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Federal

Feb 4, 2013

'Chaos', or how to see the world like a political journalist

After years of complaining about politicians failing to treat voters like adults, Julia Gillard has done just that -- and incurred the wrath of the press gallery at the same time.

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What a collection of hypocrites political journalists can be sometimes.

One of the beliefs that unites the press gallery, despite other divisions that undermine the idea that it’s a monolithic institution, is a longing for politicians who will treat them and voters as adults. Politicians who won’t engage in spin, stunts and cheap rhetoric, but engage on real issues and speak candidly, intelligently and with conviction to voters.

It might manifest itself as a longing for the days of Paul Keating, or a preference for Malcolm Turnbull, or a fierce resentment at the obsession with media management that has been a characteristic of Labor’s time in office, particularly under Kevin Rudd. They’re all versions of the same conviction that politicians these days are too much “on-message”and insufficiently straight with voters.

Along came Julia Gillard last week and fulfilled those oft-expressed hopes, in two ways. First, she abandoned the traditional prime ministerial prerogative of keeping the nation guessing about an election date and said when we’d go to the polls later in the year. Second, she spoke in detail about the economic policy challenges facing the government, why they existed and how limited the government’s options were in dealing with them, in a manner unusual for its candour.

In short, whatever her political motivations for doing so — and of course they existed — she treated voters, at least for once, like adults. But the reaction from the bulk of the press gallery to this rare fulfilment of their expressed wishes has been a tantrum.

The actual speech received precisely zero mainstream media analysis beyond Ross Gittins, who understood what an unusual speech it was, especially for a Prime Minister in an election year.

And many journalists just don’t seem to have been able to process what has happened regarding the election date. They are convinced we are now in an election campaign — a “record-breaking seven-month election campaign” as The Australian described it this morning or “a marathon 227-day campaign for both leaders” as another Australian columnist called it. That’s by no means News Ltd bias — an ABC journalist declared Australia “set for its longest federal election campaign on record”; it was an “extended election campaign”, Fairfax journalists said. Others settled, a little less disingenuously, for the term “unofficial election campaign”. 

That misconception might be understandable for the UK Telegraph but not for local hacks. One journalist asked the PM on Saturday about a “sort-of faux caretaker principle that applies because of the announcement of the election date so far in advance” (public servants, of course, would love nothing more than to spend the next eight months doing nothing but tweaking their election briefs and surfing the internet).

“‘Chaos’ and ‘disarray’ are media judgements, right or wrong, about politics, not about real world outcomes.”

But you can see the appeal: framing everything through an “election campaign” prism makes journalism easier. Election coverage is, at least the way it is normally done now, easier than regular coverage, because it focuses exclusively on politics — who’s up, who’s down, who’s stumbled, who’s made a gaffe, what do the polls say, who has strayed off-message, who will win. It’s an excuse to abandon content in favour of race-calling.

Framing everything within an election narrative means anything unexpected, or unusual, that doesn’t fit the narrative, either gets ignored (the PM’s speech) or treated, reflexively, as a stumble/gaffe/debacle/disaster. Thus the government was said to be in “chaos”, and “disarray”, suffering “body blows”, because two long-planned resignations were announced on the weekend (Nicola Roxon a “body blow”? Really?).

That Tony Abbott is too concerned about his level of support within the Liberal Party to risk a reshuffle that would remove deadwood like Bronwyn Bishop, Kevin Andrews and Peter Dutton in favour of the talents of Arthur Sinodinos, Jamie Briggs, Steve Ciobo or Simon Birmingham — indeed, promised last week that his first ministry would be exactly as it currently stands — is as significant a political story as the departure of an ALP stalwart like Chris Evans, but it isn’t so manifestly inconsistent with the now-dominant “election” narrative.

Even then, some in the media went further, indeed, right off the deep end. “Is it possible for her to recover after these two resignations we’ve seen over the last 24 hours?” an unidentified and presumably local journalist, referring to the Prime Minister, asked Christopher Pyne in suburban Adelaide on Saturday. The ABC, too, inexplicably thought it appropriate to seek the views of Pyne on the ALP’s internal matters. Even if you’re going to ignore substance in favour of politics, why seek the views of a political opponent to commentate specifically on party politics?

“Chaos” and “disarray” of course are political no-noes, particularly during election campaigns. Recall “chaos” was the key prediction of many at the start of this parliamentary term — minority government couldn’t be expected to produce anything other than a mess. The government has delivered plenty of chaos — relying on Peter Slipper, welshing on its deal with Andrew Wilkie, belatedly dumping Craig Thomson, having a leadership spill — but the Parliament also churned out hundreds of bills, including a carbon price that both sides had previously promised and not delivered, cuts to middle class welfare and superannuation reforms.

Indeed, what’s the broader economic achievement of this “chaotic” minority government? Low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, a massive investment boom, a “safe haven” currency, growing labour productivity, a sharemarket up nearly 20% since a carbon price commenced. If this is the product of “chaos”, long may it continue.

