Tony Abbott‘s “great big new fail”

Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech [PDF] yesterday evening was a cynical exercise in smear, and as far as Australia’s economic future is concerned, practically ideas-free. This was not a speech that sought to respond to the Government’s proposals and to proffer alternatives – this was a speech squarely focused upon doing further political damage to the Prime Minister. The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was not mentioned in the speech. The Henry Review report – the most substantial tax reform blueprint produced in decades -was barely mentioned. The Opposition’s well-worn “great big new tax” catchphrase was thrown in there no less than five times. And the only new policy offering alluded to was the introduction of a two-year freeze on back office hiring in the public sector.

Interestingly, it has been revealed today that there may have been one additional policy offering intended for inclusion in the speech – a cash payment of $10,000 to stay-at-home mothers. Abbott made an ass of himself on Neil Mitchell’s radio show this morning, attempting to avoid admitting that he had raised the idea in Cabinet, but wound up back-pedalling to the extent that he was forced to insult himself to stem the barrage of questions. As Joe Kelly relates for The Australian:

Mr Abbott said he didn’t think it was “fair construction” to say he was “rolled” by his colleagues.

When asked to put a fair construction on the discussion, he replied by saying: “I’m just not going to do that.”

And then: “Well, Neil, I’ve done the best I can. And I’m sorry if I’m a disappointment but I’ve done the best I can.”

A frustrated Mitchell fired back by telling Mr Abbott not to “play that trick”.

Mr Abbott laughed loudly and delivered a damning self-assessment.

“Yeah, I’m sorry mate. I’m being a wimp – OK?”

A momentary silence followed before Mitchell said “um, yeah… OK” and the conversation shifted on to Mr Abbott’s plans to freeze 12,000 public sector jobs to save an estimated $4 billion.

That Abbott allegedly even thought fit to raise such a policy as a suggestion in the current climate speaks volumes about his political nous and indeed his leadership abilities.

No wonder there was a big hole in his speech where a constructive policy centrepiece should have been.
Clearly, playing the “attack dog” and engaging in constant carping is one thing; policy formulation and setting out a positive vision for the nation is something else entirely.

Will Watergate also destroy Kevin Rudd?

Tom Switzer fishes a rather smelly sock out of the gratuitous comparison department in today’s Australian … whoops, I mean Age:

At the height of the 1956 US presidential election, Adlai Stevenson said of Richard Nixon: ”This is a man of many masks. Who can say they have seen his real face?” Could the same thing be said about Kevin Rudd?

The friction of playing the role of conviction warrior while being in reality a malleable politician was one of many reasons for Nixon’s downfall.

Will this also destroy Kevin Rudd?

Clearly the irony of drawing parallels between a Labor Prime Minister going through a rough patch and the disgraced US President whose surname has become a by-word for corruption and abuse of power was too delicious a fruit not to partake in.

Sadly, its also a bit absurd. The “man of many masks” line has some legs, but the rest of the comparison tanks.

Public consultation: computer game classification

The Attorney-General’s Department is currently undertaking a public consultation process in relation to the lack of an R18+ classification rating for computer games. A discussion paper [PDF] has been released, and the government is also inviting public submissions until 28th February 2010. Unfortunately in some ways it would seem the government is conducting more of a survey than an public consultation; the submission template provided provides for a series of multiple choice questions, with limited scope provided for people to actually tell the government what they think about the issue and why.

It is nevertheless a good thing that the government is undertaking the consultation process; in my view, the lack of an R18+ classification rating for computer games does not make much sense. Currently, if a game is classified by the National Classification Board as R18+, it is refused classification and effectively banned from the country. In this situation, game developers are either forced not to release their product in Australia, or to revise the product so that it is receives an MA15+ classification. Someone who wishes to purchase the game is forced to (illegally) purchase the game online or to obtain a pirated version, with neither outcome being particularly favorable for the local software industry.

The substance of my submission to the consultation is over the fold.

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City of churches

So, courtesy of the absurd Melbourne Cup public holiday coming up for Victorians next Tuesday, I am spending a long weekend in the vicinity of Adelaide this weekend. Its as far west as I have yet been in Australia, so its kind of exciting in a goofy way. Clearly I’m not a true Melbournian – I’m excited rather than derogatory about the prospect of going to Adelaide. :)

Any hints, tips, suggestions?

Pure poison… but will it be pure bile?

I notice that Jeremy of Anonymous Lefty and several others have popped up under the Crikey blog umbrella at Pure Poison. It’s always good to see some talented folks deck out a new corner of the blogosphere; I just don’t hope that, given Pure Poison’s mission statement, it doesn’t become a bilious echo chamber:

Exposing intellectual dishonesty in the mainstream media, across the political spectrum. We’re looking at you, Bolt, Blair, Marr, Akerman, Albrechtsen, and whoever else wishes to stray onto the path of fatuous opinion.

And who audits the opinion auditors, we might well ask? 😉 Here’s a counterpoint that I’d like to see this new blog tackle, just to restore an element of balance. Whenever a mainstream op-ed columnist puts something together that is logical, well-thought through and heightens the level of political debate in this country, I think these guys should really sing its praises, regardless of whether its leaning a little bit right or a little bit left. If we are seriously into the business these days of taking down ideologues, we should be big enough and intelligent enough to spot good arguments regardless of where there are coming from.

If it really is going to be all one way negative traffic – blogging as shitsheeting – then frankly it’s probably going to be all a bit too depressing. Flame war city.