The purpose of journalism is to serve the community and the purpose of political journalism is to give citizens the information they need to participate in civic affairs. Political journalists should serve as watchdogs to assure honest governance and campaigns.
Politics is often portrayed as a “game.” Indeed, sports and metaphors pepper political writing. Unlike other “games,” political ones have real world consequences: war or peace; high taxes or low; jobs or unemployment; health care or not; tackling climate change or pursuing unfettered mining. Considering the ramifications, political journalists bear a heavy responsibility to present the facts to the electorate.
The Herald Sun is a Murdoch tabloid newspaper based in Melbourne. It is the highest-circulating daily newspaper in Australia, with a weekday circulation of 515,000 and readership of 1,500,000.
Two days before the 2013 Federal election the anonymous editorial gave this ‘astute’ pronouncement which read more like a paid advertorial than insightful analysis:
“TONY Abbott stands ready today to become Australia’s new prime minister with a set of economic and social policies to take the nation into a safe and assured future.
Mr Abbott and the Coalition have shown they are more than ready to govern whereas another three years of Labor will condemn the nation to more destructive class-war politics and policy on the run.
We believe Mr Abbott stands ready to seize the day. His has been a disciplined performance in a bitter and deeply divided Parliament. He has proved himself a man of principle.
Tony Abbott has matured as a leader. He has gained people’s trust to do a tough job in tough economic times.
The Herald Sun believes Mr Abbott should be given the opportunity tomorrow to restore Australia for Australians.
We urge Australians to vote for Mr Abbott and elect him as our 28th prime minister.”
Righto then. (Note to self: Do not rely on The Herald Sun’s judgement.)
Fast forward to February 2 this year. Also in the Herald Sun, Tony’s most ardent supporter, Andrew Bolt, is forced to concede:
“The LNP defeat [in Queensland] also damaged Abbott because the analogy between Newman’s fall and Abbott’s own decline is so powerful.
Newman broke promises, picked too many fights, rammed decisions down voters’ throats and carried on at times like an autocrat, making idiosyncratic decisions such as appointing an underqualified magistrate his chief justice.
He just seemed arrogant and beyond voters’ control — a fatal flaw.
Australian voters can’t be commanded, tricked, bullied, surprised, taken for granted or treated like fools. How many leaders have learned that already? Abbott, too, has broken promises — on spending cuts and tax rises. And, like Newman, he picked too many fights, announced radical schemes without real consultation and made several idiosyncratic decisions, such as reinstating knighthoods.
He now seems out of touch, unpredictable and too self-willed. One who imposes, not persuades.”
Oh? Do tell.
Abbott, in his all-encompassing search to blame others, has suggested that we have been too generous in giving “benefit of the doubt” to bad people.
I could list countless examples where that is true in domestic violence and child abuse cases. If you look at the history you wonder why those entrusted to protect us failed so badly.
In politics, it is up to the media to protect us but, with some notable exceptions, they have failed to see the pattern and to warn of the risk.
The mainstream media, along with the Liberal Party, are like a victim of political abuse, wanting to believe that their abuser truly loves them and will change.
“I have listened. I will change from now on. I’ll be better…promise.”
How many times do you listen to this before you decide to leave?
Look at the examples of violence and aggression over the years that Abbott has either denied, defended, skited about, or, as a last resort, apologised for.
In 1976, while at University, Tony kicked in a glass panel door after a narrow defeat in the University Senate elections .
There was the 1977 charge of indecent assault where Abbott argued that Helen Wilson “was speaking about me in a highly critical way”.
The same year saw the ‘alleged’ physical intimidation of Barbara Ramjan. After she beat Mr Abbott for the presidency of the Sydney University Student Representative Council, he put his face close to hers and punched the wall either side of her head.
There was also the proven charge of destruction of public property. In celebrations after passing his final year economics examination, Abbott was challenged to bend a street sign. As he did so two policemen spotted him. The offence was proven but no conviction was recorded. Look how strong I am, nobody punishes me.
Lindsay Foyle, a former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, revealed that Tony Abbott once threatened to punch him because of a disagreement over abortion.
“Greg Sheridan, the education writer on The Bulletin, arrived with some people who did not work with us. The interlopers were soon identified as radicals involved in student politics at the University of Sydney.
