Peter Smith

Values Added Election

What does a government run on if it has presided over a whole series of policy back flips and disasters? What do you run on as a new Prime Minister if you were complicit in all of this and then managed in just three short weeks to create more havoc? What you can’t do is to point to past achievements. An option is to hold out hope for the future and extol one’s virtues or, in this case, ‘values’.

In calling the election, Julia Gillard said that, ‘moving forward with confidence required… a clear set of values’. She made a point about having such a clear set of values, which she had shared with all of us over the past few weeks.

It is at this point, with the best will in the world, that the struggle begins. What values exactly have been on display that we should admire?

Were those values on display when she unceremoniously deposed Kevin Rudd? Were they on display when she apparently reneged, within minutes, on a promise to Mr Rudd not to challenge him, once she learnt that she would easily win? She refuses to talk about that; taking refuge in the confidentiality of the meeting. But that doesn’t fly. If it didn’t happen, a simple no, without adornment, would suffice. If it did happen, the only person that ‘confidentiality’ is protecting is Ms Gillard. How convenient is that.

Were those values on display in the Dili solution? She offered up another country to hold asylum seekers without speaking to that country’s government. In itself, this says nothing about her values simply about her naivety and inexperience, but her values quickly came to the fore in the aftermath of her announcement.

When she was undone, she professed that her remarks were misunderstood. At the same time, she had let the ‘good’ story circulate without correction for two days. We had to look carefully apparently at what she’d actually said. Even being kind, isn’t that just a little too clever by half for someone whose values we should admire. Then we have the mining tax and the recent economic statement. Her values, I am afraid, took another beating.

Only 2½ months ago we were told by the Government, in which, in case we have all forgotten, Ms Gillard was a prominent member, that the RSPT would raise $12 billion in its first two years? Now we are told that the same tax, if it were still in play, would raise double that amount? Why, because Ken Henry has adjusted his resource prices. Henry’s resource prices are rather like Groucho’s principles it seems: “if you don’t like them I have others”.

And, what others Henry had! The MRRT would have brought in $4.5 billion under the old prices. Now apparently it will bring in $10.5 billion; an incredible and unbelievable rise of 133% in a matter of a few months.

What a boon these new prices have been to the Gillard Government. They have allowed Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan to replace the RSPT with the MRRT at an apparent cost of a paltry $1.5 billion, instead of the $7.5 billion they would otherwise have had to admit to. It would have been hard to spin a decline of $7.5 billion as anything other than a back down. Perhaps Henry’s new prices may even earn him a contract extension, if the Government is returned.

“Fair shake of the sauce bottle cobbers -over my dead body!” Come on now, who said that?

On 2 July when rapprochement with the three mining giants was forged no hint was given by Gillard and Swan that the negotiated changes to the mining tax would reduce revenue by so much. With a straight face we were told that revenue would decline from $12 to $10.5 billion. Sometimes it takes time to realise you have been taken in when practised spin merchants are performing. Eventually, gullibility gave way to confusion and scepticism. The figures did not add up and by a long way.

What to do, Gillard and Swan must have thought. We can’t just come out and admit to being totally disingenuous. With all those values weighing her down maybe Ms Gillard did have a fleeting pang of conscience, who knows, but she obviously overcame it. Imagine the conversation.

“I know what to do”, Wayne said. “We will get Henry to put out an economic statement and bury the numbers in the statement. That way the numbers will look official and part of a whole pastiche. That will take the heat off us.”

“But haven’t we just had the budget statement Wayne; won’t it look funny?”

“Don’t worry about that, I can handle the press.”

“Oh you’re so tricky Wayne and without a hint of shame.”

Is any of the above unfair, I ask myself? Is it a trifle partisan, perhaps? I should balance it with instances where Julia’s moral character and values have shone through over the past three weeks. There must be instances of that. Let me think…umm!

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