Monday, November 15, 2010

On the QT: This Question Time needs an anonymous troll

So Parliament is back. Let’s get excited.

There are Private Members Bills on Wild Rivers, Going to War, $2 ATM fees and NBN Transparency. The times they are a changin’. But Question Time? Meet the new Question Time, same as the old Question Time.

Actually that is not quite true, it is worse. Julia started in brilliant form today, letting rip into Abbott when up piped Speaker Harry Jenkins calling her to order and to get back to the question. You get the feeling Harry goes to the cricket to watch Billy Bowden umpire. The rest of us want to see the game played. Let ‘em go Harry; the changes to Question Time were pretty well a joke once they made sure Dorothy Dixers remained, so stop pretending the world is new. There has been one rule change which does give Harry a new job, and he should keep strictly to it – that of  time keeper.

The opposition attack was opened by Tony Abbott. It was pretty obvious early on that the Liberal Party has been spending what little remains of its funds on focus group testing the phrase “lost its way”:

"I remind the Prime Minister of her statement in June that the Government had lost its way. When does she expect to find her way by setting out some clear, direct, specific and deliverable policies to stop the tax rises, to stop the cost-of-living rises and above all else, to stop the boats?"

That was it. That was the best he could come up with for the first delivery of the the day. It brought to mind Steve Harmison’s first delivery in the Brisbane Test of the 06/07 Ashes series. image

The question was in effect a Dorothy Dixer that allowed Gillard to talk about anything she wanted to. She quickly got into stride:

“You’ve got to give the Leader of the Opposition this: once he’s told a slogan by a focus group he never deviates from it… driven by focus groups every day of the week…. He's showing all the political maturity of a two-year-old in a tantrum after the election. It's about time he got over it and actually started contributing to national debates”

The problem of course is that Abbott will never do any such thing. He got where he is in the polls (or at least where the Liberal Party is) through the three word slogan. He received lavish praise for his discipline during the campaign of sticking to his mantra (discipline is much more important than policies). Whenever he accidentally utters something of his own, it is almost guaranteed to be a thought bubble that has the rest of the Liberal Part front bench wondering why they hell they elected this goose. So there is no way he will deviate from it now.

Abbott as is his usual form – followed up with a supplementary (seriously, who came  up with this dumb rule about allowing only one supplementary per Question Time?). The supplementary was as dopey as it gets:

"Does she agree with former Labor minister Graham Richardson that the Government has no agenda and no plan?”

Yes, the Liberal Party are now holding up Richo as the bastion of judgement on the need for vision of political parties. The supplementary allowed Julia to absolutely rip into Abbott by listing off all the challenges facing the nation and comparing Abbott’s attitude:

I say in answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition: would it not strike Australians as strange that, in a world where there are so many challenges—how do we keep our economy strong and how do we ready our economy for the future? How do we tackle climate change? How do we make sure that every child in this country gets a great quality education and how do we make sure we have the healthcare services that Australians deserve not only today but in 10, 20 and 30 years time as our society ages? How do we make sure that we have world-class infrastructure right around the country? How do we make sure that we have balanced growth in an economy where our resources sector is obviously going so strong but things like the high dollar are impacting on other industries and other parts of the country? How do we reconcile and improve the prospects and life expectancy of Indigenous Australians; how do we close the gap? How do we as a world deal with the challenges of food security, development and freer trade?

In the face of all these challenges, that the Leader of the Opposition would come into this place and use the precious minutes of question time to yet again play politics—we do not expect anything more from a man whose entire philosophy can be reduced to a few three-word slogans.

Now that is a long bloody list, and I am in now way saying the ALP is all over these issues, but Gillard listed them off without as need for prompting. It’s a good list  Perhaps one that we should keep in mind when we want to think about what the ALP stands for.

Chris Pyne at this point got up for a pointless point of order (except to try and stop Gillard’s attack) whereupon she responded that she didn’t agree with John Howard about much, but she agreed with him on Chris Pyne – alluding top Howard autobiography where he pretty much dismissed Pyne as just a Costello activist who mishandled the issue of Costello’s leadership. image

At this Jenkins piped up for the PM to get back to the question (which earned him a bit of a sharp glance from Gillard). She then proceeded to tear into Abbott, at which point Jenkins seeing a chance to get involved again tried to stop Gillard from “debating the question” and then after a few more “orders” told her to conclude her answer.

