THE LAST GASP: Until you drop

Wayne Swan cops some friendly fire as he tries to get back in black, the RBA sets itself up for a dirt unit attack and Cory Bernardi loses even conservative support.


The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest news, every week. This week, Labor cops flack for over-spending – even when it’s not – the Reserve Bank puts Tony Abbott in a tight spot and the mining boom is starting to look reminiscent of Schrdinger’s cat.

Your mouth’s writing cheques

The federal government came under a variety of fire this week amid rising concerns over its spending plans in the face of a seemingly precarious surplus position. With the ALP’s reputation staked on getting the budget back in black next financial year, recent policy announcements have got the opposition and even its own party members asking questions. A number of Labor backbenchers this week have raised issues over the government’s plans in the party caucus room, including Senator Doug Cameron who called on Treasurer Wayne Swan to consider broadening the tax base to pay for some of the programs. He backed his claims by quoting from the treasurer’s weekly economic note, in the first recorded case of Swan not enjoying having his own work read back to him.

Where there’s smoke

The issue gained more traction later in the week, as media reports claimed the government was preparing to unveil a plan that would see it pay $1.4 billion a year to subsidise the salaries of private childcare workers. Opposition leader Tony Abbott decried the news, calling the suggestion another example of Labor spending like drunken sailors, which brings to mind hilarious images of Anthony Albanese on a boat. However, the announcement never materialised, and was evidently forgotten by the time Abbott was urging the government to retrospectively pay Australian victims of terrorism by Thursday. The government shied away from making a connection, either in respect for the victims, or because they were too busy rescheduling an unrelated policy announcement mysteriously put on hold earlier in the week.

So, about that

The Reserve Bank of Australia has dealt a heavy blow to Opposition Leader Abbott’s claims that the carbon tax would have a disastrous effect on the fundamentals of the Australian economy, by saying evidence shows the carbon tax has had pretty much no effect on the fundamentals of the Australian economy. The central bank said the introduction of the carbon price had not made a significant difference on downstream price pressures or raised medium-term inflation expectations. In fact, the only thing it did raise was Abbott’s blood pressure when he realised how little of an impact it was having. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the minutes prove Abbott has been trying to mislead the public, and had been running a destructive and deceptive scare campaign. Abbott did not comment on the minutes, but has privately promised to launch a destructive and deceptive scare campaign against the RBA.

Some consistency, please

Like a pretty young couple in a mid-nineties American sitcom, nobody can decide if Australia’s mining boom is off or on again, with the debate continuing again this week. RBA assistant governor Christopher Kent says the boom is likely to continue for some time, but admits that not all parts of the economy have benefitted equally. Clearly, the especially-not-equal sectors are all of the ones not associated with mining. Resource minister Martin Ferguson, who has been bearish on the boom for a month now, used a BREE report as evidence the run of high prices linked to the mining boom was over. The report found export earnings from resource commodities are expected to fall around $20 billion this financial year as prices ease. All over Australia, hearts have gone out to the poor mining industry on the news.

This seems oddly familiar

The federal government has deferred plans to hold a national referendum on the recognition of indigenous folk in the constitution, despite a promise to the Greens and Rob Oakeshott which went a long way in securing the ALP’s place to the right of the Speaker. Labor had come to an agreement with the left wing party and independent MP to hold the vote on or before the next federal election in 2013, but now say the idea has insufficient support. Luckily for Labor, it is the first time the party has screwed over somebody whose support was crucial to installing them into power, and analysts believe something like this is very unlikely to happen again.

Don't have a cow, man

Give em’ an inch, they’ll take a mile, That was Liberal senator Cory Bernardi's thought process (although ‘thought’ is a generous term) when he said that legalising same-sex marriage could later lead to calls for the legalisation of bestiality and polygamy. Somewhat unsurprisingly, a cavalcade of controversy followed the comment, which eventually forced Bernardi, the opposition leader’s personal parliamentary secretary, to resign. He later issued a statement explaining the comments, although an apology and backdown was conspicuously absent. It’s a tough decision to understand; if something is too conservative for Tony Abbott, you know you’ve crossed the line somewhere.

While we're on the subject of things to say that will cost you your job

Million dollar election campaigns are paradoxical creatures; so enormous yet planned so meticulously; so powerful yet so delicate. So delicate, in fact, that even the slightest mistake can derail the whole thing. Which is why the massive stuff up by Republican candidate Mitt Romney this week has political analysts in the US calling the thing for his opponent, Barack Obama, already. A clandestine video has been posted on the internet showing Romney telling wealthy donors that almost half of Americans believe they are "victims" who are owed support from the government, and would never take personal responsibility for their lives. The Romney camp have slammed the leaking of the video, and said it was clear that the candidate was the victim of a set up.

Quick misses

The Australian Greens made a call for a national climate change conversation this week. Unfortunately, everyone had Christine Milne blocked, so nobody answered the phone.

– Journalists in Western Australia are now legally protected from being compelled to reveal their sources, unless it's in the public interest. Which is great for the dozen or so journalists over there that haven’t been fired yet.

– And finally, the federal government has invested $168 million in nuclear medicine, because nothing says fit and healthy like nuclear technology.

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