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Abbott’s first year: the media narrative

Since political journalists so love to talk about Labor Party narrative, I think it’s time we turned the tables and talked about mainstream media narratives instead. The one I would like to specifically discuss is the media’s recent coverage of the one-year milestone of the Abbott government. From what I have seen and heard so far, these are the mandatory ingredients of the media’s narrative marking this occasion, with the consistency of a wheel in a track. This review of the media narrative also, handily, becomes my critique of Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister. One stone, two dead birds and all that.

Acknowledging the kept promises

Abbott is given a big thumbs up for doing what all Prime Ministers were expected to do until he broke pretty much every promise he made during his first twelve months and Teflon-like changed the expectations that a Prime Minister shouldn’t lie. So on the three occasions that Abbott didn’t lie – promising to get rid of the Carbon Price and Mining Tax and stopping the boats, he gets a round of applause from the mainstream media.

This applause definitely does not include any critique of the effect these decisions will have on the community. Because discussion of policy outcomes is forbidden. All the journos need to know is that Abbott said he was going to get rid of the Carbon Price, the Mining Tax, and stop the boats and he’s done that, so big tick to Abbott! You’ll see no comment on the devastation that the demise of the Carbon Price, with no policy to replace it, will have on our environment, even though a study has already reveals that emissions went up immediately after the repeal. You’ll see no comment on the impact of the death of the Mining Tax on wealth inequality.

And has Abbott really stopped the boats if they’re still leaving Indonesia only to be turned around in secret military-like on-water operations that break international treaties and desperate people are sometimes sent back to the hell-hole they came from? One murdered asylum seeker and one death due to sub-standard third-world medical care and a damaged relationship with Indonesia doesn’t seem to me to be a successful policy. But if it kept a promise, it’s fine apparently.

However, if you cared to judge the Abbott government not on their ability to keep a promise, but on their ability to be humane and to work in the best interests of the community while keeping a promise, they have clearly failed. You won’t hear the media making this point.

Praise for Abbott’s response to Malaysian airlines disasters

It is clearly not hard to put some glasses on and to look sombre while you speak pre-prepared consolatory words about an airline tragedy. And let’s be honest people, if that’s Abbott at his pre-prepared best, then he’s at best a mediocre public speaker who should never have got anywhere near the top job and at worst a George. W. Bush-like moronic bumbling ah-ah-ah-ah embarrassment to this great nation.

So looking past what Abbott said, as he scheduled non-stop press conferences about plane disasters but wouldn’t talk about his failed budget, and focusing more on what he did, what did he actually do? He volunteered millions of dollars in Australian resources and never found Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, despite raising the victim’s family’s hopes unnecessarily and announcing in Parliament that the plane had been found when it hadn’t. He also volunteered Australian resources to help recover the bodies of victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which, sorry to have to point this out, again raised the hopes of the victim’s families and again he failed to complete the mission, whilst also putting Australians in harm’s way.

Praise for Abbott’s Team Australia bullshit

Apparently it’s ‘statesmen like’ to rush to a war on terrorism. Talking about the merits of going to war for at least a few days before committing Australia to what could be an ongoing conflict in a country that still hasn’t recovered from the last time Australia rushed to help America and the UK wage a war, would to me, seem at least foolish, at worst criminal. But Abbott’s Team Australia khaki campaign, in aid of his personal polling, will no doubt be applauded by the press as long as it continues to help Abbott win the poll war. Because that’s how journalists judge the merits of a Prime Minister’s decisions – on their real or possible impact on polls. Didn’t you know?

Downplaying Abbott’s lies as ‘they’re not different from Gillard’s lie’

Even when journalists do bother to remind voters that Abbott’s first budget was based on a barrage of lies and broken promises, they always make sure to compare these lies to Gillard’s Carbon Price ‘lie’. A lie is something you know to be false when you say it. Gillard didn’t know she was going to have to make a deal with the Greens to form minority government when she said she had no intention of implementing a tax on carbon, and instead preferred an ETS. So if you believe Abbott is in the same boat as Gillard in saying no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC or SBS numerous times throughout the election campaign, and then immediately back flipping on all these promises because he was forced to by a change of circumstances, then where are the changed circumstances?

