Here they are, the voices of press punditry that shape Australian opinion. Over the coming week, we will rate the ideological inclinations of our major newspapers, the press gallery correspondents, the blogosphere, radio talk and TV. Who, if anyone, will stake out the middle ground? Which writer will become a new watchword for obsessive extremity, or will we just stick with Andrew Bolt?
Spot your favorite, rated on our patented Marx-to-Maggie bias scale, compiled by Christian Kerr, Stephen Mayne and Jonathan Green. Tomorrow, the newspapers.
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Shaun Carney (The Age)
Old Frankston leftie who’s travelled across the spectrum via an authorised Costello biography to now give the appearance of solid centrality. Labor left leanings hidden by Hugo Boss.
Peter Hartcher (SMH)
Drifted off slightly into the big picture in recent times. A thoughtful, professional, thorough, serious and deliberately hard to pick. Based on his recent Quarterly Essay, this tag should go on for 100,000 words, read very pleasantly, but still leave us unsure of where he stands at the end.
Michael Gordon (The Age)
He wrote the book on Paul Keating … the Dennis Shanahan of the late Labor administration but with more intellectual honesty. Howard’s prime ministership has driven him to a sometimes sonorous absorption in indigenous affairs. Who knows what passions lurk beneath that calm exterior?
Robert Manne (The Monthly)
The ultimate journeyman, having tripped down the spectrum from Quadrant to public enemy number one for the right-wing ravers. Still, taking a stand on indigenous disadvantage hardly makes you a screaming leftie as Manne maintains an intellectual credibility his critics can’t claim. A bleeding heart. Bleeding like a scene from Hostel II .
Alan Ramsey (SMH)
Never really recovered from his leadership role in the Mark Latham cheer squad and still boasts a savage Lathamesque turn of phrase, when his column isn’t completely handed over to some long extract. Continues to persist in his efforts to fashion curmudgeonly old fartdom into a coherent standalone philosophy. His biases tend to be of the pox-on-all-your-houses variety.
Ross Gittins (SMH/Age)
The farmer’s friend. Writes a lot of sense most of the time, and has the understanding, logic, research and expressive skill to back it up. The columnist who does more to deserve the title analyst than any of his peers. A more animated version of Colebatch. Insert “Harold Wilson” for “Clem Atlee”.
Tim Colebatch (The Age)
The Duracel bunny of psephology and discernably left-leaning economic punditry. Indefatigable source of robustly analytic number-crunching with a cause. An old fashioned biros-in-the-shirt-pocket technocrat with a whiff of nostalgia for the days of Clem Atlee.
Brian Toohey (AFR)
We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are: an old leftie but a damned fine journo. Read Toohey’s Saturday column for the insider-outsider view of the game that the daily operators miss in all the fizz. Last Saturday’s, for example, on the folly of the Government’s defence spending and strategy was a gem of its kind.
Mike Carlton (SMH)
Grabbed the shock-jock cash whilst retaining an ABC pink tinge. Like Robert Manne, pines for the day of John Howard’s defeat, unlike most of Southern Cross Broadcasting’s stable of largely right-wing ranters. A waspish wit of the left. Or is it just all personal with the Parrot?
Adele Horin (SMH)
Just like Life on Mars . You think you’ve woken up with some leftie preaching to you back in 1974. Oh. Right. Adele still thinks it’s 1974.
David Marr (SMH)
Along with Clive Hamilton, arguably the most effective cultural warrior on the left in recent years. A cultivated, impeccably presented lion of the left who has in recent times devoted himself to cementing the record of what he regards as John Howard’s lies, mistruths and dastardly political behaviour. But, it cannot be doubted, bias delivered with great elegance and panache.
Phillip Adams (The Australian)
If Adams did not exist, it would not have been necessary to invent Michael Duffy. Adams, the old leftie archetype, has the great advantage over his rightist critics of actually being amusing and entertaining, even if most of the stories have be re-told several times over the decades of his prolific columnising. It could be said of Phillip that he liked ancient artefacts so much he became one.
Kenneth Davidson (The Age)
Ah well, at least he’d make the trains run on time. Thankfully no longer The Age’s economics editor, a development that followed pretty closely on a broader appreciation of economics. Secretly craves a return to tax, spend and burn Whitlamism or, failing that, an advisory role with Hugo Chavez. Australia’s leading Juche theorist. All hail the Dear Leader! All hail the revolutionary and proletarian victory of the manufacture of the fiftieth millionth bicycle!
Paul Sheehan (SMH)
A fine writer with a great nose for ferreting out the hidden issues, Sheehan is also a journalistic wildcard who often seems more interested in the splash than the substance. It would be hard to call him an ideologue, even if he comes down hard on fashionable commentariat issues much of the time.
