||Issue No. 306||12 May 2006|
Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
The Real Truth About Independent Contractors
Pity, because it provided a pretty succinct overview of the political dynamics of the current Federal Parliament, putting a spotlight on the opportunities, obstacles and downright frustrations in running effective opposition in a time of economic boom.
We are no Beazley boosters, but the Big Fella hit most of the right lines last night - accepting the wholesale tax cuts proffered by the Treasurer while sending the focus back to WorkChoices.
Beazley asked the right questions of the government - massive foreign debt, crumbling infrastructure, mounting skills shortage and the uneven benefits of the resources boom.
Yes, there was no alternative when you are responding to perhaps the biggest tax handout in Australia's history but to switch the Big Picture; but the focus was spot on - ask not how the economy is working, but who the economy is working for.
Presenting a Budget in Reply is a little like dancing on your own - there are not any tangible things you can give the public, just the promise of future rewards for a change of government.
The temptation is where the hand outs are only hypothetical, to give up altogether and instead opt for complex policy prescription which is a dangerous road to hoe. We've seen it with Knowledge Nation in 1998, you don't need to let Barry Jones loose to make long-term economic planning a hard sell.
But a few building blocks were put in place last night:
- wrapping the skills shortage into a tangible - accessibility to TAFE;
- wrapping the explosion in the numbers of non-citizens in the workforce into a black ban on foreign apprentices;
- wrapping the work family squeeze into a major project to put child care into public schools;
- wrapping the failure of infrastructure into high speed internet access for Australian families;
- and always bringing it back to the attack on workers rights.
As Kimbo asked, in the grab that may cut though: "What good is a tax cut if you lose your penalty rates." It was a good line.
The problem though is if you mob are not watching him, you can bet Middle Australia isn't - its like the line about trees falling in forests, if no one hears the speech was it really a speech?
While the public may not have been tuned in to Kim's battle, we were all riveted by the amazing escape of a couple of union members from Tasmania.
Beyond the human drama, was the prominent role played by the Australian Workers Union and their national secretary Bill Shorten performing one of the less acknowledged roles that unions have always played, supporting working families in times of crisis.
Even conservative commentators are acknowledging the good work of the union and opining that this is a sign that the federal government may have swung the pendulum too far.
What Bill did so well was not to play politics in a situation where this would have been the easy option, he just stood there beside his members, filling the void and representing their immediate interests during tough times, while preparing to ram home responsibility once the miners are safely home.
You don't need to be particularly clever or creative just real and relevant; maybe that is also the secret for Labor in these most difficult of good times.
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