25 November 2012

The story that killed the story

The idea that Prime Minister Gillard did something dodgy in relation to legal arrangements for some sub-factional entity within the AWU back in the day had been a big story. Nothing of substance has been newly revealed about this matter for months, yet it continues to chew up prime space on the nation's news - not for the story that it was, but for the story it might have become. As with Peter Slipper's texting and Craig Thomson's alleged rorting-'n'-rooting, this has been another non-story that has dragged on and on - putting the lie to the idea that anything might be considered "old news" or "not significant enough for a serious news outlet like ours".

Any questions that might have hovered over the PM have been put to rest by this (Thanks to @Tadlette for taking the screenshot and providing me with a copy). There is now no more story, no cause for whipping up insignificant events from almost two decades ago and pretending they form a basis for news. That story has killed the story.

Let's leave aside the fact that the headline refers to the Prime Minister by her given name, in the way they never did with Kevin or John or Paul or Bob. Back in the day there were occasional references to "Mal" as an attempt to familiarise an aloof character, and "Gough" and "Billy" were only referred to thus after they had left office.

Let's leave for others the questions over the integrity of those who accuse raise legitimate questions make mountains out of molehills. Let's go instead to the political tactics at the core of this sleaze campaign, of which who paid for Blewitt's flight is but a mere detail. I laughed at the photo montage insisting that Gillard was a "key player" when the story shows she isn't. The story has been changed since I first linked to it. News Ltd later altered the story to this, so that they could keep the story going.

Julie Bishop, the Shadow Foreign Minister, had carriage of this line of attack upon the Prime Minister. Bishop is an experienced lawyer; she's had cases die on her before today. When she acted for CSR against Wittenoom victims, her central and apparently sole tactical maneuver seemed to be to wait for plaintiffs to die. She's brought the same level of savvy to this high-stakes affair, going into a knife-fight armed with a plastic splayd.

She is up an environmentally-unfriendly creek without means of propulsion, and has nobody to blame but herself for not having spoken with Wilson drectly. Her predecessor as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Peter Costello, would never have allowed himself to be caught out to the extent that Bishop has. She is no use to her leader at all. She is never going to get Mal Washer to shut up about asylum-seekers now, never going to stitch together any sort of deal on wheat or any other important domestic issue, and will never be regarded in Jakarta or Geneva or anywhere else as anything more than a punchline. She's finished.

To understand the depth and breadth of her failure, let us compare-and-contrast her to another nasty, sand-groping, flamed-out Liberal.

Recently Wilson Tuckey made life difficult for Bishop over wheat - once again, getting involved without leading, and leaving no trace of or scope for a positive outcome for anyone. If he had really wanted to wig Bishop out, Tuckey should have pointed to his own silly face and said: look at me, Julie, I am your future.

In 1986 Wilson Tuckey seized on reports that the then Treasurer, Paul Keating, had been sued for breach of contract by a former fiancee. He had meant to use a schoolboy jeer, "Paul had a little girl called Christine", but in the heat of the moment he transposed the names and looked stupid. Paul Keating tore Tuckey several new ones, cementing his reputation as a tough guy and Tuckey's as a sleazebag. Keating then famously turned to Tuckey's then-leader, John Howard, and promised that Howard would wear his leadership like a crown of thorns; nailing both the attacker and the leader who had pretended to be above it all.

Tuckey sealed his reputation when he boasted on Four Corners of lying to Howard in 1989 while dumping him as Liberal leader. About a decade later, Tuckey called Kim Beazley "a fat so-and-so", and Beazley's popularity shot up. Tuckey never made it into Cabinet; the insult to Beazley had more impact than any policy measure he implemented as Minister for - um, whatever, trees I think. Tuckey spent thirty years in our parliament and achieved less for the public in nett terms than almost all current and former local councillors, schoolteachers, emergency service workers, cleaners, or shiny-bum clerks. Remember that when you hear that politics is the highest form of public service.

If Tuckey had held his seat in 2010, Julie Bishop would now be in Cabinet and Julia Gillard would not.

Julie Bishop is as exposed as Tuckey was, except he had no reputation for niceness or diplomacy to lose as Bishop has. If the government went after Bishop there would be a bit of half-hearted chivalry from Abbott and Hockey, but it would be a deeper wound for the Liberals than yet another barrage against Abbott. Bishop, remember, is the Liberals' most substantive appeal to female voters. This time yesterday she was the nice one, the brains of the Coalition outfit. The day before, Abbott engaged in a, um, ah, piss-poor attempt at, um, insisting that the PM answer questions, ah, without, um, articulating what those questions might be. This attack has happened on Abbott's watch and Abbott must pay for its failure; but cutting his deputy out from under him would be the sort of gut-wound that neither Abbott nor his party could salve, let alone heal.