“Chaos” and “disarray” are media judgements, right or wrong, about politics, not about real world outcomes. The more journalists view everything through an election campaign prism, the less interested they appear to become in real world outcomes.

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86 comments

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86 thoughts on “‘Chaos’, or how to see the world like a political journalist

  1. sandra fox

    New to Crikey readership. Thank you sensible, balanced considered journalism. Reportage worthy of reading. I am so sick of ABC political reporters (and others from mainstream media) “labouring” the rudd leadership issue.

  2. GeeWizz

    [“The rule for the audience, is that it follows the current state of political polling; so, if the most recent poll shows the coalition to have 45% support, labor 35%, greens 10%, katter 5% and independent 5%; that will be the audience mix, within practicalities.”]

    Oh come off it. The people who go on Q&A aren’t stupid they know that the show has to reach it’s quota so when you order tickets they go “who do ya vote for?” do you reckon they are all going to answer Greens/Labor?

    When you watch the show while there are certainly Lib supporters there and some swinging voters, 80% of the audience are either Labor or Greens hacks.

  3. Electric Lardyland

    In reply to the little conspiracy theory of GeeWizz, about the alleged stacking of the Q & A audience. The rule for the audience, is that it follows the current state of political polling; so, if the most recent poll shows the coalition to have 45% support, labor 35%, greens 10%, katter 5% and independent 5%; that will be the audience mix, within practicalities. So what the GeeWizz comment shows, is the propensity of right wingers, to claim that if other voices actually breakthrough the right wing media dominance, it’s somehow just so unfair.
    In regards to media reaction to calling an election date, I think it can be summed up by, ‘Call an election, call an election, CALL AN ELECTION……………….Ohh, why on earth did the crazy woman call an election?!’

  4. Todd Slater

    Spot on Bernard. Thank you for articulating, what has been apparent for awhile in my view. The current press gallery with a few exceptions is appalling.

  5. Dogs breakfast

    “Geewizz – The Libs policy on immigration mayt be clear but it is both illegal (taking boats back to Sri Lanka), unworkable (indonesia isn’t on board for taking boast back there) and the Navy doesn’t think they will do it.”

    Jimmy’s point is relevant. A policy that can’t and won’t be implemented is hardly worthy of the name, but if that is sufficient to get your vote Wizz, then you must be over the moon at the state of the economy right now, with the best set of indicators in my lifetime.

    But it’s not about rational analysis, it’s about the vibe.

    Bernard, well said, it seems that we all got to this point long before this article was written.

    The response to the election announcement has been puerile, with apologies to the puerile, and vapid, with apologies to the vapid.

  6. klewso

    Ever seen what happens when gremlins get wet and a feed after midnight?
    Watch the media.

  7. hannah rachel bell

    Thank you Bernard Keane. Here on Moa Island in the Torres Strait the only news we currently get is Imparga which filters Ch 10 through. It’s everything you’ve described. How is the public able to call the current media hypocrisy for what it is – adolescent gang busting bullying, self-important with its untempered ability to usurp the electorate in determining leaderships, election focus and outcomes. Or even worse, to create such a climate of disrespect for the stability of our parliamentary system that they, the media, this immature cadre of political moguls, able to create as much mischief as they like, delighting in, and bragging about their successes in reducing political decency to in-house, locker room pranks. We should be seriously worried at the journalistic elite’s irresponsibility, only challenged by Abbott’s and Pyne’s. I am truly disgusted.

  8. Jimmy

    Merve I think we all know the answer to that.

    Good to see News is contiuning is attack today, this time wheeling out the fool McCrann to label Gillard the worst PM ever – clowns.

  9. Merve

    Tell me, what would Abbott’s approval rating be without the non-stop puffery from Murdoch. He is weak and spineless, totally dependent on others for any sort of electoral approval. No one is listening to him any more, his relentless drone causing people to switch off after the first few seconds of his tiresome voice.

  10. WakeUpAustralia

    Mark Latham said it best on the recent Paul Murray Live….it doesn’t matter what our PM does, it will be spun negatively by the News Ltd machine.
    http://www.skynews.com.au/video/?vId=3792950&cId=Programs&play=true
    Latham nails the current state of play from -5:15

  11. Hamis Hill

    Gee Wizz, insurance to voters means voting the other way,in the case of Qld, NSW, and Vic LNP.
    So those state polls?
    Voters have always shown this preternatural ability to balance the forces of authority for their own sub-conscious self preservation, they know how the balance of power works; playing one side off against the other.
    Is “history never repeats” your bedtime prayer as well?
    Bet you can’t get that image of Abbott the Joker out of your mind either, they’ll be making those badges with that image and wearing them on the trains and buses on the way to work. Make the image, colour photocopy it, insert into 50c plastic badge,probably ask a dollar for it and subvert the MSM dominance with a healthy profit to boot. A slight take on the ubiquitous pictures of “Big Brother” which would follow an Abbott victory.
    And it is not so much the chaos of Fake Liberals and Fake Labor (Both real DLP?) that annoys; it is the Fake Christianity they cloak themselves with.
    The Saviour solved this question of Fake Christianity with “By their actions shall ye know them”.
    “You know you can’t hide when you’re crippled inside”.
    Abbott in a nutshell, “in your guts you know he’s nuts”, a perfect facsimile of the Batman Joker, complete with riddles (as a substitute for policies?).

