“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”
“An election commitment is an election commitment.”
Politics has always been a bit theatre and a bit reality.
I mean, we all know that there have been friendships across the political divide and we all know that certain people who campaign on “family values” have a private life that tends to suggest that they love families so much that they are doing their best to start several.
Whatever, I must say that the “Budget” delivered by Jim Chalmers was a rather dull first act…
First act? Well, I was a wee bit torn between concentrating on the micro economic problem of certain people freezing because they can’t afford heating, and discussing how the macro economic problem of doing anything about it may lead to the financial markets and the Reserve Bank and saying, “Oh dear, that’s inflationary… We need to add a couple of points to what people can earn if they just bank their money instead of wasting it on keeping themselves warm…”! However, then I realised that the whole thing – like nearly all politics – was a piece of theatre and that this was just a rather pedestrian first act in order to set the scene.
To succeed in the theatre, it’s not just a question of having a great play; you need to keep the critics onside. Poor reviews can destroy a show more quickly than a poor show. And so Labor have elected for a safe, steady first act which sets the scene but doesn’t actually do much else. Ok, there were a couple of election promises kept and there was an acknowledgement of the difficulties of the future without any suggestion of how they intend to solve them.
The NDIS will continue to blow out, we’re told. Oh no, say the critics. Something must be done. This is unsustainable.
Of course, as I pointed out before this is just the first act. If Hamlet had been told by his ghostly father to avenge his murder and the protagonist had immediately killed Claudius, Shakespeare would have had a play that was far too short and everyone would have wanted their money back. Similarly, when it comes to the NDIS, it’s obvious that there’s a great need, but it’s also obvious that there’s some efficiencies that can be found. I read recently about an ex-AFL footballer selling his NDIS business for $40 million. This does tend to suggest that private industry is doing quite nicely, thank you, and maybe, just maybe, if one NDIS business is worth that much then it’s charging too much for what it actually does. However, if Jim Chalmers had said something like the Coalition have let NDIS balloon due to poor decisions, but we’ll get this under control in no time, then where’s the dramatic tension?
The Budget also told us to prepare for a fifty percent rise in power prices, which has led to enormous cries for the government to do something about it. Fair enough, but that’s clearly something for the second act. This is when the protagonist will take action only to be thwarted by the evil deeds of those who are causing the problem. It’s only in the third act after a valiant struggle that the hero wins out against the forces of darkness… Unless it’s a tragedy in which case, the hero dies.
Whatever, this Budget was all about keeping the critics happy and establishing that the rising energy prices are really all the result of the evil Putin and Liberal inaction. Either way, the endless carping of Liberals such as Angus Taylor quickly sounds petty as soon as they’re asked what they’d so about it and they shrug their shoulders and say that they’re not the government.
So having established itself as a dull and cautious government, will Labor be able to make some more controversial decisions later? Will they be able, for example, to raise the unemployment rate or modify the Stage 3 tax cuts?
As an aside, I loved Samantha Maiden’s take on the Stage 3 cuts this morning, when she basically said that Labor had made a big song and dance about possibly changing them, but grown timid and backed off. I don’t remember any comment from Labor other than statements to the effect of they’re costly but we haven’t changed our policy. I thought that it was all the media speculating, rather than Labor kite-flying, but I keep forgetting that political commentators never get things wrong, it’s just that the reality doesn’t match their predictions because of some person or persons doing something or nothing, which altered the events that had already occurred in the mind of the commentator.
Of course, the analogy of this budget being the first act of a play has certain problems. For a start, critics don’t review theatre after one act; they wait and see the whole thing. But leaving aside that, there’s one very important point that Labor need to remember.
While a positive tick from the critics may get people into the theatre to watch the performance, it’s ultimately the audience who make the decision about whether the experience was worthwhile. And some of the audience reaction from potential Labor supporters suggests that they’d better have a more exciting second act planned.
They can’t rely on Peter Dutton making them look good forever. I mean, what if the Liberals change leader and put Sussan Ley in charge?
Mm, maybe if the Opposition adopt a new strategy and don’t appear on any media or make any comment, they’ll have a better chance of picking up seats at the next election!
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