Kevin Rudd cooks up a John Hewson birthday cake
Well it won’t have the same political impact as the Hewson birthday cake answer in 1993 but it was almost as unintelligible.
It’s likely to go under the radar today with the Opposition releasing their own carbon reduction policy, but if anyone saw Kevin Rudd’s interview on the Today show this morning you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Asked by Karl Stefanovic how the ETS would affect the price of a loaf of bread, milk and petrol the Prime Minister managed to mangle all three answers.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, see there seems to be some confusion here, a lot of confusion over just how much goods will increase. Can I use this as a basic example - can I ask you this question? How much for example will the price of bread increase under your ETS?
PM: Well, if you look at the way in which the Consumer Price Index is calculated Karl, it takes together the whole basket of goods. What’s a loaf of bread at the moment - $2.40.
PM: No, $2.40 at the no brand level, up to $4, $4.80 for some of the better brands. That’s the range, approximately. So you apply the increase in the cost of living to that as part of an overall basket, you will see an increase.
STEFANOVIC: But do you know how much?
PM: Well Karl, I don’t run every bread manufacturing outfit in the country. That’s the bottom line. But let me tell you this -
STEFANOVIC: What about petrol? How much will petrol go up?
PM: Well petrol is currently $1.23-$1.27 a litre. So here’s the bottom line on petrol - that under our scheme, there is a full adjustment for any increase in the petrol price. And therefore there would be no net impact on motorists. We have done that deliberately because we are very conscious of the role which the family car plays and the family vehicle plays often in the family small business. We have actually gone through this in a whole lot of detail.
STEFANOVIC: What about milk? How much will milk go up under your ETS?
PM: Well as I said, milk would form part of the same basket of goods. Two litres of milk - then you’re looking at the impact of the price there, $2.80 or something like that, depending on the brand that you’re looking at, and therefore, what would be the adjustment there? It would again be applying approximately the 1.1 per cent CPI increase that we’re talking about. But this is a weighted basket of goods which includes bread, includes milk, includes the other essentials as well, that’s how the Consumer Price Index is calculated. We’ve been very upfront about this, Treasury’s calculated the price impact, 1.1 per cent increase overall.
Of course Rudd would’ve just said 1.1% straight off if he knew that was the answer but it’s not true because nobody really knows what that answer is yet.
The Hewson comparison is only partly apt.
Kevin Rudd will be facing an electorate with a concrete policy in hand that will cost and people will want to know by how much. Rather than previously being in a position of having to just bag out the other guy from opposition, the onus of proof is now on Labor to sell its policies from the position of Government.
However unlike Hewson, who thought it would be a good idea to introduce a tax in order to get elected, as the incumbent Rudd is in a more much viable position. A better comparison would perhaps be Howard trying to sell the GST in 1998.
But whatever the position the Government is in now Kevin Rudd would be well advised to answer basic questions clearly about the costs of his ETS, because they’re certainly not going away this year.
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