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September 17th 2010 print

Peter Smith

Post-election blues

The perquisites of office have gone to the victors and Rudd 747 is off again. Just to show how people are searching for something to say in this post-election lacuna, Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens said, on the ABC’s Q&A, that Tony Abbott was a wrecker.

We are in that post-election calm where nothing much happens. Even the Prime Minister is struggling to get media attention. She resorted to complaining about the media failing to expose the Coalition’s black hole. Someone should tell her that the media doesn’t have a hot line to Ken Henry and had no way of costing Coalition policy, just as it had no way to cost the Opposition’s policies in 2007. We still don’t know if Rudd got his sums right. That remains a Treasury secret. Of course, in any event, Treasury’s costings have to be taken with a grain of salt. It is singularly bad at estimating revenue and expenditure and, as we know, is subject to flights of fancy when it comes to mining tax revenue.

The lady has front there is no doubt about that. Never mind the multiple billions of dollars actually wasted on pink batts and school halls; never mind the complete mystery surrounding just how much tax the MRRT will raise; and never mind the rubbery estimates of how much the $43 billion NBN will cost in the end result, if it is ever built, which seems extremely doubtful. Let us all instead concentrate on the hypothetical shortfall the Coalition might have had, if it had been elected to office; if had not adjusted its programs; and if Treasury had in fact, for once, got its numbers right.

Presumably Ms Gillard wants to keep the so-called ‘black hole’ alive up until the next election. The Coalition should work out how to combat this but my faith in its ability to communicate any position effectively is stretched.

Wayne Swan seems to get away routinely with triumphantly claiming his policies have left the government with the lowest debt around, as though he had some hand in this. When Rudd came into office the government was in the black. Governments of the G7 countries had net debt ranging from about 25 to 85% or so of their GDPs. Of course we have relatively low debt; because of Howard and Costello. Unless we are careful another complete myth will be etched into the public record. Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have so far done little to counter it. Their communication skills need honing, to say the very least. The Coalition’s communication of its broadband policy during the election campaign was worse than woeful. Apparently the shadow minister responsible has been moved on – but who was he? Had we heard from him? I doubt if any party in the history of election campaigns has ever done worse on such an important issue.

What else has happened? Well nothing much. The perquisites of office have gone to the victors and Rudd 747 is off again.

Just to show how people are searching for something to say in this post-election lacuna, Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens said, on the ABC’s Q&A, that Tony Abbott was a wrecker. Clive Palmer made the fairly obvious rebuttal that he hadn’t done anything yet. But Sarah wasn’t having any of that, “if Tony Abbott doesn’t want to be a wrecker, he can work with the rest of us …You don’t have to be wrecker”. Welcome to Kumbaya politics which presumably means everybody has to work together to ensure that the Greens’ impoverishing policies are put into effect; else be called a wrecker.

As I was searching for something more to write about my wife was playing that Radiohead classic which goes: ‘I’m a creep I’m a weirdo’.

I don’t know why but my thoughts immediately turned to Rob Oakeshott’s ambition to be Mr Speaker. Leaving aside Christopher Pyne’s constitutional difficulty with giving the Speaker a pair and, therefore, effectively a deliberative vote, how would Oakeshott find someone to pair with? He would have to go searching around each time there was a close vote to find someone with an opposite view. Oakeshott thinks this is possible apparently, but he would say that wouldn’t he, with all of that ambition to satisfy for the finer things in life. But that’s not my real worry.

As we know, a ministerial appointment was snatched from his grasp because of all that bad publicity about him once approaching Morris Iemma for a NSW cushy number. Apparently he forgets whether he did, in fact, approach Iemma. It is that forgetfulness that is my real worry. Mr Speaker has an important job to do and has to remember complex standing orders and who talked last and whose turn it is, and so on. This, I think, would put Oakeshott under too much stress. For his own good, and for the good of Harry Jenkins who he wants to turf out unceremoniously, Gillard and Abbott should come together as one, which should give Oakeshott a consoling tingle up his spine, and say thanks for the offer, but no thanks.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics