Last night, thanks to our national broadcaster, we got to see the leaders of the two major political parties in action. Turnbull faced questions from a smiling, compliant Leigh Sales. They both smiled and giggled and apologised to each other a lot. Shorten faced a very large audience of the Australian public and the interruptions of Tony Jones, who really needs to learn that people would rather hear from his guests than him. Shorten performed very well, answering all questions calmly and honestly.
The contrast could not have been starker.
Malcolm seems to feel that the mere fact of his elevation to Prime Minister will be sufficient to solve all the challenges we face.
When asked about the economy he said that it wasn’t in bad shape. What that shows is that, as we all know, the last election campaign was run on a lie.
Regardless, we do have rising unemployment and an economy that must transition away from mining. Malcolm’s solution?
“It is absolutely critical that we provide strong economic leadership. And you know, above all, confidence. It’s not just the measures. The government has to provide the leadership, the sense that, you know, we know what we’re doing, that we have a vision, we have a clear direction and that builds up business confidence. So everything I can say to inspire confidence is going to help the economy. One of the things I can do as Prime Minister and my government can do is to provide the leadership and the confidence and you do that not by just talking in an airy-fairy way. You’ve got to actually lay out the facts. You’ve got to describe the situation as it stands.”
Waiting . . .
How silly have we been. We don’t need “measures”, we just need a smile and some soothing words and all will be well.
When asked if he would consider expanding the base and the rate of the GST, Malcolm replied
“Well we’re considering – tax reform is going to be a big part of our reform agenda going forward. That’s why we’ve brought the Tax Minister, the Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, into the cabinet.”
Don’t ask me specific questions – look I’ve got a young female breast-feeding mum in Cabinet. What more do you want?
When asked if everything was on the table for tax reform, Malcolm said
“This is one of the – this is one of the Canberra games. One of the things I’m trying to do is to change the paradigm so that it’s a more rational one.”
Ummmm . . . does a more rational paradigm ever include answering a question?
When asked about industrial relations reform, Malcolm went into cha cha mode.
“I think the important thing is to seek to explore ways in which we can achieve more flexibility, higher levels of employment, higher levels of business activity and do so in a way that reassures Australians, Australian workers in particular, that this is not threatening their conditions. In other words – in other words, a – the challenge for us is not to wage war with unions or the workers that they – that they seek to represent, but really to explain what the challenges are and then lay out some reform options.”
Uh huh . . . and while you are seeking to explore some way to reassure us, is Workchoices coming back?
When asked about the greatest threat to global security the babbling got worse.
“Well, look, there are – you probably can’t really – you can’t really rank them ’cause they are very difficult. I mean, the – the – clearly the threat of terrorism, the, if you like, militant Islamist terrorist groups like Daesh in the Middle East and its various affiliates around the world, al-Qaeda, that is clearly a very – that’s clearly a big threat. I think at a – in terms of our region, what we need to ensure is that the rise of China, which is happening, it’s – nothing’s gonna stop that any time soon – is, if you like, conducted in a manner that does not disturb the security and the relative harmony of the region upon which China’s prosperity depends. Now – now that requires careful diplomacy, it requires balancing and it’s an issue, as you know, I’ve taken a very keen interest in.”
For someone who has taken a very keen interest he seems entirely bereft of anything substantive to say.
And the role of our defence forces?
“Well our Defence Force has – and this is not a revelation, Leigh. Our Defence Forces have to be able to play a role in a range of different potential conflict situations. But, you know, we’re not – we’re not seeking to, um, ah – I don’t want to – no-one – no-one, least of all the Australian Government, wants to exacerbate situations. We have – we have very good relations with all of our neighbours, including China, but there clearly are some tensions, you know, with the islands in the South China Sea in particular, with the reefs, I should say, and shoals in the South China Sea. And our own – my own view and the Government’s view is that the – you know, China would be – China would be better advised in its own interests, frankly, to – not to be pushing the envelope there and that is why there’s been resistance against that activity.”
By this time I was thinking let the poor man go home to bed, he isn’t making any sense.
And then we finally got to Direct Action, a policy that is completely the opposite of the Coalition’s free market principles.
“It has been very successful so far. It has reduced – it’s cut about 47 million tonnes of emissions at a price of less than $14 a tonne.”
At that stage I realised that Malcolm has actually nothing at all to offer except his smile.