Have we just experienced a crucial week politically?

Last week was one of the most politically eventful since the election of the Rudd Government.  But how crucial was it to the future of the Government and the Opposition? 

The National Accounts for the March Quarter showed a seasonally adjusted growth in GDP of 0.4%, avoiding two quarters of negative growth and denying oxygen to those who wanted to call a recession.  Moreover, there was evidence that the fiscal stimulus packages had contributed significantly to that outcome, although favourable terms of trade had contributed even more.  Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan were delighted, like parents of a lost child on its return.  They had feared the worst and the onslaught of criticism that would have followed.  Their relief was palpable.  In contrast the Coalition was frustrated.  While it might be unfair to assert that Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey wanted recessionary figures, they were clearly disappointed that one of the main planks supporting their debt and deficit platform, namely that the stimulus packages had not been successful in avoiding a recession, had been denied them, at least for the time being.  In a media conference Turnbull took less than a minute to say he was pleased with the figures and several trying to make the point that the result was mainly due to the trade figures and had little to do with the stimulus packages.  The tiny graph he exhibited to the media to reinforce this point seemed to attract more amusement than enlightenment. [more]

Question Time gave the Opposition another opportunity to press its argument that avoiding a recession was almost an accident and had little to do with Government policy and action.  But the relentless pursuit of its case gave Rudd and Swan many opportunities to counter the argument and mount the ‘talking down the economy’ slogan, more of which we will hear in the days ahead and during the next election campaign.

Then the very next day the Fitzgibbon affair came to a head and he resigned.  The media was soon out with the usual clichés – ‘what a difference a day makes’ and talked of the resignation ‘overshadowing’ the good economic news of the previous day.  Well it may have been a fleeting shadow, but it is perhaps a metaphor of media imbalance that it even contemplated that the downside of one would cancel out the upside of the other.  If Rudd had to choose between good economic figures and saving a minister, we all know what he would choose.

Question Time that day was very different.  Questions about the economy were relegated to the end.  Clearly the Coalition had had enough mauling the day before and had made little headway.  So they had prepared another battery of questions about Fitzgibbon, only to find he had denied them by resigning an hour before.  So they adopted plan B and attacked Rudd over a 12 year-old ute a Brisbane car dealer had loaned him for use in his electorate, which has been on Rudd’s register of pecuniary interest for over two years, accusing him of advocating on behalf of the dealer an application for support from the OzCar fund to assist car dealerships unable to raise finance, which is not yet operative as the passage of the enabling legislation is still being blocked in the Senate.  Rudd was surprised by the initial question; some columnists said he was ‘flustered’ and his ‘hands shook’ – if that was so, it is not surprising with such a question out of left field that cast doubt on his integrity.  By the time he had checked with his department he was armed with detailed answers to Turnbull’s questions, which he transmitted with vigour, but as Rudd put it to Kerry O’Brien that night on the 7.30 Report, Turnbull just ’barrelled on’, following his father’s advice way back, to ‘just keep on punching’.  The whole of QT was an appalling exhibition of political opportunism.  Unable to get traction with its economic argument, and frustrated by having to abort its Fitzgibbon attack, it reverted to a personal attack on the PM, hoping no doubt to draw a parallel with the UK Labor Government’s scandal over politicians' allowances.  It exemplified Turnbull’s approach, so well exposed by the title of Anabelle Crabb’s Quarterly Essay about Turnbull ‘Stop at Nothing’.

