Thursday, September 5, 2013

Election 2013: Day 32 (or, Is that all there is?)

Well today we had Kevin Rudd giving his final speech at the National Press Club.

He made some good noises that went to Tony Abbott’s line about Australia not getting above its station. 

Ben Chifley had ideas above his station when he dared to dream of Australian citizenship rather than simply being a British subject.

Gough Whitlam had ideas above his station when he made university access available to all, based on merit.

He also had ideas above our national station when he led tiny delegation to Peking in 1971 to begin the process of formally recognising the country that has now become our largest economic partner.

Bob Hawke had ideas above his station when he introduced universal health insurance under Medicare – for which we celebrate the 30th anniversary of tomorrow.

Paul Keating had ideas above our station when he introduced universal superannuation with the result that 20 years later we now have $1.6 trillion under management and the fourth largest funds management industry in the world.

It was good ALP-True Believer stuff.

I think Rudd has actually had a pretty good week – probably his best week. He needed to be operating at this level all weeks however.

His pitch in the end became very much the “if you have doubts about Abbott, don’t vote for him”.   

And while this might get a few changing their mind, I’m always pretty sceptical of those who think their side will win because once voters get in the ballot box they won’t be able to bring themselves to vote for the other guy.

The questions asked of Rudd weren’t all that special, but David Crowe of The Australian asked an excellent one about the homeless. Tackling homelessness was a big pitch of Rudd in 2007; it has rather fallen off the radar.


And so today at 2:32pm Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb stepped up to release all their “costings". By 2:55pm the press conference was all done.

Coalition costings- Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb reveal foreign aid to take $4 billion hit - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

It was an embarrassing performance, most memorable for Hockey sweating so profusely that I am sure some journalists present were wondering whether or not to call an ambulance. It reminded me of Broadcast News:

Jane Craig: People called in complaining about your sweating?
Aaron Altman: No, NICE calls, worried that I was having a heart attack.

But the more silly thing about it was Hockey attempting to tell us that after all his talk of a budget emergency in the end his Budget position is just $6b better than the ALP over the next 4 years – or around 0.36% of the budget revenue better.

I wrote about it in the Guardian here. (so go there!)

Their “costings” were just a list of their policy costs. Do they add up? I guess so. But I have no idea why they add up to the number they do.

I guess we’ll get that information after we’ve all voted.

That sounds fair.

The big cut announced today was a $4.5b cut in the growth of foreign aid.

How brave of them.

The ALP has also done this type of thing – deferring promised foreign aid to later years. It’s a cut that is not really a cut. The spend does nothing to affect domestic demand. And it is eminently affordable.

But no, now it is the first thing “deferred”.

Our two main political parties have become like people who live in a McMansion and who when the Red Cross come knocking say, “Oh gee, I’d love to but I don’t have any cash on me”.

Even more laughable tonight on ABC 7:30 Hockey couldn't even say how the aid budget would be cut and he said that he didn’t want to make up foreign aid policy “on the run”.

Gotta love that you can say you’ll cut $4.5b out of something and not know how it will be done.


The Libs also went the other usual savings measure of looking for a bigger efficiency dividend from the public service – calling for another 0.25% “efficiency dividend” to get another $428 million.

They also has deferred the water buyback of the Murray Darling scheme for another $650m in “savings”.


Abbott keeps talking about under promising and over delivering, but here they’ve over bullshitted and under delivered.

As I wrote in my Guardian piece, it’s pretty clear Abbott is, like Campbell Newman, leaving any big domestic cuts for after the election (how big will be determined by the size of their victory). The wonderful Commission of Audit will do that work for him. As he said today He has made it pretty clear

QUESTION: Mr Abbott, with respect, I was asking about the commission of audit there and exactly what areas will be quarantined – are there some areas that would not be touched?

TONY ABBOTT: I'm very happy to have the commission of audit go through the whole of the administration, to tell us whether, in their opinion, they think things can be done better and where things can be done better, more frugally, more prudently, with more benefit for taxpayers. Surely it would be a foolish government that would ignore that.

Expect the “Budget Emergency” to be wheeled out again after the election. You don’t do a Commission of Audit to not find anything.


So what does Abbott see Australia looking like? Well it is one with roads and not public transport.

The “costings” today have $11.5b spent all on roads. And the specific cuts they’ve made in infrastructure? All from rail and public transport (and $40m on a bridge)

Roads good trains bad


Today as well the Liberal Party released a policy for a default Internet Filter.  It was under the guise of a policy for “Online Safety for Children”. 2013 Election Policy – Enhance Online Safety - final.pdf

The policy announced was:

“We will introduce nationally agreed default safety standards for smartphones and other devices, and internet access services. As has recently been achieved in the United Kingdom, we expect these standards will:

• involve mobile phone operators installing adult content filters on phones which will be switched on as the default unless the customer proves he or she is at least 18 years of age; and
• involve major internet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadband services, which will be switched on as the default unless the
customer specifies otherwise”

It is incredibly laughable, and wouldn't work. It would not achieve any of its aim of protecting children and also it goes against everything said by people like Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey about the ALP’s attempted policy of a mandatory filter.

