The Queensland Quagmire

If a week is a long time in politics, then the last week must have felt even longer than eternity in the Fires of Hell for Tony Abbott and the rest of the lost souls of the Federal Opposition.

So, in an attempt to cheer them up, Peta Credlin and her hubby, Brian Loughnane, have decided to throw a fancy dress party. It will have a biblical/religious theme and, of course, Tones is coming along as his hero, Jesus. Brian and Peta, respectively, are dressing up as that nasty biblical plutocratic duet, Herod and Herodias.

So, at the venue, Joe Hockey and Christopher Pyne are acting as bouncers. Dutifully, they are guarding the door, awaiting the guests. Joe is dressed in a cassock and Pyney has a dog-collar on.

Peta: Erm...thanks guys for coming along and helping out with security...Hopefully, we’ll all have a spiffing evening which will help us forget about the Purgatory we had to endure last week...

[Joe and Pyney are no mugs. They know that by volunteering to be on the door, they can get into the keg early, so are both well-oiled even at this early stage of the proceedings.]

Peta: Oh, and great costumes, guys...very thematic...

Joe: Yeah...kitted out in my cassock, Peta, it’s obvious who I am, isn’t it?

[Peta ventures, “Friar Tuck”, and Joe beams, pleased as the punch he’s been drinking, Peta got it in one.]

Peta: Erm,, with your dog-collar, I presume you’re some sort of a priest?

Joe: Nah, he’s come along as the dog in the manger – haven’t you seen him wrecking Question Time every week...haw...haw...

Brian: Yeah, and talking about mangers, I bet Julie Bishop rocks up with an upturned crib on her head...bwahahahahaha...

Peta: Yeah, she’s an expert at copying other people’s stuff...haw...haw...

[Suddenly, interrupting the raucous party spirit that is already under way at the venue door, a stretched limo pulls up and a coterie of characters that looks like it has stepped off a Cecil B deMille set, alights.

Firstly, and most appropriately, out steps Tony Abbott, with a long wig and false beard, but dressed only in his trademark budgie smugglers. Accompanying him is Sophie Mirabella, dressed as Salome; Phil Ruddock is Methuselah; Alan Jones is a penitential monk kitted out in a nice chaff-bag sackcloth-and-ashes number; Warren Truss, making a snoring sound, presumably is acting out the role of one of the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane; Barnaby Joyce has come along as Moses, with a stone tablet under both arms, each with six Commandments on it; and Bill Heffernan is carrying a pitchfork.]

Peta: Erm...Tones...I know you said you were coming along as Jesus, but I didn’t know they could afford budgie smugglers in those days...

Tones: Of course they could afford them in those days, Peta – there was no carbon tax then to clean out their wallets...heh...heh...

Brian: Tones, I’m very disappointed, I must say, that you’ve turned up in a limo – I thought you would arrive on a donkey...hee...hee...

Tones: Oh very droll, Brian...But, speaking of dumb-asses, Peter Dutton sends his apologies – he’s got a bit of a runny nose and he says he is going to make use of the circumstances to build up some hands-on experience for his future Health portfolio gig...heh...hee...

[So, amidst much mutual back-slapping and boisterous bonhomie, the Federal Opposition party animals, except for Joe and Pyney, who are still dutifully manning the door, enter the venue.

Once inside, however, Tones views the decor and is singularly unimpressed. There is no stage for him to mount later, so that he can give his Sermon on the Mount to the assembled faithful. He complains to Peta, who in turn clicks her fingers, summoning Brian over, like a little lap-dog.

“Sheesh”, sighs Tones to himself. “Why do we do it? Why do we allow ourselves to be demeaned like this? I reckon those gay marriage guys must have rocks in their heads...”

Peta orders Brian to get himself toot sweet over to the Builder’s yard across the street and pinch some planks of wood to build a stage for Jesus’ sermon. Knowing what side his unleavened bread is buttered on, Brian scoots across and is back within two shakes of the Lost Lamb’s tail. He gets down to work so diligently, he makes St Joseph the Carpenter, at the time of the Sanhedrin Stimpac, look like the Big Man Himself after he had made the world in six days and was having his sabbath RDO.

