Signature policies sour for leaders
Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard under pressure to rethink their approaches on questions that seemed far clearer just a couple of months ago.PT3M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-28gat 620 349 October 30, 2012
THE trick in enduring to the end of the long battle of the 2012 political year is in trying to make the old new again, and the new as stale as last year's bully beef.
Which approach is chosen, as the parliamentary year of conflict enters its second-last week, simply depends on which side of the trenches you sit.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his troops opted yesterday to fire up their old muzzle loaders with a few adjustments to the ammunition: the carbon tax, boat people and the budget surplus.
Boxed in ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard watches Leader of the House Anthony Albanese table a box of documents during question time yesterday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, backed by her palace guard, spent much time dodging the attempts to put new punch into those ageing whizz-bangs.
Indeed, Abbott's opening salvo on the carbon tax's role in forcing electricity prices skyward could have come from any day in the past year or two.
''Haven't we heard all this before,'' scoffed Gillard.
Abbott's lieutenant, Julie Bishop, tried a bit harder to embarrass the PM with a page from Tales from the Political Trenches by former Labor MP Maxine McKew.
The Prime Minister chose a haughty defence. ''I stand by my statements,'' she said when asked about an excerpt declaring that when Kevin Rudd was still prime minister, she wrote to him insisting she opposed fighting an election on the promise of introducing a carbon tax.
In other words, it was all old ground, unworthy of a response.
Just to be sure it stayed that way, Gillard's standard-bearer, Anthony Albanese, refused to allow the offending page to be admitted into the formal Hansard record.
When Bishop tried to further fluster Gillard with a question about a ''slush fund'' for an old boyfriend who then decamped with the money, the PM said she'd dealt with the whole matter in the longest press conference ever given by an Australian prime minister.
More old, tedious stuff, undeserving of a response.
Gillard was far more interested in spruiking her latest vision for an Asian century. Yes, the future. Boundless opportunity for an imagined nation of Mandarin and Hindi speakers.
Her heart gladdened by the latest Newspoll putting her government's odds at 50-50 with the opposition, she decided to mix a metaphor or two.
''Isn't it interesting that here today we have the opposition with their tired old fear campaigns, having a fiddle with the rear-vision mirror as they look backwards as we lead this nation to a future of opportunity and opportunity shared,'' she said.
Only a pedant, surely, would suggest the vision of Australia embedded in the Asian century was a blast from the Keating past.
Would that be the new old, or the old new?