So much hot air in this bank of political tumble dryers
The Australian political debate is on a repeat cycle with a bunch of issues and themes constantly recurring, to the boredom of a significant slice of the electorate. The voters’ message, often sent via the comment sections of blogs, is, “Get back to me when something happens.”
But the allegations of squalid activities by Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper; the claims Tony Abbott doesn’t like women; the continued nastiness of the Julia Gillard/Kevin Rudd relationship keep reappearing. “It’s like a tumble dryer is on in the background and occasionally you hear a thump and you ask yourself, Did I leave a shoe in there?” said one political observer.
And it’s not the same tumble dryer in every city.
In Adelaide the important issue is revival of the Murray-Darling basin; in Brisbane it’s the new Campbell Newman state government; in Sydney local (central NSW coast) boy Mr Thomson has competed with a new Packer casino for the front pages; Melbourne was more interested in Mr Abbott’s comment about Labor’s family “experience” - which Julia Gillard suspected was aimed at her - than media in other capitals.
Every so often voters lift their heads when these things get front page mention, but they then quickly return to life’s important matters such as keeping a job and raising children. It’s not that they don’t have a view about, say, Mr Slipper. They do, and they want whatever process is underway to be completed without inconclusive progress reports.
None of this is how the Government or the Coalition wants things playing out. These lingering issues quickly become distractions from policy debate. For their own self-interest, neither side wants that.
Many voters, for example, might dip into the Craig Thomson saga and then leave it. But that means they are not listening intently to anything else.
One consequence, for example, could be the Government can’t get the full attention of the electorate as it explains its incredible shrinking mining tax because there is the competing matter of former Labor MP Maxine McKew promoting a book which attacks Julia Gillard.
The McKew book does not significantly advance the accusations of an anti-Rudd ambush by Ms Gillard, but is occupying air time and newspaper space.
It also means the Government can’t put pressure on the Opposition to explain how or why it would scrap some of the measures which the mining tax and the carbon price revenue could fund.
And the Opposition might want more focus on the mining tax, too. A levy which doesn’t bring in a cent is a hot discussion point.
Only the Opposition can draw a line through all these tumble dryer issues to lead to a coherent political conclusion, and that is what Tony Abbott attempted yesterday.
The Opposition Leader’s argument is this: Julia Gillard stabbed Kevin Rudd in the back in 2010 and then promised to revive Labor by fixing the issues of asylum seekers, carbon pricing and the mining tax.
However, in her rush to justify her takeover of the Prime Minister’s office Ms Gillard bungled all three. In effect, Mr Abbott is maintaining his assertion that Ms Gillard’s ambitions have produced shoddy policy, whether it was the proposed citizens’ assembly on asylum seekers or the Timor and Malaysian solutions, to tolerance of Mr Thomson and Mr Slipper.
But he can’t be certain who is listening.
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