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Nov 23, 2012

Tale of two Australias, one disconnected from reality

There's the Australia that exists in reality. Then there's the second Australia, created by the media and the public imagination. Which one do you live in?


We live, it seems, in two Australias.

One exists in so-called “reality”, allegedly observable via evidence and facts. The other one exists in the mind of many in the media and the government’s critics in business.

The purported “real” Australia doesn’t look too bad. It has low unemployment, low inflation, remarkably low interest rates, a huge pipeline of business investment, low government debt and steady economic growth. Its government shepherded the country through the global financial crisis by protecting the banking sector and providing fiscal stimulus, and is now engaged in a dramatic fiscal contraction that has allowed the country’s central bank to cut interest rates. Its tax-cutting government has presided over a 1.5% fall in tax to GDP ratio. The world’s credit rating agencies are sufficiently impressed to have given Australia the best possible sovereign ratings, and its currency has, to the chagrin of its exporters, become a reserve currency valued by forex traders and central banks the world over.

The country is governed by a minority government that, in spite of predictions about how unworkable it would be, has produced a long succession of legislated reforms, albeit of the small-to-medium variety, but some big ones as well: a carbon price, further big improvements to its already world-leading superannuation system, an overhaul of health funding, and cuts to the absurdly generous middle-class welfare bequeathed to it by the previous government.

Its Prime Minister, initially clumsy and forced in the role, has over time grown into it, and now even appears competent on the world stage, with a close relationship with President Barack Obama. The country is the world’s 12th largest economy and one of the few developed economies still showing vigour.

All that stands in dire contrast to the Australia which, we’re told, is actually out there and which we can read and hear about in the media.

“The Australia portrayed in the pages of newspapers and on talkback radio increasingly bears no resemblance to reality …”

That Australia is an economic wasteland, on the way to joining Spain and Greece. It is labouring under a crushing public debt burden. Its pro-union industrial relations laws have slashed productivity and threaten to derail the country’s resources boom. A “sea of red tape” stifles innovation. The government has bungled relations with China and its name is mud in Washington because we’ve cut defence spending.

The country has a property bubble and its over-reliance on foreign borrowings that mean our banks will collapse when there’s another financial crisis, necessitating vast bailouts. It’s the government’s fault that mining companies all tried to invest in new projects at once, bidding up the cost of labour and other supplies.

Its carbon price (instituted because the Prime Minister, being a woman, was easily controlled by extreme environmentalist Bob Brown) has sent consumer prices through the roof, and all for nothing because climate change is a giant conspiracy, or even if it exists, Australia can’t do anything about it despite being a massive carbon exporter and the world’s most carbon-dependent major economy. The country’s “Communist” mining tax, despite raising no revenue, is deterring investment. Corrupt union officials oversee our biggest superannuation funds, even if those funds out-perform funds overseen by the big banks.

Indeed, the stain of union corruption is everywhere, for the Prime Minister herself is corrupt. Corrupt how, corrupt in what way, isn’t made clear despite acres of newsprint and investigative journalists working full-time for months on the “story” and even the ABC, criticised by its media watchdog program, goaded into action; but somehow, in some unspecified way, she acted corruptly just under two decades ago, and is now somehow stifling an investigation of it, including making files disappear (and then reappear, presumably just to throw people off the scent). But she has Questions To Answer.

And to distract from this corruption, the Prime Minister plays the gender card, claiming she’s a victim of a misogynist campaign, while her deputy engages in class war, trying to demonise successful entrepreneurs. Worse, she’s planning a Stalinist assault on free speech intended to censor her media critics.

The Australia portrayed in the pages of newspapers and on talkback radio increasingly bears no resemblance to reality; the “coverage” is an ever more lurid fantasy based on the arch-villainy of Julia Gillard, simultaneously weak and incompetent at governing but fiendishly clever and ruthless at covering up her crimes, while the country she leads goes to wrack and ruin, or at least it will When The Boom Ends or When The Next Global Crisis Occurs or When Financial Markets Lose Confidence. That’s if she lasts. Surely she’ll be gone within weeks. Some new revelation, some smoking gun, some crucial piece of evidence will destroy her prime ministership. Just you wait.

And we wonder where we’ll get quality journalism from when the internet finally destroys newspapers.


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57 thoughts on “Tale of two Australias, one disconnected from reality

  1. Edward James

    Is it true Australian taxpayers stump up $20 m a day to pay off our national debt? Edward James

  2. susan winstanley

    So good, I have printed a copy!
    Can we have a Tea Towel please?

