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John Rau's planning Cat-astrophe

Opinion

It’s been a bad week for John Rau and, as Tom Richardson tells it, that means some lengthy political Mansplaining to his long-suffering Cat.

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John Rau’s Cat sits pensively in the corner of the apartment, apprehensively anticipating his owner’s return.

It has not been John Rau’s week.

His Planning Bill was first gutted, then abandoned while the state’s parliamentarians went about their summer frivolities, and the forbearing feline knows full well that means an interminable monologue is in the offing.

At length, his ears prick up as the dejected shuffle of the Attorney-General’s footfall meets the stairs.

“Cat!” John Rau yells down the hall.

Their eyes meet, and they exchange a knowing glance – a mutual acceptance of their fate.

“These things are sent to try us, Cat,” sighs John Rau, as he slings an accordion folder of Planning documents heavily onto the floor.

Its contents spill out over the room, sending the Cat scurrying. John Rau sits down and surveys the un-enacted legislation, his uncrowned kingdom.

“There are none so blind as those who will not see,” he mumbles sardonically to himself.

“Still,” he says, perking up. “At least the unemployment figures improved today. I got to talk that one up while Jay and Tom were swanning around Sydney, looking smug because the Motor Accident Commission saved them from a budget car-crash.”

The Cat, he fancies, laughs quietly at this clever gag.

“Thanks Cat,” chuckles John Rau.

He spies the cat quietly attempting to exit the room, and immediately swings back to the matter at hand.

“There has been a very positive change in the labour market situation here in South Australia, Cat,” he insists.

The Cat nods stoically, sits.

“The important thing to note is that the Government has always said that we have got a difficult period ahead of us,” John Rau continues.

“A difficult period in which we will all have to work very hard together… that is, government and industry, and private employers, and we would hope the Opposition.”

The Cat starts to wish his master had simply stayed at Udaberri.

“Of course, the overall trend at the moment is something that we obviously have to keep our eye on,” the Attorney insists as he ladles a tin of Dine into a faded red bowl emblazoned: “It’s Time”.

“As somebody once famously said: a swallow does not a summer make. The fact that we have one encouraging set of numbers in this particular reporting period is very good, but the Government is not saying just because there has been a modest improvement at this point in time – better than any other state, I believe – that we are resting on our laurels.”

He goes on to explain how the improvement in the jobless rate is “a function of many factors”, as the Cat laps dejectedly at his belated dinner.

“If you actually have a certain number of hours to be worked and you have X number of people to work those hours, you divide X into those number of hours and you get a number,” John Rau explains helpfully.

“If you make X, TwoX or ‘X-plus-6000’, which is what we have done, and you do not change the number of hours to be worked, then obviously mathematically you have the same number of hours spread across more people, which means that some people are working less hours.”

“Of course they are, John,” the Cat’s forlorn look seems to say, which John Rau takes as an invitation to continue.

“But we are not suggesting that there is not room for improvement in the economy,” he concludes triumphantly.

“That has never been the government’s position.”

The Cat narrows his eyes, and John Rau suddenly feels guilty.

“I know I was home late,” he concedes.

“I am disappointed in myself, but not surprised.”

The Cat’s withering gaze seems to press him for an explanation.

“What I have been trying to do is speak to the young entrepreneurs, whom I know you want to see flourish in our city, Cat,” pleads the Attorney.

“There are a number of young people who I have had the privilege of meeting over the last year or two or three who are drawn more or less to that Leigh Street precinct—not just Leigh Street but Peel Street and other areas. They are really interesting young people. They are enthusiastic, they have got great ideas. I have been speaking to these people and asking them, ‘How can we encourage you? How can we help you?’ And it turns out the best way is to purchase quite an expensive glass of wine.”

“How expensive,” the Cat’s disinterest implies.

“Well, there is no mathematically perfect number,” John Rau answers.

But the Cat knows that sooner or later, John Rau will return to his Planning Cat-astrophe.

“There are some in the Upper House who are slightly petulant about being required to stay back at school beyond what they thought was the holiday time,” John Rau fumes.

“I, quite frankly, can’t see why they can’t sit tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday, next week for that matter.”

As he muses, the Cat makes a quick dash for the door, only to be hauled gently, mid-escape, onto the couch where his owner has started jotting down a few ‘talking-points’, as he calls them.

“It is handy to have some written notes because I am being interrupted so often I might repeat myself, which would be terrible,” he explains.

“And I do not want this conversation to be something that disappears like Cinderella’s pumpkin at the end of the night. I want this to go on. In fact, let’s continue this chat at the Pink Moon Saloon.”

The Cat shakes his head, which his owner takes as to mean: “Sorry, John, I’m skint”.

“That’s all right, Cat – you do not have to be cashed up, you do not have to be mortgaged up to the eyeballs, you do not have to just give your dream away because you have not got a pocketful of money … come on, this round’s on me. I’ll get you a saucer of milk!”

The Cat closes his eyes. It will be a long summer recess.

Author’s note: This is not necessarily an accurate historical record, although any resemblance to real persons (or animals), living or dead, is entirely intentional.

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