But, another thing Tones wasn’t happy with was the band. Again, he complained to Peta, for which she rebuked him, telling him to lighten.]

Peta [peeved]: I only remembered at the last minute, mate, about organising some music, so they are all I could get...

Tones: Well, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band is better than nothing, I suppose – what do they call themselves, anyway?

Peta: The Swann-E Street Band, I think...and as a bonus, they told me they are going to do a version of the Whyalla Wipeout later on!

Tones: Huh! Couldn’t be any worse than Emo’s pathetic rendition...haw...haw...

Peta: Oh, and the reason we couldn’t afford to hire a venue with a stage was that we splashed most of our dough on the band’s fee...

Tones: Oh? How much did those clowns sting us?

Peta: Well, put it like this...I don’t think Bruce himself would charge much more – the Springsteen look-a-like front-man told me they charged so much cos “they needed to do something to find the dosh to pay for their budget surplus...”

Tones [conciliatory]: Well, I must say, Peta, the food and drink is second to none...there’s everything would make the original Herod and Herodias nosh-up look like Jesus’ forty days’ fast in the wilderness...

Peta: Yeah...the only thing is, there’s so much to be consumed, we’ll never get the buggers to go home at the end of the evening...But, then again, when you start your Sermon on the Mount, that’ll soon clear the room quicksmart...heh...heh...

Tones: Oh, very drool, Peta...But, I’ve got an even better idea for clearing the room – just get Sophie to do her Salome dance-of-the-seven-veils routine – that’s guaranteed to get even the cockroaches on their bikes...hee...hee...By the way, have you seen Julie this evening...bwahahahahaha...

[Whilst Peta and Tones have been chewing the fatted calf inside, Joe and Pyney have been dutifully announcing the guests as they enter. However, there has been a hiatus for a while and they are bored stiff. They decide to play a joke on Tones.]

Joe [hollering into the festivities hall]: And now, dressed as the Angel of Death is...Ms Leigh Sales!!!!

[The very mention of the name of his most recent red-headed nemesis puts the fear of the Lord into Tones and he scuttles, trembling at the knees, under a table to hide, much to the merriment of the assembled guests and Joe and Pyney especially.

Then, outside, walking along the street, Joe and Pyney notice, heading in their direction, a strange figure, tramp-like, and seemingly attired in goat-skins, with a staff in one hand and a jar containing some insects in some yellowish liquid in the other.]


Joe [very alarmed]: OMG!!! It’s that nutter, “CanDo” Campbell Newman!!! He thinks he’s John the Baptist, fresh from making a desert wasteland of the province of Queensland!!! Quick, lock the door before he gets in and spoils the Federal party as well...

[However, falling back on his macho army training, CanDo is more than a match for Friar Tuck and the Poodle who Pooped in the Manger. He whacks them with his staff, leaving them lying senseless on the pavement outside the venue. Striding inside, he spots Tones, who has just extricated himself from under the table. CanDo immediately genuflects in front of his Messiah.]



[Even Peta is lost for words. “What a potential freakin’ disaster we could have on our hands here”, she whispers to herself. “If this fruit-loop banana-bender convinces the whole country that what he is doing in Queensland is a fore-runner to what we are planning to do federally, we’re stuffed!”

Then, CanDo, hollering something about “if locusts and wild honey are good enough for Queenslanders, then they’re good enough for the rest of you”, smashes, with hammering blows from his staff, all the containers of food and drinks sitting on the tables.

Peta, trying to keep her head, but determined that CanDo is about to lose his, turns to Brian, who, all night, had been axing wooden planks and hammering the stage together. She orders him to chop CanDo’s scone off, which he does expertly with one blow. Then, Peta turns menacingly to Tones.]

Peta: Righto, Jesus...your cousin John the Baptist has let the cat out of the bag, so we’ve no other option but to sacrifice you as well...Brian!!! Bring two of those planks and make a cross!!!