Abbott didn’t need to make deals in the lower house to put his budget together (although deals with the Palmer United Party over superannuation cuts in order to kill the mining tax are surely as close as Abbott has got to circumstance like Gillard’s Carbon Price policy). We could go on discussing the blatant differences between Abbott’s huge list of broken promises that culminated in the most unfair and cruel budget this country has ever seen to Gillard’s decision to introduce a Carbon Price.

But the biggest difference I would like to point out, which you never hear a journalist mention is a really simple one and also such a whopping big one that it’s hard to know how journalists can even look at these two situations without seeing the gulf of difference between them. Simply, Abbott’s lies made ordinary Australians worse off. They are bad policies on every single measure you care to measure them by and were ideological assaults based on the lie of a budget emergency. Gillard’s decision to bring in a Carbon Price, followed shortly thereafter by the policy she did say she wanted to bring in – an ETS – is good policy that is good for the environment and an important step in the international challenge to mitigate climate change. But journalists either don’t or can’t seem to see the difference between good policies and bad policies. Are they scared to judge a policy in case they appear partisan? What is the point of political journalism if not to inform the public on the merits of public policy? Seriously, what is the point? It’s a bad budget just because it’s bad. Full stop.

So there you have it. You’ll see this narrative over the next few days. Of course there will be, thankfully, examples of journalistic work that swims against this narrative, and good luck to those brave people. I know that one year into Abbott’s government, the one thing I am most sure about is that if a Labor government had behaved even a little bit like the Abbott government has in their contempt for the voting public, the mainstream media would have drawn and quartered Labor by now. The lack of contempt for the Abbott government from our media is, quite frankly, alarming.


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  1. nickthiwerspoon

    It’s extraordinary how appalling and inept Tony Tool and the Bodgies are, and how little the mainstream press are saying. Of course, that means The Murdochcracy, and why would anyone expect quality journalism from them?

  2. davidgrayling

    Abbott has proved to be as mediocre as I expected him to be, perhaps even worse. He is a serial liar, an intellectual cretin, a moral dwarf, a pretender, a man promoted well beyond his capabilities, misogynist, and if his wisdom were transformed into gunpowder, it wouldn’t blow his hat off.

    Australia may never recover from Phoney!

  3. Heather

    Far, far worse and worser. I feel sick to the stomache

  4. Angie

    Abbott is a compulsory LIAR…always has been and always will be! I’m just hoping all the voters he made look absolutely stupid by voting for his ‘I’m honest’ persona will realise next election he’s nothing but a trickster who smirks at fooling people who have shown loyalty to beliEving what he says. STUPID FOOLS…DON’T DO IT AGAIN!

  5. halsaul

    Reading a book about Americas’ Ambassador to Berlin, William E Dodd in 1933 and his observations of Germany. Comments such as ” a martial spirit is developing in Germany” – “something fundamental has changed” & “I have witnessed first hand the gathering darkness – “hindsight tells us the course of history could have been so easily changed – why did no one change it” resonates with me. The Book is – In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. The same mix of religious and right wing ideology. Use of the law to make changes to long held important matters..freedom of speech, secrecy etc. Austalians need to examine closely what Abbott is about- including his rush to involve Oz in war unnecessarily.

  6. Vivienne Cox

    Well written. Well thought out and well covered. The majority of the media is owned by Murdoch and those journos under his employment don’t have the guts to report the truth, not willing to take a pay cut and work for the Independant Media and give us the truth.

  7. diongiles

    The Abbott Government’s performance is perfectly explicable if one recalls the meaning of core and non-core promises. Non-core promises are those made to the public. Core promises are those made to the IPA and the US Embassy. Abbott has kept all his core promises, and those who fund his party have nothing whatsoever to complain about.

  8. Lizzisturn

    Remember the German pastor Martin Niemoller Imprisioned 1941-45
    First they came for the socialists but I wasn’t a socialist so I said nothing
    Than they came for the unions but I wasn’t in a union so I said nothing
    Than they came for the Jew ( we could put Muslims here) but I wasn’t a Muslim so I said nothing
    Than they came for me,but there was no one left to speak for me

    This man is so dangerous it is frightening what he is leading us into , I hope history is not repeating itself, he does,t care if he breaks promises anymore he’s on a mission he’s god.

