Wayne Swan has opened his mouth again. It seems that just about every time the federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister opens his mouth it’s more often than not to attack particular groups in the community and in politics. More often than not, this year it has been to attack the federal Coalition, but also state Liberal Governments around the country. There’s also been the small matter of a concerted campaign of verbal barbs from Mr Swan, aimed at the mining billionaires, not all billionaires, just those that dig stuff out of the ground. The latest words attacking people coming out of the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer’s mouth were aimed at certain members of the Republican Party of the United States.
These words, directed at certain Republican representatives were a very weird, obscure and politically dumb foray into American domestic politics from a senior politician that should know better.
This isn’t the first time that a political representative from Australia has lectured a foreign power or its’ parliamentarians. Indeed, this isn’t the first time a Labor Minister has tried to tell the Republican Party how to do politics, Bob Carr has also done this recently. If you’re looking for an example of someone from the other side of politics something bad about foreign political parties and their figures, look no further than Prime Minister John Howard prior to the election of Barack Obama as US President.
Essentially, at the heart of the comments is economics and the US budget which is in terrible shape with debt about 15 times the size of the Australian economy.
In a speech to the Financial Services Council, Mr Swan said, “let’s be blunt, the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over parts of the Republican Party.”
Basically, this was aimed at the Tea Party section of the Republican Party which exploded onto the scene with high political prospects, but failed to live up to electoral expectations. They also had little success in wresting a large number of Republican congressional and Senate seats which was expected of them. Their idea of small government even sees the majority of the Republican Party as champions of big government.
The state of the budget in the United States is in complete peril. Under both Republican and Democrat administrations, the debt has exploded, particularly since the presidency of Bill Clinton. This has been both through long, expensive wars and the subsequent costly foreign policy as well as in more recent times, increased social spending and a loss of revenue thanks to that large event, the GFC which still sees a large number of countries struggling financially.
The point is that both sides of the political fence in America will at present not be able to solve the huge problems that the US needs to deal with on the fiscal policy front. Neither side really has a solution to the debt and deficit problem and yes, it really is a problem there.
Yes, there are “cranks and crazies” in the Republican Party, that is undisputed, but there is a big difference between political extremists and working, in whatever way, toward eturning the fiscal position of the United States of America to a more sustainable position.
Wayne Swan if he was really being genuine and had to go off on a verbal rampage again, though still not wise for an outside power with a mutual political interest, he would have been best served in acknowledging that the American future isn’t particularly rosy whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House. Any solution, though that term is used rather loosely, would involve severe political and economic pain, it’s a matter of when the political leaders and the people decide is best to go through that pain, because really, it cannot be avoided.
Ideally, if Wayne Swan decided it was necessary to embark upon this not so diplomatic pathway, and he shouldn’t have in the first place in the way he did, it would have been best raised behind closed doors rather than for attention-grabbing headlines. Public lectures of foreign powers, no matter how strong our economic position, just look odd and arrogant, especially when it’s partisan attacks.
The last day of Question Time for the week in the House of Representatives is upon us and promises no less than has been delivered over the last two sitting weeks in Canberra. Both sides have firmly dug themselves in to their respective attack and defense positions and have not let up except to vary their posturing within those areas. This does not look set to change at least for the day with positions so set in stone that if budged their positions may shatter into countless shards.
The Coalition has been heavy in its attack on three fronts, two of which fit into the broader narrative of economic management which both sides of politics seem intent to capture ground in this area, a traditional strength of the Liberal and National Party Coalition. Over the last two weeks the interrogation of economic matters has centered around the carbon tax, with the mining tax taking somewhat of a backseat for the moment. There is no doubt this line of questioning will continue today, being a central tenet of a future Abbott-led Coalition Government.
The Opposition has also been brutal in its pursuit of Craig Thomson and the Fair Work Australia (FWA) investigation that has been looking int0 allegations involving Thomson and the Health Services Union. In the recent sitting days questions on the matter have tended to focus on the length of the investigation rather than the MP who is a subject of the investigation. Estimates yesterday showed that the case may be drawing to an end but there is little doubt that the Coalition will want to continue its pursuit of the matter despite the angry and frustrated words of the Prime Minister in Question Time yesterday in relation to the saga.
There is also another possible line of enquiry in Question Time which the Coalition may take and that is to ask questions of the Government in relation to the passage of the Private Health Insurance Rebate means testing which passed the House of Representatives yesterday.
The Government will undoubtedly continue to try to paint themselves as the better economic managers, not for the budget position, but for the funds that they hope to raise through their new taxes to provide for Australians in different areas. As I have also repeatedly said, the Gillard Government will also focus on the economic position relative to other nations.
The Government will also surely direct some Dorothy Dixer’s toward the means testing of the Private Health Insurance Rebate which, as already noted has passed the House of Representatives.
The Speaker looks set to continue using Standing Order 94a for rowdy Opposition MPs without let-up, though we have seen Government MPs being booted from the House for one hour, particularly in recent days.
The real interest as far as the Speaker goes will be how much of a leash Mr Slipper will give the Treasurer who has tested the patience of Coalition MPs and supporters with repeated infractions this week particularly.
You know the drill, 2pm today on the TV and on the radio or in the wee hours of the morning for a replay on your TV. Enjoy the show!
Day two of the second week of the parliamentary year is upon us and is not likely to disappoint with more of the same narrative from both sides likely to dominate during the parliamentary sitting day. There may well be an added ingredient slipped into Coalition questions which will cause them great fits of laughter and smiles spattered throughout Question Time.
The Coalition is likely to continue to pursue the Government over the Craig Thomson affair and the long-running Fair Work Australia investigation causing much annoyance and disbelief. The Tony Abbott led Opposition will also likely pursue the Government over the carbon tax, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and the upcoming legislation to means test the Private Health Insurance Rebate.
Likely to provide added energy and vigour into the Coalition questions to the Gillard Government in Question Time is the Four Corners program last night which aired some claims which will be particularly uncomfortable for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the ALP caucus already under pressure from many quarters. Just how these factors will be slipped into Opposition questions will be interesting to watch and certain to provide to the theatrical nature of Question Time.
The Government will certainly continue to try and plot its narrative in economic management, despite recent polling showing that this message is not cutting through to voters like the Government would have hoped. Already in progress and foreshadowed job losses will make that narrative even harder to prosecute even if the dollar is realised as a major factor.
Question Time yesterday was quite volatile compared with any of the days last week, not just because of the cross-chamber barbs and yelling and raucous laughter but because of the removal of more Coalition members under Standing Order 94a than many would have expected given last week. The length of respective leashes will certainly be one to watch.
Given the complex and intriguing mix of events, policies and politics likely to pervade the questions during the session today, it is entirely possible for it to be the most anxious, loud, giggly and angry Question Time of calendar year 2012. You know the drill, 2pm AEDT, and if I can get into the parliamentary spirit of plagiarism, “be there or be square”.