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Day to Day Politics: A Double Dose of Insiders.

Monday 9 April 2018

Thoughts of the master interviewer, Kerry O’Brien, came rushing back to me as I was watching “Insiders” yesterday. There is nothing wrong with the show. It just suffers from the boredom of time. A sort of longevity of sameness that requires a bit of rehashing.

There is nothing wrong with the subjectivity. They covered the week’s events adequately but it lacks its former spark. At 68, Barrie Cassidy is a little old. He doesn’t seem to have any punch in his interviews anymore. Yesterday was a case in point.

He seemed to let Josh Frydenberg get away with much more than he should have. I don’t have the answers to any of these questions but the whole thing has become rather bland.

They started the show with reference to Friday’s IPOS Poll that now seems to, because of the new way of allocating preferences, place the Coalition within grasp of pulling off a stunning win at the next election. It was an attempt by Fairfax to upstage Murdoch on the eve of “30 Polls Day.”

Remember prior to Christmas, the polls edged closer together and the media had them in a remarkable turnaround phase. Now it’s happened again.

Anyway back to Frydenberg. Barrie asks him every question he could about the government: Building new power plants, the Monash Ginger group, buying Liddell Power station, Abbott cycling through the La Trobe Valley, was it testing the Prime Ministers authority and many more.

But not a bite from Josh who has a degree in sounding reasonable while saying nothing. He did smile though at a question about socialists building power stations. He didn’t even blush about governments telling business what to do. Ideology means nothing when it suits, I thought to myself.

They moved onto culture in politics and it was then that it hit me that I had already written on the same subject this year. So I looked it up and there it is.

One of the perils of writing every day is that you must have an exceptional memory.

February 6 “Was that Insiders I was watching? What do you think?“

At the end of it, I felt a sense of nothingness. I couldn’t think of anything in particular that offended me, although I wasn’t exactly feeling offended. They had covered all of the bases, joined all the dots, so to speak. Bland, that was it, that’s the word to best describe the program.

In a year when it’s highly possible that an election might be called, both the journalists and the presenter all seemed to have not shaken off the lethargy associated with this time of the year.

The interview with the Prime Minister looked pre-recorded, rather rushed, and the questions a little insipid. Turnbull made a poor fist of defending his tax cuts against a 20% increase in company profits, and wages being held down. He refused to say where the money (what services would be cut) would come from to pay for these cuts. 259 of 350 comments on the interview on Facebook were negative.

The program didn’t seem to capture or reflect the intensity of the political atmosphere that is permeating the community.

Perhaps I should be using the word “stale”. As I said, they joined all the dots covering the missing Cabinet papers that the Cabinet had passed onto another cabinet. Then came Medicare, Citizenship, the Batman by-election, the cost of living and the economics that go with it.

The three journalists all agreed that trickle-down economics had not worked and was being debated within the major economies. I wondered at one stage if Labor’s formal acceptance of a national ICAC as policy might get a mention given that 83% of the population want it.

At the same time, in the back of my mind was how the media, prior to Christmas, had changed the dynamics, or the mood of our politics to show that Turnbull was now in with a show.

Everything has changed. Being the worst Government in Australia’s history has been forgiven because the media doesn’t want an election without scandal, without controversy. They want all of that together with a close contest.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that Insiders was unprofessional, biased or unbalanced. The conversations were well covered, although the environment seems to have gone out of fashion. They agreed and disagreed with each other.

My thought for the day.

“People need to wake up to the fact that government affects every part of their life (other than what they do in bed) and should be more interested. But there is a political malaise that is deep-seated”

PS Yesterday, I inadvertently indicated that the Coalition had suffered 60 losing polls in a row. This was of course incorrect.


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  1. John Ricahrdson

    And here I was thinking it must be just me!!
    Bland, ordinary, colourless, vacuous just don’t begin to describe the entirely “flat & empty” sense that pervaded yesterday’s program. I couldn’t believe the total disinterest displayed by Michael Stutchbury who sat & fiddled with his papers while ignoring most of the panel conversation … why was he even there?
    I should confess that I had already turned-off “Insiders” after they failed to turn-up over Easter, as was the case with some other ABC programs, like Q&A … it seems to me that it’s all about them.
    It’s become the thinking man’s bullshit.

