Friday, March 12, 2010

Kevin Rudd's great big deceit

On International Women's Day, Tony Abbott announced a new Coalition policy pertaining to paid parental leave scheme. This scheme would provide mothers with six months of paid maternity leave at their normal salaries up to $150,000. The scheme appears to have been concocted without much support from big businesses or from the Liberal party itself. On the face, the policy does not appear to conform to traditional conservative and liberal policy. 

However, debate about the paid maternity leave policy can be seen as a success from Labor's point of view. Lest we forget, two years ago Kevin Rudd described climate change as the "greatest moral challenge" of our time. The Government has attempted to divert attention away from the failures of Copenhagen and its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) by announcing new policies on health reforms and paid maternity leave.

Kevin Rudd's popularity with the Australian public has fallen significantly since the days of Kevin '07, with the Prime Minister becoming better known for being "all hat and no cowboy". Kevin Rudd has failed to deliver upon numerous election promises including the CPRS and hospital reforms. Peter Garrett was "demoted" after the national insulation scheme debacle which further dented the public perception of the government. Finally, KRudd has failed to handle contemporary issues such as rising national debt levels arising from "excessive" economic stimulus and asylum seekers.

In fact, in a recent Q&A program on ABC, when questioned on his handling of the health system Mr Rudd blamed the delay on his predecessors for "ripp[ing] a billion dollars out of the public hospital system". In response, one member of the audience remarked that:

"Didn't you say when you were going to reform the health system that the buck would stop with you, yet you've made two references to the previous government's decisions, and I note you didn't reference the previous government's surplus they left you in terms of the economic crisis. But you said the buck would stop with you, so will it, or are we going to keep hearing that the previous government did this, the previous government did that?"
Mr Rudd was not able to respond coherently to that question. Similarly, Climate Change minister Penny Wong's interview on ABC's Lateline could be described as nothing less than "excruciating". The Federal Minister refused to answer questions put to her by Tony Jones regarding the increased electricity costs to the Australian public which would result through the implementation of the CPRS. The questions put forward include:

TONY JONES: The Prime Minister has spelled out that in the first two years of your emissions trading scheme, electricity prices would rise by 7 and then by 12 per cent in the second year; a total of 19 per cent by 2013. What happens after 2013?

TONY JONES: I’ll just interrupt there because you put out some of the modelling. There’s no modelling, is there, that we’ve seen or that I’ve seen beyond 2013?

TONY JONES: Yes, understood. That’s the difference as you paint it. But let me ask you this: you say that the big question is about the two schemes, but actually one of the big questions is about the costs. So what happens after 2013? What does Treasury model tell you? For example, if your targets go from 5 to 10 per cent, does that mean automatically and exponentially you get a doubling in the cost of electricity from 20 per cent increases to 40 per cent increases?

TONY JONES: Yes, but the open question is: how much will you have to increase? You must have Treasury modelling which tells you what a 10 per cent reduction would be, a 15 per cent reduction, a 20 per cent, or even a 25 per cent reduction in emissions would cost in terms of cost-of-living increases. Do you have that modelling?

TONY JONES: That’s not the only policy question. The policy question that is on a lot of people’s minds at the moment is what this is going to cost. And so I’m asking you: do you have Treasury modelling that tells you what the additional costs will be to electricity and cost of living if your targets increase from 5 to 10 per cent, from 10 to 15, or even to 25 per cent, as you’ve canvassed, if the rest of the world moves?

TONY JONES: Alright, but before the voters go to an election with an emissions trading scheme, potentially, as a virtual referendum on how to deal with climate change - before the voters go to election, are they entitled to know what your modelling is telling you about what different targets would do to the cost of electricity and the cost of living?

TONY JONES: OK, but what happens? Is there an exponential change to the cost of electricity? Does it double from a 20 per cent increase with a 5 per cent reduction in emissions trading to a 40 per cent increase in electricity costs with a 10 per cent and so on, up to 80 per cent with 20 per cent reductions? Does it work like that, or is it somehow different? What does the modelling tell you?

TONY JONES: OK. But before people vote for this in an election, as they are likely to do this year, do you commit to giving the complete Treasury modelling to the public so they can see what happens at the different targets that you’ve proposed?

TONY JONES: Will you release the full Treasury modelling about the potential cost to electricity and cost of living with the different targets?

TONY JONES: But they won’t know prior to the election, based on what you’ve just said, what the potential economic impact is of higher targets.

TONY JONES: Yes, but you’ve already told the rest of the world that you’re prepared to go to 25 per cent if the rest of the world moves. You’ve also set a target for 2050 of 60 per cent, so there has to be large reductions over time, and don’t the public have the right to know what the cost of those increases will be?

TONY JONES: Well, no, we don’t have to, I was just trying to get to the bottom of whether you’re prepared to release that modelling. I think the answer is no.

TONY JONES: If that is the issue, let me ask you this: is it now standard practice to pass confidential departmental briefing documents to the press, or to sections of the press, I should say, as part of a media strategy to undermine the Opposition’s position?

TONY JONES: No, no, I’m not talking about honesty. I’m talking about the way in which this information was released. And isn’t it precisely the sort of thing that infuriated you about the previous government: the use of confidential departmental material to undermine the Opposition’s case?
What we have is a Government who is deceitful and cannot deliver on its promises to our nation. Mr Rudd has purported to paint himself as a contemporary leader, one who is in touch with the younger generation of voters. He has failed, and is now attempting to divert the public's attention away from his failings by announcing new policies.