On a day when Chinafile Kevin Rudd should have been under intense political pressure over his connections to colourful Chinese casino tycoon Stanley Ho and donations that even the Labor Party felt were too hot to accept, the PM pulled off a masterful political diversion.
By standing up at a press conference and painting the most pessimistic picture possible on the revenue front, the PM skilfully side-tracked the hounds whilst absorbing some collateral damage through a tumbling currency.
ABC TV news and The 7.30 Report completely ignored what should be the lead story on 1 February every year — the annual deluge of political party fundraising information.
Even ABC Radio’s The World Today failed to get up the yarn three hours after the data was dumped at 9am, although PM merited it to run as the ninth story out of 11 last night.
The media was naturally all over Canberra’s “collapsing” revenue, when truth be known, the PM was only unveiling an 8% contraction in revenue on what was predicted last May.
It is highly misleading to total up four years of revenue figures in order to come up with a screaming headline about $115 billion.
Total Commonwealth revenue was originally predicted to rise from $319 billion in 2008-09 to $367 billion in 2011-12. That’s a total of $1.372 trillion. Take $115 billion off that and you get $1.257 billion — a modest drop of just 8%.
Besides, the figures really are half-baked because they ignore the spending side of the equation. Welfare spending was originally forecast to be $103 billion in 2008-09 or 35% of the total $292 billion.
Be recklessly splashing $10 billion last December, Rudd simply exacerbated the problem of Australians consuming beyond their means on borrowed money.
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Woolworths, the nation’s biggest pokies operator, saw revenue from its 12,000 machines jump by 5.2% in the December quarter when it was flat in the September quarter. Thank you very much, Mr Rudd.
Funnily enough, our bookish Prime Minister comes across as a nice church-going Christian who declared before the election that he “hates” poker machines.
Yet there he is leading a party in the pay of Asia’s most colourful casino mogul, Stanley Ho. Even worse, Rudd has done precisely nothing to end the scourge of the world’s most lethal poker machines which soak up 58% of the $18 billion in annual punting losses in the country with the highest per capita gambling spend in the world.
Incredibly, the ALP remains the only major political party in the world that actually runs pokies operations to help finance its campaigns.
There it is, this return for Labor’s ACT division — a contribution of $558,128 from the Canberra Labor Club, which runs almost 500 pokies in five different gambling dens in the capital.
You don’t hear about the British Tories running grog shops or the Republicans fundraising through brothels, but only The Canberra Times chose to report this uniquely Australian political phenomenon of Labor profiting enormously from directly running mini casinos.
Once again, we see the sad situation of an appalling system of disclosure, coupled with a cynical bait-and-switch media management strategy from the PM leading to significant under-reporting of the broader campaign finance debate in Australia.