Friday, May 1, 2009

Michael Costa, a government in tatters, early elections and apocalyptic 'we'll all be rooned' columnists

(Above: keeping the cardboard box theme going. Recyclable, disposable, and at just a few pennies above the odds, where's the harm when a billion or two await? Is this a job for Visy?)

Predicting an early election is the last refuge for a scoundrel - or is that a patriot - masquerading as a columnist.

How did you guess it was Michael Costa, speculating about an early election in Rudd's stimulus package fails?

Kevin Rudd's belated acknowledgment that the Australian economy is in recession means his preferred political strategy - using the national credit card in the hope of avoiding the symbolically important technical recession, before he can credibly call a federal election - is in tatters ...

Politically, the Government has a difficult decision to make. Does it go to an early election before the economic data turns against it, or does it wait in the hope that its optimistic scenario, which still has economic pain particularly in terms of rising unemployment, is supported by the economic data, no matter how tentative?

There's plenty more in between these prognostications, but all more the same, which is to say that Kevin Rudd is likely responsible for the end of the Australian economy as we know it.

Some people might read Costa for his views, but I read him to wonder and to marvel that he was ever a member of the Labor party. Who knows, he might still be a card-carrying member (sad to say, I've never been a member of a political party on the Marxist principle that any that'd have me are the kind I'd never belong to).

Costa's latest outpouring is a relentless monomaniacal attack on the Rudd government and its policies, spluttering about like a jumping jack ready to explode. In rhetorical terms, it puts the likes of Gerard Henderson in the shade, and approaches the splendid, splenetic frenzy of a Piers Akerman. 

Though funnily enough just the other day Akerman was berating Costa for his devious behaviour in relation to Currawong, the northern Pittwater Labor Council refuge for workers which Costa decided was an expendable luxury and tried to sell off. Piers, forgive and forget, he's at one with you now, let there be peace and joy on loon pond.

There's not really much to look at in detail in Costa's rant. The government and its policies is in tatters. Everything Rudd has done is a failure, every policy the government's tried is a disaster, and things are going to go from bad to worse. The only solution is an early election, and even then it's likely the wise, sage Malcolm Turnbull might manage a triumph in the face of opinion poll adversity. Oh Costa dresses it up with lots of salad dressing, and references, and examinations and studies and polls and surveys and the IMF, but in the end it's just another ideological bit of eel bashing (and given that somnolescent Rudd is the target, no harm done even if nothing is gained either).

Still, now you've been saved the task of reading Costa yourself, and can go about the day with a cheerful smile. But pause for a second to reflect. Just how did this man become Treasurer of the state of NSW in a Labor government? Or put it another way, from Costa's point of view. Just how did the public miss out on voting for Michael Costa as Treasurer of Australia in a Liberal government, and had to settle for him as a 'we'll all be rooned' columnist for The Australian? The tragedy of it all. No wonder the government and the country is in tatters.

That reference to being rooned might escape people unfamiliar with John O'Brien's Said Hanrahan, a devastating expose of the Australian psyche, published in 1921 and available in full here. I always turn to it in times of trouble, and never tire of reprinting it and spreading its fame wider. When confronted by a loon, it provides the perfect answer. Nod your head three times, and say sagely, wisely, with just a hint of a tremor, a whisper of terror and FUD, no doubt about it, we'll all be rooned.

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

Of course in God's good time the rain does come down, but as you'd expect, after chewing madly on a bit of bark, neither Hanrahan nor Costa can manage to see good times or the joy of life, just doom and gloom all round, and in particular floods and bushfires. Still reading John O'Brien is much more fun than reading Costa, and a lot easier too, and proves that in the old days at least some Catholic priests had a sense of humor along with offering insight into apocalyptic columnists.

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