07 July 2015

One Tony Abbott

There is only one Tony Abbott, but the press gallery report him through the lens of an imaginary, wise and capable leader. The fact that so many journalists limit themselves to the same story at any one time is what's wrong with both politics and with journalism, not some sort of vindication of either.

Take this piece by Michael Gordon. Despite Gordon's experience and seniority it is no better/worse than other pieces of its type (which doesn't say much for notions of experience and seniority in political journalism):
Tony Abbott has reverted to the tactics that proved so devastatingly effective in opposition in a bid to achieve ascendancy over Bill Shorten, wedge Labor on national security, consolidate his own recovery and increase his flexibility on election timing.

By reducing the complex issue of citizenship to a slogan, shattering any prospect of bipartisanship on security and brazenly misrepresenting the position of the country's foremost expert in terrorism law, the Prime Minister is out to maximise short and medium-term political advantage.

Having declared that "Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die", Abbott's emphatic message now is that Australians are safer from terrorism under the Coalition. This is an extraordinary and irresponsible claim.
Abbott never moved on from the behaviour that so enthralled journalists. This is why he's such an abysmal Prime Minister.

The press gallery were willing to take him at his word, while the rest of the country wasn't. Australians have always been Tony Abbott sceptics. Whenever people were asked who they would prefer to lead the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott or a brown snake, Abbott couldn't win a trick. Since he became leader of the Liberal Party major media broadcasters have insisted, like people trapped in a bad relationship, that they knew the real Tony and we didn't. He Can Change. He's Looking Prime Ministerial. He'll Grow Into The Job. This Time. This Time. Good Government Starts Today, Or Maybe Next Thursday, Definitely After The Budget. No Really This Time It Will Be Different, Please Believe Me.

They made excuses for him that they didn't make for Latham, or Downer, or any other party leader manifestly unfit to become Prime Minister.

To return to Gordon, Abbott is not being "extraordinary" when he executes the responsibilities of office in his typically irresponsible way. Every week, if not every day, Tony Abbott does things that fall short of the press gallery ideal that they call "Tony 2.0", "Prime Ministerial", or whatever. Rather than abandon this pretence and report on Abbott as he is and has always been, they hold him to a fantasy ideal and act all surprised when he falls short.

Now somebody has taken Peter Hartcher to lunch and convinced him that the environment is a real thing in politics, something that goes beyond the weak tea and small beer that is the major parties' positions. It's so risible I won't even link to it, because the SMH campaign on the environment works from the same assumptions as all bad political reporting:
  • the incompetent boofhead we see trashing government services, and with that our very confidence in government itself, is somehow not the real Tony Abbott and something of a surprise to seasoned observers;
  • the real Tony Abbott is a sensitive and well-rounded fellow who feels people's pain, and is very receptive to issues like same-sex marriage and renewable energy; so
  • with the right form of words, offered respectfully, we just might get him to tone down his opposition to something against which he fundamentally defines himself.
This bullshit has to stop. I am singling out Fairfax but every organisation with any mouth-breathing muppets in the Canberra press gallery is guilty of the same malicious negligence. Stop believing in "Tony 2.0". The whole reason Abbott is Prime Minister at all is not because conservatives pushed for a conservative government - conservatives are entitled to make their case - but because of smirking dipsticks like Hartcher and Gordon who insisted they knew Abbott better than the rest of us. They falsely asserted against all the evidence - against everything that journalism is supposed to stand for - that he wouldn't be so bad.

Start seeing Abbott for what he is and report accordingly. Misinformation kills democracy, and it kills media organisations that peddle it.


  1. Look, as Tony Abbott says at the start of every sentence, if Greece had a better grocery code of conduct they would not be in so much strife. Or something like that.

    Surely more journalists must be starting to reassess their generous view of Abbott when he can't answer a question about the upheaval in Greece and concerns that China might be headed for a downturn because he was in a supermarket to talk about groceries.

