What Abbott said and the media heard

Having actually listened to the same speech that is being reported in the paper today, I am not entirely sure those who are doing the reporting quite cottoned on to what the Prime Minister was getting at. The AFR, for example, starts its story on Tony’s speech thus:

Business leaders have told Tony Abbott to sell his own budget, spurning the Prime Minister’s invitation to be more vocal in backing the government’s agenda.

A business association will never back a political party, or will do so only at great risk to its own future. The ALP is little more than the union agenda in a Parliamentary setting, but business and business associations have to work with everyone and in doing so stay politically neutral. Even I, in my occasional days in the media representing business, could criticise Paul Keating and live to tell the tale because, but only because, I never strayed outside our own council-determined policy position.

If I may therefore interpolate, what the PM was saying was that if business wanted to see some of those things that business would like to see – a smaller deficit, lower taxes, a more open industrial relations environment, improved trade relations, or anything else where its own agenda happens to coincide with the Government’s – then it should start pushing these issues harder. The point is not to back the government’s agenda but to back its own, and make it known that there are certain things that business wants the Senate to pass because it will make Australia a better place.

And as just one place where business might find itself assisted by the Government’s agenda, there was another story in the AFR today, No pay rises without efficiency talks, under planned law, which in the paper was titled, “Coalition moves to keep lid on strikes”. It begins:

Ways to make workplaces more efficient would have to be discussed as part of every wage negotiation under a law proposed by the Abbott government.

I promise you this. No other conceivable government in this country will be trying to get such a change made. If business doesn’t back a government which will make such changes they may find themselves dealing with a government that under no circumstances ever will. They need only support the policy but they can do it by whispering it to each other where no one can hear or can say so in public where their support might count.

Rebalancing the news

I’d have been happier if the AFR had been pouring out on its front page how hopeless the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government had been if they had done it at the time. The front page headline across the page yesterday, under a picture of the four top members of the new Government, read as follows:

Poll confidence rebound stalls

Then above the headline it says, “RBA worried about business investment”.

Does the AFR not know that all this is Labor’s handiwork? That what you see is what they did? That trying to fix this mess is the work of years and will require patient persistence. These are page 10 stories. It is not about “the Coalition’s post-election economic honeymoon is already fading” which is the opening phrase of the article.

What they did not do is place these words at the front which are instead found in para 5:

Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Phillip Lowe reassured Australians that all the ingredients are in place for a broad economic rebound.

Might have changed the sense of where things are going, specially since consumer sentiment is the worst of all economic indicators. It’s not a Labor government however so all the news but perhaps a different balance. But what got me was why the deputy governor thought things were about to improve:

Record low interest rates and a weaker dollar meant that Australia was well placed to weather the end of the resources investment boom, he said.

What can I say. Record low interest rates will slow recovery not speed it up but in the low state in which economics has fallen, how is anyone to know.