  3. robinw

    Too true Bernard. The sheer amount of lying that is done in the MSM, particularly by one Australia wide organisation, is stupendous. We have a brain washed populace (as is evidenced by some of the comments here) who believe that what the rich want will be good for us all. Absolute fantasy of course but that’s the dominant paradigm which is put out by the mega rich and swallowed lock stock and barrel by the majority.

    You just have to see today’s Telegraph bill board to realise just what tosh we are being fed on a daily basis.

  4. virtualkat


    now what do we do about it???


    Bernard instead of sitting behind a desk come out into the real world where ordinary Australians are working or trying to earn profits from running a business then you will see the real Australia.

  6. Wombat

    @Edward James Yup, it’s true. Comes out of a $1.4 trillion economy – works out at about one half of one percent of GDP. Staggeringly small, isn’t it?

  7. Wombat

    @ Maree Whitton

    Ah yes, the “real world” full of “ordinary Australians” and the “real Australia”. I heard them on talkback radio this morning, discussing today’s edition of The Australian.

  8. Mr Denmore

    I was beginning to think it was just me.

  9. Holden Back

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

  10. Francis Erin

    $20 million a day to pay debt? That makes my share cheaper than my morning coffee. Deals!


    If we could graph this great unhinging then it probably shows a steep lift-off about the time one Rupert Murdoch had lunch with a chap called Tony Abbott.

    Coincidence, surely.

  12. cairns50

    i could not agree with you more bernard

    thats what happens when you get someone like murdoch and his lackeys controlling the press etc etc

  13. (the other) HR Nicholls

    Let’s be real here: the death of the press in this country, while sad in a ‘what might have been’ sense, will actually be quite funny if you match it to their current output. What a supine bandwagon of d*ckheads, they deserve everything they get.

  14. Mark from Melbourne

    The Australian has now even given up re-wording the Libs press releases. The last two articles by Dennis S. read like straight lifts – “not one journalistic finger has touched this story” should be their motto.

    And the comments column is an interesting insight into the depth of thoughts and analysis – a very shallow pool.

    Scary really but my guess is that it has always been thus but we never saw it.

  15. floorer

    If I was Melissa George I’d really be p * ssed off at the quality of the Australian media. Anybody wandering any Fairfax (mostly) website lately couldn’t help but notice the mileage they’ve got out this woman. Pretty much typifies where it is all at. The Age doesn’t know if it’s what it used to be, The Truth sans page three or Dolly.

  16. floorer

    Btw isn’t an article like this just feeding us chickens?

  17. scot mcphee

    The country has the Tea Party disease; choose your own facts. The allegations that “dog” the prime minister (the ABC meant to say, instead of “dog”, that these allegations are breathlessly repeated by it in response to the fanciful speculations in the Fox News of newspapers) are merely the local version of birtherism.

  18. David Goldstein

    It’s funny how you leave so much out Mr Keane. I live in an Australia where the prime minister rants about misogyny yet takes money from single mothers, and fathers. That treats refugees appallingly and that refuses to give gays and lesbians basic human rights. I live in a country supposedly governed by a Labor party that is probably more right wing than almost all European right of centre parties. David Cameron even had the courage to say he supports gay marriage.

  19. CML

    Wonderful stuff, Bernard!
    David G – I don’t think Bernard said the present government was perfect. But as an expose of the actual state of the nation, compared with what the MSM (read Ltd News) would like it to be, I haven’t read anything better!

  20. Mike Flanagan

    “There’ll be bush-fires for sure, my man
    There will without a doubt;
    We’ll all be rooned.” said Hanrahan
    “Before the year is out.”

  21. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Edward James, I don’t know where the $20 million number came from but if each person in the country put up a dollar each per day and that covered the “national debt” then I’d be pretty comfortable about it. A year or two ago each taxpayer was handed, free of any charge, $900 to spend as we saw fit. Last year many Queenslanders received $1000 to help us through the floods and cyclone. Therefore many of us have been gifted about five years worth of national debt payments – in advance! I’d call that a miracle economy and since I don’t believe in miracles I just have a teensy quibble about that $20 million.
    David Goldstein, Australia is “governed” by a minority government, not the Labor Party. But you already knew that, you thought you’d just try it on. It wasn’t the (conscience vote) Labor Party that voted down gay marriage it was the (locked in) Coalition.

  22. Paul

    In one of Chris Bergs weird and wonderful essays he said that we didn’t need facts to make judgements just beliefs.
    So the disconnect between reality and fiction is OK, because we believe the fiction it becomes fact and because we don’t believe the facts they become fiction.
    All a bit like Alice In Wonderland except the weird ones are real and run a major political party (the Tories) or run a major political party (The Australian).
    Abbott’s latest brain wave to make refugees work for the dole (???) may work if they had appropriate and certifiable skills and a good command of English.
    I suppose if they do not then we can always return to the White Australia policy.
    Tony and the Oz boys in Wonderland indeed.

