Liberal heavyweight Grahame Morris has made an excellent point about the inaccuracy of political punditry in Australia, especially from the fourth estate.

It’s very interesting so take a look:

“This has been a particularly silly year for a few political journalists. Some of them began 2001 writing that Opposition Leader Kim Bealzey was isolated and under pressure, the backbench wanted him to get rid of his senior staff and he had to have a reshuffle.

Then the Coalition Government fell over in Western Australia and some writers said that meant the Prime Minister was dead for good measure, they wrote that the Greens were the new third force in Australian politics.

Around the same time, Peter Beattie was up to his eyeballs in alligators over vote rorting allegations and some commentators said there would be a vicious internal witch-hunt after Labor lost the Queensland election.

In fact, Beattie won and nearly wiped out the Queensland Coalition and the journalists switched the witch-hunt onto the other side of the political fence.

Then followed a whole spate of stories that Peter Costello would challenge John Howard before the middle of the year, Bob Katter would challenge John Anderson and half the Nationals and two Liberals would quit to join One Nation.

Then, with the Federal Coalition ten points behind in the published polls, some in the Canberra Press Gallery decided an early election would be called for 7 July. The reason was that Peter Nugent in Aston had died and the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to face a by-election.

The logic of why a Prime Minister would throw away his government at a general election rather than possibly lose one seat at a by-election escaped me.

As it was, the Coalition just held on to Aston and even surprised itself.

On top of all that, we were going to have the mother of all recessions. And we’re only up to August.

Those used to dealing with some of these writers realise that erratic political forecasting is part of the game. Some journalists attack politicians regularly over something they said six or ten years ago. But the same journalists are never questioned over the stupidity of something they wrote last week.

Most people who focus at all on politics between elections, get their political information from some of these writers.

For example, it can be slightly embarrassing when even very senior business people walk into a political office with some free advice which normally goes something like: “You’ve got to do this. The word around town is that if you don’t you’re dead.” The problem is that the politician has read that editorial as well.

The whole point of the above is that a lot of political journalism nowadays is often not a factual record of what is happening in the corridors of parliamentary power. And political forecasting by some journalists is one of modern Australia’s least accurate and most unaccountable activities.

Australia has some of the best political journalists in the world. The problem for most newspaper readers, TV watchers and radio listeners is that they aren’t aware which ones are talent rich and which ones are talent impaired.

Grahame is a former political journalist whose editors thought his political forecasts were even worse.

Ends

Now I’d love to hear from people on the gallery on who are talent impaired and who are the talent rich. An examination of the various columns this year should bring forward a few names.

Finally, most impartial political watchers would observe that Grahame Morris and his former Liberal Party colleague Andrew Robb are both good operators. But did they both deserve to become millionaires courtesy of media moguls.

News Ltd insiders suggest Morris was paid $1 million for two years work at News Ltd where his primary goal was to win the digital television argument.

But he was up against Andrew Robb, the former Liberal federal director, who had been hired on a similar package by Kerry Packer to help ensure the Howard government restricted competition and protected the free-to-air incumbents such as his cash-cow Nine Network.

Packer won the argument, probably because he came out and publicly endorsed John Howard before the 1996 election whereas Murdoch kept backing Keating.

Crikey reckons this sort of process is grubby and undesirable. If a media company wants to prosecute an argument they shouldn’t have to hire Liberal Party heavyweights on huge packages just to get a good hearing.

But the Labor Party is guilty of just as many dodgy door-opening deals, none more pronounced than when the Chinese government announced they would award one licence to an Australian life insurer.

National Mutual turned around and hired Bob Hawke on a fat package so Colonial hitched up with Paul Keating who ended up pocketing almost $2 million when they won the licence.

If an Australian insurer was destined to get the licence, why didn’t they all agree not to let any greedy former politicians get rich door-opening in the process.

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Peter Fray

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