*Pic: “Both parties are making Jacqui Lambie look smart and talented …” Image from HERE
Where is the vision? Where is the plan for the future? From either party. This is an interminable election campaign where there are no plans and no vision and “policies” has become a synonym for “spending”.
The Liberals claim to have a policy – “Jobs & Growth”. But it’s only plank seems to be a reduction in the company tax rate, despite the fact that there is no underpinning economic basis to suggest that such a reduction leads to compensatory expansion, which might in turn lead to “jobs and growth”. Competent professional economic wisdom seems to be that a reduction in taxation fosters profit-taking and the payment of dividends from old investment, rather than encouraging new investment. Is it just a gift to mates who donate to Liberal Party syphons like the Free Enterprise Foundation?
Tony Abbott has been the albatross around Malcolm’s neck. By the end of this campaign, this corporate tax break will have become Malcolm’s new albatross. Nobody likes it.
Labor has spending policies. It’s like watching a giant chocolate wheel wondering where it’s going to stop next, but I honestly can’t identify a single, constructive policy apart from a back-to-the-future effort to reinstate most of what Abbott deinstated. There is certainly no vision or plan – even as simple as Kevin Rudd had to fix the Murray-Darling. So they have lots of proposed spending – albeit not yet adding up to the Liberals’ corporate tax rate cut – but their only campaign tactic seems to be to offer a small, agile target to the enemy. Deny everything: “No, we won’t let the boats in. No, we won’t reintroduce Schoolkids Bonus. No, we won’t increase taxes on superannuation saving. No, GST won’t go to 15%.” And there’s certainly no more carbon tax to speak of.
It’s impossible to say what either party stands for; that this is their grand national plan. Halfway through a mind-numbing, tedious, two-month election campaign I’m still wondering who to vote for. I’m unable to choose one party from the other on the basis of superior merit, vision or policies. How does one choose if neither has any plan for the future? I’m unavoidably faced with the choice of the lesser of two evils. I recall the “lesser of two weevils” joke from “Master and Commander”.
“One character asks the other ‘You see those weevils?’
Which would you choose?’
‘There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.’
‘But suppose you had to choose?’
‘Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.’
‘There I have you, ‘ cried Jack. ‘You are bit — you are completely dished. Don’t you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils?'”
So, which party is the lesser weevil; who is least bad? They’re both bloody hopeless, but I’m going to try to fathom who is least hopeless. At least there have been plenty of hopeless, wrong-footed blunders to tally up. In the absence of the presentation and debate of policies, we are being entertained by two burlesque chorus lines of hoofers with two left feet.
We started the saga of campaign mini-disasters with a WA ex-union boss and Labor candidate, Chris Brown, who was deselected at light speed for not disclosing past convictions. Really! Who honestly expects a maritime union official to have no priors, and whatever happened to due diligence in the preselection process?
And what about Scott Morrison? He couldn’t for the life of him remember how his minions arrived at $35 billion of the $67 billion he asserted as Labor funding promises, even with a pretty picture on an easel to help explain it all. He invited the media to ask Labor because he didn’t have a clue! He’s the Treasurer, for Chrissake and he can’t keep track of numbers or add up? Why do the Liberals let him speak?
Mathias Cormann has clearly been given the job of attacking Shorten at every opportunity. And he has taken to heart the maxim that to know your enemy, you must become your enemy. His synapses now default to “Bill Shorten” whenever he opens his mouth. Why else say “Bill Shorten is very caring and very much in touch and Bill Shorten every single day is promoting our national economic plan for jobs and growth, which of course is exactly what Australia needs given the continued global economic headwinds”. Of course he meant to say Malcolm; Mathias needs to get more sleep.
Nova Peres had a revelation and ditched the job, with much emotion. When asked by the media pack whether she could have picked a better time to quit, instead of half way into an election campaign, she replied that she hadn’t called the election. Good answer. But tragic TV viewing for a day or two.
Another “Nice Timing” award goes to NSW Labor CEO Jamie Clements who has departed the scene after being charged by the Electoral Commission for misuse of electoral roll information. And the AFP raid on Labor Senator Stephen Conroy’s office to search for NBN documents was also nicely timed. But it was too crass and clumsy to be a conspiracy. And why has the Labor Party asked the AFP not to make the documents public? Nobody looks good in this mess.
VIC Labor’s David Feeney forgot he has a multi-million dollar, negatively-geared property. And he’s clueless on Labor’s policy on child allowances. And he left the plans for the D-Day landings on someone’s desk. OK, if you’re into negatively-gearing multi-million dollar properties, schoolkids’ bonuses quite possibly aren’t relevant to you. Or if you can actually forget that you own a spare mansion or two, why would anyone expect you to remember what Labor’s policies are? But to give away the campaign plan? That’s just stupid.
