Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the QT: No smoke, no fire

The day’s events in politics started with the massive scandal that Nicola Roxon back in 2005 wrote a letter to cigarette company Philip Morris seeking their attendance at a $1,500 a table fundraising dinner. This was of course after the period when Mark Latham had banned tobacco donations. The big scandal of course is that Philip Morris executives didn’t attend, and didn’t give her campaign any money. Which means… errr well err something.

Oh yeah, apparently as well back in 1999 she also attended a tennis match as a guest of Philip Morris.


That’s it?

That’s the smoking gun?

That’s all they got?


It reminds me (as so much does) of Yes Prime Minister and the episode The Smoke Stack. The PM, Jim Hacker gets behind (on the surface at least) a push to destroy the tobacco industry. Humphrey Appleby in an attempt to scare Hacker off brings up tobacco hospitality:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: All the hospitality that we've enjoyed at BTG's [British Tobacco Group’s] expense. Champagne receptions, buffet lunches, the best seats at sporting and cultural events.
Jim Hacker: What's the problem?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: The tobacco companies may release this embarrassing information to the press.
Jim Hacker: It's not embarrassing. I've had drinks at the Soviet embassy. That doesn't make me a Russian spy.

Now sure Roxon has been raging about the Lib’s donations from tobacco group – but while she did send out a letter in 2005 (back when she wasn’t even Shadow Health Spokesperson!) she hasn’t received any money from them, and she certainly hasn’t had anything to do with them since she’s taken on the Health portfolio.

If that’s all they got, then they’ve got nothing.

Abbott in his doorstop this morning said “she’s got a lot of explaining to do”. A lot? Really? OK, let’s see how she does:

"Our party does not take tobacco donations. It has not since 2004. I've asked for my records to be checked. No representatives attended and no donations were made to this event, but clearly those letters should not have been sent."

So Tony, need anything else?

The problem for the Libs is by attacking her for this inevitably it leads to these types of questions:

QUESTION: Isn’t it hypocritical though, considering you’re still receiving donations from big tobacco, to be going on about this?

If the Libs go this way they have to go all the way and ban their own receiving of tobacco donations. They’re not in a great hurry to do that, which is why this morning in Parliament they moved a motion to get Roxon to come in to the House and explain herself, but when the cameras were on during Question Time they did not ask one question about it.

I guess the problem for the Libs aside from the donations is that when you get down to it CIGARETTES WILL KILL YOU. And whatever the politics, whatever the “hypocrisy” the Libs have to decide whether or not to support a policy that will reduce the take up of smoking (and the only proof you need that it will work is the reaction by the cigarette companies – unless you think all their advertising against the policy is because they don’t want to sell more cigarettes).

Roxon sending a letter in 2005 or going along to the tennis in 1999 ain’t changing the fact that CIGARETTES WILL KILL YOU.

It’s nice to know that some issues are black and white.

Incidentally I want to award my special Press Gallery Mid-Winter’s Ball prize of the “Lisa Simpson Runaway Freight Train Soft Question of the Week” to whoever was the gun reporter who asked Abbott this question today:

QUESTION: Mr Abbott, the Labor caucus were called into line yesterday. The Prime Minister told them not to go out and voice their opinions out in the media. Is that a direct response to you calling on Labor MPs to stand up for their electorates, particularly mining electorates?

Wow. You really had him on the back foot there. What a cutting cross examination. Be proud.


The other issue of the morning was the Newspoll. It was horrible for Labor and worse for Gillard. 45-55 on 2 party preferred and Gillard with a awful minus 20 satisfaction rating. The Oz of course hid the results under a bushel (that’s a joke for you first time readers).

The last Newspoll showed the ALP vote going up by 2, this one showed its vote going down by 3. Let’s do our fortnightly compare and contrast. See if you can pick the Newspoll that showed the increase in support for Labor and the one which showed a decline:

  image   image

Subtle ain’t it?

The polls are horrible, but they don’t mean too much yet. I can’t see them improving greatly until the carbon tax and MRRT are in place and we all see that Abbott has been talking horsesh*t.  But that is no comfort for any ALP member – especially if the polls stay at this 45-55 level then by the time the tax comes in it may just be too late to change – the electorate will be set. The Govt needs to get back to at least within shouting distance, or by this time next year (ie after the carbon tax legislation has gone through, the ALP might think anyway that it is time to make changes – because yes, they are that silly)

They could start by doing better at Question Time (and press conferences) and heeding some advice from The Oz’s excellent blogger, Jack the Insider who quite rightly points out they should stop talking about Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party. When getting questions from Abbott and the Libs on carbon tax etc, sure throw his own quotes back in his face, but how about using Dorothy Dixers to trumpet your own policies?

