THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED…
On Tuesday 6 November 2007, the Melbourne Cup was run and despite the equine influenza outbreak it was a great day. The race had an even greater finish with 'Efficient' doing himself proud. But the day after was a day for some regret. Yes, I know that there would be a few heads being held simply for pain relief from the previous day's overindulgence. The real head holding of course was as a result of the announcement made by the Australian Federal Reserve Bank that Interest Rates were going up by 25 points, or a quarter of one percent.
Even though most economists fully expected the rise, it was the first interest rate rise made during an election campaign. This of itself caused a media furore, the Prime Minister said he was sorry about the rise, though he didn't apologise. The Treasurer took his time about making a measured response and the Leader of the Opposition insisted on protocol and kept quiet until the Treasurer had made his comments. There was a flurry of activity and then the whole thing died as it became apparent that neither the Prime Minister, nor the Treasurer, nor the Leader of the Opposition could do anything about interest rates. For a while there it looked as though the public had started to loose interest in the whole event. And perhaps they had.
By this time there had been debates, each of ninety minutes duration, between the Leaders, then Costello and Swan and then Garrett and Turnbull did a similar thing. The great likelihood is that the vast majority of the public watched or listened to something [anything] else unable to stand any more of the semantics, half-truths and meaningless one-liners.
The only relief came from the 'Bloopers' that were flowing freely from both sides with probably the most significant coming from Peter Garrett. He totally depreciated the value of the election promise by strongly inferring that Labor had no intention of implementing its promises and it would all change after they had won the election. Incidentally, similar statements have been reported from other Labor sources, so there's a bit of form here. Given the attitude of the public to election promises even these outrageous statement had a media life of just about 24 hours.
Then Mr. Rudd himself weighed in by saying that he would find $3 billion in "efficiencies" to balance what seemed to be arithmetic miscalculations in his initial estimates. To anyone in Queensland this should have been a frightening statement and every Commonwealth Public Servant in Australia should consider it a "heads up". The Queensland Public Service, or what's left of it, well remembers Mr. Rudd's "efficiencies", as will the Queensland public remember the consequences. No water, no power, no health service, no infrastructure, and no management… just for starters.
But this too had a media life of just a day [for which Mr. Rudd should be very grateful]. So he then seized on a statement by a Victorian Liberal politician Jason Wood from La Trobe who has made opposing nuclear energy a way of life for years. For about the amount of same time he has been consistently getting rolled in the Liberal party room. For mentioning his well-worn belief in an electorate pamphlet Mr Rudd claimed that the Liberal party was split on the issue, or words to that effect. That stayed in the media for a matter of just hours.
Not to be outdone, after the latest Interest Rate rise, the Liberals changed the emphasis from a policy of 'strong growth' to one of a need for caution due to "economic uncertainties". No doubt this was referring to the ongoing economic meltdown in the United States from the sub-prime and now even the "Alt A" housing loans fiasco which at this time is only in its infancy. When the multi-trillion dollar loan, derivates and lowered American consumer confidence realisation hits Australia, the Prime Minister's caution may well be understated.
By this time it looked as though the music had really died. That phrase, borrowed from Don McLean's 1971 tribute song
'American Pie' to the plane crash death of Buddy Holly and two others, seems a chillingly appropriate sentiment.
Why the music has died is only partly the politician's fault. The ugly truth is that the media, in all its forms, has beaten up the event to the extent that with two weeks to the 2007 federal election, to maintain the hype, they have to make a federal case out of every trivial 'major party' detail. Who cares if John Howard or any other leader forgets a name? Who cares if Kevin Rudd scratches his ear? Certainly not the average punter in the suburbs!
One of the problems with the media is that they seem to be wed to the two-party system. Few others are inflicted with this inadequacy, and in fact, for your vote is to be valid in a Federal election you have to vote for everyone on the ticket including Labor and Liberal. Even the Greens and the Democrats are given little profile to say nothing of a plethora of smaller parties and Independent candidates. Many of who genuinely have something to offer the public.
In a contrary fashion there is no analysis of what each party would do if they did get power, promises notwithstanding. Would John Howard take us into Iran as he did with Iraq? Does Kevin Rudd have the depth of party following to implement his policies and what would he do about a conflict in Iran?
Then there's the question of sponsors. To what extent are they all indebted to their sponsors (multinational campaign donors) and, can they meet the sponsors' expectations as well as the interests of the Australian public?
The question was once asked of me in relation to government borrowings, "Is a Government guarantee worth anything and what is the remedy for default? I thought back to the days when loans were made to Monarchies and the Monarch had the power to say "… off with his head" and that happened there and then.
No doubt in those days' demands for repayment was made very politely. The real remedy of course is that if you are a moneylender you don't lend to one king, you lend to two kings, and if one defaults you cut off his credit. At the same time you tell the other king that you can fund him through a campaign to take over the defaulting king's country, provided of course he picked up the debt owing and a few penalties that would then be outstanding.
So that's probably why we have, and the media promotes, a two party system. It's entrenched in our history, or perhaps, credit ratings. Or then again, like the second king, it just might be all about the POWER.
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