The media has asserted that Fitzgibbon was seen by his colleagues as a weak link, not so much because of his performance in his department which has been generally lauded by senior Defence officials and Defence experts, but because of his carelessness in attending to personal details.  No doubt his eventual removal was on their minds and, if the rapidity of his response is any indication, heavily on Rudd’s too.  So making a virtue of necessity, Rudd soon announced John Faulkner as Fitzgibbon’s replacement, a widely endorsed move, even reluctantly by the Opposition, and within days announced his reshuffled ministry, which promises to be even stronger than the one it replaced.  By and large the media has been approved the moves, although some insist that they were motivated largely to satisfy factional pressures.  The Opposition soon came out singing from the same song sheet with member after member asserting that factional requirements were behind the moves, certainly not merit, as insisted by Rudd.  Chris Bowen was singled out as an example of promotion as a reward for supporting Rudd.  His failure with Fuel Watch, which the Senate blocked ensuring its failure, Grocery Watch, which is operational under the auspices of Choice, and the employee share scheme, now modified by raising the threshold for ineligibility, were quoted as instances of failure.  The only one to acknowledge the merit of an appointment was Joe Hockey who recognized the talent of Greg Combet and in an unusual act of generosity said that all the talent did not reside in the Coalition.

So what can we make of the week just past?  In The Weekend Australian Paul Kelly, wrote a piece Oh what a lovely crisis that begins “This week delivered Kevin Rudd two golden opportunities: the chance for Australia to avoid a technical recession and the chance to fix the crisis within the defence portfolio. Neither should be underestimated.”  About the economic performance he said “The extent of Australia's superior performance to this stage is stunning.”  Kelly went on to quote Access Economics' Chris Richardson who said."We are through the most dangerous period.  I think the stimulus we've done still made sense and it's good by international standards."  Kelly warned about the danger of Government hubris, quoted the RBA view that once recovery begins the Government will be called on to show fiscal restraint, and suggested that whether such restraint has registered ‘in its DNA’ will become the real test of its character.  On Insiders he reinforced his view that the week had been a strong one for the Government notwithstanding the resignation of Fitzgibbon.  On the same show Lindsay Tanner gave the strong message that fiscal restraint would be needed during recovery and that the Government was committed to it.

Even days after the announcement of the March National Accounts, economists are still arguing about whether or not we are in recession.  In a convoluted piece, Tim Colebatch asserts today in The Age in A beautiful set of numbers tell only part of the economic story that the figures in the National Accounts ‘don’t add up’ and that the data tells us that Australia is in recession.  Michael Stutchbury insists that we do have a recession.  In the SMH in a piece Exports real key to recovery he says that “...the economy's growth prospects will be determined by a clash between resilient export volumes and falling export prices”, and that “The best way to resolve this is to maximise export volume growth, which would hold up GDP and limit the rise in unemployment.”  Michael Pascoe in a piece in The Age, We're in a technical recession after all  argues that instead of using the seasonally adjusted growth figures that gave 0.4% growth, the trend figures are more reliable and if used would have given 0.1% negative growth, and a ‘technical’ recession.  These opinions fly in the face of other economists’ opinions such as those of Access Economics and several writers in the weekend papers.

Prediction is a hazardous exercise in politics, especially when economic factors are operating, but since success at accurate prediction seems to be more a matter of chance than reason as evidenced by past predictions, my prediction might be as likely to be correct as that of others.  My prediction is that the week just past will be shown to be crucial to the success of the Rudd Government.  Irrespective of what the naysayers still argue, the avoidance of a recession and all the retribution that would have been heaped on it by adversarial columnists and the Opposition, the quick resolution of the Fitzgibbon affair and the appointment of a strengthened ministry, all within four days, augers well for the second half of Government’s first term. 

My prediction is that although there are likely to be setbacks, mistakes and possibly some adverse statistics, this week past will mark a crucial and positive turning point for the Rudd Government.

What do you think?

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janice

10/06/2009My thinking is pretty much along the same lines as yours Ad astra. The small lift in growth bit the negative Coalition fear campaigners on the bum and in the process showed them up to be spouting rubbish. Then, Fitzgibbon's resignation left them looking like stunned mullets with no ammunition left to fire except to attack the PM by attempting to make something out of nothing. A stupid tactic. If there is a miracle in the offing, perhaps the week that was might stir up a little integrity and sense into the Coalition that causes them to change their negative thinking and start on the long crawl out of the gutter into positive territory. I'm not holding my breath though.

