09 October 2014

Mark Kenny still believes

Once again, we have a journalist who admits to have been played for a fool by the spinners of the Abbott government. Once again, this journalist is implying this is a recent development, when he has been played for years.

Today's bunny is Mark Kenny.

Trade unions were long believed by Liberals to be a declining force in Australian society, and that any attempt to hasten their decline might rouse them from their sickbeds. This is the lesson they learned from the union movement's extraordinarily successful Your Rights At Work campaign in 2007. Liberals who had opposed WorkChoices feared that very outcome, while those who didn't redoubled their determination to actively disempower the unions rather than tiptoe around them.

The fact that the current Opposition Leader makes much of his record as a union organiser adds to Liberal motivations to discredit trade unionism as it is practiced.

A serious policy response to trade union maladministration would be to beef up union registration requirements under Fair Work Australia, so that trade unions were regulated in a consistent way, with regular reports and audits and prosecutorial powers, similar to the way companies are regulated by ASIC and its attendant legislation.

The Heydon Royal Commission into trade union governance was always a political fit-up, designed to create daily headlines for easily-led and impressionable hacks like Mark Kenny.
Its true motivations were revealed on its inception by the Attorney General, George Brandis. Brandis' abuse of parliamentary lurks to attend social functions and build a bookcase required distraction; Kenny and the press gallery were happy to oblige him in that regard.
A cynic might say the 12 month extension of the royal commission into unions is politically convenient for the Abbott government because it will shift its report and release date to within sight of the 2016 election.
A cynic might; Kenny works in Parliament House, so I'll defer to him on what cynics do.

Ascribing base and snide motives to the Abbott government doesn't make you a cynic. It means you've been paying attention. Kenny is in the difficult position where he wants you to believe he's been paying attention (i.e., trust me I'm a journalist) but wants to avoid being labelled a 'cynic' for calling this government for what it is. Canberra can be a lonely place as it is, and this government is happy to turn off the taps to those they regard as less than fully with their program.

Mark Kenny did not get where he is by being labelled a cynic (or even being a cynic is the classical sense of questioning authority and matching/ contrasting words with deeds). He got where he is by doggedly insisting, day after day, that Julia Gillard did something wrong with Bruce Wilson's AWU money all those years ago, and that he was the scoophound who'd find it. He found nothing, and was disappointed that the Royal Commision didn't either:
Former prime minister Julia Gillard's hours in the witness box discussing her pre-parliamentary work as a union solicitor promised so much but in the end delivered dull TV. There was no smoking gun, no gotcha moment.
Nobody had any right to assume, after years of digging, that any such moment or artefact would arrive. It is the Lasseter's Reef of 21st century politics. Nobody should know this more than Mark Kenny. The man has been had, fooled, gulled, played for a mug. He has attempted to palm this off to the rest of us - but nobody seems to have been taken in but him and his silly colleagues.

It doesn't occur to Kenny (or Brandis) that moving the reporting date closer to the 2016 election only means that it will reinforce the two three big drawbacks of this government - that it is mean, petty, and vacuous - at a time when it will want to play down or negate that impression.
Leaving aside that [Brandis' explanation of his reasons for extending the Royal Commission] is hardly a muscular refutation of a serious charge - to wit, using scarce taxpayer funds to manipulate an issue and wedge one's political opponents - is it even true?
It is only now, more than a year after it has taken office, for Mark Kenny to start holding the Abbott government to account for its words/actions deficit.

Even so, he's pretty gentle: nothing like the all-pervasive savagery arising from Gillard's carbon-pricing statement, nor allowing for the standard political practice where previous positions require adjustment to new developments. As analysis goes it's pretty poor, but typical of Kenny.
Perhaps these objectives [discrediting Gillard and Shorten] will be progressed in the final report - or the interim one even.
Kenny has to be the last journalist outside NewsCorp to give this government the benefit of the doubt. Even the dullest hacks are starting to tire of the idea that it's all Labor's fault, an evasion that hasn't worked since the budget was excreted in May.
In the meantime, the process rolls on with taxpayers footing the likely $61 million bill.
That almost sounds like outrage. Could we be building up to a swingeing denunciation in the final par?

Sadly, no.
That will be money well spent, however, if it comprehensively addresses and resolves a culture of corruption and intimidation within the nation's unions ...
This is the wheedling of the chronic gambler, convinced that the next race, the next card, the next roll of the dice will be the big winner. C'mon, spinner! Time to cut your losses and go.

The biggest story of this royal commission is that Kathy Jackson, once called a "whistleblower" by Fairfax and the Liberals, could well be the biggest looter and villain of them all. Kenny forgot to mention that, despite having been very close to the Thomson saga.

