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Archive for February 2013

A simple analogy.

A family live in what was once an exciting house. It functioned well and seemed a right fit at the time.

Then little things start to stop working. The weatherboard panels have begun to rot and the water goes cold when you want hot and vice versa.

The area changes as your street becomes a major thoroughfare and you start to question your purchase with every intake of smog concentrated air.

The decision’s made easier when some of the local stoners take up residence on your nature strip.

A new estate offering an escape from this chronology of annoyances presents itself. New and safe, green and serene, but with few details beyond this attractive shopping smell.

When you chip away with some questions, you are simply told you won’t be sorry and asked if you really want to stay where you are.

You commit to an unknown change of circumstances simply on the promise that at least it’s not what you have now.

As we count down the 199 days before we decide whether to vote out the Gillard government, Australia is presented with a similar choice to the scenario above.

Phase one of Operation Abbott has fulfilled its objectives of discrediting and delaying the ALP’s legislative process through destructive, combative and often frivolous means. I have lost count of Opposition Managerial abuses of points of order and how many times the Member for Cook has been booted from Question Time. Quite apart from bad behaviour, it would have been redeeming, if only a little, had the Shadow Ministers for say Education and Foreign Affairs asked questions relevant to their portfolios instead of the latter consuming all of 2012’s final Question Time fixated on the PM’s AWU involvement and the former had asked a question relating to Gonski.

Phase Two sees a supposed change in the LNP MO. Primarily through a cuddlier and less combative Tony Abbott who at times looks like paid Sam Newman a visit for botox advice and then rolled in a barrel of Cheezels. There seems to be no accompanying slow drip of policy details, other than the repeal, reverse, rinse and repeat mantra. 

The Government has, to quote the PM, lost its way. Numerous articles have canvassed this and the polls reflect just how on the nose it really is. Despite steering Australia through the GFC, they remain destined to a slashed representation in the Lower House, with many good minds set to be wasted in a two to three term opposition. Stay with Julia Gillard and things stand as they are. Rewind to Kevin Rudd and the contempt will only boil over more. As Tony Strangio writes, this Messiah worship and a shift from leader-centred politics (as opposed to politics-centred leaders) has only weakened the ALP’s chances of a shock win on September 14.

So if we then move to the estate in the analogy above, what do we expect? If the LNP are on track for a landslide, is it any less important that we ask the strong favourites to outline their vision? They have relied heavily on the anyone but the ALP rote message. They owe us more. Tony Abbott is obliged, if not by any political or legal imperative, but by his contract with the Australian people to outline what he intends to do.

After dismantling the Carbon Price mechanism and the farcical MRRT, what then in terms of raising the revenue to backfill the void?

What tax measures does he see as appropriate in this landscape, both direct and indirect?

What educational measures will he implement from the Gonski report?

How does this Direct Action measure we first heard of 3 years ago work?

How fast will our broadband be?

Is Workchoices under that or another name really dead, buried etc? (ie what does a flexible labour market really mean for those in it?)

Many, many questions. For every day that the LNP play the small target game, the media will slowly speculate, only making the job of selling the message more difficult. Since Tony Abbott’s double spook effort with Leigh Sales and Lisa Wilkinson, he has been reluctant to appear anywhere. Or rather, Peta Credlin has told him not to.

The ALP’s best  media strategy would be to play the numerous Abbott moments on a loop, and God knows the man has been generous in his contributions. And for everyday he remains under cover, on Peta Credlin’s tight leash, these are the things we will associate with him. It is time for him to stand in the spotlight and provide either more LOLs or some leadership and vision. If he is as equipped with Economics/Law degrees and a Rhodes Scholarship, then this should be the minimum requirement.

All yours, Tony and friends.

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I posted my resignation to the ALP’s electoral fate last July. One writes these things often with fingers crossed that fortunes will change and that the LNP and all that comes with it will not prevail. The Gillard led government would perhaps, largely on the back of deep unpopularity of Tony Abbott, earn a second chance it hardly deserved.

The LNP has had some degree of wind assistance via the mainstream media and some success in lying low post AshbySlipperRaresGate. While its AWU attacks failed to bear fruit, the Obeid NSW fiasco has provided enough public scorn of the image of unions and ALP corrupted, and that with little effort on behalf of the Shadow Foreign Minister (Julie Bishop in case you had forgotten).

When Paul Keating trailed John Hewson in 1993, he had some good fortune in watching the latter tangle himself in a purist economic vision that failed to translate past a chook or birthday cake, and with persistence and luck came the ‘sweetest victory’ of them all.

The last straw seems to be the recent underwhelming return on the MRRT. A paltry $126M return in its first 6 months seems to indicate that the forecasted $2B return over its first 2 years is, to put it mildly, unrealistic. The loophole of credits to mining companies for state royalties paid against any MRRT money has upset the independents and Greens (Rob Oakeshott in particular) to the point of a mooted amendment to the tax to close this loophole. Hardly an ideal scenario for the ALP heading into the never ending election campaign. Factor in more pissing in the tent by former PM Kevin Rudd and you have more ammo for an opposition that has done little heavy lifting in attacking the ALP’s execution of policy. I even found myself agreeing with George Brandis (yes, read it again it’s true) on Q and A last night as he reminded Chris Evans that ‘it was you that designed it’. Nowhere to run. And just quietly, when I agree on anything said by Brandis in criticism on the ALP, it is game over. You could even argue, as Rhys Muldoon tweeted cheekily, that the MRRT was effectively whatever number Marius Kloppers wrote on the back of a napkin. To change the MRRT now though appears to concede poor original planning (while keeping the Rudd fires burning), while staying put appears pig headed. It’s either a shit sandwich with white bread or one with wholemeal.

For all the discontent, scaremongering and protests the watered down version created, it would have been worth the opposition and vitriol to ram the Rudd version through to at least generate some return to shut the opposition up and limit their arguments to partisan policy lines.

This government has passed many good pieces of legislation under difficult conditions. It reacted quickly and appropriately to the GFC which the LNP remains amnesiac to, maintained sound economic KPIs that still makes other OECD nations envious only to fluff their lines again and again. Poor economic KPIs, with interest rates and unemployment high mean your hands are tied. To not navigate through the electoral period with what Joe Hockey described as  ‘good numbers’  is the real tragedy of this government.

There seems no other path than mutual scare campaigns, with the LNP afforded enough momentum to issue costings late in the process and without due consideration and scrutiny.

I only hope that there is a birthday cake, 2013 style.