Aside from the Malaysian asylum-seeker policy (which is still in flux and I am somewhat content to see what the UNHCR says about it when it finally gets signed) this Govt has a fair bit to talk up – especially on the economy. It is not like the NSW ALP which was just a shemozzle of dodgy approvals and idiotic decisions on electricity generation and infrastructure.

Personally I think the Govt should ignore the opposition and so far from “stifling” the left winger Doug Cameron, he should become the ALP’s Barnaby Joyce. Back under Howard, Joyce was in effect the opposition within Government. He was there offering a supposed alternative and threatening to cross the floor (always to not do so when it really mattered). Senator Cameron would fill that role perfectly. He could be there arguing for gay marriage, talking up asylum seekers and any other lefty issues. Will he ever win any of these fights? Probably not, but much better for the ALP to be seen to be having a discussion.

Sure The Oz will run with dopey headlines like:

PM struggles with backbench dissent

But if properly managed such “dissent” can be a winner for the party. Cameron already is being described as “outspoken”, he has a quirky sort of persona – given his heavy Scottish brogue . So give him a bit of a head – let him say his bit on certain issues. The Govt should not worry about what The Oz writes about it – let Dooog get a national profile that has people in the suburbs thinking at least the ALP is interested in the social issues people assume the ALP should care about.

For all the laughs Barnaby brings when he talks about economics, there are people in the electorate who like what he has to say and like that he is in the coalition saying what he says. The ALP could do with an official “rogue Senator”.

Make people at least feel like there are those in the ALP  who are fighting for issues that make it seem to have a social heart.

Don’t stifle the dissent – use it.


The Governor of the RBA Glenn Stevens gave a speech. As ever his words were analysed like there are the economic Talmud. It didn't change the market’s expectations of a rate rise next month, but it did contain some interesting titbits:

… macroeconomic policies must be configured in the expectation that there will need to be some degree of restraint. Monetary policy has already been exerting some restraint for a while. Looking ahead, our most recent analysis (as published in early May) concluded that the underlying rate of inflation is more likely to rise than fall over the next couple of years. This central expectation – subject to all the usual uncertainties inherent in forecasting – suggests, as we said at the time, that ‘further tightening of monetary policy is likely to be required at some point for inflation to remain consistent with the 2–3 per cent medium-term target’.

This isn’t much different from what has been said in the last few statements after decisions made on the cash rate. But then he had a very quick look at fiscal policy (ie the budget).

Fiscal policy is also playing a significant role. The ‘fiscal impact’, calculated as the shift in the Federal budget position from one year to the next, is forecast to be minus 2 per cent of GDP in the 2011/12 fiscal year. A further, though slightly smaller, effect is forecast by the Treasury in the following year.

That is all those wanting to argue the Budget is putting pressure on inflation need to look elsewhere.

As I say – the Government has a good story to tell on the economy: it needs to keep telling it and forget about Abbott while they’re doing it. He doesn’t have any policies anyway, so just ignore him until he does.

Let’s face it – they’re at 45-55; there isn’t much point keeping with the strategy they have now.


Anonymous said...

You are a legend.

Greg Jericho said...

ROFL. Thanks Anon.

PB said...

It is frustrating that the government do have a good story to tell but don't seem to be able to tell it. I know they have the most amazingly partisan press to fight, but even so...

As for the Simpson quotes, The one after the "runaway freight train" is pretty good too. IIRC it was Homer asking "Mr Burns, my family and I think taxes are too high. Where do you stand on this highly controversial issue?".

Unknown said...

Well done, sir. We can always count on your for a smart assessment.

Anonymous said...

nah, I'd say Grog is a "living legend" - so just how far can we 'up' the accolades tonight - LOL

Anonymous said...

Is there any way of 'Sharing this' with Gillard and her advisors ?

Anonymous said...

I think everyone in the current government should have a watch of this. Taking the message to heart may help them "tell their story":

Rhiannon said...

Hooray! You're back! How dare you go off and have a life while we (ok, I) languish in my housewifely doldrums endlessly switching between blogs waiting for a new post from you, Mr. Denmore, NWN, The Conscience Vote or Andrew Elder?! Thanks for another very interesting and well-written post. *wipes brow*

Anonymous said...

