Friday, May 18, 2007

Gillard Tries Her Hand At Stand Up Comedy

And Lands Some Hilarious Blows On Howard & Co.

While prime minister John Howard, and his senior ministers, desperately try to shake off the post-traumatic stress resulting from the worst poll numbers of the 11 year reign of the coalition, federal deputy opposition leader Julia Gillard has been having some fun. At their expense.

The Howard government were publicly humiliated, by themselves, yesterday when they tried to remove the stench-laden word 'WorkChoices' from their vocabulary. Problem is, it's their word for their deeply unpopular changes to the working lives of most Australians. Now they don't want that word used at all anymore.

They seriously think Australians are dopey enough to not realise that the same legislation will be the same legislation, even if it gets a sparkly new name, and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars thrown at its new marketing campaign.

The government burned up more than $44 million of taxpayers money, earlier this year, in an advertising blitz to sell WorkChoices as the best thing since convict workgangs were cut free from their chains. They bombarded us mercilessly with WorkChoices ads, full of happy-smiley people telling us why we were all so lucky to be losing overtime and weekend pay rates.

And it was all for the good of the Australian economy, of course.

During a speech yesterday, Gillard seized on the government's attempt to wipe away the WorkChoices mud and blood, and went in hard.

Most Australian politicians are notoriously bad at cracking jokes, or even saying anything that raises a hearty laugh, so Gillard was skating the thin when she decided to drop a flurry of one liners during a speech in front of diners from the finance and banking industry. From what we've heard so far, she succeeded.

Let's hope there's more laughs, and blitzing one liners like these, during the rest of what is sure to be a bitter, and blood-soaked (from the desperate ranks of the coalition government anyway) federal election campaign :

"It has become clear today that John Howard has now banned the use of the word Work Choices," Ms Gillard told the group.

"I just want you to understand that John (Howard's) changing of the language isn't going to stop there.

"We will no longer refer to the Iraq war, that will be referred to as the Iraq peace.

"Helen Coonan will no longer be the Minister for Communications – she will be referred to as the minister for truth.

"At the same time the Treasurer (Peter Costello) will now be renamed as the minister for plenty.

"And further tax cuts will be referred to as Pete's plenty payments.

"And, unfortunately, your industry is not exempt, you will be required to go through long documents and paperwork and after the word 'interest rates' you will need to insert 'at record lows due to the Howard Government' ... "

That final blitzer from Gillard is right on the money. The Howard government still doesn't understand just how infuriated most Australians feel when they get home from a 12 or 14 work day, turn on the TV and see John Howard, or the Treasurer, Peter Costello, gloating and ego-tripping about how it is due only to their sheer brilliance and masterful ways that the Australian economy is doing so well.

Never a word from either to acknowledge that the majority of Australian workers now work harder, and longer, than their parents or grandparents did. Never a word of thanks from the prime minister to all those working families who barely get to spend any time together any more.

In the fantasy world of John Howard and Peter Costello, Australia's workers have nothing to do with the strength of the economy. It's all thanks to them. And they'll spend millions more dollars in advertising to tell us all how good we've got it, and how they are at giving us back our own money.

And they're mystified as to why they're plunging in the polls?

Get a clue.

John Howard said, a few months back, that because the economy was going great guns, Australians have never had it so good. It's a statement that is already coming back to haunt him, and will likely be used by the opposition government during the election campaign to show just how out of touch, and uniformed, John Howard is to the very tough times being experienced by millions of working Australian families, many of whom are struggling to hold on their homes, while others are struggling to find a home they can afford to buy.

At least, Howard, and Costello, are now getting an idea what it's like to be hitting the hard times.

Have no doubt, for the federal government the good times are now officially over.

They are hastily rebranding, rewriting, reshaping their key policies and desperately trying to win back the support of the Australian public, while the front ranks of the opposition, like Julia Gillard, are cracking jokes at their expense and clearly enjoying the self-demolition of the coalition government.

There is something extremely Orwellian about the way the Howard government brands and re-brands their messages and policies. And Gillard nailed it in her jokefest. In Howard's newspeak, war is peace, no choice is choices and tough times are good times.

Even the good news from the government, like most of the recent federal budget, comes coated and sly talk and sticky with spin. Most of it completely unnecessary. The good news is lost in the head-thumping demands from Howard and Costello for us all to recognise how kind they have been to us. Australians are clearly sick of this "Don't thank you, thank me" mind game from the government. And they're telling the pollsters exactly that.

Why they see a constant need to treat Australians like morons who don't understand what's going on is beyond me. Other governments have fallen into this trap before, and paid the price. Australians were legendary around the world for most of the 20th century for not tolerating bullshit, and railing against hypocrisy.

Have we changed so much that we now don't mind when the leaders of our nation try to put one over us? No, we haven't. Of course we haven't. The bullshit detector is still active in most of us, and the Howard government is setting off its shrill alarm at least once or twice every day now.

That wouldn't have mattered so much in the past - we are smart enough to know that politicians twist the truth like dogs like their own balls - but Howard and his crew now struggle under the burden of a solid decade of lies, distortions, scandals and gnawing spin. Children overboard, the Iraq War, AWB, WorkChoices...the list is long, and there's something in it for every Australian to be disgusted and dirty about.

If there was ever a time for Howard to plug the flow of lies and spin, now is that time. Actually, that time is well past overdue. But, as the rebranding of WorkChoices shows, he still doesn't get it.

The more Howard, and his senior ministers, treat us like a bunch of idiots, the lower the government drops in the polls.

You'd think at least one of Howard's 60 or more advisers would have gotten in his ear by now and told him that just because someone is willing to smile and shake his hand, or give him a wave in the street, doesn't mean they don't walk away muttering, "What a tool, what a phony, there's no way in hell I'm going to vote for that clown again."