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The Elephants in the Press Gallery

The Press Gallery have been busily, emphatically, excitedly making the most of the new leadership tensions story that Abbott has gifted them over the past few weeks. But amongst the innumerable number of articles about what’s gone wrong for Abbott, how he got to this point so quickly in his first term, and what he plans to do to fix this mess, there are some massive elephants in the Press Gallery who are being consistently ignored. In fact, there are enough elephants to build a pretty decent circus, if you throw in the journalists as the clowns.

Here are some of the most obvious elephants who have been ignored in the leadership crisis coverage, the 16 months of Abbott’s government and in some cases, his entire 6 years in Opposition:

  • Abbott’s ‘budget emergency’ is a lie he has used to justify cutting government spending for ideological reasons, at a time when the economy needs stimulus, not cuts. This fake ‘budget emergency’ has decimated consumer confidence and has reduced the amount of money in the economy to the point where Australia is teetering on the edge of a recession. Put simply, Abbott has ideologically wrecked the economy because he prefers small government.
  • Abbott’s budget aimed to protect wealthy Australians from ‘budget pain’ and to blame poor people for all the economy’s problems. The blame is based on the lie that the unemployed are lazy and if they want to go on being so lazy they will be punished because of it. This ideological position relies on various economic lies such as the following:
    • That jobs can be created by the unemployed applying for more jobs. There are 5 unemployed people per available job in Australia. People want to work and there are no jobs for them to work in.
    • Tax cuts for the rich create jobs. No, they don’t. Demand from consumers create jobs. Tax cuts for the rich just make the rich richer, and inequality worse. If consumers can’t afford to spend, the economy grinds to a halt.
    • Wealth trickles down. No it doesn’t. By next year, the 1% richest people in the world will own half the world’s wealth. There is no trickle.
    • Government spending and taxation is like a household budget. No it isn’t. If you haven’t heard of Modern Monetary Theory yet, follow this link.
  • Abbott is failing to get his budget through the Senate, not because Labor controls the Senate, but because right wing minor parties, those who traditionally supported (and in one case funded) the Liberal National Coalition, are refusing to pass policies they know are so unpopular that they would threaten their political careers putting their names to them. It’s really as simple as that.
  • Abbott never properly defined what he would do as Prime Minister because he knew if he told the voters what he really wanted to do, ideologically, to the Australian economy, culture and society, he would never have won the election. The Press Gallery ignore this elephant because to point it out would be to also admit that they never scrutinised Abbott in the lead up to the election since they were too busy writing about Labor leadership tensions. The first rule of political journalism in the Press Gallery is ‘never ever admit you were wrong in the past’. Anyone with eyes could see exactly what the Abbott government was going to be like and if you followed independent media sites like this one you would have got a very accurate preview of the situation we are in now. But you never got this preview from the mainstream media. And the last thing they want to do now is to admit they were the reason the electorate got such a shock when they realised who Abbott really is, and what his real plans for this country were.
  • There are things Australians should be scared of, and there are other things Australians should stop being scared off. We should be scared about Climate Change. We should be scared about wealth inequality. We should be scared about our own and future generations’ ability to find jobs in an economy where manufacturing is declining, the mining boom is over and competitor economies are forging ahead with technological innovation on the back of better education systems than we have access to in Australia. But instead, Abbott, at every opportunity, without scrutiny from the Press Gallery, goes straight to two boogeymen-under-our-beds as diversionary tactics to try to scare us into supporting his ideological agenda (which we’ve already proved we don’t like). These boogeymen are ‘debt and deficit’ and terrorism. The quest for the revered ‘surplus’ is akin to the government throwing all their resources behind an ideological holy grail, at the expense of Australian jobs and to increase household debt. It is nonsense, yet the Press Gallery don’t seem to understand this. Oh, and terrorism? According to this helpful analysis on Crikey, more people died in the past ten years falling off chairs in Australia, than they did from acts of terrorism here and overseas. What would you say if the Abbott government tried to make you scared of sitting down?