  23. Malcolm Street

    Paul, do you have a reference to that?

    My interpretation of the US election result is that that sort of attitude is what led the Republicans to lose. Their judgements ended up mugged by reality.

  24. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    You forgot the menace of green tape!

  25. Daly

    Well said, Bernard.
    Good to see the real facts and the fantasy fiction laid out together.
    Sad so many Australians believe the rubblish fed to them by Murdoch and Fairfax press and increasingly the ABC.
    Just hope enough people know the facts before they elect the Tea Party fictionalists as the government next year and we all enter Wonderland with Tony leading the way!

  26. pertina1

    We’ve had our differences Bernard but all is forgiven!

  27. David Goldstein

    I don’t vote for a party on their stewardship of the economy. There aren’t huge differences here. It’s on social issues that I consider the big differences.

    So first, on the minority government. There are at least a couple of opinion polls that show Rudd would have won a majority government at the last election.

    Second, on gay marriage, the prime minister opposed it. For no good reason. As I mentioned, David Cameron supported gay marriage, and did so proudly. Even O’Farrell is now suggesting gay marriage could be OK.

    Third, the policies on refugees are as bad, if not worse, than anything Howard ever introduced.

    Fourth, nobody seems concerned that it was the Labor government that took a significant amount of money off single parents when the youngest child turned 8. So much for the PM being all cuddly to women.

    Fifth, blaming the Australian for Labor’s woes shows the paucity of arguments in support of the government. There are some very good writers on both sides of the political spectrum, albeit more on the right. But at least the paper is run by someone who loves newspapers rather than former supermarket chairs, rugby players among others. But yes, overall, the media, the under-funded ABC excepted, do let us down.

    The leadership of both parties is woeful and neither deserve the right to govern Australia.

  28. Dean Tregenza

    @David Goldstein
    Based on this litany of problems with the ALP and the prospect of the L/NP coalition – despite the unreality of the Australia that is painted by the Murdoch – sounds like you need to be voting Green at the next election. 🙂

  29. AR

    Welcome back to reality BK though all is NOt forgiven, you are on probation until you kick the NuRite ratbaggery.

  30. David Hand

    All hyperbole Bernard. E for effort.
    Neither picture you describe is real. You’ve just made them up for the entertainment of your loyal readers. A bit like Alan Jones, really.


    Are we all frogs being gradually boiled to death in the soup of political verbiage? Or should that be the verbiage of political soup?

  32. tonyfunnywalker

    Well said Bernard. Some of the articles in Fairfax and News toda are examples. Harcher goes in some way to recognise reality and then plots the demise of Gillard next week amongst the cross benches.

    By building a story on recall the press should be careful on recall or as in the UK they may land up in the same position as the BBC and ITV both of which published a lie by someone who had faulty recall. Blewett by his own admission is troubled by what was done in 1995.

    He may well suffer selective perception in support of his redemption with ” it wasn’t me it was her/him” or I was ” overseas at the time” the plea from another emminent person currently.

    The voters and consumers of Australia are not stupid they do read widely over the internet and the news summaries help to identify key issues.

    The internet will render journalism obselete – it is already impotent and is increasingly frustrated by its impotence as the Gillard Government is able to Kick Goals irrespective of the distractions.

    Regretably the ABC is reduced to the mire of the cesspit and as a taxpayer I am indignnant of the fact that they are not serving the people who pay them and as a National Broadcaster they need to have greater due dilligence than they currently adopting.

    To be goaded into the AWU affair by the Australian shows the weak editorial resolve of the ABC and where there is resolve as shown by 744ABC for example the Australian lampoons them.

    The Australian public is heartily sick of this media circus. Whereas once you bought a newspaper for the news and you discarded ( responsibly ) the suppliments ( form guide, Real Estate, etc).

    These days it is the suppliments that are retained and it is the newspaper is destined for the recycle bin.

    With growing redundancies and falling graduate job opportunities,journalism is guaranteeing its own demise and in some cases the sooner the better as the so called newspapers and TV news analysis programs are advertorials from the “spin doctoring” PR industry.

  33. Achmed

    Last artilce I read about Australias debt was that it cost 73c per day per person

  34. David Goldstein

    Dean: I might have already voted Green. But the problem with our voting system is if you despise both Labor and Liberal and can’t vote for either, your vote in the lower house can’t count.

