The Nostradamus Kids

It is Nostradamus, isn’t it? 

A good side-game, during moments of idleness, is to place our political leaders into some sort of context, by associating them with figures from history or literature. Kevin Rudd and his team of Hollowmen conjure up images of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm on some occasions, while at other times, the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz comes to mind. One of the problems with the Wiz of Oz notion is that our Dear Leader tends to hog the main parts — at times he’s the Lion in search of a heart, or the Tin Man in search of a brain. In the past few weeks it has been the Straw Man, in search of courage. 

While some friends have suggested the idea that our PM is actually the tricky Oz wizard standing behind the green curtain in the Great Hall of the Emerald City — this doesn’t wash. There is no way our leader would stand behind anything, let alone a green curtain. 

But the really big challenge this week has been to nail the nation’s Treasurer, Wayne Swan. Where does he stand in the farm-fresh pantheon of today’s Federal Ministers. Last week Mr Swan delivered his third budget and this column suggested it might be a nice gesture if the keeper of the Nation’s treasure actually played a straight game and told the people the true state of our great-big-communal-bank-account. That is, how much do we actually owe, how much have we borrowed and how much have we got to spend? NO SPIN! Just the numbers. 

Boy, did that idea expose just how naive we all are when it comes to recognising the leviathan that the Rudd government spin-machine is, when in full flight. It’s really a corker, and on budget night Mr Swan brought to the parliament the full force of it’s power. Talk about clever-dickism. 

On Tuesday night Wayne Swan managed to deliver a budget-speech that failed to mention that this coming financial year, the federal budget will be $40.8 billion in deficit. That is $40.8 billion in the red. That is the Rudd government will be spending $40 billion that it hasn’t got — and on our behalf. This figure doesn’t include what the country has borrowed or is about to borrow… or the election spend-up kitty. 

The magnificence of this piece of spin, was, not only did the treasurer manage not to mention the great-big-new-deficit, but spun his story around the fantastic notion that the budget would be back in surplus in 2013. The trick was, you don’t talk about the reality of today, but you spin the unreality of what MIGHT happen in three years time — if you get re-elected this year, that is. The bare-faced dishonesty of this spin operation was enough to leave the average thinking citizen wondering if there really is a parallel universe. 

And the awful thing about this whole Hollowman exercise was that the majority of the mainstream press seemed to swallow Swan’s humbug, hook, line and stinker. Wow! We’ll be in surplus in three years time. That’s good! 

But what the budget-spin did finally, was to nail Wayne Swan’s alter ego — the greatest spin-meister of all time — Nostradamus. The only difference is that while Nostradamus wrote his prophecies as quatrains Swan writes his in budget speeches and press releases. Most encyclopaedias and reference books on Nostradamus agree that his predictions on world events are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Do Wayne Swan’s statements have any predictive power? 

Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd — together with the other “inner cabinet members”, Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner — have managed in two and a half years to turn a $20 billion surplus into a $40 billion deficit. While The Global Financial Crisis was not of their making, nearly everything else — that has gone bottom-up — has been. And while every smoking gun on the floor of every cock-up has Kevin Rudd’s fingerprints all over the handle, barrel and trigger, the prophecies that “everything’s OK”, money-wise, must be sheeted home to the treasurer. The buck starts with Wayne Swan. 

The prophecies and declarations viewed against actual reality, have been extraordinary: 

  • Inflation is the genie about to emerge from the bottle (2008).
  • We are economic conservatives (2007, 2008, part of 2009).
  • We are social-democrats, economic conservative-non-believers (later part of 2009, 2010).
  • There will not be an illegal boat-people crisis. (2008).
  • There is a $600 million bill for the non-existent boat-people crisis (2010).
  • The greatest moral issue of our times— Climate Change (2009).
  • We will be delaying Climate Change ETS action until, ah, 2013. (2010)
  • We will be keeping out climate-change-troops on payroll — cost, $600 million.
  • The NBN broadband will be commercial and recoupment of $43 billion is predicted.
  • The super-profits tax will stay, and raise $9 to $12 billion. ( starting 2013).
  • Well will have fixed the health system by, ah, (2014 or 2020).
  • Building the Education Revolution cost blowouts (x3) are not a issue, just a bother. 

The Nostradamus like prophecies of the way money and finance works, as understood or not understood by the Rudd government and the treasurer, seem to be something out of the 16th century. Except the Rudd/Swan prophecies, while not in quatrain or verse form, certainly follow in the steps and rules of the old fraudster, Nostradamus. 

Rule #1: Cast your prophecies well into the future.

Rule #2: Make the prophecies as obscure as possible.

Rule #3: Have multiple explanations in case of trouble.

Rule #4: Obscure meanings by using Virgilianized syntax and word games. 

One of the tricks used by the treasurer and the PM is to issue predictions or forward estimates on just about everything. Things, money, events are all in the future, rarely this year nor next. Health will “click in” in 2014. Climate/carbon reduction will be in 10 or 20 or 50 years time. Things are “gunna happen” sometime in the future. 

This is all well and good except that Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner see their terms expire in about 6 months time. There will be new members of parliament and there may be a new government. They cannot control what happens at the next election or future parliaments. New governments throw out previous government’s policies, laws and ideas. Governments of the day cannot shackle the governments of the future. Prophesies past the next election date are a nonsense. 

In a letter to Privy Councillor Birague, Nostradamus stated in 1566: 

I do but make bold to predict (not that I guarantee the slightest thing at all), thanks to my researches and the consideration of what judicial Astrology promises me and sometimes gives me to know, principally in the form of warnings, so that folk may know that with which the celestial stars do threaten them. Not that I am foolish enough to pretend to be a prophet. 

Oh dear! Those foolish enough to be prophets. Or is the answer in the stars?

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