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Sunday 15th June 2008 - 7:54 pm
Comments Off on Rudd to come under pressure in parliament this week

Rudd to come under pressure in parliament this week

by Alan Thornhill

Kevin Rudd will be brought back to earth with a thump this week.

Pleasant memories, from his trip to China, Japan and Indonesia will fade quickly, when he faces the Federal opposition in parliament today.

Interest rates are high and – according to the Reserve Bank chief Glenn Stevens – likely to remain so for some months yet.

Bread prices are rising faster than most Australians can make the dough they need to buy it.

And fuel prices are still stratospheric.

In these circumstances, an astute politician, like Rudd, will know that the recent slide in his government’s public support, might just be the beginning.

The Roy Morgan poll, for example, showed the Labor party’s primary vote down 5 per cent to 45 per cent.

As that translated into a two party preferred vote of 58 per cent for Labor and just 42 per cent for the opposition, some MPs might well believe that Labor still has very little to worry about.

Especially as the government’s budget tax cuts, which were meant to ease the pain of rising prices, will kick in very soon.

It’s a safe bet, though, that Rudd, himself, is not comfortable and relaxed about his government’s situation.

He keeps reminding Labor politicians that, despite John Howard’s unpopularity, Labor’s victory last November was still much narrower than it might have appeared to be, to the casual observer.

We can expect to see the Federal opposition land some heavy blows on the government, in parliament this week.

The opposition will focus, particularly, on the arrogant behaviour of Federal Labor backbencher, Belinda Neil, and her husband John Della Bosca, a prominent NSW State Labor politician, at the Iguana nightclub, earlier this month.

Rudd has already instructed Ms Neil to undergo an anger management course.

However that won’t stop the opposition raising the matter in Federal parliament this week.

And that is just about the last thing Rudd needs, right now.

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Sunday 1st June 2008 - 9:56 pm
Comments Off on Rudd hopes for a better week

Rudd hopes for a better week

by Alan Thornhill

Kevin Rudd is hoping he has a better week in parliament this week, than he had last week.

We should, too, regardless of which political party, if any, we might support.

Australia’s reputation, as a modern, sophisticated nation, is at stake.

Rudd has now starkly revealed just how much still has much to learn about how the political process actually works.

It can be much cruder, than we might like to believe. Rudd’s own actions illustrate that.

When a radio reporter asked him what he thought of a photograph that Bill Henson had taken of a young Aboriginal girl, the Prime Minister’s answer came straight from his heart. He declared  the photograph of the naked girl to be “revolting.”

That’s understandable, particularly in view of the abuse so many young Aboriginal women suffer.

But Rudd did not forsee that, within days, Federal police would be raiding art galleries throughout the country, including the National Gallery in Canberra, seizing “dirty pictures.”

Prosecutors are now under great pressure to follow up, by prosecuting those galleries, for holding – even if not exhibiting – those pictures.

What next? Burly police men, with sledge hammers, knocking “offensive” appendages off copies of Michelangelo’s David?

Even zealots in the Vatican have ultimately admitted that similar action there was a mistake.

Rudd would certainly never have imagined, when he made that remark, that the police raids would follow.

Now, though, he knows what happens.

He will learn, too, that all this will damage his government’s reputation, around the world.

The government’s attempt to micro-manage fuel prices, through its Fuel Watch scheme, will be politically expensive, too.

It cannot, ultimately, do much about those prices. They are set by basic forces, such as supply and demand.

And last week’s woes aren’t over yet.
Voters will still be discussing “dirty pictures” and petrol prices this week, when they might have been looking, instead,  at the quality of the opposition, which, as usual, is abysmal.

We need to look no further than the Opposition’s Deputy Leader, Julie Bishop, to establish that.

As the Rudd government issued a preliminary report over the weekend, trying to draw together the threads of its highly inclusive 2020 summit, Bishop responded by saying that its paper looked like “noodle nation,” all over again.

No sign of a mental giant at work there.

Monday 26th May 2008 - 7:48 pm

Absolute Power played out in Canberra

by Alan Thornhill

Lachlan Harris has stumbled, too.

Spin doctors should never let themselves become the story.

But that is just what Kevin Rudd’s media chief has done.

Harris is the complete professional.