  9. trevor

    Great article Victoria Rollinson.

    The abbott rabble : Can’t count, Can’t Govern, Can’t stop LYING.

    The mainstream press are an effin disgrace as the Journalists employed pay more attention to their so called Career path and retirement than sourcing the facts and reporting anything that discredits the Abbott rabble.

    In the West Australian today is a turd polishing bonanza from the editor and his regurgitators of govt press releases about how great is Abbott and his rabble.

    The failure of the press to recognise that they are really only players in the political debate because they continually insert themselves as a part of the story as they copy press releases and print verbatim Govt spin and repeat the liars lies instead of calling the lying pricks and prickesses..

    Recently the nemesis of reporting ratbaggery in WA, one Paul Murray, has followed stories by the Greens Senator from WA about Uranium, the Canberra politics and the mining tax smell in articles that are at odds with his usual offerings of unpolisheable turds by agreeing with the sentiment the Greens have offered.

    Says a lot when a doyen of the establishment press can’t disguise hid disgust at the present politics of the Abbott rabble.

  10. Anne Byam

    @halsaul …. your observations are worth of a great deal of thought. They are also chilling.

    ” Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. ” … that is a world held tenet, for countries, Governments and for individuals. ( attributed to many who have repeated the phrase over time ).

    We need to learn from history … but will we ? Being a laid back “she’ll be right mate” kind of peoples, it bothers me that not enough of us will look very carefully at what we face. I don’t think we are doomed to being ‘less’ or ‘lost’ …. but we will be if we don’t FULLY wake up to the manipulations that are at large in our country today. Manipulations by an obscene and indiscriminate bunch of monsters, who are under the spell of power. And they will do ANYTHING … anything whatsoever, to protect that power. Power is corruptible, absolute power is absolutely corruptible … an oft uttered adage, that all readers here know.

    No greater leader for this pursuit of power, could be found, than this abominable Prime Minister – and his sheep like ( apologies to all sheep ) … ministers.

    We watch the news …. and I have noticed in the past week or so, nowhere near as much time has been given over to the Abbott and his ‘statements’. Less has been given to Bill Shorten ( that’s a given – at this time, he doesn’t say too much that’s noteworthy ) … but there IS a distinct decline in time given to “Abbott behind the microphones”.

    Is it barely possible, ( no matter who ‘ runs ‘ the MSM … much of it, these days anyhow ) that they are backing off what is so apparent – the embarrassing and inept leader of the LNP … And is Murdoch less than enamoured of his little friend at present ? Could be. !!

    Murdoch will protect his reputation at all costs ( barring court appearances over hacked phones !!!! – another subject altogether ), and there is no honor among thieves. Comes down to power – who has it, who wields it, who will succumb to it, and who will turn their back on a ‘pretender to the throne’. History is rife with such incidents.

    Is it possible ??????

  11. Larry Adds

    I feel ashamed now to live in such a great country being misgoverned by a lying Rat who boarded a ship bound for Australia and for 10 English Pounds. I believe he should repay the Commonwealth the 10 Pounds and perhaps put another Ten into workers superannuation as a penance. A real pity the Church didn’t hire this guy, he would have been in his correct Fraternity then….

  12. Darren

    Murdoch owns the mass media, and rein heart and himself are behind this so called debt and deficit disaster. Wake up Australia they are trying to take away the social structure in this country, and we are like sheep and letting this happen. Capitalism and all these pure greedy ceo’s who earn 500 times what the average wage is, is ideology at its best, and we need to come together as a morale human race and put a stop to it. We need to get the word out. That we will never stand for inequality , corrupt and power ideology governments, and Murdoch and rein heart in the background pulling the strings on Abbott to get the changes that they want, a new world order. They are both in the background because they are to gutless to tell average people what they would like to do to them. There is no need to pay lower and middle wage earners shit money, capitalist companies earn billions of dollars , they don’t want us to become equal, because if we do they can not control us. The future is bleak unless we take a stand and I mean everyone for the sake of humanity.

