Prediction is difficult, prophesy is often wrong, but being wrong again and again does not deter gurus of the calibre of Glenn Milne from making yet another foray into telling us what’s going to happen and giving us his interpretation of what’s already transpired. In Poodle's bite may yet wound the government in yesterday’s edition of The Australian he pulled out all the predictive stops and turned up the interpretive volume to fortissimo. [more]
In the printed paper’s subheading, but curiously not in the online version, our guru has officially pronounced “Kevin Rudd’s honeymoon has ended, presenting a chance for the opposition, if it can grasp it.” No ifs or buts, no qualifying words, no poll data showing a crash in support for Rudd to sustain such a conclusion – the honeymoon has ended. Kevin, please note this historic day in your diary. Ignore yesterday’s Essential Research Report figures that show the Government’s position improving to a TPP of 60/40 and the Reuters Trend Poll for August a steady 57/43 (it opens as a Word file).
As our intrepid Glenn likes collecting things, as you’ll see later, let’s collect Glenn’s predictions one by one, just for the record.
Milnean Prophesy One – Rudd’s honeymoon is over
He states his reason for asserting this: “You just got the feeling that by the end of last week we were close to, if not at, two tipping points in federal politics. Now if Glenn has a feeling, we’d better listen, if only to record what else he might have gotten wrong. He continues: “One concerned Julia Gillard. But it was not exclusively about her. The other was about Malcolm Turnbull. But it wasn't only about him either.” Cryptic! So he explains: “Let's get started in order. In political terms Gillard went too far on Friday. Her sin was to try to pass off a $1.5 billion blowout in her Pyongyang-inspired Building the Education Revolution program as ‘a bump in the road’.” Gillard has gone too far, has sinned, Pyongyang-style. Now if you’re wondering how ‘Pyongyang’ got into the picture, you’ll have to wait. But once he uses that word, the tone of the rest of his piece is predictable.
So her sin was not so much the $1.5 billion ‘blowout’, (note it was not an unexpected demand, or a cost over-run, or excess cost or extra expense or a budget underestimate, it was a ‘blowout’; let’s not go with anything less dramatic); her sin was that she tried to pass it off as ‘a bump in the road’. Julia should have known that Glenn would be onto her in an instant.
Milnean Prophesy Two – Julia Gillard has reached a tipping point; presumably it’s all downhill from here
Then he claims: “For the first time in a long time in the period of the Rudd government the media called it for what it was; self-serving spin of the kind that sees the wheels turn furiously while nothing actually happens.” So while Glenn has been on the Government’s case, the rest of the media has been slack, until now. In looking to see how well the rest had done, I couldn’t find much at all in the online or print media. Malcolm Farr had a piece in The Daily Telegraph, Don’t provoke a cranky poodle that recalled Julia Gillard’s preference for a Doberman over a poodle, and Christopher Pyne’s recent accusations against her. As usual it was a humorous and balanced piece. There wasn’t much else on the subject that so enchanted Milne – looks like the media is still dragging its feet. When will they ever catch up to our Glenn?
Note that ‘self-serving spin’ leads to spinning wheels – simple physics.
Milnean Prophesy Three – the media is about to wake up to the Rudd Government
Then Milne insisted that Gillard was “nailed when her opposite number, Christopher Pyne, got a hearing from the media he deserved”, but informs us that “the $1.5bn blowout was the big thing. Then there was the little thing; they're the ones that always get you in politics.” More stunning insights from Glenn – watch the little things. What was ‘the little thing’? It was Gillard’s requirement that all schools “maintain a grateful sign out the front acknowledging the contribution of the government's stimulus package to their new hall.” Clearly that’s what will sink her –‘the grateful sign’, one that continues until 11 March 2011 – imagine the audacity of that. Obviously the Government should hand out money for schools so quietly nobody ever gets to know about it – we need a little modesty here.
Milnean Prophesy Four – it’s the little things that will always get you in politics
Then he reveals the origin of his Pyongyang reference: “All of which prompted Pyne to re-badge Kevin Rudd and Gillard as ‘Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader’.” If it’s good enough for Pyne, it’s fine for Milne.
He goes over the ‘mincing poodle’ story but assures us that “Pyne has been coming after Gillard and he won't stop. But don't be mistaken: it's with a clear-eyed intent. As much as he might want to, he won't let his feelings drive his agenda.” Watch out Julia for Pyne's passionless premeditated pursuit.
