This afternoon I heard Christopher Pyne on ABC afternoon radio in Sydney, going on about how spending $16 billion on the Building The Education Revolution schools program was a waste. As usual, I became hot under the collar listening to him, because the guy has figured out how to breathe through his ears whilst keeping up the patter. At the moment (and forgive me for the delay in this first post for AA) I am suffering from chronic dizziness due (I hope) to blocked ears, and I envy Mr. Pyne greatly for being able to inhale (and presumably exhale) through his own set of orifices. Chris can talk incessantly. The other two guests got in nary a word once he started up. In short, Pyne hijacked the program (as usual).
Chris’s thesis was that the Rudd government would have better spent the billions if they had put the money into training more teachers, upgrading curriculae, and in general looking to the long term. Putting aside my confident prediction that if Rudd had spent the money on teachers Chris would have been screaming he had caved in to the ugly face of entrenched unionism by aiding them in a grubby self-perpetuation scam, or that if he had formed an advisory group (employing, maybe, 20 people) to look into improving school curriculae around the country, it would have been yet another chapter of the Culture Wars whereby the lefty, latte-sippers were seeking to inculcate our kids with all the wrong kinds of ideas (and anyway, wasn’t the GFC response all about “Jobs! Job! Jobs!”?),
I thought to myself that for someone who had steered his country through the worst financial crisis in living memory, leaving Australia as just about the best of the best as far as the OECD is concerned, Kevin Rudd hasn’t done too badly. A plethora of chippies, sparkies, brickies, security engineers, fencers, concreters, plumbers, draughts-people, drivers and all the rest of the tradies who found themselves staring into the abyss when the GFC pall came down had a lot to thank Kevin Rudd and his government’s prompt school’s-based anti-rescession action for. Schools provided ready planning access, mostly ready-to-go projects (needing only finance), and few complications to get in the way of a quick start to proceedings. Almost any other field of infrastructure stimulus could have (and would have) become entangled with red tape, naysayers and do-gooders wanting something, anything else to be done as a matter of their own priority.
Sure, we started off from a solid economic base, left to us most recently by the Howard government, and before them the Keating and Hawke governments, but the fiscal ball could still have been dropped. We could have reined in spending, tightened the belt (as they say, and as Turnbull, Hockey and Nelson suggested vehemently) and trying to ride out the storm, with the inevitable middle class workers taking the hit on behalf of Big Business. But instead, Rudd “Spent! Spent! Spent!”, borrowing a small amount (and getting smaller as things improve) to do so. We are now better placed than almost any other country to profit from the global upswing around the corner.
Then I thought of how the Liberals had told us gravely, in early 2009, about “The Rudd Recession” and all its negative charms. After that I remembered that the latest Lib theory from the geniuses who run it was that there had been no recession, and that it was all a concocted sham for Rudd to make himself look like a hero. And then – something was nagging me - I thought how irritating Julia Gillard sounds when she utters the mantra “The - Building – The - Education - Revolution”, which everyone else calls the “BER” (as she should, if she had any sense).
That’s why Rudd, and his government sometimes annoy me. Chris Pyne’s little rant on ABC Sydney 702 this afternoon highlighted why I do like the Rudd government and also why I sometimes despair of them: they don’t need to spin as much as they do... but they just can’t help themselves.
In spouting mantras like “The - Building – The - Education - Revolution”, they treat us like fools. They are repetitive in their spin, sounding almost (and I shiver when I find myself agreeing with Glenn Milne, even glancingly) “Stalinist”-like in their incessant sloganeering. It’s as if they believe everyone reads only the Daily Telegraph (or the Courier Mail, the ‘Tiser or the Herald-Sun) and that we’re all so thick we need to have the times-tables drummed into us, like so many ADD schoolkids, until we get the message. Somewhere, in the heart of government, there is a media office that tells Rudd and Gillard, “Don’t think. Just repeat... ad infinitum”. This media office sucks.
The rest of them, the other ministers, most surely receive this message too, but some of them have enough imagination to use their own words. Anthony Albanese always entertains. Craig Emerson is another. Lindsay Tanner has something cogent and informative to say on every occasion.
But Rudd and Gillard are, to me, plodders in the public relations stakes. One would not go as far as to say they are “toxic bores”, but sometimes one finds one’s self shouting at the television, “Just bloody say something out of your own damn mouth for a change, will you !?” when listening to the two most senior members of the government.
This is not to say that I am as annoyed by Rudd and Gillard’s verbal ineptitude as I am by the prattling Pyne, or the noxious Abbott, or the lamentably ham-fisted Joe Hockey (and let’s not leave out the scolding Bronny Bishop and the irritatingly cocksure Sophie Mirabella in the round up of Liberal bloviators), but I do feel a certain disappointment whenever our Prime Minister and his Deputy come on to the telly to speak, or rather, chant platitudes and litanies, no matter what the question, no matter what the subject.
The Rudd government has done a fine job of steering this wonderful country through a potentially disastrous financial period, reacting with aplomb and decisiveness, and not taking the many baits offered to them to go along the more conventional course the Liberals put forward as the only way out. For this they are rightfully rewarded by solid, high polling figures and a virtually unbackable prospect of re-election. But I wish, in my heart of hearts, that just occasionally its most senior members would throw away the prepared script and speak plainly for themselves, instead of recanting mindless spin put in front of them by paid hacks, with even less imagination.
I’m sure readers may have other annoyances, but the incessant (and here’s the catch: the unnecessary) spin of the Rudd government is my own pet irritant.
I hope you can convince me I’m wrong, or that it doesn’t matter, but spin is what gets stuck in my craw, and I’m just about fed up with it. Not enough to change my vote, but enough to switch off completely and just let things take their (seemingly) inevitable course.
What do youse think?