  12. Jimmy

    Geewizz – “The problem for Labor is they have a stench of corruption surrounding them now” So if the AFP investigation into liberal involvement in the slipper affair comes back showing Pyne, Brough et el have a case to answer what then?
    And if Thomson is found not guilty?

  13. Jimmy

    Geewizz – “Cando Newman and his LNP team is getting 55% TPP of the vote in polling in Queensland.” And was the 2pp when they got voted in? Has the drop bottomed out?

    Ballieu is now behind the ALP in Victoria and with reports today of 12,000 construction jobs to go because of a lack of infrastructure investment more questions will start being asked.

    And have you thought of those 5 reasons to vote FOR Abbott yet?

  14. Hamis Hill

    And Rudd depicted as the Joker? It works as well.

  15. GeeWizz

    Hamis Hill,

    Cando Newman and his LNP team is getting 55% TPP of the vote in polling in Queensland. This is now considered “good” for Labor by it’s supporters… this is real off the world kinda stuff.

    I guess after seeing NSW numbers by comparison QLD looks like a ALP paradise… numbers there are in the 60’s.

    The problem for Labor is they have a stench of corruption surrounding them now.. and the punters know exactly what you do with smelly rubbish, you put it out for collection get rid of them.

  16. Hamis Hill

    The best symbol of chaos would be Abbott made up as The Joker from Batman.
    Spread it around, it’ll be a game changer.
    Popular culture and humour will subvert the MSM dominance.

  17. Jimmy

    Dan Gardiner – Great question!! Instead we are subjected to this ridiculous leadership speculation yet again where once again Rudd is supposedly within 7 votes (so still couldn’t win) which is where he was supposed to be this time last year before being belted by more than 30.

    On channel 7 last night we had a live cross to parliament house where the question was posed “Is Gillard under real leadership threat” where the response was “There is no talk of a formal move but if the opinion polls like todays become a trend then yes” – which is based on what exactly? And how many moving parts are involved in that?

  18. Dan Gardiner

    Why dont all political journos simply critique the govt and opposition on their stances. Isn’t that what they are meant to do? If Julia says this or that, what are the pros and cons and how are we going to fund/implement? Same questions of Tony and any other pollie with the power to make such announcements

  19. MJPC

    HH; Wall to wall LNP is the heartfelt hope of the big end of town; just think of an Industrial holocaust they could create in attacking the working standards of their “aussie battlers”.
    Frankly, if the great unwashed out in voter land take the belief of better times offer by Mr Abbott, they deserve what they get.

  20. Jimmy

    Geewizz – “Labor aint coming back from here. Abbott could go on a 7 month holiday at this point and he’d still win” And how would a Abbott govt effect the country?

    I issued this question to your alter ego last week and didn’t get a response but could you list 5 reasons to vote for Abbott, not vote Gillard out.

  21. Jimmy

    Geewizz – The Libs policy on immigration mayt be clear but it is both illegal (taking boats back to Sri Lanka), unworkable (indonesia isn’t on board for taking boast back there) and the Navy doesn’t think they will do it.

    The ALP policy is to implement the Houston report.

    And another Libs policy is the repealing of the Carbon tax and replacing it with “Direct Action”, the CSIRO, Al Gore and many other say Direct action won’t work and the size of land needed to plant the trees required is just too big plus paying money too polluters is an ineffective use of money.

    On top of that Pyne last night all but admitted their superannuation payment for low income earners will go amongst other “compensation” realted to the MRRT and carbon tax.

    So the question is how can these to examples even be considered policy when they just can’t work before you even consider the negative impacts they will have.

    Taylormade – “Announcing the backflip on the budget surplus in the buildup to Christmas and whilst the PM was on leave is not treating the voters like adults” Why, is the PM the only person voters can take seriously, the treasurer isn’t senior enough? And why is the surplus not being achieved?
    And how is the Libeeral party treating us like adults by claiming they can cut revenue, increase spending and deliver a bigger surplus and why in an economy experiencing slowing growth is a surplus a good thing?

  22. Peter Phelps

    Excellent work, Bernard, although I believe that your criticism of the vapid and facile nature of the Press Gallery may have been made by somebody previously….

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/27/not-clean-not-dirty-turnbull-masters-inactivity/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

  23. Hamis Hill

    Wall to wall Fake Liberals at that!

  24. Hamis Hill

    Wall to wall Liberals-a national deathwish.