Yeah thanks Harry. We’re so indebted to you to ensure keep things in check.

Julie Bishop was up next, and she didn’t need to wait for a supplementary: she named checked Richo straight up! She thought she had Julia a beauty when she asked when was she going to stop using the three word slogan on asylum seekers of “Regional Processing Centre”. It got an incredibly forced “ha ha ha” from Abbott and a wonderful “Puerile!” from Albanese. And I can’t really better that for commentary.

The interesting aspect of the opposition’s questions was the utter lack of acknowledgment of the OECD Economic Report on Australia released yesterday. The Report contained this about the NBN:

“Empirical studies have stressed that value of competition between technological platforms for the dissemination of broadband services”

Yes I know, you’re shocked. It certainly got Michael Stutchbury all frothy. Usually you would expect the opposition to use such a report to attack the Government – especially on a day they were debating the NBN. But Turnbull didn’t even get a question, instead Alan Tudge asked a question on the NBN. Tudge??! So much for Turnbull being charged with destroying the NBN. You’d think the tactics committee might actually give him a few questions with which to do it… (it suggests perhaps that Turnbull doesn;t hold a hell of a lot of sway in the tactics committee – or perhaps more that Abbott is worried about giving him too much oxygen)

The OECD report had some interesting things – Peter Martin has 4 good excerpts – but I do like this bit on the NBN:

“Such a monopolistic incumbent [theNBN Co] could forestall the development of as yet unknown technological advances”

Wow, the OECD must be watching a lot of Star Trek if they think something that is faster than the speed of light is going to be invented. I can’t wait for the hyper-drive broadband network.

This is an often refrain of those against the NBN – that it is picking winners and we don’t know what the future holds. The problem of course is that it cuts both ways. We don’t know what we will be using the NBN for in 20 years anymore than in 1990 we knew what would be using the internet for in 2010 – but we’re supposedly not allowed to consider that.

As for the rest of QT, well Joe got in a question on the banks. It was not exactly a yorker – mostly because it was all ties up in the laboured “lost its way” spiel.

My favourite question was Greg Hunt once again getting up and refuting his pervious views on a price on carbon:

My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to President Obama’s abandonment of a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme for the world’s largest economy. As the Prime Minister herself rejected an emissions trading scheme during the period of the Rudd government, which she said had lost its way, can she explain how increasing electricity prices for Australian consumers rather than cleaning up power stations is somehow the government finding its way?

Whew. Glad to know that all we need to do now is clean up those dirty power stations and all will be good! And does Hunt really suggest we should just follow America’s politics? That we should just do something because the Republican Party are against it? The Republicans voted against a pretty piss poor health care bill last year, does that mean the Libs think Australia should dump Medicare? What idiocy.

Gillard dispatched this weak delivery over the fence:

Australia is not an American state. We will make our own decisions in our national interest. The mid-term elections in America did not determine policy for us. We are Australians; we will make our own decisions. …. The most efficient way of reducing carbon pollution is to put a price on carbon pollution. I am of that view; economists are of that view; President Obama is of that view. Right around the world nations are working through how best to deal with carbon, including pricing carbon.

She then pointed out something that those who would have us believe we’re rushing to lead the world do not want us to know:

If the member does want to slavishly follow American examples—and I believe we are Australians and we will make our own decisions—then perhaps he would want to look to the example of California. As he would well know, if California were a nation it would be sitting at the table of the G20. It has moved to price carbon in its economy.

She ended:

Members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, have had every position possible on this, the Leader of the Opposition changing his mind every 24 hours—famously called a weather vane by the member for Wentworth. Now is the time to put those politics aside and to work with the government on something so clearly in our national interest. National interest before political interest: try it just once.

It was a good response, and Gillard certainly showed some good mojo – she seems to need parliament to get some. Lets hope after her Christmas break she finds it outside of the chamber as well.

The rest of QT? Have to say I couldn't be bothered – get a copy of one from earlier this year. You won’t notice much different.


