The Age’s Katharine Murphy was instructed to do a colour piece on the blocking of the government’s stimulus plan.
So she made it as colourful as possible and left us with a disturbing thought:
The idiosyncratic Tasmanian Liberal Eric Abetz, who had spent much of the morning rambling to no one in particular about Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and heavy machinery, looked at Xenophon â€” disconcertingly â€” with something close to man love.
And just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Both of course are happily married men. Although Xenophon sports a fine Zoolander pout and adopts a well honed head tilt of compassion in many photographs.
On a more serious note, the Rudd plan does seem to be oddly similar to the Obama stimulus plan both in relative size and where the money will be spent. School modernisation is very important of course but we wonder about the efficacy of spending endlessly on bricks and mortar in education when those facilities sit empty much of the time. We should have world-class facilities but we also need to focus on world-class education outcomes and accountability.
And in a world where the opportunity to deliver some – not all – education through online delivery exponentially increases, we need to think carefully about how education money is spent.
We also question the timing of the package too, it seems to us – and to most observers – that the Americans are a lot further down the recession road than we are. Strategic government spending on things that could boost our productive capacity is fine with us, but we might come to regret spending too much too soon and spending it on the wrong things.
For all the money being spent on social programmes and hand-outs, we wonder why it couldn’t have been spent on increasing our internet capacity to a world-class standard. That labour intensive and enormous undertaking of delivering fibre to homes and businesses throughout the country could have been a gift that kept on giving for the Australian economy.
This once in a lifetime crisis could have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand the nation’s capacity to create wealth. Instead, it seems to us, it’s being spent on a raft of measures calculated to win the next election.
And for all of Malcolm Turnbull’s faux piety about avoiding debt to pass on to Aussie kids, we suspect he’d do much the same.
11.30AM UPDATE: As our ever-accurate sources suggested, the stimulus plan will pass this week after all. Xenophon has relaxed his pout and has done a deal to reduce the $950 hand-out to $900 to give to Murray-Darling river projects championed by the South Australian Senator.