Troubled times give a second chance. There is pretty general agreement among commentators- leaving aside Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott for a moment – that the Labor Government reacted quickly and well to the global financial crisis last year. So well in fact that as the fear of doom and gloom  disappeared, the public reaction in Australia was that it was all a great deal of fuss about nothing much at all. There was no lasting electoral benefit for Kevin Rudd and Co. Credit for good economic management has not been given by the general public.

Perhaps now that the world appears to be facing a second financial crisis, Labor will handle the public relations aspects better. It certainly, and unfortunately, looks as if the Government will have a second chance to do so.

Political skills on display. The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard can fell well pleased with the way she has conducted negotiations with that most recalcitrant of trade unions — those representing school teachers. Just as the deadline for the next round of testing of students approached she made a sufficient conciliatory gesture to give the teachers a face saving way of backing down from their threat to sabotage the tests.

Advertising to journalists. I was surprised to see the Melbourne Age this morning taking seriously the advertising campaign being started by the mining industry supposedly as part of its campaign against the Government’s new mining tax proposals. These ads clearly are not intended to influence the general public or they would be on the television where they would be seen rather than in newspapers where they will be ignored. Ignored, I should say, by almost everyone except the journalists at whom they are actually targeted. It might be an expensive way of getting out a press release but, as The Age shows, it can be an effective one.

Action on poker machines. When it comes to poker machines and protecting problem gamblers politicians are big on talk but small on action. The sad truth is that the revenue from the push button bandits is too important for governments to want to do anything about them. In Tasmania, where there is now no such thing as a majority government, things might just turn out to be different. Down south the Greens are introducing legislation to make $1 the maximum bet on a machine with any one press. That would significantly lower the rate at which the mugs can lose their money and the Liberals, having proposed just such a law in their election policy, are likely to vote with the Greens to make it happen.

Peter Fray

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