There’s been a few interesting things written about Paul Howes’s comments on anonymous trolls on the internet. I was going to write a response, but Chas Licciardello pretty much said it all for me.

Will not be blogging till Friday – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday see me having a life!


Coldsnacks said...

" It has moved to price carbon in its economy."

Whilst possibly neither here nor there, California is also flat broke, with some public stories of teachers and other public servants/gov't employees not getting paid.

Maybe pricing carbon is for them, less about the environment and more about balancing the ledger

Sonia Woodward said...

Steve Harmison at the GABBA. Those were the days!!! Lets hope Stuart Broad gets homesick but it doesnt look like it so far.
Anyway QT is pretty much same same. Nothing new there. Considering Gillard had just got off a plane this morning she is very effective in QT. Pity this isnt really reported much in MSM. Its when parliament arent sitting that they seem to lose there way!!!
Anyway question of the day has to be Joe Hockey and the leaf blower. I'd much prefer them to stuff up my phone interview than my Saturday morning sleep in (who am I kidding I have a 12 month old what sleep in!)

Agnes Mack said...

“Such a monopolistic incumbent [theNBN Co] could forestall the development of as yet unknown technological advances” OECD

Logically extended , this would lead to paralysis. Nothing could be done because we can't know that there won't be a better way at some undefined point in the future.

Applied to NBN it's just nuts - as you suggest, Grog, it's a stretch too far to anticipate the speed of light being outrun

Enjoy that life.

Chris Grealy said...

Thanks for the commentary on QT. I don't have the time to watch it, but I do appreciate your coverage. Keep it up :)

Bushfire Bill said...

Such a shame the Julia came back, at least in part, for such a waste of time.

The Australian gets a couple of pet Lefties to write a blog or a column, or give an interview, and the Parliament is tied up for 90 minutes discussing them.

Hardly any of it gets to air, most it's just the thundering questions and not the excellent answers.

Heather Hewitt on the 7.30 Report pontificates that it's all a game for spoilt schoolchildren and the whole thing's repeated next day.

Hardly anyone in the real world is the wiser, nothing much happens except a couple of smartarsed points scored, and the air of nihilism surrounding politics held by the public is reinforced.

I don't want to detract from your always entertaining pieces on QT Grog, but I do wonder why you bother. QT seems to be held entirely for the benefit of the participants on the floor of the house and a gaggle of hack journos looking for an angle to write their tired, repetitive columns in which they despatch their tired, repetitive wisdom.

As a sad P.S. to Grog, my old cat Timmy was put down yesterday at home. He'd had a bad episode of restricted breathing on Friday, and another on Saturday, due to his nose cancer. More were sure to follow as the cancer ate further into him. Although he recovered a little on Sunday and managed to get a good sleep overnight, we thought we should go ahead. He had lost a lot of weight due to renal disease. He was 80% blind and deaf and his quality of life was deteriorating in front of us. He didn't agree, but we've searched our souls and agree that it was either now or in a couple of week's time. As you said in your column the other day, it's a terrible thing we do the the animals we love. Tim was 17 years old.

Vale Timmy, feisty to the end.

Anonymous said...

Just lucky I'm having a week off this week, and may be able to watch QT myself.

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

For a rational debate about the Alliance for Affordable Broadband argument re multi platform availability of broadband options in competition with the NBN fibre system, see the following:

It knocks the Opposition's, and now, sadly, the OECD's, arguments into a cocked hat.

Greg Jericho said...

Very sorry to hear that BB. 17 years is a damn good innings though for a cat (I was sure Scamper would get there).

Casablanca said...

Watched QT Tuesday and the PM again showed some good mojo. Just about every answer by the PM was dispatched over the fence with some landing way way up in the stands.

I too hope that after a well deserved break over summer that the PM can play equally well on any type of wicket.

2353 said...

I thought Howard was the cricket tragic PM. I would have thought Gillard kicking repeated goals from outside the 50 would have been a better metaphor :)

Greg Jericho said...

2353, for some reason cricket analogies work best for Question Time - it's all in the delivery!

Casablanca said...

2353, I can see where you are coming from given Gillard’s love of AFL but I opted for Grog’s favoured sporting analogy.

More often than not it is the analogy of playground gang warfare that better describes what goes on in the House.