Monday, May 18, 2009

How much travel is too much?

Wow. It seems like we the taxpayers are meant to begrudge our politicians travel expenditure. Lindsay Tanner has been holding out the hope of videoconferencing, but it seems that is about domestic meetings and the copmplaint is about international meetings.

And little Malcolm Turnbull wants us to compare and contrast the Howard recordof travel with the Rudd record. It might have escaped Malcolm's attention, as so much seems to, that the bulk of the Rudd travel has been to international meetings at head of government level - APEC, Pacific Forum, G20 and the like. A little thing Rudd calls the GFC has seen a lot more of these lately.

Given the choice of whether I want Australia's leaders to engage with the rest of the world or not, I vote for engagement. I know it makes the opposition seem even more irrelevant than it usually is because the opposition leader doesn't get to travel on the same trips (though Brendon Nelso seemed to suggest he should - under a Government in exile mindset).

Even when we solve the problem by hosting the meetings it costs more - just look at the 2007 APEC. It can also be embarassing - think the Chaser. At least that meeting did give the opposition a moment to shine, but I don't think Malcolm speaks Mandarin (though I believe his Latin is very good).

Meanwhile good to see that someone is paying attention to the fact that Kevin Rudd really is trying to keep away from just being a merchant of spin while noting that that is really what Turnbull did in his reply speech.

As well there is commentary focussing on how character building dealing with the deficit will be. It is a great pity that Swan and Rudd have thus far failed to point out that the stiulus could have been faster and more focussed if there had been more infrastructure planning under Howard. We needed more projects through the planning phase and, in that delightful phrase "shovel ready". But Howard and his crowd just fiddled and ponitificated and pointed fingers at unions, at the States, heck at everyone but themselves!

And they don't seem to have the excuse that thy were never in the country. Maybe if they'd travelled more they would have seen some opportunities for governing differently to the Goerge Bush model.

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