Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Roosting Chickens and Murray Plans.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on March 27, 2008

This exciting new broad agenda replaces words with actions” says the COAG communiqué. Yes, well – they all say that. What gives it a bit more giggle power here is that it’s specifically referring to the red tape reduction strategies associated with the business deregulation program.

If you listen carefully, you can here the Big Kev chants of “I’m excited!” emanating from living rooms and workplaces around the country.

Yet the red tape reduction strategy is far from being a broad new agenda. It’s simply a continuation of a previous ongoing COAG program – in this case going all the way back to the Banks Report, where the only thing new about it is the dozen extra pieces of regulation that have been added to the 27 already in the program. Oh – and the packaging, that’s new! It now says the ALP leading the way in Commonwealth/State relations rather than the Coalition.

When you read across the entire COAG document, most of the heralded achievements are either like the regulation reform program in that they are simply a continuation of existing programs – especially the Murray plan, or they are really low hanging political fruit that makes a loud media bang, and which merely kicks the real detail work down the track for later.

It’s a clever piece of politics that must be making the Coalition choke – the Murray Plan particularly.

This $10 billion back of the envelope Murray plan, which many of us might remember passed the “common sense pub test” – apparently the benchmark standard of good governance in those dying days of the last regime – was not only Howard and Turnbull’s creation, but it warped into a political weapon that has now ironically exploded in the face of its creators.

The Murray plan was mostly politically driven to begin with – it gave the Coalition something to present to the electorate as an example of how they were still a government capable of solving problems and taking on new challenges. The expedience of its creation spoke volumes about its true purpose.

But after the plan kind of flopped in terms of winning back public support, it conveniently segued into the new political strategy that the Liberals developed of attacking the Labor States. This new strategy that popped up mid 2007 was essentially an exercise in trying to diminish the Labor brand and get to Rudd via the backdoor, since brand Rudd was proving to be impenetrable to piffle like Brian Burke, stripper gate and the other fluff the Coalition and their stooges threw at him.

We knew this strategy was in place because we saw it in the notorious Oztrack33 Crosby Textor document and at the time you couldn’t find a Coalition politician that wasn’t dragging the theme of failing Labor State governments into their media appearances.

By June 2006 the Murray plan looked like it was a done deal among all the players, with even Victoria reaching in-principle agreement after dialogue between Turnbull and Bracks. The Coalition could have sown up the agreement then and there if they really wanted to – all it would have taken is for Howard to cave in on some of the States fringe demands with a bit of money. But that would hardly fit with the Libs new political strategy at the time. It would be hard for Howard to demonise the incompetence of the State Labor governments on the one hand, while basking in the inevitable media praise of reaching an agreement with those same incompetent States over the Murray on the other hand. Likewise it would have been a silly mixed political message for Howard to be warning the public that Rudd couldn’t stand up to the State governments, while simultaneously caving in to those same State governments himself to get the Murray plan finalised. It all looks a bit silly to bag the States and attack the Labor brand if the States start delivering the goods.

Strangely, as the Coalition political campaign against Labor State governments ramped up through July, the negotiations over the Murray started breaking down – but not for anything the States had necessarily done, but because the Howard government started reneging on parts of the original in-principle agreement. NSW got hammered by Howard changing the responsibility of residual liability issues, Victoria became more convinced that what was agreed to in-principle was no longer going to be delivered. It was also in July that Howard started getting bellicose in the media with threats to use the Commonwealths constitutional powers to seize control over the basin (although just how the mechanics of that was supposed to work was conveniently left out).

What initially started out as a $10 billion Coalition policy designed with helping the government look relevant with fresh ideas, quickly descended into a $10 billion Howard bluff that became a political weapon in the fight against Labor. Howard hoped that essentially giving the finger to the Murray would help him get the electorate to give the finger to Rudd.

Looking back, it was really quite disgraceful what happened and was typical of the way Howard has always played his politics.

Fast forward to yesterday – and now we have this Coalition conceived plan of fixing the Murray again becoming a political weapon, yet this time it’s Labor’s to wield. The Murray plan is being described as a Labor achievement, that Howard stood in the way of making it happen, that Rudds leadership delivered the goods and that it is the perfect example of the new cooperative Federalism that Rudd stands for and which Howard despised and could not deliver.

Not only are the Labor governments claiming credit for many things at COAG that were already well in the pipeline and mostly of the Coalitions doing like regulation reform, not only are Labor claiming success on issues like health and education which are really little more than low hanging fruit that was easy to achieve and took virtually nothing to do so, but they are now claiming success for delivering the policy of the Murray plan – a plan which was originally conceived for political purposes by the Coalition but which later changed into a weapon of political strategy for the re-election of the Liberal party.

The Coalition, but Turnbull in particular must be choking over this since the Murray plan could have been delivered by Howard and Turnbull last year if Howard had not decided to play silly buggers with it instead. Now the Labor party get to bask in all the credit and glory for the plan, they’ll get to write the history of the policy and will no doubt thoroughly enjoy belting the Coalition around the head with it.

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36 Responses to “Roosting Chickens and Murray Plans.”

