ABC Newsroom: We are interrupting this news broadcast to report that a strong rumour is circulating around Parliament House that the Abbott government intends to remove tariff protection and other forms of assistance from Australian manufacturers of skipping ropes. We cross to our correspondent at Parliament House.
ABC reporter Parliament House:
Ministers are not commenting but it seems clear that the game is up for the skipping rope industry. One of our reporters tracked down a typical small manufacturer of skipping ropes in an inner industrial suburb of Melbourne a short while ago. You will be absolutely shocked by his story.
Skipping rope manufacturer:
We knew about this for a long time and have lobbied hard without success. This will put me out of business and will have enormous downstream effects — businesses that make the wooden handles; those that repair skipping ropes; the list goes on and on. But there is more to this than meets the eye.
Here, look at my hand! These are rope burns; the price for making my views known to the government.
A couple of nights ago I was visited by thugs in balaclavas. They told me to keep shtum or I’d be in trouble. One of them picked up a piece of rope from my floor, placed it in my hand and then, without warning, snatched it away, resulting in painful burns. ‘That’s just a taste,’ one of them said as I nursed my injured hand.
Have you any idea who they were?
Skipping rope manufacturer:
Well I couldn’t see their faces but I know who sent them. They told me! I asked whether Fat Tony and his crew had sent them because I’d threatened to spill the beans after a few too many beers the other night. They laughed and said, no, they were delivering an offer that couldn’t be refused from Tony Abbott and his cabinet ministers, and I believed them.
Well there you have it, an unconfirmed report at this stage of roughhouse standover tactics being employed by the Abbott government to silence critics. We will now cross to our reporter in Hobart who has been talking about this imminent decision with a child psychologist who is attending a UNICEF-sponsored conference on combating child obesity.
Do you think this decision by the Abbott government has wider implications than simply its devastating effect on the skipping rope industry?
I do indeed. This is a disastrous decision which will undo all the good work we have been trying to do to make people use bicycles and close down the fast food industry. It is the death knell for tackling child obesity in Australia. Skipping provides a vital exercise outlet for overweight children.
But won’t imports of skipping ropes fill the gap.
That’s easy to say but once the Australian industry closes its doors importers will hike their prices, making skipping ropes unaffordable for poor people. And, everyone knows that poor people are fatter – excuse me – face bigger challenges and obstacles in controlling their weight gain than do rich people. This will lead to even greater inequality between rich and poor.
We tried to get a comment from Bill Shorten but he was not available. However his office provided a generic comment which it said applied in all cases and circumstances. “This is another reckless decision by a secretive and sneaky Abbott government which doesn’t care about [manufacturing industry] and is out to destroy it.”
We will bring you any further news as it happens. We will also be covering all aspects of the story in depth on the 7.30 report and on Lateline, and Tony Jones will present a balanced debate on Q&A.
Off-air an unguarded microphone picks up one side of a telephone conversation. “What does the Australian Network want to know now? How to say ‘rope burns’ and ‘roughhouse standover tactics’ in Indonesian? I’ve no bloody idea. Tell them to call their mates at the Indonesian embassy.”