According to 'Sweet' Barrie Cassidy:
Australia, it seems, is not having an election on September 14, but a handover. Never before has there been this level of expectation that a government is about to be thrown outIt does if you are trapped in the narrative. People are ambivalent about both the government and the alternative - by "people", I exclude current and past press gallery journalists.
Tony Abbott's near tearful tribute to the departing former government minister Martin Ferguson was properly, and widely, acclaimed for its generosity and bi-partisanship ... He was none too subtlety [sic] implying that Labor under Julia Gillard was no longer the party that "over the years, made a monumental contribution to this country… at its best, a nation building party".Martin Ferguson helped dilute the mining tax to the point where it brought down one Prime Minister, became a laughing stock under the next one, and none of it blew back on Ferguson: clever politics that. Ferguson helped make Rudd an irritant long after his own talents and behaviours should have rendered him politically inert, which earned him the gratitude of the Liberals. He never really got stuck into the Liberals that much - other Labor people, and Greens, were more his targets - and they in turn spared him.
Abbott has made the same point with less subtlety in the past. Note that we've seen the Prime Minister weep twice in recent months - over her late father and for a scheme that would help disabled people and their families. We've seen Abbott tear up for a political opponent who helped him; it's always about him.
That same morning, the lead story in The Australian newspaper detailed how the Government is continuing to write green loans in defiance of the Coalition's call for the contracts to cease.Clearly the 'lame duck' idea needs to be reworked, if you can bear to break from the press gallery herd. What Cassidy is describing here is an overreach of the part of the Coalition, not a bearing-out of the Abbott-inevitable-Gillard-doomed Narrative in which the broadcast media are stuck. This is what Cassidy means by "this level of expectation" and "atmospherics"; it's a media concoction, not a real thing (and before you start on about polls: they're media concoctions too).
Imagine that. This lame duck soon-to-be-replaced government is blatantly defying Coalition policy!
Had they forgotten that the Coalition wrote to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation way back in February asking them not to write any more loans after July 1?
This is not so much hubris on the Opposition's part ...Oh yes it is. On their part, and on the broadcast media's too, Barrie.
So now Tony Abbott, without appearing to be too presumptuous of course, gets himself up to speed on national security issues and invites the cameras in as he discusses weighty issues with the 'incoming' Attorney General George Brandis.He hasn't had a national security briefing in three years. Brandis has form in disclosing matters which ought not be disclosed publicly, and yet there Abbott is doing a theatrical consultation with him. It is clear why they would want the publicity; it is less clear why the cameras would bother turning up.
And the best Julia Gillard can do in the meantime is to adopt a persona of strained civility. That's what lame duck American presidents usually do.Oh fuck off, and never mind US Presidents. The broadcast media treated Obama like he was a 'lame duck', until his opponent proved himself to be a worse option for that country. Obama won last year's election in the face of a more-in-sorrow-than-anger media expectation to the contrary, similar to those besetting our media now.
Gillard does best when she fights, when shows that she's passionate and why, when she backs her words with actions. Anyone who's been paying attention to Australian politics in recent years could and should have observed that.
Cassidy's attempt to link current Australian politics with the US system fails at one crucial point: the election hasn't actually been held yet. This is not a minor technicality. Anyone who's seen the ups and downs of Australian politics should be a bit more wary than Cassidy has been.
Jacqueline Maley goes on and on about a minor incident affecting the PM, and finds reassurance in her interpretation that we're all as shallow as she is:
The media are often criticised for focusing on trivialities, but judging by the reader traffic on the sandwich story on the Herald website, people were more interested in that, at least in a casual sense, than they were in the electoral funding story which was also running hot on Thursday.At least in a casual sense. You don't generate or maintain reader loyalty with shite like that. The Daily Telegraph is Sydney's most-read newspaper but it has been in decline by 9% year on year, thanks to the legacy of Col Allan out of which they cannot snap. When big stories happen readers abandon the Tele for more trusted sources, reducing the Tele still further to orchestrated stunts called "campaigns". Maley is adopting the shallow metrics of the Tele in justifying her position, if not her career, and frankly I can't see it doing her or her employer much good.
Folks just loved that salami sandwich yarn.
The white noise of constant reportage - video, tweets, short-n-sharp news stories online, not to mention the countless columns, like this one, that comment on all that stuff - becomes like chewing bubblegum after a while. You get a headache and you long for a square meal.And if there is one thing you won't get from Jacqueline Maley, it's "square meal" journalism. Oh, but she has an excuse - you're it.
But the fractious media landscape just holds a mirror up to the public's lack of engagement with politics. While those inside the bubble of Parliament House are paying as much attention as ever, beyond the occasional chuckle at a sandwich story, most casual politics observers have had enough.
