Campbell Newman’s political masterstroke/death wish is all very entertaining. It’s fascinating for the Queensland press gallery, a smorgasbord of logistical dilemmas for wonks and a great play at personality politics. After all, the public don’t care for little details like being a member of parliament in order to lead an opposition. And they can’t get enough of Can Do.

But as Benjamin Law points out in Crikey today, there’s one minor matter: the LNP currently has no policies. Somehow that’s in danger of getting lost in the colourful Campbell coverage.

Remember the press gallery soul searching way post federal election? Can someone remind the press as they feed off the latest Rudd/Gillard plot point and try to devise explanations of why Labor’s vote surged one fortnight and dropped the next, rather than accepting that opinion polls occasionally throw out implausible results?

What opinion polls and leadership stories have in common is that they’re the easiest political stories to write.  If there were no major policy issues on the boil in Canberra, it would be understandable. But there’s the carbon price, welfare reform from both sides of politics, a tough budget, a mining tax, Andrew Wilkie’s pokies crusade, Labor’s crippling incompetence and foreign investment issues to pick from, just for starters.

Gallery journalists hate the perennial criticism that they focus on personalities and polls rather than policy. They see it as unfair and unreflective of their individual work, and that’s certainly true. It’s not the fault of individual journalists, but when you read the gallery’s coverage as a whole, examples of group think can become painfully apparent. Like right now.

Peter Fray

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