Bilko

10/06/2009janice and AA I agree wholeheartedly The coalition remind me of a kissing Gurami desperately gasping for air that anything will do to get a plug in the media, as Tom Lehrer once said "if you can't communicate the least you can do is to shut up" but where would be if it was that quiet??.

Bushfire Bill

11/06/2009A quick correction first. AA wrote, [i]"...accusing him of advocating on behalf of the dealer an application for support from the OzCar fund to assist car dealerships unable to raise finance..."[/i] The OzCar scheme is to assist [i]finance companies[/i] to get into motor vehicle finance, not to assist car dealers directly. It was put in place due to the desertion of the market by GE Money and GMAC, which used to provide bridging finance to dealers (who have to purchase the car from the manufacturer for the full price, up front) until the vehicle was sold in a retail showroom. When they left the market dealers could not buy cars to stock their showrooms. Other finance companies were given guarentees if they filled in this vacuum. This guarantee scheme is called "OzCar". The point of all this is that the motor dealer, Grant, who lent Rudd the ute, stood to gain no benefit from any approaches to the government (especially Rudd) directly, as he was a qualified motor trader in good standing, unlikely to be denied finance from a finance organisation backed by OzCar anyway. He did not make approaches to Rudd at all, and only to Swan for [i]more information[/i] about how the scheme would work. It was not an application for finance, direct or indirect. In an interview with Madonna King on Brisbane ABC radio last Friday, Turnbull tried to make out OzCar is a finance company that deals directly with motor traders. [i]MALCOLM TURNBULL: But that’s not the point, Madonna. The issue is this, that OzCar is a finance company that is owned by and run by the Treasury. John Grant is the donor of a very valuable gift to the Prime Minister, a free car. That is a matter of some value. Mr Grant has had the benefit of representations from the Treasurer’s office itself to the Treasury in his efforts to get finance from OzCar. Now there are plenty of other car… so the question is this and this is a legitimate question – to what extent has Mr Grant’s efforts to get finance from a taxpayer-funded finance company, to what extent have they been assisted by the fact that he is giving a free car to the Prime Minister of Australia. MADONNA KING: John Grant is reported this morning as saying the program OzCar is for finance companies, not motor vehicle dealers. MALCOLM TURNBULL: Yep, well, it is, that is it supports finance companies but Mr Grant, Mr Grant has been seeking to get support from OzCar…[/i] Untrue. OzCar provides guarantees to finance companies seeking to fill the void created by the exit of the GE Money and GMAC motor finance companies. It does not deal direct with car dealers. The guarantees given by the government are not specific to any one individual dealer. Further, Turnbull asserted that OzCar only came about because of a botched guarantee the Rudd government put in place for banks, leaving motor trading finance companies (GE and GMAC) in the lurch, without funds. [i]MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well OzCar, what happened was, after the Government, you may recall last year the Government since September I think it was set up a – or maybe it was October, anyway late last year – they set up an unlimited bank deposit guarantee and this was criticised by a lot of people including the Reserve Bank because it had the effect of disadvantaging any finance company that didn’t have the benefit of the guarantee, that wasn’t a bank or a credit union or a building society and that did a lot of damage to the ability of finance companies who finance the motor industry to raise short term finance and so that together with other issues associated with the global financial crisis meant that a lot of motor dealers were unable to get finance.[/i] http://www.liberal.org.au/news.php?Id=3241 This is not how the Motor Traders Association of Australia (MTAA) sees it. From the MTAA web site: [i]Some have said these circumstances are the product of the guarantees offered in the financial markets. [b]This is completely wrong; we dismiss that entirely and we can demonstrate that this is not the case[/b]. The circumstances the retail motor trades faced are [b]entirely due to the global economic and financial crisis[/b] and the situations caused by that for the parent companies of the financiers to our trades in Australia who precipitously determined to leave the market.