17 August 2014

Spoiled

It is seriously difficult to understand how the government has come to be as bad as it is. Yes, it is hugely tribal, its ministers are convinced they know better than anyone else, and it has a faith in “spin” that has dramatically underestimated the public’s ability to judge for themselves.

- Michelle Grattan, 15 August 2014
And you expected what, Michelle, after 43 years reporting politics at close quarters? After six years of listening to them bellyache about the previous incumbents, did you never wonder whether they might be any better? When you have no idea what's going on every tale must be strange.

Srsly.
Even taking all that into account, Hockey’s Wednesday blunder is hard to explain.

Why – leaving aside such provocative language – did he think he could get away with just talking about ...
It isn't hard to explain at all. Hockey, and those who now comprise the government, have been spoiled.

Ever since Tony Abbott became Liberal leader in December 2009, Joe Hockey has been able to say almost anything and be taken on face value. This is the politicians' dream: autocracies around the world spend billions on secret police, semi-official bands of thugs and vicious prisons to achieve the effect that Tony Abbott had secured effortlessly from opposition over the past half decade.

Hockey has become intellectually lazy as the glorious sunshine of an unquestioning media simply transcribed anything and everything he said, in deliberate contrast with the doubt cast over anything and everything Labor said and did. Swan could say that water was wet and Hockey would pooh-pooh it, and the press gallery presented the pooh-pooh as further evidence of superior competence at government.

Hockey thought he understood poor people, or had sufficient understanding to fob off questioning. It has worked for him time and time again. Before the past week or so he had not been seriously questioned on any knotty question of policy since he was a minister in the Howard government. Nobody told him he wasn't paying attention; he didn't become Treasurer by paying attention. He became Treasurer by glibly fobbing off whatever the then government said.

Abbott constructed the opposition as some sort of second house of review to the then government. This is what John Howard did when he was in opposition - whenever the Hawke government proposed something, he'd say "I'll have a look at it" as though he had the power to override them. He and his shadow treasurer Jim Carlton declared that government to be "the worst in history", "leading this country to disaster", etc. The difference was that the then press gallery thought about what politicians said, and if it was bullshit, they called them on it: people like Paul Lyneham and Laurie Oakes brushed Carlton and Howard off with "he would say that, wouldn't he". The press gallery today lacks that ability to think about what politicians say, but simply transmits what is said because direct quotes chew up wordcount and airtime.

The other important difference was that Wayne Swan was far more gentlemanly than Hawke's treasurer, Paul Keating, who eventually rendered Carlton as a kind of chew toy. This further discouraged herd animals in the press gallery from seeking his input into the big debates of the day. When Keating said to John Hewson that he would do him slowly, it was no idle boast - everyone in Parliament had seen it happen. Swan had been beavering away in Labor backrooms when Coalition governments just fell, federally in 1983 and in Queensland in 1989; Keating knew that internal battles are all very well, but nothing shuts them up like holding aloft the freshly plucked heart of a Liberal. Chris Bowen will never rise above Grocery Watch until he learns this lesson.

It goes against the press gallery narrative to say that Wayne Swan lacked a killer instinct, but Joe Hockey is proof and you know how much regard I have for press gallery narrative.

Joe Hockey has been carried into office on a sedan chair. I read the section of his biography over the period when I knew him (pp. 57-63), from student politics through the Young Liberals and into parliament. Madonna King writes about those steps as though they were foreordained, as a journalist would, rather than with the historian's knowledge that every step is fraught and contingent. His winning personality was put to use in smoothing over ruffled feathers from the backroom deals that brought him into politics; the Liberals have used him in a similar capacity ever since, to smooth over harsh decisions made by awkward backroom people.

Young Liberals would have set-piece debates about endemic global conflicts, but it took Joe to invite people from the ANC and what was then the Palestine Liberation Organisation to address us. That sort of initiative was what the backroom operators lacked. He sang dirty rugby songs with gusto, but could also talk engagingly about the social dislocation behind the rap of Schooly D (yes I'm serious). He liked the idea of ideas without necessarily engaging with them directly. His opponents in student politics feebly attempted to pin him down on specific commitments, and the Mack machine in North Sydney made the same mistake.