  13. Mad Dog

    I caught a few minutes of a presser by Andrews yesterday, it started with Hail..the carbon tax has gone, and every Australian is $550 better off p/a. Not one reporter questioned this bloody nonsense. Until independent journalists can get into the press gallery and hold these dreadful people accountable we are stuffed.

  14. Kaye Lee

    I think Victoria highlights a crucial thing with this article. There is no questioning in the media of policy outcomes.

    The reasons given for getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes were lies. Both of these taxes unquestionably gave long term better outcomes for society. Neither of these taxes hurt businesses or affected employment.

    The boat loads of asylum seekers are less but at what cost and for what result? How has this policy helped with the global problem of refugees?

    The draconian measures in the budget will do little to address the structural deficit, or the growing cost of health and aged care. To cut the cost of health we tell people not to go to the doctor? Will we be asked to stop breathing to help reduce CO2 emissions? To cut the future cost of the aged pension we cut superannuation to those most likely to qualify for the pension whilst increasing the amount wealthy people can invest thus avoiding income tax? We stop investment in renewable energy whilst giving billions in subsidies to mining companies who are making superprofits that we will no longer tax?

    The promises themselves should have been enough for informed voters to say no thanks. Delivering on them has done untold damage.

    And then there are the lies……

  15. Pingback: We are the Champions….. However it’s not a game | olddogthoughts

  16. kerrilmail

    All that you have said, and my mind keeps going back to why the Gillard Government was so vilified. 18C should have applied to Julia as the media treated her like shit!!! Because she was a woman? Because she was progressive? Because she was conciliatory? Because she was successful?? Gillard achieved way more than Abbott under way harder circumstances but she did refuse to suck up to big business. The most depressing aspect of all this is the deadheads who cannot see that they have been taken for a ride. Big time! The working class way outnumber the wealthy so their votes should reflect that, but many will, like sheep, do as they are told and vote again to be slaughtered. If Abbott thinks he can get away with the Draconian uneccesarily austere budget in present conditions, if he is voted in again the punishment will ramp up even more with a firm belief in “the mandate”. Wake up Asutralia.

  17. mars08

    Kaye Lee:

    I think Victoria highlights a crucial thing with this article. There is no questioning in the media of policy outcomes…

    …boat loads of asylum seekers are less but at what cost and for what result? How has this policy helped with the global problem of refugees?

    Huh? How could you even imagine that the “STOP THE BOATS” hysteria was aimed at doing anything to improve “the global problem of refugees?”

    Under John Howard and under Labor, it has ALWAYS been about grabbing the voters who see the boats as an existential threat to our way of life. It was to protect real Australian families from Ruddock’s predicted 10,000 “illegal” boat arrivals per year. Under both major parties, it has ALWAYS been about comforting the fools, bigots, and bed-wetters in the marginal seats.

    How does one measure the policy outcome of this cruelty… well you simply can’t! Because the asylum seekers have been warehoused overseas AND our community continues to function as usual. Proof enough that the threat of Australia has been neutralised!

  18. Anne Byam

    On topic … ‘Media Narrative’ …. I double ( almost triple ) checked the ownership of News Corp … and it’s history today. I did so because of a report in the Melbourne Saturday Herald Sun – feature article 6th September. It was headed ” I did it my way ” sub-heading “Tony Abbott’s year of action” … and that might have been all Liberal followers needed to see …. ( many certainly do read this newspaper ).

    ” Yay … and so he should ” might be heard coming from around a Libs mouthful of cereal !! I SO hope the Libs did read on further. Referencing back to an earlier commentary I posted … ( Murdoch & mates, backing off >>> ) … I am happy to say – the article perhaps was a half and half, but certainly did NOT do Abbott too many favours.

    Being a Labor supporter myself, I almost ignored the article. Glad I didn’t. I can’t go into all detail here, as it would take up a massive amount of commentary room. It probably will anyway – sorry about that. The caps inserted here are mine … did not appear in the article.

