterly increase which many see as the tipping point on the RBA deciding whether or not to increase rates next week – over 0.8% and it’ll be hard for them not too, under 0.8% and I seriously doubt they would (right on 0.8% and well you got a coin toss).


The market has not taken full account of the figures yet but there was a slight shift away from the previous days’ trend:

Trading Day No Change Increase to 4.75%
15-Jul 82% 18%
16-Jul 84% 16%
19-Jul 87% 13%
20-Jul 78% 22%
21-Jul 76% 24%
22-Jul 76% 24%
23-Jul 73% 27%
26-Jul 76% 24%

The Libs need interest rates to go up, or their debt and deficit argument will lose a lot of weight.  If the rates stay where they are the ALP could run adverts in the last 2 weeks about low interest rates; if they go up, the Libs will be the ones running those adverts. On today’s figures that seems less likely to happen. We wait for Wednesday.

Election 2010: Day 10 (or post debate blues)

Today the media was full of the debate – how it was a tie how it was boring etc etc. Much was made of how no one made any gaffes. Little was made of what I think was a very stupid and pretty condescending remark by Abbott in his final address:

So this election will determine whether the Prime Minister is to be elected by the people or by the powerbrokers, whether Prime Ministers are to be chosen on the basis of the job they’ve done or gender…

Yep he actually thinks this election is about males versus females. Just imagine if John McCain during the 2008 Presidential election had said:

So this election will determine whether the President is to be elected by the people or by the powerbrokers, whether Presidents are to be chosen on the basis of the job they’ve done or race…

Yep, you got it – there would be absolute saturation coverage. In the Australian media? Meh. And I guess I can’t blame them, after all they’re busy bitching on twitter about how hard life is on the campaign trail – you know how evil Gillard is for not allowing them to go into the hospital wards with her (because a pack of journos standing around beds twiddling their thumbs and doing nothing would be just what you’d want if you were sick in hospital). Matthew Franklin decided to get his Walkley Award entry in for the year by busting open the story that political parties engage in media management.

Party operatives telephoned journalists this morning to advise them on what questions they should ask Tony Abbott.

Franklin seriously thinks it is news that the ALP organisation rings up journalists to tell them what they think the media should focus on. Personally for mine, the real story was that the Liberal Party wasn’t doing it as well – it certainly suggests they aren't very well organised. I did find the entire article somewhat surprising as well given that a good 90 percent of what Franklin writes seems to be word for word the Liberal Party talking points of the day, so I just assumed he was used to taking advice from political parties. Guess I was wrong. How nice.

r607198_3988125Franklin ended off this piece with this little observation:

Most of the journalists reckoned they could make up their own questions.

Well having observed many of Franklin’s efforts at press conferences and the health debate I wouldn’t be so bold were I him…

Which brings us onto last night’s debate. For the Health Debate I had a look at the questions, reasoning that the answers were all pap. The same can be said of last night, so let’s see how Chris Uhlmann, Laura Tingle, Malcolm Farr and David Speer as moderator went:

SPEERS:      Tony Abbott, thank you, before we get to questions from our panel, I just want to kick off with a couple of the broad themes you’ve both raised there.  Prime Minister, first to you.  When you did bring down Kevin Rudd a month ago, you acknowledged that it was because the Government had lost its way and you said there were three areas that needed to be fixed – asylum seekers, the mining tax and climate change.  But on asylum seekers, boats are still arriving.  There’s still no real solution there.  On the mining the tax, big sections of the mining industry are still deeply concerned about the tax and on climate change you’ve proposed another talk fest.  Have we really moved forward?

A decent first up question – though his characterisations of the three policies could have come straight from a Liberal Party advert. Gillard did well on the first 2, but on climate change she was not up to it – mostly because her policy is complete and utter tosh.

speers_200x240 SPEERS:      Tony Abbott, the Liberals have churned through three leaders in three years.  You were installed as leader by just one vote in the party room at the end of last year.  You yourself have changed your position on things like WorkChoices and on climate change, on the emissions trading scheme, and you described yourself as a bit of a weather vane on this at one point.  And you’ve also acknowledged that you don’t always tell the gospel truth.  So how can we be sure what you will do in government?

Another good question that Abbott completely ignored. Abbott’s first point was to talk about asylum seekers – do you see any mention of that in Speers’ question? Nope neither did I. Abbott then talked about the MRRT – again something Speers did not ask him about. He then talked very quickly about climate change only to bash Gillard’s policy.

UHLMANN: I’ve got a question to you both but Ms Gillard first though.  Do you think that occasionally the courage to stand against the mob is a sign of a true leader, and if so, can you both give us one example of how you demonstrated that in this campaign.

A good question which neither of them really answered – both picked “tough” policies which they actually think are popular. Tough apparently now is standing up to unions.

Speers made note of this to Julia:

SPEERS:      Prime Minister, can I just pull you up on the main example you cited there of your courage on My School.  You had overwhelming popular support for that.  It was the unions who were the only ones opposed.

