Caro's Flotsam and Jetsam: Abbott more goose than maverick
The federal government is telling everyone the newest budget is going to bring a lot of pain. It might not be as bad as you think -- and that's a smart strategy. Plus rape in the media and Tony's new toys ...
Pre-budget fun and games. We are waiting for the first federal budget of the Abbott government, and our new glorious leaders want us to be waiting in fear. So far, they have scared the bejesus out of pensioners, public servants, uni students and academics, medicos (and their patients), the ABC, SBS, all government-funded not-for-profits, and have public school teachers and parents on tenterhooks. All are waiting for a terrible axe to fall.
As a communications professional, however, I think I see a strategy in play. It’s not a stupid strategy — in fact, it’s what I would advise Coalition MPs to do in the unlikely event they’d ever ask me. I think they are making the budget sound as fearful as they possibly can so that when they hit us with cuts that are less awful than expected, instead of howls of outrage, they will be received with a collective sigh of relief. It’s called the management of expectations, and it is a sensible thing to do.
It seems that a Deloitte report agrees that the budget axe might not be as draconian as expected. Deloitte gives a different reason, however — namely that the Abbott government has found making the cuts it wants to make harder than it had thought. It is, of course, entirely possible we are both right.
Or, indeed, that we are both wrong and the cuts really will be as terrible as people fear. Here’s another view on the anticipated budget from Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness. Van Onselen is pointing out the obvious: there is an alternative to squeezing (non-existent) blood from the (lowest-income) stone.
Another take on the spin around this much-anticipated budget came from Laurie Oakes in News Corporation tabloids. The veteran political observer takes us from the unfortunate visual cues in a photo of our illustrious, tough-talking, pain-administering Treasurer to the stubborn problem his boss Tony Abbott still has with female voters.
If Deloitte and I are both proved wrong on the anticipated budget cuts, this government is even stupider than I thought, particularly after spending $12 billion on new fighter jets that will likely never fire a shot in anger.
Highway to the danger zone. The foolishness of this purchase at a time of — ahem — supposed budget crisis — was a gift to cartoonists. Here are two of my favourites: the first, powerful and devastating, from Michael Leunig about the nature of immature masculinity and war in The Age …
And this one, from Alan Moir in The Sydney Morning Herald, making it crystal clear how the aircraft purchase looks against all the threatened cuts to public services …
There were other delights in the financial pages this week, especially the wonderful “fukt up” at The Australian Financial Review. Truth on the front page of a newspaper, particularly put that bluntly, is exceedingly rare. Mind you, the downside of this uncorrected proof going to print and on sale in Western Australia is that it reveals just how understaffed our once proud mastheads now are, and that both saddens and frightens me.
Rape in GoT (spoilers). In other news, Game of Thrones returned to subscription TV screens and illegal downloaders the world over to both acclaim and unease. It was a scene in episode two, season four, that caused most consternation (spoilers ahead!), showing an incestuous rape between Jaime Lannister and his sister Cersei, beside the dead body of their son King Joffrey. In response, I did like an article by Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post, which used the scene as a jumping-off point to discuss the way we portray rape in entertainment generally.
But I did wonder at some of the outrage in social media about the scene, especially given that episode one opened with an adolescent girl being pursued by Ramsay Bolton, a reluctant Theon Greyjoy, a female archer and some vicious dogs. The poor girl is felled by an arrow to the thigh and the dogs are set loose to feed on her living flesh. This scene passed unremarked! I get that rape is much more common than this kind of barbarity, but nevertheless …
Speaking of women and the way we treat them in the media, I found this passionate cri de coeur from a male geek on the website Dr Nerdlove against the abuse female geeks cop in the world of comics and online gaming (not a world I know much about) fascinating and heartening.
Gun nuts and nutty gun laws. As usual, there were worrying signs from the world of gun culture. An article from CNN about the Georgian legislature allowing an already armed-to-the-teeth community to take guns to even more places sent a particular shiver down my spine. Forget shootouts in the OK Corral, sounds like there’ll be even more shootouts in schools, churches, cinemas and bars in the good old US of A.
Not that we should get too complacent here, where it appears successive NSW state governments have been quietly watering down the gun laws to keep the minority Shooters & Fishers party on side, according to an article by Rick Feneley in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Finally, in closing, further information on the proposed ending of public funding for private schools in Chile (once at the forefront of such policy) has come to hand. I will be watching this space and the progress of the new bill proposed by the Bachelet government closely.