  1. pligg.com said

    Roosting Chickens and Murray Plans. « Possums Pollytics

    “This exciting new broad agenda replaces words with actions” says the COAG communiqué. Yes, well – they all say that. What gives it a bit more giggle power here is that it’s specifically referring to the red tape reduction strategies associated …

  2. Rudd saves country and world, opposition talks about itself

    That’s actually kinda how you could read the day’s news in politics – Victorian Premier John Brumby has agreed to sign up to the Commonwealth’s Murray-Darling plan (just over a year after it was pulled out of John Howard’s hat),…

  3. A-C said

    Typical pro-ALP waffle, at times you’d think that this site was an extension of the Labor’s media unit.

    This COAG agreement was appalling stuff. The Murray-Darling agreement is even more bureaucratic and regulated than the one proposed by Howard.

    While Australia was drying up, Rudd and Bracks / Brumby were playing politics all along. It was the typical good cop / bad cop drama you see on TV soap operas. Vic Labor was determined not to cave into the Howard’s plan to reform the Murray-Darling basin so the federal government wouldn’t have anything to boast about.

    While Victoria was being unnecessarily recalcitrant, Rudd was able to spruik his focus-group tested one liners on “ending the blame game” to the press.

    4 months after the election, Victoria miraculously comes into line and makes the sensible decision to sign onto the deal. Surprise surprise!

    BTW: the $1 billion bribe was also a key factor in Brumby’s decision to sign up. So much for Rudd’s pathetic “inflation is our number one priority” mantra.

  4. Andos the Great said

    Next time you accuse someone of “pro-ALP waffle”, A-C, try not to sound so much like a Young Liberal.

  5. gam said

    nice post poss. i was thinking just the same thing today, especially in light of the increase in health spending also agreed at the meeting and the lack of stupid games and political arsing about at the meeting in general. who’d have thought you can actually achieve things when your political existence doesn’t depend on creating a phony political battle.

    someone should ask ‘A-C’ what j-ho was doing for 11 years while ‘australia was drying up’. don’t worry about inflation, sunshine. i heard the illuminati and the free masons stumped up the $1 billion as a favour to rudd because his dad was the second shooter on the grassy knoll. it’s all a conspiracy!!!

  6. steve_e said

    The difference between a Can Do government and Can’t Do government is what gets done.

    In 3 years time when we all get to vote again, who will remember why they supported a Can’t Do government?

    A-C (among others) will no doubt choke on the individal states actually working with a federal Government but this is what you get when you vote out of office a Can’t Do government.

  7. GrahamS said

    Many of Howard’s plans since 2004 have turned to shit. He was a one dimension trickster and he thought he could continue along his merry way by simply using the same formula that gave him political successes throughout his early years.

    Trouble was it all became too obvious as the years peeled off and finally enough people out there in stupid land woke up to him. That gave me more joy than I can express here today because I was beginning to think that Howard was going to continue to get away with his trickery for another term.

    Now it’s all coming to light. All laid bare for the fools who blindly voted him back – if only they cared enough to look.

    [ You were hanging out in the spam bit for a bit…. poss ]

  8. 2 tanners said

    Great post. I would have been more convinced by the Murray strategy if (this time) it had gone around the rounds of those who might sensibly have commented on it. It’s politics, all right, and played by the (new) Little Master.

    I don’t think Turnbull’s too worried, however. The Murray plan might have made him personally look a little better, but I reckon he’d still be on the opposition benches.

  9. Kymbos said

    Yes, it’s politics – but the agreement of an independent body to set the cap, and the political will to buy water off farmers, are important developments. I don’t think these are negligible achievements, and neither is the political point that these governments can work together.

  10. Zombie Mao said

    So deliciously delightful.

    *monty burns voice*


  11. Greeensborough Growler said


  12. Rx said

    The pathetic Liberals with their pathetic “wall-to-wall Labor” scare campaign, their pathetic rodentine tactic of using public money to ‘buy’ election outcomes … and now their pathetic bleating when their furry noses are rubbed into their own shit.

    These rats have run themselves up a long drainpipe, and it will be many years before a shower flushes them out again..

  13. Lord Daniel said

    Ah, the healthy hypocrisy of the honest Liberal, the stuff good government is built on. Bless their little black hearts.

  14. Enemy Combatant said

    March 31: How Crosby-Textor got started.


  15. Rod said

    So, who is going to pull a heck of a lot less water out of the Murray/Darling than they did before?

    Who is shutting down the cotton and rice farms in Qld and NSW?

    Who is going to put a cap on the number of vines and citrus trees in Mildura and South Australia?

    Who is going to tell the SA’s that they have to stop wallowing in self pity and stop using overhead sprays and watering their grass in Renmark, Berri and Barmera? (I was there last week and simply staggered by the failure there to take even basic steps at water conservation, despite the dying 600 year old river red gums, decaying orchards and the like. When you stay in a camp site where the powerful multi-arm sprinkler, pumping directly from the river, is spouting out many , many hundreds of litres an hour over raw earth and bitumen for hour after hour you start to wonder why anyone bothers to brush their teeth with a glass of water instead of a running tap!).

    No one has a clean nose on this stuff. My own suspicion is that no elected politicians have even begun to see how hard this stuff is to change, and that most are far more interested in simply shifting blame elsewhere for the present.

    If anyone genuinely wants to save the Murray Darling they will have to do far, far more, with far more political and local economic pain, than anyone on either side of politics, in any State, seems to currently be prepared to admit. This stuff is truly tragic and will have huge implications for Australia, and for Australians, in 4 states. Pity , despite the interminable posturing, no-one seems to have genuinely noticed just how bad it really is yet and that nobody has the guts to take ownership of even beginning to resolve the problem.



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