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Tag Archives: Michelle Grattan

Glimpses of the Real Tony Abbott

Image courtesy of canberratimes.com.au

Image courtesy of canberratimes.com.au

Tony Abbott reveals much about the man behind the public persona – unknowingly – whenever he speaks. Peter Barnes looks at Tony Abbott’s recent interview with Michelle Grattan, where glimpses of the man – the real Tony Abbott – came to the surface.

Michelle Grattan’s interview with the Prime Minister produced some more intimate glimpses of the PM than we normally get during the heavily scripted and rehearsed interviews on the news.

Here are some I thought revealing.

The first glimpse was of a PM who is still in Opposition. When asked about his experience of the job he answered a different question and said:

Hopefully the people’s experience of the new government will be that it’s competent and considered, trustworthy and candid, in a way that the former government wasn’t.

In general people seem to think that this continuing obsession with the previous government represents a failure by the PM to switch to governing, however after six months I think it’s much more likely to be a deliberate strategy. Whether accidental or deliberate, it’s not what we want from the leader of our Government.

The second glimpse was of a generation gap. You only have to look at a photo of the cabinet to understand that if you’re middle-aged or older, white, male, healthy and well off you’re well represented by this government. Otherwise, your mileage will vary. However this glimpse reveals a PM who clearly has never used social media, and really doesn’t understand social media. Why? Because although it might seem trivial, he says:

The thing about social media is that it is anonymous

With that single, massive misunderstanding, he goes on to dismiss social media as:

kind of like electronic graffiti

In this way, the infrastructure that lay behind Occupy, Arab Spring, March in March and numerous other popular movements is pigeonholed in the PM’s mind as trivial vandalism. This, from the PM who wants to be “the infrastructure PM”, but who totally misunderstands a major piece of the single most important piece of infrastructure – the internet – to be built in the last twenty years.

The third glimpse is, I will admit, pure snark on my part. The PM can’t add up to six. When asked about fatigue, he says:

Yes, but I’m lucky in that I’ve got quite a bit of stamina, Michelle. I don’t need more than six hours sleep a night . . . I can bound out of bed at five o’clock in the morning . . . I find I can go through the day till about ten o’clock pretty comfortably.

Mr. Prime Minister, from ten to five is seven hours. Churchill, you’re not.

The next glimpse is more conventional, of a politician buffing and polishing the facade. Asked whether he has informal “sounding boards”, he nominates, amongst others, the fire brigade he serves with. That certainly sounds like an admirable man, serving his community and staying in touch with people from all walks of life. So how often does he consult the firies? Well, he says he spent two shifts with them in October (resulting in blanket coverage of the PM in firefighting gear), and since then he has had just two additional shifts. That’s two shifts in five months. Mr Prime Minister, can we just admit you dragged the fire brigade into the conversation by their yellow braces, and they’re no more a sounding board for you than the members of Destroy the Joint?

The same goes for the rather bizarre answer to Grattan’s question about the most rewarding areas of the job:

. . . contact with the military at every level, from the service chiefs to the squadies that I’ve been lucky enough to do PT with, has been a special highlight

This sounds like another case of a topic being dragged in, kicking and screaming, by the epaulettes. Can you imagine the pre-election interview:

“Mr. Abbott, why do you want to be PM?”

“I want to be PM because it will allow me contact with the military at every level, including doing star jumps with squaddies”

“???”

The next glimpse is telling, and disturbing. When asked from whom he gets advice, the PM nominates a number of people and groups (including the firefighters). When he’s finished, Grattan observes:

Michelle Grattan: You didn’t mention the public service in that list.

Tony AbbottOf course I should have, but in the end the public service is there to implement the policies of the government as well as to offer frank and fearless advice.

In other words, in the PM’s mind the Public Service is there to do as it’s told. He’s not even slightly interested in their advice, in any form. The PM’s clear contempt for expert advice that doesn’t match his already held beliefs is well documented. He has already abolished a number of expert bodies, and has dismissed advice from people and groups eminent in many fields, simply because it isn’t what he wanted to hear. That is a very dangerous trait in someone who should freely acknowledge their own limited expertise in practically all subjects, and whose contribution should be in listening, then balancing needs and demands for the greatest good of the nation.