    References are made to :

    * Elected by just one vote to lead the LNP -2009.

    * A DIVISIVE conservative character … legion of critics mocked him as the Mad Monk etc. etc. for his relentlessly NEGATIVE – but …ultimately …. successful attacks on Rudd / Gillard …. accused of being misogynist.

    —– then some more supportive statements —- until :

    * not a cookie cutter – does things his way – not ALWAYS to great success.

    * reinstating British Honour system .. annointing new dames and knights … decision was NOT run by his Cabinet.

    * old factional buddy – ( Kevin Andrews ) ‘GETS HIS HANDS ON $20 million to provide free marriage councelling etc.

    * ‘got his Government to overturn the ACT’s gay marriage laws.’

    * ( precis ) … re Japanese troops – praise – was a MIS-STEP … given the atrocities in WWll etc.

    * ref : paid parental scheme … ” many of his colleagues hate it, but just this week he was AGAIN SPRUIKING it’s benefits ” .. As one colleague said … “Every time he’s given a chance to pull away from it, he puts even more skin in the game ” Google if you will … “skin in the game”.

    * “Loyalty is one of his strengths and can also be his WEAKNESS. Some on his front bench are STALE, their best work behind them. And there’s a serious gender imbalance ” … ” Yet Abbott seems reluctant to have a reshuffle. As one Liberal MP says of a couple of UNDERPERFORMERS ‘they’re DUDS, but they’re Tony’s duds’ … you guys underestimate how loyal Tony is” ….. ??????

    Then some more goodie stuff.

    * “Despite having derided Rudd >>> overseas travel >>> returning from Malaysia …[ Abbott ] will have equalled Rudds record of 11 overseas journeys in his first year as PM.

    A bit more pro Abbott guff … but certainly not all, until finally :

    * ” The polls show Abbott will never be a hugely popular Prime Minister. And the biggest problem he’s CAUSED for his fledgling Government is not what he has said or done since he was elected, but what HE SAID THE NIGHT BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED.

    HARDLY A PRO ABBOTT ARTICLE, from a Murdoch owned newspaper.

    Today’s Sunday Herald Sun which I have not yet read, there is a leader to it in Saturdays’ paper. Which lists :

    ** The promises broken
    ** pointing up the reverses since being in power – the worst items listed.
    ** introduction of controversial measures
    ** where the pinch that will be felt most intensely ( low and middle class workers mentioned ).
    ** overall the Budget sales job has been a mess not helped by Treas. J H’s tone-deaf performance.
    ** using one hand to claim Budget emergency while on the other introducing the PPL >>> costing $5 billion per year.

    And then a bit of filled out wrap up of more of his ‘good’ (?) works …. as a closing argument.

    Have to repeat – I believe Murdoch is backing off his support. And that is EXACTLY what could be expected of a billionaire, self-interested, media mogul who will protect HIS reputation before that of anyone ELSE … ANYWHERE.

    I found the whole thing – er … interesting ? I hope you do too.

  19. diannaart

    Where was the MSM? Good question, to which I’d add (courtesy of MSM) LOTO, Bill Shorten’s assessment of Tone’s first year along with the LOT Greens, Christine Milne’s assessment.


    Australians have a right to be disappointed about what the Abbott government has served up in its first year, the opposition believes.

    Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says there is a sense of anxiety in the community about what the Abbott government has done in the year since it won office.

    “When Tony Abbott was elected it was on the basis that things would get better,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday, the anniversary of the election.

    “Ever since then we’ve seen nasty surprises and pathetic excuses.”

    Labor would focus on standing up for ordinary Australians, Mr Shorten said.

    Opposition frontbenchers issued a flurry of statements on Sunday morning pointing to promises across all portfolios they said had been broken.

    Mr Shorten highlighted increased taxes, cuts to pension and family payments, cuts to school and hospital funding and plans to deregulate university fees.

    “We haven’t given up on the idea that we can keep Tony Abbott honest now,” he said.

    Thanks Bill, I did try to find something more wordy from you – but I guess it has been a busy weekend – or the MSM – who knows? Good to know you haven’t given up…. yet.