Laura Tingle then had her first go:

tingle TINGLE: I’ve got a question for you, Mr Abbott, and it goes to that point you’ve just been making about the Intergenerational Report.  The Coalition in government actually pursued big population policies, partly driven by that report.  Everything from the baby bonus through to luring overseas students here with a promise of permanent residency.  It was this policy that produced the 300,000 peak in population in 2008 in net migration.  Isn't your policy announcement today just really undoing the damage you caused on population policy in government?

Brilliant question from the best political journalist in the country. Abbott had no hope in even approaching a direct answer to it as Speers’ noted:

SPEERS:      Tony Abbott, just to pull you up on that, getting back to Laura’s question, wasn't it the Howard Government that set the laws in place that started to allow, particularly the foreign students that you seem to be concerned about, to come in?

It was Abbott’s worst moment because Julia got in on the question and drilled him with the facts.

Next up Malcolm Farr:

photo_internal FARR:            Ms Gillard you’ve started canvassing the region to find a host for a processing centre for asylum seekers, before they touch Australian territory. What is a reasonable time frame for having one of those centres operational? Would you guarantee you'll have a processing centre operational in your next term of Government?

Oh here we go – asylum seekers. Yep the big issue that we are all worried about. Sigh. An ok question from Farr I guess – but I would have asked what was Plan B. Still it was a fair question. Julia didn’t give a guarantee – in fact she ruled out giving one saying that dialogue is ongoing. Speers piped in:

SPEERS:      Just to be clear, no guarantee on when it....

Next up Chris Uhlmann for his second go:

UHLMANN:  Well Tony Abbott you talk about a ‘pre-election fudge’, do you think you should tell the Australian people 90% of the asylum seekers that went to Nauru ended up in Australia, anyway? Don’t you think you, shouldn't you be upfront with the Australian people and say this is weigh station on the way to Australia?

Excellent question. And “fair dinkum”, Tony dodged it. At this point it really would have been nice if Speers was a bit more proactive on the follow ups – but I guess time was a wasting (one hour for these things is utterly useless).

Laura Tingle up for her second dig:

TINGLE:        Ms Gillard, the economic statement released by the Treasurer notes that the world economic outlook is very uncertain. Last week seven European banks failed regulator stress tests, and another seven US banks were taken over by regulators. The Government has committed to return the Budget to surplus in three years. Are you prepared to reassess your policy settings, stimulate the economy further to protect jobs and delay the return to surplus if the economy is dragged down by the global economy?

A major policy wonk question, but I have to say an unanswerable one. If the US and Europe do go into a double dip recession the Government will need to assess things at  that time – you can’t say what you will do if something happens at some unspecified time. The truth is no one would know what would be the best thing to do at that time until they get to that time – as Julia pointed out in this little follow up exchange with Speers

SPEERS:      But PM just quickly, the question is about double dip recession.  If that happens are you going to stimulate the economy again?
PM:  Well whilst there are some troubling international signs, I am not, not predicting that.
SPEERS:      You’re not ruling it in or out.

Abbott of course completely ignored the issue and just blathered on about waste and debt. It rated nicely with the worms because as I have previously stated the Rudd Government wouldn’t know how to sell ice-cream to a bunch of kids at the beach on the hottest day in December. Useless they were at selling the stimulus. They got us out of a recession, and yet people think the BER and insulation schemes were wasteful. Geez, who are advising these guys? They really need to be shown the door. 

Farr comes in for his second innings:

FARR:            Mr Abbott I think it was last Sunday you were in western Sydney and you were listing the increases in the cost of living that had been hitting families. I think at one stage you mentioned bread prices had gone up 11%.
ABBOTT:      12% I think. 11.7%.
FARR:            I’m glad you remembered that, I had forgotten that detail. Can you remember what policies you would implement in Government specifically referring to groceries, that would keep prices down?

Great question by Farr – one that Abbott had no chance of answering, because there is no chance that any Govt could keep grocery prices down. Abbott also looked very smarmy jumping in with his correction. Abbott then fudged by saying what he wouldn't do. Speers’ did some good follow-up:

SPEERS:      But just to be specific on Malcolm's question, what would you do to reduce grocery prices, or keep them down?

Abbott of course did not answer it. Gillard was able to get in with some good jabs about Abbott’s idiotic levy on businesses to pay for his stupid paid parental leave scheme. We’ll be hearing a lot more of that over the next four weeks.

Onto the third go round:

chris_uhlmann UHLMANN:  Ms Gillard, Australia is committed to a target of 5% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and you're committed to putting on a carbon price. How long can we go before we reach the point of no return? What year will we get to where Australia can't meet that cut because you've delayed for too long.  And you yourself said last year, you said, “to delay is to deny?”

Dumb question because it depends on what efforts we put in place to cut the emissions. Julia didn’t say this – which she should have – so Speers came in again:

SPEERS:      But PM the question is, have you been advised, there's a point at which, a date at which it's too late and we fail to meet the target we've committed to?
PM:     I think we can do what we have committed to do.  I believe we can get there.  We’ll get there with the cap on carbon pollution.
SPEERS:      When does that have to happen?

