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Rooty Hill has never felt so popular.
I’m not going to do the thing of running a search on Google and then breathlessly reporting the number of hits (mostly because it is pretty stupid) but I think it is safe that a LARGE number of stories have been written about the Prime Minister’s decision to spend a week “living” in Rooty Hill tonight.
I’ve put “living” in inverted commas because she is going to be staying in a pretty swish hotel. She is entitled to do so, but the mere fact of sleeping out west rather than at Kirribili hardly, in my view, is going allow her to really connect with Western Sydney residents.
What really caught my eye today was the Liberal party’s response. Obviously Gillard will be hogging the limelight this week (for better or worse – no doubt the stories written about her visit will tell us more about the journalist’s particular perspective/bias than what actually happened).
The Liberals today released this pamphlet:
And the back?
It’s a neat attempt to wrestle the agenda back. It provides an easy segue for a journalist writing a story about the visit to talk about “promises”, which is of course exactly where the Coalition wants the conversation to be.
What I want to do is take each of those statements, provide the original “promise”, compare reality and then see whether the attack stacks up.
Before I do that, there is a semantic argument that has dragged on since the last election about the extent to which a change in policy is a “lie”. Essentially, it says that Gillard didn’t lie about the carbon tax; she changed her policy because of a change in circumstances. That’s true, but it’s a pretty fine line, and probably too fine a line for your average voter to care either way. She said one thing, and then as PM she did another. Feel free to flame me in the comments.
Also, while we’re on pre-emptive responses to comments, I know it was the Liberals who first gave us “non-core promises”. I also know what Abbott said about not believing what he says unless it is written down. But this is a post about Julia Gillard. I’m sure there will be posts about Abbott’s lies here sometime soon.
So, number 1:
There is only really an oblique reference to the much-maligned Citizens Assembly in the debate:
But there can be no doubt that, at the time the assembly was Labor policy, and of course it never happened, and we now have a carbon tax in place. So we’ll score that one for the Coalition.
This one is very clear:
Yes, the government has almost certainly done the responsible thing in not keeping that promise. And yes, the government cannot be blamed for the GFC. Which only makes the above promise an even more stupid one to have made in the first place. Another for the Coalition.
There isn’t really a direct quote I can link to the above promise. Happy to be corrected, but I cannot see explicit reference to “less debt”. That said, promise 3 would be the inevitable result of promise 2. But given I can’t find a reference to it in her comments, not going to score this one.
She certainly did promise jobs:
But it’s horribly unfair to call this a lie. The only fair comparator would be the unemployment rate if Abbott had been Prime Minister, and it is almost impossible to say what that number would have been. Labor is on the board.
This is a more subtle one. Gillard certainly promised a company tax cut. The problem is that they could not pass the cut because the Coalition and the Greens refused to play ball. So it’s not particularly fair to blame Labor.
This is to be contrasted with those promises that were given away to win the support of the Greens, which were bargained away. This was literally something that Gillard tried to pass and could not. So we’ll score this one a tie.
This allegation has the same problem as number 5 – Labor cannot be blamed for the tax cut not coming in. Moreover, it is a pretty blatant bit of double counting, so I’m scoring it for Labor.
This was laid out very clearly:
If you’ll forgive a small plug, I covered this issue in some detail on my blog.
The NSW Labor government is no more, and the NSW Coalition is not building the Parramatta-Epping link as it cannot afford to build that and the North-West Rail Link. The Federal Government has refused to shift that money across to the North-West Rail Link – but that is not a broken promise. Not by a long-shot. Another one for Labor.
This is what Gillard said:
This is a somewhat puzzling allegation. No one ever promised that the NBN would be built before 2013. Exactly how people not knowing precisely what it is going to cost (to the extent that is even true) is relevant to the promise is beyond me. Another point for Labor.
But, in fact, this is what was said:
This is another complicated one. First of all, no where in the speech does that figure of 2650 appear. That was a figure promised by Kevin Rudd in the 2007 election campaign.
Moreover, it was a 10-year plan – and we’re still a long way from the expiration of the 10-year period.
That said, I’m not going to score this one for Labor because clearly the plans are well behind the pace the promise requires. Even though Gillard never promised a number, the failure to make any real progress means that she can hardly claim that the attack has no merit.
In the Rooty Hill Forum Gillard did not provide a time-frame for these payments. But, on the ALP website, we are told that the payments were only budgeted to commence in 2012-2013 (again, happy to be corrected). Given that Gillard did not provide a timeline at the Forum, and that the timeline provided elsewhere does not appear to have been breached, I’m calling this one for Labor.
Saying “walked away from” overstates the issue here. This story from The Australian (not paywalled) explains that the Federal Government has apparently been late to deliver the funds to the states. This story from The Age explains some other problems with the program.
But to call it a “lie” is a gross exaggeration. Another one for Labor.
No way. She promised a Mining Tax, we have a Mining Tax. We’ve already covered the Company Tax cut. No contest. Labor.
This is what she said:
This is another timing issue that is massively complicated by the Gonski Review. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I’ll accept that no bonuses have been paid. That said, the process of rolling out what would obviously be a very complicated system has begun. We’ll call this one a tie.
No timeline was provided for this promise at Rooty Hill. However, it was explained elsewhere that the deduction would be $500 in 2012-2013 and $1000 in 2013-2014. In May 2012 the promise was dropped. Whilst the pamphlet somewhat misstates the size of promise, I think we can safely score this one for the Coalition.
The problem for the Coalition here is that both sides make this promise at every election in the knowledge that it is a vague, unmeasurable promise. “Cost of living” is such broad concept that no one could possibly say definitively that it is higher or lower.
The pamphlet gives two examples of how it may be higher. By contrast, the RBA’s cash rate is 1.5% lower. So the allegation is pretty ridiculous. I’m going to score this for Labor, but only just.
This is one where it is pretty hard to find a reference in the transcript. This is the best I could find:
It’s pretty clear that Gillard was talking about increasing the superannuation rate to 12%, which will happen gradually from 2013 to 2020. Whilst the new taxes run somewhat contrary to her her statement at Rooty Hill, there is no way it is a broken promise, so I’m scoring it for Labor.
This one also goes both ways. Labor did (elsewhere) promise to build 28 clinics. Construction on many of those has not started, although it is also true that there has been an appropriately thorough process undertaken to identify sites etc.
However, construction has begun on many sites (I’ve been unable to ascertain how many). So to say that only one has been delivered is deceptive. We’ll call this one a tie.
First of all, that’s clearly not a promise. In any event, to lay the blame entirely at the Federal government’s feet is more than a little unfair. Another one for Labor.
So, the final tally? Three points for the Coalition, ten for Labor.
Feel free to let me know if you agree with my assessments in the comments.
Andrew may be a criminal defense lawyer from Sydney, but he’s actually a pretty cool guy who you’d love to hang out with. He writes regularly on his blog A State of Mind and for the Kings’ Tribune, and he tweets as @mrtiedt.