Take this piece by Michael Gordon. Despite Gordon's experience and seniority it is no better/worse than other pieces of its type (which doesn't say much for notions of experience and seniority in political journalism):
Tony Abbott has reverted to the tactics that proved so devastatingly effective in opposition in a bid to achieve ascendancy over Bill Shorten, wedge Labor on national security, consolidate his own recovery and increase his flexibility on election timing.Abbott never moved on from the behaviour that so enthralled journalists. This is why he's such an abysmal Prime Minister.
By reducing the complex issue of citizenship to a slogan, shattering any prospect of bipartisanship on security and brazenly misrepresenting the position of the country's foremost expert in terrorism law, the Prime Minister is out to maximise short and medium-term political advantage.
Having declared that "Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die", Abbott's emphatic message now is that Australians are safer from terrorism under the Coalition. This is an extraordinary and irresponsible claim.
The press gallery were willing to take him at his word, while the rest of the country wasn't. Australians have always been Tony Abbott sceptics. Whenever people were asked who they would prefer to lead the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott or a brown snake, Abbott couldn't win a trick. Since he became leader of the Liberal Party major media broadcasters have insisted, like people trapped in a bad relationship, that they knew the real Tony and we didn't. He Can Change. He's Looking Prime Ministerial. He'll Grow Into The Job. This Time. This Time. Good Government Starts Today, Or Maybe Next Thursday, Definitely After The Budget. No Really This Time It Will Be Different, Please Believe Me.
They made excuses for him that they didn't make for Latham, or Downer, or any other party leader manifestly unfit to become Prime Minister.
To return to Gordon, Abbott is not being "extraordinary" when he executes the responsibilities of office in his typically irresponsible way. Every week, if not every day, Tony Abbott does things that fall short of the press gallery ideal that they call "Tony 2.0", "Prime Ministerial", or whatever. Rather than abandon this pretence and report on Abbott as he is and has always been, they hold him to a fantasy ideal and act all surprised when he falls short.
Now somebody has taken Peter Hartcher to lunch and convinced him that the environment is a real thing in politics, something that goes beyond the weak tea and small beer that is the major parties' positions. It's so risible I won't even link to it, because the SMH campaign on the environment works from the same assumptions as all bad political reporting:
- the incompetent boofhead we see trashing government services, and with that our very confidence in government itself, is somehow not the real Tony Abbott and something of a surprise to seasoned observers;
- the real Tony Abbott is a sensitive and well-rounded fellow who feels people's pain, and is very receptive to issues like same-sex marriage and renewable energy; so
- with the right form of words, offered respectfully, we just might get him to tone down his opposition to something against which he fundamentally defines himself.
Start seeing Abbott for what he is and report accordingly. Misinformation kills democracy, and it kills media organisations that peddle it.