[Understandably, the crucifixion of Tones puts a dampener on the evening’s jollifications, so the venue soon empties, except for the Swann E Street Band, who had kept on playing, and Peta. To make sure she gets her bond back, Peta is tidying up, sweeping the floor around Tones’ cross. However, from the near-dead figure, she hears a whispered, barely-audible, pleading coming from his almost-lifeless lips.]

Tones [hoarsely]: Peta...Peta...

[Peta pulls a stool over to stand on, so she can hear Tones’ dying last words.] Tones: Peta...Peta...

Peta: What is it, Tones? I can’t hear’ll have to speak up...

Tones: Peta...I can see The Lodge from here...

Peta: Well, too bad can blame your stupid cousin, CanDo, for your predicament...It’s his fault you’ll never see it’s inside...Now...that reminds me...I better make an appointment to see the pre-selectors for Warringah...there’s going to be a vacancy there pretty soon...heh...heh...

[Then, mockingly, the Swann-E Street Band plays its final number of the evening: “We Take Care Of Our Own”.]

The disintegration of the Abbott machine

Early every morning, the Abbott machine swings into action. Fresh batteries are placed in Abbott man, he is briefed with the day’s messages, slogans for the day are identified, and he is sent on his way, a Duracell Bunny thumping his tub, to friendly TV stations for a puff piece encounter with a morning host who asks soft questions that serve as a vehicle for him to regurgitate the day’s messages and repeat his well worn slogans. It doesn’t matter what the issues are, or what questions he is asked, his answers are the ones for which he has been pre-programmed, and out they come on cue, with some tub thumping slogans as an encore.

He has done this successfully for years because seldom has an interviewer had the courage or perspicacity to challenge his answers, or divert him from his pre-ordained script. It has all been so easy. All that has now changed.

There have been gathering doubts about Abbott man’s legitimacy, about his authenticity, about his grasp of the complexities of today’s politics, about his capacity to cope with anything that is thrown at him, about his ability to answer the awkward or embarrassing question. The doubts have been obvious in recent press articles, documented in Journalists awake! You know Tony Abbott is conning you

But it was not until Leigh Sales took her courage in both hands and challenged Abbott man’s answers in a 7.30 interview last week on the deferment of work at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam project, a commercial decision that Abbott man insisted was the fault of the carbon and minerals taxes, that he was exposed as the deceitful person we have always known him to be. The fact that the minerals tax does not apply to copper or uranium mining meant nothing; Abbott man ploughed ahead with his faux sorrow at the deferral, labeled the two taxes as responsible, and so sure was he that there was political mileage for him in this event, he precipitously took up a longstanding invitation to appear on 7.30. He now wishes he hadn’t. Through insistent questioning, Leigh Sales exposed his deception, his lies, his scaremongering, and his inadequacy as an alternate PM. If you haven’t seen it, here is the link to the interview and the transcript.

Abbott man obfuscated, hesitated, lied, tried to avoid answering her questions, diverted attention by reference to Jacques Nasser’s statement about the taxes made some months ago, said he had not read Marius Kloppers’ statement about BHP Billiton’s decision, and later said he had, and under Sales persistent questioning steadily disintegrated into a confused wreck. When she changed the subject to his scare campaign about the carbon tax, out came the now modified slogan, ‘python squeeze’ rather than ‘cobra strike’, and when she nailed him on his use of the word ‘illegal’ to describe asylum seeker arrivals by boat, he was left flabbergasted. I have not heard anyone extol Abbott man’s performance, because it was appalling, the worst since his infamous performance with Kerry O’Brien and later with Mark Riley. Here is the transcript of the O’Brien interview. Here is the video. Here is the Mark Riley shit-happens interview.

The disintegration of the Abbott man and the Abbott machine accelerates.

Emboldened by Leigh Sales, Channel Nine’s Lisa Wilkinson tackled Abbott man herself over the BHP Billiton deferment. What is usually a cakewalk for him on this channel turned into another rough road. Here is the link to the interview on The Wall website, which has added some amusing subtitles to the video. (You need to click ‘View all images/videos’ at the bottom to see them.)

