Topic: election Oz 2007
Picture: Question time today 20th June 2007 in federal parliament with the PM and Costello looking and sounding just too sure of themselves on the economic issue of productivity?
First they laugh at you. Then they hate you. Then you win?
We are certainly in the first stage in the last 2 days of question time in Federal Parliament with the Govt full of scorn for the Opposition Leader Rudd on the issue of downward long term trend in productivity.
And two monkeys of Coalition tradition in the commentariat seem to have bought the govt line like naive cheering schoolboys at a playground punch up.
We heard some howlers today which tell us things aren't quite as the Govt would have the electorate and the Big Media believe:
1. In the big productivity debate (read punch up) I heard Peter Costello, once a practicing lawyer, that "a lost" document wasn't stolen from the Opposition Leader Rudd. Trouble is as every policeman in the country knows there is actually an offense of "steal by find". Well I do anyway as a solicitor. Think about it. If you find the neighbours wallet - you can't just honestly keep it. Nor their house deeds.
Nor if you are a politician, your rival's confidential document, particularly if it is not a public or public service funded document as such: A journo could have read the document but had no legal right to take them or copy them. They should have been returned. And the fact no one admits who took it shows the truth it was indeed stolen.
The exactly same situation of exploiting documents stolen by finding them was covered in that pseudo gospel of modern politics - The West Wing tv series # 146 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Weeks_Out
"With the election two weeks out and both candidates polling even in California, both the Santos and Vinick campaigns scramble to the state to try and gain free media from public events. Vinick, whose hand is broken by constant handshakes, catches a break when Bruno discovers Santos' briefcase in a holding room. Vinick and Bruno must make a difficult decision; Do they open the case and use its contents against the owner or take the high road and give it back to Santos? In the briefcase: evidence which suggests that the Congressman may be supporting an illegitimate child. Vinick asks to meet with Santos where the Congressman denies the allegation, stating that he was making up for the mistakes of his brother. "
So it wasn't Santos's illegitimate child. The Republican side [like Coalition here] didn't use it, and the briefcase was returned. That would have been ethical.
Nor do we think the Australian govt are actually comfortable talking about long term trend of productivity despite the bluster. Could it be they are playing catch up? We think so.
In any case a lost document can be stolen. Funny that a Rodent Coalition doesn't understand that, prosecuting an ASIO officer for leaking a document (allegedly) and a Mr Kessing on leaking (convicted) an airport security report. More credit to Rudd for not insisting on the legalistic approach.
2. On the substance of the productivity debate itself what we seem to be seeing is a govt that has never experienced an ALP daring to really challenge the govt on their so called superiority on economics. No wonder the govt are so filled with confected outrage. They know if they lose their last great advantage on economics they are really "dead in the water".
Yet even this writer knows that there are real problems in our economy:
A. long term trend in productivity is down no doubt over the 10 years of this govt. Chris Uhlmann oft referenced in this debate noted specifically this reality when Costello tried to bluster his way through with confected ridicule here on AM ABC radio yesterday:
"CHRIS UHLMANN: Now, to another issue, Labor has consistently criticised the Government over one aspect of its economic performance, and that's productivity growth. Isn't the core of Labor's argument unassailable that there has been a clear down trend in productivity since the late 1990s?
PETER COSTELLO: Here's the interesting fact, Chris, .....[bluster for 7 lines]
That appears on page four, as you can see. Continue using false figures ?
CHRIS UHLMANN: All right.
PETER COSTELLO: ? even though they are now inaccurate, because they suit your argument, because to use the right figures would not actually help your argument.
CHRIS UHLMANN: But you know, Treasurer, that these figures are volatile and that's what this paper says, that if you use year-to-year figures or quarter-to-quarter figures, you're going to get a lot of bouncing around.
People who look at these figures look over five-year averages, and it does show that there's been a clear downward trend, doesn't it, since the 1990s in productivity, and that does matter to the Australian economy.
Federal Treasurer jumps on Labor leak
Costello seems to be arguing that productivity can only peak and trough, and that it's limited to narrow sectors of a broadly based economy across sectors. That does seem pretty strange line of argument, or very self serving. Maybe lazy even.
B. We distinctly remember reading about the lack of improved volumes of minerals mined. Prices have jumped yes, but quantity has not:
Australia riding high on resources hog cycle - Business - www.smh ... If world demand for resources has been strong and the prices we can get have shot up so far, why has the volume of our resource exports shown no growth ...
C. The record levels of casualisation/stripping of conditions in the workforce, and big jump in UNDER employment as well as lack of skills training, undermining both loyalty and morale, seems to us just as likely a mechanism of depressing productivity over the last 10 years, as the drought for causing the same. No doubt all these factors are involved and only the last one is an act of God.
Costello's answer that mining capital investment and high employment has a time lag rings quite hollow to this listener observing question time on the tv and now webcast after 3pm. Especially when all these high status Reserver Bank Governors and OECD reports agree with Rudd's point on the five-year averages as Uhlmann puts it.
3. There is some weird barracking going on in the commentariat. Christian Kerr gets top spot in Crikey.com ezine today mis interpreting we suspect the debate in Costello's favour and not realising I think that Rudd is actually grasping the economics nettle as he must while he has extra time to get up to speed.
Similarly Dennis Shanahan here with a shocking record on biased observation and application of real polling data results is quoted by Kerr in eager terms. You would think Kerr would be a little more circumspect and realistic based at least on his own critique of such as Shanahan in the past. Seems Coalition traditionalists fall in together here after all when the grind gets a bit tougher.
We simply think Kerr and Shanahan are wrong, or overly generous to the Coalition/Costello spin on conservative record on productivity.
We notice other main papers and Michelle Grattan on Radio National this morning are exactly that. Far more circumspect of the Govt line, and even a bit dismissive in Grattan's case on how it plays to the average Joe and Mary referring to the debate as "arcane" 7:35: Michelle Grattan - Wednesday. But what is very real is the territoriality of the Coalition on the issue after 10 years in power.
Fairfax today for instance reports instead another major political economic news being the favourable NSW state budget broadly helpful to the ALP reputation on financial management, allowing for signficant increased public debt financing:
20th June 2007 Michael Costa rides his luck for federal Labor http://www.smh.com.au/editorial/index.html
and Ross Gittins here also Strike me lucky, this one is different