If he were in student politics today, he would probably back himself with his ability to win on campus and resist the increasingly discredited major party machines.

In the early 1990s the Liberal Party in North Sydney had been smacked around by Ted Mack's hyper-local machine, but it got its act together and Mack gave it away with minimal involvement from Joe. With the pro-Liberal momentum building across the country in 1995, even a piece of wood like Paul Fletcher could have won that seat.

Howard took a risk appointing him to the ministry in 1996 but it paid off. He was a capable Business minister, pulling together complex and binding corporations law, and bringing Sydney business doyen Ian Burgess down a peg when he sought government insulation from his own ineptitude. He was a safe pair of hands as a minister, and it was understandable that Howard would turn to him to sell WorkChoices. When he whimpers today that the business community isn't helping him sell his budget, this is the experience on which he draws - in recent years people like Tony Shepherd provided the Liberal Party with the ideas and policy-development apparatus the party could no longer provide internally.

The people who were most sceptical that Hockey would make a capable Treasurer were outside the press gallery pack, in business and among business/finance journalists. The press gallery assured everybody that he was a great guy, so good at batting away the convoluted compromises of the previous government's budgets and economic policies. When Hockey becomes unpopular after the budget measures, and gaffes like parking in a disabled spot or whatever, he is falling from a pedestal which the press gallery built and maintained for him.

Wayne Swan delivered six budgets with no surplus, and was regarded by the press gallery as a failure. Joe Hockey delivered one budget with five forecast, none in surplus, and until now was given the benefit of the doubt.

When he delivered the budget Abbott looked smug while Hockey looked nervous. As I said earlier, that budget came from the IPA and big-business cowboys like Tony Shepherd, not from anything intrinsic to Hockey. It's a sign of the meaninglessness of the 'moderate' tag, and of Hockey's ambition, that he embraced that malarkey, and overestimated his ability to get it through parliament and to the public. It was a grievous fault, as Shakespeare might say, and grievously is Hockey answering it.

Soon after the budget Hockey claimed that a young person could survive for six months without benefits because of "severance pay". That was when I knew he'd been cosseted for so long that he could not connect Canberra policy-making apparatuses to people, and vice versa, which is the basic task of the politician. He was always going to make a stupid mistake, one which revealed the sheer absence of thinking before, during, and after the budget, and into the foreseeable future. Peter Costello's comments about childcare in 2007 were reminiscent of Hockey on petrol costs today.
Does he really believe the rest of the world – including (John Howard’s) “battlers” with lived experience of petrol prices, as well as economists who love quintiles and the like – wouldn’t be onto him in a flash?
Yes, because the press gallery and the Coalition cocoon insulated him from that until now.

The central conceit of the Credlin machine is that they develop ideas and that Abbott, Hockey et al just have to go out there and sell them - and that selling is a one-way, transmission-only process. The fact that the press gallery took every word the Coalition said as gospel, and disparaged every word coming from Labor, was an extra layer of insulation that appears to have disappeared overnight - and to which Hockey has to adjust fast, while his adjustments are played out in public.
Some are blaming weakness in Hockey’s office for what happened – he’s a couple down on senior staff – or even saying it’s about time for a ministerial reshuffle.
'Some' might say that. 'None' are giving the press gallery their due for their volte-face on Hockey, it would seem.
As for ministerial reshuffling: well, there would have to be quite a few demotions if performance were the yardstick. A reshuffle after a year and when things are so messy would be a sign of panic, create bad blood and instability, and not necessarily improve the situation. The idea of moving Hockey would be inconceivable, however poorly he’s travelling.

