Jul 8, 2011

Cynical weakness v economic

The Government appears unconvinced it should be in power, and the Opposition will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to confirm that.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

It's superfluous to note that federal politics has reached a nadir in recent months. It's not that it keeps plumbing new depths; it's more like just scraping along the bottom of a particularly filth-encrusted barrel. The only grace note of proceedings yesterday -- indeed of the entire week -- was Julia Gillard rising to upbraid Joel Fitzgibbon for his disgraceful, s-xist and staggeringly stupid catcall of Julie Bishop, and Tony Abbott rising in turn to accept it in good faith. The rest was an economically irrational, and occasionally simply lunatic, Opposition slugging it out with a staggeringly inept Government. This is not to suggest any sort of moral equivalence. Labor may be inept, but it has not altogether abandoned good policy. We'll wait and see on Sunday whether the carbon pricing scheme is better than the execrable CPRS -- that will depend mostly on how long the compensation to industry lasts and how quickly the price goes up. And the long-delayed mining tax is about one-third of a good policy. But in other areas it hacks away, none more so than on the economy, where for all the polls showing it is regarded poorly as an economic manager, it keeps making the right calls. Notice how many people are still complaining about the need to cut spending faster? None -- and certainly none at the Reserve Bank. But for all its reform intentions, Labor looks like it is systematically working its way across a minefield, and making a point of stepping on every single one. It's almost comic how unerringly the Government opts for the wrong decision. Take live cattle exports, for example. The Government could have chosen to suspend the trade until there was a guarantee there'd be no repeat of the nauseating scenes from 4 Corners. The ban would have lasted for several months and inflicted considerable pain on Labor, but it would have been the right thing to do in animal welfare terms. Or it could have cynically minimised the political pain by resisting calls for a ban, knowing the media cycle would move on and people would forget about 4 Corners -- until next time. Now of course there most certainly will be a next time, for instead of doing either of those things, it carefully identified the worst option of all, and did both -- putting a ban in place, then revoking it under political pressure without any sort of concrete guarantee that things would improve. The issue is now back in the hands of the industry that sat and pretended the whole issue was a marketing problem for the last decade. Voters are surprisingly tolerant of political cynicism, but cynicism coupled with weakness is never a winning combination. The Howard Government exemplified cynicism and a determination to retain power no matter what the cost, but voters forgave that because of its impression of authority and competence. Labor lacks both. The Prime Minister, once so feared in Parliament and so well-regarded by the electorate, fails to project authority. Wayne Swan, whatever his successes as an economic manager, has never projected authority as Treasurer. But the problem goes further back -- Labor in power has never shaken off the perception that it still thinks it is in opposition, and that lurking round the next corner will be John Howard, ready to leap out and wedge them off the political map again. In short, Labor gives the impression it is not quite sure it is entitled to be running the country, that its hold on power is fragile. And lo, that's what came to pass. The Coalition, on the other hand, plainly feels the world simply isn't right if it isn't governing, and under Tony Abbott will say and do anything to reverse that unnatural condition. There's a plain parallel here between the Liberals and the Republicans, whose reaction to the Obama presidency - in historical terms, one of the more conservative administrations of the post-war era -- has been the adoption of batsh-t insane economic policies, culminating in a stand-off over the US debt ceiling that has conjured the hitherto-unthinkable serious discussion of US debt default. Likewise, under Tony Abbott, the Liberals have turned their backs on market mechanisms, invented entirely spurious savings and promised to both increase spending and restore the Howard Government's disastrous cycle of pumping up demand with tax cuts to ease the burden of higher prices caused by pumping up demand. But there's no shame for many (though not all) Liberals in this because it's all in aid of overturning the outrage of a Labor Government. The problem is, too many in Labor appear to agree with them and act accordingly.

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91 thoughts on “Cynical weakness v economic

  1. CML

    Bernard if I wanted to hear never-ending negative reports on how “bad” the Labor government is, I’d read the Ltd News press. Lift your game, Crikey. How about some INDEPTH examination of what a lying, cheating, arrogant pack of bast..ds, who have no workable policies, the opposition is? We are certainly not going to read about Mr rAbbott and his fellow travellers’ shortcomings in any of the MSM publications in this country. If the opposition is elected to form government next time, then the voters will have been well and truly hoodwinked.

  2. klewso

    Too true Bernard, but no matter how inept, bordering on incompetent, Labor can run, that is more than matched with Abbott’s side’s exhibitions of their and his own potential for ineptitude, incompetence plus that capacity for being being spitefully malicious.
    “Poor fella, my country”?

