The red herring is the story
This year we are looking at our country and the way it is governed in preparation for an election, in which either the current government will be returned or the previous government will be returned without its economic credibility.
Mark Latham was deemed to have lost all credibility as a potential Prime Minister in 2004 when he promised to withdraw all Australian forces from Iraq "by Christmas", because it sounded good and that's what folks wanted to hear, rather than being the product of balanced and considered strategic thinking. Tony Abbott has done the same thing with his parental leave
Abbott is offering basically the return of the Howard government, less John Howard (who was forced to repudiate pretty much everything he stood for in order to get elected) and Peter Costello, who seems to have taken the Coalition's reputation for economic management away with him. Certainly, Abbott and Joyce have pissed it away and Joe Hockey hasn't got it yet. Abbott has Buckley's of becoming Prime Minister and anyone who says otherwise is blowing smoke. Jabber away all you like about polls or the dull pantomime of Question Time, but when the election campaign starts he is done for, the flaws are in place that can only see him fail.
Incidentally, it is interesting that Costello can only conceive of parental leave as simply a tax problem, and parental leave as solely an issue for women. This myopia bodes ill for his capacity to effectively scrutinise an organisation calling itself The Future Fund. Could be worse though - he could still be in Parliament making decisions that limit our future, knocking down imperfect ideas but proposing nothing to help limit the disruption to the lives of people and the nation arising from those who have responsibilities to both their workplace and their children.
The question as to whether the government can and ought to be returned centre on economics, education and health. These are complex issues and there is ample space in the journosphere, many sources of information and a plethora of analyst/commentators, who can help us citizens/ consumers/ voters/ taxpayers to sift and sort these issues. The Coalition has nothing to offer on those areas and this should be made clearer than it is. Instead, the journosphere is focused
Michelle Grattan has cemented her reputation as a lightweight with nothing better to do than to hang around Canberra and churn out ephemera with crap like this. It's a non-story. Either Gillard is challenging Rudd, or she isn't: the prospect that Gillard might one day become Prime Minister is ramped up to baseless speculation that Rudd's job is under actual threat, and that all policy pronouncements must hereafter be viewed through a prism of a leadership tension which does not actually exist.
On health, an issue of far-reaching consequence for Australians, Grattan displayed her own limitations by portraying it as yet another political kerfuffle at COAG, rather than going into policy issues at work in various parts of the country. That would be actual high-value journalism; breathless stenography of press releases, set-piece announcements and scuttlebutt, much less so.
Journalists should be more adept at recognising and avoiding red herrings that tempt them away from issues of greater importance to citizens/ consumers/ voters/ taxpayers, rather than gleefully pursuing them because
If you really think, and tell your readers, that health policy is a matter of politicians performing the same ritual confab that leaves hospitals and other health programs starved of resources, o if you believe that parental leave is all about tax and a desperate lunge for women's votes (by a party that should have more of them, were it not so committed to repelling voters by telling them what, and how little, they really think); then you are pretty sharply limited and your experience is worth stuff-all. Such people ought to be too limited to be involved in public policy or reporting thereon, and the idea that such vapid people are respected doyen(ne)s in public policy is pitiful.