These five elephants should be at the heart of any political discussion, at the heart of debate about policy and what is right for Australia’s future. But this is where the grand-daddy elephant needs to be pointed out. Political journalists in Australia are not interested in discussing policy. According to them, there was no need to discuss the effect that Abbott’s policy decisions have had on his current leadership-crisis predicament. No, as usual, the journos are as shallow as a puddle, with analysis such as this from Lenore Taylor, Laura Tingle, Laurie Oakes and Peter Hartcher. These articles all share two things in common; they perpetuate the myth that the Liberal government’s problem is all about Abbott and the dysfunctional processes around him, when really the entire government has helped create this situation by all sharing the same ideological agenda as Abbott. They all supported the turd, cooked the turd, and perpetuated the lies that brought the turd about. And now they’re all complaining that Abbott’s has failed to polish the turd and they want to give Malcolm Turnbull a go. But it’s Turnbull’s turd just as much as it is Abbott’s. Where is this analysis? And of course, they ignore the elephants I’ve described, whilst also ignoring the role the Press Gallery played in putting Abbott where he is, without scrutiny, without analysis, without a heads-up about what the country was about to experience. Rather than taking a step back and looking at themselves, they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Exactly like Tony Abbott. The Australian public deserves better government. And we deserve a better Press Gallery to help explain what a better government would look like.

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36 comments

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  1. Daryl

    Correct, Victoria.

    The sooner the Press Gallery realise their failure to scrutinise Abbott and the Liberals has cost the country so much, the sooner we might get informed and accurate comment. All we get now is rehashed leadership stories designed to highlight their so-called ‘insider’ staus.

    Won’t happen, of course.

  2. pamelac65

    PROBLEM IS THAT THEY ARE EMBEDDED. Canberra is a small room with everyone trying to catch the whispers.
    Journos have allegiances and loyalties to those who feed them. It is human nature.
    Australia a small country with a highly concentrated media in few hands- not a recipe for independence of thought.

  3. Monty

    Please stop referring to the people you lot send here as Canberra! We are a city of people who work, do jobs, suffer from unemployment, and on top of that have to deal with the ignorant and the LNP governments who repeatedly attack our city. We are NOT the politicians all bar 4 of which the rest of you send here. We are people living in a city, we don’t refer to Sydney as a collective noun, stop doing it to us. One of our reps is a Lib (the amazing vanishing Zed) so we didn’t get duped as much as you did. Canberra is NOT a small room, the Parliamentary triangle might be, but that isn’t Canberra and most of the people making problems there are not from Canberra and it is wrong to use the word Canberra as some sort of generalised term for politicians.

  4. Al

    Well said Monty! As a fellow Canberran, I wholeheartedly agree.

  5. Stephen Hall

    “Abbott never properly defined what he would do as Prime Minister because he knew if he told the voters what he really wanted to do” This assumes that Abbott himself had a properly defined idea of what he want to do. I don’t believe that he did

  6. Margaret McMillan

    This is an excellent summary of exactly how the MSM has failed us and is continuing to fail us. The light in the darkness is sites like this one which I suspect are being increasingly read by those disillusioned by this government and the media. How else to explain the Queensland election? Voters certainly didn’t get the idea that Newman was toxic from the Courier Mail.

  7. vivienne29

    Monty – I agree and feel as you do. It’s wrong. Canberra is a lovely place. Reminds me also of that stupid phrase ‘sleepy village’ so thoughtlessly trotted out.

  8. Goran

    Has anyone actually seen one single critical article in the MSM mentioning the profound influence the IPA has on LNP? Isn’t the IPA the biggest elephant in the Press Gallery? They are IMHO the real puppet-masters of this “so-called” government.

  9. whatismore

    Thanks Victoria. I always look forward to your articles that seem to perfectly sum up my beliefs on what’s happening with the government and msm. The ABC’s role in an aiding and abetting an Abbott Government is also significant. The Managing Director, Mark Scott, has all but completed his work by consolidating his coterie of conservative journalists and presenters at Harris St Ultimo. All local productions, including our high quality 7.30 Stateline, have been scrapped while we see Tom Switzer and Patricia Kavelas employed to host their own programs.

  10. Owen Snelten

    its the 1% that has the media control ..Although saying that I also believe that “Electronic Graffiti” is the new way ahead and is beginning to make inroads ..armchair politics is now a 2 way street ,this I feel is the cause of the one term Gov..We have let them know what is unpopular, unfair, etc the Govt ,that does not respond fast and change direction will for evermore be hammered as they are showing contempt for the electorate..Just need to look at the policy / budget timing together with the polls to see how quick it all happens . Social media rocks!

  11. John Pratt (@Jackthelad1947)

    Excellent piece, I believe many of the so called journalists in the main steam media need to get out more often & meet some real people. Definitely need to talk more to scientists than they do to politicians.

  12. whatismore

    Right on Owen. The voters ignored Murdoch’s Courier Mail rag and voted out Campbell Newman.