His colleague Kate McClymont won a Walkley in 2012 by quoting Jackson without giving her claims due diligence. With that, and after the cadet-level error of mixing up Chris Browns, it's fair to say that McClymont is in decline and not the epitome of investigative journalism that the profession's boosters like to claim. If the NRL can strip the Melbourne Storm of two premierships retrospectively, then surely the Walkley Foundation can quietly ask McClymont to return their gong if the award is to mean anything going forward.

Like all press gallery journalists, Mark Kenny has been played for a mug by the Abbott team for half a decade. This is what's diminishing political journalism in this country. Given that Kenny lacks both the sense to realise his predicament and the backbone to get out of it, it's time to widen the scope and realise that his editors have no idea what sells, and that Kenny will go on being wrong until his employer dies under him.


  1. Thanks again Andrew. On the money and the Kenny.
    Interesting to see the front page header in the Australian this morning which will not please the Head Teamster.
    The word 'dysfunction' has been used in ref to government. Of course the Rudd-Gillard years come in for a kicking too. The editorial is behind the wall so I am unable to read the paper's opinion of commissioned research which says 28% of us are fed up with Canberra.
    Phillip Hudson's lead story says that figure is alarming but I am more disturbed that only 28% have concerns.
    Meanwhile down at Fairfax Kenny has followed Greg Sheridan in expressing concerns about the new terrorism laws. I remain amazed that journalists were not writing such pieces weeks and weeks ago.
    I think you are right Andrew. The penny has dropped. For many reasons many journalists have given this government a free ride and now it has come for them.

  2. "mean, petty, and vacuous", good description. Abbott personality is all about competition and winning, having won government he is using it power to continue his fight to "win" without answering why?

    1. "...it will reinforce the two big drawbacks of this government - that it is mean, petty, and vacuous -" ...and a fanatical devotion to the Pope!

  3. Bushfire Bill10/10/14 11:04 am

    The last paragraph of that article bears little or no relationship with the rest of the article. It appears to be an afterthought, tacked on either by Kenny, or by someone else.

    He spent most of the piece criticising (if mildly) the set-up and rationale of the TURC and the money wasted by it "investigating" small-time incidents and random acts of alleged thuggery, covering a period of 20 years or more.

    Then at the end he states that $61 million is a fair price to pay for something he's just said (IF he was a cynic) was essentially a politically motivated and expensive witch hunt. The body of the piece is not logically connected to its conclusion.

    I'm not so sure whether Kenny is a fool, or whether he knows exactly what he is doing. This is the man who wrote that Gillard's "impressive" (his word not mine) successes in China and India would, sadly, be eclipsed by a shoe malfunction and a Rudd Appearance on Lateline while she was away.

    And, gee, that's exactly how it turned out! What a savant Mr Kenny turned out to be. He was spot on the money. You could read any of his columns afterwards and see the exact context he predicted come to fruition. Gillard was good, but what a pity about those heels... and Kevin Rudd popping up everywhere. Tony Abbott? Policies? He going to win anyway, isn't he?

    The Press Gallery does this a lot: they report an incident, tell their readers how it will be received by "commentators", and then commentate away. The perfect circle jerk.

    You could see it in the response to the Alberici interview on Lateline. They all dream of a world where they get to ask feisty questions of a beleaguered guest.

    It's such a different world from the one they live in themselves, where all they need to do is check their iPhone inboxes every 10 minutes for the latest official "context". When they got two chances to ask feisty questions themselves, to Gillard over Slatergate, their analysis - "more questions to be answered" - was itself proof their collective journalistic muscle had long wasted away due to lack of use.

    So, when one of them actually takes a guest on in an interview, yells over the top of them, demands answers etc. they celebrate it, almost for its novelty. Never mind that the viewers might have wanted to hear what the bloke had to say, in his own words, but couldn't for the noise. Never mind Alberici's rudeness to a guest she invited onto her show. The man's a terrorist, why can't he just admit it? No other possibility other than his guilt was even countenanced.

    Herd, meet cliff.

    1. normalozperson10/10/14 6:16 pm

      Good one Bill nail meet head

  4. Thank god somebody is calling out Kenny . The fairfax masthead has no future with lackey, herd journalism of the type offered by Kenny. In today's enlightening piece, in which he again returns to one of his favourite revelations: that Tony Abbott is in fact...wait for it... 'not a fool', he again distinguishes himself for his propensity for mindnumbing innanity.

    To wit: the fact that Australian Jets had ended there first sortie in Iraq without unleashing random death and destruction demonstrated Australia's inherent 'civility'. I had to read that line a few times just to take in the full breadth of its vacuous stupidity. The fact that these guys don't just blow things up and kill people when they don't know what they're firing at, isnt just worthy of note, it is worthy of high nationalist praise. God spare me.

