20 September 2012

Ill discipline

Two articles in The Sydney Morning Herald show how the depleted organ can no longer analyse, or even properly describe, what is going on with the alternative government and how it might govern us if given the chance.

The first sentence of this made me laugh. Tony Abbott condemns what he is guilty of himself. Philip Coorey has no excuse to miss that, and Tony Abbott has no right to be taken at face value.

This is not high-quality journalism. It's not even valuable information. It is space-filling bullshit.
Time and again he warns against [ill-discipline], telling his charges the aim is to have people talking about Labor, not the Coalition.
No, the aim is to be governed well in a time of uncertainty.

There are legitimate discussions to be had amongst Liberals on how best to do that, and how they may mark themselves as better than Labor; the Liberals are not having those discussions. They are not having those discussions because Tony Abbott wants to impose discipline on them; he doesn't want them to talk among themselves about issues.

He wants to tell elected representatives what he and the PR dollies in his office have decided are the issues. Abbott and his office have decided that we can't even know what those decisions are until the election is called. We have no idea how those positions are arrived at, because journalists won't and can't tell us, despite all their supposed familiarity with the processes of politics in general and the individuals in Abbott's office in particular.

Liberal MPs play no part in policy discussion and formulation, Liberal candidates and party members play even less. Should you regard such people as muppets - especially when they have voted themselves into that very position - you are accused of breathtaking cynicism and even bitterness.

Just because Abbott wants the story to be about Labor, and not the Coalition, it doesn't oblige people like Philip Coorey to ignore Coalition-related stories or only cover those the Coalition wants covered, in the way the Coalition would want them covered. Coorey has reported Abbott's wishes and then followed them, assuming that his readers are as bound by press gallery conventions and Fairfax editorial policies as he is.

If Abbott doesn't want people to talk about the Coalition, why would he want anyone to vote for them? Why would a great democracy like Australia wish to be govern by an unknown force, about which their assumptions may or may not be valid? Why would Coalition MPs squeal about 'balance' and 'equal time' if they do not wish to be talked about?

Is it even sensible or realistic to expect people who discuss Australian politics not to talk about the Coalition? Sure, people inside the ALP and other parties may discuss their own organisations and where they are going, but in the wider political context the Coalition are definitely a force to be reckoned with. In describing Abbott's position, Coorey accepts it
without really considering whether or not this is sensible or realistic.
[Abbott] is not naive and learnt about leadership from his years under John Howard.
Abbott is naive if he regards Howard as the be-all-and-end-all of leadership, which he clearly does. Howard's leadership led the Coalition to defeat in 2007 and, despite the conventional wisdom, could well be led to defeat yet again by the same leadership model. It seems that no lessons have been learned about leadership by the Liberals, nor by the journalists who cover them.
He knows people have to be given some licence, especially the Nationals, especially Barnaby Joyce.

It is sometimes easier to let them have a frolic in the paddock than try to rein them in. It's all a matter of balance.

Lately, things have become unbalanced. Joyce ran wild for a week, ranting against the sale of Cubbie station to a Chinese-led consortium and, in the process, whipping up the conservative base and angering the Liberals.
Note how Coorey has referred to Coalition MPs as "his [Abbott's] charges" and "[having] a frolic in the paddock ... running wild", as though they were dumb animals to be disciplined and controlled. This may be how their leader regards them, and it may even be how they regard themselves at times, but it's Coorey's job to unpack the assumptions in a description like that.

It is hard to imagine Labor caucus members described as cattle.

Note also that it is important for Abbott to let Joyce have a "frolic", free and clear of Coalition discipline, while it is not important to allow (or, important not to allow) others to be freed from discipline. Why Joyce gets to frolic and others do not is unclear, and worthy of investigation by a professional journalist.

To return to Coorey's farmyard analogy, a beast that is always in harness will become worn down and come to resent those that spend so much time frolicking.
Julie Bishop capped a geyser concerning the deregulation of the wheat market ...

Let me step in and do my own journalism here, seeing as the "professional" (pro tem) has failed:
  • Western Australian Liberal MPs who represent wheat-growing electorates were inclined to support the government's reforms to marketing wheat, which involve less direct control by government.
  • Nationals MPs, representing wheat-growing and non-wheat-growing electorates elsewhere in the country, wished to oppose the reforms and stick with the Gillard government's current policies.
  • Julie Bishop, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, convinced Liberals to adopt the Nationals' position. Perhaps there was some discussion about this(!) which is presumably what Coorey means when he talks about a geyser of wheat(!!) and capping thereof.
You can see why I don't rate Coorey as a journalist, and it seemed only fair to tell him so - politely but directly, using my real name just as he uses his. Reader, Coorey abused and then blocked me, the sook.
... Cory Bernardi offended - again.
Against common decency as well as the 'discipline' of Tony Abbott, as I've said.

Given that Bernardi is so offensive and undisciplined, why did his leader give him leave to represent the Liberal Party overseas while Parliament is sitting? Is this a breach of discipline, and if so by whom?
Those close to Abbott say he handles pressure well.
Those of us not close to him say he doesn't, he's a sook, which may be why Coorey is so soft on him and unquestioningly accepts his assumptions.
He knew early yesterday he had a problem with Bernardi, especially when Coalition MPs started ringing his office.
He has no excuse not to have known from day one that Bernardi is a cock and an embarrassment waiting to happen. All that's changed is that the waiting is over.

