Today it was once again duelling morning press conferences. This is how it is done – do an interview on Sunrise or the Today Show; then head off for a press conference somewhere, followed by another meet and greet, then whoosh off to some other part of the country to do it all again with possibly a stop by 730 Reportland to go head to head with Kerry. All of these should be on the party’s YouTube channels, but which are not…(so much for the social media election…)
Those watching the Abbott press conference where he was joined with Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb to announce some pretty soft budget cuts (eg cutting Australia's bid for the UN Security Council – yep that’ll have ‘em rioting in the streets) who then saw Julia Gillard give hers at a school in Richmond, NSW would have been struck by the difference.
Julia was doing it easy – figures at her fingertips, laughing at the kids in the background yelling out stuff, not once being ruffled. She looked like she had all the time in the world to deal with each delivery – for example:
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, are you running an overly stage managed campaign? And when will you get out on the streets and in the shopping centres of Australia and start mixing with everyday voters.
PM: Well, I’m surprised to hear you ask that question actually because i got out on the streets in Townsville yesterday. Got out on the streets in Townsville, had a coffee and met with a number of locals in the coffee shop I was in and the adjacent coffee shop, had a chat with them, many photographs taken. Later in the day I went to The Strand are in Townsville, that beautiful Strand and the waterfront restaurants there and once again met local people who were in two of the waterfront restaurants. I had the opportunity to have a chat with them and then, because I wanted to see what some of my friends from the media were up to I joined them, where they were having coffee and had the opportunity to catch up with some Townsville locals there as well.
I can’t recall who asked this one – but given Matt Franklin’s article in The Oz, it was probably him, but how about the nice line at the end – pointing out one of the coffee shops she went to was the one where the journos themselves were having a drink? Nice bit of snark.
She was also asked a very good question about the trade-training centres:
JOURNALIST: What of your promise on trades training, you’ve only delivered trades training centres to 45 schools out of your promised over 2,000 three years ago. What’s happened?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, I’m very glad you asked me that question Mark because that gives me the opportunity to outline to you how our trade training centres in schools program is on track. We’re getting some encouragement from over there. We have 22 trade training centres completed providing trades education for 70 schools. By the start of the next school year there will be 68 completed, making a difference for 173 schools. (laughs). Getting some great encouragement. [this was when some kids yelled out to her from across the playground]
We have funded 230 projects across 732 schools. In the 2007 campaign we said this would be a 10 year program, it is a 10 year program being delivered exactly as we promised. And you do give me the opportunity to correct a misrepresentation, continuously made by the Opposition about this program, this is a program where we promised that each of the 2,650 schools in this country for 10 years would be eligible for a grant between $500,000 and $1.5 million to develop or refurbish a trades centre.
We left it open to schools, if they wanted to do that as a stand alone or work with other schools to get a bigger facility. Many of them have chosen to make a bigger facility. Now that has been portrayed by the Opposition as us somehow cutting back this program. That is untrue and an unfair criticism of the decision that school principals have made to work with other schools.
Look at those figures reeled off without a second thought. No notes to refer to. No public servant briefs. Just: Boom Boom Boom.
JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott, two questions. Firstly, the $1.2 billion in savings you’ve announced today. What programs will be cut to generate those savings and secondly, when you talk about higher interest rates under Labor, how does that work when you had a surplus budget under the Coalition and we saw the highest interest rates there in quite some time. It doesn’t quite make sense.
TONY ABBOTT: The point I make on the cuts that we’ve announced today is that they are cuts to bureaucracy. They are not cuts to service. On the details, I’ll ask Andrew Robb to go through if you like, line by line. On the second question, look, the more the Government borrows, the higher the pressure on interest rates because at any given level of economic demand, if the Government is in there borrowing more, interest rate pressure will be higher. As Joe says, the Government is the 800 pound gorilla out there in the loan market and that’s why, if we get Government borrowings down, we’ll get the pressure off interest rates, but I’ll ask Joe to further expand on that.
So you want details? Here’s Andrew. You want actual explanation of that economic theory thingo? Here’s Joe. Not impressive, Tony.
Then there was this on IR:
JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott, you’ve tried to deliver a cleaner and clearer line in your early interviews today on workplace relations, but Julie Bishop was saying something slightly different to you again last night. Are you completely confident – the question is, are you completely confident that all of your colleagues in the Liberal and National Coalition are happy with the Party’s current position on WorkChoices?