Paul Kelly (The Australian)
Old grouper who has never managed to find the vaudeville switch, let alone flick it. Presents himself a sober beacon of considered, ponderous rationality among News Limited’s ‘’dancing bears’’ of the flunky right. He might be nicknamed “The Professor”, but he doesn’t have tenure or control the curriculum. If Kelly were a brand – and he certainly handles it that way – it would be called Gravitas.
Miranda Devine (SMH)
Along with Paul Sheehan and Michael Duffy, she runs the somewhat poorly attended right-wing franchise on the SMH. Like her father Frank, can hold an argument and write well, despite a clear anti-Labor agenda. Baits Balmain basketweavers; damns doctors’ wives in Warringah.
Gerard Henderson (SMH)
Any former Howard staffer who runs a think-tank funded by big business is hardly going to be scream left. Too right wing for Andrew Jaspan’s Age, but generally draws the line at big Bolt-like wedges. Whatever we say here will be wrong in Gerard’s eyes, so we won’t. Our email server couldn’t cope with the consequences.
Michael Duffy (SMH)
Duffy will probably argue with his place on the Bias-o-meter because, he contends, ‘I am not a Boltian Conservative’. Attempted to convert a minuscule ABC audience to climate-change scepticism. An ill-fated adventure. Sadly he’s not the right-wing Phillip Adams. He’s not even the right-wing Al Gore. Far better in print. A studied contrarian.
Terry McCrann (Herald Sun)
Thinks he knows more about politics than he does, which might explain the subtle variations in his approach apart from slavish responses to his master’s voice. Harder to pick on matters in which Rupert has no immediate interest. Knows what side his proprietorial bread is buttered on – even if he often drops it so that’s the side facing downwards.
Alan Wood (The Australian)
The ultimate economic rationalist who must be deeply disappointed by John Howard’s tax-and-spend ways. If The Australian is the Government Gazette , then Wood is the Treasury briefing.
Greg Sheridan (The Australian)
Should have set up a Malaysian restaurant with Paul Keating, but those were happier times. Slipping slowly now into a comfortable fug of leather-patched, Foreign Office curmudgeondom. Has the beard of a Bolshevik but shares the sentiments of Santamaria.
Christopher Pearson (The Australian)
Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph our inspiring Prime Minister harrumph John Howard harrumph harrumph Holy Roman Catholic Church harrumph harrumph harrumph harrumph fine figured natives harrumph harrumph. Seconds? Yes, please.
Luke McIlveen (Daily Telegraph)
Akerman lite (as it were) looking for his own Kinky Friedman moment. The master’s apprentice – although he seems to have masters on Macquarie Street, as well as in Canberra. Janet Albrechtsen (The Australian)
Kenneth Davidson with a funny moustache. Came from nowhere to be the PM’s personal favourite and many Fairfax lefties still can’t believe she was discovered by the SMH. One of Mark Latham’s three News Ltd “dancing bears”, and whilst less predictable than Akerman, she’s not as entertaining or manic as Bolt. She’s on the ABC Board. That must mean she’s an ultra.
Piers Akerman (Daily Telegraph)
Just silly really. Presumably runs his copy past someone at Kirribilli House. The butler, a gardener. Whoever. Utterly shameless. He’s from the Government and he’s here to help. Bit of a waste of a journalistic talent, actually.
Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun)
Tell us the truth, Andrew, we won’t tell anyone. You don’t really believe all that kooky stuff do you? Knows the right buttons to push and on which day on the academic calendar all the wacky research projects are published. A right-winger from central casting who detects Leftists (with a capital L) behind every bush and insider every subsversive media organisation. Australia’s Rush Limbaugh, commentary as light entertainment for the masses.
and finally, us:
National convenor of Economic Rationalists Against the Liberal Party. A self-described Tory anarchist. Rose above a privileged Adelaide adolescence to form a feeble acknowledgment of social consciousness …
… Which he is only too happy to abandon when the cause is appropriate or his finer feelings are offended. An eager satorialist who probably suspects that the left would be more tolerable on the whole if only it was better turned out.
Won elections for Bob Hawke, but that’s all behind both of them now. Knows the innards of the political machine and where its skeletons are buried. Has also been known to be an enemy of metaphor.
An unreconstructed enthusiast of various old school revolutionary techniques, but an erudite and, more importantly, witty, writer who brings an agile mind to often challenging analysis in a way that lifts it beyond the ordinary run of cant. Or Kant for that matter. Would probably be more tolerable on the whole if only he was better turned out.