    1. Good call, Anonymous. I agree with you about Kenny's outing. Furthermore, I can't understand why Fairfax adopted these Newscorp bores. Stutchbury is another. He took a reliable and fairly progressive newspaper, the Financial Review, over to the right. I stopped buying it after a few weeks of his heavy handed editorial intervention. By taking a number of poor economic decisions and employing journalists and editors such as Kenny, Hartcher and Stutchbury, Fairxfax has abandoned its progressive readership base. It will be interesting to see if the state flagships, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald can limp along for much longer.

  5. 'Former prime minister Julia Gillard's hours in the witness box discussing her pre-parliamentary work as a union solicitor promised so much'

    That statement alone shows why Kenny is a complete waste of space. Anyone with more than one vaguely working cell inside their skull knew that Gillard's appearance promised sweet FA. The story had been told a million times, Gillard had given the press pack two vewy vewy long press conferences to throw whatever mud they had, and even with Parliamentary Privilege the best Abbott could come up with was 'conduct unbecoming a future Prime Minister'. How a professional journalist could think the Royal Commission was going to prove Gillard guilty of anything - apart from making a fool of Abbott - is beyond me.

    'The biggest story of this royal commission is that Kathy Jackson, once called a "whistleblower" by Fairfax and the Liberals'

    Not to mention being called a 'hero' by Abbott and Pyne. Something that also seems to have slipped our media's collective memory. Funny that.

  6. Kenny is a silly little boy.

    I adored your "... since the budget was excreted in May", Andrew. The perfect description.

  7. If journalists could be retroactively stripped of Walkley Awards for shoddy journalism, it would be the thin edge of the wedge. What next? Making chronic mediocrity a firing offence? That would involve journalists accepting something which they demand for everyone else: accountability.

    1. How culpability for appalling reporting on climate change and implications of simplistic reporting of "axing the tax", therefore, endangering future generations?

  8. An excellent post, and like your other most recent ones, offering limited scope for me to add to. I have linked your posts to Twitter in the hope of reaching a larger audience.

    But I'm glad that you've taken on Mark Kenny, who has long deserved it. He hasn't made a berk of himself as blatantly as Hartcher, but otherwise is barely distinguishable from News Ltd nob polishers. We deserve better from Fairfax reporters who make great play of their 'independence'. Yet like the ABC, they rarely exercise it and instead seem concerned not to step out of line with the rest.

    You hit onto it perfectly with Kenny that there is a genuine fear of being isolated and off the feed in the Press Gallery. That, and probably the haunting one as the industry winds itself down, and the fear that Murdoch will be the only employer on offer soon. So better echo a line acceptable to him or Chris Mitchell in a pinch.

    Some have shown a bit of buyers' remorse as the Abbott government continues to fail so comprehensively on so many fronts. Kenny does not quite make that category because he is still searching for the pot of gold and happy to go on with the hagiography that should be left to Shanahan or Sheridan. So we get the turd polishing that he was a surprising success in his latest foreign forays and is transforming into a strong wartime leader, against all evidence to the contrary.

    Never mind the budget, brilliantly labelled by you as 'excreted'. And the Gillard Slater smear is superbly called by you as Lasseter's Reef of the 21st Century. Wither Kathy Jackson? Silence on that and Ashby does not do any service to the nation.

    1. Well put. I am missing your posts from other sites.

    2. Have spread myself thinly of late - hope to get a few off by year's end.

  9. I'd just like to say that Peter Wicks is far more deserving of a Walkely for his "Jacksonville" series than Kate ever was.

  10. Andrew, what with Katherine Murphy, Mark Kenny and Greg Sheridan all writing more reflective pieces of late, I would not be surprised if blogs like Politically Homeless and Mr Denmore might not be having an effect.

    Both you and Jim Parker have been consistently critical of the failures and short-comings and outright distortions of the media and would not have gone unnoticed.

    It would not surprise me if both blogs were widely read by journalists.

    1. I hope you're right, but I fear you are not

    2. JB - I was too low key in suggesting that I would be unsurprised if journalists were reading blogs in question. They would be. Odds on. I would be very unsurprised if such consistent, well-constructed and unflinching criticism was not having an effect.

  11. Mark who? It is because of these below par underachiever stenographers it is so easy to walk past a news stand and not buy a newspaper. Haven't bought a newspaper for about four years now. Not missing anything it seems.

  12. Now do Hartcher.

  13. " He got where he is by doggedly insisting, day after day, that Julia Gillard did something wrong with Bruce Wilson's AWU money all those years ago, and that he was the scoophound who'd find it"

    Andrew would you please link to the articles where Mark Kenny pursued Gillard ?

    I think you are confusing Kenny with another Fairfax journalist, one Mark Baker, and if so owe Kenny a major apology and retraction.

    1. Both of them went after Gillard so it is not either/or. Kenny, unlike Baker, stood at that press conference where Gillard answered question after question for an hour, until the gallery ran out of questions - and then continued to insist she still had questions to answer. I will make a detailed case at the appropriate time.