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Speed-dating Our Prime Ministers

Ok, after the PM’s proposal that the state’s regain their right to impose income tax which they lost during World War Two, it’s tempting to start suggesting that while Abbott tried to take us back to the 50’s, Turnbull is taking as back to the 40’s.

In a spirit of fairness, I’ve tried to look at the proposal rationally and, while it makes sense that the states should have some access to income tax, the logistics of doing so are extremely tricky and raise all sorts of issues about equity for the smaller states. And, of course, while Malcolm tells us that the reason behind it is to end the blame game, how long would it be before Canberra started to cut more and more payments to the states, simply arguing that they should put their own taxes up if they want to cut waiting times at hospitals or build news roads?

But in all this, it was the subtext of Malcolm’s statement about education funding that I found most revealing. Of course, when I say “revealing” I mean it in the sense of the person forgetting what they’re meant to be pretending, and actually admitting what everybody already knows.

“I suspect no federal government would retreat from funding and continuing to support the non-government school sector because there would be a concern that they would not get a fair go from state governments who obviously would have a competing interest with their schools.”

So Turnbull is concerned that non-government schools “would not get a fair go from state governments”. Of course, there’s no concern that government schools may not get a “fair go”. (Don’t we Aussies just love a “fair go”? Don’t we just love PM’s who can speak the lingo and aren’t too stuck-up to have a cuppa in the arvo during smoko?)

No, it’s those poor non-government schools that might miss out if the states go it alone and try to implement Gonski’s recommendations concerning needs based funding. We can’t have that. No sirree. Have to look after the old alma mater. Isn’t there a danger that some states might neglect government schools? Well, possibly, but as Turnbull seems to suggest: Who cares?

In the wash-up of Tony Abbott being dumped, it was easy to forget that Turnbull as Opposition Leader had been pretty unpopular. The public didn’t warm to him and Kevin Rudd had amazing approval ratings. Of course, the public never actually warmed to Abbott either, but the difference was that he managed to reduce Rudd and Labor’s poll numbers.

I guess it’s a bit like dating. The fantasy is one thing; the reality is another.

So to follow through with this imperfect analogy, the scene is a restaurant. Tony and you, the Australian Public are having your first date. While Tony was slightly irritating, he convinced you to dump your previous partner. (Yes, yes, I know that he didn’t convince you. Ok, how about if I just call the Australian public “Sheila” from this point on. All right, I know that nobody has actually named anyone “Sheila” since the states imposed income tax, but maybe that’ll have a comeback too!) Tony has promised Sheila dinner and well, a girl’s gotta eat.

Tony reaches over and takes the menu from Sheila reminding her of his promise to help her lose weight. Sheila nods before telling him that he also promised that he wouldn’t make her cut out anything from her diet.

“But the losing weight was the important promise,” he says.

“So you’re just going to break all those other promises?” asks Sheila.

“No,” asserts Tony, “of course not.”

“But doesn’t that mean I get to order a meal?”

“No,” Tony tells her, “we’ll let Joe, the waiter, pick out a chef’s selection for you.”

“But if Joe’s selecting it, wouldn’t it be a waiter’s selection?” asks Sheila.

At this point, Tony grows angry and tells Sheila what a good job he’s doing and reminds her how much better than her previous dates he is. “Your previous dates would have just let you eat anything and then where would you be?”

At this point, Sheila starts to remember that her doctor suggested that while she could lose a couple of kilos, she wasn’t seriously overweight, but before she can point this out, Joe has placed an unappetising mess in front of her.

“What’s this,” Sheila asks.

“Eat it, it’ll be good for you,” replies Joe.

At this point, Sheila notices that Tony is being served oysters and pate. And while her meal is unappetising, she also notes that it’s not really all that healthy. It’s not the sort of meal that would actually help her lose any weight. When she points this out to Tony, he replies by telling her that he’s sending a free drink to the old man at the far table because Phil is such a great bloke. Sheila looks over and comments that Phil seems to have plenty of drinks, after all his wife runs the bar, at which point Tony tells her that she’s ungrateful and once again starts talking about Sheila’s previous dates.

Sheila goes to the bathroom. When she returns, Malcolm has taken Tony’s place. When Malcolm tried to date her a few years ago, it ended rather badly after he claimed that he’d found a note where Kevin had admitted doing some shifty things, but it turned out that the note was a fake. However, she’s just so relieved that Tony’s gone, she goes and hugs Malcolm.

“It’s good to see you,” she tells him.

“Yes, yes, it is good to see me,” says Malcolm.

“Can I order something now?” asks Sheila. “Where’s Joe?”

“Joe’s left for another job. Scott’s the waiter now.”

“Right. Well, where’s Scott?”