I would now expect The Australian (Financial Review) to set up a webcam at Cheviot Beach, just incase 104-year-old Harold Holt emerges from the surf and wants his old job back. This is every bit as valid a story as the Wilson-Blewitt AWU thing. Politically, Holt is a proven election-winner and wrote the book on being a loyal deputy - and his future is every bit as bright as that of Julie Bishop. Given that the Perth legal market has changed beyond recognition since Bishop left for Canberra in 1998, she could do worse than waddle up and down Cottesloe Beach getting Life After Failure tips from the Bond family.

37 comments:

  1. I work in what I would like to think is a pretty average white-collar workplace in Sydney.

    It's not the most politically engaged place, but people talk about political matters from time to time. They talk about the carbon tax. They talk about paid parental leave (lot of young parents). They talk about internet censorship. They certainly talk about the NBN. They talk quite a bit about what a colossal tool Tony Abbott is - and yes, the phrase "I'd vote Liberal if they brought Malcolm Turnbull back" is often heard.

    They talked a bit about Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper, although that was more about sniggering at stories about prostitutes and jars of mussels than any political content.

    What I have never heard, not once, is anyone exhibit even the remotest bit of interest in this Slater & Gordon "scandal". Never heard a whisper of a mention. I have never seen a story with so many column inches and such a complete absence of anyone reading them.

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    1. Not at all surprised. And journos wonder how people can and do live without their output.

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  2. I can't believe It's considered news worthy.

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    1. That's the thing. It's only considered news worthy by wealthy corporate institutes who are moving Heaven and Earth to get Abbott into power. It sounds cynical, I know, but when you see what the mainstream media covers and ignores, what other conclusion can one reach?

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    2. I can't believe why the MSM is not going down the gurgler at a faster rate.

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  3. Obviously Obtuse25/11/12 10:22 a.m.

    You only have to read Paul Barry's book about the Bonds to see that he (Bond) succeeded in getting exactly what he wanted. A minor quibble I know, but you shouldn't pretend that the Bond saga was about them failing at business, it was about them sending who knows how much to numbered accounts overseas.
    Otherwise, impressed that you've bothered to learn anything about Holt's time as deputy. This shows an encyclopaedic general knowledge, or something....
    Otherwise, wot Carson 63000 said, and (Oh yeah, great blog posts by the way, hate to be the sort of commenter who only joins in to complain)

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  4. I believe it is not only The Bishop's reputation riding on this, but the last tattered shred of decency clothing the MSM. is also hitched to the LNP. waggon on this "story"
    The MSM. has thrown everything at this story...every big gunner journo...every big-print headline..every associated TV. news point has twisted, distorted even tortured the english language to wring the faintest whiff of scandal from the "crotch of the cloth".
    But for a "scandal of major significance" to rely upon the testimony of one ; Ralph Blewitt....??..well, to cut to the chase..If I was Julie Bishop, I'd be cutting those "incriminating doc's" into bite-sized pieces and serve them up at the next Annabel Crabb eatery spin and then deny the story ever happened!

    jaycee.

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  5. You've nailed it as usual, Andrew, particularly wrt all these questions that have to be answered.

    I would love to see wtf these questions actually are. I suspect they are the same questions the PM answered ad infinitum at her 70 minute presser.

    There wasn't one new question; they can all be boiled down to the following 5 endlessly reworded questions:

    1) "Did you know it was a dodgy set up?"

    2) "Did you pay for your reno from your own funds?"

    3) "Did Wilson slip you any dodgy cash?"

    4) "When did you know they'd been milking the account?"

    5) "Did you kick the neighbour's dog?"

    Asked and answered a million times. Pages and pages of newsprint, prefaced by "there is no evidence that the PM acted improperly, knowingly received funds from Wilson, embezzled or otherwise, or kicked the dog.

    So if they know that to be true, what questions are left to be answered?

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  6. It isn't clutching at a straw but a shadow of one.

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  7. The saddest part of this whole sad matter was seeing Piers Akerman gloating in the Terror about how he had compelled the ABC to take up the cudgels on his and Larry Pickerings behalf. The great ABC reduced to such mean straits.
    MJC

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    1. The ABC's complete absence of anything even resembling a spine is both embarrassing and depressing.

      How Mark Scott keeps his job is beyond my ken.

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  8. If Tuckey had held his seat - I'd never thought about it like that!
    I thought Jonathon Holmes did a good job dissecting this last monday on Media Watch, at least until he qualified it with the comment that the ABC would have to follow the Australians lead - which they duly did.
    I doubt the story is dead though - you state that as if any of this is based on a rational reality.

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    1. I'm confused. Tuckey lost his seat to Nationals MP Crook, who didn't side with the government. In fact on D-Day he declared like Katter that he'd support an Abbott government. Is there evidence Windsor of Oakeshott would've decided differently if Crook hadn't been in the mix?

