Blowing the whistle on a spin king. Amanda Meade in her always very readable Monday media column in the Oz gave an interesting illustration of how the political news we read is subject to the controls of the government’s PR apparatus. On Friday, when the government was handing out material relating to its decision to backflip on its 2008 decision to exclude temporary residents from scrutiny under the Foreign Investment Review Board, wrote Meade, federal Treasurer Wayne Swan’s media adviser told newspaper reporters it was being given only to print media and that one of the conditions was “no third-party comment”. As Meade noted: “Sorry? There’s nothing wrong with embargoes but trying restrict reporters seeking outside comment is not exactly the stuff of robust democracies. It takes spin to a new level.”

Nor, Meade might have added, is the acceptance by journalists of such a condition the stuff of which a robust free press is made. Yet the “New curbs on foreign home buyers” story that appeared in Saturday’s Australian based on the government news release contained none of the third-party comment the Treasurer’s media adviser was so keen to avoid. The paper’s “chief political correspondent” Matthew Franklin did, however, give a very good run to assistant treasurer Nick Sherry’s claim that “the Rudd government is acting to make sure that investment in Australian real estate by temporary residents and foreign non-residents is within the law, meets community expectations and doesn’t place pressure on housing availability for Australians.” The very friendly story did the government spinner proud.

Presumably the Franklin approach of doing a simple rewrite of an official press release is an example of the “highly successful worldwide organisation that actually digs for and finds news, then publishes it fearlessly” that The Australian’s media pontificator Mark Day wrote of on Monday and this comment of mine no doubt fits in to his category that “all Crikey can manage is to cast its jaundiced eye over and comment on the crumbs”.

Murdoch coverage goes under the cover — London’s News of the World took election coverage in a new direction at the weekend with this exclusive report featuring the wife of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg:

miriam

Six slinky silk numbers indeed! That’s the political stuff of which a great Murdoch subscription news site will soon be made and another example of Mark Day’s “highly successful worldwide organisation that actually digs for and finds news, then publishes it fearlessly”.

Before the knickers get in a knot. Earlier this month my colleague Bernard Keane described my mate Paul Osborne, now the chief executive of the Parramatta Rugby League Club, as a “reactionary ex-footballer” and, having been responsible for running Paul’s election campaigns, I pondered responding along the lines that I didn’t think that Catholics deserved the reactionary tag just because they followed the teachings of their Church about abortion. I let it pass at the time but the preselection of Gai Brodtmann as the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Canberra presented me with this perfect opportunity to mention it in passing for flak of a different kind is sure to soon be flying at another of Paul’s friends and former political associates.

Brodtmann’s husband, as is being well publicised, is Chris Uhlmann who currently presents federal political stories for the 7.30 Report (whenever Kerry O’Brien will let him get a look in) and who will soon play a major role in the ABC’s 24-hour news channel. Coalition politicians have long believed that the ABC is stacked with lefties and the prospect of having the bed mate of a dreaded Labor candidate commenting on them might well confirm that prejudice. Before they allow that to happen, Tony Abbott should get his Catholic factional mates in the NSW branch of the Liberal Party to have a chat with the supposedly reactionary former independent member in the ACT’s local House of Assembly Paul Osborne to get his opinion of the Chris Uhlmann who once worked for him and then stood with him on the same party ticket for an Assembly seat. For my part, having run Ossie’s campaign, all I can say is that I found Chris Uhlmann as hard to put a label on back then as I have since he emerged as one of the country’s leading journalists. He continues to be a very independent and strong willed fellow and the Brodtmann-Uhlmann household assuredly has some lively moments when the conversation turns to politics!

London Telegraph’s fillies race. Not sure what to make of this contribution from the website of the London Daily Telegraph. Are the racing staff incapable of telling one kind of runner from another or is it a rather unpleasant racial gibe?
25-04-2010 londontelegrph'sfilliesrace

Quotation for the day: From an article titled: For more control, stop thinking it’s possible —

Life is partly skill and partly luck. Chance plays a substantial and irreducible role in our fate. Thus the first step towards wisdom is to disabuse ourselves of the illusion of control, to accept that much of our fate is beyond our control. The second step is to assess our chances of success or failure in a realistic way.

Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald

Photo of the day. Every picture tells a story and this one of British Conservative Party leader David Cameron shows that for politicians the background can be just as important as the foreground.

27-04-2010 davidcameron'sthoughts

A gradual improvement. Slowly, ever so slowly, it looks as if the coalition is narrowing the gap with the Labor Party but there is still a big, big distance to make up if Tony Abbott is going to become Prime Minister. The Morgan poll on Friday had the coalition two-party preferred vote improving by two percentage points to 44% with Labor on 56%.

Using a four-week moving average of the Morgan face-to-face poll figures to smooth out some of the fluctuations, including those inevitable when sometimes Morgan reports figures for a weekly sample half the size of the normal fortnightly one, does show a rising trend for the coalition but it is still well short of the 47.3% gained at the last election.

morgan

Proper negative campaigning. Producing a bogus psychiatric report on an opponent and then fabricating a fake epilepsy attack for him are the latest examples of the dark discipline of negative election campaigning in the Philippines. Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno “Noy Noy” Aquino III was recently subjected to these tactics by opponents in the Nacionalista Party but the latest opinion poll published in the Philippine National Inquirier shows that so far they have been spectacularly unsuccessful with Aquino increasing his lead over Nacionalista candidate Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr with the election itself now just three weeks away.

president

Britain’s Greens are actually a favourite. Only in one seat mind you — Brighton Pavilion where prediction markets have the party’s leader Caroline Lucas slightly better than a 50% chance to beat the Conservatives into second place with Labour coming in third. Lucas, who has been representing the Greens as a British Member of the European Parliament, would become the first  Green member of the House of Commons if she succeeds.

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Peter Fray

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