[/i] http://www.mtaa.com.au/media-detail.asp?mID=52 But what would they know? They're only the industry association. How could they hope to win an argument with the greatest know-all of them all, Malcolm Turnbull? The whole attack by Turnbull on Rudd for accepting a "very valuable" ($6,000, second-hand!) ute was based on a misrepresentation as to how the OzCar scheme worked, who would benefit from it, and the origins of the problem that gave rise to OzCar: the GFC, not the Rudd bank guarantee. The questions asked by Turnbull of Rudd in QT were an outright smear, in that they falsely sought to insinuate that somehow or other Rudd could be bought for the price of a used, loaner ute. When Madonna King pointed out that Liberal MPs had made representations to the government on behalf of motor traders in their electorates Turnbull said that this was not his point. His point was: "Was Rudd corrupted by accepting a ute?", a question that could be asked of [i]any[/i] politician who accepts a donation, including Turnbull himself who accepted tens of thousands of dollars from an entrepeneur to his personal re-election campaign and then - in the Caretaker Period - approved, not $6,000 worth of finance but [i]$12,000,000 in government grants[/i], against the advice of his own department, to a company owned by the same donor. The whole episode of Ute Gate was disgraceful. No wonder Rudd's hands were shaking with anger. I'd have slapped Turnbull from across the table. But then, I don't want to be Prime Minister. The next day the media took up the clarion call, finally having an excuse to dismiss the (grudgingly called "technical" recession or rather, "technical" [i]non[/i]-recession story), in favour of the old conservative standby: "What business does a Labor Prime Minister have being rich?" The line ran that Rudd was rich enough to buy ten cars, why accept a "dodgy" deal involving a second-hand ute? As Peter Hartcher in The SMH put it, "it's not a good look". This completely ignored the fact the Rudd did not own the car. It was a loaner, declared fully on the Register of Pecuniary Interests, always remaining the property of Grant the motor dealer. Turnbull in the interview cited above said it was "strange" that Rudd could have accepted a taxpayer-funded car, but instead chose to accept the donation/loan of one from a private individual. That this saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars seems to have escaped Turnbull, who by the time the forensic Ms. King had finished with him was floundering around, pumping out bullshit as fast as his mouth would emit it, in order to stifle any more embarrassing questions. Mercifully for Turnbull, the interview, one long smear from end to end, was terminated by Ms. King with the welcome words: [i]"MADONNA KING: Alright we have to leave it there. Malcolm Turnbull I appreciate your time this morning. MALCOLM TURNBULL: Okay, thanks so much Madonna."[/i] One gets the feeling The Rainmaker really meant "Thanks so much, Madonna"... from the bottom of his heart. That the subject of the misuse of second hand utes was brought up so quickly after the encouraging GDP figures were announced did not escape Wayne Swan, who quipped in QT, "They've run out of questions on the Economy!" Apart from the bandwagon (or would that be a a utefull?) of the media baying after the wealthy Rudd for accepting a donation, declaring it and not troubling the taxpayers for compensation (something I thought would have been, [i]should[/i] have been praised in any reality other than the Australian Press Gallery's Bizarro universe), there has been in recent days the "Rudd as Barry McKenzie" attack. I am comforted by the established, empirical fact that such attacks only seem to [i]contribute[/i] to Rudd's popularity. But nevertheless the nastiness, the childish pettiness of it (championed by Annabelle Crabbe of the SMH and the hopelessly out of touch Tony Abbott) leaves one gasping for breath at the apparent disdain, even hatred the media have for anything to do with Rudd. Our economy is just about the best in the World. It outshines all others at the present moment. All the figures point to a shorter recession, at least for this country, than was at first thought. Yet all we hear are the sounds of nits, being picked at the margins, by journalists meanly using the term "technical" to describe the success of the Rudd stimulus package (would it have been "technical" if the figures had been negative? If Howard had still been PM?). Many have vested interests in misery, be they Stephen Long, the ABC's