A Promising Start
The only difference in being on a promise from a politician and a professional virgin is that the outcome from the politician’s promise is often exactly what you were hoping for from the professional virgin.
Political parties gush promises during an election campaign, the electorate is impressed, votes one of them into office, then they renege on their promises, they don’t apologise but blame the opposition, the Office of Fair Trading doesn’t prosecute them and then they wonder why the electorate believes it would be an improvement if they behaved like rugby league players.
This scenario is mainly the fault of John Howard. He introduced the concept of core promises which should be kept and non-core promises which are merely electoral fodder. But no-one ever confirms whether promises are core or non-core and most of them seem to come from rotten apples.
Take the promise of a supermarket price monitoring website made by Kevin at the last election. This was the lance he was to carry as he rode his charger up to the checkouts at Woolworths and Coles to knock off their inflated margins on behalf of working families.
Anyone who knows anything about supermarket chains could have told Kevin that Grocery Choice, as the concept came to be known, was non-core. A helpful John Howard so advised him on a number of occasions but the bold knight was determined to win his maiden joust with the black knights at Woolworths and Coles.
There are thousands of supermarkets in Australia carrying many thousands of products. Prices change on a day to day basis with some supermarkets pursuing individual pricing policies. A certain reluctance on the part of Woolworths and Coles to spend all day every day communicating price changes to Grocery Choice is understandable. Equally understandable is a reluctance to immediately alert their competitors every time they make a price change.
Perhaps the key reason why the supermarket chains were less than enthusiastic about the scheme was their policy of keeping prices as high as their competition will allow rather than as low as Kevin would like.
Following the last election Chris Bowen, the Consumer Affairs Minister, spent hours on TV and radio explaining how Grocery Choice would save squillions for working families. Even Kerry O’Brien told him to was a dud, but the bold knight stood behind him with his lance ready to join forces with the Bowen arrow.
Now we get the shattering news that Grocery Choice is a broken promise or lance. Thirteen million dollars was spent trying to get Woolworths and Coles onside and the government didn’t even get any Fly Buys.
For his inspired efforts in the failure of Grocery Choice, wasting millions of dollars and failing to get Fuel Watch up as well Chris Bowen has been promoted to Assistant Treasurer. Heaven knows what high office he would have graced if he had succeeded. Perhaps even Kevin would’ve had to move over..
Chris’ successor as Consumer Affairs Minister, Craig Emerson, has been showered with praise in government circles for his wisdom and decisiveness in canning one of the government’s key election promises.
Kevin hasn’t said much. He couldn’t really be expected to take responsibility and it was impossible to blame John Howard.
And as for working families they can carry on paying the price at Woolworths and Coles. There’s always the next election and the promise of better things to come.