Pity she didn’t give him an exact date – you know 18th June 2016. I guess that’s what they were after. Abbott didn’t say anything of any worth on the issue because he has nothing of any worth to say on the issue.

TINGLE:        Mr Abbott, you've declared industrial relations reform essentially off limits for the next term of Parliament in the last week. How does this fit with the productivity agenda, particularly when you're proposing taxes to go up on companies by three percentage points?

Excellent question – though were I Tingle I would have quoted some of Abbott’s Budget reply speech at him. Abbott dodged it, so Speers came in:

SPEERS:      But Tony Abbott if you believe that reform is in the interests of boosting productivity why don't you lead on this.  Why don't you convince Australians that this is the way to go?

He fudged again – because of course he has no credibility at all on this issue.

FARR:            Ms Gillard, your award modernisation process. You said that no employees or employers would be worse off.  There have been some workers who've had to apply for some sort of relief because of changes in awards. There's no such facility for employers.  Many of them, who are small businesses, they are paying more.  Will you change the structure of the revamped awards so that these employers - again I say, many of them small businesses, can get some relief, as well?

Bit of a nothing question really.

UHLMANN:  Julia Gillard, you’ve said that you won't speak about the conversation that you had with Kevin Rudd. Fair enough.  You've said you won't speak about what happens in Cabinet.  Again, fair enough.  But can you give us a simple number. How many times did you warn Kevin Rudd that his government, your government was on the wrong track before you took his job?  Was it once?  Was it twice? Was it three strikes and you're out?  How many times did you tell him, did you warn him, before you took his job?

Worst question of the night. Has nothing to do with policy, has nothing to do with the next 3 years. Very much a “look at me” question. Speers also wanted to get in on the act.

SPEERS:      Just quickly, Prime Minister, Chris’ question is not about what was said in confidentiality but just how many warnings?  Were there three, were there none?

Bad work by both.

Last one:

TINGLE:        I had a question for both of you, or questions for both of you, on Afghanistan.  A conference of a lot of Australia’s allies in Kabul last week was talking about a 2014 exit strategy.  Ms Gillard, do you intend sticking with the former Prime Minister’s stated ambition to withdraw troops in two to four years time and, Mr Abbot, in light of the Kabul conference, is sending more troops still an appropriate strategy to pursue if you were in Government?

Nice question, but given the almost bipartisan nature on Afghanistan it didn't yield much.

So all in all some very good question. Some bit dopey ones, but at least no hack-Liberal shill questions like there were in the Health Debate. Well done to all four journos involved, as good as one could hope given the format. Only Uhlmann’s last question should have been left un-asked, other than that no side could have any reason for complaint. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Election 2010: Day 9 (or the debate that we’ve already forgotten)

And so there was a debate.

Did it change anything? Of course not.

Who won? I’ll give it to Tony. He scored some points on the “waste” of the stimulus (demonstrating what I have long said that Rudd and Co were USELESS at selling the performance of the stimulus – it kept us out of a recession and yet people have swallowed the debt and deficit line). And he wasn’t completely hated. So well done – I guess he did learn from the Health Debate.

The women controlling the worms did hate him; but the blokes didn’t really love Julia either – especially when she talked about defeating Rudd (perhaps the thought of a women defeating a male just hurt  their egos a bit, because in my experience those who have expressed most reservations with the dumping of Rudd has been women).

Overall the worm was probably on average spent more time in the positive zone higher for Abbott than for Julia, but interestingly her final address was viewed more positively than Abbott’s.

But does anyone care? No of course not. It won’t change a vote. The election is not for 4 weeks. By then you really think anyone will remember anything said tonight? I can’t remember what either of them said 4 weeks ago, and I’;m a political junkie. 99% of the population are not. By the time Masterchef finishes it’ll all be forgotten. 

And this debate was easily the worst I can recall (well at least going back to Ray Martin asking Paul Keating and John Howard what was the price of a carton of milk).

The issues that got a look in – asylum seekers, immigration, the rolling of Kevin Rudd, climate change, Afghanistan and then (just for something weird) the stimulus.

Health? Education? Infrastructure? The economy? Nup

And the questions were pretty lame as well. Julia Gillard was asked if she had been advised of an exact date by which it will be too late to act on climate change. Seriously. I thought it was common knowledge that 1:30pm 24 May 2018 was the due date for action.

Seriously, these were the three best journos in the country?

Chris Uhlmann’s question on what Julia had said behind closed doors to Kevin Rudd was one appropriate for the 7:30 Report but not for a debate about policy for the next three years. He showed a complete lack of understanding of the occasion, and like an annoying umpire in a footy game, thought the debate was all about him.

Maybe he was just pissed that Speers got to moderate it and not him.

Mark Riley on Channel 7 said there were no losers which meant Tony Abbott won. I do like a good bit of solipsism with my political analysis.

For me? I’m watching Masterchef with the rest of the country, unable to believe that Callum doesn’t know the middle pot contains Hollandaise sauce.

It will be interesting to see how the debate rates. In 2007 it was highly anticipated, and highly watched. If anyone but the most politically interested survived till the end, I’d be much surprised. I even found it a struggle.