  3. Perry Gretton

    Gillard and Obama are stymied to a large extent by unscrupulous and power-hungry oppositions, for whom any lie or distortion will do service if it advances their cause. Both leaders come across as vapid and uninspiring, but that’s hardly surprising. A reasonable person in the company of raving lunatics also comes across like that.

    Yet the record shows they are reformers, even if the reforms they’ve managed to implement are considerably watered down. However, the media prefers to dwell on negativity and fear-mongering.

    I didn’t vote for Labor, but I believe Gillard needs to be credited for what she’s achieved in very difficult circumstances.

  4. klewso

    Look what “the Muppets” did to the one bloke that had the potential and presence that could have carried “leadership” off – Tanner – the small-minded, jealous little egomaniacs ham-strung him, for being aligned to the wrong faction.
    (“Psssst, wanna buy a nose?”)

  5. TheTruthHurts

    [Bernard if I wanted to hear never-ending negative reports on how “bad” the Labor government is, I’d read the Ltd News press. Lift your game, Crikey. How about some INDEPTH examination of what a lying, cheating, arrogant pack of bast..ds, who have no workable policies, the opposition is?]

    I don’t know if you have noticed by the Libs are in opposition.

    It’s not the media’s job to grill the opposition, it’s the medias job to keep the government to account.

    BER, Pink Batts, East Timor Solution, Live Cattle Export Ban Bungle, Endless taxes and the axing of a sitting Prime Minister and you have the making of media grilling gold.

  6. Jimmy

    Perry Getton – Well said – add in a rabid and vehemently anti govt media and their achievements become even more laudable. Look at the Herald Sun’s 2 page spread yesterday about the “costs” to various people of the “carbon tax” before the tax is even announced and with no mention of the compensation they will receive for a perfect example.

  7. Jimmy

    TTH – “It’s not the media’s job to grill the opposition, it’s the medias job to keep the government to account.” So by that logic Abbott can say whatever he wants without scrutiny even though he could become PM without going to an election. Get real.

  8. Perry Gretton

    I managed to get an online letter accepted by the Herald Sun yesterday, querying how they could analyse the effects of a carbon tax when the details were yet to revealed. I was gobsmacked when they accepted it.

  9. Fran Barlow

    It’s hard to disagre with much of this analysis.

    Many years ago, I was handed the thankless task of coaching an inline hockey team. Nobody else had a child who could ice skate all that well, still less manage to play hockey on inlines so I was it.

    Given that I didn’t expect the team to be scoring many goals, I figured the most important tasks were working out how to cut the number of goals we conceded. I chose the only kid who wanted to be goalie, warned all the other kids that at the first sign of abuse or criticism from any of them that they would become goalie for the next two games and worked on training him to keep out goals.

    The worst place for an inline hockey goalie to be when a shot from close range is coming is in the middle. The shooter gets to pick either side, and the goalie, who has no time to react just has to hope the shooter chokes or misses. You give the shooter one side — ideally the side with the sharpest angle and then you choose a low dive and raise your free arm. That maximises the chances of deflecting the puck, especially in a game where the kids aren’t all that good at shooting.

    Because the kids couldn’t skate much, I had them practice passing and holding. The less the other team had the ball (we weren’t using a puck) the fewer shots on goal they’d have and we could force them to chase more, tiring them out and reducing their advantage. The best of our skaters and ball trappers would move forward and then the piggy-in-the-middle routine would be resumed. I was seeking to neutralise a weakness (or if you like, render an opposition strength less salient.

    It seems to me that these are principle that the government has failed to apply. Instead of picking a side and being consistent, they are allowing themselves to be attacked from both sides. Instead of making it hard for the opposition to make use of their freedom to troll by simply adopting a policy, continually explaining it and then moving on, they are all over the place. They could have announced in February that they meant to begin a consultation process to devise a carbon price, announced a provisional framework in a couple of months and the final detail now. They could have shut down “Juliar” talk by pointing out that a carbon tax was not being considered quite early. But they didn’t. They could have pointed out that as it was clear that the Bali framework process could not be satisfactorily completed on a timeline that met the government’s desire to keep vulnerable people out of detention, they would process all on-shore and annoy all those who were never voting for them in Newspolls while impressing all those who wanted a robust position to defend.

    But no … I suspect poor coaching.

    {FTR … my inline hockey side ended up finishing about half way in our division the first year and came 3rd the following year. They started slowly, but got better, and our goalie turned into arguably the best goalie of the division — almost all of it as a result of his hardwork, character and his refusal to make the same mistake twice}

  10. Jimmy

    Perry – I tried to pst a comment on the article by the Vic Eneergy minister but surprising it didn’t make the cut. Kudos to you though, definitely a red letter day.

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