However the most revealing glimpse is the last. Again, it reveals a PM still trying to portray himself as battling in Opposition, rather than governing. It reveals a PM still talking in three-word slogans. It reveals a PM who can apparently simultaneously claim to have stopped the boats, and yet still not have stopped the boats. It reveals a PM whose every achievement is defined in terms of stopping and undoing.

It reveals a PM completely devoid of vision. Here are his absolute top priorities for Australia in the next twelve months.

Michelle Grattan: Just finally, if you were to fast forward a year, what are the three things you would most like to have achieved by this time 12 months on?

Tony Abbott: We’ve got to stop the boats, get the budget under control and repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax. They’re the things that we have to get done in these first 12 months.

This article was first posted on Peter’s blog “infinite8horizon” and reproduced with permission.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’infinite8horizo’ show_count =’yes’]

It’s easy to get the impression that Andrew Bolt might just be a bit hypocritical

Against my better judgement I’m occasionally intrigued to take (what I intend) to be a cursory glance at what Andrew Bolt’s writing about and soon find myself – trance like – mired in a world devoid of any reality. I found myself in such a state with today’s piece, ‘How Tony Abbott was framed by an activist journalist who should calm down’. The article begins:

You cannot get a better example of media bias and malice – the gotcha journalism of the Left.

Bolt was referring to the interview where Tony Abbott told Guardian Australia journalist Bridie Jabour  to calm down after she asked a few probing questions about the $9,000 travel expenses he was forced to pay back. Here is the interview:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58mXIc6ggpo]

These are questions that all journalists should be asking, but not in Bolt’s world. Such questions should not be asked, so it was time for him to attack Ms Jabour. “Note also the aggressive tone of the heckling” he motioned his readers when presenting the above video for their amusement and concluded with the claim that Jabour was acting offensively. Quite laughable, really, coming from a person who is infamous for his constant degradation who do not sit on his side of the political fence. It’s easy to form the opinion that he might just be a bit hypocritical.

BTW, I found her manner quite calm and nonthreatening compared to this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoeGeV-7OEQ]

Amid one of the most explosive stories facing Tony Abbott since he took over as leader of the Opposition, Andrew Bolt finds it necessary to attack about the only journalist who seeks answers for questions we need to know. This is a much bigger story than a journalist asking a question in a manner not satisfactory to Andrew Bolt, as even noted by the much maligned Michelle Grattan:

It’s little wonder that Abbott just wanted to shut down the questions. Misused government funds, even if inadvertent, sounds dodgy.

Andrew Bolt gives me the impression that the protection of Tony Abbott is more a priority than the integrity of the trade he belongs. That he favours the deflection of any scrutiny towards Tony Abbott in preference to the accountability expected of him, is indicative of either the poor state of Australian journalism or just further confirmation that Abbott is untouchable as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

An Open Letter to Michelle Grattan

Michelle Gratton (photo by smh.com.au)

Michelle Gratton (photo by smh.com.au)

Dear Michelle Grattan

I’m writing to congratulate you on your new job as Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra and your other new job – Associate Editor (Politics) and Chief Political Correspondent at The Conversation.

I couldn’t help but notice that your article on your new platform this week, Gillard and Baillieu offer stark contrast, was no different from what you have been writing since 2010. In fact, it could have been an article cut and paste from things you have already said, and have been saying constantly for the past two years. I just wanted to let you know that I, as a member of the ‘Mr and Mrs Average’ community that you mention in this article (which I assume means anyone outside of the Canberra Press Gallery), am sick to death of your campaign to fuel the fires of ‘leadership tension’ within the government. I am sick of your chosen ‘narrative’ that Gillard is lacking in credibility, that she is desperate, and that she is a failed Prime Minister, because frankly, your view of reality, and that of the electorate, are so far removed from each other that they must exist in separate universes.

