Crikey reader Brett Elliott wondered where all the good news about the GDP went:

There was some very good economic news on Wednesday. I did something I usually try to avoid — I looked at The Australian, just to see what negative spin they’d put on it, but I still assumed it would be the top story, as it always was when the Coalition was in power. But no, they’d made a made-up scare story about an invasion of boat people their headline story. Absolutely pathetic. Even The Sydney Morning Herald had it buried. It took me a good few minutes to even find it, hidden in their business section. During the Howard years the news was dominated by talk about interest rates, economic growth, unemployment and inflation rates. Howard even went to the 2007 election saying his party was the only one that could keep interest rates down. Since Labor’s been in power, those stats have mostly been very positive, and of course interest rates have been lower, but suddenly the media have decided they’re not newsworthy any more — from dominating the news to buried in the back pages, and if they’re mentioned at all on the TV news for 30 seconds, we then have two minutes of Tony Abbott explaining why they’re wrong and he’s right and we’re actually doomed. Can someone explain this to me?

If you could, please …

Coalition MP Corey Bernardi received a bit of a kicking:

Sue Peterson: You can’t go past the revelation that Cory Bernardi is associated with Geert Wilders, and may or may not have invited him to visit Australia. Fortunately, I think our migration laws will allow us to prevent him entering.

As did the ABC’s premiere of At Home with Julia:

@citizen_cam: I nominate the Gillard TV show for the continued dumbing-down of Australian politics & for mistaking meanness for satire.

@overpressure: “At home with Julia” Do I need to say anything more?

The Department of Immigration came into frame for the comments reported about onshore detention creating social unrest (see Bernard Keane’s piece today for an explanation around those strangely out of context statements):

Trudy Bray: Dept of immigration head Metcalfe’s fantasising out loud.

Sophie Dowling: ‎… and all those journalists who think the London riots where caused by boat people, which is um — news to everyone in London, including the head of the police and David Cameron. Top work Metcalfe! Looking forward to your golden retirement posting as Australia’s ambassador to Tahiti I presume? Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

As did the lack of media coverage around the NSW public service protests (we’re guilty of that one too …):

@ZathrasSquared: The Pairing issue, or lack of media coverage of NSW job protests.

@geeksrulz: someone buried the lede this week — 30,000 PS protesting get a fraction of the media coverage of 300 truckies

But this week it’s unanimous. You have united across party lines in your condemnation of the Coalition flirting with the idea of not granting Craig Thomson a parliamentary pair to attend the birth of his child:

@geeksrulz: #Babychoices as authorised and spoken by Tony the Abbott is surely a new low for common decency in politics

Brett Edgington: Abbott not offering a paring with Thompson to be at the birth of his child, an absolutely henous crime — to make a person miss the most important time in their life. (5 likes)

Lynne Greenlees: Pairs and no pairs.

Annie Humphries: Tony Abbott declaring he won’t pair …

Pat Norman: YES. Not pairing is a JOKE.

Manda Debenham: Tony Abbot Not offering a pairing. Gone way too far. Will never vote for him.

Paul Willett: Tony Abbott. Talking. About anything.

@wlyd: That Craig Thomson may not be excused for child’s birth. #StopTheBirths

@sortius: well, it has to be Tony Abbott and his big NO, then it wasn’t no, then Pyne confirming NO ATTENDANCE OF BIRTHS!

@paddybts: This week, it’s clearly Tony’s failure to grow a pair. Closely followed by DIAC’s spray on AS

@TheMeanSplendor: #SideshowAlley Tapewomgate and Thomsonpairbabygate are equally horrifying

@SKHMelb: Tony (“kinder, gentler polity” circa Aug 2010) Abbott on pairing for Thomson’s new baby.

@DblRistretto: @TonyAbbottMHR #SideshowAlley on whether to grant CThompson a pair so CT can be at the birth of his child. Truly infantile.

Let’s recap: a pair is a match with a member of another party to maintain the relative numbers when an MP is absent from parliament. The Coalition doesn’t seem to have co-ordinated their talking points on this one, with opposition whip Warren Entsch telling PM‘s Alexandra Kirk the government is misrepresenting Abbott’s position:

WARREN ENTSCH: That’s not all bets are off; that is a quite a simple statement: only in extraordinary circumstances. Let’s have a look at the circumstance at the time.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is having a baby extraordinary circumstances?

WARREN ENTSCH: Well of course it is.

Last month Abbott bluntly told a joint party room meeting: “There will be no pairs under any circumstances.” The stance led to two frontbenchers, Labor’s Simon Crean and the Liberals’ Malcolm Turnbull, missing the memorial service for artist Margaret Olley.

And someone forgot to tell the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, who told 2GB:

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, there’ll be no pairs granted during the carbon tax vote. If they are foolish enough to schedule the vote at a time when Mr Thomson can’t be there, then that’ll be on their heads.

Last month Mr Abbott bluntly told a joint party room meeting: “There will be no pairs under any circumstances.”
The stance led to two frontbenchers, Labor’s Simon Crean and the Liberals’ Malcolm Turnbull, missing the memorial service for artist Margaret Olley.

“I am fairly amazed by that statement,” Julia Gillard said in Auckland where she was attending the Pacific Islands Forum. “Employers, people right around the country, now make arrangements for men to attend the birth of their children. People do it in all sorts of extraordinary circumstances. You know, footballers shaping up for grand finals. In extraordinary circumstances people still want to make sure a dad can get to the birth of a son or daughter. I would hope Mr Abbott would reflect on this and share that sentiment.”

Sure, this is all built on the hypothetical premise that Thomson’s wife will go into labour at the same time as the carbon tax debate, and it’s most likely that the Coalition will decide to grant Thomson a pair — he’s yet to ask for one — but at the moment, in typical fashion, Abbott is conceding nothing:

This morning Abbott told the Today show: We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”

Far cuddlier treasury spokesman Joe Hockey told Environment Minister Tony Burke on Sunrise “if you tell us when the vote will be I’m sure we will be very reasonable” and added “we are not going to deny a person the chance to be at the birth of his child”.

Whatever the account, one thing’s clear: picking on babies, impending or otherwise, ain’t a vote winner.

Peter Fray

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