There is no one transforming solution to the muddle across the government. It just has to be worked at, minister by minister, issue by issue, driven by better leadership from the top.
On what basis do you think that leadership will suddenly manifest itself? Is the leadership of this government not at its maximum capacity already? Now that Abbott has a taste for the foreign junket and the oafish blundering into other countries' internal issues, is he seriously going to ask Chris Pyne where the bloody hell is that report from Wilshire and Donnelly, or consult Maurice Newman about anything? Abbott is every bit as popular today as Julia Gillard was eighteen months ago, when everybody (but me) knew that she was finished. That lack of popularity limits his scope for 'leadership'; Grattan should know this better than anyone, if her experience counts for anything.
This weekend Abbott will be on the Pollie Pedal, a familiar and comforting excursion. He gives the impression of a leader for whom the core task of governing and delivering has become very hard.
This is why the Coalition has been so complacent about adverse consequences from its actions. Again, if Michelle Grattan's experience counts for anything, she should know - and convey - that a Prime Minister without a budget is very, very vulnerable. Besides, the Pollie Pedal warrants more scrutiny than it has received. The core task of governing and delivering was never within Tony Abbott's skillset, and Michelle Grattan and her press gallery colleagues were wrong to infer/ claim/ assert that it was.

This brings us to Hockey's apology, or lack thereof. In normal life you apologise for your actions, not for someone else's feelings or any other consequences. This, however, is a political apology; complaining that it isn't "genuine" is beside the point. Read it carefully; it is a classic Howard apology, where the apologiser is being rational and realistic while those apologised to are irrational and unrealistic. The idea of such an apology is not to mollify those who were (or who merely felt) wronged, but rather to kill the story. Having issued an apology (of sorts, however imperfect) you can now say to journalists who would pursue the matter that they should drop it and move on, and that they are being unreasonable should they refuse. The press gallery, being weak and shallow people, will comply - they always do.

One thing the press gallery has failed to notice is that any minister who stumbles will get no support from Abbott. Howard knew that his ministers reflected on him; even Peter Costello got some tepid support in getting the budget through. All ministers are now on notice that you get no help whatsoever from Tony, even if he's known you for thirty years. Abbott and Pyne hung Hockey out to dry. Hockey is perfectly entitled to regard both as pricks. Hockey's friends are right to regard him as a better man than either, or both put together. When Abbott's leadership becomes more vulnerable than it is, this will be remembered.

If this is how Abbott treats someone he knows as well as he knows Joe Hockey, then millions of people he doesn't know at all have no hope. We saw this with all those images of Margie-and-the-girls. He put his arms around them as though he was going to scrum with them. Any woman - even Michelle Grattan - who fancifully extrapolated those images to some general understanding of Australian women on Abbott's part must surely realise their error by now.

It does not mean the government's problems are over once the press gallery has been herded into the next paddock. Hockey is ostensibly visiting minor party Senators in the hope of getting the budget through. After last week, every one of them is in a position to laugh in Hockey's face and give him nothing. Thanks for nothing, Abbott and Pyne.

The trouble with this budget, and pretty much everything else that the government has done, is that it is a product of a government that has never had to understand the country it is governing. The press gallery exists to challenge politicians on this. The $7 GP fee, the Lasseter-like pursuit of a budget surplus, none of those measures relate to Australia today. Whenever Abbott visits the UK he disappears from view for days, and junketeering journalists following him don't follow up.

The Liberals have always had the business community and the IPA hovering in the background but they have had the wit to choose which policies they would take on and when was the best time to champion them. There is an inverse relationship between Liberal political success and IPA success at getting their policies up. Neither Hockey, nor any other member of this government - including often-mentioned backbenchers - has that discretion based on a deeper understanding of the country and the challenges facing it in coming years. Hockey has spoiled his visionary claims with his insistence on the 'budget emergency' and refusal to address revenue.

Hockey has no future in his current role. If he wants a future in politics, his only hope is to retire to the backbench and do a lot of reading, and make a few thoughtful speeches. Otherwise, he will stumble along until Abbott cuts him down and end his career in 2016, 20 years after it began so promisingly, angry and bewildered and misapportioning blame and credit. If he stays he will continue to be a punchline, the cigar-chomping blunderer who doesn't even think about people significantly different to him - let alone the effects his decisions might have on them.

