Politicians have always published op-eds as a way of engaging with the public and generating media commentary, but could the latest flurry of opinion pieces signal a change in how political communication takes place? It started with Wilson Tuckey’s critique of Malcolm Turnbull’s statements on emissions trading, which followed on from the email he circulated among Liberal MPs. Today, we have Tony Abbott defending Turnbull’s honour, Penny Wong attacking Turnbull and the Opposition for being unable to form a coherent position, and – somewhat disconnected from the main “thread” of the op-eds – Martin Ferguson arguing that reducing emissions requires us to work with non-renewable options such as carbon sequestration and uranium (we’ll see if there’s an op-ed response over the weekend, but for now there’s a quick reply by John Hepburn at Crikey’s Rooted blog).

It seems the politicians are using op-eds not just to put their position to the public and attack their opposing party, but they are increasingly using them in an effort to shape the position of their own party. I’m left wondering about why this current trend is happening and where it might go. The Punch is publishing loads of articles written by politicians; is the easier access to publication helping to drive i? Is it specific to the issues of climate change and energy policy, where there are clear and deep divisions within the parties? And is an increase in direct political communication good for transparency, or are we losing some degree of critical evaluation and reporting?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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