Well we don't get to trade humans with anyone. End.

No good rushing off to the same UNHCR who have been telling us for 20 years to stop locking up refugees all over the place and begging them to let us break the law.

I watched a film on utube about the Sri Lankan killing fields.

I would suggest everyone have a look and then remember that we have been having Tamils jailed in Malaysia and Indonesia and turning them away from here.

Patricia Wa said...

Yes, what a pity Abbott didn't have the nerve to take Roxon on in QT or that the the government didn't hand her a Dorothy Dixer so she could get stuck into him boots'n all. By the way does anyone know of a picture of Nicola actually wearing her Doc Martens to illustrate

Rhiannon, I share your sentiments.

Russell in Glendale said...

Grog another great piece, thankyou.

I too look forward to your descriptions, not posting daily has its benefits such as having time to think about what to provide and how to present it.

Is it just me or some other reason as to why it seems so against news corps best interests to bag the current government? For example, news corp has a strangle hold on the media in Australia, (most states if not all). There are laws on what you can report and how.. that news corp trys to push to the limit.
So if the current govt wanted to make deep changes to the media laws on content, balance and ownership where would news corp go to lobby. They have destroyed, burnt, blown up or poisoned any one in federal govts access.
It would be funny to see the head of news going to the USA and saying 'well we got Abbot's polls up two years before an election but half of your Australian interests have been closed down or sold off...bugger.

John Goss said...

The response of the media on the non-issue of Roxon's office sending out invitations to a function to a tobacco company is a classic example of the 'much ado about nothing' trend Tanner writes about in Sideshow. As soon as it became clear that no tobacco executive attended the fund-raiser, the media should have made the judgement that it was a non-issue and stopped reporting on it. They would have been able to use the space to report on something substantive that was relevant to health public policy. Mark Metherell - a well-respected and informed specialist health reporter - was one of those who gave the story legs. Why Mark why? Virginia Trioli also raved on about it in an interview with Roxon. It really does matter that the public space gets filled with these non-stories, as it means the real issues don't get air play.

Alistair Baillieu-McEwan said...

The seeming inability of the Federal Labor Government to defend itself reminds me very much of the Kirner Government in Victoria some years ago. I would like to see some, or all, of question time devoted to setting the record straight in a methodical way, for instance by citing the analyses that have been done on the Insulation Program, the BER and so on. The mythology that has been deliberately built up by the Coalition, and their backers, about the competence of the Government needs to be tackled over and over - even to the point of boring everyone. I'd like to see some Dorothy Dixers about the Auditors Reports etc. answered at length, even if the whole of one question time was taken up by the one issue.
I'm also increasingly annoyed at the Speaker giving latitude to Christopher Pyne's Points of Order. In the previous Coalition Government I'm sure the Speaker had the capacity to turn the microphone off so the deliberate insults in the guise of the POA were cut off.

Anonymous said...

Consumer sentiment is down (although I am against rampant consumerism) and retail chains are closing. I am suprised that the business / retail sector are not cranky with the coalition and their contribution to this. Abbott, with his constant gloom and doom predictions about jobs and prices, makes people cautious, anxious and fearful of the future. I have not seen this point raised anywhere. I am sure Labor were accused of this when/if they ran negative lines on the economy. Love your blog.

Patricia Wa said...

Anonymous, on consumer sentiment. I'm glad you made that point. I think it's as big a factor as anything Glenn Stevens might say about an impendin rate rise. Abbott and the Coalition have raised such a cloud of doubt over climate change and the carbon tax, ably supported by the media, that they have more than half the population agreeing with them. Naturally it would dampen confidence, and encourage people to save against the horrific future they think they are facing with high unemployment and price increases when the government's carbon plan goes ahead. You are right too that if poor consumer confidence does real harm to the economy Abbott and Co. will blame the government's toxic tax! When, of course, it's Tony Abbott who's toxic and not the tax!

Anonymous said...

Grog you think theres a strategy behind the Labor performance, with the toxic media environment this mob couldn't sell life rafts on the sinking Titanic. They seem to be jerked from one media beat-up to another. Their ONLY hope is that they get the Carbon tax in and all the bull about the doom of the economy will be seen for what it is.

Anonymous said...

did you notice there was no comment in the News Press re "Emissions Elizabet" - aka Ruphies mum?

Greg Jericho said...

Anon - this Govt has a strategy???