The truth about political promises. They actually don’t mean a thing. None of the things Labor, the Liberals, the Greens or any other of the 50 or so other parties solemnly spell out their policies can actually guarantee anything. For except in the rarest of circumstances we will not have a government that can govern in its own right.

Whether the minority government is in the minority in the House of Representatives, as now, or just in the Senate, as is normal, it is still a minority government. With the composition of the Senate a real lottery of an event you will waste a lot of time trying to work out which promises will actually become law whoever forms the government.

For an illustration of that look no further than this week’s Labor promise to put an early end to the carbon tax. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd might say yes, but when it comes to a vote Greens and Coalition Senators are quite likely to say no.

Spun out of control. As if charging a few extra thousand to sit with the Prime Minister at a meal-time was not bad enough, some bright spark in the Labor Party team thought trading favourable coverage on a website for a 10-minute interview with the great man was a good idea. At least the Rudd Labor team moved quickly to sack the promotional group that came up with the idea, which will minimise the damage — that is what you should do during a campaign when you stuff something up.

Perhaps more importantly, this episode gives us an insight into the way that public relations actually works, and it is not a pretty sight.

Political advice for the day that will largely go unheeded.

“I am reminded of some good advice one of our preeminent cricket writers, Gideon Haigh, gave the Australian cricket team last week. He urged the Australian players to ‘ dare to be dull’. Cautioning against the ‘ contagion’ of hype and ‘ wild and woolly’ batting. Similarly, for the … government, the task of reform to achieve growth is not about media spin and headlines … but the results and opportunities that disciplined financial management, improved competitiveness and growing our economy bring to investors, taxpayers and citizens.”

— NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell yesterday.

A reason for wanting dullness. Turn to the finance pages of the Fairfax tabloids this morning and you will see one very good reason for the NSW Premier fancying a quieter form of governing. There’s an update on how James Packer, who was recently given the go-ahead for a new casino development, is alleged to have suggested a dirty deal to the existing casino operator Echo Entertainment.

I guess the story gives us a clue to the O’Farrell meaning of “competitiveness”.

News and views noted along the way.

  • Hedge funds are for suckers — “According to a report by Goldman Sachs released in May, hedge fund performance lagged the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index by approximately 10 percentage points this year, although most fund managers still charged enormous fees in exchange for access to their brilliance.”
  • An unreal sport: mixing ‘fantasy life’ with reality — “It’s the fourth most popular sport in the United States and more than 30 million people play it in the United States and Canada. Around 13 percent of Americans played it in 2012. There are hundreds of variations across multiple sports, but football is by far the most popular. And it’s pure fantasy.”
  • The Tourre case — ex-Goldman banker looks like a fall guy for derivatives losses —  “… an eloquent demonstration of the fact that large financial institutions remain ‘too big to jail’.”
  • Gillian Tett on the link between successful women and sport – “In recent months Ernst & Young, the American consultancy, has been analysing sporting activity among senior female executives and leaders. And it has discovered that the higher the executive level, the more likely it is that a woman played sport at high school or college.”
  • In the mood for tasty wine– “Having a drink with friends makes a wine taste better than if you’re on your own. … The findings are among those presented by Oxford university experimental psychologist Charles Spence at this week’s Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference in Sydney. His studies of the multi-sensory impacts on the way people taste wines have revealed that while critics will argue a drink of red is all about what’s in the glass, many other factors influence the final enjoyment of the wine.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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