Last Sunday I asked Iain Hall if he felt that democracy was well served when 70% of the Australian print media was owned by Rupert Murdoch. In the context of the question I also said that Fairfax had made a sudden shift to the right and that the ABC was now more right than left. Although I wasn’t totality convinced of how far.
This was his answer.
“I think that you over-estimate the extent to which the Murdoch media influences the political discourse in the age of the internet and social media. That said I don’t see the ABC as being anything but of a left leaning persuasion as it has always been and Fairfax is only beginning to be openly critical of the Gillard government because it is performing so badly that to do otherwise would leave them open to being a propaganda arm of the ALP/Greens. Some here are clinging onto the notion that it’s all the fault of a hostile media like its a life preserver from the Titanic but the seem blissfully unaware or in denial about how cold the waters have become under this dysfunctional government.”
Now lets take a closer look at his answer. His statement that “Quote” “ABC as being anything but of a left leaning persuasion as it has always been.” may in part be true but it should be remembered that Hawke and Keating both continuously complained of ABC bias. Anyway apparently Iain doesn’t watch much of auntie or if he does he does so with his eyes closed. It is obvious to any discerning viewer that there has been a shift in how political news is presented. More often than not we find Abbott’s opinion gets precedence over the PMs statements. In addition there seem to be more guests of a right persuasion on their political program’s. I concede that social media and blogs like this one are making inroads into the influence of newspapers and this is evidenced in the decline in sales. But to say that any media company with 70% share of the market, that its influence is over estimated is ludicrous. Ask any CEO if they would like 70% of any market. I know what the answer would be. In any case it would not be allowed in the US.
By inference it also suggests that its journalists, like Andrew Bolt also have an over estimated influence. And we know that not the case. He in fact has a huge influence.”The Australian” loses an enormous amount of money annually. If it didn’t have influence why does he allow it to continue. And it is jokingly refereed to as the official new sheet of the LNP. Murdoch is not the sort to let a dollar slip through his fingers. Sure the influence of the Internet and social media is biting into his influence but it does not as yet rival main stream media. To say that the vile tabloid headlines of the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph are overestimated shows in itself a denial of the power of a headline. Particularly in their frequency.
I would like to examine the last sentence of Iain’s answer in which he uses two words, notably “dysfunctional government”. As I understand it the word dysfunctional means ” not operating normally or properly” so lets see if this is the case. Iain seems to write off Murdoch’s influence in the reverse manner of created deceptions. Simply say it isn’t true.
The Labor government was elected according to all the requirements of the constitution. It is a minority government that survives with the support of independents and the greens. After two years (despite all the predictions)it still survives and will in all probability run its full term. It has never been defeated on the floor of the house and has passed in excess of 400 pieces of legislation. Some of which has been major reforms. The carbon price and the NBN being just two. All this in a minority setting. I would venture to say given they are able to get Gonski and the NDIS passed they could be arguably the most successful reformist government this country has seen.
So where is the dysfunction? It’s a perception that people like Iain and the main stream media like to perpetuate. Allow me to use one of my quotes. “Life is about perception. Not what is but what we perceive it to be.” Perceptions are manipulations brought about by telling continuous lies or by using extreme negativity on a continuous basis. As Hitler said (or was it the propagandist Goering) that if you tell a lie big enough and often enough it will become the truth.
From day one Julia Gillard has faced a storm, no, an avalanche of criticism from a media hell bent on her removal and an opposition leader who besides being a confessed liar is of dubious character and negativity. And of course a Parliament where the opposition has behaved deplorably. Don’t believe me, then consider these snippets and comments from Malcolm Turnbull’s recent speech.
“Dumbing down complex issues into sound bites, misrepresenting your or your opponent’s policy does not respect ‘Struggle Street’; it treats its residents with contempt.”
“Hopeless, confused, hyper-partisan” debate about climate change.”
“Fox News in the United States is an example of how commercially successful that strategy can be as are some of the shock jocks in Australia,” he said.
“Newspapers and other media were resorting more to commentary and opinion and more to analysis of the effectiveness of political spin than to analysis of the substantive issues.”
“Saying that as news organisations came under greater cost pressures, good reporting which held governments and oppositions to account “was diminishing”. Instead, he said, at the same time, there was more media “narrowcasting” — strident partisanship aimed at like-minded consumers.
“For the last two years the questions from the Opposition have been almost entirely focused on people smuggling and the carbon tax,”
“First, the cynically exploitative — his terminology — campaign against the Republic 12 years ago, a campaign.” He was referring to Abbott.