  25. Hamis Hill

    Chaos thy name is Qld under the liberals.
    Are voters going to overturn their sensible tactic of voting in different parties at state and federal levels?
    A sort of insurance.
    At any rate in NSW right wing Labor and right wing Liberals seem to worship at the same altars (by “jove”?).
    So why should Abbott’s Ugl ies benefit from Obeid when they are practically blood brothers in democracy destruction?
    The pox is on both houses and has been there for long enough for voters to notice.
    Instead, Independents and minor parties should do quite well, as in 2010 when the execrable Abbott lost the unlosable election, or has everyone forgotten, in the chaos, exactly what is carved in the stone of history?
    History never repeats Abbott says to himself before he goes to sleep, with his hapless supporters singing chorus.
    Ha Ha.

  26. taylormade

    Bernard- Announcing the backflip on the budget surplus in the buildup to Christmas and whilst the PM was on leave is not treating the voters like adults. Cannot pick and choose.

  27. GeeWizz

    Awwww your still whinging about Kathy Jackson?

    Michael Williamson, ex-Labor National President… charged.

    Craig Thomson, who has the “full confidence of the PM”… 150 Charges, FWA findings he ripped off union members.

    Obeid and McDonald, NSW Labor powerbrokers in front of ICAC getting grilled.

    And whats that? Kathy Jackson? No charges. No house raided. No interest to the FWA… just another Labor hack distraction doing a disgusting smear job on a hero union whistleblower.

    This is Labor folks… this is Labor.

  28. geomac62

    but when it comes to allegations of lining your own pocket at the expense of the Australian people and low paid union members it’s game over.
    Kathy Jackson is welcome at lib functions despite her actions you have described above . Abbott has been on a near 3 year holiday regarding policy and he is in no hurry to go on any serious show that requires answers to serious questions . Better to dog paddle with interviews with the likes of Jones . Like you truthless Abbott is consistent . Consistently negative , constantly full of hyperbole and relentlessly distorting events .

  29. GeeWizz

    As far as I’m concerned whats happening in NSW right now will be the death knell of the Labor Party.

    People can overlook Labor Party incompetence, the stuff-ups, the backflips, the budget blow-outs and the spin, but when it comes to allegations of lining your own pocket at the expense of the Australian people and low paid union members it’s game over.

    Labor aint coming back from here. Abbott could go on a 7 month holiday at this point and he’d still win.

  30. Patriot

    If you look at the basis of the media coverage of the last few days, “chaos” and “disarray” are judgements of party insiders who felt motivated to leak. I think you’re shooting the messenger, Bernard.

  31. fractious

    Bo Gainsbourg 49

    I confess I’d missed that reference. Knowing several public servants personally, I agree, it was a cheap and unnecessary shot that detracts from the well-made main pooints.

  32. Hamis Hill

    The average mortgage belt pay a cool $60 BILLION peranum in John Howard’s Golden Era private debt orgy Great BIg Interest “Tax”.
    Turning to $2 BILLION per WEEK when Abbott’s government spending cuts dry up the money supply and jack up interest rates which are too “low” according to to Joe.
    But if you can’t count then none of this will worry you will it?

  33. Hamis Hill

    Gee wizz, the “average mortgage belt” who pay that Great Big Debt Tax known as interest?
    Presently delivering a cool $60 BILLION per annum to lenders.
    And when Abbott restricts government spending, thus deliberately sending up interest rates, this Great Big Poverty Tax will hit $2 Billion every WEEK!
    They’d have to feed these poor bastards some sort of regular electronic or print valium just to stop them ending it all.
    Abbott’s Australia will not be a nice place for people without mood modifiers.
    What did Marx say about the opiate of the masses.
    What masses was he talking about again?
    In the chaos to ensue in Abbott’s destruction of democracy will people turn to religion for solace?
    Hope it is not some sort of motive to destroy as in the Weimar republic? The Centre Party?
    Precisely why religion and politics should not mix as said by the saviour himself “Render unto Caesar” and keep religion out of it? Too late for OZ?

  34. Bo Gainsbourg

    Hi Bernard, the public servant comment was pretty weak. As you’d know heaps of them are working their absolute rings off because they want to implement good policy. We need to get away from the kneejerk references, which is ironically, what you are correctly bagging the MSM and press gallery for in this article.

  35. zut alors

    Whizzie,

    Hitherto I was unaware it was necessary to own property freehold in order to watch ABC current affairs programmes. Live and learn.

    The audience’s political party affiliations are clearly given in subtitles at the commencement of each show. The Q&A producers strive for an even split.

  36. The Pav

    Gee Whiz

    I reckon the real reason Abbott keeps himself fir is so he can run away from any real questioning

  37. The Pav

    Gee Whiz

    Your definition of leftie etc.. is anybody who is not a fawning Abbott supporter

    Just because somebody can think doesn’t make them a lefty pinko commie greenie tree hugger

    In any event even if the audience was stacked ( an unwarranted slur on the ABC’s integrity but not that would mean anything to one such as you)then then should Abbott take them on?

    What a chance to prove his credebtials and ability toi articulate a position in a hostile place but not..

    Since Abbott is a bully and therefore gutless he prefers to suck up to Bolt and the Womens Day. Every time he faces any sort of rigourous question he doesn’t just fail but completely collapses.

    Calling Abbott the blanc mange of politics is an insult to that food

  38. Daniel Maurice

    I guess the focus on “chaos” is just another manifestation of the grand conspiracy targeting Gillard and her government.

