26 November 2014

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

Social media sites do listicles, and while this article defends them they are only useful if they are any good.

This listicle on Australian politics is no good at all. It is published in Fairfax, a company whose record with social media is to produce low quality, at great cost, unfashionably late. There are no grounds to be impressed with the form of this listicle, so let's go to the substance.

It suggests ways that the Abbott government might improve its performance. None of them are possible. You may as well write '10 ways the Model T Ford can win Bathurst next year': it's one thing to be cheery, but there's no point being a damn fool about it.

The video at the top of the article is mislabelled. "Liberal Senator Scott Ryan joins Chris Hammer in the studio to discuss the political news of the day" makes it sound spontaneous, even promising. Ryan has been pumped full of Liberal talking points and Hammer is working his way through a prepared list to winkle them out. Standard political reporting I know, but the very kind of formulaic shit that is killing traditional journalism in this country.
Tony Abbott has told nervous Coalition MPs he plans to knock "one or two barnacles off the ship" before Christmas ... some Liberals and Nationals MPs believe changes must be made to clear the decks and start 2015 with a clean slate.
Mixed metaphors are a sign you're not really focused on what you're trying to get across. If you have barnacles on your deck it's too late for the boat anyway. And as for the slate - c'mon.
1) Act on climate change
Nope. Never mind the G20 and next year's targets, this is not a new thing.

Tony Abbott is only leader of the Liberal Party because he found a way of not acting on climate change while also winning over the press gallery. If you thought Julia Gillard lost credibility over carbon pricing, wait until Abbott starts 're-examining' the issue. In the same way that John Howard did not nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange in the name of the proletariat, so too Tony Abbott won't act in any sort of credible way on climate change. I'm sorry, but people who say things like that should not diminish their battered employers further by opining such ignorant nonsense.

It isn't my fault that you don't understand politics. I'm just pointing it out.
2) Restore renewable energy policy
You can't be serious.

This government got where it is with the support of non-renewables, even gibbering in unguarded moments about nuclear power. It stands against renewable energy sources and cares not at all about the jobs lost in what should be a rapidly growing, labour-intensive sector of the economy. It can't just reverse that. Nobody would believe them.
The government should agree to a sensible compromise on renewable energy, having failed in its efforts to dramatically wind back the target after appointing known climate sceptic Dick Warburton to review it.
If you can deny overwhelming evidence from across the world about climate science, then you can (as this government does) deny the RET is sensible, deny efforts to wind it back have failed, deny that DickWarb is a denialist, etc.
The government could agree to a modest winding back of the target to a figure that is achievable for the industry and does not destroy it.
The RET is achievable. The absence of bipartisan support is the government's fault, and it's up to them to get over themselves. Any 'modest winding back' would be contingent and unsustainable.
3) Have a cabinet reshuffle
This government got where it is through stability. Members of the shadow ministry who didn't make it into government are still moaning about it. Reshuffles make winners quietly pleased while the losers become noisily disgruntled. Abbott knows this.
Promote some high achievers, demote under-performers ...
Easy to say - but who, exactly, are this government's "high achievers"? You see the problem here. You'd basically have to chuck the entire Cabinet and start again, which Labor did twice in 2013 and look where that got them.
... and, above all, address the appalling lack of women on the frontbench ...
It isn't as though half the members of the Coalition party room are female. Who would you promote, Lisa and Fergus? Karen McNamara, just in time to appear at ICAC? Kelly O'Dwyer, whose facility with talking points doesn't necessarily translate into policy depth? Michaelia Cash? The women who happily participated in that Mal Brough fundraiser? If you think the surface of the Liberal Party's problem with women is appalling, wait until you get down into the details.
4) Allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage
Oh, please. See denialism above. Nobody believed Julia Gillard, a leftie lawyer, when she insisted on the current heterosexual definition of marriage. It is one of the few things you can define Abbott on, and you'll have to force him out in order to get it.
5) Abandon the deregulation of university fees
It's been trying to do that for 20 years, and will hammer away for the next 20 as well. Again, your lack of attention is not my fault. Time for you to catch up. Next.
6) Dump the paid parental leave scheme