  2. Terry2

    Polls can be very confusing. Take the latest IPSOS poll on the government’s company tax cuts,
    from the SMH :

    A new Fairfax/Ipsos poll taken this week found 49 per cent of respondents now back the Turnbull government’s signature economic plan – an increase from 44 per cent in March last year.

    The telephone poll of 1186 people found 71 per cent of Coalition voters backed the tax cuts – with one in five opposed. For Labor supporters, 57 per cent were opposed, but one in three were in favour – while 56 per cent of Greens voters opposed the tax cuts and 27 per cent were in favour.

    With such a small sampling can it really be considered as representative of the nation ?

    Then we have Newspoll which is dominating the news today where the methodology is : Online panel and robopolling, which does not include mobile phones. Sample size: About 1,600-1,800.

    In my view, if we are to place so much emphasis on these polls, they need to poll far more people, not use robocalls and ensure that mobile phones are included. Otherwise, these polls can be very easily skewed.

  3. Möbius Ecko

    Don’t get me started on The Drum.

    The program I saw last week had one commentator stating that Shorten was more or less a policy vacuum and didn’t give detail to the vague policy statements he made. Another commentator stating that the government was travelling well after a shaky start, but wasn’t getting the message out there on how well they were doing. That commentator used a couple of out of context statistics, including comparing the GFC Labor government to the recovery period Liberal one as proof for how good the current government is.

    The segment was a snow job for the government, framed without contradiction as to how well Turnbull and the government were travelling and how badly Shorten (no mention of opposition, just Shorten) was doing.

  4. townsvilleblog

    When I see Barrie Cassidy interviewing a tory politician, I am always mindful that he know thanks to his boss Guthrie that if he questions too vigorously that he could have his journalistic head on the block, as as a result he goes very easy on them.

  5. johno

    Mobius, that does sound a tad depressing. Glad I missed that one.

  6. Möbius Ecko

    With such a small sampling can it really be considered as representative of the nation?

    Yes. I won’t go into a long boring diatribe on statistics, you can look it up. But sample sizes down to a statistical meaningful minimum are representative to a stated margin of error, usually around 3% for political polls. Larger sample sizes will bring down the margin of error but at an exponentially increasing effort and cost to conduct them, for a diminishing reduction in the margin of error for each significant increase in sample size.

    It’s not the sample size that is the issue with Australian political polling, but the methodology and demographics used for the polling. Phone polls slew towards the older demographics, who traditionally, for some unfathomable reason to do with fear, vote conservative. Then there are the random areas chosen, which can also slew a poll.

    If you look at past polls for the prediction of election results, up until recently they have been around the margin of error for getting the result correct. Over the last decade the outcome has become more volatile and recently there have been other factors in play, such as online trolling by specialised data companies the political parties use, especially the Liberals.

  7. townsvilleblog

    Michael Stutchbury was there as a paid tory guest, a paid top up for him. Tories respond to money carrots and he is no different. The producers should not continue to invite him, but he is obviously on someone’s networks. My favorite gusts are David Marr and Lenore Taylor, both are far more in touch wil the Australian political scene than the rest, in my humble opinion.

  8. wam

    Insiders and offsiders were a must. Cassidy retired from the wrong one.

    Retirement from age related blandness often needs a push.

    Although panelists of the calibre of murphy, farr and stuchbury leave us only fiona katauskas.

  9. Adrianne Haddow

    I thought Cassidy did a good job of pointing out the hypocrisy in Frydenburger’s reference to Alinta Energy as an Australian company wanting to buy Liddell power station from AGL.
    He did correct Frydenburg on the point that Alinta Energy is a Hong Kong company and that the government’s attempted coercion for AGL to sell contravenes the government’s commitment to slow the purchase of Australian infrastructure buy foreign companies.

    AGL is intending to convert Liddell into a renewable energy hub but according to Frydenburg the continuation of coal fired power is in the public’s interest.
    You can never keep a good ideological, donor backed spin down.

