I watched Four Corners last night entirely off the back of Treasurer Wayne Swan referencing it in an answer on the non-inflationary rate of unemployment in Question Time yesterday.
That was, as a side note, the first Question Time I had been able to watch since the victorious Labor election last November. The Labor front bench seem to be a little green in terms of answering questions, but I really did expect that after 11 years in opposition. It’s good to be able to see who the new ‘Order Dogs’ are for the Coalition now – Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull. It will make a change from Anthony Albanese and Lindsey Tanner. Speaking of Malcolm Turnbull, his questions over the past two days have been killers. He seems to be a hitman on the floor, and is targeting Wayne Swan something fierce. The new Speaker – Harry Jenkins – is an absolute hoot! He is great. He makes jokes, he has a laugh, and he is much more entertaining than David Hawker.
The only downside to the change in arrangements is that Kate Ellis is now seated down in the last seat on the bench. A shame really.
Anyway, Four Corners had a very interesting, at times amusing, feature piece called Howard’s End, focused on the year leading up to the November 24 election as seen through the eyes of big-wigs who are now in opposition. It was something I found extremely entertaining, as I’ve been waiting for the ‘revelations’ and ‘truths’ to come out since the Liberals headed in a downward spiral. All the backroom meetings, the closed door conversations, and the whispering in the corridors would make for an interesting story for anyone interested in Australian politics. And, I feel, the show did that – it wrote an interesting narrative of what happened. Of course, there were a few key players absent from the piece; John Howard being the biggest name. It would have really made the show if Howard was there spilling the truth as well. Though, how much you can believe from everyone else on the show is up in the air. They are, after all, politicians.
What emphasises this last point (about relative truth) is the part where they showed Alexander Downer, during the APEC summit:
Alexander Downer: There is no other candidate for the Prime Ministership and I think he’s the best candidate…
Reporter: Would you tap him on the shoulder?
Alexander Downer: What sort of question is that? I think his leadership is in the best interests of the Liberal Party.
Quite clearly, from the stories that we were being told by the interviewees on Four Corners, there another candidate for the Prime Ministership:
Liz Jackson: That night, Thursday the sixth of September, Alexander Downer invited eight of his Cabinet colleagues to his suite at the Quay Grand Hotel for a drink and a confidential chat.
Peter Costello: I heard pretty, pretty soon afterwards.
Liz Jackson (To Peter Costello): Pretty soon…
Peter Costello: I got reports of what was going on.
Liz Jackson (To Peter Costello): And what was that? What were you being told by Alexander Downer as the outcome of the meeting?
Peter Costello: That I’d better get ready because there could be a change of leadership.
I remember this news hitting the papers, and then hitting the floor during Question Time, and it was hammered home so hard that anyone watching would have suspected the Liberals of not just being in trouble, but being in disarray. But then you had to question how true the information we were receiving was. Each person summoned to answer the charges emphatically denied anything, but could never say they weren’t there. It was something interesting yet confusing to watch at the time. But now, with most of the people speaking out about it, it has begun to all make sense.
Joe Hockey really came off looking quite good from this program. I had always liked the guy, but especially now. A focus point of the program was when WorkChoices was introduced. Part of the interview with Hockey is very interesting:
Liz Jackson: A new Minister for Workplace Relations was appointed to repair some of the damage done. Joe Hockey’s problem was that under the new laws, some people would be losers.
Joe Hockey: Quite frankly when I took over the job I don’t think many ministers in Cabinet were aware that you could be worse off under WorkChoices and that you could actually have certain conditions taken away without compensation. And once I started to raise those issues with colleagues and they became more informed of the impact of WorkChoices we introduced the fairness test.
Liz Jackson (To Joe Hockey): You’re saying to me that Cabinet colleagues were unaware that you could be worse off?
Joe Hockey: Some were, yeah, yep.
This is followed up by a statement by Andrew Robb that probably encapsulated the feelings of the Australian voters who voted Labor, as well as the campaign by the Labor party itself during the election month:
Andrew Robb: I think it was the most powerful symbol of the fact that we had stopped listening and that we’d run our race and that we’d been there so long, that we were no longer alert to the views of the Howard battlers, the people who’d put us there in the first place.
Any government who puts in place a policy that directly disadvantages the voters, and hasn’t even dug deeper than the surface (in terms of the effects on the citizenry) for research, then that government is really looking for trouble. What government would even think about building a policy where people “could be worse off” under it? It was a shame that Hockey got lumped with the portfolio. Well, maybe not an entire shame. Seeings he was the face of WorkChoices, it seems remarkable that he kept his seat even though the policy was so unpopular. I think it might be because his constituents saw he got a bum deal from Howard.
On Kyoto, well, it came as no surprise to me to find out that Peter Costello wanted to ratify it. Though, I was rather surprised that he though they should have signed onto it before the climate change issue really came to the front in Australian politics:
Liz Jackson (To Peter Costello): So did you back Malcolm Turnbull when he suggested that Kyoto be ratified before the election?
Peter Costello: Well I actually think that the time for ratification was much earlier than that, having when it first came up endorsed the target, the time for ratification was then.
I had only ever thought that the Liberals had got serious on the issue because it had become ‘popular politics’. And even their ‘seriousness’ about climate change was quite a few steps away from Labor’s position. From what was said on the program, the party blames Howard for losing ground on this issue.
Anyway, the program is repeated tonight at 11:35pm on the ABC. I’ll be watching it again just for th kicks. There are some good laugh-out-loud moments too. And because you know the outcome, it’s like watching a bomb count down to 0. A great watch.