The shit sandwich is a beloved political metaphor.

And the golden rule is, if you have to eat one, then wolf it down and enthusiastically declare that it’s delicious. At least you’ll get points for gumption.

The government’s stupid decision to bring forward its tax reform advertising campaign is not just a shit sandwich, it’s a sub with the works, but at least yesterday the Prime Minister bit into it with something near relish. Having called his first Parliament House press conference in what seemed like months, he must have known the assembled hacks — nearly all of whom work for outlets that will carry the mining industry’s and the Government’s ads — would hop into him on the decision. Once you filter out the Ruddspeak, you end up with a fairly forthright justification for the government’s campaign.

“The contrast here is pretty clear. It’s a big debate. That is why we will join that debate using this form of public advertising. We can have this debate about the manner in which decisions were taken to launch into a public advertising campaign. It’s proper entirely, to be the subject of that level of scrutiny.

“On the question, however, on the question however, of joining this debate and dealing with the sheer volume of misinformation out there from a bunch of mining companies who don’t want the Australian people to get their fair share of the resources which they themselves own, well frankly, we’re not just going to declare the field vacant. We’re going to join the battle. That’s what we’re doing.”

The merits of the decision to avoid the government’s own guidelines aside — well, there aren’t any merits, anyway — Rudd has a point. Confronted with systematic lying from the mining industry, which has deep pockets, and a concerted media campaign every bit as deceitful, no government worth its salt can afford to simply not respond. It can’t afford it politically, and can’t afford it as a credible advocate of economic reform.

Despite how badly it has botched its handling of the RSPT, the government is showing some welcome spine on a reform that is, if not exactly major, then certainly in the public interest.  If you’re going to go down, go down fighting. Don’t go down like the government did on the CPRS, cravenly acquiescing to its critics and still losing.

At least, then, Rudd can say he actually displayed some ticker in standing up for something he believed in, even if he had to break his own rules to do so. Voters might actually give him some credit for it, a scenario that after the past few weeks would be unusual indeed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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