I watched the ABC last night so didn’t see the Worm and all the fracas it seems to have caused.
If, as was supposed by Ray Martin, that the National Press Club or Liberal Party conspired to silence the worm then Sunday night’s attempted nobbling of the Nine Network is indeed a dark cloud on our democratic horizon. I tend to agree with Glenn Milne, however, that broadcasting the worm either directly or over-laid on Sky Television’s feed has to be all about ratings when you get right down to tin tacks. The worm is no real guide to general populace acceptance or rejection of what the debate proponents had to say. It is rather damning though for Howard to effectively ‘outlaw’ the virtual invertebrate simply because he knows he doesn’t perform well enough in debating situations to satisfy a tiny, unrepresentative demographic.
I don’t believe, worm or no worm, that he performed very well, and not merely because he’s not my cup of tea. It was plainly evident that he wasn’t at all at ease in the structured debate situation, which is strange considering he seems to revel in the theatre of Parliamentary question time. Last night’s performance wasn’t the kind of theatre he’s used to, obviously. No ‘Dorothy Dixers’ and limited opportunity to express points which he might have felt would stand him in good stead. I did think it was a little out of place to be making policy announcements, such as a probable re-structuring of combat troops in Iraq and funding for those financially impacted by increased costs of addressing climate change concerns. The latter is something he probably knew he had to get out because to date, and remember we still have five weeks to go in this campaign, there’s been no policy announcement from the Coalition on that score.
The proposed re-assignment of Australian combat troops in Iraq I find particularly disturbing. Clearly, attempting to re-designate the purpose of combat troops to a more training-oriented role is designed to wedge out any plans Labor might have to bring home or re-assign the 580-odd personnel Australia to Afghanistan. Were those troops re-designated as a training cadre, and Labor does win the election, then bring them home leaves Labor open to criticism from their opponents. The expeditionary adventure into Iraq on the coat-tails of the U.S. was never in Australia’s national interest, despite the coalition rhetoric to the contrary. While Afghanistan is only marginally closer to home, there is far more ‘national interest’ in helping that country re-build than ever existed in an opportunistic invasion of Iraq.
Rudd, I felt, started off the evening very slowly and somewhat awkwardly. Obviously his preferred presentation format isn’t open debate either, but to his credit, he settled into the ebb and flow within the first 30 minutes and even seemed to relax a little towards the end. His style is much more ‘off-the-cuff’ than is Howards, even to the point of showing glimpses of his dry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour with remarks like “Peoples Republic of Queensland” and describing himself as a former “out-of-work diplomat who speaks Chinese”. If there was a winner from the evening, I’d have to lean towards Rudd simply because he gave the impression of having more passion, more commitment on issues like Climate Change and social concerns than Howard managed to do.
Howard tended to concentrate on what is perceived to be the coalition’s strength. The economy. For mine, the economy seems to have become this amorphous intangible concept which only politicians seem to want to dwell upon. Those of us who live in the real world, paying high petrol prices, too much tax and worry about interest rates know what the economy is and it’s not what the pollies want us to believe it is.
In the final wrap, it’s still time to change the status quo in government. Is there a risk? How long is the proverbial piece of string? I’m more of the opinion that – as Darryl Somers said about the Northern Territory – we’ll never-never know if we never-never go. Change is good if you believe it will be beneficial. It’s never likely to be if we’re pessimistic about it. If there’s one thing to note about last night’s debate, it’s that we wound up being delivered what worms always leave behind. A load of crap which, if used efficiently, can provide benefits in the long run. It all depends on how much we take and how thickly we allow it to be spread.