They quickly explained how the world went around and why they had to extinguish their opposition at the university and the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I did not agree with everything that was said and a few feathers got ruffled. The main point of contention was a woman’s right to control pregnancy, either via contraception or abortion. My view was that it was something those involved should settle on, not people like me who didn’t have to live with the consequences of the decision. To the activists that view was just as unacceptable as abortion.
The largest of the lot was a person named Tony Abbott. He decided the quickest way to settle our differences was to take me downstairs and demonstrate how I was wrong by punching my head in.”
Abbott loves to speak about his sporting past which is more renowned for aggression than talent or finesse.
After being swiftly dumped from the rugby union team at Oxford, Tony entered the boxing ring where he got his much wanted blue for hitting people.
In the 80s, Abbott punched team mate Joe Hockey at football training leaving him unconscious and with two black eyes. The angst was caused by Hockey’s disapproval with Tony’s captain’s picks for team selection. How ironic.
Tony has skited about his point scored in the best and fairest awards for landing a good punch on an opponent suggesting that “sometimes, to be the best and fairest, you have to throw the first punch”.
He has admitted that his only skill at cricket was sledging.
This same ‘skill’ was on display in his threat to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin. What leader of a democratic nation speaks this way?
Throughout his public career, Abbott has expressed his dislike of outspoken women and his mistrust of homosexuals, finding both “threatening”. His attitude to feminists and gays has changed little over the years.
During his time in the Howard Government, Tony Abbott was once escorted out of Parliament because he moved in a threatening manner towards the Opposition benches just after Labor’s Graham Edwards, a Vietnam Veteran who had lost both his legs during the Vietnam War, had interjected: “You’re a disgrace”.
Tony has admitted to ‘mistakes’ over the years, like when he personally attacked terminally ill campaigner, Bernie Banton. These admissions only happen after public outrage and outing by the media.
After Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party, he encouraged his followers to attack Julia Gillard in the most personal vile sexist manner that I have ever viewed in politics. And this is how the Abbott government has proceeded.
When the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, suggested we were already seeing the results of climate change and criticised Abbott’s Direct Action Plan as inadequate, he dismissed her saying she was “talking through her hat”.
Tony will not tolerate being questioned.
When asked about his “shit happens” comment about the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, Tony went into catatonic meltdown where the suppressed violence was palpable.
When asked why Peter Slipper was facing prosecution when Abbott had incorrectly claimed far greater expenses for his book signing tour, Abbott repeatedly says “the matter has been fully dealt with” before telling the female journalist to “calm down”.
When asked about corruption in the NSW government, Abbott attacked the female journalist.
“Prime minister, do you trust this government – the state government – which is proving to be corrupt, to deliver your major infrastructure plans?”
Abbott reacted angrily to the question, lecturing the woman who asked it and demanding that she “withdraw” the question.
“That is an entirely unjustified smear,” said Abbott. “Let me not mince my words, madam, an entirely unjustified smear and frankly, I think you should withdraw that and apologise because there is no evidence whatsoever for that.”
This same attack mode is used against those within his own party who dare to speak up as shown by the violent verbal tirade directed against Wyatt Roy for suggesting that honesty might be a better way to deal with their broken promises.
“Abbott was furious. He rounded on Roy, yelled at him, then directed his remarks to all of them that there were no effing broken promises and no one should concede there had been.”
And if any further proof was needed, Tony Abbott’s reprehensible response to the report on children in detention shows exactly what sort of person we are dealing with.
“The Australian Bar Association and Law Council of Australia agree that personal attacks deflect attention from the very serious findings of the report and place an individual office holder under significant pressure – we cannot tolerate our public officials and institutions being subjected to this barrage for fulfilling their statutory duties,” ABA president Fiona McLeod and Law Council president Duncan McConnel said. “To do so is to compromise the integrity of those institutions charged with holding the government to account.”
Tony Abbott is an aggressive controlling man who has been encouraged to believe his abilities are greater than they are. He is a serial abuser.
What sort of message are we sending if we tolerate and reward this sort of behaviour?
Are we going to continue to be taken for mugs by this bully?
Are the Liberal Party and the media going to give him “the benefit of the doubt” yet again?
Will the people of Australia believe that a man whose natural reaction is aggression has “listened and changed”?
As Tony Abbott himself pointed out, “we need to have decent standards in this country. We need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so as well as decent standards from politicians.”
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