“A lie is a false statement known to be false by the person who utters it. This may be a deliberate misstatement of fact [such as] ‘I did not have sex with that woman’. Or it may be a false statement that the speaker has no basis for believing to be true: ‘Tony Abbott has a secret plan to reinstate WorkChoices.’”But, he said, “a change of policy is not a lie.” Thus Julia Gillard had not lied about the carbon tax before the last election. She had, for political reasons [the need to get the support of the Greens to take government] broken a promise.
Turnbull endorsed some form of public fact-checking, presumably meaning through organisations like those which exist in America, and analyse the pronouncements of public figures and the media in a strictly non-partisan way.
The preferred opposition leader of the people went on to condemn the frequent use of the word “liar” in relation to politicians — another clear shot at Jones in particular, who dubbed the Prime Minister “Ju-liar”.
Note. These references were taken from an article by Mike Seccombe, Alan Austin September 10, 2012:
Of course I might have added when asking Iain my question the fact that almost all of commercial talk back radio is controlled by right-wing extremist shock jocks with huge audiences. Are there any on the left? And all the commercial television stations have a right-wing leaning. Not good for democracy where a diversity of views is an essential part of the process. As it stands now we have or are likely in the future to have a media consisting of totality right-wing views. Diversity can be found on social media and is flourishing and gaining momentum. However main stream media still influences the broad population who are in a political malaise.
Back to Iain’s point that the government is dysfunctional. It has certainly had its share of controversies. The Thompson affair and Peter Slipper and they have made errors of judgement in predicting surpluses and revenue from mining taxes. But the truth of the matter is that they have been no better or worse than most governments. Maybe better than some. They haven’t lost a minister to any scandal in five years where as Howard lost ten in his first term. He had an unjustifiable and unpopular war and the AWB scandal.
Some of the most significant legislated policies have been the highly regarded stimulus program that prevented our economy from going into decline during the GFC. Other programs have included the critically important BER and HIP programs, the carbon tax/ETS, the MMRT, plain packaging of cigarettes, health reforms, cancer centres, GP Super Clinics, pharmaceutical benefits reforms, disability insurance, indigenous reforms, IR reforms, the National Broadband Network, an investigation into problem gambling on pokies yet to be legislated, the list goes on and on. Of course negative Tony has opposed most of the reforms because he believes that’s what oppositions should do. Stuff the merits of the policy. So complicit are the MSM, that most voters would be unaware of the hundreds of other policies that have passed through parliament. And there is still more important legislation to come.
So how have they performed?
They have managed the economy incredibly well. Unemployment is low – just above 5%; inflation low – within the RBA’s ‘comfort zone’; interest rates are low – a 4.25% cash rate and public debt is also low – a small fraction of comparable countries; a healthy trade surplus; a strong Australian dollar; Triple A credit rating from all three rating agencies; massive investment in mining and related infrastructure; a growing economy despite natural disasters and the high AUD. and retail sales increased by 2% in January.What more do people want? They would like faster growth, better conditions for export manufacturers, and higher levels of confidence in the business community and the electorate, but nonetheless the Government’s record is a splendid if not perfect one, the envy of the developed world. It’s a pity the MSM cannot give some credit to many accomplishments of the Gillard Government and make the electorate aware of them.
Howard and Costello wasted ten surpluses, spending nothing on infrastructure. Which is now a big issue in places like Western Sydney? And of course we should not forget that Costello lost 2.2 billion dollars of taxpayers money in cross-currency swaps. So the fact remains that all governments have pluses and minuses. None however in my memory has had its opposition found guilty by a judge of deliberately using the courts under false pretences in order to bring down a speaker and the government. Now I expect there will be those who will return fire with a dossier of Gillard misdemeanors, but before you do please consider the wrong doings of your own party. I am simply making the point that in a minority setting the government has performed remarkably well and by enlarge this can be put down to the tenacity and strength of will of the prime minister.
Abbott with the aid of an obliging media has been able to create this deception because they are unaccountable to each other. The media don’t think (for whatever reason) there is a need to scrutinise him or his policies (whatever they may be) and Abbott simply walks out on press conferences or makes himself a small target because he doesn’t believe he needs to be accountable. He simply repeats his mantra that the PM is a liar and her government is the worst the country has ever seen. He never explains why and the media never ask. When he calls her a liar they never question his own litany of recorded falsehoods. Lets face it his record (evidence can be provided) entitle him to be judged the biggest liar to ever pace the halls of parliament.
Thus a perception is created by a political media who with a couple of exceptions must be the worst press gallery the country has seen. Misapprehension and misinformation stand in the way of any decent democracy and main stream media has let the Australian public people down.