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    2. I'd like to see your evidence that Windsor and Oakeshott took Crook into account. I'd also like to question your assumption that a WA Nat is as good as a Lib (and a former minister at that) for the Coalition. Hope that helps with the confusion, and if it doesn't have a Bex and a lie down.

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  9. "Does Bruce Wilson's statement change your thinking on the AWU scandal? Yes/No"

    Thats the poll question at the News site from your link.

    Ambiguous.
    They're a slimy mob at Ltd News.

    fred

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  10. If all labor does during the next campaign is advertise what they have achieved over the past three years prefaced by Abbott saying he will wind it back the public will react accordingly. Remember the attempt to bring Newman down in Qld. The fact that Qld Labor made accusations without proof was punished.

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  11. Bishop has become so entrenched in the 'whatever it takes' mentallity that she has abandoned any sense of decency in her grubby attempts to besmirch the PM.I can't wait for the backfire from this as the Govt. reminds everyone of her callous behaviour toward the victims(yes Julie, they were victims) of CSR.The people who like a ghastly ghoul she hung out to die(literally) to win a case that was so unconsionable as to be obscene by any stretch .

    This woman has no idea of decent behaviour, she co-habited with a bloke who decided that aborigines were a lower mental class than white fellers. She is a total hag and gaia help us all if she gains a seat of power.

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  12. Andrew

    Just back from a week in Beijing - two websites you can't visit are the New Yprk Times and this one.

    What have you done to annoy the Chinese?

    Peter

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    1. Who knows, Peter? I didn't mean to.

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    2. A mate of mine is currently living in China (he spends at least half of each year there teaching), and he reckons anything with the word "blog" in it is greatwalled.

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    3. I caught a bit of Outsiders on RN on Sunday morning and they were discussing this. One of the outsiders said (don't guarantee the quote is completely accurate), "If this were happening in the US, it'd be in Nutjob Weekly, but it's in our broadsheets."

      I think there's something there for all of us ...

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  13. Wait, Julie Bishop has a portfolio?

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    1. No, she has Peta Credlin carrying binders for her.

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  14. Juliar could end all this speculation now if she'd just release her birth certificate and university grades...

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    1. then they'd complain they were fakes. Anyway even if she was born she can never get over the communist brainwashing she got from her Kenyan father.

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  15. So. Over. It.

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  16. And another impressive performance by the PM in front of the Press Gallery this arvo.

    This surely must be the end of it.

    Surely!

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  17. Julie Bishop reckons she will continue her 'attack' tomorrow in QT. Hope she reads up on "giving legal advice" and 'incorporating an association'. they obviously didn't cover that at Harvard Business School.

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  18. And now bishops "death stare" has become a parody.She is truly buggered and a glorious career is stuffed.

    Love the Cheviot/Cottesloe beach reference Andrew, I would be one of the few visitors who fell about laughing cause we knew what you meant.

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  19. Those annoying pesky think tank wankers at the ipa are part of this herd mentality

    Its all akin to statutory financial rape by corporate monsters to trash people for their own self interest

    ugh ugh

    Water cooler talk on Abbott and Co

    Why would you marry any one one of them by some women in the office

    lol!!

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  20. News Ltd and the allegedly Liberal party are defining new levels below bottom-feeding pond scum. Wouldn't have thought it possible. Jeez, I'm sick of hearing the MSM rattle on about such a stupid grubby meaningless non-story.

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  21. A minor point, but significant in this topic. Bishop's education at Harvard consisted of a few weeks at a summer school.

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  22. Meanwhile at the SMH Gerard Henderson is solemnly telling us "People will decide the next election".

    Obviously I didn't read the article, but presumably it was an exploration of how people brainwashed by Rudd and Gillard the last two times are not going to be brainwashed this time. LOL.

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    1. I never read Gerard: I just wait for Dorothy Parker @ http://loonpond.blogspot.com.au/ to give a reliably scathing yet hilarious synopsis!

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    2. Lachlan Ridge28/11/12 9:39 a.m.

      Me too! Dorothy and Andrew are gold.

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  23. How can a story ever be "killed" when the media continue to peddle it even after the "evidence" and witnesses are found wanting?

    What ever happened to the "move on" and "get over it" attitude that the MSM applied to the "AWB", "WMD" and "Children overboard" stories?

    [sorry about all those quotation marks]

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  24. How does the Dep Leader of the Opp get away with calling the PM a crook in parliament?

    The day after she did so in parliament and then backtracked outside, none of the media are calling for her to apologise, for her resignation or dismissal from the position of Dep LOTO or shadow ministry, there are just seen to be no consequences to J. Bishop being 'defamatory', as Lenore Taylor described it.
    The worst Michelle Grattan could come up with on RN Brekky radio was her usual 'not a good look".

    The double standard is incredible.


    fred

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