    Actually, to save time, could Bernard or some other contributor give us the definitive list of who is NOT involved in the grand anti-Labor conspiracy? From what I can work out it seems to include not just Abbott and the whole Opposition frontbench, but also the NSW / Vic state governments (Thomson), the Qld state government (Ashby), the Vic / NSW / Federal police, the NSW Corrective Services Dept, the NSW judiciary, Mal Brough, the Commonwealth Parliament IT Dept ( for covering up Abbott’s “premature” original press release on the Ashby case which for the true believers “proves” Abbott had prior knowledge), not forgetting of course the usual suspects of the lazy / scared journos of the MSM and ABC, led by the devil himself, aka Rupert M, and last but not least big oil, big mining and big tobacco. Maybe also Cardinal Pell?

    Who have I left out? Coordination among so many conspirators must be quite difficult, don’t you think?

  39. GeeWizz

    Zut,

    Q&A is a leftie biased show, every week you see them stack the audience with your usual tied died, dredlock greenpeace types, so really it’s not going to win Abbott any votes going on there.

    Abbott will however be happy to go on the mainstream programs watched by average mortgage belt Aussies who pay taxes.

  40. zut alors

    Spot on and well articulated, Bernard. How depressing.

    Incidentally, when is the Opposition leader going to show his mug on Q&A or Lateline? An appearance on either would give the press gallery plenty material to get excited about. His verbal gems could even wean them off the World’s Longest Election Campaign or the PM’s glasses for a couple hours.

    But probably not.

  41. GeeWizz

    We keep hearing from Labor and Gillard that the Coalition must release their policies. This is interesting because when it comes to things like Illegal Immigrants, I know what the Coalitions policy for the 2013 election is. Processing ALL illegals on Manus and Nauru, Turning back the boats and reintroducing TPV’s.

    I thought I would head over the ALP website and see if I could find out what the ALP’s policy is. First I looked through all the menu items. Nope nothing about Asylum Seeker policy. Went to the search… no results found.

    So anyone wanna hazard a guess what Labors Illegal Immgrant policy is?
    1. East timor?
    2. Whipping kids in Malaysia?
    3. Onshore processing?
    4. Offshore processing?
    5. Pacific Solution?
    6. Bridging Visas come on in?
    7. Labors current policy of their Frankenstein onshore-offshore-Pacific Solution?

    Would love to know their policy…

  42. shepherdmarilyn

    And with two liberal leaders jumping ship in a few days where are the reports of chaos?

    WE have the worst political media in the western world and I wish they would all just go on holidays to Christmas Island or the moon.

  43. Buddy

    I kept looking about for the chaos and just kept seeing calm, reason and maturity. My only concern is that still far too many people are told what to think by the MSM and they will vote accordingly… I pray I am wrong.

  44. Phen

    Excellent article. And I note a rare bit of furious agreement in the comments section which says a lot too.

  45. Paddy Forsayeth

    May I add my good opinion of Bernard’s article. Sadly, his sort of thought provoking style does not get into the mainstream.

  46. Djbekka

    I can’t help thinking about the bad behaviour of several US commentators when the election turned out differently from their often repeated but inaccurate views about the electorate. It seems to me that it is time for major media journalists and commentators to stop crowding round the big boys and girls in parliament crying out, ‘fight! fight!’, and to stop playing some warped game of whispers. I’m also getting very weary about being told which snippets of political, economic or social information and policy is worth consideration and then being told what to think about it.

    Bold headlines, exaggerated language and constant repetition don’t make a half-truth truer nor do they convince most of us that night is day or vice versa.

    By the way – the same goes for politicians commenting on each other.

  47. Kevin Tyerman

    Bernard wrote:
    Election coverage is, at least the way it is normally done now, easier than regular coverage, because it focuses exclusively on politics — who’s up, who’s down, who’s stumbled, who’s made a gaffe, what do the polls say, who has strayed off-message, who will win. It’s an excuse to abandon content in favour of race-calling.

    On that basis, aren’t we about 3 years into an election campaign already?

  48. PatriciaWA

    Thanks, Bernard. You are spot on here. No one challenged Tony Abbott’s already being into shrilly premature mini-campaign mode even a week before PMJG confirmed that she planned to hold the election proper on September 14th half a year away.

    Rather than being a sign of chaos I saw her announcement as a sign of planning and confidence, an attempt to sideline election gossip to encourage media focus on reporting of governance and legislation. Similarly any reasonably sensitive journalist watching those two ministers announce their resignations and their empathy with the PM had to accept that here were two effective and loyal Labor ministers leaving for the reasons given and willing to serve out their time supporting their leader and the team. Where was the disarray? Disunity? Last days of the Reich?

    I imagine that having a major story line removed, namely election date speculation, could be a bit disorienting for some in the the press gallery. So that sense of loss and disarray is real. It’s their own! Immediate cure for that? Projection! Gillard must feel ghastly!

