I felt a little embarassed for Stephen Fielding as his ‘crash or crash through” approach to the Alcopops legislation crashed, leaving him with not a little Smirnoff Original Mudshake Chocolate Breezer on his face.
Green’s leader Bob Brown, who has considerable experience in Balance Of Power politics, described Fielding’s negotiating style as ‘immature’. But maybe Brown is interested in smearing Fielding in order to claim back some minor party turf (his Seat) from Fielding at the next election.
Having watched Xenophon successfully parlay his balance of power position into $900 million worth of funding for the Murray-Darling (admittedly mostly not new money), Fielding obviously felt that for him too, his time had come to make a difference. As Lenore Taylor of The Australian presciently put it
But when one senator claims a victory like this, it encourages all the others to bump up the asking price for their vote in the future, which is precisely why governments give in to this kind of strategy in only the direst of circumstances.
Problem was, Xenophon’s deal on the Murray-Darling could be neatly negotiated with no linkages, whereas Fielding’s proposed immediate delinking of Alcohol funding from Sports would have devestated grass roots sports clubs across the country as well as ripping the guts out of everything from Gorilla-Ball (NRL) to Lawn Bowls.
Fielding’s demand, while principled, simply could not be delivered in the available time frame. It takes more than a working week to completely revamp the nation’s sports funding infrastructure. Stevo must have had too many late nights lately and what he fuzzily construed as a moment of destiny simply wasn’t.
The Grisly Mr. Abbott
I saw Abbott on ABC’s Q&A last week, slugging the Alcopops issue out with Kate Ellis, our work experience Minister for Youth and Sport. Ellis made a good case for the Alcopops tax saying it both fixed a loophole allowing Breezers and the like to be charged lower excise, that Alcopops were the drink of choice for 75% of binge-drinking female youth aged 14-19 along with 64% of male youth in the same category and that the increase in Alcopops excise would fund $53 million in Youth Alcohol Abuse Programs.
Choice Magazine has a great article on Alcopops, noting that 24% of 18-19 year olds think Alcopops have NO alcohol in them and that the jackals in the Brewing Industry have deliberately created Alcopops to lure young people to grog it up. 60% of teenagers in the Choice Magazine trial liked the taste of Alcopops, only 25% liked the taste of beer.
Abbott stuck to the Coalition’s puerile case that their rejection of the Alcopops legislation was principled because it was merely a Rudd Government ‘tax grab’. Abbott, the gun-runner for Howard’s Orwellian ‘Australians For Honest Politics’ knows full well that the only reason that the Libs are rejecting the Alcopops legislation is that Rudd stuck his imprimatur on it.
By this I mean that Rudd has gone about with his extra-special best serious face saying what an epoch-making blow his Alcopops legislation is against the GRATE EVUL of Teenage Binge Drinking, so Rudd’s credibility became attached to Alcopops, hence the Libs opposed it.
If Rudd had not said a word about Alcopops excise and just stuck it in as section 499(i) of the Miscellaneous Dog Food Regurgitation Act Amendment Bill, it would have sailed through Parliament unnoticed and unscathed.
But since KRudd-man went all pompous superhero on the issue the Libs were obliged to be obstructionist baboons, a role they are playing with single-minded devotion during the 2008/9 theatrical season.
Back to Xenophon, he got his leg up into politics on the ‘No Pokies’ issue which got him a seat in the SA Senate and has since done remarkably well to get himself into the Big House and active on issues he really cares about. He has really all along been an independent Green.
I don’t actually believe Xenophon cares that much about Pokies. It was just a convenient vehicle to garner the necessary and not too high vote for a Senate Seat. Xenophon’s strategy was much like those ne’er-do-wells Ettridge and Oldfield from the original One Nation troika who stood as the ‘NO GST’ party after the One Nation implosion just so they could grab a populist 4% or so and get their lardy bottoms into Parliament with unlimited access to tax-payer funded chardonnay, ludicrously generous Superannuation and cheap cafeteria meals.
Xenpophon did much the same. Now he’s got a nice cushy well-paying job, balance of power, access to subsidized Alcopops AND … he made a difference.
Gawd. He must wake up in the morning thinking its all a dream 🙂
1. I like Stephen Fielding and agree with most of his policies. I think he mishandled this one. Have a re-think Stevo and take some lessons in strategy from Nick X.
2. I have partaken of Alcopops, but not the current generation. I believe it was 1983 or thereabouts when driving my first car through the local bottle-o I spied an alcopop product which flashed much as bricks don’t through the tastebuds of the sunbaked urban sprawl “Stone’s Green Ginger Wine Cooler”. It was hideous in a delightfully comic way, much like Southwark, South Australia’s monumental practical joke on the nation also was.
Amazingly it appears Southwark is still available. Perhaps as a substitute for Mortein (but how to get a mosquito to drink it) ? In my day only the unsuspecting and those over 60 went near the stuff. Here’s a review.