The member for Lilley strode to the podium at a very relaxed 4.20pm today to field questions from a despondent, perfunctory press pack lagging under the weight of way too many Business Spectator pastizzis.
After an uninspiring monologue emphasising graphs from last year about Australia’s economy being the envy of the Western world etc, the Treasurer, flanked by his youthful but pale-looking (not much sleep lately?) media adviser Adam Collins, began to take questions. Leigh Sales was smashing a loud orange top, icons Laurie Oakes and Karen Middleton sat together up the back and Fairfax scribbler (and Bruce Billson doppelganger) Chris Johnston, a late arrival, was cruelly forced to stand.
Australian Financial Review scoop king Phil Coorey dived in first. Phil wanted to know whether any of the initiatives would actually be legislated before the government’s demise on September 14. Swan retorted that the process had already begun via the appropriation bills, but didn’t give a firm commitment.
Next, the “other Phil”, genial Herald Sun stalwart and ex-press gallery president Phil Hudson, asked the Treasurer whether reductions in the baby bonus would kill off the glint in the eyes of Australian couples mulling procreation. Swan said that despite the cut, Australia still had a solid family payments system and that increases to Family Tax Benefit A would more than compensate for a lack of libido. The baby bonus was “unsustainable”.
Gratts, aka Michelle Grattan, entered the fray to call Wayne on the government’s claimed “$24 billion” infrastructure spend, when only $3 billion was allocated over the forward estimates. Duh, claimed Wayne; nation-building infrastructure takes more than four years to roll out. Gratts didn’t let the issue die for some time though.
Former Mr Natasha Stott-Despoja (and TV darling) Hugh Riminton leapt in to allege that voters wouldn’t respond well to a lack of pre-election bribes, and that long-term plans wouldn’t resonate at the ballot box. The Treasurer said the NDIS and Gonski had been popular ideas floating around for years.
A bolshie Rural Press hack wondered aloud about whether new regional spending was designed to appease the independents in Lyne and New England. Not at all, said Wayne, these ideas had been on the cards for years.
Next, Probes aka Andrew Probyn from The West Australian hurled a vicious epithet: wasn’t it a fact that the Mining Resources Rent Tax was really a “nuisance tax”? Swan, that imperilled Labor lifer, said it was unfortunate a profits-based tax was introduced at the exact same time corporate profits were collapsing. When profits recovered, so would the tax.
“An almighty ruckus erupted over who would ask the next question. Voice projection expert and ABC face Chris Uhlmann emerged triumphant …”
An almighty ruckus erupted over who would ask the next question. Voice projection expert and ABC face Chris Uhlmann emerged triumphant to ask something inaudible about failed taxes. They’re not failed at all, they’ll start working soon, Swan assured him.
ABC business guru Andrew Robertson arced up about the impact of slugs on business. They’re not slugs at all, think about business friendly investment like the NBN!
Former ABC Moscow correspondent Emma Griffiths asked whether the government had done enough to secure an unlikely come-from-behind victory at the ballot box. We’re not in it for short-term glory, we’re in it for long-term reforms, ran the answer.
A loaded query from The Courier-Mail’s Denis Atkins inferring Labor was wrong to put the national interest ahead of Labor’s self-interest produced a defiant one-word response: “no”.
Commercial TV hearthrob Alex Hart suggested the government would send pensioners to an early grave via its seniors’ reforms. The exact opposite was true, Wayne said. Instead, the Gillard administration was “liberating” old people to ensure they met their full potential.
Paul Osborne from AAP picked up on the budget’s references to an unpredictable economic future. Could that wobbliness be summed up in a word? The deputy PM batted this away, talking broadly about “global markets” playing havoc with the Australian dollar.
An indigenous man up the front couldn’t find much in the budget for the First Australians. But we’re “Closing the Gap”, Swan insisted!
Finally, with Collins getting restless at the edges and an unnamed adviser barking at the gallery to cease their harassment, Lateline double-breasted suit specialist Tom Iggulden asked why Labor was “booby trapping” the opposition. “They’re booby-trapping themselves!” exclaimed south-east Queensland’s biggest Bruce Springsteen fan.
And that was it, with a last-second shouted interjection from impressive gallery mucker James Massola sadly falling on deaf ears.