The failure will be his, when it is a failure of the Liberal Party more broadly in not making better use of his considerable skills and talents, and in not effectively complementing (not covering) the sorts of shortcomings that do not prove fatal in far less capable people.

(See? It is possible to write about Hockey without mentioning his weight or his privileged North Shore upbringing.)

36 comments:

  1. Another excellent analysis, Andrew. Thank you.

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  2. It is seriously difficult to understand how the government has come to be as bad as it is.

    This would make a good start for Grattan's resignation letter, followed by her admission that she had completely failed to dispassionately analyse the Abbott government both prior to and after the election.
    However it won't happen, she like the rest of her press gallery mates will return to lazily echoing whatever utterance is fed to them by Credlin and her team of spin doctors.
    The result will be more and more people will stop buying the newspapers she and her cronies write for and look for more credible reporting from people like yourself Andrew.

    DiddyWrote

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    1. The editor of her current publication used to edit her at The Age. That's where the problem lies, the people who blame internet or whatever for the fact that they generate content nobody finds valuable,

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  3. Hillbilly Skeleton17/8/14 11:14 am

    When The Sunday Telegraph chooses a photo of you in a, let's be honest, woggy cardigan, to accompany it's smack-down article by Samantha Maiden, you know, or should know, your number is up.

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  4. With the leadership of this country, we have a PM. who is the equivalent of a c#nt-struck teenager...he fronts up to make one or two requisite appearances and then dissapears again up his own "fundament" to get back in touch with his inner-self !

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  5. Bushfire Bill17/8/14 12:31 pm

    You're too kind to Joe Hockey, Andrew.

    Abbott has been sucker-punching Joe for decades. Joe's so groggy from it that he blames *Malcolm Turnbull*(!) for his 2009 leadership flop.

    Anyone who aspires to be Treasurer should have - as a minimum - the nouse to see that Abbott uses him as a beach dummy (more Keating's image, but I also like your "chew toy" analogy). Joe just keeps bouncing back for more punishment. A mug like that shouldn't be in charge of trying to outwit the rent seekers, spivocracy, lurk merchants and sleeve tuggers of the Business World. And then there's the Welfare Industry.

    Joe has been promoted well past his Peter Point. When Swan was delivering the news about the disappearing surplus he maintained at least some dignity. And there was that Treasurer Of The Year gig, too (which Joe disparaged). Joe, in being Abbott's foil all these years, still has no clue who his real enemy is. He's a spoiled little rich boy who always got what he wanted, even if he had to throw a tantrum to get it.

    His "Pass the Budget, or the Nation gets it," line is a classic example. That's "Grumpy" Joe, making threats he can't carry out to any great measure. He's only "Happy" Joe when he gets his way without opposition a la Grattan.

    By the way, you forgot to mention Grattan's well-worn meme that it didn't matter whether the Coalition had any policies or not - they'd be elected anyway - so no need to go over them in any detail.

    I think you're investing too much hope in Joe Hockey. You knew him personally, but for the millions who didn't, and don't, he's just a buffoon, trying too hard to be liked by everyone and then making "Grumpy" when he doesn't. One can be forgiven for not trusting him as far as one could throw him - and that's not meant to be a "fat" joke.

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    1. Ah yes, how could I forget the absence of policy analysis from Grattan.

      I don't have much hope - the 2016 exit is the most likely scenario. Mostly the superficial charm works. He doesn't have to pull the tough guy routine often, but when he has it worked for him. Now that he's hit the wall, he can get out - if he wants a future he will have to play it careful, including a few morning teas in Claymore.

      I assume this govt can't be saved.

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  6. To paraphrase that great oracle Michelle Grattan:

    'It is seriously difficult to understand how (my) journalism has come to be as bad as it is. Yes, it is hugely tribal, its employers are convinced they know better than anyone else, and it has a faith in “spin” that has dramatically underestimated the public’s ability to judge for themselves.

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    1. Yes, he's doing a Dorothy Parker.

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  7. Exactly who are the 'business community?' I always thought they were a faction designed to end communities with their self interest and don't deserve to be labelled as a community.

