Seriously, they might as well rename the ABC News “The Opposition Says”, since nowadays it seems to be their default method of opening any story about Australian politics.

Take this one from today:

This headline is based on the Opposition complaining that the Governemnt won’t rule out – it hasn’t announced it’ll do it, it just hasn’t ruled it out – a political advertising (if you’re the Opposition) or public information (if you’re the Government) campaign on the carbon scheme. You know, like John Howard’s “Unchain My Heart” GST ads and his very expensive WorkChoices campaign.

Sorry, did I mention the past? It’s not relevant!

Mr Hunt rejected comparisons with the Howard government’s $46 million dollar WorkChoices advertising campaign.

“It’s our watch now. We pledged less expenditure on public information campaigns. I won’t comment on what happened in history, it’s our watch now,” he said.

Oh, okay, we’ll just forget about what you did only three years ago and are not committing not to do if you ever win government anyway. Is the Coalition “ruling out” spending taxpayer money on political advertising when it’s next in Government? Of course it isn’t.

Apparently, if this story is any guide, none of the journalists bothered to ask Hunt if this sudden opposition to government advertising on political campaigns meant the Liberals and Nationals would now support the Greens’ previous attempts to legislate binding limits to it. Limits that would stop a Gillard Government or an Abbott Government or indeed any future Government from wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money on political campaigns.

But of course our taxpayer-funded journalists didn’t bother seeking such an answer for us.

So – free shot for the Opposition, easy punch at the Government, and absolutely no momentum for genuine change on the issue whatsoever. I’d expect that from the commercial media – which do, after all, have a strong financial interest in the “slush money” of big party political advertising continuing indefinitely – but the ABC? Isn’t standing up for the interests of the Australian public where the commercial media won’t, part of the reason for its existence?

What could have been a genuine debate on a serious subject, and a real opportunity to hold the big parties to account, is pissed away for a stupid point-scoring political headline.