    Don’t be too hard on Cassidy, he does his best given the parameters he is allowed to work within by the Murdoch ABC. It seems to be a case of “picking which hill to die on”.

  10. Terry2

    I always watch Insiders but I am conscious of the same old faces , they seem to have a very limited talent pool.

    If this program is to survive they really have to open up the guest list to genuine journalists which means dumping the likes of Gerard Henderson (he might be better suited to doing a comedy cameo on Mad as Hell with Shaun Micallef).

  11. helvityni

    ….bland, ordinary, colourless, vacuous, stale, boring, and then some more… When I saw Frydenburg, the black-clad Stutchbury and the gravelly voiced Ms Murphy on the panel I got fidgety, bored before the show started; give me the shrinking Henderson and the very witty Marr combo anytime…

  12. Henry Rodrigues

    Whenever I see dear Kath on the Insiders, desperate to paint a pleasant picture of the disastrous government and its gutless leader, I know its time to go and mow the lawns.

  13. Kaye Lee

    October 2017….

    “Harry Stutchbury, who works with the NSW Minerals Council, is set to take over leadership of NSW Young Liberals.”

    Yes that’s Michael’s son. Don’t ever expect to hear anything but the party line from him.

  14. Keitha Granville

    Terry2 – oh but it’s always fun to have Henderson and Marr on Insiders at the same time. David Marr is almost parentally patient with Gerard.
    But I agree with the majority here, they are falling down on the job of being journalists and are simply following the company line to stay in work.
    Do you think the ABC will be allowed to be independent again under Labor?

  15. townsvilleblog

    Stutch is a product of consevatism dull and boring

  16. susanai

    It’s not just this show but all ‘Sunday shows’…even U.S shows are boring. Stopped watching those as well. Question is – is this intentional or not?

  17. Peter Deane

    As long as your sample space is well randomised, then you really don’t have to poll a huge sample to be able to extrapolate the findings to the general population, and there are well developed formulae to determine the margin of error of the poll given the sample space compared to the total population (ie number of voters). There is a problem with the “randomised” part, however, with Newspoll not calling mobile numbers and thus getting a bit of bias towards those who’ve kept their landlines. I think this might really translate into even better results for the ALP as the 48/52 figure indicates as more young people without landlines vote for them than the older more conservative population who’ve got their landlines still connected.

  18. helvityni

    I don’t care what the yesterday’s man, Abbott, does, I’m more concerned about what Mal is NOT doing….

    Why are they always looking for US for inspiration, why don’t they find out that even UK is planning to shut down their coal plants by we have both the sun and the wind, how many sunny days do they have over there…?

    It’s time we gave the Coal-ition a miss.

  19. Meg

    Be careful what you wish for: “The UK’s energy mix is being touted for Australia. Here it is: 42% gas, 21% uranium, 9% coal (so 72% base load sorted) 24.5% renewable and interconnectors to 3 countries (Like France 72% nuclear).” We need to start our energy economy from renewable baseload. It’s a small sacrifice to save the planet surely? No more holidays on jet aeroplanes. Only essential activity. Raw vegetables. The list goes on and on.

  20. Harry

    I think Insiders has been dumbed down- deliberately I might add. There is now less time for discussion than which is surely the main aim of the program; its dominated by short videos with an emphasis on entertainment.

    I rarely watch the program in its entirety these days. It used to be compelling Sunday AM viewing.

    Cassidy does his best but has been neutered-largely.

  21. Jaquix

    Insiders used to be compelling viewing but not any more. Yesterday’s no exception, though Barrie interviewing & comments slightly better than usual. Choice of guests/panel impirtsim , and too many Lib leaners on it. Reflects Guthrie new Lib leaning Murdoch mindset ABC climate I suppose. Same on Breakfast with Virginia & Michael. Too many IPA people. Seem to have no choice of guests themselves which is a terrible shame.

  22. Pappinbarra Fox

    I am a bit of a dumbarse. Bring back Piers Ackerman. He always made me feel superior intellectually.

  23. Egalitarian

    I think Geraldine Doogue would be a great replacement for Barry.

  24. Paul Keating

    Indicative of the ABC as a whole.

  25. Egalitarian

    Please explain Paul?

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