But Feeney isn’t alone in knowing nothing about his party’s policies. At least he didn’t invade the opposite party’s media circus as Victorian Liberal candidate Chris Jermyn did by crashing a Bill Shorten event, seemingly intent on displaying his own ignorance of Liberal policies to the media. He was gloriously successful at showing his ignorance and went AWOL from an interview to save further embarrassment.
And then there’s that lovable buffoon Barnaby Joyce. His squabble with Johnny Depp is a comic diversion and makes great TV viewing. But why does he do such a bad job of articulating that Labor stopped live exports and (unrelatedly) there was an influx of boats during Labor’s government. Does he simply not understand that coincidence in time (correlation) doesn’t establish cause and effect? If he wanted to make the point that Labor is inept on several counts, surely he could do that without alienating Indonesia? Never mind: everyone outside his electorate finds Barnaby amusing.
But the growing scandal on donations is not amusing. Given that the need to crush the unions was the trigger for the double dissolution (remember that?), I’d expect that union donations to Labor would be meaty news. But it’s not. Instead, we’re regaled with denials from Arthur Sinodinos who – like Sergeant “I know nothing” Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes – knows nothing of donations to the Liberal party via a foundation hidden at arm’s length behind a veil, while he was the NSW Party President (having previously been the Finance Director) even though the Party’s national treasurer, Michael Yabsley, admits he knew!
Can nobody in the Liberal Party see that circumventing the rules on electoral donation declarations is going to bite them?
It’s just a pity that Sinodinos hasn’t seen the wisdom of an early departure. This one is an ongoing, growing, disaster-in-the-making. Arthur needs to fall on his sword now. A hasty departure now for “family reasons” will cause less pain than staying on. And beyond what the Electoral Act says, we’re just left wondering if there is any correlation between the announced reduction in the corporate tax rate and laundered donations to the Liberals from their Free Enterprise Foundation. “Donations simply give access.” Yeah. Right.
And the NSW Liberals are not alone. Various unincorporated associations also support Victorians Kelly O’Dwyer, Kevin Andrews, Josh Frydenberg and Andrew Robb by (legally) collecting donations from anonymous benefactors.
Give me Senator Nick Xenophon any day. He displayed all his charm to explain that it’s quite fine to get a single donation of $160k from one eccentric donor. It’s just a pity we have lost Clive Palmer midway through the campaign. At least it was as plain as daylight where his donations were coming from. And this all – almost – makes Union donations to Labor seem quite kosher.
But they’re not all boofheads. Julie Bishop (at least publicly) took it in her stride that she needed to apologise to Indonesia about Barnaby Joyce and Chris Bowen has sounded remarkably competent so far.
So, the Deputy Leaders are doing OK, but what of the leaders? Neither distinguished themselves in the very boring Great Debate at the Press Club. It was a non-event because neither has any vision to speak of. I wonder what Bill would have done if Malcolm had used the soapbox to actually launch a vision? Or what would Malcolm have done if Bill had launched a plan? Happily for both, neither did.
Earlier this week, Bill Shorten took time out from fighting his own party’s electoral grassfires to call Donald Trump “barking mad”. Why? And Malcolm Turnbull still won’t distance himself from Tony Abbott’s stupid policies despite being given ample, repeated opportunity by the media. Why not?
And when a real crisis arises during this hiatus of non-government, no-one seems to be able to do anything. Half the nation’s dairy farmers are going broke and they’re being offered even more debt as a sop. If neither party has anything to offer – preferring to let them go to the wall as a free market experiment – why can’t anyone say that? If we can watch the car industry and Whyalla steelworks shrivel and die, on what basis can we control, regulate or subsidise milk prices and production? Neither party is going to intervene in the market to rescue dairy farmers, so just say so. It’s pretty obvious.
Where do we go from here? Both parties are making Jacqui Lambie look smart and talented. At least she has conviction and speaks her mind:
Of Corey Bernardi: “He’s just an arsehole”.
She’ll get even more votes from that succinct summation than she needs for a quota – or the mere half-quota she really needs in this double dissolution Senate vote. And regardless of which party wins on 2nd July, we can be certain that cross-bencher Jacqui will be vastly more influential on the new government than any of our would-be Labor/Liberal reps. So maybe Jacqui is the lesser of the weevils?
She might even get my number 1 on the Senate ballot paper. I wouldn’t be alone.
On the House of Reps ballot paper? Perhaps I should drive national issues from my mind and vote for my Amigo of choice – or his opponent – on the basis of their enunciated policies, plans and vision. Or perhaps that’s a blank sheet too and I’ll need to decide on the lesser of two local weevils. And we’re only half way to voting day.
*Luigi (known to the Editor is a floating voter. He has worked in the tourism industry in the north of the state for the past two decades and has a jaundiced view of government at all levels. He doubts that political parties are ever truthful. Conversely, he willingly admits that his own opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.