The first one was Sweet Barrie Cassidy, showing us how journalists no longer pride themselves on their resistance to bullshit but the sheer quantity of it that they swallow:
The Coalition's strategy reminds Barrie Cassidy of the campaign that brought David Cameron to power in Britain.Thanks to Nick Davies from The Guardian and the Leveson Inquiry, we know that the British media, and its relationship with that country's political and law-enforcement systems, was essentially corrupt. The Cameron government came to office as a result of a corrupt politico-media strategy, in a corrupt politico-media environment. Cassidy is pretty much alleging the same is true of the Australian media today.
When David Cameron became leader of the British Conservatives in December 2005, he set about almost immediately creating a sense of inevitability: he was the prime minister in waiting and Labour’s days were numbered.When Tony Abbott became leader of the Australian conservatives in 2009, he set about almost immediately creating a sense that the Rudd government faffed around and backed down all the time, which it had done and continued to do. He continued this long after the Gillard government outflanked him in negotiations after 2010, and outflanked him again and again on key legislation since. As a conservative, Abbott cannot pick the difference between a passing fad and a structural shift, and neither can Sweet Barrie or the press gallery.
Fraser Nelson, writing for the Spectator in June 2006, quoted a senior Conservative policy maker who said the game plan was to create a "Cameronian aroma" which was "vastly more important than any specific policies the party would advocate."
Nelson wrote: "The task (according to the policy maker) is to create an aroma around the Conservatives so people naturally imagine our policies are the right ones without necessarily knowing what they are. It is about turning the intangibility of Mr Cameron into an asset.
Abbott is not intangible. He was a high-profile figure in the previous conservative government. Cameron had been a press secretary, not an MP or a minister, under the Thatcher and Major governments. The only people who like Abbott are people who don't know him very well, and the few who are no better than he is, clearly including Sweet Barrie.
... the notion that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are somehow being unfair by not spelling out chapter and verse the Coalition's economic strategy until the last couple of weeks of the election campaign.But they do have to - if for no other reason to give journalists some self-respect.
They will not because ... they don't have to.
So unfair of us to expect politicians to tell us how they will govern us. So unfair of us to expect journalists to go through the undignified work of finding out. Waiting until the last minute didn't work last time and it didn't work the time before, either.
The electorate already regards their policies as superior to the Government's without even knowing what they are. They base that judgment on the "aroma", the sense that the Coalition is simply better at economic management than Labor.No, they give the Coalition the benefit of the doubt, because a) the government has been relentlessly bagged at every turn and b) the Coalition hasn't been scrutinised as an alternative government. The broadcast media in general and the press gallery in particular are responsible for that. The only "aroma" here is one of decay on their part.
There will be considerable cynicism with that approach all the way through until September, and no doubt some uncomfortable truths expressed when the policy is finally released. But those truths will need to be exceptionally uncomfortable – and vividly transparent – if the entrenched views of the Government's competency, or lack of it, is going to be reversed.Abbott's whole approach has been to pretend that economic and political realities are different to the way they are. The quibbling over the accuracy and validity of budget figures are a sign of that. The government has not been able to pretend things are different to the way they are, and has faced up to reality. The broadcast media, Sweet Barrie included, are endorsing the non-reality based approach.
In his speech, Abbott promised to keep the tax cuts and the pension increases linked to the carbon tax, and to delay the increase in super contributions.Tony Abbott has a record of saying things he doesn't really mean in order to get elected, and then doing things other than what he'd said once in office. The idea that any politician can cut taxes and increase spending at a time of economic uncertainty, while criticising others for being economically irresponsible, is bullshit. Sweet Barrie and the gang have a responsibility to call out the opposition on that, a responsibility they have shirked.
He also kept open the option of keeping all of the Government's tax increases and spending cuts "to deal with the budget emergency".
But apart from that, it was essentially a political speech, big on a critique of the Government and short on alternatives.
First, the Coalition put out the two policies ahead of the budget that were never going to be well received: a timid industrial relations document that disappointed their traditional constituency and a far from convincing National Broadband Network alternative.In both cases, it is fair to accept that the Coalition will act differently on those policy areas than their words suggest. Harsh realities like the unsustainability of the copper networks and the link between productivity and the workplace relations system, and the focus on those realities, did for those policies.
Labor Party research has found the Coalition's NBN policy is close to the disaster that social media feedback suggested it was.
Not only do two-thirds of Australians have some knowledge of the policy, but by two-to-one, they prefer the Government's approach ...
But it was quickly accepted by business that Abbott and his colleagues would be pushed no further on workplace reform, at least not now.