  49. CML

    Very good article, Bernard – so true!
    Now, have you got any ideas for reforming the press gallery? But then again, I suppose one would have to start with the editors (proprietors?) of the major newspapers. Enough said!

  50. dazza

    Great article Bernard, and absolutely spot on with your analysis about the main stream media.

  51. Hunt Ian

    Sorry for the typos. I meant “good article” Bernard. I might have been corrected into “old” without noticing.

  52. GF50

    Thanks Bernard, and all those brave contributors who read the the desperate MSM. I tend to “toss the cookies” if I accidentally catch a glimpse of it. Surely we can sue for false pretences? no a journalist among them.

  53. Hunt Ian

    Very old story Bernard – full of opinion but at least it was argued clearly and did not pretend to be a report of “facts” as MSM sees them. As for the “long campaign” this is an in part right as the act relating to media coverage entitles both parties to “equal time” – clearly the Labor party ought to exploit this by asking for equal time and the right to reply. The way the media treated Gillard’s actions has a simple explanation: the media owners want to see the back of Gillard’s government and they are going to try to paint the year as like the last year of Gough Whitlam’s government, where the media owners were equally committed to pulling the government down.

    As you say, Bernard, MSM paints a picture of chaos and “body blows” which is pretty completely baseless, though the way Nova Peris was put in was able to be exploited because it was the first thing Gillard did. It would have been better to make sure that it was done together with the appointment of new ministers to replace Roxon and Chris Evans.. Anyone watching TV media would get an entirely different impression of what happened. Everyone was cool, calm and collected. That Newspoll (however accurate this poll might be) was able to draw a big drop in Labor’s primary vote is sobering testimony to the power of MSM, and not only the Murdoch media, which has wanted to pull Labor down ever since Rudd’s article in the “Monthly” magazine, which showed that he was prepared to question neo-liberal economics. That MSM is powerful and highly concentrated in Australia makes us one of the least democratic countries among the electoral democracies.

    The open hostility of MSM will come as a shock to Labor Party politicians who are not used to the way the blow torch was turned on Whitlam’s government. They will have to work out some alternative methods of campaigning, and ways to challenge the clear and open bias of MSM. I wish them luck.

    Crikey is one alternative in which, as Bernard shows, the Labor Party can still get a fair hearing. This is clear enough to lead Patriot and other past conservative camapaigners in Crikey comment to ignore Bernard’s article for longer than I can ever remember in any other case.

  54. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Spot on.

    Long may Crikey be the antidote to the vapid nothings we get in the Australian media.

  55. QUIGLEY JOSEPH

    My sentiments entirely, Bernard.
    Most (there are a few honourable exceptions, one of whom has just moved to the placid garden of Academe) political journalists in Australia are frustrated sports journalists or war correspondents. Everything is viewed through the lens of binoculars looking at a sporting arena or a battlefield.
    I thought they should have been pleased to have three grand finals in a row in September.
    Silly me! Didn’t I realise that Julia has snatched away the date board (similar to a dart board) at which they could have thrown chronological darts for the next seven months whenever they felt bored? Or when some Government policies were working well? Or when other policies were too nuanced for them to grasp?
    They must be down on their knees before Mercury, the god of the media, praying for a Ministrial boo-boo, a team revolt, a pill-popping ALP factional weekend, a political homicide, anything other than policies. They’re as dull as Treasury statistics and just as hard to write about.
    I don’t think these under-performing political journalists are “hypocrites”. Hypocrasy, as its Greek origin makes clear, is the skill of an actor, someone who feigns to be what he is not. This lot are so obviously acting that we, the general public, cannot suspend our disbelief. They are so obviously acting, so obviously insincere, so destitute of ideas that they parasites on the tree of democracy. They contribute next to nothing its growth and well-being.

  56. Hamis Hill

    Palace Eunuchs of The Press: Politicians in Hiding?
    Discuss.

  57. puddleduck

    Good analysis – agree with everything except this:

    “public servants, of course, would love nothing more than to spend the next eight months doing nothing but tweaking their election briefs and surfing the internet”.

    Most public servants DON’T stop work when the government is in caretaker mode and you know that. Teachers don’t stop teaching, police don’t stop policing, your average bureaucrat doesn’t stop… bureaucrating (!). What stops is development of new policy that may commit an incoming government, etc.

  58. Mark from Melbourne

    A bunch of self important opinionated blowhards. Or Murdoch minions. Actually both.

  59. Sue11

    Great article, totally agree. That’s why you and Mr Gittons are two of my favourite journalists. Level headed rather than hysterical, looking for the facts not a drama of unfathomable proportions. No wonder Australians are all on the verge of mass suicide because things are so bad because they are fed so much unmitigated rubbish and drama they think Australia is about to sink into the sea.

  60. Mike Smith

    Political journalists will get treated like adults when they behave like adults.

  61. Kevin

    I often wonder if the press gallery are just bitter and frustrated wannabe pollies, well, I hope they are happy when cyclone Tony and his wreaking gang come marching into power… Just look at the mess Abbott Lite… Cando is in, now that most of the people who clean up after our yearly cyclones/floods have been ‘voluntarily retired’.