TONY ABBOTT: Look, we have a clear position. What I’ve said today, what Julie Bishop said last night, is completely consistent with our clear position. There’s a statement on the website. Our position is all completely consistent with that statement. Thank you.
Oh good – “go to our website”. That’s real bold.
Joe Hockey did however have a line that “cut through”:
“Wayne Swan is to surpluses what Paris Hilton is to celibacy they remember it once existed but they'll never see it again.”
Oh dear. Great work Joe you really took down Paris Hilton there, what a hard target.
Look I know Hilton is pretty well known for the tapes of her getting up to some under the sheets fun, but really Joe and Tony – you think it’s a good look for a couple old white guys to laugh about a girl being, in your opinion, a slut? And OK what he said is not the worst thing of all time to say, but c’mon Joe – you obviously rehearsed the line, if you needed to pick on a celebrity with a propensity for sexual goings on, couldn’t you have picked on a bloke? like, gee I don’t know how about: “Wayne Swan is to spending like Shane Warne is to text messages”.
Or even better just leave it all alone. Play it straight – because you’ll just either look like a wanker or an old fuddy duddy who doesn't mind alienating any women under the age of 30 who has had more than one boyfriend.
In 2008 John McCain’s campaign did the same thing – comparing Obama to Paris Hilton. She responded with an video that took him down brilliantly.
It’s no big thing, but it feeds into a perception about the Abbott campaign – it’s all a bit of a mess, a bit old, a bit white male, and a bit “just one phrase from entering gaffeville”.
The organisation isn’t helping them either. Some bright spark in the Liberal Party decided that tomorrow night Tony Abbott should go on Hey Hey It’s Saturday as a judge of Red Faces.
You see it fits in nicely with the Liberal Party jingle which sounds like it came straight out of 1983.
Has anyone in the Liberal Party seen how well Hey Hey is rating? Here’s the ratings for last Wednesday night:
- MasterChef (Ten) (7.30pm) -- 2.210 million
- Seven News (6pm) -- 1.498 million.
- Today Tonight (Seven) (6.30pm) -- 1.394 million.
- Nine News (6pm) -- 1.370 million.
- The Gruen Transfer (ABC) (9pm ) -- 1.341 million.
- A Current Affair (Nine) (6.30pm) -- 1.237 million.
- Spicks and Specks (ABC) (8.30pm) -- 1.230 million.
- Two and a Half Men (Nine) (7pm) -- 1.125 million.
- ABC News (7pm) -- 1.075 million.
- Home and Away (Seven) (7pm) -- 1.054 million.
Hey Hey on the other hand had 851,000 viewers. Not good at all – in fact so bad it is “going on a break” after this week’s episode. This week Kylie Minogue is on, but as it will be going up against Masterchef in its last week and also The Gruen Transfer and the return of The Chaser – fugheddabouddit, it;ll rate next to bugger all.
The big problem with Hey Hey (now there’s a phrase that’s damn hard to keep to the singular) is that it is not short – you don’t actually know when the Red Faces segment will be on. So if you want to see just Abbott you have to keep watching – people aren’t going to do that. The show only rates at all in Melbourne (it’s always been a parochial Victorian show), but this election won’t be won there. So in effect it’s a waste of time that will have little upside for Abbott – and a fair bit of downside if Red Symonds lets rip with a few barbs or some of the acts are on the politically incorrect side. .
David Penberthy of The Punch suggested Abbott shouldn’t just judge he should do an act, and asked people “what should Abbott do on Red Faces tomorrow night?” I suggested “concede”. The only problem of course is that hardly anyone would know he had done it.
As I have been saying for quite awhile, the big day of the election campaign is next Wednesday when the next lot of inflation figures come out. My opinion is that the only way the Liberal Party can win is if the RBA raises interest rates in July. That won’t mean they will win if that happens, but if they don’t I think you can lock in the ALP for an easy win.
Today the minutes of the last RBA Board meeting came out. They contained this bit on inflation:
Consumer price inflation data for the June quarter would be published on 28 July, and the staff expected them to show the underlying rate of inflation continuing to moderate in year-ended terms, to be below 3 per cent for the first time in three years. CPI inflation was, however, expected to rise to a little above 3 per cent, partly due to the effects of higher taxes on tobacco.