And his management of the media, in the week before the budget was published, on May 13, was superb.

Press gallery reporters, like their colleagues everywhere, are always in the market for an exclusive story.

And the government placed many of those, on the budget, at that time.

That was a triumph for the Prime Minister’s media machine.

But the PM’s media minders – and Lachlan Harris in particular – are now being accused of censorship.

A Victorian Liberal Senator, Michael Rolandson, said the Rudd government had set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

There is some room for scepticism.

After all, as Mandy Rice Davies once said, in slightly different circumstances:”He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

But Ronaldson was adamant.

“We’ve got ministerial staffers, with no entitlement, removing people (reporters) from licensed areas (of parliament house).

“We’ve got them out the front of the Great Hall, taking them out of the Blue Room (where Prime Ministerial press conferences are held).

“I mean this is a government, in six months, that is totally out of control,” Ronaldson added.

An ABC insider gave Private Briefing another example.

That was of Lachlan Harris objecting to the ABC filming Rudd, while the PM was in the ABC studio in the Press Gallery of Parliament House.

Rudd was reading from notes, during a radio interview.

And that is not a particularly good look, in television footage.

“When we do radio, we do radio,” our insider quoted Harris as saying, in a bullying manner.

“And when we do television, we do television.”

That one has now been settled, in the ABC’s favour.

Lachlan’s objection has been lifted.

But these events have left nasty aftertastes,

Several years ago, public servants in Canberra , were fond of saying that the highly successful TV series, Yes Minister, was not a comedy, but a documentary.

That applies, too, apparently, to the current series of Absolute Power, which studies the activities of spin doctors.

Sunday 25th May 2008 - 10:36 pm
Comments Off on MPs tense as budget debate resumes

MPs tense as budget debate resumes

by Alan Thornhill

Federal parliament will resume today, with leaders on both sides already showing serious signs of strain, after the May 13 budget.

The previously unflapable Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was still trying, over the weekend , to explain away his politically clumsy observation last week that there is nothing else the government can do, to ease financial pressures on family budgets.

That might be true, but it’s not the kind of thing that Prime Ministers are supposed to say. Not if they want to survive, anyway.
So Rudd tried a variation, in a speech to the Labor faithful, in Melbourne on Saturday.

“We can’t ease all the financial pressures on working families,” he said.

“But we can make a difference – by focusing help on those who need it most.

“That’s what we’ve done with the budget tax cuts,” he declared.
Yes. But that was 13 days ago. What are you going to do now?

That question is certainly unreasonable. But it does reflect the realities of modern politics.

So Rudd can expect a fierce attack from the opposition, at question time in Federal parliament, later today.

Whether the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, has the gravitas, though,  to make the damage stick, remains to be seen.

His own platform is shaky.

His Treasury spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has been equivocal, at best in his support for Nelson’s plan to cut the fuel excise, by 5 cents a litre.

Turnbull has promised political support, but he has let the world know that he believes the proposed cut is bad policy.

Meanwhile Liberal front bencher, Joe Hockey, admits that the opposition is not likely to get much traction, with its attacks on the government, for the rest of this year, or even longer.

The new books about to appear, on the Howard government , will create unrest, he says.

Probably the best thing for all of our politicians to do,  right now, would be to have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

But it isn’t going to happen.

Sunday 11th May 2008 - 11:47 pm

Murdoch pipped in the big apple

by Alan Thornhill

Rupert Murdoch isn’t often beaten, in battles for media acquisitions.

But his company, News Limited, has admitted defeat in its bid to buy the New York newspaper, Newsday.

It had offered some $US580 million for the Long Island daily newspaper, which is one of America’s biggest.

A News Ltd. spokeswoman signalled the withdrawal, saying it had become “uneconomical” for the company to proceed.

This came as a surprise. Murdoch, himself, predicted, as recently as last Wednesday, that he would complete the deal within a week.

However, he had rivals.

And one, Cablevision Systems, is said to have bid $US650 million.

News Ltd. is already a major player on the New York media scene.

It owns both the dominant financial newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post.

News Ltd. also owns two television stations, which operate in New York.

Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the New York Daily News, is also understood to have been in the race for Newsday.

So far, though, it is not clear just who will win this race.

My book

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Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill

A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.

Available now on the iTunes store.

Profile

Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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