  62. JMNO

    A very good article Bernard. Hope the press gallery read it and take note

  63. Sam

    I saw Pyne over the weekend saying that there’s a convention that ministerial resignations should lead to immediate by-elections. It was part of his usual nonsense about government in chaos clinging to illegitimate power and it was designed to mislead the portion of the electorate who don’t follow politics much. I’ve learned to live with these professional journalists providing us with little information on matters of substance and a narrow range of opinions (“Blah blah blah government in crisis, let’s cross to for an opposition view on the matter”), but I would have at least expected them to call out blatant lying. No such luck. It all leaves me wondering why they’re paid any more than the 3 month old apple I found at the back of my fridge, as they’re clearly providing the same amount of value.

  64. AnnaInTheWood

    Breath of fresh air to read you sometimes Bernard – thanks.

  65. Warren Joffe

    You’re wrong about one thing BK. Abbott, who won’t, when you listen to what he said, feel bound to keep the deadwood on his front bench, can’t possibly feel threatened by what might come of dropping that lot. They put him in against Turnbull and only he can promise credibly to give them rewarding posts outside Parliament if elected. Would Turnbull even try to win their votes? Of course the young Turks can get upset, especially if only some are given preferment, but they are not going to stick their heads above the parapet and are probably too wet behind the ears to do the counting necessary to stage a coup.

    Gillard could have prepared herself better for presentation to the media. She could have started with the facts and logic of being bound to go the full term, sometime in September being best and the day of the AFL Grand Final not being a good day – “so, rather than flick a coin – let’s choose the third anniversary of this Parliament as unarguably acceptable. And why fix a day now? Well, it’s not going to make a difference to the way we govern with one exception and a lot of people may find, for business or holidays or celebrating anniversaries, some advantage in having a day fixed well in advance. The exception that I mentioned is that we will have some changes in the ministry that have been on the cards as soon as it became clear when the next election would be and there is a lot to be said for giving new ministers a seven or eight month period of achievement in their roles.”

    Then her only major critics would have been her colleagues for reasons of amour propre (not let in on it) or having to say something even if not too smart, e.g. that fixing the date would make the Coalition election planning much easier. As the date was obviously going to be in September or early October that doesn’t seem like a great point.

  66. klewso

    Mike – I’m more careful what I use there.

  67. Honest Johnny

    Main stream media bias and moronic reporting is rising in direct proportion to declining circulation and profits. More and more the MSM is forced to cater for those consumers still left – those people who either don’t have access to or don’t care about digital/social media. Like an Alan Jones audience, they respond to fear-mongering, innuendo, whinging and gossip. Good, positive news, or news analysis switches them off. Unfortunately, the demographic is still large enough to influence an election result, but, two or three elections down the track and my guess is the MSM, and the demographic they increasingly cater to will become insignificant.

  68. Mike Flanagan

    Klewso;
    The Murdoch rags makes excellent backup paper down at the ‘long dump’ mate.
    Non of the native species like it, so as with its’ plastic content, it last for ever!

    PS Thanks Bernard for such and honest and professionally intrspective article.

  69. Hamis Hill

    “If an election were held today”,the usual, final twist to an unfavourable poll is now replaced by a Homeric “D’Oh!!” as the lazy ones realise that Abbott’s “election now” mantra no longer applies.
    The imminent election of the last thirty months, always one by-election away is gone and the immediate importance of the opinion polls gone with it.
    Abbott will be done slowly and the he will be gone.

  70. The Pav

    Perhaps the real reason the media are throwing a tanty is that now they now longer have the easy option of churning out articles speculating on when the election will be held.

    They will have to go from sloppy speculation and simple regurgitation of each other’s fanciful speculation to acually doing some analysis.

    I’m sure they will stuff this up as well

  71. klewso

    “News” is a side-show, entertainment – to be processed and spun for profit – something to be wrung/screwed for money through circulation – under this new modern media curriculum.

  72. Jimmy

    Steve777 – It also wasn’t going to be the 28th of Sept being Grand Final day of the AFL and I think the NRL is the week after so in reality we have gone from probably 3 weeks to 1, but the media have lost the ability to churn out copy discussing when the date will be and have had tanty.

    At least I hope that’s what it is because the alternative is they don’t understand the difference between naming a date and calling an election and if that is the case we are in serious trouble.

  73. ulysses butterfly

    The Big Media’s reputation and capacity for deliverying and controlling governments and ministers is also on the line. And the Big media seem to be panicky about losing that power in a fragmented media future. Get Up’s circulation is just one indicator of the changed landscape. Is this the real motivation for the latest melodrama over reach? To desperately reassert an ego driven social and real politik dominance? The rivalry of the two press/media organisations in Sydney as opinion leaders is well known but increasingly tatty – not least in a post Obama re-election world, where dinosaur media just don’t don’t have the credibility, and look and sound like corporate drones. Those Telegraph billboards saying “We’re for Sydney” on train stations are laughable really. True dat, to the extent Sydney is for self interest! Ha ha.

