Monday, August 5, 2013

Election 2013: Day 1 (or, I’d rather be watching the cricket)

A few things about the election announcement yesterday: While Kevin Rudd, Christina Milne and Tony Abbott were delivering their speeches I was watching with desperate intent. My focus was locked on and noticing every twist, every mistake, every moment of boldness.

Of course I was not watching the speeches, I was watching the Crows play Port. And if I am honest my focus remains on that game because FOR CRYING OUTLOUD THE BALL BOUNCED AT RIGHT ANGLES!

At the same time Collingwood were playing Essendon at the MCG before a crowd of 69,821 (I’m sure there was an NRL game as well but I won’t lie and pretend I have any clue about that). Last night the Ashes cricket test also grabbed a fair bit of my attention.

The thing is this election campaign is happening at the pointy end of the footy season, so let’s not pretend everyone is putting down the beanies and caring about what our political masters or wannabe masters are up to. Many in Melbourne are more interested in if Essendon will be docked points before September than if the ALP lost a few points in a poll.

I say this because yeah, the front page of the Daily Telegraph is pretty clear about its bias:BQ02y6kCUAAhnoV

But let’s not go pretending that it is going to change the outcome of the election, and start finding conspiracies under every rock. A newspaper editor telling its readers what to think might sound powerful, but meh, most will see it, and turn to the back and see what’s the sport.

And really rain on the 5th day of the Ashes test? Does God hate us as well as the makers of the DRS system?

That doesn’t mean the front page deserves to go straight through to the keeper. It says a fair bit about the thought process of its editor. It seems he is not a bloke who cares about policy, costings, evidence …

Declaring your editorial position on Day 1 is of course the now standard nutbag News Corp tabloid way, a-la The Sun in the UK.  But it tells you the editor doesn't care if the Liberal Party’s policies add up. He doesn’t for example care that the soil magic involved with the Liberal’s Direct Action is quickly becoming as credible as Paul Sheehan’s Magic Water.

Now costings and all that might be a tad dull, but most humans with above Grade 4 intellect would think the editor of a major metro newspaper might care about whether or not an elected government can add up. Especially when the party in question last time round did such a bang up job costing its policies that the accounting firm involved was fined for breaching professional standards. Moreover the failure of the Lib’s costings to make any sense was one of the key reasons that Windsor and Oakeshott took into account when they made their decision in 2010.

So you know, these things matter.

But no more it seems.

The major point though is that by declaring it’s hand in this way, the Daily Tele needs the Libs to win. If Rudd gets home then the Tele’s influence will be shown to count for bugger all.

And that is not a good look for a paper that both sees itself and sells itself as setting agendas and speaking the same voice as its readers.

Also if Abbott gets in there will the implicit “you owe us” aspect. Though this won’t be needed really. The last thing Abbott would ever do is cross News.Corp. As an ex-leader writer for The Oz, he’s one of them. It’s not so much a conspiracy it’s just that Abbott won’t even need to be pushed around, he’ll already be going in the way they want him to go.  

So forget objectivity, the Tele’s idea of holding Abbott to account this campaign will be to ask if he wants the back rub before or after the foot rub.

My view, for what it is worth, is it would have been much more effective to run with the page on election day. At least then it would be something that voters would remember when they actually cast their vote, and it would at least allow the Tele to pretend it is objective. They’ll most likely do something as over the top on the 7th as well, but pfft, they’ve already shot their bolt.

Ahh well.


And so to today. Well it was all a bit pushy shovy on the debate question.

Last night the Liberal’s Brian Loughnane offered his ALP counter part George Wright three “debates”: one at the press club on Sunday, then a “people’s forum” at Rooty Hill RSL where Rudd would go first followed by Abbott; then another people’s forum in Brisbane where both would be on the stage together.

First off, to those of you living in non-Brisbane-Sydney… Yeah, you can got to sleep now, you’re not required.

Now that’s only half true. The ALP can’t afford to lose any seats anywhere, but everyone knows QLD and Sydney is where the big booty is at. The debate offer is a crock. A people’s forum is patent bullshit unless both are on the stage at the same time, otherwise the person going last always wins (Hell, Julia Gillard won the Brisbane forum last time – YES, IN BRISBANE! That’s how biased it is in the favour of the person going second).  

George Wright should respond and say thank you, but given you have had the privilege of choosing the location, we’ll choose whether or not to go first or second, and we’ll go second thanks.

Debates do matter but mostly the big one held at the press club that is covered by all TV stations matters. If – like last time – the people’s forums are just on Sky, then they don’t mater at all.

My prediction is as usual it’ll be sorted, there will be debates and most people won’t even care that there was the usual Week-One silliness.

And silliness there is on the issue when you look at what Tony Abbott said this morning on AM:

SABRA LANE: You just heard the Prime Minister there, he said that you back in July said that you'd debate him every day for this campaign. Why not have four debates on every Sunday and one tonight?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, there will be debates, and in a sense I'm debating him now because I'm following him on your program Sabra.

Abbott has now essentially morphed into a cartoon with the special power of being able to use words without any connection to their actual meaning.


OK to policy.

No actually, first a gripe.

The ALP’s website last election was a fantastic resource. It had transcripts of Gillard’s doorstops up quickly, had the policy documents loaded almost instantly. I lived on the site. The current ALP site is basically “DONATE MONEY NOW.COM”.

