23 February 2011

One poor correspondent

Well I keep on thinkin' 'bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
And I just can't live without you, can't you see it in my eyes?
I've been one poor correspondent, I've been too too hard to find
But it doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind

Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air
will you love me just a little - just enough to show you care?

- America Sister Golden Hair

The NSW state politics reporter from a supposedly major newspaper has had the wool well and truly pulled over his eyes for many, many years. In this article our poor correspondent tries to blame Labor for this, but they're just doing their job: Imre is probably the last person in NSW who couldn't believe that NSW Labor's death-plunge is not some sort of acrobatic maneuver, it really is over.

All the way along, Imre Salusinszky has been poor at reporting NSW state politics. He has compounded that by being a willing tool of Labor plotters in the Sussex-Macquarie Street axis, to the point where he can't tell whether an education policy or a health policy or a planning policy is any good - only how it "plays" among his fellow wankers in said Sussex-Macquarie St axis. He starts his piece by telling you how you should interpret your own opinions, then declares that the foreseeable and practical phenomenon of not voting Labor is somehow "staggering".
This poll captures the government's chaotic power sell-off in December, which proceeded over the protest resignations of eight directors of state-owned electricity companies, along with the beginning of Labor's campaign advertising blitz.

It is likely the two have cancelled each other out, leaving Labor stranded on record low support.

If people will not listen to Princess Wonkyhair on free-to-air media, why would they listen to her in an ad? Jobs for the boys is one thing, but when the boys no longer want the jobs it's time to get out.
The only thing that might have caused a tightening of the numbers, and made Labor a viable prospect at the election -- not this one, but in 2019 -- is Kristina Keneally's appealing personality, obvious integrity and appetite for a fight.

This assumes that the Liberals are an inert force, and that only Labor can take the initiative. One can understand such a mindset in, say, 2002, but not today. None of the qualities you project upon her are present in polls or anywhere else outside your own skull.

Kristina Keneally has always been a hack who only impresses political insiders (very much like Kerry Chikarovski), just your standard pollie who talks a lot on the basis of poor advice from the sort of clowns who wedged her into what should have been a position of power, and who demonstrates their poor judgment by having to be the face of the backdown on their stupid proposals. She never offered anything but novelty value, and everyone could see that except Imre. As she cancelled and botched infrastructure projects, subjected little children to unflued gas heaters, and generally did whatever Sussex Street Sam told her to do, Salusinszky convinced himself that Labor had plenty of options with Keneally. There have been none, for over a year now. Everything that woman has ever said has been bullshit.

Like many conservatives, and most who consider themselves conservative thinkers, Imre Salusinszky started out on the far left. I pass up the opportunity to sneer at him for this: certainly, Maoism or Trotskyism or whatever flavour of coercive socialism was always unsustainable. If you're going to be a conservative, and report for a conservative paper from a conservative paper, you have to go looking for conservative aspects of policy that can be celebrated and breaches of same that are to be deplored. Instead, Salusinszky ebbed and wafted with each new development (now electricity production is to be sold off, now it isn't; now Tripodi is up, now down) like Michelle Grattan, operating outside of history while occasionally laying claim to its perspective.

The failure of press gallery journalism came when former Transport Minister Carl Scully announced over sixty times that a rail line would be built between Parramatta and Epping: no such line has been built. Every picfac, every question, every chunk and snippet of reportage at every such event has been an utter, utter waste. Having laughably revived this last year, this should never have happened: there should have been a turning of soil or a repainting of Carlingford station or something, anything other than silly Princess Wonkyhair going blah blah blah again.

Policy decisions aren't always feints in some smaller parlour game; there are times with big issues when the policy is the game. Press gallery journalists can't see this: so, abolish press gallery journalists and press gallery journalism.

Salusinszky should go once the O'Farrell government is sworn in. He took it as given that NSW Labor Right was politically invincible, and in operating from that basis he has misled readers for some time. Over the past year or so, infatuated with Keneally, he just assumed that what was obvious to him was shared by a wider readership, and never really made the case that readers should care about Sussex-Macquarie St shenanigans to the extent that he did. The whole she's so darn purty theme about Keneally lasted about a fortnight, a month tops; for Imre it continued until he had to file his story yesterday. He's been both sad and funny, like Dennis Shanahan in 2007 insisting that Howard was really going to reverse those bad polls.

Salusinszky is the Greg Sheridan of Macquarie Street: both are name-droppers who take care to veil their sources when it suits, but who otherwise add little to the political debate while insisting on some sort of standing to browbeat those who disagree with them. It's no less pathetic for Imre to mention that he lunches with Joe Tripodi than it is for Sheridan to do so with Donald Rumsfeld, and it doesn't help the credibility of the organ that employs them both to insist that their offerings are the kind of "high-quality content" which ought be priced above zero.

Conservative readers, subject to insider bumf about how the wily NSW Labor Right are going to pull one out of the fire thanks to spunky Kristina, have been had well and truly by Imre. It wasn't sly or knowing, he was geniunely sucked in. Sure, they might like it that way - the same imperative leads people in comfortable homes to enjoy murder mysteries. Smart readers would read through Imre and identify who had sat on him most recently to shape him in that manner. It is, however, a failure of journalism that a reader must see through a journalist in order to get the story. Salusinszky failed because he was having himself on.

