Rudd and Swan’s spin spinning out of control
It’s a pretty incredible feat of backspin when a Government would rather say it cocked something up than admit its PR was poorly managed.
But Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s stonewalling on the deficit and debt in the week after the Budget backfired on them so badly its now being claimed it was the result of their own incompetence, not dodgy spin.
Spun out? You’re not the only one. In his column this weekend Laurie Oakes said, contrary to all appearances, Rudd and Swan were advised by their spin doctors to “embrace the numbers” but failed to do so because of “old-fashioned unadulterated incompetence”.
On Rudd’s excruciating inability to articulate the words three-hundred-billion-dollars in reference to Government debt Oakes said: “The PM is simply a sucker for jargon. Saying ‘300’ instead of ‘300 billion dollars’ is Treasury-speak. Having sat around with Treasury boffins for weeks preparing the Budget, Rudd started talking like them.”
He also said: “Swan did not leave the deficit figure out of his Budget speech deliberately. It was supposed to be there.”
The holes in this argument qualify it for special funding under one of those infrastructure programs Rudd keeps holding up folders for in Question Time.
Here’s a copy of Wayne Swan’s Budget night speech, which was handed to The Punch on a memory stick in the lockup five hours before the Treasurer got to his feet in the House of Reps to deliver it.
As an experiment, type the word “deficit” into the search field and see what result you get. If you couldn’t be bothered, take my word for it. It’s not there. On the day the absence of any reference to the deficit prompted this reaction in The Punch.
In the long hours between handing it out and actually saying the words someone, somewhere in the Treasurer’s office, must have noticed he’d forgotten to put in the words “$58 billion deficit.”
And if you go to Swan’s 2008 Budget speech here, you’ll see it only took him 11 paragraphs to announce the surplus of $21.7 billion.
As for Rudd’s squeamish obfuscation – in case you missed it here’s a link to his interview with Tony Jones on Lateline on Monday May 18, six whole days after the Budget was delivered.
Skip forward to the 4:50 mark, for three minutes of the most painful television you’ll see. Four times Jones asks Rudd to articulate the estimate for peak Government debt, while Rudd says things like: “Let me step back in terms of the elements here,” and “I’m about to come to that when I go to the constituent parts.”
It’s at the end of this tortuous exchange a pinch-faced Rudd brings himself to admit debt is expected to peak in 2013 at “300”. It’s left to Jones to confirm he actually means $300 billion.
Peter Costello spent 11 years hanging out with those number crunchers at Treasury and he was never struck with the same ridiculous linguistic affliction Oakes credits Kevin Rudd with.
It seems the Government strategy for getting out of this hole is to keep on digging – but the shovel’s getting very worn.
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