  74. The Pav

    Jimmy,

    For a cartoon that good I assume the cartoon was done by FDOTM in disguise!

    I must say that despite the terrible standard of reporting I would argue that Australia’s cartoonists can hold their heads high.

    After Montcalm was defeated by Wolffe in Canada the French said Wolffe was a mad dog to which King Louis is reported to have said “Then I wish he would bite some of my generals”

    Perhaps FDOTM could bite a few of our alleged journos!

  75. Ian

    Deny it as much as you wish but the harsh, brutal truth is that an overwhelming percentage of the journalists in
    Australia are morons. Intellectually, morally and ethically corrupt ones at that. It’s the way of things. Get used to it.

  76. paddy

    The media’s spectacular meltdown over the past few days, since the PM’s address to the NPC, has been pretty amazing.
    Rather like Tony Abbott’s “energizer bunny” impressions, I’m not sure it’s sustainable till Sept.
    It’s little wonder the MSM is in freefall. They are offering less and less of anything anyone would want to buy.

  77. Steve777

    The next NSW State election date is known – 28/3/2015. However, we don’t seem to be in the midst of a four year State election campaign. As for the Federal election, well that was never going to be before August 3 unless Tony Abbott could somehow get a No-confidence vote up. And while it could in theory have been as late as November 30, in practice it would have been most unlikely to have been later than October 26. So the date was known to be within a pretty narrow range. Until August 12, it’s the period of ‘governing’.

  78. fractious

    Excellent Bernard, just excellent.

  79. klewso

    “Chaos Theory – A Pantomime” by Mr Murdoch’s Grade 5.

  80. Daly

    Good article thanks.
    Not a word on the PM’ s speech except in Crikey.
    An ill informed electorate may vote for Tony Abbott who has never had to answer any policy questions from his cheersquad media friends, just wear fluro vests and silly hats.
    I hope those who believe this rubbish will be delighted to be represented internationally by a Lycra clad Tony, with the economy in tatters from Joe’s unnecessary cut backs, and Julie’s abrasive foreign policy getting all our neighbours off side.
    I plan to say ‘I told you so and I voted proudly for Julia who has behaved like an adult despite appalling bullying coverage of her highly successful government’.
    Don’t complain to me; learn to reject journalists and read the original speeches and docs for ypurself. If you want entertainment choose a ral movie and let politicians do the serious stuff of running the country.

  81. Jimmy

    The Pav – “The simple fact is whether Gillard advised the actual date for the election now or later the election campaign was on.” Abbott had actually launched a mini campaign the Sunday before after 2 years of virtually non stop campaigning but that doesn’t fit the narrative now does it.

    There was a great cartoon in the Age over the weekend with Abbott’s diary and all the important dates marked, there was an early October date when Abbott had marked “Reveal massive black hole in costings”.

  82. The Pav

    The simple fact is whether Gillard advised the actual date for the election now or later the election campaign was on.

    All she did was recognise the reality and got on with things.

    Personally I’ve always more than a little offended that the calling of an election has been a plaything of the PM

  83. Holden Back

    We now have direct access to the press conferences in question. I think Bernard is not alone in thinking the assembled reporters seemed cranky and ill-informed, while the actors in this ‘chaos’ seemed remarkably cool, calm and collected. Was part of the tantrum that no-one in the press gallery had a leak on the retirements?

  84. Jimmy

    The Herald Sun has gone particularly feral since Gillard named a date, “227 day Farce” was Thursdays front page, “Chaos, What Choas” was yesterdays and yesterdays editorial was along the lines of everyone is looking forward to getting rid of Gillard but it would be nice if Tony gave us at least one policy if it isn’t too much trouble.

    The notion that by simply naming a date we are in campaign mode is simply ludicrous, Victoria has set terms so if we followed the argument to its logical conclusion the Victorian Paliament is constanlty in campaign mode.

    The gallery also routinely claims that Abbott needs to release some policies but when he announces that he will cut the school kids bonus and give back middle class welfare to the better off by rolling back measn testing, the champions of the Aussie battler who would be outraged by a similar ALP move are silent.

    “. Election coverage is, at least the way it is normally done now, easier than regular coverage, because it focuses exclusively on politics — who’s up, who’s down, who’s stumbled, who’s made a gaffe, what do the polls say, who has strayed off-message, who will win. It’s an excuse to abandon content in favour of race-calling.” How is that different to any coverage of the past 3 years?

  85. Andrea

    An excellent article; I couldn’t agree more. On a related matter, I wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald last week complaining that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between news and opinion in the paper. Their article about the resignation of two senior ministers in the Gillard government was a good example. It was in the News section, but started: “Julia Gillard’s extended election campaign has suffered another damaging blow with the shock resignation of two of Labor’s most senior cabinet ministers”.

    This is not news, it is opinion, and most of the coverage of the announcement of the election date falls into this category. Could the media refrain from telling us how to judge the news, and instead just give us the facts so we can make up our own minds?

  86. john2066

    The press gallery are morons.

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