By Henry Johnston
ABCTV’s the Insiders broadcast 29/7/2018 the morning after Super Saturday demonstrated the parlous state of quality Australian journalism.
After interrogating Liberal Minister for Defence Industry and Leader of the House Christopher Pyne, and Opposition Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek about the results of the previous night’s Super Saturday by-elections, host Barrie Cassidy introduced the panel.
For me this is when Australian journalism slipped over and fell on its arse.
The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy, the Australian’s Niki Savva and News Corp’s jolly old Uncle Malcolm Farr, all but spat their coffee across the set when Cassidy suggested it is time for media to drop the Kill Bill / Anthony Albanese-is-waiting-to-challenge nonsense.
The Three Amigos came close to hyperventilation. I would not be surprised if half their press gallery colleagues did the same, as they swallowed Berocca and munched handfuls of Panadol to clear muzzy heads.
The gallery including the Conversation’s redoubtable Michelle Grattan, fell for a Liberal Government ‘drop,’ namely Albo is set to challenge Bill Shorten.
Never mind the fact Tanya Plibersek minutes earlier swatted the story as so much tosh, or Wayne Swan said much the same on an earlier ABC news programme, or that Albo had called the story rubbish. No. Three top notch journos turned face-on to the cameras and said in effect, ‘we reported a non-story and are sticking with our assertion’.
How do I know this, and why do I believe this morning marked a low point in the worst week in the history of Australian news media?
If these three reporters had squeezed into the Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain on the day then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd announced reforms to mechanisms to appoint Labor Party leaders, and thus forbid a repeat of the Rudd / Gillard / Rudd debacle, they would have witnessed Anthony Albanese (Albo) at his finest.
Albo is my local member and I am a rank and file member of the Australian Labor Party.
Anthony Albanese, his close friend and mentor, former Senator John Faulkner, and the nation watched acts of unparalleled bastardry, which spelt the imminent examination of the ALP.
Make no mistake; Labor as a collective knew it either reformed or experience a horrible death.
Neither Albo, Faulkner nor other party activists, were prepared to allow this to happen. If Savva, Murphy and Farr didn’t know this, then they should not be in the business of reporting.
Here is the rub. This trio and the majority of the Canberra press gallery – so called ‘insiders’ – no longer report. They comment. But commentary is not journalism. Rather it is a corrosive aspect of the global entertainment industry’s gleeful destruction of the integrity of the fourth estate. Witness the Channel 9 take-over of Fairfax.
Did Savva, Murphy, Farr and others ring Albo’s office and ask for an interview? I’m not sure, but if they did, they did not file a report; at least I cannot find one. Indeed, Savva and Murphy said to Cassidy, ‘according to unnamed sources we knew something was going on and we faithfully reported this.’
Huh? How is it small journals such as this news outlet, with unerring accuracy, called the story out as a non-starter?
By the end of Insiders Savva, Murphy and Farr on cue, wept crocodile tears about the demise of Fairfax, but avoided the perspicacity of Cassidy’s argument the Kill Bill strategy had failed.
The ‘Albo for PM’ yarn will stink-up the place for a few more days despite the fact a slew of ALP federal members would make exemplary prime ministers.
Consider the talent of Albanese, Bowen, Plibersek, Burke, Chalmers, Clare, Wong, Dreyfuss, Lamb, and others. Now imagine a Muslim PM, Ed Husic, or an Aboriginal Prime Minister, Linda Burney. I can. Compare these citizens to the nincompoops which comprise the LNP Government. Yet according to the Canberra press gallery, their version of the story – Albo, aka Beatrix Kiddo, aka the Bride – will faithfully follow the Kill Bill script. Yeah right, just like the fairy tale of South Australia’s darling of the IPA Georgina Downer, taking her seat as the new federal member for Mayo.
Pick up your redundancy cheques, boys and girls, and don’t bother switching off the lights on your way out.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney based author. His book, Best and Fairest is available at Valentine Press.