And they ended with this:
Members noted that the coming month would see important announcements about the health of the European banking sector, which had the potential to have a significant impact on financial markets and global confidence. There would also be an updated reading on domestic prices. This was expected to show further moderation in the year-ended underlying rate, although underlying inflation was likely to remain in the top half of the target range over the period ahead. Headline inflation was expected to rise, owing to the effects of some tax increases, with the year-ended increase in the CPI rising above 3 per cent. The important question for the Board at its next meeting would be whether the new information materially changed the medium-term outlook for inflation.
Pending this information, the Board judged it appropriate to hold the cash rate unchanged.
So there are a couple things they are going to consider. First the inflation figures next week – they expect a slight rise in the CPI, but the underlying inflation should be pretty steady. If something unexpected occurs, they’ll be tempted to put their hands on the interest rate break. Secondly though (and the one thing in the Governments favour) is news from overseas – and that is unlikely to be good. America is staring a double dip recession in the face, and Europe is well… not good.
The one problem for the Libs in all of this (again I really should be using the plural there) is their big economic whiz is Joe Hockey. Here’s him on interest rates and cost of living:
JOE HOCKEY: The thing about interest rates is this: there has been a significant change in the dynamics of various markets around the world. Governments are borrowing more than ever before. There is greater offshore demand for money than ever before because governments around the world have large debts and very large deficits. The amount of sovereign bonds on issue is going to be at record levels over the next few years. Australia is a massive importer of money and there’s two ways you can manage the economy. One is, you can have the Government competing for that money with the private sector or else the money can be going to the private sector and the Government is adding to the savings.
Now, when you run a surplus, you’re adding to national savings and if you’re adding to national savings, that means the Government in fact is a lender to Australian businesses. Now, the Australian Government is borrowing from Australian businesses and borrowing in a big way.
Interesting, and here I thought the Liberal Party were worried about the Government borrowing money form the Chinese… And I do like how Joe thinks the Australian Government is an 800 pound gorilla in the international bond market. Has he seen the size of the international bond market? It’s at least $82 trillion dollars. If Joe thinks the Australian Government's debt issue of around $153 billion is anything but a stone drop in a big poll of water he is a fool.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hockey, the Reserve Bank in Estimates, when they explain their decisions, they’re not talking about government debt or spending…
JOE HOCKEY: No, they’re talking about inflation. And the inflationary pressure out there is coming, from the Government spending so much in competition with the private sector. If you look at the costs of some…if you look at some of the competition in building services. When you’ve got a builder who’s charging $10,000 a square metre for the BER in competition with a home builder who is trying to put up a house for $1500 a square metre to make housing more affordable.
Err well a builder is not going to raise his price of building a home because another builder is building a school hall – because the prices are not comparable. The only way the BER might raise prices is if all the labourers in your town/city were building school halls and the only way you could get someone build your house was for him to pay the labourers more than normal to stop them from earring that money on the school hall , and also if he had to buy the materials at a higher cost because all of them were being used to build school halls and thus suppliers could charge over the odds. But the capacity constraints of the economy are not that tight. Especially now as the impact of the stimulus is negative on GDP growth.
There are inflationary pressures. The other inflationary pressures are higher utility prices, higher water prices. Now we’re seeing wages breakouts. And why? Because the Labor Party has failed to address the real needs of increasing participation in the Australian employment sector. We’re the only people that have a participation policy. Our participation policy is engaging PPL, which Tony has talked about. Paid parental leave. About helping parents to get back into the workforce faster. We need more workers in parts of Australia, and the best way to do that is to improve participation. We’ll be announcing new measures during the course of this election.
And I’m not quite sure “wage breakouts” are occurring because of a lack of paid parental leave (especially not in the building industry). And surely if there are wage breakouts you’d like to have a good IR system in place wouldn’t you? Oh wait, the Libs have departed the field on that issue… And really are there many breakouts? Here’s all the RBA said on wages in Australia:
The federal minimum wage decision was for an increase of 4.8 per cent from 1 July, following the wage freeze last year. According to staff estimates, this implied an average increase for all workers on awards of around 3½ per cent, and was expected to have only a relatively small effect on overall wage growth.
Though they did note that wages in China were growing strongly, perhaps that’s what confused Joe…
And so it goes on.
There’ll be a debate this Sunday – 6:30pm to avoid the Masterchef finale – because if they were to go head to head it’d rate only slightly higher than an episode of Hey Hey, and there wouldn’t be much point to that would there?