(Above: there are so many delicious ironies on The Oz front page that it deserves to be preserved in amber, so that down the track it can be used to discover the DNA of the house of Murdoch, and used to create new dinosaurs).
You could have knocked me down with a feather.
There it was as bold as brass, like a bad smell in the room, or at least a header at the top of the digital front page in the deadened heart of Australia, The Australian.
Labour facing storm clouds: International Monetary Fund, it shrieked, and I knew there was trouble afoot, perhaps even a giant dog yowling as it roamed the moors looking for victims.
The International Monetary Fund yesterday praised the government's management of the global financial crisis and its strategy for returning the budget to surplus.
Phew. Just some Marxist socialist communists doing their European thing.
What's that you say, the IMF is headquartered in Washington D.C.? Well yes, but they have offices all over the place, and (a) why would we accept advice from the United States about how to manage the economy, unless of course it's to accept Tea party insights or alternatively (b) it's possible to be based in the United States and have European tendencies.
So what did the wretches have to say?
... its preliminary report on the Australian economy, following a pre-election visit, said the growing dependence on resources raised new challenges, with the economy more vulnerable to extreme swings between boom and bust.
It said the government should aim for a bigger budget surplus and do more to reform tax than its limited response to the Henry tax review earlier this year.
"Tax reform can play a key role in allowing Australia to take full advantage of the mining boom," the IMF said.
In particular, the fund praised the Henry review as a "comprehensive blueprint for tax reform issues", saying the resources rent tax was a step in the right direction and that "consideration should be given to broadening the coverage to other mineral resources".
Dear sweet absent lord. Won't someone think of the weeping billionaires, and the pitiful way they were forced to riot on the streets to protest the outrageous Marxist Socialist mining tax.
And now these socialist fund managers with a European outlook are suggesting that the tax is a step in the right direction, never minding the weeping and the moaning and the groaning of the whining of the billionaires!
I was so startled I headed off to the IMF for confirmation. Surely The Australian got it wrong, or did they imagine printing any criticism of the government on its front page was enough, and never mind the content.
And there amazingly there it was, with a September 15th date on it, which I guess is "yesterday" in The Australian speak, since a fortnight is like a nanosecond in the timeless land of the blowflies, under the more sedate header Australia - 2010 Article IV Consultation Concluding Statement:
15. Tax reform can also play a key role in allowing Australia to take full advantage of the mining boom. On that front, we welcome the recent review of the tax system as it provides a comprehensive blue print for tax reform issues. The planned introduction of the mineral resource rent tax is a step in the right direction and enables a reduction in the company tax rate. The resource rent tax also strengthens the automatic stabilizers in the budget, but we note that it is less effective in that regard than the original proposal. Consideration should be given to broadening the coverage to other mineral resources. Another objective of tax reform should be to facilitate the reallocation of resources so that Australia can fully benefit from improved terms of trade. We would therefore welcome more reliance on consumption-based taxes. This would allow for the elimination of inefficient taxes at the state level that impede labor mobility and allow for reductions in federal personal income taxes that would encourage increases in labor supply and saving.
Damn you, damn you heartless socialist international bankers with European tendencies, and a desire to tax our hapless billionaires, damn you all to hell.
Well the pond won't stand for it, and has immediately issued a black helicopter alert for any stray innocent mining billionaire who might stumble on The Australian printing this kind of heresy.
Sure it's criticism of the government, a kind of general FUD beloved by The Oz - storm clouds ahead - but did they have to print this sort of criticism on the front page?
Happily there was a billionaire in town ready to give the NBN a serve, and the media loves its billionaires, and he's not just an average weeping mining billionaire, so there was a good chance to spread fear and doubt in that area. The Australian put it on the front page as usual:
It's campaign against the NBN is ceaseless and unrelenting, and you can find that story here.
But because after all he is the world's richest man and we love our billionaires the Herald picked up the story and ran with it too:
World's richest man doubts broadband value said the more restrained Granny header.
No one actually bothered to quote Slim saying that he knew nothing about telecommunications in Australia - Mexico yes, and in Australia did somebody mention $7,000 a home? Those qualifying remarks turned up on Radio National's breakfast this morning, and will no doubt be listed here, before falling off the page in due course.
Still, it got me piqued. Surely it must be true, him being a Mexican billionaire and the world's richest man, and so canny and not inclined to shake out the redback spiders in his wallet for any nation building nonsense. (Sssh, nobody mention the drug cartels or the Mexican wars).
So I stayed up very late to watch the heavyweight battle between Stephen Conroy and Malcolm Turnbull on Lateline - which, if you came in late, you can find here in transcript and catch up TV formats.
First a disclosure of prejudices and bias. Apart from disliking Conroy's policy on the filter intensely, I also find him kinda creepy on television. A bit like a pale mackerel flapping about in an ungainly way. Awkward, spasmodic.
And I like big Mal. I once spoke to him on the telephone and he was ever so gentlemanly and of course I'm never averse to the charms of multi-millionaires with an eastern suburbs loft ...
I'm also open to the notion that the NBN might better be facilitated by partnering in a way that might avoid the inefficiencies that arose because the PMG nee Telstra had a monopoly on its copper pipes, and over time developed mind numbing inefficiencies ... which we still suffer from today.