Backbencher Paul Fletcher talked to IT website ZDnet about it, saying:

“The key thing is it is an opt-out, so it will be open to the customer to call up and say, 'look, I don't want this', and indeed, we will work with the industry to make this a streamlined and efficient process”

So OK. They have a stupid policy released at the last minute. As dodgy as all get out, especially given how much of a vote changer this issue is for young voters who are pretty sceptical about any attempts to censor the internet.

Shifty work.

But then Malcolm Turnbull took to Twitter to admit a massive stuff up (read from the bottom up):

Malcolm Turnbull (TurnbullMalcolm) on Twitter

A statement was released saying:

The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it.

The policy which was issued today was poorly worded and incorrectly indicated that the Coalition supported an “opt out” system of internet filtering for both mobile and fixed line services. That is not our policy and never has been.

The correct position is that the Coalition will encourage mobile phone and internet service providers to make available software which parents can choose to install on their own devices to protect their children from inappropriate material.

The policy posted online today is being replaced with the correct version.

“Poorly worded” I guess its the new euphemism for completely screwed up.  The policy is no longer on the list of the Libs’ polices (but it still lives on the net)

So how did this 11 page document get released without any checks by the Minister in charge of the policy?

Why did Paul Fletcher say “the key thing is it an opt-out”? Was he just poorly worded?

Is Malcolm Turnbull being so left out of the process that a backbencher is more aware of the Liberal Party communication policy than he is?

Not a bad effort from the wannabe Government. Good thing they’re not campaigning on being a safe pair of hands.


Scott said...

Hi Greg, I'm pretty sure they've double dipped on savings for Melb metro and Perth rail. Already included in Nat build program.

VoterBentleigh said...

The Prime Minister began very well and his criticism of the Opposition Leader's comment that we should not get ideas above our station was well and truly justified. However, his omission of Julia Gillard's contribution as Prime Minister in a run-down of Labor Prime Ministerial achievements was poor form. She was the first female Australian Prime Minister (apparently counts for nothing with Rudd) and to omit her contribution to establishing a benchmark for women in politics and delivering two key areas of reform in education and disability insurance shows Rudd lacks magnanimity.

Leigh Sales should have asked Hockey how he could know he could save $4.6 billion in foreign aid if he couldn't detail what the foreign aid cuts would be.

Steve S said...

Hi Greg
I just wanted to thank you for all the work that you have put into these blogs over the past few weeks, together with your Guardian and Drum pieces.
You, together with a few others such as Ross Gittins, Lenore Taylor and Michael Pascoe, (there may be some News Corpse writers, but I don't do Murdoch so wouldn't know) who, to me, are credible and cut through the bullshit dished up from both sides. All the others seem to highlight the bullshit from the Labor campaign, but let the LNP crap pass with little comment.
I am definitely not a Rudd fan, given the disloyal way that he has operated over the past 3 and a bit years in undermining Gillard, and can not feel any sympathy for him
but the thought of Abbott as Prime Minister is very scary.
The only certainty I can say is that our next Prime Minister will be an arsehole.
There is not much hope for a Labor win to keep Abbott out, but the one thing that I now hold out hope for is that Cathy McGowan beats the appalling Sophie Mirabella in Indi.
Meanwhile, on a lighter note, and knowing how much you like graphs, I don't know if you have seen this website, but some of these graphs made me laugh out loud.

Thanks again
Steve S

Anonymous said...

The Liberals have counted on such a blood-letting in Labor that they are banking on an Opposition-free run for the next year. I hope they are wrong - Albo or Bill for LOTO? Probably too soon for a woman, eg Tanya Plibersek, besides she has a young family and needs a life. In some ways, losing govt may be a relief, or at least a temporary respite for her and her family.

But the contempt the LNP have shown for the voters, or at least those who are interested enough to try to keep up with all the Newspeak and disinformation, would have won Gold Medals in Eastern Europe in the 1970-80s.

The Commission of the Black Hole (should we call it the Calcutta Commission?) is no more than outsourcing of responsible accountability.

When govts don't want to take the blame for the up-stuffs, they outsource - gives them plausible deniability.

Interesting that they had to hand a plan to censor the internet but then said it was "released in error". First of all, what the hell was it doing in their files in the first place? Secondly, was the error in the release itself or just the timing?

The LNP has announced it will kill off the statutory authority which monitors NGOs, to which only the Catholic Church is opposed (the NGOs actually like being accountable - it gives them credibilty). I'll take a punt and say the next victim of cuts will be the Royal Commission into Kiddie Fiddlers. Abbott won't kill it off - he will be much smarter and follow the advice of Sir Humphrey Appleby by starving it of funds.
The only consolation I have is that my dudgeon will justifiably be able to rise to new heights for the next little while.
I will also predict that Abbott will not lead the LNP to the next election. Eventually the leash will have to come off and he won't have his "not too bad looking" daughters to save him.

Anonymous said...

Gillard never, ever mentioned Rudd, why the hell should he mention her. And he did give her credit for the Gonski reforms, the disability reforms and carbon pricing, I heard him.

I won't vote for either major party until hell freezes over - they are cruel, inhuman, degrading and lawless cowards picking on the poorest of the poor and torturing them to win racist votes. Even the Independent in Britain noted that our only issue seems to be migration.