Note also Cassidy's old-media harrumph about the link between social media opinion and poll findings. Liberal Party research almost certainly shows the same thing, but because it is not self-serving they will not share it with Sweet Barrie nor anyone else. Sometimes it's best to examine events in real time rather than wait around for someone to spin you out some pollshit.
The reason why business is not condemning the Coalition's stated workplace relations policy is because they know there is no relationship between that and what the Coalition would actually do. Real journalists would have smoked that out, but not Sweet Barrie or the press gallery.
The second stage of the strategy will see the Coalition incrementally release as many "good news" policy initiatives that it can muster in the period between now and the release of the pre-election update in mid-August.All of them will be based upon unrealistic economic assumptions, not the least of which is the imperative to cut the budget for its own sake. It's one thing for different parties to offer competing policies based on an understanding of where the country is at, but it's another thing for one party to both refuse to face reality and insist that it is still in the game. The Coalition still think the electorate are greedy bastards who just want cash shovelled at them/us, and the results of the last two elections don't support that; the one thing Kevin Rudd got right was to call Howard on his cash-splashes, after which one of the most deft politicians of our time ran out of options. Neither the Coalition nor the media (including Sweet Barrie) have any excuse for not having learned that lesson.
Enough to create interest and hold at bay those demanding more detail.Interest is conditional upon detail. The less detail, the less credibility and the less interest. The term for high-interest-low-detail is hype.
The third and final stage is the tricky bit - the release of the "bad news" along with the funding detail, which last time around proved to be so ropy.Just like Beazley in 2001, I suppose. Ropey policies before the budget, ropey policies after the budget, and ropey, dopey, slippery-slopey policies after the PEFO - and they're still going to cruise to victory apparently - if Sweet Barrie and the aromatic press gallery have anything to do with it. So much for this old stager insisting that the press would get around to scrutinising Abbott in their own sweet time.
On that score, a party with a big lead in the opinion polls has the luxury of assuming it will come too late to make very much difference.
The Government will howl long and hard about [the press falling into line with Coalition strategy]. The tactic will frustrate many people who want to make a considered judgment on the two policy prescriptions. But that's how it will happen this time and next, no matter who is in government and who is in opposition.It will only happen next time if the Coalition is vindicated this time. If the Coalition is not vindicated then the way Australian journalism is practiced will have to change. The idea that the press gallery can survive regardless of the election outcome is manifestly false, another example of journos kidding themselves to the endangerment of their careers.
Fraser Nelson in that Spectator article suggested the British general election in 2010 would be about the Cameron fragrance versus the five-year plans of the government.And as Britain enters recession for the third time under the incumbents, it is clear that the politicians and the press sold them an absolute dog of a government, one that had no policies that were appropriate or even credible in terms of the economic and political circumstances facing that country. The same prospect faces us today, and the journosphere is doing nothing to avert the political and economic - and yes, media - disaster that befalls the UK today.
Make that the 10-year plans of the Gillard Government and you get the picture here.No Barrie. The Cameron fragrance has dispersed, and so too have the plans of the previous government. The UK is left in a political wasteland. If Abbott wins Australia will have a government that has no clue and a Labor opposition unsure of what lessons the electorate was trying to teach it - but hey, the press gallery will stumble and bumble along, attempting to assure us that not only does Abbott's shit not stink but that it is positively fragrant (and who knows more about Abbott's shit than the press gallery?).
The only reason to watch Cassidy's show Insiders is for the old-school interviewing. Cassidy might be the last consistently good interviewer in Australian political journalism (quibble with that if you will, but name me better - everyone else has abandoned the field). The flick-through of cartoons and photos is also very good and deserves more space. Just as The Simpsons outgrew The Tracey Ullman Show, let's hope Talking Pictures keeps going long after Insiders has gone. The other three-quarters of the show, inane jabbering about spin, is a complete waste of time and resources.
That lack of reflection by the media about their own role is also present in this piece on a site much lauded by the broadcast media for its skill in colonising new media with the values of the old. It's all very well as an introductory piece on how to get media attention for people who've never done it before. It's bullshit when addressed to the current government - as if there is any way of opening the closed, small and inflexible minds of the press gallery.
Julia Gillard came to office without the help of the press gallery, only the second PM to do so in the past 50 years. If she wins re-election she will have no reason at all to thank the media, or to change the way she deals with them going forward. Rizvi makes the same mistake that Sweet Barrie makes, assuming that the press gallery is as permanent a feature of the Canberra landscape as Lake Burley Griffin.
Be in no doubt that the careers of every political journalist in Canberra, and beyond, is in play right now. Their die is cast, and even if Abbott were to win it would only prolong the inevitable. There is no market for obtuse journalism, no desire to hear from Kool-Aid drinkers like Jamila Rizvi and Sweet Barrie Cassidy - let alone drink the regurgitated stuff as they would have us do.