Peter Smith

Why didn’t he listen?

On reflection how singular was, and is, the mining tax in clarifying the political debate and cutting through lulling talk.

With the election campaign a week or so old we have the extraordinary situation of Julia Gillard trying to claim she is at one with Tony Abbott on the boats. What will her new Green comrades think of that, I wonder?

For his part, Mr Abbott has apparently embraced the entirety of the Fair Work Act. While Joe Hockey made a fist of explaining this was about creating certainty after some years of change in his recent interview with Kerry O’Brien (21/7); it’s all a bit too defensive and unnecessarily so. For example, why would the Coalition rule out changes to the Act if it became evident that it was having egregious affects on particular employees? It reminds me of Holland in the world cup final trying to win by default. Fine if you win but it looks like a wasted opportunity to have a go if you lose. It was a pity that Mr Hockey did not have a better story to tell because he was on form.

Kerry got himself tied up in knots trying to get Joe to concede that amending the Electoral Commission Act to require trade unions to pay the Commission for running secret ballots was, in fact, a de facto change to the Fair Work Act. Joe was disdainful and effective in swatting this diversion aside. After all whether unions pay for secret ballots or not has no bearing on the substantive provisions of the Fair Work Act. It is much to do about nothing. But to Kerry it was not a diversion. He no doubt pictured the headlines in the morning newspapers and news bulletins – ‘Kerry gets Joe to admit proposing to change the Fair Work Act’. This drove him on and on: Kerry with a bone. We learnt very little except that Joe seems to be a match for Kerry which in itself may be important information for the Liberal Party to digest and learn from.

But to the mining tax; here was the Labor Party back to its roots. ‘Sharing the wealth’ as that genuine leftie, President Obama, said in an unguarded moment. Let’s face it, this where the Labor Party wants to be. Ms Gillard’s proposed ‘citizens’ assembly’ on climate change has that old Soviet or French revolutionary (back to her student radical past) ring to it. You can’t move forward all the time or get the troops energised by looking like a Liberal.

When the Labor Party tries to share the wealth with complete disregard for how it was created in the first place we have a difference worth voting on. Initially I was grateful to all the gang of four for this clarity. I realise now, of course, that I was grateful to Ms Gillard prematurely. In fact she had nothing to do with the RSPT or, apparently, with any of the Rudd government’s decisions.

If only Kevin had listened to her in the first place we wouldn’t have had errant batt installations, BER and green loans rorting, grocery and fuel watch would be up and running, every child would have a computer; all of those one-stop child minding centres would have been built; the federal government would have introduced genuine public health reform not a phoney solution; carbon tax reduction legislation would have proceeded; boat people would have been banished to Dili, or somewhere; we would have sustainable population growth, without this impacting on immigration; and probably less debt. Why did Mr Rudd ignore her sensible advice? She won’t say because her advice and expressed concern about the government ‘losing its way’ was all apparently conveyed in confidence. Was it because she was a woman that Mr Rudd ignored her advice? Sadly, what else is there to think? It was probably the same when Mark Latham insisted on moving forward with Medicare Gold.

Thankfully, under Ms Gillard’s watch, the mining tax has not been scrapped but only amended and rebadged. Who knows she might have been out of the room powdering her nose when Messrs Swan and Ferguson finally stitched it together. But, at this stage, at least, she is not distancing herself from the MRRT. This is all to the good for those who like their politics differentiated; and it gets better once the Greens are taken into account.

Not only do we have the Ms Gillard promising a mining tax that will do unknown damage to the industry largely responsible for Australia’s prosperity, but also being party to an under-the-counter deal with the Greens who are seriously fretting over the loss of revenue that the RSPT would have brought. Once the RSPT was announced, Bob Brown had the money in the bank, already marked for spending on “high speed rail, public infrastructure and housing, schools and public hospitals”. There is only one way the MRRT tax impost could go if it were ever to reach the senate in the next parliament; that is upwards. Vive la difference!

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