  13. diannaart

    It is the ‘loon pond’ that the electorate is rejecting: the entire operational machine of the Australian Right. That includes policy favouring the wealthiest 1% in reform, handing power to business lobbies and think tanks, troglodyte climate policy, values derived from ideology not reason, political assassination of opponents rather than engagement with them, the arrogance of putting the Party ahead of the nation in all kinds of lies and backflips and, the final cog in the machine, Fox News style wall-to-wall favourble Murdoch press coverage, which blind Freddy can see is bamboozlement.

    Australia rejects the “loon pond”

    It is not good enough for Abbott to say he will listen and consult more. Action is the only thing that counts now. There is no way his speech today can satisfy all the demands he faces. But he must make a real fist of proving he intends to recast his style and priorities. If only the problem was just the Duke of Edinburgh and a knighthood.

    It is folly for Liberals to think this is a popularity contest. It is a battle of ideas and the Liberals are losing. ALP leader Bill Shorten has campaigned relentlessly against the Abbott government’s reforms. The issue for the Liberals is how they salvage and recast their agenda.

    From The Australian itself (admittedly not strictly an analysis of Abbott’s woeful cabinet), nonetheless does offer criticism- behind a paywall, which can be viewed at:

    http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx#

    In other words Abbott engaged in a classic reshuffle in which some senior ministers received new jobs but not much new blood was injected into the Cabinet. It was not a serious effort at renewal. He shuffled the existing deck of cards but didn’t introduce many new ones at the senior level….Lack of diversity is part of the Cabinet’s problem but it is not the only one however. This means that even if Ley turns out to be successful Abbott will probably need a second Cabinet reshuffle by the end of the year as the 2016 election looms.

    If this happens then highly regarded newcomers like Frydenberg, Birmingham and new parliamentary secretary, Kelly O’Dwyer, may be promoted again. The Cabinet as a whole needs to be fresher and more engaging.

    http://www.theage.com.au/comment/injection-of-new-blood-may-bring-government-renewal-needed-20150121-12tysx.html

  14. paul walter

    By Geez, doesnt that cartoon say it all?

  15. Steve

    Your article is on the nose. But why have journalists become so timid? And it’s in part because the side of politics that enjoys significant press support is happy to restrict access to those who don’t support them. No access, no story. I see exactly the same in sports journalism where certain subjects seem absolutely taboo. Criticise the establishment, lose your access, cheerio career. And when Murdoch controls so much of the media here, as a journalist you don’t want to have your career restricted by writing something that crosses that line that makes you the story – just look at what happened to Mike Charlton. Thank God for the new media sources. Unfortunately the lack of direct quotes do make some articles less direct and punchy – but at least they are fact based, and that in itself is enough to secure their future.

  16. CMMC

    Yes, as someone above has said, the biggest elephant is the IPA, or more correctly, the whole of the ‘Think Tank’ (or Tax-Exempt Lobbyist) movement.

    ‘Faceless men’ in their legions.

  17. CommonA

    I agree that the whole of government is responsible for the turd… The way I see it a minister is someone who does none of the work and takes all of the responsibility (for their portfolio). The prime-minister is the ultimate example of that. In effect, changing the scape-goat will not fix anything, the whole of government is responsible for the messes (whatever you see them as).

    While I have said that Rudd/Gillard just delayed a recession through their spending decisions, you can now happily blame Abbott for the onset of it, brilliant… and we are probably both right, and both wrong at the same time… kind of a self fulfilling prophesy if you will. The only way to fix this in a short term is a cashless society (in my opinion), ready for it?

  18. Kyran

    Whilst I agree with the majority of the premise, I think the elephant bit is a stretch. Unfortunately, they closer resemble dinosaurs. As pamelac65 pointed out, they are imbedded with the political circuitry. The two groups, main stream media and main stream political party’s, are reliant on each other to promote their agendas. They will carp away incessantly about “their” agenda items, with little regard for fact or relevance. All the while mindful of each other and the main prize, power. They not only believe their own fictions, they are oblivious to this “electronic graffiti”, as Owen pointed out. Emma Alberici wrote an opinion piece “Just you try breaking pledges” which addresses the lack of understanding of the new world order in terms of communications and their complete ignorance of how the social media makes them all accountable. In another display of media relevance, Amy McQuire wrote a piece on the MSM’s behaviour on the day of the spill. There can be no more graphic display of their complete incompetence as journalists, and their very mediocre credentials as commentators or humans.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-13/alberici-just-you-try-breaking-pledges-in-the-social-media-era/6090308.