    On the national debt, why do people worry? It’s a capitalist world, for better or worse, and if the national debt was a big issue those who deal in currency would be selling the Australian dollar. Instead they seem not to get enough of it, much to the detriment of exporters and tourists coming here.

  35. geomac62

    David Goldstein
    What basic human rights are denied gays and lesbians ? The only one I can think of is marriage which is just a p[iece of paper . Legally all other unions can have the same status regarding property etc . Myself I don,t care if a couple regardless of their sex are married or not . As I recall Labor gave its members a conscience vote and libnats had to toe the line and vote against gay marriage .
    I think a person loses cred when making a statement about basic human rights when they actually mean just one . All that stands between that one , marriage , is a piece of paper but legal protection for a union is the same . I,m sorry if my attitude offends but I,m entitled to it . I don,t care if gay marriage is legal or not .

  36. floorer

    geomac, it’s not just about gay marriage it’s about live and let live. Keeping our noses out of other peoples lives when it makes no difference to us, with the usual caveats no one gets hurt etc.

  37. geomac62

    I agree with you or perhaps I think we are on the same page . As I said it doesn,t worry me if gay marriage is legal or not . Maybe I,m guilty of being ambivalent . To me an abuse or denial of human rights is disenfranchisement or blocking education , employment or housing opportunities .

  38. David Goldstein

    Geomac – it’s about choice, and Gillard actively campaigned against gay marriage. She opposed it at the ALP conference. Don’t give me this garbage about it being a piece of paper. It’s about equal opportunity, equality. And if you’re a refugee, a single parent or gay or lesbian, Gillard and her government are prepared to deny you rights, or take away entitlements. And it’s fine if you don’t approve of gays and lesbians getting married, but that’s your choice. Just don’t deny other people such choice.

  39. geomac62

    David Goldstein
    In plain english I don,t oppose or favour gay marriage . I,m not denying anyone anything relating to marriage . If your a refugee , single parent or a gay or lesbian it makes very little difference which of the two major parties is in office . The only difference is that Labor had a conscience vote and the libs didn,t . Raising the tax free threshold to 18k ? probably helped some single parents with part time work . Does that count ?

  40. Christian Fürst

    it might be a good time go check out some short term trading opportunity for the 29th of this month.

    as consumer sentiment somewhat got some relief during the last couple of months i think there is a quite good probability of getting better than expected numbers for the new home sales numbers link here which could have quite some positiv impact on the stock market in general…

    so going long mid of next week might be a good idea in my opinion…

  41. Tim Rowe

    You sound like a true supporter of the hill in Canberra and just as biased as any other agenda-driven media outlet I’m sorry to say mate.
    As for your two different Australian realities, there is a bit of truth in both;
    I am an optimist and believe Australia has a bright future,
    however, I’m not an idiot open to being influenced by media or politicians, into thinking all is well.

    You can’t seriously deny there is a property bubble in Australia and keep your credibility mate!!! Take a squizz at our property market right now. We have a totally artificial property market value which will naturally adjust eventually, once those propping it up run out of money and bullshit. That is when the bubble will burst.
    I will give your little online paper a chance to prove you are really not agenda driven but based on reality and the truth as this working Australian is sick of being fed bullshit and kept in the dark

  42. Achmed

    The 27% who have the same knowledge of economics as TA are the only ones who think Australia is anywhere close to being a Spain/Greece etc.
    They happily trash our economy scaring away investors. TA as PM is the goal, the only goal and to hell with how they get there.

  43. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Tim Rowe, your actual written words almost exactly encapsulate the argument Bernard was making. You are “… an optimist and believe Australia has a bright future” (that’s your dream).
    At the same time “…We have a totally artificial property market value which will naturally adjust eventually, once those propping it up run out of money and bullshit. That is when the bubble will burst” (that’s your reality).
    Is your ‘agenda’ to pursue your dream, face up to reality (as you see it) or, like Bernard Keane, simply note both arms of the dilemma and try to understand each of them better?

  44. David Goldstein

    Geomac – the prime minister actively opposed gay marriage. Why? Part of her incompetence. She could have shut up and said it’s up the party to decide, but she went to the party conference and voiced opposition. If Gillard hadn’t given a conscience vote there probably would have been a rebellion.

    As for single parents, why cut their benefits in the first place? They are one of the groups in society struggling the most.

    Gillard and her cronies, especially the NSW right, represent all that is disgraceful about modern Labor. Get rid of them. I’ve gone beyond caring about who replaces them. I just want them gone.

  45. geomac62

    David Goldstein
    You should give Ed James a call . You two have a lot in common .

