Here’s a note to all the news directors around the country: Do you want to save some money? Well then bring home your journalists following Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard, because they are not doing anything of any worth except having a round-the-country twitter and booze tour.
It is a sad thing to say but we could lose 95 percent of the journalists following both leaders and the nation would be none the poorer for it. In fact we would probably be better off because it would leave the 5 percent who have some intelligence and are not there to run their own narrative a chance to ask some decent questions of the leaders. Some questions which might actually reveal who would be the better leader of this country.
Emma Rodgers writes decent copy for the ABC, so she can have one spot on the bus, and AAP’s Sandra O’Malley ends up writing most of the copy that gets put on the main news’ sites (before it gets twisted by the slant the organisation wants) so let her have the other spot (also she is resplendent in her vivid red jacket that always seems to make an appearance on TV just before the press conference is about to start). Maybe there are one or two others (guess the nightly news needs someone, so how about let Hugh Riminton do all three networks), but for the most part you might as well not bother.
This morning John Bergin tweeted that Tony Abbott was making an announcement about disability support for students. As I noted yesterday I have a vested interest in the topic so I quickly put on the Sky News stream to watch the press conference. He announced that:
[severely disabled] students would be given a $20,000 education card, with the measure costing $314 million over four years.
the Coalition would also nationalise disability definitions across the country in a bid to ensure people in different states are treated the same way by authorities.
They are good policies. They don’t "trump" the ALP’s policy of yesterday because the ALP’s focuses on early intervention for pre-school aged kids. Both are good, and in fact in my dream world both would be introduced (and expanded).
But I had some issues - what is meant by "severely disabled". Now my daughter has Down Syndrome, and it might sound surprising to people, but I don’t actually view her as severely disabled. I assume she would come in under the clause, but as someone who just views her as my little girl and often forgets about the DS, I was wondering if she would qualify.
So I waited for some questions from the journalists. They came and guess what, they were all about politics. They were about Mark Latham’s comments about his believing Kevin Rudd leaked to Laurie Oakes. They were about foreigners owning our farms and whether he disagreed with a National’s senator. They were about nothing to do with the press conference. Did they test the policy? Did they ask who will qualify and why? Nope. Not at all.
You see my wife is a school teacher. She has a student who though in Year 6 has the reading Level of a Grade 1. He does not have an "intellectual disability" - he’s probably one of those kids who is just called "slow" - but he needs special help. The school however doesn't get any extra funding for him because he doesn't have a specific intellectual disability. Would there be any money for him? If not, why not? And why not all disabled, and not just "severely disabled"? And don’t let Abbott just say that, oh we have to pay off the debt and deficit. When he uses that line, how about calling him on it and pointing out that Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on the 7:30 Report said of the stimulus and supposed questions of waste:
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: If you hadn't spent the money, there would have been waste. The waste would have been the fact that the economy would have been weak, there would have been a gap between what the economy could have produced and what it actually produced - that's waste. You would have had high unemployment, you would have had capital assets not fully utilised - that's waste. So your choice was one form of waste verses another form of waste. And so it's a judgment of what is the way to minimise the waste. No perfection here.
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