resident economic misery guts or any of a plethora of "economists" working for private banks who assured their clients, and went public doing so, that selling short was a "dead cert", and now have to invent excuses as to why their customers have bombed a motza on that worthless advice. Whether they like it or not, whether the non-recession is technical or not, the ASX has hit 4,000 points and looks like staying there. Hard cheese for the jackals of the stock market who believed their overpaid advisors that it was gloom and doom, all the way down to the bottom. The only ones who seem to have gotten the message that the Rudd government has done a very good thing in spending up big now to avoid even more misery down the track are the Australian Public, who today have caused the biggest surge in consumer confidence in 22 years to become a reality. It is unequivocally put down to the GDP figures. They seem to have forgiven Rudd for his ute, his wealth and his "bad temper" (another recent ploy). They seem to be ignoring Turnbull's dreadful doom-laden scenario, and that of the bank economists. They seem to be not noticing the tantrum-like assertions in the conservative press that we [i]are[/i] in a recession (and, if not "technically" in recession, they're going to hold their breath until they get a real one). But I save my final comment for Tim Colebatch, who just a few days ago wrote: [i]"Well, here's a scoop. Tomorrow's national accounts will not declare the economy officially in recession. They won't even say it's in technical recession. I'm sure of that, not because I know what tomorrow's figures will say, but because I know what they won't say. They will not show the economy to be officially in recession for one good reason: there is no official definition of a recession."[/i] ...and who then proceeds to tell us we're in one. What a convenient way to become an instant guru. Tell everyone there's no official definition of a recession and then tell them you'll let them know when we're in one, as we apparently are now ([i]psssst....[/i] by the way: [i]that's[/i] official). Thanks Tim. Don't call me. I'll call you. Poor bastard, you wrote a stupid column trying to have two bob each way on the next day's figures and you set yourself up for a pasting the week after that. Nevertheless, whether this last couple of weeks have signalled a turning point in Australian politics is difficult to say. One part of me reckons that anything negative about Kevin Rudd is usually turned into a poll positive. Another part of me reckons that the boom in confidence may be followed by a concrete rise in the national economic stakes. It was too much confidence that got us into this mess; too little that held us there for a while; and maybe a decent irradiation of the public by positive waves will drag us, and companies who hire and fire based on sentiment (they read the same newspapers we do), out of it again. Imagine if you will what the national sentiment would be now if the figures had been negative: bets would have been hedged, investment decisions delayed, staff vacancies papered over, purchases deferred. The loss of confidence would have led to more loss of confidence in a downward spiral of negative feedback. So we have been given a breather. A third part of me reckons that the relentless attention to the trivial - the Rudd ute, the Rudd "Bazza-isms", the Rudd Nastiness, the Rudd Shaking Hands - might bite this time. There's an innate wowserism in the Australian public that seeks to morally condemn the actions of others, not because of Godliness on behalf of those who comdemn, but because of their envy of success. The Tall Poppy Syndrome is jealousy driven, not an egalitarian phenomenon. The media and the Opposition know this full well and are mercilessly exploiting the lowest urges in us to gain political advantage or, worse, just to sell newspapers. There's - literally - no evidence for the contention that the public will turn on Rudd. Quite the contrary. But I wonder just how long he can stand the pressure to really let loose his cool. For all our sakes, I hope this is later, rather than sooner. Some have said these circumstances are the product of the guarantees offered in the financial markets. This is completely wrong; we dismiss that entirely and we can demonstrate that this is not the case. The circumstances the retail motor trades faced are entirely due to the global economic and financial crisis and the situations caused by that for the parent companies of the financiers to our trades in Australia who precipitously determined to leave the market.

