Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Mark Latham and 4WDs

Just after Mark Latham got the gig as Australian Opposition Leader, I speculated on his likely policy leaning on four wheel drives.

Courtesy of Sunday's "Sixty Minutes", together with some lateral inferencing, I can now fill in this sizeable hitherto gap in known Labor policy. Not that the super-soft "Sixty Minutes" story on Latham gave too much away in this respect; the only time policy was really discussed was in this exchange:

CHARLES WOOLEY: It's becoming clear that Latham's Australia would be no bludger's paradise. He offers no soft option for people who won't participate. If people don't want to seize the advantages, what do you do about them?

MARK LATHAM: Well, I think mutual responsibility where, you know, government takes a tougher attitude is appropriate, that, you know, for young people, they've got to be learning or earning. There's no third option of just getting out there and goofing off. You've either got to be in education or work.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Is it too easy at the moment just to get the dole?

MARK LATHAM: I think there's a lot of problems in the administration of Centrelink and we'll have some policies to fix those up. But in other areas, I think we could go further with mutual responsibility and that's something we're working on as well.

"Go further with mutual responsibility" and "a tougher attitude is appropriate"? Latham seems determined to be setting up a kind of Punish-A-Dole-Bludger campaign-promise auction with Tony Abbott. Nice one, Mark - could you just now remind me why anyone with even-vaguely Left views should vote for you and your party in the upcoming election?

If Latham's pro-4WD policy can't reasonably-enough be assumed by his craven pandering to shock jocks on the issue of unemployment, then there's another bit of evidence. Also on Sunday's "Sixty Minutes", this story ran, right before the Latham hagiography. There is no overt connection between the two stories. There was however, the curious editorial decision to call the vehicle that caused the fatal car accident at the centre of that story a "utility". From photos shown on the program, it is clear that the vehicle in question (brand-name "Yukon") is nothing like a utility, as that word is used in Australia - it is a 4WD, or in the US, a SUV.

I raise this point in a totally non-pedantic sense - in calling the at-fault driver's car a "utility", lots of issues were able to be swept under the carpet. Like why the at-fault driver walked away uninjured, while two of the occupants of the other car died and the third sustained horrific burns.

I don't condone drink driving, but this story should mainly have been about a different killer - the Weapons-Grade Volvo (only not as safe for its own driver, either) driven by the at-fault guy (who was a bit pissed, but equally to the point, was a young high-school jock showing off his brand-new and inherently difficult-to-steer, I'm-A-Card-Carrying-Fuckwit-mobile).

As much as "Sixty Minutes" sexed-up the Mark Latham story then, it sexed down the 4WD/SUV one.

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