11 May 2015
by Peter Munro
Welcome to the Age of Tedium
Emergencies are a fickle force in politics. When interest rates slumped to 2.5 per cent under Labor, Joe Hockey skittered about like Chicken Little, squawking that the "struggling economy" had tipped "beyond emergency levels". Now that we're officially in the back-of-beyond, the treasurer's cock-a-hoop.
"Everything we are doing is going according to plan" - apparently. That should console the 770,000 unemployed, self-funded retirees and the slumping mining sector. Never mind that the budget deficit is projected to hit $45.9 billion in 2014-15. Don't fret about China's weakening economy and falling commodity prices. "It's all part of the plan."
Smokin' Joe muffed his budget message last year by asking everyone to pitch in, only to dump cigar ash on the unemployed, elderly, students, petrol heads and public broadcasters. This time around, the government's appealing directly to the dreary heart of voters. The sad truth is that Australians like life to be nice and breezy. We're happiest when relaxed and comfortable, reclining while politicians regale us with their lack of ambition. Dull is good - or good enough.
Tony Abbott has promised the budget will be so boring that Bill Shorten has lodged a copyright infringement claim. How stale, flat and unprofitable it all seems. But it's working well for the prime minister, whose net approval rate has skyrocketed to minus 19 points.This time next year, assuming he's still in the job, he might hope to have climbed all the way up to zero. By then, the Age of Opportunity will be well and truly dudded by the Dull Ages.
Ushering in the Age of Tedium is the treasurer, who's promised the federal budget will be as gripping as a Greens leadership shuffle. Remember all that blather about the budget emergency? This time last year, Abbott was busy knocking down fences to douse fiscal fires. Now the government's spruiking a budget that would battle against burnt toast.
Smokin' Joe's signalled the rhetorical switcheroo by swapping his cigar for a pipe, comfy cardigan and gobfuls of Mogadon. The Coalition's second budget, we're assured, will be "measured, fair and responsible" – as opposed to the first one, clearly. The treasurer said some other stuff, too, but by then I had dozed off in my Smoky Dawson chair.
Completing the picture of the "dull 'n' credible" budget was a staged photograph of the prime minister leaning - not lifting - on poor Joe, who looked like he'd been stuffed and set over the fireplace. All they're missing is Finance Minister Mathias Cormann sitting out front of Parliament House in his cybernetic skinsuit and slippers, with a sign saying: "Nothing to see here."
The treasurer's single ray of sunshine this week was the Reserve Bank's decision to drop the cash rate to 2 per cent, which should please anyone wanting to offload their Sydney outhouse for a bazillion dollars. Hockey likened the record low rate to economic "fertiliser", which also sounds like what he's been shovelling.
Because budgets must be sold to voters, like ugly puppies in a pet store, and the sales pitch depends on what the government reckons we're happy to take home and toilet train.
Days are not nearly so dull in Mount Druitt, where life's as exciting as a chunder on the Bush Beast at the now defunct Australia's Wonderland.
SBS documentary Struggle Street was trashed by tabloids and publicity-hungry pollies, who were too busy frothing to bother watching the series. Garbage trucks crawled down the M7 and M2 to protest at the public broadcaster's Artamon studios, proving western Sydney has committed waste collectors, if little else. An online petition to stop the show won more than 3000 votes, slightly less than recent polls to ban the burqa and ceremonial balloons.
The Daily Terror countered stereotypes of westies with stereotypes of eastern suburb's executives, sending someone out to sip a soy latte in Darlinghurst before scurrying back to Surry Hills – where they're skolling International Roast from old shoes, presumably.
Who's exploiting whom? The show that aired on Wednesday was so much more and less than the outrage suggested. The tales of teen mums and ice-addicted sons - the legacy of generations of poor circumstances and choices - were deliberately confronting.
But more striking than the brawls and saggy-bummed tracksuits was the heart and humour shown by Mt Druitt's supposed down-and-outs. William shoots birds in the bush with a slingshot and likes cooking them with "Italian herbs". Ashley cares for his drug-addled son, even after he flogs his motorbike.
It's not the full picture of western Sydney, of course. Across the motorway from where William sleeps rough is the lush Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club, where the cost of membership would keep him in pigeons for years.
The fact that some people in Sydney have so little should be the real scandal. But already the outrage-ometer is moving on. Next week's target might as well be the latest MasterChef mystery box. A petition to ban beetroot is pending.
How does she do it, royal watchers wondered? A scant 10 hours after producing a spare heir, the Duchess of Cambridge fronted the cameras in a bespoke lemony frock with a post-baby glow looking like she'd popped out for high tea.
In a mere 154 minutes she'd produced a whole person, with time to spare for a blow-dry.
How she managed it with the aid of only her hair stylist, private secretary and several other minions remains a marvel to weary mothers worldwide. Brace yourself for news of Kate's amazing post-baby body.
Why we continue to be astounded by the feats of the monarchy is a mystery. Prince Harry attracts acclaim for paying for a feed at a Perth restaurant. He also borrowed the prime ministerial jet for a joyride but what's $6000 of taxpayers' money between loyal subjects?
The silly spectacle would be amusing but for the fact the royal bub – whose father's occupation was recorded on the birth certificate as "Prince of the United Kingdom" - might be our queen one day.
Congratulations Kate. But single mum Erin from Mt Druitt wants to be a youth social worker and recently saved her friend's life after a bender. Curtsey to her if you must.