janice

11/06/2009Excellent post as usual Bushfire Bill. I too wonder how long it will be before all these negative and nasty attacks have an affect on public thinking. At the moment though the tall poppy syndrome is cancelled out a little because Truffles is far richer than Rudd and his barrister style and know-it-all attitude is not endearing to the voting public. While the media, a few rusted ons and Truffles himself, consider him to be a great orator, 'ordinary' people out in the electorates want, and need, to hear their information in plain ordinary and understandable language. For me at least, Truffles oratory leaves me cold and urges me to question his every word. That isn't a good look for someone who aspires to be PM.

Ad astra reply

11/06/2009Thank you janice, Bilko and BB for your comments. BB, Thank you for your great post and the correction to the OzCar story, which makes the Opposition attack even more ridiculous and unfair and defines it as a deliberate attempt to smear, which unfortunately will suck some in; I note even the usually level-headed Bob Brown says that Kevin Rudd accepting this gift ‘is not a good look’. I appreciate the time you have taken to elaborate on this matter, the transcripts of the Turnbull interview with Madonna King and the links. The interview reads like a typical Turnbull interview – convoluted and confusing. How he won legal cases with such flawed logic is a mystery. Like you, I’m concerned that the regular attacks on Rudd and his style may gain traction. Yesterday there was a particularly nasty article in [i]The Australian[/i] by Ross Fitzgerald [i]Dr Death and Mr Rudd[/i] that boringly dredged up the distant past. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25612503-7583,00.html The article does not say who Fitzgerald is, but Wikipedia lists a Ross Fitzgerald who is an Australian historian, novelist and political commentator, and Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Brisbane's Griffith University, who writes for, among other papers, [i]The Australian[/i]. So I imagine that is he. Also today the much-respected George Megalogenis has a piece [i]This bloke act is doing our head in[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25618344-7583,00.html in which he criticizes Rudd for his ‘blokey’ language. It seems the media has a notion of what a PM should say, the language he should use, and the behaviour he should exhibit. Everyone is entitled to that, but we don’t need George or any other journalist telling us how we should regard the PM’s style. George should remember what Howard said: [i]‘we shall determine who comes to this country and the manner in which they come’[/i], which paraphrased to address this matter would read: [i]’I, and all Australians, shall decide what we think about our PM, and the manner in which we make that decision’[/i]. The media should butt-out; who cares what journalists think? There was even a segment today on [i]The World Today[/i] on ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ in which most supported Rudd’s use of Queensland-style colloquialisms; nobody interviewed seemed upset. That the media thinks this matter deserves attention at all portrays the parlous state of political journalism in this country. As a postscript I wonder what the media and the Opposition will do with today’s Labor Force figures for May that show a modest increase in unemployment from a revised 5.5% to 5.7%, and the shift from full employment to part employment. My guess is that the Opposition would have preferred a much higher unemployment rate, but will probably pump up these figures to suit their political purposes. Already I hear the Shadow Minister saying Rudd's spending 'has not created one job'. He didn't mention how many jobs might have been saved!

Ad astra reply

11/06/2009Now Richard Stubbs on ABC 774 Melbourne radio is on the 'fair shake of the sauce bottle' story - talk about media groupthink. You'll be enthralled to know that Stubbs doesn't feel comfortable with that expression. If such a luminary as Stubbs, so representative of public opinion, is uncomfortable, clearly Rudd is doomed.

janice

11/06/2009I guess the only criticism they can find against Rudd is to point out personal idiosyncracies which some may find annoying and others may see as put on 'blokey' language. Wonder how their friends and rellies get on if they don't conform to a perfect image and use certain colloquialisms not approved of by everyone in their social circle. Really, it is just petty nitpicking by the small minded among us. Since the unemployment figures were widely predicted to be 'close to 6% or slightly more', you can bet your last dollar that no-one is going to admit to being pleasantly surprised at the lower number.