    1. I hope you're not suggesting that he is a fuckwit?

  2. Another great piece Andrew, agree with everything you said (again).

  3. This constant expectation that Abbott will somehow live up to these inflated expectations of his media admirers truly amazes. A bizarre recent example was Paula Matthewson's discussion on the Drum, of the fine mess which the Government has got itself into over marriage equality. It was truly bizarre to see her suggest that Abbott's real wish was to see marriage equality legalised, but he was being held back by the right wing faction on whose support he depends. This notion that the "good Tony" is just waiting to emerge is risible, yet it seems to be the near universal assessment by people who are (obscenely well-)paid to observe and write about the political scene. Your recent post on Abbott's attitude to this issue belled the cat, but alas it hasn't broken through the preconceptions of the press gallery.
    Personally, I don't have a dog in the fight over marriage equality, but the fact that the Government is managing the issue so ineptly is a source of riveting entertainment.

    1. His own sister is going in hard...

      Telling the press that she wants a free vote

      Akward that Michelle Grattan thinks it must be difficult for her....really?

      If I had a brother like that I would have disowned him immediately

      Like Andrew Bolts gay sister....her crikey piece spoke volumes.

      How Tim "Freedom" Wilson has been chosen as their tokenistic gay man to do their dirty work for them at the H.R.C is beyond a joke

    2. I think it was dishonest of Matthewson to suggest that Abbott wants same-sex marriage any more than he wants a republic.

  4. Among less political persons he's regarded as a joke. The politically aware layer is ever more aghast at what may still be in store from this two-dimensional caricature of a national leader. He may not have set out to trash the Liberal 'brand', but each day, let alone week, ensures this happens.
    To be honest, I doubt he's aware of that, or a lot of other things; least of all policy, its nuances, possible costs/benefits, possible unintended consequences.
    Some have suggested he may be infirm of mind, possibly from repeated traumatic brain injury from his chosen sporting pastime, before cycling. This will prove of interest only later, when no longer in office.

    Turnbull, meantime, is looking like the Coyote who's decided to stop his legs running, looked down, and (gulp), seen a gaping ravine.

    If he's turfed pre-election, will the incoming leader feel that they need to give an explanation to the electorate for the past nigh-on two years? I hope so.

    And if they don't, will the MSM hold them to account on that?
    I doubt it.

  5. In every step since he was elected into office Mr Abbott has shown a contempt for everything Australia stands for , his record speaks for it self , attack the disabled for being a burden on the economy , attack minorities as being dangerous , attack illegals as burden and danger to us all and lock them in camps , attack the aged for working and saving for their retirement , slowly move military supporters into major positions in government , silence or control the media as to what this government is doing , cut all support for health and education . This my friends is a direct copy right out of adolf hitlers Mein Kampf , dont believe me . well you have the internet , look it all up , compare with out prejudice or bios and look only at the facts and come to your own conclusions

    1. Sorry, stop you there. But illegals? Who are these illegals? Perhaps you mean asylum seekers?

    2. My apologies for the wording , just using the word said by Mr Abbott himself at one point , he has no concept of asylum what so ever

  6. Meanwhile, over at the Guardian Lenore Taylor is all 'Shorten the Hollowman' again. One set of standards for Tony, another for Bill (or anyone else). I notice the tell-tale signs, too, that comments critical of Lenore are being removed for breaching community standards. K Murphy does likewise. I wish there was a button we could push to delete their posts when they breach community standards...

    1. Murphy is a serial offender when it comes to Tony 2.0

    2. Murphy insists Abbott is "highly intelligent" presumably because he's clearly smarter than her, having fooled her so many times

    3. 'Lenore Taylor' is the reason I don't read the Australian version of The Guardian.

  7. Andrew, I know your 'betes noir' are the press gallery but they didn't install our Tones; the Libs themselves did.

    I'd have to assume they knew him better than anyone. so why? I seem to remember that you have a certain regard for one of the chief culprits, Andrew Robb. Is he just another duplicitous f*wit (i.e. politician) or did he see qualities that no one else did?