    The Greens have accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of smashing trust in his first year in power by attacking everything from the environment to university students, the sick and the poor.But Greens leader Christine Milne says it’s Mr Abbott’s ‘arrogance’ toward the Senate that will become his biggest problem.’He came into parliament as prime minister saying that he wanted to establish trust, well, he has smashed trust,’ Senator Milne told reporters on Sunday.’Far from looking after the vulnerable he has hurt them, and far from making Australia a safer place, by smashing action on climate change he is going to make life far more dangerous for our children.’Senator Milne said Mr Abbott had mounted attacks on the poor, the sick, the vulnerable and universities – and the biggest assault on the environment in decades.’He has made life harder for people and he has stolen from future generations,’ she said.She also took issue with Mr Abbott’s attitude toward the Senate, particularly in relation to the budget and key measures including the GP co-payment.’Tony Abbott’s biggest problem going forward is the arrogance he demonstrates, and his ministers demonstrate, toward the Senate,’ she said.

    ‘The Greens are not going to .’She said the government’s response to overseas disasters such as MH17 had deflected attention from the budget, but that Mr Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had done everything they could to bring home the remains of those killed when their Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine.’There is no doubt that circumstances beyond Tony Abbott’s control have given him an opportunity to deflect from the disaster that has been his budget, that has been his broken promises and his lies to the Australian people,’ she said.

    ‘I think overseas events have rescued him from what otherwise would have been a complete failure of his first year as prime minister.’

    More wordy…. even more important… more actual points scored.

    In fact liked the bit about how Abbott has used O/S disasters to distract from woeful domestic situation. Looks like Ms Milne has been paying attention.

    Instead of trying to keep Abbott “honest” Milne declares that the Greens will NOT “…stand and watch him impose co-payments as people go to the doctor, we’re not going to watch him tear down the university system, we are not going to see him make unemployed people live on nothing for one month or six months…”

    Actual sounds of action from the Milne camp as reported by MSM.

  20. margaret millar

    The merciless and cruel Abbott government has attacked unemployed youth and left them more vulnerable than ever without any income unless they look for at least 40 jobs a month! Everyone knows it is a farce –there are few jobs on offer for the young and inexperienced. It is time Abbott was out of a job! He should stand down in shame at his vicious attacks on universities and education –The very heart of a successful nation is the education of its children.-I wish Abbott would get home sick and go back to his beloved Queen and gaze on all the royal bludgers! Time he left us to make our proud nation A Republic ! It is Time my friends

  21. Roger

    The narrative. Oh, the narrative! It’s contemptible that the journalists, through their media bosses, allow this charade to be displayed in front of the general public.

  22. Darren

    Murdoch you evil bastard people are starting to wake up that you are the reason for these ideology changes that are trying to take place in Australia with your best mate tony Abbott . The Australian people have got you on notice, and realise finally we have to have independent journos to tell the real truth. We have to have a republic to vote for a person the people in this country want not what Murdoch, capitalists want. People who have any morality or care about the future don’t buy any Murdoch newspapers or watch any channel that is owned by this person who sits in the background implementing measures that will change humanity for ever.

    People of Australia the best way to inflict pain on these type of people is to take away there greed and power……..stop buying anything connected with Murdoch . And then see what he is……a man. Flesh and blood . These people are nothing if we take away there power, and there is enough of us to do it.

  23. Wayne Turner

    The scary thought is that the MSM are bigger LIARS then these Libs.

    The MSM has ruined democracy.

  24. Möbius Ecko

    Very telling.

    Newspoll has an overwhelming support for Abbott’s humanitarian/military support in Iraq yet Essential poll shows a slight majority against it.

    Latest Newspoll also has the Coalition’s primary vote going back yet again, this despite all the warmongering and flying around the world by Abbott and Bishop at great tax payers expense to attempt to swing the polls in their favour. By the way opposition Abbott’s dig at Rudd’s overseas jaunts swung around to bite him as several media outlets highlighted the fact Abbott has had just as many jaunts as Rudd but in many cases unnecessary ones.

    Abbott and Shorten equal on preferred PM.

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