Mr Abbott's flagship scheme continues to face an uncertain future.
No it doesn't. If Abbott was going to do it, he would have done it by now. Have a look at what the Whitlam government achieved in its first month in office, then realise Abbott has been in office 14 months now and can't even pass a budget. Public servants face going into Christmas without being paid, and you're worried about women who haven't even conceived yet?
A lack of support in the parliament, among the public and even inside the PM's own party have led to it being watered down and temporarily shelved.
No, it's been defeated. The rhetoric of defeat was splashed around pretty thick about the previous government, but with this government it's all wrung hands and euphemisms. Why is that? Do you reckon a listicle can expose the gutlessness and stupidity of the traditional media's approach to politics? Give it a crack. You have nothing better to do.
7) Revise the government's communications strategy
This government's communications strategy smashed the last government and got a bunch of no-hopers onto the commanding heights of the way this country is run. Again, see the denialism above. This government got where it is because the press gallery confused Coalition bluster with 'straight talk'.
8) Ditch the $7 GP co-payment
Done. Next. If you vote for this lot again you can't be sure that won't return.
9) Review the proposed welfare overhaul
It's not about the bottom line, it's about the culture war, which is all this government has ever been about. The real story here is that the government has reversed almost everything it has proposed in this area, offering a nanny-state solution while also insisting that people should be freer to make their own choices and not consider themselves entitled. Too long for a listicle I admit, but all I ever wanted was a nice bit of journalism on, y'know, public policy and stuff. The kind of thing Katharine Murphy has claimed for years that she'd love to do, but never quite gets around to because oooh, have you seen Julie's shoes today?
10) Reconsider budget cuts to the ABC and SBS
Again: culture wars, denialism, as above.

The way we are governed is important. If you get paid to write, you have an obligation to think about what you write. If it's bullshit, best not to write at all, and your editor can shove both his deadline and his mistaken belief he's doing anything positive by dabbling with listicles.

It's a bit like offering advice to an obtuse government, or to obtuse journalists - what even is the point?


  1. Well said. Why are journalists even giving advice to the government on how to be re-elected? Do they hate the thought of an ALP government that much?

  2. Bushfire Bill27/11/14 7:53 am

    One of your very best, Andrew. I love it when you get the strap out. A good thrashing is always a joy to witness, when it's someone else getting thrashed.

  3. I thought Tony Abbott said quite clearly - in his ambiguous, contradictory neither confirm nor deny way - that he was going to oppose a strong climate agreement in Paris on the basis of Jobs and Growth and support other nations opposing it with that excuse. Despite that being quite clear to me a lot of our media apparently heard "support a strong climate agreement in Paris", perhaps because Tony
    Abbott said that first, before adding the contradictory conditions that he will use to justify not supporting it. That's Tony Abbott's version of "flexible on climate"!

    Yet isn't that standard Abbott speak, to unambiguously state something but with ambiguous and not clearly stated conditions applying? And it's up to the listener (reporters first of all) to tease out what he actually meant by what he said?

    4 to 6 degrees of warming as a consequence of a world seeking prosperity based on coal appears to be outside the realm of reality for the Abbott team. I suspect it's not really real for a lot of people who should know better - thus the broader lack of alarm and urgency on climate from media and community. But whilst others may harbour doubts and take an each ways bet on it, it looks like Abbott and team harbour none; they are betting everything, our future most of all, that 97% of climate scientists and every peak science institution and every bit of formal expert advice is dead wrong (in the grossly overestimated rather than grossly underestimated sense) and that no economic harms can arise from a 21st century of Jobs and Growth based on coal that greater use of coal can't fix.

  4. Better to offer the Liberal Party a one-point plan to clear the decks: throw the captain overboard.

    1. I say, keep him there as long as possible. That ensures they'll be a one term government.

  5. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is trying his hand at a Murphy-style paean to electoral disengagement; his latest claim of a "race to the middle" to describe a Victorian campaign where the parties are as far apart as they have been for a while is as maddening as his "don't blame the media" shtick: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/denis-napthine-and-daniel-andrews-missing-the-publicity-top-slots-20141126-11u81f.html

    The laziness irks me; he cites the record number of pre-poll votes as a sign of disengagement; he doesn't even consider it might just be a sign of its greater availability and convenience. He certainly doesn't consider it might lead to more informed voting, less affected by the queues, hoopla and time-pressures of a polling booth.

    - Joe F

  6. It's a pity the Press Gallery hasn't worked out that if you put lipstick on a turd, it's still a turd.

  7. Hi Andrew,
    A few of your recent posts have been a bit rambling and wordy - but this one is a cracker!! To the point & 100% right on every count. While as you say, giving advice to obtuse journalists is rather pointless, this article will be read and enjoyed by thousands for its analysis of pathetic "journalism". Then we will remember that the 10 wishes of the list makers will never come true & we'll continue to be embarrassed as Australians that we have this wretched, spiteful mob as our government.

  8. Another great analysis Andrew. Dead set if Abbott told the Press Gallery turds were the latest and greatest thing in sausages most of the boneheads would be ordering them in kilo bags!