Challenged by Wilkinson, Abbott man bumbled his way through, repeating his pre-programmed messages no matter what questions she posed, umming and arring, obfuscating, insisting he had read the Kloppers statement after all, yet having denied this in the Sales interview. He excused his ‘confusion’ over this by saying Sales’ questions were ‘rapid-fire’ and that he ‘had a lot on his plate’. If he thinks his plate is overloaded now, how could he possibly cope with a prime ministerial plate? Arthur Sinodinos was soon out in Abbott man’s defence, obviously feeling he was somewhat ‘embattled’, a term usually reserved for the PM.

The Wilkinson interview was another calamity for Abbott man, who was stunned by this usually benign interviewer really putting in the boots.

NormanK has pointed out how Abbott man blinked his way through this uncomfortable interview, blinking at a rate that indicates nervousness over and above what might reasonably be expected from a senior politician accustomed to being on TV. Notice this when you view it. Note too that Julia Gillard faced questions from the Canberra Press Gallery for almost an hour without ‘blinking’!

These two female interviewers were not the only ones to leap all over Abbott man. The PM opined that he seemed to have a misogynist streak; Nicola Roxon, who had had an unpleasant encounter with Abbott man during a press conference on health before the 2007 election, called him out by saying he seemed threatened by women in powerful positions, and Tanya Plibersek agreed, citing his behavior in parliament that had him thrown out for defying the Speaker’s ruling. Abbott man responded by claiming he was ‘a modern man’ used to working with women at home and at work!

He made another telling mistake last week when he said private schools were the disadvantaged ones, not public schools, where the majority of disadvantaged children attend. He was hammered on this by Julia Gillard in QT and characterized as ‘Jack the Ripper’, ready to ‘rip out’ funds from public schools.

It was a miserable week for him.

The media has noticed Abbott man’s disintegration. The sycophantic News Limited will probably go softly on him for a while, but a few journalists haven’t waited. In the SMH, Paul Daley says: “Beneath the veneer of assuredness around the Coalition, confidence in Abbott is also waning. That's got nothing to do with a single poll that indicates Labor's primary vote has lifted from catastrophic to merely disastrous. But it has everything to do with the fear that the opposition's ongoing tactic of negating or obfuscating on major government policy - not least on the interim carbon tax, the mining tax and education reform - is starting to lose potency, as the media and the public demand detail and alternatives. Abbott fared badly under the blowtorch last week regarding the reasons for BHP Billiton's decision to shelve its Olympic Dam expansion. He looked like a leader with a short attention span, and none for detail.”

Misha Schubert, in her last piece for the SMH, asked: “Will Abbott continue to lead the Liberals, and become prime minister? After last week, with his line that private schools - not public ones - were hard done by and his exposure on trying to tie the carbon and mining taxes to BHP's Olympic Dam deferral in a mesmerising interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30, some - including in his own ranks - began to wonder anew.”

Even Peter van Onselen in The Sunday Telegraph said in: Is Tony a one-trick pony? “In a week where media attention followed the saga of the Prime Minister's legal dealings 17 years ago, Tony Abbott has also come under pressure. His performance on the ABC's 7.30 Report on Wednesday was not good by any measure, and the government stepped up its attacks on the opposition's slippery accounting and overstated criticisms of the carbon tax in parliament. Even one of Abbott's own frontbench colleagues told me: "The carbon tax attacks are starting to look a bit stale, don't you think? Like he's a one-trick pony perhaps." There are growing internal voices calling on Abbott to broaden his appeal beyond what he plans to repeal if elected prime minister. So far the calls are falling on deaf ears.”

Paul Howes made a cryptic comment: “When the Harbour Bridge was built, the Liberal Party didn't even exist but, given the shrill knee-jerk reactions we see coming from the Liberals today about investment in new infrastructure projects such as the NBN, you could imagine a yesteryear version of Tony Abbott waxing lyrical about Labor's waste in building a massively expensive bridge across the harbour when there's a perfectly good ferry system in place.”

