27 September 2004

Two Hundred Million Dollar Man

The election began to feel real for me about the middle of Week 4, when the prime minister pre-empted his policy of noncore pre-emptive strikes, ably assisted by the Indonesian ambassador, the Malaysian deputy prime minister and the Filipino foreign secretary. It seems the Man of Steel says one thing to the governments of South East Asia and another to the Australian people. Then along stumbled the Foreign Minister of Kleenex to explain to an amazed world that Thirty Seconds over Jakarta actually meant a surprise descent on Nauru or Kiribati. All in all, not a good look for a government running on competence and candour.

Now we have the Coalition policy speech.

Laura Tingle writes in today's Australian Financial Review (registration required):

He started spending at 12.12 pm, and stopped spending at 12.42pm, setting a new land spending record of about $200 million a minute.

This election gets weirder and weirder. It's not just that the Man of Steel has suddenly discovered that social spending is a good thing, but he's also discovered that targeted middle class welfare is a good thing, that centralising everything in Canberra is a good thing, and that Coalition spending has no effect on interest rates, but Labor spending drives interest rates up faster than you can say 'interest rates in the water'. I seriously doubt the spending spree will change the result that much. Those inclined to change the government are not going to be effected much. The other side of the electorate will find reasons to approve the Man of Steel's cutting and running from every principle he's ever argued.

The speech ends with a significant rhetorical error.

Promises made in an election campaign mean nothing if you don't have a strong economy providing the wherewithal to make those promises affordable and achievable.

Really, it should be child's play to argue that the Man of Steel is always a bit rubbery when it comes to keeping promises and economic circumstances can and will be used to revoke any undertaking. The avalanche of spending promises is cleverly targeted at various constituencies and marginal seats. It might be too clever. There might just be too many proposals for individual promises to reach the groups they are aimed at.

Despite passionate uxorial avowals, the credibility of the Man of Steel is on the slide. If that goes, the government goes.

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