Ad astra reply

11/06/2009janice, Fortunately Possum has published a piece on [i]Crikey: Good News on the Unemployment Front[/i] at 1:25 pm: [quote]"The headline numbers show the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate lifting from a revised 5.5% in April (revised up from 5.4%) to 5.7% in May. As we mentioned last time, the most important figure to watch was the new trend estimate for April – which came in at a revised 5.6% (with the May trend estimate running at 5.7%). Worth noting as well is that it was an increase in the participation rate which drove most of the increase in the unemployment rate. "So there we are, unemployment in April was around the 5.6% mark and doesn’t seem to have grown much this month – hardly the sky is falling nonsense we’ve been seeing from the sandwich board wearers howling away on the street corners at News Ltd. We’ll get to their latest nonsense in a bit. "The important thing about these figures is the way they’ve been defying expectations – albeit expectations from people that have seemed utterly confused for the last 12 months. While expectations on the unemployment rate was broadly correct, the expectations were also for a fall in employment of around 30,000 rather than the fall of 1700 we witnessed – as a consequence, their forecasts for the participation rate were also out. "Remember that until very recently, most parts of the economy were experiencing extremely tight labour market conditions, where it was difficult to find reliable new workers. That has a profound effect when it comes to the behaviour of firms laying people off work. Firms appear to be going out of their way to use other mechanisms rather than retrenchment to reduce the size of their labour inputs. Rather than sackings, reduced hours and the exchange of full time jobs into part time jobs appear to be playing an extremely large roll in keeping our headline unemployment rate down. "If we go over to the ABS measure of labour underutilisation – there’s a spiffy chart that says it all."[/quote] Sorry, the chart won't copy, but the Labor Force figures are at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0?OpenDocument If the full URL doesn't copy as a link, copy and paste it into your address box. [quote]"As the economic downturn hit, firms started to use less labour while simultaneously retaining employees rather than simply reducing the overall numbers of their workforces outright. If the broader economy can muddle through over the next 6 months or so without too many more overall job losses, we will be in excellent shape to exploit the next upturn in the economic cycle - simply by way of it being easier, cheaper and more efficient to increase the hours of your existing workforce than it is to actually increase the overall size of your workforce. "The media coverage has been pretty good. The Age and the SMH managed to get their head around the figures properly, even placing them in their proper context - a mighty fine improvement from last months twaddle.They also rounded up the usual suspects for their 5 second grab – noticeable is the absence of widespread doom and gloom. "News Ltd on the other hand, well – they can’t even read the figures properly: "The official labour force data, released today, showed more than 35,300 jobs were axed in May with the unemployment rate climbing to 5.7 per cent, after it took an unexpected slide in April. Er, no – the data didn’t show 35,300 jobs being axed at all! "Employment – you know, jobs - actually fell by 1700 rather than the 35,300 quoted. "It’s not exactly rocket science, the ABS release even says clearly “Employment decreased by 1,700 to 10,793,100.” "The irony here is that straight after that bit of News Ltd confusion, the article continues: "CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said the rise was actually a good sign for the job market, signalling things could be on the way up. “It was a tremendous result that employment didn’t fall significantly – we’ve got a much more flexible workforce than we did in the 1990 recession,” Mr Sebastian said. Just quietly, but a tremendous result wouldn’t be employment numbers sinking by 35K."[/quote] The 'sauce bottle' story has now become a learned debate about whether the expression is "fair shake of the sauce bottle" or "fair suck of the sauce bottle". As an ex-Queensland boy, I can say I've heard both. This is an earth-shattering matter - I hope someone can sort it out quickly, before the earth stops in its tracks.

Bilko

12/06/2009Dave 55 very dubious entertainment at best, almost on par with the Chaser sketch which has got up a lot of peoples nostrils

Ad astra reply

12/06/2009Dave55, charles, It will be interesting to see if the ute affair is raised again when next Parlaiment sits. I expect and hope Rudd will have both barrels loaded to give Turnbull a big spray. The whole issue is spurious, but that won't necessarily stop the Coalition, which clearly believes that any smear, no matter how disingenuous, leaves a smudge - witness Joe Hockey's accusation tonight that the Government is to blame for the CBA raising its interest rates, because the Government's borrowings to fund the stimulus packages is forcing the cost of borrowing up!

Michael

20/06/2009hearing the wording of the so-called 'email' on the ABC tonight about a Mazda ute I got an amazing deja-vu moment. Why do ComCars and Justice Kirby come to mind ?. I think Malcolm's been had on this one and there will be a lot of red faces especially at News Ltd who have frothed themselves into a lather.
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