Amanda Vanstone: same old, same old.

I don’t know why The Age keeps giving Amanda Vanstone oxygen. Perhaps it so that people like me can demonstrate the errors of the views she is allowed to promulgate in what is an otherwise relatively good publication. Perhaps it is that The Age thinks that printing her views provides “balance”. It doesn’t. Simply providing one side of politics with an opportunity to allow their tame propagandist to publish her views is not balance, is just bad publishing.

Amanda thinks up something zany for AGE readers

Amanda thinks up something zany for AGE readers

Take today’s effort: Blame the media, not Joe Hockey. It’s a return to justifying the photographs of Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann smoking a cigar after the budget announcement. Of course Hockey’s entitled to a cigar. However, rightly or wrongly, the stereotype of the cigar smoker is someone rich and privileged because cigars are expensive and this photograph was taken immediately after a budget that is now widely believed to be unfairly targeting the poor and vulnerable in our community. It’s not that we object to Joe enjoying a cigar. What we object to is his flaunting his cigar smoking after delivering a particularly regressive budget. It was tactless and politically inept.

The same can be said for his comments about the poor not spending as much on petrol as the rich and therefore not being affected as much by the fuel excise increases.Hockey has argued that what he says is true. It is. The poor don’t spend as much on petrol, food, entertainment, travel, school fees (I could go on) as the rich because they don’t have as much money. And pointing this out as a justification for the fuel excise tax is again just tactless and politically inept.

Yet Amanda Vanstone seeks to defend Joe Hockey. There is no defence for these two particular incidents. They were masterclasses and political ineptitude. And this is not because he’s not allowed to smoke cigar or because the poor do spend less on petrol than the rich. It’s because this is extremely stupid and insensitive behaviour from someone who needs to court public popularity to maintain his public position. As a politician, Joe Hockey should have been smarter. In seeking to defend his actions Amanda Vanstone does herself no credit.

In relation to the fuel excise levy the sad thing is there is a good argument for reintroducing it. quarantining from the effects of inflation was never a good idea. It was just a bid by John Howard to avoid hard decisions in court public popularity.

Vanstone is however correct on a couple of points. The media is certainly taking a much more active interest in denigrating politicians, for whatever reason. It’s become a national bloodsport. She is also right that this doesn’t add to the quality of national political debate. Nor, I might add does defending Joe Hockey’s actions.

As I’ve pointed out before, and will do so again, this process was started by the current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and his minions in the redneck press in Sydney. It is a process to be deplored because it has lessened the standing of our national leaders in the eyes of the public. It is difficult to see how this will be reversed.

Our media and the Australian population needs to remember that politics is the art of the possible.

Tony Abbott might promise to introduce a very generous paid parental leave scheme but the realities are he can only do this with support of the fairly hostile Senate. This can be seen as breaking promises, but this is actually not particularly helpful because it leads to a slanging match about “honesty” rather than a useful debate about with the scheme is actually what we need. Incidentally, much the same as what happened over the Carbon Tax which was cast as an “honesty” issue and the public debate lost sight of the fact that actually quite a good policy cutting down carbon emissions and raising revenue.

What Abbott should have done is said that it was his policy to introduce a range of changes to the carbon tax, mining tax etc rather than cast them in the light of promises and moral imperatives.

Vanstone concludes her article on an interesting note: I think we should offer him some praise for recognising that we need to clean up Labor’s mess.

Intelligent economic commentary seems to have dismissed the idea of the “budget” crisis” so rerunning this tired old argument is something we all should be spared.

But what I really love is “we need to clean up”. Last time I looked Amanda Vanstone was no longer a minister in the Australian Parliament. Perhaps that’s her problem.

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