Sky News host Paul Murray (Image: Sky News/YouTube)
Sky News host Paul Murray (Image: Sky News/YouTube)

Resist I suppose we have to revise our view of bellicose fact-dodger Paul Murray. We thought it was a craven and obsequious love of power that had him beaming at Donald Trump and asking: “What do you want to say to your many Australian supporters who wish you nothing but the best in November 2020?” Turns out he was a genuine partisan.

In recent days he’s announced that he is going to lead the (get this!) “resistance” to the “mad left” on his show. First, this is a lovely example of how while Labor can be as conservative and small target as it wishes, there is something at the core of News Corp implacably furious at the idea of any party having power other than the Liberals.

Second, as eye-rollingly silly as the whole thing is — Paul, is it Labor’s commitment to tax breaks for high earners? Its policy of turning back refugee boats? Its lockstep with the Coalition over the right to strike? Its refusal to commit to raising the JobSeeker rate that most closely aligns them with loony left? — it may not be as harmless as it seems.

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Murray is a prime-time host in an incredibly concentrated media market, flung for free at regional areas. He’s not hugely popular, but he attracts big audiences online — declaring the new government essentially invalid within days (he’s set a 1000-day countdown for Australians to “take the country back from the mad left”) is not normal, even by News Corp commentator standards.

The imminent aftermath Elections really are the gift that keeps on giving for political journalists. You get the highly useful speculation, the searing analysis, the completely fair and necessary questioning — they spill out in all directions into a great puddle of content a mile wide and an inch deep. And then, when it’s all over, you get the inevitable breakdown pieces from the side that lost.

Say what you want about the apparent chumminess between high-profile journalists and politicians, someone has to be the person that seven anonymous MPs furious at the loss of government have to call and vent to. This gives us yesterday’s “the Liberals really wanted to roll Scott Morrison but Josh Frydenberg was loyal to a fault” piece in the Nine papers — and then the response in The Australian that this story was “completely ridiculous”.

No ifs or Dutts In August 2018, Peter Dutton initiated a leadership challenge against then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, strode in front of the press wearing an ill-fitting smile, and promised to “show a different side” of himself. The Australian leapt into action, scrutinising Dutton by putting out a friendly profile detailing his family life, his “rise and brawls” and how the “Brisbane battler has always been ready to give it a go”.

Then in the lead-up to the 2019 election, when Dutton’s seat, held on a tight margin of 1.6%, looked in danger, (future Dutton media adviser) Renee Viellaris wrote in The Courier-Mail one of the most magnificently chummy PR pieces in history, with the most glowing recommendation of his wife insisting that the then home affairs minister was “not a monster“.

Now he’s to become the opposition leader and The Australian has Cntrl-C, Cntrl-V’d those conciliatory phrases into another profile featuring a family photoshoot, which says he’s very funny, and has only been able to show the side of himself necessitated by “tough” portfolios.

Tough does a lot of heavy lifting — there is no mention, say, of “African gangs”, the only remaining MP to boycott the Stolen Generations apology, the illiterate refugees stealing our jobs, pregnant rape victims “trying it on” by seeking abortions in Australia, nor his unsuccessful lawsuit against a Twitter user. But Dutton, given his record, has always had the media willing to meet him at least halfway.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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