This is why the coming O'Farrell government is relatively opaque: press gallery journalists have to ramp up to a party they had ignored. The NSW Coalition should be a known quantity and challenged by the media which had long ignored it: but it's gone into election lockdown now, too late. Salusinszky can't come to terms with the next government. He can't come to terms with the reason why this one failed. He did, however, everything a press gallery journalist should do: he cultivated sources, he got access to and made a fuss of irrelevant bullshit like "insider polling", and reported on the comings and goings of people who are neither here nor there. He failed because he did his job as well as it can be done, but the job itself is bullshit.


  1. Hi Andrew

    Have been lurking for a bit. Rather enjoy your perspective on these things. But heres the thing - imre and others revel in their "insider" status. And they only talk to other insiders. What I don't get is how to change it. The skewering of modern journalism (he said she said he won today they lost today) seems complete to me. And yet without it where do we end up ? Surely it would be worse to truly end up with a media that doesnt even engage with politics and policy rather than one that does it poorly ?

  2. What you focus on is policy - what's going on, what do stakeholders think, then you bring in the politics as to how well/badly they address the issues.

    The choice shouldn't be between overwhelming focus on insider crap and no focus at all. I don't care what Imre et al want to write about - I want them to address issues I and others care about.

    Journalism - the only commodity where the customer is always wrong.

  3. I didn't realise that Imre was an old trot. Guess he's got more in common with Michael Costa than the rugged good looks.

    I miss your periodic counterfactuals, I wish you'd bring it back in some capacity for NSW state politics. I recently reread Evan Whitton's Can of Worms and I was dumbfounded by the sheer gall of the corruption of the Askin/Wran years, far beyond what's passed into common knowledge from Blue Murder and the like. I'd be interested to know where you think it started, indeed whether you think that level of corruption and political ineptitude is a 20th century phenomenon or whether its been the same kind of bent cops and property speculators since the Rum Rebellion.

    Also, by the by, was reading some of the comment threads from your Paul Howes posts. Is it just me or does anyone else get the vibe that Anna Guide is a nom de plume for one of the more recent additions to the Sunday Telegraph's editorial stable? Oh well, it's not like he's got anything more pressing to do than Google himself every half an hour.

  4. Kristina Kenneally is an artificial construct of the ugly backroom toads of Sussex Street, whose names we are all too familiar with from the last 16 years of Labor State government in NSW. Eddie Obeid's resignation still hasn't been forthcoming yet,has it? He's one difficult mofo to shift, and it clearly will not be until he has gone that the NSW Labor Party can say that they have well and truly purged themselves of their more odious side.
    Which brings me back to Kristina. Ever since she waltzed into the party on the arm of her strategically-placed husband, with her double degree in Political Science and Theology, I knew there was only one job she had designs on, and, as much as any 17yo football temptress, she played those ugly men in Sussex Street like pianos until she got what she was after. The first time I laid eyes on her at State Conference, I perceived the smell of a Perfumed Steamroller from a mile away. I was not wrong. Which is not to say that the ugly face(s) of Sussex Street couldn't see a free ride to extended popularity on her back as well. Thus the match made in heaven. Or so they thought. But they were wrong. She may have convinced the randy old men of Sussex Street and Holt Street, but out in the real world they are a lot more suspicious.
    Which is good, really. As the only true way that Labor in NSW are going to become viable again, which is a completely different political paradigm to attaining victory, is to ditch the Pol Sci simulacra of a politician, that that woman epitomises, and get back to the basics of picking candidates who can simply relate to the electorate in a meaningful and genuine way. Like Steve Whan. Who I think should be Leader of the Opposition in the next State Parliament, but who will probably lose his seat. He's a genuinely nice guy, which Kenneally realises, I think, which is why she seems to be joined at the hip with him recently.
    Anyway, wouldn't it be nice if we could have a clean-out of the ranks of political journalism in this country too? You're right, so many of them, as well as the old political lags, are past their 'Use By' date. Michelle Grattan I'm looking at you.
    Sigh. It's not going to happen though because they are just as good at the politics of maintaining their positions as the politicians themselves.

  5. Sean, I'll try. I love reading counterfactuals and will do my best to come up with one.

    Askin was a choirboy compred to Wran and I reckon more will come out once he's dead - I joined the Liberal Party mainly because I hated Wran and basically see NSW Labor as corrupt.

    Anna Guide is a gutless pseudonym for an AWU employee.

  6. Victoria, I'd rather look at KK than, say Barry O'Farrell, but I recognise that a) that's a personal choice and b) the ALP seriously believes that I'd prefer someone who looks good on TV than actual quality service delivery.

    I think you can leave Grattan and Oakes in situ, but you'd pension off Kelly and clear out that whole layer of wannabes - Josh Gordon, Katharine Murphy, Samantha Maiden, etc. Shut down the State Parliamentary galleries and use stock footage, and never ever do another picfac.

  7. It's interesting how incumbency negatively correlates to political support, isn't it? I was 10 years old when Howard got in and 15 during the neocon ascendancy, and I spent my formative years falling for whoever put the case against them in the most radical way possible. I often wonder how I would've turned out if I was ten years older..