This week’s winner for campaign stupidity: Milne
Don’t believe anyone who tells you the election campaign isn’t underway. If they insist that’s the case, they are probably just campaigning for September 14. There is too much evidence to the contrary to claim it’s business as usual. There is a discipline and an intense parsing of all pronouncements usually only encountered in an election campaign.
The most brazen campaigner has been stunt-woman and Greens Leader Christine Milne, but she is not alone. After Tony Abbott yesterday gave a rough timetable of “a few months” to abolish carbon pricing and the mining tax I asked his office whether a Coalition government would need to extend the parliamentary schedule later this year.
It wasn’t an Earth shaking question, one about process rather than policy. And this is the answer I received: “We’re focused on explaining the Coalition’s Real Solutions plan for a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia.”
Mr Abbott’s office had drained the reply of any skerrick of information. It was an answer to a question which hadn’t been asked. In these fraught times of an unofficial election campaign, better to say nothing than something which might be misconstrued.
And Opposition Leader Abbott figured in an incident which added to evidence the campaign is underway.
In an interview he said he could not give a timeline for abolishing private health insurance scheme. It was what Paul Keating once called a verbal typo and as such was inconsequential. No one seriously could say Mr Abbott, who wants to abolish the means test on the private health insurance rebate, wants to get rid of the entire scheme.
It was a minor accident, in contrast to the quite deliberate and heavy-handed editing of Mr Abbott’s transcript by his office to eliminate the notion of dumping the private health insurance rebate and put words into Mr Abbott’s mouth he didn’t utter.
But you have to be quick to smother even minor slips-of-the-tongue. An election campaign is rolling on.
This was underlined by the Prime Minister herself when she held Wednesday night’s community cabinet meeting in a marginal Liberal seat in South Australia. It was an area Ms Gillard claimed links to, but while she might have grown up there she hasn’t lived in it for more than 30 years.
The people of Boothby deserve the presence of the Prime Minister and around a dozen cabinet ministers as much as any other electorate. But its marginal status was the clincher for this election year visit.
But Christine Milne this week topped the field when it came to campaign hard sell while pretending to be simply looking after the shop.
Senator Milne announced in Tuesday’s National Press Club luncheon address that she had ended the Greens’ deal with the Labor Government. She then spent much of the rest of the day confirming that no such thing had happened at all. It was a stunt, pure and simple, and a transparent one.
The Greens were simply positioning themselves for September 14, because their inner-city supporters like to see the party give Labor a kicking. They are uncomfortable seeing the Greens as accomplices in federal government.
The agreement with Ms Gillard which Senator Milne claimed had been annulled still operates as before. The only difference is that Senator Milne no longer has a regularly-scheduled chat with the Prime Minister.
Today’s threat by Senator Milne to vote against the Government’s innovation and jobs’ creation legislation has been greeted with breathless excitement in some quarters, as if the Greens had never before opposed the Government.
Well they have, often. Adam Bandt, the only Green in the House of Representatives, voted against the Government in 14 per cent of House ballots last year. The Greens have opposed Labor on such major issues as off-shore processing of asylum seekers, health reforms, and in demanding a review of the mining tax.
The idea they suddenly have turned on the Government, following Senator Milne’s divorce declaration, is rubbish. It was a stunt, of as type we will see more of in this extended election campaign.
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