No news is bad news
This is great, and there should be more of it. It helps voters realise that the media are simply unable to get over themselves enough to report on and analyse government policy. The politico-media complex can only be broken by the media changing focus away from politicians.
If the media is to survive it should focus on the end results of government policy, with the occasional foray into the various decision-making bodies (of which Parliament is only one part). Journalists cover politics because they like the horse-race aspect of it, and find the company convivial. If there are any hardships in being a press gallery journo they have romanticised it in much the same way as old rockers have:
Make you wanna cry
Lady do the hard sell
Know the reason why
Gettin' ripped off
If you wanna be a star of stage and screen
Look out! It's rough and mean!
Cue the bagpipes, and piss off. Journalists cover politics because they like it, not because they are providing some fourth-estate role for the community. There is precious little information to be gained by reading or listening to a bunch of idle people waiting for a gaffe like seagulls waiting for chips.
Just as fried potato is not the natural sustenance of birdlife, so too a media scrum bustling local people out of the way so that they can cover a politician walking among local people (including that old stand-by Voters Say They Darndest Things! Voters So Off Message, They Don't Even Know Who David Speers Is!) is not a reliable source for local people to find out what is going on in their community.
Grog's right, the whole Boys On The Bus thing has had its day and the only ones who get screwed are the underinformed public. If that bus was blown up the only tragedy would be if the driver was hurt. They should all be sacked and real journalists hired on a portfolio basis: have a defence journalist covering defence issues, a health journalist covering health issues, etc. Ministerial statements, opposition rebuttals and parliamentary debates are part of that, but not the whole story. Move them around and bring in freelancers to avoid organisational capture.
The media ought not feel obliged to publish/broadcast waffle, much less complain about it. It is not news that a politician makes an announcement, still less that there is no link between that announcement and the effect of the policy upon people's lives. The tradition that there is has died. The judgment by news directors that there is a public interest in reporting what politicians say and the
The problem is not, as Bernard Keane complains, that there are lobbyists and a professional political nomenklatura. The problem is that there is no scrutiny of what they do, no belling of those cats other than trawling through an out-of-date register. This is possible only by taking a whole-of-government approach to news gathering, rather than waiting for a press sec to tweet you.
Politics has always been outsourced to representatives. The more you widen the franchise and increase the complexity of issues dealt with, the less representative the representatives become. So long as the means exist to disempower the representatives once they get ahead of themselves, and so long as there remain credible candidates willing to take risks where appropriate, things will be just fine. Maybe refusing to take a phone call from Mark Arbib is one of those risks: maybe declining to belt the little bastard with a shovel is. Who knows; I'm just a blogger and Senator Arbib is one of my representatives, apparently.