Today they announced $450m for before and after school care. Now technically this occurred prior to the parliament officially ending so it is a Government decision not an ALP promise, but where is the announcement on the ALP’s website? Are they too bashful to promote their policies? [see update below]

They do have Rudd’s speech from yesterday but not the Q&A. [again see update]

The Liberal Party’s website is a bit better, it has up the transcript of Tony Abbott’s Sunrise interview, but not his latter doorstop at the meat packing works in Ipswich – which is a pity because that is where he was actually asked some decent questions.

It was also where he rather stuffed up saying how much of a carbon tax bill the company would face. As Lenore Taylor notes:

“…the opposition leader claimed was “under direct threat” from carbon tax costs of $5m, but which would actually face a bill of one-tenth that amount next year if Labor is re-elected.

if Labor is re-elected, in the first six months of next year the company’s liability would be half of an annual bill of about $840,000, or about $420,000. And if Labor then floats the carbon price – as it has promised – in the second half of the year, its bill would fall further. At a carbon price of about $6 the annual bill would be $210,000. That takes the total 2014 liability to about $525,000 – or about a tenth of Abbott’s estimate.

Abbott indicated that he was calculating both direct and indirect carbon costs, and extensions to the tax planned for the future.”

Actually, while watching the press conference it was clear he was calculating it all in his head and getting a bit lost.

There was also this nice follow up:

“JBS Australia spokesman John Berry told Guardian Australia he would have preferred to invest the $4.8m in something that would grow the business. He was unsure whether the Coalition’s Direct Action plan would involve any incentives for the company to cut its emissions – which mainly come from methane produced by its waste water treatment.”

Look we know direct action is a climate change policy designed to appeal to people who think climate change is a hoax. But there’s a fair bit of money being spent, maybe it’s time Abbott and Greg Hunt put out all the costings and all the documents. Is that too much to ask?

So the Liberal site is bit better but it seems both parties have decided that providing the public with all the information is a silly thing to do. That is a real shame.

[UPDATE – a mate has alerted me that all Rudd press conference transcripts are being put up on Kevin Rudd’s website, Have noted as well that Tony Abbott’s transcripts are at his own website here. So good all round. It seems the strategy this time is for both party’s to use the party website for the fundraising and volunteer stuff.

Also I recommend reading the Abbott transcript from his visit to JBS Australia – the journalists were nicely on their game.]

Rather oddly however, the Liberal Party site seems to have neglected to put up this clip of its candidate for the marginal seat of Greenway, Jaymes Diaz:

Gereenway is the ALP’s third most marginal seat. You would have thought he Liberal Party would have prepped the candidate – or at least found someone who had read more than the Libs “Our Plan” talking points (and more than just memorised that there were 6 points in the asylum seeker policy).

In his defence the Libs’ asylum seeker policy is a being made up as they go at the moment, so that was probably one to steer clear of – just stick with ‘stop the boats’, no need to bring numbers in to it.

When Nicole Cornes stuffed up in much the same way while campaigning in the seat of Hindmarsh in 2007 the media went pretty hard. It will be interesting to see how Diaz does..


The ALP announced a $200m injection for the local car industry to do…err… look, details, details.

Geez. What the hell? It’s bad enough they’re giving money to an industry that has famously been great at taking said money then cutting employees, but if $200m was all it took to save the car industry it wouldn’t need to be saved so it smacks a fair bit of pointless, token effort. But if you are going to announce it, how about being able to tell people what it is gong to be spent on!

Not doing so certainly is “a new way” to do things, but perhaps not in the manner the ALP wants.


The ALP, as noted earlier, also announce $450m to help expand before and after school care. The details are pretty sketchy – is the labour for this available? But overall it’s a good spend. I was pretty astonished when we first thought about after-school care at our daughter’s public school to find that it was not an automatic thing. We were lucky to get our daughter in for 2 days, and even luckier that those two days suited my wife and my working times.

So making more places available and for longer hours is good from a worker participation aspect at least.

The Liberal Party’s big policy of the day was that Tony Abbott has written to the head of PM & C, saying that he wants on day one of an Abbott government to start ending the carbon tax.

The Secretary of PM&C is under no obligation to read the letter, nor even do anything to “prepare” for an Abbott Government other than what it does every election for every opposition – ie gets a list of their announced policies and assist Treasury with the costings. Abbott holds no power to instruct the public service or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to do anything.

It’s all a stunt and a pretty dull one at that. He wrote a letter. Well golly.

Abbott also announced that he would not be party to a minority government should the election result come to that. Clearly this is not about dealing with the reality of a post 7 September work, but trying to tap into the view that the minority government has been a shambles and a vote for the LNP will end that.

In reality if the parliament is hung and say Bob Katter holds the balance of power, do you really think Abbott will tell him to piss off? Of course not, and if he did, the Libs would quickly find someone who could work with Katter.

So again, it’s a stunt – a stunt that he likely won’t have to worry about because the odds of a hung parliament are slim even if the margin is close.

Look, it’s election time, if you weren't interested in political stunts you’d be watching the cricket instead.

But then, you probably already are, I know I am – England are 1 for 13!


Tomorrow the RBA announces their decision on interest rate, I’ll be live blogging it at The Guardian from around 1:30pm.


Anonymous said...

Julia Gillard hopes an agreement with the Coalition can be reached "relatively soon" on the idea of a leaders' debates commission.

The concept was part of the Prime Minister's post-2010 election deal with Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

The commission would be responsible for deciding when and where the leaders' debates would take place.

Greg Jericho said...

Yeah, That all died when Gillard was dumped. Alas.

Mind you, in America they have a debate commission and they also have the same game playing every four years.