Friday, May 8, 2009

Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, magic pudding economics and the federal budget

(Above: Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding).

In one of those rare moments of madness - call it honesty - that sometimes afflicts politicians, a month ago Tony Abbott announced that the Howard government had come to believe in and practise "magic pudding" economics.

"The fact we could have lower taxes, higher spending and bigger surpluses for about five years - in other words, we could have a magic pudding - led some people to think that thrift, prudence, responsibility had somehow become irrelevant," Mr Abbott said. (Libs' magic pudding' years).

Yep, it was well known to anyone with half a brain that John Howard - far from being a pioneer of fiscal rectitude - was addicted to buying votes with generous hare-brained schemes designed to placate marginal seat voters on the borders of major cities (to the consternation of Peter Costello). You can read all about it here in Fiscal feud, Peter Hartcher's extended and informative tease for his new book To the bitter end.

So it's with some profound irony that we read the opening lines in the mad monk's latest blog entry under the header Rudd's Budget fate:

The Australian’s George Megalogenis got it right when he predicted a “horror, handout budget”. The government will claim that it’s a tough budget because there have been cosmetic cuts to so-called “middle class welfare”. In fact, it will be another handout budget from a government addicted to buying votes.

Well yes, but I guess Kevin Rudd never hid his desire to become a second John Howard, and not even in drag. How else to explain the ongoing high popularity ratings? I guess nine hundred bucks cash in the paw is the way to buy votes. Now if only John Howard had thought that one up ...

Meantime, Tony Abbott is left to froth and foam on the sidelines about Rudd being worse than Whitlam, and muttering about how the GFC provides a convenient excuse for natural recklessness, from the extravagant broadband roll out to the botched emissions tax (which actually was the carbon trading scheme devised by the Howard government in the days when the likes of Macquarie Bank saw it as just another get rich scheme).

But the worst crime? 

When the country needs sound leadership we have a government obsessed with scoring political points. That’s why the prime minister tries to turn every question to him into an attack on the opposition.

Lordy, lordy, the ingrate. Turning every attack on him into an attack on the opposition. I say old chum that's terribly beastly and unsporting. How about you just tie one hand behind your back so we can give you a jolly good flogging?

No wonder they can't lay a glove on him, if that's the best Tony "Magic Pudding Man" Abbott can muster. Or should we call him Albert these days? Seeing as how it soothes him.

"Always anxious to be eaten," said Bill, "that's this Puddin's mania. Well, to oblige him, I ask you to join us at lunch."

"Delighted, I'm sure," said Bunyip, seating himself. "There's nothing I enjoy more than a good go in at steak-and-kidney pudding in the open air."

"Well said," remarked Sam Sawnoff, patting him on the back. "Hearty eaters are always welcome."

"You'll enjoy this Puddin'," said Bill, handing him a large slice. "This is a very rare Puddin'."

"It's a cut-an'-come-again Puddin'," said Sam.

"It's a Christmas steak and apple-dumpling Puddin'," said Bill.

"It's a --. Shall I tell him?" he asked, looking at Bill. Bill nodded, and the Penguin leaned across to Bunyip Bluegum and said in a low voice, "It's a Magic Puddin'."

"No whispering," shouted the Puddin' angrily. "Speak up. Don't strain a Puddin's ears at the meal table."

"No harm intended, Albert," said Sam, "I was merely remarking how well the crops are looking. Call him Albert when addressing him," he added to Bunyip Bluegum. "It soothes him."

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Albert," said Bunyip.

"No soft soap from total strangers," said the Puddin', rudely.

"Don't take no notice of him, mate," said Bill, "That's only his rough and ready way. What this Puddin' requires is politeness and constant eatin'."

They had a delightful meal, eating as much as possible, for whenever they stopped eating the Puddin' sang out

"Eat away, chew away, munch and bolt and guzzle,
Never leave the table till you're full up to the muzzle."

But at length they had to stop, in spite of these encouraging remarks, and as they refused to eat any more, the Puddin' got out of his basin, remarking--"If you won't eat any more here's
giving you a run for the sake of exercise," and he set off so swiftly on a pair of extremely thin legs that Bill had to run like an antelope to catch him up. "My word," said Bill, when the Puddin' was brought back. "You have to be as smart as paint to keep this Puddin' in order. He's that artful, lawyers couldn't manage him. Put your hat on, Albert, like a little gentleman," he added, placing the basin on his head. He took the Puddin's hand, Sam took the other, and they all set off along the road. A peculiar thing about the Puddin' was that, though they had all had a great many slices off him, there was no sign of the place whence the slices had been cut.

"That's where the Magic comes in," explained Bill. "The more you eats the more you gets. Cut-an'-come-again is his name, an' cut, an' come again, is his nature. Me an' Sam has been eatin'
away at this Puddin' for years, and there's not a mark on him.

(Below: Albert, an inspiration for Tony Abbott, John Howard and Kevin Rudd).

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