There is a question to be raised about Abbott's judgment in appointing Bernardi and sticking by him, assuming that any criticism was just moderate bleating rather than a well-founded concern. A journalist really should look into that.
In acting, Abbott made three gains.
Really? Net gains, were they? Let's see:
First, he dumped a senator few on his own side cared for or about.
Easy to say that in retrospect. The guy will go to the next Federal election as the Coalition's top candidate for the Senate. Somebody cares about him.
Bernardi had already put many of his colleagues offside with his Islamophobic writings and speeches.
Why didn't they go to their leader to enforce discipline? Why was Bernardi allowed a Joycean frolic while others had to toe the line (further proof that there are no moderates in Parliament, because moderates have guts)? Isn't this a question of Abbott's own judgment and discipline?
Second, Abbott sent a message to the rest of the frontbench that he would no longer tolerate "freelancing".
We'll see how long that lasts, especially whether or not Abbott can avoid self-freelancing. This is a fair question given Abbott's record, and Coorey should be asking it.
Third, he was able to promote two people of real talent - Arthur Sinodinos and Jamie Briggs.
Abbott is the leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party. There was no reason at all why he could not have appointed those guys, and others, a long time ago. If they are so talented their impact should be decisive, and so far it's hard to tell. A couple of guys whose working lives have been limited to staffer roles are going to improve, um, what?

When he occupied the office that Tony Abbott holds now, Kim Beazley took the opportunity to promote two people of real talent - Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard - and a fat lot of good it did Beazley.

Coorey abandons his feeble article right there, and maybe it's just as well. Like most articles from the press gallery, a Philip Coorey article should not be regarded as the work of an investigating, professional journalist, but as half-baked input for a blogpost. As we have seen, there is nothing to be gained by closeness to those they report on, and there is not a scrap of perspective in Coorey's view of the would-be Prime Minister.

In another part of the paper was this, by a nameless troll identified only as "AAP". As straight-up, analysis-free reporting it's hard to beat, and I wish it were possible to get a direct AAP feed rather than muck about with the MSM.
A day after the lower house voted down a Labor private member's bill to allow same-sex marriage, the Senate continued to debate a similar bill.

Queensland senator Sue Boyce told parliament she supported the "intention" of the bill, but accused Labor of cynicism for bringing it on for the debate knowing that it would fail.

"The big news is that gay people are just people," she said.

"There are good gays and bad gays; rich gays and poor gays; gays who want to get married and gays who don't; gays who like footie and gays who don't; gays who want children and those who don't."

It is unclear whether Senator Boyce will cross the floor, but the bill is still likely to fail a vote expected late on Thursday.
It is a sad, sad day when such obvious truisms constitute "ill-discipline", as they almost certainly do.
Chief opposition whip Warren Entsch said he was talking to colleagues about a civil partnerships bill.

"I have already dusted it out from the drawer. I had it out immediately after the vote," Mr Entsch told ABC radio on Thursday.

"I have already spoken to a number of colleagues."

He acknowledged such a bill was inferior for a part of the community but he believed it had more chance of passing parliament.

I've read arguments in favour of same-sex marriage, like this one. I've read arguments against same-sex marriage, i.e. for the status quo. But nowhere have I read any advocacy from those to be affected by such a measure calling for same-sex civil partnerships instead of marriage, or for same-sex civil partnerships at all.

Entsch appears to be trying to solve a problem that doesn't seem to exist beyond Parliament House. I guess this is what conservatives mean when they complain about the incumbents, and government generally, for focusing on non-solutions and ignoring real issues affecting real people.

Where is the "discipline" in keeping alive an issue that conservatives want buried, and which progressives won't accept? Do they think they are clever by trailing an inferior option while proponents only have to wait until next term?
British Labour said [Bernardi's] appearance at the [European Young Conservative Freedom Summit] was "astonishing" and accused the Tories of paying "lip service" to equality.
They would say that, wouldn't they.

If you accept Coorey's premise that Abbott has won a trifecta, perhaps he is good for a loan to the beleaguered publisher. The journalism in the SMH is starting to suffer, and the way it is going it will increasingly suffer alone. It's hard to support Fairfax when it won't support itself.


  1. Darryl Snow20/9/12 9:05 pm

    Saw Murphy on The Drum this eve. In amongst trying to sound clever Murphy felt the need to offer up that Abbott was a "good bloke". Pure Insiders rubbish that ignores what he puts out for public consumption.

    Journalism (and the club that it resides in) has no idea why no-one buys it.

  2. Careful, Andrew, or Phil might send Tony Wright round to teach you a lesson, Abbott style

  3. We all have our off-days.

  4. That's the essential difference between The Australian and The SMAge. The former *knows* it's treating us as though we came down in the last shower - I laughed out loud when I saw its posters this morning screaming "Abbott Wields Axe in Reshuffle"! The latter can't even begin to understand why Coorey's horseshit of today - and Grattan's of every day - is an insult to the engaged reader's intelligence. But then, they're both doomed in the end.