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    1. They have ideas and push them at a time when the Liberals are a vacuum for them.

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  8. I must admit I have been wondering about exactly who Hockey, the Liberal Party and the IPA think the average Australian is. Since most people believe their preconceptions and assumptions are 'normal', for what it's worth, they obviously derive from amazingly ignorant and sheltered socio-economic niche. I have thought of private school boys whose conception of political discourse is of two ultra-macho footie teams competing to outdo each other in simplistic abuse with no awareness of the vast hinterland of people who do not share their assumptions, as with Jeff Kennett. How do Hockey and Abbott conceive of the 'average' Australian, apart of course from being smugly middle-aged, male, prosperous and living in the Eastern suburbs?

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    1. The sorts of people who come up to them and say nice things, those they see in the 'Daily Telrgraph' or those they see in the mirror.

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  9. Yeah, Hockey 's situation feels terminal , the back bench would have to be his only hope beyond 2016 (a very good point..) .
    I also notice that just like the government the press don't seem to be able to properly reflect the community sentiment when it comes to things like the hockey apology (cringe), using words like genuine and then quickly trying to move to terrorism or welfare seem to be standard practice right across the board.
    It has certainly showed as you mentioned the contrast between the Howard's style of blind allegiance to his ministers and Abbots indifference . It will be a while coming but I think abbott's political execution will be as fantastic and shocking as the front page photos the daily telegraph insist on showing - Abbott would be well placed to convert to Buddhism , for the lesson in karma he receives would leave Khushwant Singh ( he lived till 99 ) scratching his head.
    a good tale you always write thanks Andrew

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    1. I think one day Peta Credlin will quit, and that will be the end of him. The press gallery are making excuses for 'Tony being Tony' because they've come this far with him

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    2. "Plainly I wouldn't say that" said Abbott of Hockey's poor people and their cars imbroglio.

      Plainly the PM's office white-anting of Hockey (not that Peta has had to try hard) is maturing ready to burst.

      Hockey will be gone, either throwing his humiliated handbag down, or tossed by a regretful PM whenever Sloppy Joe next screws up, and that leaves Abbott untouchable at the apex of the Liberal Party in Parliament... according to apparent Peta-thinking.

      Unfortunately for Peta and Abbott, the "apex of the Liberal Party in Parliament" is tissue-thin and flat as an empty A4 page on a desktop.

      Empty A4 pages are perfect for resignation letters, PM.

      End The Abbott Error now.

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  10. VoterBentleigh17/8/14 7:33 pm

    Your paragraph eighth from the end is so right and there is a growing list of Coalition Government front-benchers to whom Mr Abbott is proving that when he speaks of being "collegial", he is only referring to "me, myself and I". Most of those publicly humiliated by the PM will not forget (only Mr Pyne seems to have forgiven his humiliation over the Gonski "unity ticket" announcement, perhaps due to the euphoria of winning the election).

    The MSM continue to fail to analyse anything the PM says and does. Mr Abbott has now linked terrorism and welfare payments with his latest security update (I suspect deliberately so) and his latest phrase "terrorist tourism" must be giving tourist operators the shudders. His preaching to the Scots is not only embarrassing, but completely at odds with his failure to preach to the Sri Lankan and Japanese Governments on what surely are more serious issues for the world. All I can say after his latest, weird diplomatic debacle is that it is hard to see how the world is being helped by having Mr Abbott as Australia's PM; in fact, it's hard to see how Australia is being helped by having him as PM.

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  11. You have got at the heart of the problem with this post. It was a terrible week for Hockey, as bad as Budget Week, and the MSM and Grattan have argued, 'who'd have seen this coming?'

    Hockey might have been unbelievably stupid and insensitive, just as Abbott and most of his front bench have been at various times. But that doesn't answer that question.

    The whole point is that the entire Abbott front bench was used to, in opposition, saying the first thing that entered their head and seeing it pass through unchallenged by an uncritical Press Gallery, or indeed any other reporters. It didn't have to make sense. The press never required them to offer an alternative because they were more comfortable watching a minority government, assumed likely to fall any minute or if not be swept aside by the magic of Rudd. They failed the nation by ignoring the process of government and delivering legislation and programs.

