Our controversial media critic will please and upset plenty of hacks with this assessment of the Victorian election coverage so far.

Gerald Warner, writing in Scotland on Sunday recently, had this to say about how the media should treat politicians during an election campaign: In a real democracy, the relationship between the media and the governing elite is that of a pack of rottweilers maintaining surveillance on a gang of burglars.

If only it were so.

In Saturday’s Age, Crikey’s Stephen Mayne filled his first Media column for his old paper, saying that unlike the 1999 State election, so far the media monster has been kept at bay.

Mayne’s analysis of the key media players in the 2002 Victorian election was pretty good (he would say that wouldnt he Ed.) but it had a couple of glaring omissions – he failed to mention the two Sunday papers and the sterling efforts of this city’s other two daily papers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. (Oops Ed.)

The national dailies have been making a fair fist of the Victorian election, and rightly so given its importance to the national political debate. Victorian political reporter, Alison Crosweller, covering her first Victorian election, is ably leading The Australian’s coverage. Crosweller is no rottweiler but she does have senior writer Stuart Rintoul and legendary political pundit Malcolm Mackerras on hand to provide color and special comments.

Rintoul did an insightful backgrounder on Doyle on Saturday which tried to draw the little-known Sideshow Bob into the spotlight like a startled rabbit. It is worth a read.

Mackerras, who has been covering elections ever since Pontius Pilot stood for the rotten borough of Galilee, is so famous he now refers to himself in the third person. But he made a very salient point in last Friday’s paper when he said it is an absolute media myth that this is going to be a close election and that the ALP is starting behind the 8 ball because of the redistribution: Victorian Labor now holds 44 or the 88 seats in the Legislative Assembly and I confidently predict that after November 30 it will have not less than 47. Every pundit to whom I have spoken privately agrees. For the Liberals the myth gives the appearance that Robert Doyle might really become Premier in December. That helps get out party workers for campaign duties.

Writing in the Sunday Herald Sun a few days later, Donkey Dave Wilson (the first to pick the November 30 election date) comes to exactly the same conclusion. Citing private ALP polling, David says Labor strategists are claiming they will win Eltham, Frankston, Mordialloc, Monbulk, Bentleigh, Narre Warren South and Bellarine. He says they say they will also lose Burwood, Cranbourne, Narracan and Benalla for a net gain of 3 to take them to 47.

So there you have it folks. The election is all over and we can go back to sleep for another four years. But wait, there’s more. Dave says Andre Haermeyer and Sherryl Garbutt are in Bracks bad books and will be reshuffled after the election and Christine Campbell will be dropped from the ministry and replaced by the Rights Tony Robinson.

Dave is a very good rottweiller precisely because he has good contacts on both sides of the fence and spends an extraordinary amount of time drinking with the burglars to see what they are up to.

Mark Skulley (Financial Review) and Bill Birnbauer (The Age) are also doing a fantastic job as rottweillers and are not just following the pack like the Age’s Ewin Hannan and the Herald Sun’s John Ferguson. The latter two puppies are easily wagged by the tail and only seem to bark when the Labor Party’s 20-strong media unit tells them to.

They did it this week when both wrote comment pieces demanding that the Libs tell them where the money was coming from for their election promises. It could have been a coincidence but it is more than likely a case of the burglars manipulating the media message and putting the guard dogs off the sent. It happens like that when you spend year after year in State Press Gallery waiting for your big break to get to Canberra. (Ferguson has been there done that and both are family men happily settled in Melbourne – Ed)

An even better case of media manipulation was the story under the Mayne man’s in Saturday’s Age. Here, Labor’s Bronwyn Pike managed to convince a very gullible puppy called Gay Alcorn, and an even more naive sub-editor, that she was under pressure from two left candidates and what had she ever done to deserve this?

Bronny, a career burglar from way back, just happens to be the most left-wing minister in the Cabinet (when Keith Hamilton retires this month she will be the only hard left Pledge faction member in the Ministry) and her two opponents in Melbourne (Kevin Chamberlin and Richard Di Natale) would not trouble Mother Teresa with their puny left wing views.

Bronny is one those burglars who believe that if you are going to tell a lie, you should make it a big one. Even the Trotskyite Socialist Alliance candidate for Melbourne, Arun Pradhan, would have trouble outflanking Bronny on the left. What a pity there was not a big bad rottweiller to eat her up as soon as she broke the door down.

APOLOGY TO BRONNY

Bronwyn Piker is not happy with references to her as a burglar. The context is clear enough to me in hard drinking Terry’s piece but she has referred the matter to Andrew Giles, a solicitor at Holding Redlich and a member of the ALP Admin Committee who told her she could have a case. Therefore, we humbly apologise to Bronny as the last thing we want is a court battle against the greatest solicitors in the world, Holding Redlich.

Peter Fray

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