  46. Achmed

    David…what did Gillard actively do to oppose gay marriage?
    She voiced her opinion, just like everyone else. She did not impose that opinion on others, she supported a conscience vote.
    Abbott imposed his opposition to gay marriage by stating it was policy to be opposed. Perhaps if Abbott wasn’t so homophobic and had also suported a conscience vote the legislation would have passed.

  47. Karen

    @ Bernard Keane – so true, well said. I was chortling and laughing at your frank observations of how truly BAD the MSM, including this disgraceful ABC, have become in raking and pushing the unsupported trash of the nuRight. Not a single fact to support their ugly, nasty polemic, not one,just L$es.

  48. geomac62

    A case of the smoking none .

  49. tonyfunnywalker

    Now I had read it all, Hedley Thomas and Dennis Shanahan promoting ethics, this is a bit like Robert Mugabi promoting tolerance. And Abbott to bring in a private members bill on union ethics – hypocracy- what about promoting ethics in the Liberal Party and the dirty tricks that have put politics in the gutter over the last 3 years.

    Here’s one for First Dog on the Moon.

  50. David Goldstein

    Gee whiz Geomac, so you can’t justify Labor’s incompetence under Gillard anymore, so you start making idiotic comments. Troy Bramston’s opinion piece in The Australian today sets out Labor’s woes in better detail than anyone on Crikey.

    As for Gillard opposing gay marriage, she actively opposed it. Even Keane wrote on it here at http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/12/01/gay-marriage-gillard-deploys-her-troops-for-the-wrong-battle/

    As I mentioned, and as Bramston mentions in his article, there are more failures than gay marriage for Labor under Gillard.

    And why make excuses and start blaming Abbott? To give him credit, even though he wouldn’t allow a conscience vote on gay marriage, he did campaign for his sister in the recent local government elections, so he’s probably less homophobic than Gillard.

  51. tonyfunnywalker

    Labor incompetent – for that read Liberals under Abbott.
    The 2 year dummy spit has come home to roost. Boadica Gillard has slain Abbott, Bishop has put up token resistance helped by News Ltd but she was put to the sword at question time today.
    To watch question time now is facinating, the losers bench is bored/ haggard/ devoid of any spirit and the body language is one of downcast eyes filled with despondensy. Labor is smiling, heads are held high, they speak with authority and they have a proud record to back it up in economics, electoral reform, international relations, and social reform and the Murray Darling Plan is a triumph.
    The Liberals are in a no win situation, irrespective of the efforts of the press.

  52. David Goldstein

    Yeah, Labor is smiling as they deny basic human rights to refugees, gays and lesbians, take away support for single parents and do bugger all for Aboriginal people. I’d be smiling too… if I was a right wing reactionary party. Who needs Pauline Hanson and/or One Nation when you have the two main parties in Australia…

  53. geomac62

    I made no idiotic comment . My last post referred to you and your similar attitude and thinking with Ed James . Peas in a pod so why not suggest you two hook up . Ed is always putting his number out there , take advantage . Logical or so it seems to me , far from idiotic .

  54. Bill Williams

    Thank you Bernard for your so objective description of reality. It made me realise just how lucky we are that you don’t own Fairfax.

    The trouble with your Canberra-esque reporting style is that it is so limited by your mere mirroring of one side of a simplistic two party debate and world view. You write about Gillard and Labor with all the objectivity of a one-eyed sports fanatic. Your writing often reveals a very limited mental model that assumes that anybody who is critical of Gillard and Labor must, by definition, be pro-LNP.

    In terms of your view of the real Australia you seem to think that people who are in the business of producing tradeable goods and services that we can sold in international markets are just some biased marginal minority group. In your view, Labor seems to have done no wrong….and any stories of Labor wrong doing are just fabricated spin from a biased and hostile mainstream media who refuse to see St Julia as Australia’s answer to Joan of Arc.

    I have a suggestion for your professional development Bernard. There is no doubt that you can write well. I think that your problem may be a lack of contact with people who live in another real world than the one you must live in. Why don’t you spend some time in a community where most of the people you talk to are not members of a political party or journalists or economists or employees of government or non-government organisations. In fact cut all those people out of your life for a full month. Try to talk to some farmers and small business owners and tourism operators and education service exporters and tradespeople….preferably who don’t live in a capital city. Perhaps your view of the real world might become open to a separate reality….without the help of Carlos Castaneda.

    P.S. What could possibly possess you to suggest that this Labor government has installed “big improvements” to our superannuation? Paul Keating certainly doesn’t think so. And who says that having a currency valued by currency traders is any way beneficial in your “real world”?

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