THE LAST GASP: Channelling Lance

Labor adopts a Lance Armstrong-style strategy over the mining tax, Julia Gillard pedals past a milestone and Joe Hockey contests Canberra's BlueScope result.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories, every week. This week, the government has a luckless second dig with the MRRT, more bad news for manufacturing is not just another drop in the ocean and an IMF report has the Libs ignoring inconvenient things like IMF reports.

When the going’s bad

Just in case you’d forgotten how much of a complete dog’s breakfast the federal government’s mining tax is, news emerged this week showing that, for the second consecutive quarter, the nation's top resources companies will escape paying a single cent of the levy. On a scale of disasters, this one is starting to make the sinking of the Titanic look like the Julia Gillard tripping over in India. A recent surge in iron ore prices, which had some government insiders regretting promises they made to the gods should it actually happen, has failed to push mining profits beyond the necessary threshold that would have seen payments made. Indeed, the only thing it seems to have led to is a marked increase in Wayne Swan’s salty tears.

They’re delicious, though

Despite the reports, the government has refused to confirm how much it will or will not receive from the levy, which was at one stage forecast to raise $2 billion in 2012/13. Penny Wong said the ALP could not even reveal it if they wanted to, due to taxpayer confidentiality laws. It’s a bizarre position given that all available data, including figures from the miners themselves, indicates that not a cent of the levy has been paid. It’s the biggest denial in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary since Lance Armstrong fought off constant doping allegations, and even that bloke gave it away this week. The stance drew criticism from a wide range of sources, including former Treasurer Peter Costello. The Liberal stalwart, who has two gears, mostly and extremely smug, exercised the latter when he called the defence a strategy to hide the failure of the tax. The government stood by its point, noting it was not in a position to break the law in order to make a political point, which really sounds more like a Greens policy, anyway.

A long time in politics

It was a big week for Labor, with Julia Gillard passing her predecessor Kevin Rudd’s total time as PM (despite the ongoing Rudd show), while the party recorded a bounce in opinion polls, recording its strongest support since the 2010 election. Labor MP Craig Emerson said after the poll that the support could be put down to the government's approach to modern Australia. It’s rather ironic, given in the very same week, the ALP championed laws that would allow organisations to refuse to hire someone based on religious grounds, a policy which appears taken straight from the middle ages.

We probably could have used some of that

It was a bad week for Australian manufacturing. And not just one of those bad weeks that has become the norm in a sector that has suffered greatly over the past few years; this one was a doozy. BlueScope, a former darling of the steelmaking industry, announced it was shedding 170 more jobs as it continues to shed costs in an effort to keep its head above the water. Which is perfectly justifiable conduct, had it not taken $100 million in taxpayer funds in 2011 in a bid to prevent this kind of thing happening. Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said the cuts showed that the government had wasted the money, in a funny choice of words given how much the man has wasted away himself recently. The government stood by its funding, but the opposition has a point. Labor has a disgustingly wasteful history and it’s likely the most recent period of government will go down as the most profligate period in the nation’s history.

Well, now doesn’t somebody look silly

Err... scratch that last bit. It turns out that the most profligate period in Australia’s history, according the coalition’s mortal enemy, science, was during the Howard years. A report from the International Monetary Fund this week has shown that Australia's most profligate spending in its short history came during the coalition government in the early to mid 2000s. The report allowed for heavy spending in times of economic distress, which saw the heavy outlay by Labor during the global financial crisis escape scrutiny. Penny Wong, after quickly and discreetly Googling profligate like most of us following the release of the research, said the report shows Labor government has made responsible spending choices in its time in government. Like the money it spent saving the manufacturing industry, for instance.

Quick misses

– It’s important to always remain confident in your goals, no matter how far you may seem away from them and how large the obstacles you have to overcome. However, standing by a promise when even your leaders have given up, like Labor backbencher Andrew Leigh did this week when he said the ALP was still capable of delivering a surplus this financial year, may be taking it a little bit far. That or he simply hasn’t been paying much attention to the papers lately.

– Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler has staved off the collapse of his Patinack Farm horse racing empire by creating a phoenix company that will hire the group's employees. The move shows the former billionaire is so far in the hole that only mythical creatures can save him now.

– And finally, Vodafone scrapped the Crazy John's brand this week, leaving the crazy tag to apply only to those customers who believe the name change will improve Vodafone’s terrible reception and services.