Amidst an unprecedented economic crisis, the Prime Minister addressed the National Press Club at lunchtime today on the urgent task of restoring confidence, holding recession at bay and securing Australia’s economic future in a changing world.

The most significant issue to emerge from this critical moment in our economic history was that the Press Club has expanded its lunch menu to a quite tolerable Chicken Kiev pastry. Rather than the traditional lump of meat, which sits like a brick in the stomach for hours afterward, or the somewhat better salmon, which invariably comes with a sauce rich enough to buy a Wall St bank, we got the chicken pastry thing, with a polenta-y sort of accompaniment and the inevitable sprig of broccoli. Quite passable by Press Club standards. And I had the white wine, because I can’t handle red during the day like I usedtocoulda.

What else? I had the table to myself. Yep, Crikey sat with all its mates, but at least I could actually see the speaker, an option open to only half the working press due to chair placement. Those who don’t arrive early enough have to either break free to form another table like your correspondent, or stay with their colleagues and spend the address stroking their chins thoughtfully and staring at the wall across the room.

What’s that? You want to know what the Prime Minister said? Ah. Well, not much, really. A short history of the crisis, and a reheat of all the measures the Government has decisively taken – OK, the “decisive” count was only six today – since Sunday. The only thing new was the revelation that Kevin’s gonna open a can o’whuppass on the greedy.

Yes, even as we speak – good name for a band – APRA is working on a “template” for linking executive remuner… renumer… pay to capital adequacy requirements of financial institutions, so that excessive risk-taking is never again rewarded, at least in banks. Rudd promised to try to sell the world on this template.

Janet Albrechtsen will explode with fury when she hears this, like someone in a Cronenberg film. Or that bit in Diary of the Dead when they put the cardiac paddles on the zombie’s head in the hospital and its eyes, you know… anyway. I mention that only because I was hoping for a similar fate toward the end of the Prime Minister’s address.

The two big problems, the Prime Minister said, drawing himself up to his full Rooseveltian height (except Roosevelt was in a wheelchair, but whatevs) were greed and fear. Greed had caused the crisis and now fear was keeping it going. So the first job was to end the fear, and then it would be time to deal with greed.

At which point, presumably, no one will be fearful, except the greedy, who should very much fear what will be done to them.

Greed and fear, fear and greed. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. The crisis has stirred a hunger in the Prime Minister’s puritanical soul, and he’s not going to rest until it’s sated.

A real rain is coming to wash all this scum off the streets.

Peter Fray

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