    They Came For The Abbott Spill, And Missed The Only Real Story In Town


    For the record, if those two links work, Kaye Lee needs to start teaching dinosaurs like me more often. Thank you Victoria. Take care

  19. stephentardrew

    At the end of the day MSM is certainly going to look mediocre if not downright incompetent. Australia’s opinion poles have consistently demonstrated dissatisfaction with the conservatives yet they continue to make weak and uneducated excuses for unbridled lying and unrelenting support of inequality. The lack of moral responsibility is glaring. Ignoring scientific evidence and a lack of scientific literacy looks downright lazy and incompetent.

    There are no suitable excuses for their inability to represent public opinion.

  20. my say

    Abbott has got the MSM all wrapped up,they chase him around like a dog wagging its tail ,the trouble is they created this monster ,he is so afraid of himself he will only do pre recorded interviews now, that way he cant make any more blunders,The thing is we don’t need the MSM anymore,
    Just like Abbott we have stopped listening to them all ,you only have to see the results in QLD and VIC elections ,Thank god we have social media and web sites to get our information from ,
    The MSM have really cooked their own goose

  21. Liz Franklin

    Nobody has mentioned the biggest, clumsiest and absolutely corrupt elephant in the Press Gallery. The head Jumbo, RUPERT MURDOCH. He controls 70% of Australian Media, so that number of journos are dancing for their editors who are answerable to Murdoch and ensure that their media outlets reflect their master’s view. The reason that Tones is copping some flak at the moment is because he is out of favour with Rupes…

  22. totaram

    Actually, Abbott knew what he wanted to do in govt. – just follow the IPA prescription. This made him so lazy that he didn’t even bother to learn up all their stuff properly. Ditto for Hockey and the other morons. That is why Tones made all those unnecessary promises just before the election about no cuts to this, that, and the other, which ran contrary to the IPA prescription. Hence their confused and conflicted messages to the electorate after the election. They haven’t done their homework on the IPA ideology. They just know that is what they have to implement, without really understanding what it is all about. That is why the resistance of the populace has taken them by surprise.
    Murdoch is of course one of the biggest donors to the IPA. Why else would he be such an important guest at the IPA’s 70th anniversary celebrations? His propaganda rags support the IPA agenda. Unfortunately for Tones, his bumbling failures to implement the agenda has him losing favour with Rupert. Now, Rupert hopes some new configuration of Coalition flunkeys will get the job done. Hence his daily tweets and advice from his commentariat. The sad thing is indeed that the rest of the MSM doesn’t pick up on this. Of course that pays dividends. See how Mark Simkin has gone from the ABC to be Tones’ media adviser. And then they say the ABC is full of left-wingers!

  23. Ross in Gippsland

    Andrew Elder’s excellent blog “Politically Homeless” usually eviscerates the press gallery. In a nice way of course.
    His latest in depth effort on Phil Ruddock’s sacking leaves you wondering how the press gallery ever hold their jobs.
    Those who haven’t read it, should. (Black Friday’s Reminder)
    http://andrewelder.blogspot.com.au/

  24. corvus boreus

    To assist ‘deep analysis’ above and beyond that of the mere gallery media, I offer the following suggested alternative terminologies to assist avoiding further repetitive over-use of the word “turd” during ‘serious political analysis’;
    Scat, stool, shit, feces, excrement, dung, stercus, ordure, crap, droppings, manure, poo, night-soil, grogan and bondi-cigar.
    This list is not, by any means, comprehensive.

  25. Joe Banks

    Excellent, Victoria. The MSM, I believe, are currently getting a long overdue wake up call… But it is the equivalent of about 3pm in the afternoon. Too late, you fools, too late.

  26. Joe Banks

    When I think of MSM journalists, I think of people standing in front of a very large picture hanging on a wall. They are standing so close, their noses are almost touching the canvas. Consequently they can only see a very small part of the picture – the rest is lost to them. Whether this is by choice, or whether they are just too stupid to stand back a bit, remains a mystery to me…

  27. lawrencewinder

    Good article… and I agree with Goran… The IPA (Coots-With-Queer-Ideas-From-a-Parallel-Universe) have written the policy that was wanted by their mentors “The Ugly American-Phone Hacker” Murdoch and “The Biggest Miner,” Rinehart but unfortunately they’ve wasted a lot of money on a bunch of talentless incompetents who can’t deliver. Journalists? Most, of ’em don’t even seem to know the context of what they’re supposed to ask… the recent National Press Club was a disgraceful example of timidity in the face of funk.

