Just answer the Question!

This piece is short and snappy. I know that, like me, you fume when politicians steadfastly refuse to answer a question directly, preferring to prevaricate by evading an answer altogether, giving an answer to a question they would prefer to answer, or wandering off into a boring recital of the dot points with which their minders have briefed them. You don’t need me to obsessively remind you of their behaviour.

Judging from talkback radio, you are one of countless others, commentators and listeners alike, who feel the same.

All but a few politicians seem to be weighed down by the curse of evasiveness and habitual mendaciousness. Sometimes they blatantly set out deliberately to deceive. They seem not to care that their reputation is sullied day after day by dishonesty, duplicity and deceitfulness. Will they ever learn how objectionable their behaviour is to the voting public?

Let’s look at just a few examples.

On May 9, as part of a series, there was a special episode of ABC TV’s The Drum: Do you think Australia’s heath care system is accessible enough for everyone?. A panel of renowned health experts discussed how to promote equitable outcomes in our health system. Following this, Leigh Sales interviewed Health Minister Greg Hunt on 7.30. Here’s some excerpts from that interview:

LEIGH SALES:
There are so many challenges facing the health system as our series is showing, but I’d like to start with some of what we’ve watched tonight just while it’s fresh in the viewers’ minds. Take Grant Williams, the bloke who’s been told that he’d maybe have to wait 12 to 15 months to have his painful teeth fixed. There’s something seriously wrong, isn’t there, if the best that the health system can do for somebody with brain cancer and a pregnant wife is that.

An honest answer would have been: “That is an appalling situation. It ought not to happen. It is up to me as Health Minister to ensure that such situations do not arise. I will personally examine Grant’s case.

Instead we heard Hunt recite his dot points, tell us how much money has been poured into the system, and then top up his recital with a generous dose of his ‘passion’:

GREG HUNT:
Well, I think it’s absolutely important that we focus on patients such as Grant, and do everything we can. In terms of his cancer treatment, I would hope that he has access to medicines, which in some cases might have cost well over $100,000 on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, for treatment in hospital.

In terms of his dental - dental care is immensely important. It’s a deep personal passion. One of the first decisions I made on coming to office was to increase by $150 million the funding for the Child Dental Benefit Scheme. We’ve recently added a billion to that, and we’ve recently added another $100 million to our support for the states’ public dental scheme.

So the way it works in Australia is we have historically, at the national level, taken responsibility for the private scheme that delivers over $42 million different services, and the states have taken responsibility for the public. But we’ve injected that billion dollars into the scheme. And $350 million, in particular, for the adult public dental scheme. So we’ll keep working with them.

Not prepared to be fobbed off, Sales persists:

LEIGH SALES:
When would you expect to see that flow in through in terms of results?

Finally Hunt gets the message that he ought to do something for Grant

GREG HUNT:
Well, I would like to see those waiting times come down. That funding has been allocated and we want to work with the states to do that. But in particular, the fact that we have both public and private working together is immensely important. But I hear something such as that story, and I’d like to get the details after the program from your producer and to see what we can do to assist.

Enough of Hunt! Let’s look now at the master of obfuscation, our very own PM. Here’s some excerpts from an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 earlier this year, prior to the election.  

LEIGH SALES:
When the Coalition was elected in 2013 it was on the back of promises to end Labor's debt and deficit nightmare and to rein in what you said was Labor's out-of-control spending.

When we've look at your record of six years in office, you've had deficits every year you've been in power, net debt when you were elected was 13.1 per cent of GDP and today it's grown to 18.5 per cent, and Labor's spending during its term was on average just under 25 per cent of GDP. Yours is just over 25 per cent of GDP. Therefore, on your own yard stick, haven't you failed to deliver what you promised?


There was no way Morrison was going to concede that Sales was right, although she was quoting verifiable figures. So he set out to bewilder - not Sales, because she’s too smart - but the viewing public which is more persuadable by Morrison B.S. So here’s his response:

SCOTT MORRISON:
No, Leigh. I mean, we're bridging out (whatever that means) on the first budget surplus for next year, and it's taken 12 years to get there. We've reined in —

LEIGH SALES:
Projected.

SCOTT MORRISON:
That's what the budget surplus is next year, that's what the forecast budget surplus is. Budgets are done a year in advance, and that’s the first budget surplus that has been announced in 12 years.

But allow me to answer the question. We've actually got expenditure under control, at the lowest rate of growth that we've seen of any government in more than 50 years. We've got taxes under control. We've got people off welfare and into work, and that in turn has restored the budget and we're now in a position to take the budget into surplus.

And now, that is a significant achievement, but it's been done by the hard work of Australians, because our policy settings have been designed to support Australians to invest, to employ people, to work hard, and when that happens, your economy strengthens and you're able to bring the budget back into a surplus position, which is what we were able to announce last night. So no, I wouldn't...


No mention of wage growth though!

Sales was not ready to be fobbed off.

LEIGH SALES:
What about my point that debt has grown?

SCOTT MORRISON:
...I wouldn't agree with your rather negative view of our performance.

LEIGH SALES:
What about my point about the size of net debt?

SCOTT MORRISON:
Well, when you're running deficits then obviously your debt continues to increase, Leigh. (An archetypal piece of gratuitous nonsense.) That's why it's so important to get the budget back into surplus, and that's what we've been working hard to do for the last six years.

I mean, we've got expenditure growth down to less than 2 per cent a year. I mean, that is significantly lower than where we inherited it and it was more than double that when we came to government. Gross debt was running at 33 per cent increases every year under the previous government. And so, you know, to turn this ship around has been an extraordinarily difficult task, but we've done that. And having achieved step one of getting us back to a budget surplus, we now have to pay down that debt and we'll pay down that net debt by around just almost $50 billion over the next four years. And we'll eliminate it over the next 10 years, which is what the Howard-Costello government were able to do. Our side of politics gets rid of debt. That's what we do.


I'll leave it to you to judge the authenticity of Morrison's response.

I could go on and on giving examples of how politicians don’t answer the question, and reiterate how much we yearn for those that would just answer the question they were asked. But you don’t need to be reminded any further of how they try to confuse, bewilder, hoodwink, bamboozle, and con the voters into believing their confected rhetoric.

We do hope though that they don’t believe their own words; that would be the epitome of stupidity. But then!


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Florence Howarth

13/07/2019

Our honourable humble PM is wrong. It is compassion we need not love. 

TalkTurkey

14/07/2019

LNP spokespeople NEVER answer questions straight. NEVER. They must actually be schooled not to. But the bloody MSM is just as culpable in NEVER saying ANSWER THE QUESTION! Sure, it makes me bloody furious, but what makes me LIVID is that, with the ABC in particular, one can rarely even HEAR the QUESTIONS at pressers. What a farce. Inaudible questions and irrelevant responses.

And then there's Question Time in Parliament. 

Ad Astra

15/07/2019

Florence Howarth

How right you are!

Talk Turkey 

It is infuriating that the ABC seems incapable of making audible the questions asked by journalists.

Journalists let us down when they do not persist with their questions, when they do not insist that they are answered, when they decline to call politicians out for their obfuscation. Are they scared that they will not get interviews if they call their bluff?

Ad Astra

15/07/2019

Folks

If you can stomach even more obfuscation, take a look at Treasurer Frydenberg being questioned by Laura Tingle on 7.30 at the end of May: https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/treasurer-josh-frydenberg-discusses-tax-cuts/11280074  

How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?