When Malcolm Turnbull took over the leadership, he promised an end to the three word slogans… “No more slogans,” he told us, completely ignoring the irony of using three words in a statement that sounded suspiciously like a slogan.
But he did have a point. The public had grown cynical about the proliferation of the way the Abbott government seemed to equate repeating a catch-phrase like “Axe the Tax”, “Stop the Boats”, “Repay the Debt”, or “Stop the Waste” with actually solving the problem. And let’s not forget that the famous jobs and growth first appeared under Tony… Well, actually it was one of George W. Bush’s campaign slogans, but as with “Change and continuity” we like borrowing from the USA, even if we’re borrowing from something that’s a satiric comment on the world of politics… I mean, “VEEP” btw, although you can please yourself when it comes to George W.
Anyway, as we approach the Federal Budget, which the Treasurer tells us is not about politics, the official leaks and unofficial leaks seem to be an attempt to position Malcolm’s Mob as something other than an out-of-touch bunch of refugees from the early twentieth century… Sorry, that should be “illegal immigrants” because they arrived in this century without permission.
For starters, we’re going to go a long way towards putting the Budget back into surplus by changing the way we think about debt. Taking a leaf from the Scott Morrison’s book, I’ve informed my wife that – by ignoring out mortgage and only considering the repayments, we’ll be debt free by the end of the month, once we’ve paid off that credit card that we – and Labor governments – are always putting things on.
Then we’ve got a funding boost of about $300 million to the AFP to fight terrorism. I notice that they’re not using the same criteria that they’d previously argued on education: Just throwing money at the problem doesn’t work, so let’s cut funding.
But we’re also suddenly seeing an increase in education spending. With the proviso that we make sure it’s well spent, of course. And, of course, there’s no such proviso for the extra funding for the AFP. When I say “education”, I’m only refering to schools, because universities and university students have had it far too good for so long.
We’re going to help first home buyers, by enabling them to salary sacrifice to save, thereby building a deposit faster and ensuring that they’re able to pay higher prices so that the property portfolios of the Cabinet don’t take a dramatic hit.
There’s talk of a bank levy to provide for the victims of dodgy financial practices. The banks are suitably outraged. Who do these victims think they are? Wall Street financiers?
And we’re going to get rid of some of the nasty measures still hanging around from “The Hockey Horror Show” such as the four week wait for the dole. (If you think of some slob lying on mum and dad’s couch, the four week wait for a young person seems fair and just. However, if you consider someone on their own without a family for support, four weeks is a long time to ask the landlord to wait for the rent.)
Yep, it’s all good and it’s all going to be about “Fairness, Security And Opportunity”! Yes, not only does that “and” stop it from being a three word slogan, but the “fairness” differentiates it from Abbott’s campaign slogan of “Hope, Reward, Opportunity” which sounded suspiciously like Amway’s slogan. We’ve replaced the Reward with Fairness, the Hope with Security (or vice versa) and the Opportunity – like the song – remains the same.
Will this all be enough to save Malcolm from the circling vultures?
Well, it should be reasonably well received. There’s an attempt to say, we’re not so bad really, and that poor people have every right to exist and even to drive on occasions. And, it would be expected that there’d be a slight jump in the polls once we forget about Malcolm’s cringeworthy, “You and me is pals, ain’t we Donald?” were it not for Tony’s determination to make Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard’s working relationship seem like a romance compared to Turnbull and him. Rudd may well have leaked, but Abbott is openly shitting all over everything.
In the end, of course, the Treasurer is lying when he says that the Budget is not about politics. All his guff about meeting in the middle for the good of Australia is political in the extreme, because a Budget without criticism is a Budget that wins points for the government; there won’t be many for the Opposition being “sensible”. I’m making a general comment there and not talking about this specific Budget. But everything these days is about politics. Even the dangers of climate change are politicised on a daily basis. If ever there was a case for a bipartisan, let’s establish the facts and stop listening to those who clearly have no expertise in the field, then climate change would have to be it.
When Robert M. Pirsig died the other day, I was reminded of when I read, “Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance”. For those of you who haven’t read it, there’s not much of either, but there is a long discussion about the battle between rhetoric and logic in Ancient Greece. Pirsig examined the whole idea of the artistry of the argument versus the truth of the argument.
Without going through the long debate, we like to think that sometime in the last few centuries, logic won out and that, even if we don’t always see through those spinning eloquent sophistry to win us over, we’re always seeking the truth. Well, often, anyway.
But even before the election of Donald Trump, it’s been clear: We’re all suckers for a compelling short slogan if it goes anywhere near our world view. “Make America Great Again” captures so much for so many that they’ll won’t even consider anything beyond that seems like a good idea. Once you’ve picked your side, confirmation bias takes over and even the most intelligent people will argue for their team without questioning that they may be wrong.
So, it’ll be interesting to see if “Fairness, Security and Opportunity” can overcome the growing cynicism of a population that would like to actually see an improvement in something, rather than simply another contract with the Australian people that if you just continue to trust us, Utopia is just around the corner.