The comments by readers of Crikey’s blog The Stump said it all really as they gave the Canberra press gallery a right royal bollocking for its performance at the press conference given yesterday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the unfolding tragedy of the Queensland floods. The assembled political hacks again showed  how their definition of news is sadly out of touch with the interests of those outside their cosy little Parliament House clique by deciding that the only matter of concern should be the impact on promises to return the federal budget to surplus. And the readers, like the listeners to ABC radio, let them know it.

Some of the comments:

Daniel — Ahh the press gallery. Australia’s answer to a question nobody asked.

Confessions: Probably explains why so many are turning to Facebook and twitter. The press gallery and their obsessions are becoming obsolete.

Gos: Is there anywhere to find out who asked the questions? The one on health is completely misplaced. At best it displays ignorance of what an inappropriate time and place it was to raise a completely unrelated issue. Forgivable if the reporter lacks experience, less so if it they are old hands. The budget surplus one at the outset of the questioning makes you wonder if there is an agenda behind it and the identity of the journalist and his or her employer might offer clues. Questions about the total cost and dams are more understandable, all be it poorly timed given people are still missing and bodies unrecovered.

Deccles: In the middle of a National emergency the questioning is all about the effing government keeping its effing surplus. And on the HEALTH PLAN?

FFS: I’ve stopped buying Newscorp five years ago, and I’ve stopped by the AGE 2 years ago. Appalling self centered must make sure to keep my editors narrative alive despite the National circumstances. Not a question on food supplies or inflationary pressures either. A grade 4 Primary School class would ask the PM better questions about a national emergency than what is recorded in this transcript.

GregB: Who do these press gallery journos think they’re impressing? Is it their editors? Or do they just do it to impress one another?It can’t be the average news consumer because I’m disgusted by these questions.

Gweneth: I wonder what questions they asked during the ACT fires? When it was on home turf? I think these guys need to do a few meet and greet the citizens themselves rather than just sitting in a bus at election time and following the pollies.

There was not a press gallery defender to be found.

To me the most surprising thing about the press conference was the willingness of the Prime Minister to play along with the journalists’ game of trying to trap her into saying that the unexpected expense of rebuilding Queensland would put restoring the budget to surplus into jeopardy. Telling them that a time when rescue workers could not even get into flood bound areas to determine the number of deaths was not the appropriate occasion for such questions would have been the right thing to say.

You can judge for yourself as we have posted the transcript of the PM’s press conference here.

Peter Fray

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