29 May 2006

Easy journalism

It would have been easy for the SMH's Anne Davies to run a piece against privatising the Snowy. The hills are alive with the sound of outrage, which has well and truly drowned out the feeble Chifley Dreaming bleats from inside the ALP. But there's one thing easier than following the herd - and that's getting covered in Iemma's pocket lint, as has happened to poor Annie in her piece today.

Let's go through Davies' article and see what survives, eh?
Privatising Snowy Hydro is one of those slow-burn issues.

A "slow-burn issue" is an issue that affects real people in real communities directly, but which is not picked up by press gallery journos until someone sends them a press release. For someone like Davies, "investigative journalism" means checking the fax machine to see if a minister's office has sent through her story for her.
Whatever you think of him, when [Alan] Jones gets in on the act, the state politicians start worrying.

In other words, our politicians are gutless in the face of this blowhard. He doesn't have the power to change votes but those whose jobs depend on votes won't cross him.
The sale will give him a $1 billion-plus war chest before the state election for spending on infrastructure that the state desperately needs.

NSW has experienced one of the great property booms in recent times, and would be awash with money were it not for mismanagement by the current government. Of course there is a backlog on school maintenance, there always is under a Labor government, and there are many other pressing calls on the public coffers besides. However, there is no link between pressing needs of the community and policy initiatives by the current state government of NSW. Davies lets the cat out of the bag in her final paragraph:
Morris Iemma needs to crank up the rhetoric about school maintenance

See, it's only rhetoric. Nothing to be alarmed about, and no likelihood of a shiny new toilet coming to a school near you.
... similar arguments were advanced about Qantas, Australian Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra. Yet, with each privatisation, the world has not collapsed.

Fair enough. But to only reconsider this policy if there was a clear and present danger to the planet is the kind of hysterical line used by a peevish staffer who is too busy to examine all the facts and hopes that bluster will dissuade any deeper examination on the part of others. In briefing Davies their luck has held.
There might also be arguments in the future about whether 21 per cent of the flow to the Snowy is enough. A privatised company is likely to be less amenable to pressure to revisit this.

A change of ownership might make future negotiations more robust but it doesn't mean that the water sharing can't be achieved.

Those arguments are being had now, if only Davies would listen, if only the protesters of Adaminaby would take time out to buy Davies a drink at the Nippon Club. A privatised company is bound to act in the interests of its shareholders above all other considerations, and politicians will meekly shrug their shoulders at this. Alan Jones has no sympathy for governments that bully champions of free enterprise.

Next time journalists sneer at bloggers, think of Anne Davies and Alan Jones waiting by the fax machines for government to tell them what their next stories are. The sky won't fall in if you get your news from other sources and use it to parse what these fax jockeys are really saying.

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