When
disaster strikes in politics, one of the great maxims of public life is
wheeled out. When confronted with a crisis that’s either the result of
a c*ck-up or conspiracy, choose the c*ck-up every time.

The
government has been wearing heat for days over its Reverse Bank
interest rate claims in election material – but staffers are simply
stifling snorts of laughter. What’s so funny? Well, the former Dana
Vale staffer “W Meehan” who authorised the brochure is the same bloke
who faxed the famous “stay brave and true” letter to the Parrot at his
old cage at 2UE, not 2GB.

Labor doesn’t think the issue is amusing. It isn’t – but as usual they’ve managed to get the wrong end of the stick.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley – for some strange reason – had plenty to say on the subject yesterday on ABC TV’s Insiders:

“It’s not one maverick campaign official; it’s the whole
campaign. Here is another example of exactly the same sort of, if you
like, boiler plate-type production appearing in another Liberal Party
seat and campaign. We need an independent inquiry into this, Barry. We
need to establish very clearly what’s happened here. How the Liberal
Party treated the issue once the issue was raised with them. It beggars
belief that the campaign director who received the complaint from the
Reserve Bank would not have referred it into campaign headquarters.
What we do find of course is that nothing happened in their own
campaign. They kept on traducing the reputation of the Reserve Bank for
the entirety of the rest of it. This is not a question of Labor crying
stinking fish or being worried about the result or whatever. It’s a
question of the national interest. The independence of the Reserve
Bank, its integrity, is absolutely critical to the proper functioning
of the Australian economy…”

Yawn.

If he wanted to embarrass the Government, precision – rather than prolix – was called for. Take these comments
from Peter Costello as reported by the ABC on Saturday. The treasurer
said the Reserve Bank didn’t raise the matter with the Liberal Party.
“Due process was followed,” he said. “The independent Australian
Electoral Commission, once it had a look at the matter, thought there
was no problem.”

Well, not quite. Rather, the AEC said it had no jurisdiction to deal with the complaint.

Have a look at this other news report from the ABC on Friday:

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) now says it did not ask
the Coalition to drop its election campaign advertisements on interest
rates.

Earlier today, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank,
Glenn Stevens, said members of the public complained during last year’s
election campaign that the ads gave a false impression that the RBA
endorsed the Government’s message.

‘Rather than just being the
source of the statistics, which were quoted in the advertising that the
bank was somehow endorsing the claims made based on those statistics,’
he said.

Mr Stevens said the bank passed the complaints to the
Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), which found the ads did not
break the law.

‘They suggested that all that could be done was
that we write to the person at the bottom of the advertising and ask
them to stop, which we did,’ he said.

That’s an
incredibly powerful independent umpire, isn’t it, Treasurer? Any
comment on that, Mr Beazley? Surely the AEC’s powers are the relevant
point here?

Peter Fray

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