It was interesting that when you left The Age, you offered this advice:

“Diversity matters because we need many voices – as many as possible commenting on politics and interpreting politics and I think what we’re seeing at the moment is too much concentration of voices, frankly.”

Really? Perhaps you don’t visit any websites except those owned by Fairfax, News Ltd and the ABC, so perhaps your opinion that ‘diversity’ is lacking is understandable. In fact, I couldn’t agree with you more that diversity does matter but I find it fairly hilarious that you’re the one saying we need more of it. You – the person who has written the same thing on the same subject almost every week now for two years, who is clearly obsessed with the Kevin Rudd leadership spill and so clearly despises the Prime Minister and anything her government does – are calling for more diversity. Just a hint Michelle – there is plenty of diversity out there. Been on Twitter lately? Looked at any independent news sites and blogs? Instead of offering the opposite of diversity with your broken record of meaningless drivel about how Rudd is going to challenge at any moment and that Gillard’s government is a failure, you should be urging yourself to be more diverse. How about some scrutiny of Tony Abbott and his potential policies? How about a look at the successes of the Gillard government, which would have to include some policy analysis? Ever heard of policy? How about some diversity in your tired old narrative Michelle?

What really annoys me about you Michelle is that you should know better. You’ve been in the Press Gallery for long enough to have seen it all. You know that Gillard beat Rudd in the 2012 Labor leadership ballot by 40 votes. You also know that Abbott only won the leadership of the Liberal Party by 1 vote. So which leader is in a more precarious situation? This week, when the Victorian Liberal Party ‘assassinated’ their first term Premier, I almost had to assume your Twitter account had been hacked, or that you were parodying yourself with this Tweet:

“Yes, it’s a long bow but reckon this could add to the federal destabilization”.

Maybe it’s time we called you ‘long bow’ Grattan. I think that works.

As Political Editor of The Age, you had a very responsible position. Being a journalist is an important job. Yes, it’s becoming less and less important as media consumers get our news from many different sources. However, you still had the responsibility to watch the political scene closely and to tell us, in a fair and balanced way, what is going on. But while you were focused on un-named sources from the Labor party, who you claimed supported Rudd, and while you obsessed over the imminent Labor leadership spill that never happened, with articles like this, this, this, and this, you were missing some very important things that media consumers should have been reading about. Policy is one of them. Costings of policies is another. Abbott’s relationship with News Ltd and Gina Rinehart is yet another. And how about Ashbygate? You probably thought you were above reporting a conspiracy to bring down a government, but the irony is, you were working on the very same thing! And this wasn’t your job Michelle. It’s wasn’t your job to campaign. It wasn’t your job to tell the Prime Minister to resign. Your job was to watch, analyse and report. People trusted you to do this in a balanced way. You abused this trust every time you turned on your Fairfax computer.

Now that you are at The Conversation, you have an even greater responsibility. According to your new organisation’s mission, you should be providing:

“Access to independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism…”

I don’t think any of these adjectives apply to your work as I have seen it Michelle. Your repetition about Gillard’s ‘failures’ are unfair, untrue and unbalanced.

None of this history bodes well for your association with The Conversation. You’re bringing to it the same old ‘Gillard is bad, Abbott is good’ narrative. Apart from the lack of balance, the repetition drives away readers. First we skip over your articles because we know we have already read them before. Then we start skipping over the website altogether. This is sad because The Conversation ought to be a place where we can find independent analysis. But now you’re damaging the brand.

You’ll no doubt write me off as some rusted-on Laborite who just doesn’t want to hear the truth. But you don’t have the monopoly of truth. We know there are people in the Labor party trying to undermine Gillard, but which political party isn’t this true of? And how is this constant speculation helpful for genuine political debate? Even if I were a right-winger, you’d still be repetitive, and not giving us policy substance that is crucial to political reporting. We want to know about policy, and you never deliver this. By ruining The Conversation, you are decreasing the very diversity which you said yourself is lacking in political reporting. So although I’m congratulating you on your new job, I’m not optimistic about what this career move will deliver to media consumers. Perhaps it’s time you fell on your sword.

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