19 March 2010

The red herring is the story

This year we are looking at our country and the way it is governed in preparation for an election, in which either the current government will be returned or the previous government will be returned without its economic credibility.

Mark Latham was deemed to have lost all credibility as a potential Prime Minister in 2004 when he promised to withdraw all Australian forces from Iraq "by Christmas", because it sounded good and that's what folks wanted to hear, rather than being the product of balanced and considered strategic thinking. Tony Abbott has done the same thing with his parental leave policy brain-fart, and Costello has nailed him on it.

Abbott is offering basically the return of the Howard government, less John Howard (who was forced to repudiate pretty much everything he stood for in order to get elected) and Peter Costello, who seems to have taken the Coalition's reputation for economic management away with him. Certainly, Abbott and Joyce have pissed it away and Joe Hockey hasn't got it yet. Abbott has Buckley's of becoming Prime Minister and anyone who says otherwise is blowing smoke. Jabber away all you like about polls or the dull pantomime of Question Time, but when the election campaign starts he is done for, the flaws are in place that can only see him fail.

Incidentally, it is interesting that Costello can only conceive of parental leave as simply a tax problem, and parental leave as solely an issue for women. This myopia bodes ill for his capacity to effectively scrutinise an organisation calling itself The Future Fund. Could be worse though - he could still be in Parliament making decisions that limit our future, knocking down imperfect ideas but proposing nothing to help limit the disruption to the lives of people and the nation arising from those who have responsibilities to both their workplace and their children.

The question as to whether the government can and ought to be returned centre on economics, education and health. These are complex issues and there is ample space in the journosphere, many sources of information and a plethora of analyst/commentators, who can help us citizens/ consumers/ voters/ taxpayers to sift and sort these issues. The Coalition has nothing to offer on those areas and this should be made clearer than it is. Instead, the journosphere is focused relentlessly myopically on a red herring that served them ill in the past, and which threatens to trash the credibility of press gallery journalists still further.

Michelle Grattan has cemented her reputation as a lightweight with nothing better to do than to hang around Canberra and churn out ephemera with crap like this. It's a non-story. Either Gillard is challenging Rudd, or she isn't: the prospect that Gillard might one day become Prime Minister is ramped up to baseless speculation that Rudd's job is under actual threat, and that all policy pronouncements must hereafter be viewed through a prism of a leadership tension which does not actually exist.

On health, an issue of far-reaching consequence for Australians, Grattan displayed her own limitations by portraying it as yet another political kerfuffle at COAG, rather than going into policy issues at work in various parts of the country. That would be actual high-value journalism; breathless stenography of press releases, set-piece announcements and scuttlebutt, much less so.

Journalists should be more adept at recognising and avoiding red herrings that tempt them away from issues of greater importance to citizens/ consumers/ voters/ taxpayers, rather than gleefully pursuing them because every other fool is it really is The Story, darling, and if you're not pursuing it too then you are just nobody from nowhere. No wonder the journosphere is having such problems with PR, apparently: if you don't know what a story is then of course you are happy to have PR flacks spoon-feed you what you should be writing.

If you really think, and tell your readers, that health policy is a matter of politicians performing the same ritual confab that leaves hospitals and other health programs starved of resources, o if you believe that parental leave is all about tax and a desperate lunge for women's votes (by a party that should have more of them, were it not so committed to repelling voters by telling them what, and how little, they really think); then you are pretty sharply limited and your experience is worth stuff-all. Such people ought to be too limited to be involved in public policy or reporting thereon, and the idea that such vapid people are respected doyen(ne)s in public policy is pitiful.


  1. Well put.

    I can't figure out why Grattanm La Stupenda herself, is still looked upon as a star.

    Her columns are usually of the form:

    "This might be true, or then again it might not."

    Wow, such perception! Such depth!

    She and her bretheren at the other media outlets concentrate far too much on "the politics", rendering serious, indeed vital subjects and policy areas to the level of ball-by-ball descriptions from a 20-20 match.

    Recently Shanahan declared that Climate Change was not any longer a matter of science. It was just politics, which therefore enabled him to just make stuff up on the subject, disguising it as considered opinion.

    Today (Saturday), Paul Kelly tells the rest of "the media" (apparently he does not class himself as a member) to go easy on Abbott's somewhat contradictory moral beliefs. Abbott foesn't deserve such close scrutiny, says St. Paul. If he says he isn't going to do something, he won't do it.

    Like a PPL? Like a Big New Tax?

    His personal beliefs don't ever impinge on his ministerial actions.

    Like RU-486?

    Abbott deserves more scrutiny than ever, even if only for the scientific purpose of watching an Opposition leader go clinically insane in public.

    But Kelly is seeking to protect him, tut-tutting about how other journalists are going in too hard.

    Contrast this with the forensic, some might say colonoscopic scrutiny that attends to every Rudd word, deed and thought, and I think you'll get my drift.

  2. Given the continual irrelevant attaches of the government by the media I see the current pole results as an indication of how disrespected the doyen(ne)s are and not so much as a reflection of how well the government is or isn't doing.