Well, hold the phone and smack me upside the head, this government is dumber than I thought! There I was, thinking that budget spinners were strategically painting the budget as a monster so that we’d all sigh with relief when it was tough, but not as tough as we’d expected. Nope, not these geniuses — they were actually understating the harshness of the budget, and much of Australia (if the post-budget polls are any guide) has been left reeling. That sense of having been “punched” (as Monique Wright from Weekend Sunrise put it) is now being replaced by vengeful anger in much of the electorate. Way to go, guys.
Here’s Wright and co-host Andrew O’Keefe’s interview with the Treasurer on Weekend Sunrise (disclaimer: I appear on the program every Saturday with The Australian columnist Nick Cater in a segment called “Masters of Spin”). Hockey does a manful job, but there’s no escaping the devastating figures O’Keefe hits him with when he points out that the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling analysis of the budget shows the lowest 20% of income earners will cop a 5% reduction in disposable income while the top 20% will — ahem — struggle with a 0.2% cut …
Personally, I never quite get the Tory instinct to punish the poor and squeeze what little blood there is left to get out of the vulnerable while ignoring and indulging the privileged. Forget fairness, compassion and justice for the moment; as this interview shows, from a purely communications perspective it’s a disaster. This government is now in danger of setting the narrative for its term as the hard, cruel, mean-spirited men who kick down and suck up. Worse, they are now seen as dishonest hypocrites who kick down and suck up because of the unequivocal statements by a clearly rattled Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the last election about a “unity ticket” on the Gonski education reforms, no cuts to health, education, pensions, the ABC, SBS, no new taxes, etc. Particularly after taking the high moral ground over Gillard’s broken promise on a carbon tax, whichever way they try to spin this, it’s not a good look.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (who must be dancing about in glee at the free gift this budget offers to what had looked like a demoralised ALP) was quick to push this narrative home in his (much more stirring than expected) budget reply.
The plunge in popularity for the government is the entirely predictable result.
I was particularly troubled by the thoughtful analysis by Tim Dunlop in The Kings Tribune on how the Right have “freed themselves from the shackles of consistency and evidence”. He makes a powerful case. And here’s the not usually left-wing Sam de Brito in The Sydney Morning Herald hearing the distant sound of tumbrels.
To be fair, the resourceful Annabel Crabb did find a silver lining in the Fairfax press. What will conservative columnists rant about now?
But, for me, the saddest and most telling piece in response to this budget was a piece in the Fairfax press by the newly unemployed former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes.
Meanwhile, the world goes on quietly destroying itself no matter what shenanigans are going on in silly old Australia. Here’s some news that got missed in the government’s triumphalism over axing the carbon tax. It’s a “holy shit” global warming moment, according to a piece by Chris Mooney in Mother Jones, and may have set us on the inexorable path to an eventual 69-foot sea level rise — gulp. But, hey, as long as electricity prices don’t rise …
And comedian John Oliver (via The Atlantic) had a lot of pointed fun about what a statistically representative debate about climate change might look like, not that it will impress money men like Dick Warburton and Maurice Newman, who know what they know and also know that anything they don’t know just ain’t worth knowing …
To cheer you up (or maybe just to cheer myself up) I leave you with a terrific, funny and bloody bang-on piece from Lindy West on Jezebel explaining (for the 300 millionth time) why feminism is necessary and why it isn’t anti-men. After reading it, I did start wondering, given the state of the planet after 2000 years of men running the place, should we give the chicks a shot?
Maybe we should ask Alan Jones.