    Hockey's behaviour on the day of Reserve Bank Board meetings was a case in point. Always it was about interest rates. Despite much speculation from the likes of Terry McCrann and others, most meetings went off without any change. Occasionally the rates went down.

    Hockey always had his case ready. If rates went up it was because the government had over-stimulated the economy and needed to cut back spending. If they went down, it was because business had stopped investing and had lost confidence in Labor's policies. If they stayed the same, it was because not enough was happening either to encourage investment or give relief to people on high mortgages.

    The point is, surely not all three positions can necessarily be bad news for the government. Reporters should at the very least have challenged him on that multitude of positions. They never did, and it is not a big step for someone not all that bright to imagine that that might continue regarding any pontification that came to him. Alas for him, it is a little harder, even with News Ltd cheerleaders, to pull off that same sort of nonsense when you're Treasurer.

    So the lesson is being driven home again just how badly our media let us down over the past four years. It is sad that they have not yet acknowledged the enormity of what their failure has done to this country.

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    1. Quite so, Gorgeous. As you know it's a recurring theme and it's worth pursuing, given the privileged position of the media (which includes their avoidance of blame). It's good to know this has an audience, and one looking for answers - and so insistent upon the right ones - as I am.

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  12. Andrew - your analysis of our Theatre of the Absurd is excellent as usual. Is Brecht scripting Australian politics from the grave? You are certainly a fine reviewer of the antics and skulduggeries.

    I have come to the conclusion that the MSM flocked to TA because he sees and shapes the world as they do. A pantomime. Goodies and Baddies. White hats and black hats. Cowboys and Indians. They were in the front row at the Punch and Julia show, laughing and squealing with mock horror as the blows rained down.

    Well Hockey has gone whether he remains physically or not. I have a faint suspicion that he might just chuff off himself.

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  13. Further to above I should add that I feel very sorry for Hockey. He has had the dunce's cone plonked over a Marie Antoinette wig by the media playing their Game of Binary Opposition.

    Of course he has provided so many opportunities for colorful headlines and scarifying comment but he is not the real story. Again the MSM have gone for the cheap option and have not examined what elements of this budget signal for the country. The big question is whether Australia is in the process of being shaped into a country none of us will recognise.

    Meanwhile all the custard pies are going Hockey's way while TA rides off on his bike with promises of change because HE HAS LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE. That will be the next chapter.

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  14. Andrew, I hung off every word. You're getting better with each posting. What a 'shining light' for journalism you are.

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  15. Off topic I know, but Premier Baird in NSW says as 'atonement' for the sins of Owen and Cornwell, the Libs will not run a candidate in Newcastle or Charlestown.

    So much for the enfranchisement of Liberal voters in those two electorates. Now that was my very first thought when I heard the statement. I'm not really a deeply perceptive guy; but I have not heard that sentiment in the media to date. No journalist has questioned Baird's reasoning.

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    1. I'll have more to say about that later, Ian.

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    2. And now Tony says it's all Labour's fault for making donations from developers illegal - comedy gold!

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    3. Yes, a classic position from Tony. 'It was only rape because she said no'

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  16. Andrew as usual an excellent article.

    The behaviour of MSM over the past six years with respect to one-sided reporting with Coalition good; Labor bad has in hindsight achieved good results. As your article shows the ship of coalition credibility is turning from good to something other, even Andrew Bolt gets offended by the government. I say hooray to that.

    Michelle Grattan and many of her fellow MSM stenographers (not a journalist / reporter amongst them) have the credibility of head lice.

    The good thing is that many people have just stopped subscribing to MSM because of their abysmal reporting of the Australian political situation. MSM circulation print media is down, advertising is down and so are profits. If it wasn't for the sport pages, MSM would be history by now.

