Mark's easy squeeze?


Well, it was Tuesday and not Wednesday, and yes there was a margin of overkill. There was a Budget-style lock up before the official release of the package, there was a stellar cast of Labor frontbenchers in attendance. There was also a demure Janine Lacy, but I’m not sure of her role in the proceedings beyond gazing encouragingly at her husband.

When I first saw the pictures of chains and locks on the doors of the room housing Australia’s elite political journalists, that dreadful Joe Cocker ditty that the Government used to sell the GST – Unchain My Heart – popped into my mind. Unfortunately Joe stayed with me throughout the long evening … But I digress.

So, was Latham’s big pitch “ ‘Ease the Squeeze’ – worth waiting for? Yes.

Will it win him the election? Maybe.

And that’s the problem. There was no king-hit, or home-run or T-R-Y or any other woeful cliche you can think of.

The launch was Latham’s big day. The aims of the policy are sound and worthy, and he stayed true to his mantra of many years: he wants people off welfare.

The package offers good outcomes and incentives for a great many people, but unfortunately the numbers are complicated and will be difficult to explain to punters in this three-minute-attention-span age we seem to live in.

That’s mainly because the policy boffins tried to fudge the figures. Half of Labor’s projected numbers did not include the government’s $600 kiddies payment, because according to the Leader, he didn’t regard the payment as ‘real’.

Well that $600 was real to my next-door neighbour who used it to buy a child’s car safety seat, and it was real to one of my part-time work colleagues who used it to buy his kids new school uniforms, and it was very real to my cousin who’s using the money to pay for childcare.

Whilst Latham has been energetic and enthusiastic in all his interviews on radio and tv, he doesn’t seem comfortable talking about the detail when applied to specific case studies. He gave the short shrift to senior reporters like Brian Toohey and Michelle Grattan (who is the details guru) at yesterday’s press conference, continuously referring them to the tables “ ‘it’s all in the tables!’ Latham chanted. He also seemed singularly unimpressed with Mike Carlton’s baiting this morning when he suggested the Leader was being a bit ‘shonky’.

The Latham caravan has ventured north to the Sunshine State for the next day or two to flog the package. Meanwhile, I await with interest for the REAL numbers that Finance and Treasury will deliver on Friday.

Successfully sell the family-tax package and Latham will win the election. Why do I have a nagging feeling he’s left his run too late?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.