“Look, before we order anything else, I think we need to finish all this stuff that Tony ordered, don’t you?” suggests Malcolm.

“But look at it. It’s little better than dog food.”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with dog food, dogs eat it all the time, but if you like I’ll have a look at the menu for you.”

Malcolm starts looking at the menu. He points at one of the items. “What do you think about that, Scott?”

Scott turns to Sheila. “Malcolm is looking at the Green Salad Turnover or GST. I thoroughly recomemend it.”

Malcolm shakes his head. “No, something else. How about this one?”

Scott agrees that it’d be good. Malcolm shakes his head. This continues several times until Sheila eventually asks if she can have a look at the menu.

“We’ll give you a look at the menu when it’s closer to you deciding if you want to go on another date with me,” says Malcolm. “In the meantime, I’ll make all the decisions.”

“Shouldn’t I be helping in that?” asks Scott.

“No, Scott, you just need to go back to the kitchen,” says Malcolm.

At this point, Sheila notices that Tony is now sitting at a table near Phil. She notices this because Tony has suddenly started shouting, “He may be sitting at the table, but it’s still the meal I ordered. And it’s good meal, it’s a great meal.” A couple of people try to shush Tony, while Malcolm points out that it’s a very different meal because while it has continuity with the previous meal, it also contains change because some of it has fallen on the floor.

Sheila asks Malcolm what’s changed apart from the bits that seemed to have been knocked off the table.

Malcolm ignores her and continues to study the menu, telling Sheila that he doesn’t want to rush into any decisions.

Sheila begins to think that she’d like the Bill.


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  1. helvityni

    Love this one, Rossleigh. It’s laugh out loud funny and astute too. Thank you for brightening my day.

  2. helvityni

    …I also hope that my relationship with Mal is just that, speed dating, even shorter the one I had with Tones…

  3. Jaquix

    Malcolm’s amazing announcement about education funding (slipped into his other amazing announcement about hospital funding) also struck me. Rossleigh you have got it exactly right – MT has let his mask slip. I hope the State Premiers dont let him sweet talk them into anything WE might regret. And Bill Shorten should SHORTEN his responses to MTs “big ideas”. His rebuttals should be SHORT EN SWEET. He waffles on with worthy sentiments. We only want a short, sharp answer. The detail can be added later in the “debate/conversation”.

  4. Wally

    There is something seriously wrong when the government want to increase the tax base but continue to subsidise private schools. They should be using this money to improve public schools and health services.

    Education Minister Simon Birmingham told the ABC state and territory governments were already the primary funders of public schools, with the Federal Government paying the bulk of private school costs.

  5. Steve Laing

    Bravo! Laugh out loud stuff! Another classic Rossleigh! And we all thought the comedy gold would dry up when Tony went. How little did we know!

  6. Ken Butler

    Very clever, Rossleigh.
    A brilliant parable reflecting the raw, ugly reality.
    I am hoping for a handsome Bill which would be a good investment.

  7. Barry Thompson

    Bonzer Rossleigh.

  8. JeffJL

    Very, nay, extremely good.

    Has me crying.

  9. Rossleigh

    BREAKING NEWS! Turnbull announces income tax proposal withdrawn just two days after it was announced. Media are full of praise for the way that Turnbull is managing to keep everybody on edge and have concluded that he must have some brilliant strategy because nobody could be this indecisive. Or maybe they could…. Nah, not possible. Nobody could keep changing their mind like that, so obviously Turnbull has a plan to keep changing his mind. And just because nobody has a clue what he’s doing, it’s brilliant. It shows that he had a plan all along. We presume…

    Whatever, there’s an election round the corner so we need to start praising Turnbull or else there’s a real possibility that Labor could pull off an unlikely victory…

  10. Kyran

    “It was revealed in a government survey, published today, that the PM is doing the work of two men.
    Laurel and Hardy.”
    One of Ronnie Corbett’s quotes.
    It seems odd that a comedian passes, having spent quite some time parodying politicians with insightful truths, and our politicians are little more than comedic relief.
    “I’ve tried to look at the proposal rationally.”
    That, Mr Brisbane, was the fatal flaw in your article. Take care

  11. Matters Not

    It shows that he had a plan all along.

    Yep! But get deep and meaningful. It’s somewhat obvious that Turnbull is in the business of proving that government should never be trusted. Should never be funded. And the Turnbull government in particular.

    Gish Gallops are now in vogue. A new tax policy for every day of the week. Or should that be a number per day?

    For those who might remember. it’s just like Bob Dyer’s ‘Pick-A-Box’. One never knows what the ‘morrow will bring.

    Perhaps it will be a tax on ‘thinking’? But probably not. It wouldn’t raise enough to pay for itself.

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