Milne now makes his killer contention: “Put together, the $1.5bn bump in the road and the schools signs episode brought the Rudd government this week to a point of reckoning. Two-thirds into their first term in government they are beginning to be called to account. Budget blowouts can no longer be blown off. Self-interested slickness as demonstrated by the Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader signs will no longer be missed.” Oh dear!
Milnean Prophesy Five – the Government has come to the point of reckoning
Glenn explains some more physics: “as with most tipping points there's been a slow build to the balance mark on the fulcrum.”
Then he catalogues the Government’s misdemeanours as he see them (in list form here):
- The $1.5 billion blowout in the Building the Education Revolution program
- Trying to pass this off as ‘a bump in the road’
- The requirement that all schools maintain a ‘grateful sign’ for building additions
- The $1.4bn blowout in the Computers in Schools program
- The trades training centres in every school that turned into one in every 10 schools
- The ‘humiliating backflip’ on youth allowances
- The failure of FuelWatch - not a failure Glenn, it was blocked in the Senate
- The failure of GroceryWatch – yes, it failed as the data required from retailers could/would not be provided
- The broken ‘promise’ to take Japanese whalers to the international courts
- The broken ‘promise’ to take to court President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on incitement to genocide charges
- Junking the climate-saving program of pink batts for renters
- Junking the banning of plastic shopping bags
- Delay in the start date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
- The ‘windback’ of the private health insurance rebate
- Deferring the implementing a federal takeover of the state hospitals system for at least a year
- The five-year program to bring 7750 nurses back into the workforce that has recruited only 541 so far
- The 30,000 people who've dropped out of the government's $2bn Productivity Places program
- The botched jobseekers scheme.
You can see he’s keeping a careful tally. We’ll see this list over and again, extended each time.
Milne adds: “The point being that sooner or later a government's failure to deliver catches up with it. For Gillard that moment happened last week. And if it's happened for her, smart and savvy as she is, can a number of her colleagues be far behind?”
Milnean Prophesy Six – the failure to deliver will catch up with the government sooner or later, and has already caught up with Gillard
Milnean Prophesy Seven – a number of Gillard’s colleagues (unnamed) will soon suffer the same fate
But what about the recession that the Government seems to have avoided? What about the lower-than-expected unemployment? What about the indicators of early recovery? What about the rising confidence ratings? What about the comments of the Reserve Bank, Treasury and the IMF about the positive effects of the stimulus packages? Are they worth a tick? Well our Glenn is generous – he devotes a whole sentence to that achievement. After reminding us that: “The fact is the momentum of failed promise has been gathering across government for some time.”, he concedes: “While Rudd has so far delivered on the macroeconomics of avoiding a recession - no mean feat – ” but unable to resist the caveats, adds: “we are yet to grasp the final cost in terms of debt and deficit. Indeed, the political ill winds of interest rate rises are already gathering on the horizon.” A dozen words of grudging acknowledgement, a damning with faint praise, but of course qualified by the old mantras: ‘debt and deficit’ and interest rate rises. It’s surprising he didn’t add ‘tax hikes’, in true Liberal fashion.
Finally he turns to Malcolm Turnbull: “This week, however, one got the impression that the seemingly endless destabilisation of Turnbull has eased. Not for any better reason than, absent a viable alternative, it has simply run out of puff.” Turnbull must be mightily relieved that Glenn has declared that he has reached a tipping point, and is now on the way up. No evidence is advanced – Glenn’s ‘impressions’ are sufficient.
Milnean Prophesy Eight – Malcolm Turnbull is at last on the up
Milne then offers the Liberals some of his precious gratuitous advice: “...the Liberal Party might finally be able to get back to focusing its attention where it ought to be. On Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader. Pyne has demonstrated it's not a bad strategy.”
Milnean Prophesy Nine – the Liberals will now get back to focussing on the Government
So there you have it – another Milnean exposé, jam-packed with strident interpretations and insightful predictions. Or would ‘wishful thinking’ be more appropriate for anything Milne writes about the Government and the Opposition?
Let’s see how many of his nine prophesies come to pass. If past performance is any guide, don’t bet your shirt on them.
A regular on The Political Sword, Bushfire Bill, has similar feelings about the Milne piece. If you can access the Crikey site, you can read his stylish rebuttal of it on Poll Bludger. Click here and scroll down to comment 2265.
What do you think?