  28. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Hooray for a level headed view of politics and the role of journalists. I used to believe (I am 79 so a bit old school) that journalists reported facts and editors voiced opinions – which, in the case of Murdoch press editors, were not always their own.
    Nowadays it seems that journalists embroider facts with their opinions and do totally inadequate research – particularly when it comes to economics.
    The ABC Fact Checker is a useful addition and journalists ought to look more closely at the factual accuracy of the statements made by politicians which they are reporting.
    Less polling not more would be useful. Too many electors do not really understand some of the issues well enough and an alarming number still believe the way their fathers voted (mother did not take an interest in politics, she left all that to Dad!) is good enough for them.
    I have been in Australia for 44 years and still remember Don Dunstan as being a real leader who did not pursue a policy because it was popular but because it was morally desirable. Perhaps some might not see nude beaches as falling in that category but it was a good move away from unnecessary prudery.
    Coming from England which, at least in my day, just tolerated Catholics who in any case were a distinct minority, I dislike the influence they have here in Australia. I was brought up as a Christian but am now an agnostic. I think the total hypocrisy of many who claim to follow a particular religion – particularly one of the Christian variety – is highlighting the need to develop secular ethics which can be taught in all schools. Do as you would be done by – although I do not think that is a policy which our current PM would favour.
    Anyway – thank you again Victoria for another clear and thought provoking article and please keep up the good work! I miss Don Chipp and his “keep the bastards honest” cry!

  29. corvus boreus

    In another recent development completely missed by the gallery media, senators in the Lib/Lab/Nat block again displayed heart-warming collegiality in voting down a proposal to investigate serious discrepancies in the statements of the Adani Group regarding the Carmichael mine project, despite clear evidence of a history of financial and environmental ‘irregularities.

    https://newmatilda.com/2015/02/13/labor-joins-libs-vote-down-probe-murky-ownership-nation%E2%80%99s-largest-coal-mine

  30. Peter Stanton

    Victoria, The elephant that you have neglected is the one that explains why journalists ignore all your elephants. To write about the false premises the Coalition’s policies are based on would require the journalists to apply a bit of intellectual rigor to their work. This would interfere with their time spent socialising with the high and mighty in the political world that they enjoy so much.

  31. corvus boreus

    Peter S,
    There is also the factor of editorial pressure, both political and commercial.
    Newscorp journalists blatantly represent the agenda of Rupert, Fairfax media are beholden to their major share-holders (including, until recently, Gina), and the ABC, being currently under the conservative kosh, may be reluctant to maul those who tightly hold their purse-strings.
    Under such conditions, it would be hard for even the least incompetent political journalists to give detailed and accurate report without fear or favour.

  32. darthseditious

    Actually Victoria, Lenore Taylor in her columns in the Guardian has written quite a few articles where she empatically says that the problem for the current federal government isn’t Tony Abbott, or the salesmanship, it’s the product, thereby nailling one of your elephants squarely between the eyes.

  33. ausross

    How about this one. Abbott blew off meetings with the likes of the IMF during his North American trip, to instead dash off up to Canada for meetings with the Canadian PM. Afterwards he publicly announced the formation of a new alliance with the Canadian PM with the express purpose of blocking climate change action. He called on other conservative governments to join them. This was simply astounding. Colossal arrogance and blatant abuse of his position to pursue a personal bias. While the alliance seems to have died a quiet death, it nonetheless very clearly demonstrated the disgusting lengths this man will go to without even support from his own parliamentary colleagues let alone the Australian electorate. Yet all the media seemed interested in making any mileage from was his mispronunciation of Canada to a group of students.

  34. Penny Moody

    Good on you Victoria for an excellent analysis, which assists me in understanding more clearly why 1. I am terrified. 2. I want to go and live somewhere else where the government has some Common Sense and Common Decency.

  35. TechinBris

    Oh Gawd! The Canberra Press Gallery is STILL trying to invent, create and market their own relevancy within what passes for our third rate Media Circus and believe they are worthy to be paid for it?
    Sheesh! They really should give up the serious drama attempts, for their conjecture doesn’t even now pass for comedy. It is a Tragedy!
    Rule number one in Politics and in most things in life. Do not believe your own propaganda. It will end up screwing you as much as those you are wanting to screw.
    What a pack of Morons.

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