It was another Nelson who said "Desperate affairs require desperate measures". Tonight in the House of Representatives, Brendan Nelson realised the former and employed the latter
To give the man his due, he spoke well, which is something Swan simply isn’t capable of. He started off a little drab, but seemed to find his stride around the text of the alcopop tax. Then there came the first smattering of sardonic comedy.
"You can’t lower petrol prices by watching them"
The public gallery liked that one. They also liked the idea of a five cent per litre reduction in the thirty-eight cent per litre fuel excise. I liked that one as well, and will happily applaud Nelson if he can get the idea up. Wouldn’t we all? The trouble is, he has two chances.
He did address the vacant spaces in Tuesday’s budget. The lack of attention to rural Australia and the complete lack of real attention to climate change issues in not focussing on alternative energies, as opposed to throwing money at the coal industry in search of that fantasy contradiction, ‘clean coal’.
The rhetoric surrounding the alcopop tax adjustment is a sure and certain bullet through the ideological foot, especially given that, as the 7:00 pm ABC news displayed, on 2 December, 1996 Brendan Nelson spoke ardently against these type of drinks, aimed at younger people and women in particular, encouraging binge drinking.
I rise to express my concern about the availability of a new alcoholic drink called Kahlua Bandido. It is a combination of Tequila and Kahlua. It is sold in a 50ml shot cup. Whilst I do not doubt there is a demand in the community for products such as this, these products are clearly marketed to young people, are attractive to underage drinkers and further glamorise the abuse of alcohol by a section of society that we know, from national drug strategy figures, are engaged in binge drinking.
I note from the Sydney Morning Herald that the director of Swift and Moore that distributes and markets Bandido, Mr John Livingstone, is reported as saying that his company is trying to educate teenagers about the dangers of excessive drinking. All I can say is that if this is the case a 50ml cocktail containing 33 per cent alcohol selling for $4 is hardly conducive to meeting that objective.
Marvellous tool, the Parliamentary Library. The Opposition will oppose the alcopop tax rise, because they can, not because they feel they should. For the very same reason, they’ll oppose the raising of the Medicare levy income threshold. Not because the people, the majority of the people, might benefit, but because they can. At least until July 1, anyway.
Still, credit where it’s due, and I’ll give Brendan his due. The nodding dogs behind him ought to feel reasonably relaxed with his performance tonight, as should Brendan himself. He spoke with feeling, with a modicum of verve and while he did harken back to the good old days, when power was real power and life was grand as a Minister, even further back before his time, in an era of a vastly different economy under a different thinking government, I think he spoke well. He really does need to abandon the reminiscences of Howardian days though. Remembering Howard, the good old days and linking those thoughts to the current economic circumstances doesn’t do him or the coalition any big favours. It’s due to those days that we’re where we are now. All the excuses and obfuscation under the Sun won’t remove the stain of failure and eye-off-the-ball which characterises the Howardian era.
In short. I thought Nelson did a lot better than I expected him to.