    I must confess to being swayed by Latham's (I know, I know) piece on the Turnbull coup (http://www.afr.com/news/politics/national/the-ploy-that-torpedoed-turnbull-20130430-jhwhh).

    Was it just the ETS? Surely the Abbott experiment simply wasn't worth it.

    1. Yes, they did, just as the ALP reaped the whirlwind of system failure by appointing Kevin Rudd. The press gallery has failed twice, once by emphasising Rudd's qualities over his shortcomings, and again doing so over Abbott.

      Many of those in the press gallery who talked up Rudd also talked up Abbott; nobody in either of the major parties can be said to have made the same mistake twice. Many of them are still there, as Senior Correspondents or Doyen(ne)s or Political Editors or whatever, rather than having been pole-axed.

      Robb must have thought he could work better with Abbott, and chances are Abbott made noises about respecting Robb's complementary skills over Turnbull's know-all approach. As it stands, Robb has knuckled down to trade negotiations, a job that gets him far from the PMO, and he secures any deal he can which makes him look like an achiever. He will be one of the few ministers in this government who comes out of it with reputation enhanced.

    2. Hmmm. Okay.

      Provided we're not dudded by the deals methinks.

      Time will tell, I guess but I fear that the deals are as much being made with an eye to reducing the perceived power of the unions and reducing wages than anything else.

    3. Much as I despise Robb, Anonymous, he's one of the very few of Abbott's ministers who is actually intelligent and competent. It's a pity he wastes his intellect in the service of such an incompetent government.

    4. My thoughts exactly, DI. I take it as given that it will take years to unpick the damage done by this govt, including Robb.

  8. Hillbilly Skeleton8/7/15 11:23 pm

    ...'Having declared that "Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die",'

    To get what Tony Abbott is about there you only have to do a bit of thinking. Which is what he counts on people not having the time to do. Only enough time in their day to listen to his constant barrage of blather.

    Anyway, with respect to the above quote, just think about it. As succinctly pointed out to me elsewhere: Australia is an island. We have a Navy. We have an Air Force. As of July 1 we also have the Border Farce Force, bristling with intent on our borders.

    On the other hand, Islamic State is over in the Middle East. It doesn't have a Navy. It doesn't have an Air Force. It can only 'come for us' via Twitter.

    Apparently, it is such a massive threat that Israel, who shares a border with Syria and ostensibly, IS, is not even gearing up to attack them.

    And you know how they relish a stoush with their adversaries.

    Ergo, the whole 'Daesh Death Cult is coming to get you in your beds!' malarkey from Abbott is just him trying to set up one of the parameters for the next election (the main one) and so be able to fight it based upon that and not the godawful mess he's made of the economy (formerly a strong suit for the Coalition, but not since Abbott & Hockey came along).

    Which endeavour will be aided and abetted by the Press Gallery. Because they are Insiders and they know better than us Joe Schmoes.

    Or so they keep telling us on Twitter. Where they lay down their biggest and best smackdowns on us Ordinary Joes. Which is kind of sad to observe, really, because it shows they have the ability to go after their adversaries but are lacking the balls to do it to the Prime Minister.

  9. I don't understand why it is so bloody hard to just report on what the Government does and the effect and report only on that. If you truly want the "view from nowhere", that is it. Action and effect. Stuff what they have to say, what are they DOING?

  10. The fight to stop mining on the Liverpool Plains has been happening for 20 years. I know, because I have been involved with it since then. It has, in that time, been almost IMPOSSIBLE to get media attention (even after the NSW Keneally government did the dirty on farmers after they won a case in the courts).

    But of course, now it gets coverage. Is this because of the issue: the risk to one of the most fertile food growing bowls in the WORLD? Nah, course not....as you say, it is all about Joyce VS Abbott.

    Can't tell you how angry I am on this one: NO WORDS are good enough.