But sad to say, Turnbull got done over by Conroy, and worse Turnbull knew it, and sat sulking and glowering at the end of the interview, and didn't deign to match Conroy's cheerful close "thanks very much, Tony" with any words at all. Just a glower and sulk ...
It was only a win on points, but I scored every round a win for Conroy (yes, yes, it's a boxing metaphor, but ever since I heard an Irish teaching nun stopped the class to cheer on Cassius Clay to his first nationally broadcast victory, I learned to love Muhammed Ali and on much rarer occasions, Norman Mailer).
Here's a sample, relating to those household costs:
TONY JONES: Well, hang on a sec! Hold on, hold on, hold on. You've raised the question of the costs per household, Malcolm Turnbull. Now, I think you've written it'll be $4,000 per household. Tony Abbott say it'll be $5,000 per household. The visiting Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu say it'll be $7,000 per household. Who's right?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I mean, you can just work it out. You can divide through the number of households by 40 - divide the number of households into $43 billion and you get the answer.
TONY JONES: Well, no, you don't. We actually did that. Your figure, your $4,000 figure multiplied by 8.57 million households comes out at $34 billion, so I'm wondering how you came up with your figure to start with.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I'm not sure whether that - where that figure came from, but it's $43 billion over around - over around nine million households and businesses. So ...
STEPHEN CONROY: But that's a completely false representation. This is investing in an asset that will last up to 40 years. If you take even Malcolm's $4,000 and stretch that across 40 years, it's about 13 cents a day.
So it went. Turnbull got caught up in the cost - was it $26 or $27 billion or $43 billion, and would private money come in?
His attempts at point scoring were poncy and pompous, a bit like the language at the pond. A mere bagatelle, he pronounced at one point, and of course Conroy went for the jugular, which is to say that Turnbull was living a rich Potts Point fantasy life ...
And truth to tell when it came to talking about how Australia was getting by just fine with ADSL2+ and how copper still had juice in it and how the old HFC cable could be dragged out and given a spruce goose dressing, Turnbull copped a deserved reprimand: Malcolm Turnbull keeps claiming he's a techhead ... Malcolm knows better ...
That came about because Turnbull tried a little sleight of hand when asked the obvious question by Jones:
TONY JONES: OK, very briefly then, will you freeze the project there so that there are two Australias - the one who got the rollout and the one whose didn't? The ones with fibre-to-the-home and the ones who don't have it? Or will you continue the project?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Tony, you'd have to assess it. Let me just give you a little fact that is important to bear in mind. About 25 per cent of Australians are passed by cable, you know, that's used for pay television, was built for pay television at the moment.
And that's how Conroy could suggest that Turnbull knew better or perhaps was indeed a technical dunderhead. Because truly what Turnbull was suggesting was something only a technical dunderhead could buy ...
It never got any better for Turnbull at any point, and as it dragged on, it became clear that Abbott had in fact sold Turnbull a first class dump. Yes, I know that's a rugger bugger rah rah metaphor, but ever since the nuns pointed out that private school boys with splendid lofts played rugger, I've done my best to learn the lingo.
Abbott, that splendid rugger bugger and one man dumping machine, dressed up Turnbull as a one man wrecking machine, a person who would demolish the NBN, and again it led to an obvious question:
TONY JONES: ... So what are you going to do if you come to office after that? Are you going to dig it up? Are you going to re-incorporate it into some sort of private plan? What is your plan? What's your policy for what to do with what's already been put in place?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Tony, that's a - that will depend on how much has been built, where it is and what its value is. The fact is that - look, I'm not interested in demolishing the NBN. I'm interested in exposing the hollowness of the Government's justification for the NBN, and that, I suppose, will demolish their shabby and empty argument.
But as far as the infrastructure is concerned, whatever has been built, if we come into government, we will obviously have to make the very best possible use of it.
So he's not interested in demolishing the NBN. And the opposition will accept a fait accompli and the independents will get their pork barrels and Turnbull will look uncomfortable, knowing that he knows better, but can't run with them, constrained as he is by Abbott's luddite gibberish ...
Because he should be arguing about how the NBN could be done more cheaply and more efficiently, and not over muddied costs per household or cost benefit statements or the rest of the nonsense he peddled last night ...
By bout's end, Turnbull had come across as ill-informed, uncertain about his numbers, ignorant of basic technical facts, and placed in a no win zone where he came not to demolish the NBN, but to demolish a hollowness in the justification for the NBN ... while meanwhile the NBN was being built, and would become a reality, and suddenly negative posturing from opposition had become a very hard sell ...
And so at the end, all Turnbull could offer was a glower and surliness, and a putting away of things and a fiddling with his earpiece as he gave away the game ...
Perhaps it was because he's only a multi-millionaire and not a weeping mining billionaire or the richest man on earth come from Mexico to advise a quivering, quailing media pack, but it was a weak outing for the man who would destroy Conroy ...
And then came news that the NBN was about to be rolled out in Brunswick. Useless bloody Tasmania and now bloody Brunswick. Of all the wasted bloody useless places. The only good thing to come out of Brunswick was Death in Brunswick ...
If you're listening Anthony Albanese, get that bloody broadband rolling out in Newtown and Camperdown quik stix, or the Greens will get you ...
(Below: a grumpy Turnbull disconnects).