Thursday, 9th March, 2006
The gap between political-speak and the truth has grown so great that there is always surprise when a politician actually says something both unscripted and interesting. There is an immediate assumption that there has been a blunder and the minders start running around suggesting that the uttered words do not really mean what they seem to say and if they do then it was a personal view that counts for nothing. So it was yesterday as Canberra reacted to the unauthorised release of a tape recording of Government Senate Leader and Finance Minister Nick Minchin addressing the HR Nicholls Society at a private meeting on Friday night.
The fragments of the speech played on ABC radio that I heard surely were not all that remarkable. Senator Minchin foreshadowed that more changes would be made to industrial relations law if the Coalition Government won again. It would seek a mandate for those changes at the next election. He expressed some nervousness about the High Court challenge to the legislation that was recently passed whereas the Government line is that everything is perfectly legal. An unexpected comment from a senior minister perhaps but really nothing more than an honest assessment that the challenge by State Governments might yet be successful.
The chat with the HR Nicholls Society members is not the first time that Senator Minchin has actually given his audience something to think about. He did it back in January when speaking to a gathering of Young Liberals. On that occasion he outlined a proposal to remove the 15 per cent tax on superannuation contributions. He argued then that the removal of the tax represented a better long-term investment and safer economic path than handing back money through income tax cuts.
On both occasions the reaction within the Government ranks resulted in Senator Minchin having to retreat to the "it is just my personal opinion" defence.