Be careful what you promise not to break your promise on
There were glimpses of the old Julia Gillard on display in Question Time yesterday afternoon. The Julia Gillard who as Deputy Prime Minister used to delight in skewering the Opposition on the end of a finely-pointed, if broadly-delivered barb was back. She’d been missing in action since approximately the time she skewered Kevin Rudd in the Caucus room.
But yesterday there was a certain swagger as The Prime Minister deftly disposed of the first five questions from the Opposition, batting off the embarrassment of a union leader who’d said September 11 was an inside job, skirting the considerable inconsistencies in her refugee policy and shrugging off the details of what’s really in the Minerals Resource Rent Tax agreement.
So she was pretty well warmed up when Independent Andrew Wilkie rose to ask what looked like a fairly straight-forward question.
Wilkie, who famously shot down Tony Abbott for agreeing to deliver the new hospital he, Wilkie, had asked for - and helped put Gillard back in the PM’s office said:
My question is to the Prime Minister. At the 2010 federal election, ALP candidates right around Australia made numerous specific promises about what the government would do in their electorates if Labor were returned nationally. The promises hinged on who would win government, not who would win the seat. Regardless of the results in each of those seats, do you commit to honouring the electorate-specific promises made by the Labor candidate in my seat of Denison and, for that matter, in all 150 communities represented in this place?
It was a very broad question, covering untold number of road-widenings, sports ground up-grades and community centre refurbishments.
I thank the member for Denison for his question and believe I have good news for him, which is yes, I do commit to keeping the promises at a local level that Labor and Labor candidates made at the last election, including the promises we made in the electorate of Denison.
The reason I am able to say that with confidence is that during the election campaign we had a proper process of costing, which means we understood the costs of the promises that we were making. We made proper provision for them and we made proper provision for them in a context where the budget is coming back to surplus in 2012-13 and where across the election campaign our promises were matched by offsetting savings.
Consequently I can say yes to the member for Denison with a degree of confidence. Of course, that is in sharp contrast to the circumstance that the opposition found itself in, with an $11 billion black hole and a shadow Treasurer that could not even be bothered looking at the costings. I thank the member for Denison for his question.
Towards the end of her answer the Speaker Harry Jenkins had to bellow over the chamber “Order! The Prime Minister will tread carefully.” His warning was meant for a fractious Opposition but could equally have applied to the PM herself.
We’ve come to half expect that some election promises will be broken. In fact Gillard was pretty quick off the mark breaking her own “no carbon tax” promise from the campaign.
Some of them, such as the laughable citizens assembly on climate change, we actually want our leaders to break.
The electorate has learned to evaluate the legitimacy of pledges for themselves on John Howard’s sliding scale of core and non-core promises.
But what Gillard did yesterday afternoon was write the editorial for every local newspaper in the country, which are no-doubt keeping track of promises like the centre for tropical diseases in Townsville or the GP super clinic on the Central Coast.
She’s taken responsibility for delivering a raft of relatively small-scale projects at the same time she’s trying to hold together a minority government and address big issues such as war, global warming and national security.
They’re no longer election promises - she’s given a guarantee in the parliament.
This is great news for the various community groups and institutions who were wooed by Labor in the campaign. When things start to go slow or run off the rails they have the Prime Minister’s word to fall back on.
The big issues in politics are tough, but the smaller ones can be the ones that get you in the end.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…