Both leaders are personally unpopular and there is even caution among some television producers about putting the Prime Minister on screen for any length of time. People are switching off.Yes, because the only stories on offer are bubblegum journalism. If you go looking for "square meal" journalism, the broadcast media can't and won't help you. Maley knows that reporting of the sandwich thing is 'casual', but it's all she has to go on, so she 'reports' in detail a story that was covered in greater detail by others without adding anything new. This might be her idea of adding value, and it is clearly her editor's - but it adds no value at all to anyone who was looking for further insight, how a trivial incident might illustrate something of wider significance.
The only things that cut through the white noise are mini-scandals such as the sandwich ...They don't "cut through". Stuff like that is white noise. Jacqueline Maley is white noise, not a trusted source of information about how we are and might be governed. She has latched onto an insubstantial story and tried to insist that it's indicative of something bigger, which it isn't. She's tried to absolve herself and the other press-gallery ovines, but she can't.
You can't just write crappy stories and then claim that because people are switching off your crappy stories, you're justified in writing crap. Insofar as Maley is saying anything at all, that's it, and once again she's got it wrong.
Labor had signed consent from Abbott on its legislation for extra taxpayer cash for the parties' "administration fees", but in the face of public anger and internal party disquiet, he reneged.Abbott has a reputation for shifty behaviour that he needs to shake if he is going to be elected - it would be "smart populist politics" if he acted to diminish that reputation rather than enhance it. If he's going to shaft people he works with every day, what makes you think we can trust what he says? Maley cannot tell what's smart and what isn't. She assumes that whatever Abbott does must be smart. This is a key reason why her employer is declining in market reach and influence.
It was smart populist politics.
"The people have spoken," he told reporters of his decision. The about-turn might have made him look tricky, but it had the greater political benefit of putting him on the right side of the argument, in terms of public opinion.
The public is looking to Abbott to lead the nation away from a doubtful incumbent government. Maley can't help you when it comes to Abbott, and she sees the guy more often than most. It's her job to give us the facts that will help us make the decision, not tell us what the decision is; but she ain't in the fact-providing decision-supporting business and nor is anyone else in the press gallery really. She said that it isn't her job to ask dixers [i.e. easy questions that invite flattering answers], but when it comes to Abbott it clearly is.
What's special and different about the Canberra bubble is that they are the only people who actually take Tony Abbott at his word. He signed a deal, he's a man of his word. He broke a deal - he's a man of his word. He was rolled by his party, he's the leader our nation needs. Gillard has a salami sandwich tossed at her, she's a loser; Abbott has a shit sandwich served to him, he's a winner. Canberra insiders like Maley accept this and pass it on, can't see the problem. Maley genuinely can't see that her job is to find out and tell us what, if anything, Abbott won't renege on, and why Gillard keeps going in the face of ignominies and what she achieves in the process.
Keep tossing those sandwiches, boys. You're keeping Jacqueline Maley in a job, for the time being. There is no proof that she or most of her colleagues could write anything worthwhile about education funding (the real reason why the Prime Minister went to that school and what she achieved there - brought to you by an unpaid blogger, not a 'professional' like Maley), or about public funding of political parties (again, unpaid blogger 1, 'professional journalist' 0 in terms of reliable coverage of substantive issues).
Then we have a former newsreader who is so ill-equipped to evaluate competing policies, who regards politics itself as so distasteful that she can't even write about those who would govern us and how they would do so, that she seeks refuge in the distraction of colour-and-movement from the political fringes.
Assange has plenty to say, but a) he might not make it to sit in the Parliament and b) how would we be governed differently if he had a casting vote? Palmer has plenty to say too, but he probably won't make it either and his agenda is rendered no clearer for Kostakidis' examination. Both of them can be a bit flaky and change direction abruptly, yet they attract Kostakidis' attention because she's jaded and likes a bit of colour-and-movement.
Here's the bind in which journalists are caught: they won't investigate what they perceive to be the next government, because doing so might upset the ascent they regard as inevitable. They won't investigate the incumbents because they don't think it's worth their while. They're preparing us and making excuses for Abbott. Worse, they are so incompetent at communicating nuance and complex ideas that they think the very attempt at doing so is dull, and turns the audience off, so they don't even try. I agree with this, but the tragedy of most journos (including the three examined here) is that they seriously believe that's what they do as a matter of course.
Cassidy, Maley and Kostakidis are pretty much finished if the Abbott-successful-Gillard-doomed narrative fails, which is why all three and their generation of journalists are plugging it with all their might. It's a sorry sight to see, wherever vindication will sit on them no better than failure.
Maybe, if you're a colour-and-movement aficionado, politics today is just too hard for you. Maybe your idea of colour-and-movement is a tossed sandwich, which it is for Maley. Maybe it's a quick summary of the press gallery is thinking, as it is for Cassidy. If politics is for you, and you want to find out what's going on and why, none of those experienced journalists can or will help you. This is a real pity, for journalism in general and for the organisations that pay Cassidy, Maley and Kostakidis to slap up some journo-pablum from time to time. It's a particular problem for the outfit that put Kostakidis' piece up, being a new entrant to the Australian market promising higher standards but which may end up patronising us with an inferior offering that its home market would not tolerate.