The Weekend Australian‘s hissyfit of an editorial over the objectivity of Press Gallery journalists is one of the funniest pieces I’ve read in nearly thirty years of abusing my eyeballs with that newspaper. That it came on the same day that Laurie Oakes carefully explained to Telegraph readers how The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald had created an entirely fictional account of the Government’s intentions regarding carers and seniors made for a nice little bonus.

The Australian piously declares the need for journalistic detachment, criticises journalists for thinking they are players rather than reporters and laments that the TV program Insiders – which, despite being broadcast by the socialist propagandists at the ABC, provides a gig for many a slumming Australian hack – should be called Outsiders, because that’s the only proper status for journalists.

Perhaps Coalition Senators will take up this cause at the next Estimates hearings and demand answers as to what Barrie Cassidy and his couchful of guests are “inside” of and who allowed them there.

Evidently this is a stance only recently instituted at The Oz. After all, for much of the Howard years, Dennis Shanahan and Glenn Milne appeared to file not from the Gallery but from the Prime Minister’s and the Treasurer’s offices. Janet Albrechtsen was so close to senior Liberals that she felt obliged to consult with them before last year’s demand for John Howard’s resignation. (The fact that Albrechtsen was during that time a board member of Australia’s most important independent source of political coverage yet again shows that the concept of “conflict of interest” is for conservatives something that only ever applies to their opponents).

Let’s not forget Greg Sheridan, who was so deeply embedded with the previous Government that surgery will be required to remove him from Alexander Downer. Or Tom Switzer, who spat the dummy and went to work for Brendan Nelson rather than edit an op-ed page under the Rudd socialist tyranny. So, yep, detachment is critical.

And any reader suggesting that The Oz probably doesn’t have much choice but to be detached under a Labor Government should go and spend ten minutes in the Cyn Bin.

What The Australian is really whingeing about, however, is that “a significant majority of journalists nailed their flags to the Rudd mast.” This is a growing complaint from conservatives, who claim that the media gave Kevin Rudd a sleigh ride all the way into the Lodge. This appears to be an attempt to console themselves that they didn’t really lose the election, it was stolen from them.

But naturally the complaint wouldn’t extend to The Oz itself, which editorialised in favour of Rudd on election eve, or which continues to uncritically spruik the virtues of Rudd’s Gabfest ’08.

When it comes to political coverage, The Oz sets a high standard. It’s just that it applies to everyone else, not to itself.

Peter Fray

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