    More people are seeking out informative blogs like yours to get an alternative outlook of what is actually out there. Online publications like the Guardian, Crikey keep people interested and away from subscribing to MSM. If this trend continues, Michelle Grattan and her ilk be on a stenographers ticket to nowhere.

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  17. Hi Andrew,

    fantastic read as usual.

    I was hoping you may know more about the North Sydney Forum. I have had a look at their website and there are no lists of the membership.

    After the strange Medical Research Fund announcement in a budget wher the CSIRO had their funding cut, and the various shenanigans with the NSW Liberal. Are you aware if any journo has investigated the link between the Libs and big pharma, including the North Sydney Forum?

    I have asked some questions around this to Joe's website directly, but had no response.


    I think that would be a very interesting story, especially considering the amount of big pharma logos on Tony Abbott's bike tights.

    Danny

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    1. It's quite opaque but I dare say we will find out more about it this week from ICAC, the fourth arm of government.

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  18. One additional thought has occurred to me following Hockey's insistence that he has been misunderstood.

    That is. that he cannot diferentiate between the actual dollar aggregate and what that represents as a percentage of income or GDP.

    At first, when this started some four years back I'd assumed that he and others were either lying or being deliberately misleading when they attempted to make debt a big issue of the Labor government's competence.

    The reality, of course, is that it is only a small percentage of the GDP, and a lesser percentage than 'benchmark' type economies such as Germany. On that measure only Estonia, Switzerland and possibly one or two Scandinavian countries were of the same or lower risk. Claiming that we were heading for a Greece or Spain situation was outright lying.

    Some in government are probably ignorant enough to have believed that. A few probably knew, but thought it was a good scare to run with. There was simply no excuse for any reporter knowing how wrong that illusion was.

    But Hockey, I suspect, judging by the mess he has made of low income earners incomes and spending and attempting to pretend that petrol excise is a progressive tax, may genuinely not know. He is still comparing the absolute dollar amounts not the percentages. In which case, of course, is as unfit to be Treasurer as Abbott is to be PM.

    Yet again it comes back to reporting failures. You don't have to be as economically literate as Greg Jericho, Ross Gittins, or the Kouk to figure that out. But these journos would be around to verify it with if you were curious. Yet there remained an unerring theme of economic failure claimed by Abbott's Opposition which was completely at odds with the finance markets and all economic/financial reporting.

    It wouldn't have been all that hard to check that out, even assuming you were an economic dunce.

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    1. The value of a journalist lies not in capturing quotes, but in thinking about what they write. If they are going to insist on 'context', as with Gillard's misogyny speech on 9 October 2012, then they cannot get away with presenting no context (like the absence of a debt crisis, for example).

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  19. "Abbott is every bit as popular today as Julia Gillard was eighteen months ago, when everybody (but me) knew that she was finished."

    Ha ha! Well played, sir!

    Yes, Grattan's description of her boy Tone - "a leader for whom the core task of governing and delivering has become very hard" - is just bizarre. It only takes the most basic of comprehension skills to realise that her use of 'become' implies Abbott has, at some stage in the past, found it very easy to govern and deliver.

    Clearly, Abbott has never displayed these skills. So why would Grattan write that? And why isn't there an editor somewhere pointing this out to her?

    So many things I don't understand. All I understand is that it feels as if everything good about my country is under vicious attack by this mongrel bunch in government.

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  20. Grattan and Abbott are friends apparently.Her commentary prior to the election sent my blood pressure soaring.Sadly we must
    continue to watch helplessly, now pleading with that wimp Uhlmann to ask a decent question. Please!

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  21. A blog piece on Joe Hockey which doesn't mention his performance as Shadow Treasurer in the 2010 election campaign; the formation, aims and objectives of the Hockey Club and the End of the Age of Entitlement speech http://www.joehockey.com/media/speeches/details.aspx?s=90 - seems without substance and just an excuse for another shallow Abbott-derangement rant.

    You didn't even mention that Abbott joined himself to Hockey's hip by chairing the Expenditure Review Committee and as such enjoys senior joint ownership of the Budget.

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    1. A blog post, not a book. Soon, bb.

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