So often there is one moment in an election that becomes emblematic of that campaign. In 2004 it was Mark Latham’s bone-crushing handshake with John Howard outside a radio studio, captured by the TV cameras and replayed ever since as evidence of Latham’s bovver-boy ineptitude.
With two weeks to go, this campaign hasn’t really produced its defining Latham handshake moment — or has it? Will the Prime Minister’s announcement on the weekend that he will spend $500,000 to save endangered apes in Borneo and Sumatra become the symbol of the 2007 election? The symbol of a campaign where public money has been scattered so far and wide by party leaders that each spending pledge has all the significance of a Monopoly money transaction. The symbol of a campaign so desperate that no interest group is too insignificant to be showered with Government largesse, as long as there is a marginal vote to be bought. The symbol of a campaign where election promises have the same enduring currency as a shower of wind-blown confetti. The symbol of a campaign where economic responsibility is the lame punchline of a sick running joke. A campaign in which $500,000 of taxpayers’ money is a fair price to pay for a lame photo opportunity.
The Prime Minister’s explanation for a policy commitment of $500,000 to aid Indonesian orangutans was that an 11-year-old boy called Daniel Clarke asked him to do it. “I thought, ‘Gee if somebody is asking me to save the orangutans in the Wallabies dressing room, he’s pretty resourceful’. I was really quite affected by it so I said to my staff we’ve got to do something about it,” said the PM.
The question inspired by the federal government’s half million dollar pledge is not whether Indonesian orangutans are a deserving species. The question is: why are the rest of us being taken for monkeys?
Watch the Crikey website this afternoon for updates after the Liberal Policy launch.