An uneasy feeling. Pictures of politicians hob-nobbing with the rich and famous have always left me feeling uncomfortable. There was always the suspicion that Bob Hawke hanging out with Bondy was not so much about an Australian sporting triumph but a way for a businessman with problems to stave off the bankers. The financiers certainly thought long and hard before pulling the financial plug on a man the PM wanted to reward with an America’s Cup holiday. A dinner-suited Hawke happily laughing away with Kerry Packer at a fund raising function was surely fodder for any conspiracy theorist wondering how decisions about television are made.

Some people might have feared that Paul Keating and the property developer Warren Anderson even talked about more than antique clocks. It was memories like these that came flooding back last night when I saw Prime Minister Kevin Rudd striding along with his new business buddy Andrew Forrest as they set out to solve the problem of Aboriginal unemployment. The PM’s old business buddy Rod Eddington has not been forgotten in this latest government-business partnership which surely has the most noble of intentions. It is just that the image of the country’s richest man and the country’s leader working so closely together makes registering lobbyists seeking access to the decision makers seem somehow irrelevant.

The snedger to depart. I doubt that Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter will be particularly perturbed when Troy Buswell is no longer the Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. Snedger Buswell (see an earlier Crikey if you have forgotten what a snedger is) might be doing appallingly in the polls but his likely successor, Colin Barnett, was far less than a star when unsuccessful at the last election. The only consequence of the leadership change is that Premier Carpenter might put off calling his election for a bit longer so that voters can remember why they rejected Mr Barnett.

Welcoming Alexander to a new low. It is not much of a move downwards in public regard from politician to journalist but we should record that any decline in Alexander Downer’s standing is the result of his new career as a newspaper columnist. He’s there in The Advertiser this morning warning that the failure of the Doha trade talks tells us the major developing countries won’t be bullied by Europe or the US to adopt targets to reduce CO2 emissions and to introduce a raft of new anti-competitive climate change taxes. So if the West wants a deal on climate change, writes the retired Foreign Minister, it had better start thinking about a different model from the new Kyoto model it’s pushing at the moment.

Heartless comment makers. Those merciless Crikey readers who so relish making cruel comments at the bottom of things I write should be aware that one neglected aspect of those many wise and learned discussions is about the impact the internet has had on journalism. Toby Young writing in The Spectator summed it up under the heading Status Anxiety: “I don’t mean the bruised feelings that Matt Drudge’s success has caused among the higher echelons of the American intelligentsia. I mean the terrible wounds inflicted on people like me by the ‘comments’ that appear beneath our articles… As an experienced journalist, you tell yourself that these are exactly the same people who used to fire off anonymous missives in green ink with lots of CAPITAL LETTERS, but it doesn’t do much to restore your sense of self-esteem. Even Kingsley Amis’s rule — a bad review can ruin your breakfast, but you shouldn’t let it spoil your lunch — doesn’t apply. Every time you return to the relevant page on the paper’s website, there’s a new outpouring of vitriol.”

Send for the sound man. I still believe that one of the reasons John Hewson lost that unlosable election to Paul Keating all those years ago was the outdoor rallies the Liberals held in the closing week of the campaign. They made for shocking television not so much because of the pictures of an outdoor crowd which included some angry demonstrators but the shockingly distorted sound of a politician shouting that accompanied them. The sound system was Hewson’s real enemy not his inability to explain the GST on a birthday cake. How much better the technology has got in the 15 years since then! The public rallies being conducted by Barack Obama do not require the Democratic Party candidate to even raise his voice to be heard by a quarter of a million people in Berlin. Television and radio are provided with a voice feed without feedback that enables him to sound as calm and authoritative as he would in the confines of a television studio. Our political parties should send a technician off immediately to work out how to do the same.

Peter Fray

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