  5. Philip Coorey is trying to wallpaper over the cracks that run all the way from the Liberal Party into the MSM.

    Glad I read blogs, otherwise I might have missed the brawl developing in WA between the Liberals and Nationals over wheat. Julie Bishop tried hard today to throw the switch to vaudeville but this issue won't go away that easily.

  6. Coorey is a twat of the highest order. The second you question his hairy chested "I'm an insider and you plebs know SFA", he blocks you on twitter.
    I have lost track of the amount of time he and that pin striped suited peacock Hartcher, along with the rest of the circle jerkers in the gallery, have called the return of Rudd inevitable. March last year, then July last year, Feb this year, July, September etc. Rinse and repeat.
    There needs to be a massive cleanout of these hacks when labor wins the next election.
    Tossers the lot of them, they wonder the MSM is fucked.

  7. Greg White21/9/12 1:33 am

    Not sure of the factional side but it seemed to me the Entch civil union play is a wedge for One Trick Tony.

    If its not a present from Turnbull, then the ALP need to raise a civil union bill. Maybe Penny or Louise Pratt should introduce it in the Senate.

    Nice wedge between what ever is left of the moderates and the Minchin right. It would be hard for George Pell's boy not to grant a concience vote.
    Maybe Tony will have to sell his arse after all.

  8. Interesting fixture this weekend "Bambi meets Godzilla" as Julie Bishop flys home to WA to face off against Wilson Tuckey over the wheat spat.

    Just a pity Coorey shows no interest in what could be an bruising encounter.

  9. Can you post a link of Phillip Coorey having a sook at you pointing out his shitty journalism? It would be most entertaining.

  10. Hilariously good. The ground has shifted in media and politics (significantly in the past few months, and not just in Australia) and the cheapjack psychobabble pumped out daily by the Fairfax and News Ltd broadsheets is getting sillier and sillier.

    Twitter is so far ahead, it is actually making the news, and blogs like this are bringing up the rear and supplying the analytical gold, masses of it, all over the internet, including the original source material.

    What is the point of boring old hacks like Grattan, Coorey, Hartcher, Murphy, et al, with their stupid "sources inside the party said today that..."?

    What a wank. The game is up. The worm has turned.

    Walk away.

  11. If Hartcher is pining for Rudd then it's bad news for Kev. In '07 Hartcher was confidently predicting a Howard victory.

    I'm not even sure who the press gallery think they are preaching to these days. Probably each other as I don't know anyone sensible that takes them seriously. You could probably say the Canberra press lot jumped the shark over the silly Laurie Oakes & PM drama late last year. Talk about pompous.

    The editor of The Age was on ABC radio today predicting just an on-line version of The Age in about 5 years and another 70 hacks to go this year. If those who call themselves 'political journalists' don't wise up and quit their navel gazing they will be trampled in the rush to hire part time internet journalists who are running rings around them. Like this blog.

  12. As previously quoted we were well advised what Tony was going to do on Day one, its just what he would do on Day two that frightened us.

    Now even the Day one rhetoric is uncertain. As you have said before Andrew, he appears too lazy to develop policy.

    In a fast changing enviroment it is only policy that can surely break through. They don't have to lay it all out now, but we should be getting some drift of the future direction.

    Instead we are hovering between channeling Howard's era and some sort of razored State government nightmare which wasn't flagged in the respective election campaigns.

    Listening to the desperation in Parliament this week there seemed to be a tendency of shrill volume over talent - so what is left in reserve? Hopefully not a populist leader without policy intention.

    David Perth

  13. It was Crean who got Gillard and Rudd onto the front bench in 2001, not Beazley. For what good it did him? Well, he's survived this long.

  14. Coorey isn't worth reading. I haven't done so for a few years now...it looks as if his writing has gone further downhill. It's pretty well all over for MSM and their self proclaimed "journalists".

  15. grace pettigrew25/9/12 10:41 am

    Our Zombie Press Gallery (ZPG) is unable to pull itself out of the narrative slough of the past two years, where Tony Abbott is The Contender, fighting fit in his Speedos, while JULIAR is nothing but a pathetic woman trying to run the country.

    The polls, on a brainless feedback loop from the MSM, mouthpiece of the Murdocracy, tell the ZPG what to say, every day. Simple regurgitation, recycling garbage, no need to think. Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the uber-capitalists have our ZPG jerking around like dumb puppets on strings.

    If Treasurer Swan criticises a billionaire like Gina Rinehart for not paying enough tax, or calls the Tea Party in the USA a mob of crazies for wanting to pay less and less tax, so that representative democracy disappears altogether, then our ZPG runs around looking for someone to be outraged. It reports the echo chamber, the pre-packaged noise machine, not the news itself, let alone the arguments that might inform the news.

    Is is possible to have an intelligent conversation in this country about paying more tax, so that we can Gonski our schools, sustain Medicare, and build the NBN and the NDIS? Apparently not. A bright young thing asked this very question on the ABC’s Q&A last night. He might as well have been baying at the moon.