Lainie Anderson in the South Australia Sunday Mail also asks: Is Abbott just a one-trick Tony? She begins: “Every time Opposition Leader Tony Abbott opens his mouth, I feel like I need a shower.

“He's such a grubby piece of work - so naked in his ambition, so willing to stretch any truth to score a quick political point and so unimaginative. When he started picking over the carcass of Olympic Dam this week, he might at least have had the decency to wipe the smug look from his face.

“He might have taken five minutes to get his facts straight on the reasons for BHP shelving the $30 billion project. And it wouldn't have hurt to workshop a few credible arguments on how Gillard policies have had an impact on BHP's cost pressures, instead of lazily (and incorrectly) parroting his "great big taxes" line. Actually, if he had been really strategic he would have been a statesman - saying very little about the demise but announcing a Coalition plan to work with key states and mining companies such as BHP on new strategies to keep investment flowing in a volatile resources market.

“Alas, that's not Mr Abbott's style. He's a kick-heads-now-ask-questions-later kind of guy.

“That's OK when you're bull ... . ing over a few beers around a barbecue, where you can mouth off without fear or favour and your words aren't thrown back at you on national TV. It's not so cool when you're keen to run a country of 23 million reasonably well-educated people, many of whom would quite like the political discourse to rise above three-syllable slogans.

“With Labor's polls beginning to rise (albeit from a pathetically low base) and Mr Abbott continuing to languish near Ms Gillard in personal approval ratings, you would think party strategists would be single-minded in branding the Opposition boss as The Next Leader of Australia. But Mr Abbott seems incapable of transforming himself from masterful antagonist to credible alternative.

“Which begs the question. Is this man a one-trick Tony?

“Brand strategy group Marketing Focus ran 16 focus groups in four mainland states earlier this month to gauge customer views on the attributes of effective managers.

“They were surprised when talk turned to Australia's political leadership and unflattering perceptions emerged of Ms Gillard as a "turn-off" and Mr Abbott as "an angry, negative primate".

"The women participants were very specific," Marketing Focus chief Barry Urquhart told Radio National this week. "They felt uncomfortable, they felt offside, they didn't warm to him by nature.

"For that reason he's going to have to reach out, be warm, be embracing, be engaging."

“For the record, I'm not buying Labor's increasingly shrill line that Mr Abbott has a problem with women in positions of power - he has a long and strong record of promoting women into leadership. But there's no doubt he has to improve his standing among female voters. Taking a more considered, less opportunistic and bombastic line of attack would go a long way to achieving that. (Or, perhaps, that sounds too much like Malcolm Turnbull?)

“The Age political editor Michelle Grattan summed it up best this week: "If trust is the Prime Minister's stand-out problem, Abbott's is credibility. Put simply, the man exaggerates."

“When he was gleefully "exaggerating" about the carbon tax and the mining tax killing off the Olympic Dam project this week, Mr Abbott did at one stage try to insist that his primary concern was the future of our state. "I want those jobs for South Australia," he said. Really? I don't think so. There was only one job on Mr Abbott's mind when he seized the opportunity to opine on the Olympic Dam demise.

“There's only one job on his mind. The rest of us are just collateral damage.

Another focus group story emerged last week, which ended with the words: “When Tony Abbott’s name is mentioned, people laugh”. What a telling indictment.

Look for the signs of accelerating disintegration of the Abbott machine and the Abbott man in the weeks and months ahead. It probably won’t be explosive; a more gradual process is likely, as too much of the Coalition’s future and News Limited’s campaign to destroy the Gillard Government is tied up in Abbott man’s survival.

The Coalition has no one to replace him; Malcolm Turnbull would be the people’s choice, but his party can’t stomach him. News Limited has invested so much of its reputation in destroying Julia Gillard and replacing her with Tony Abbott, that it is unlikely to call Abbott man out. It will try to wrap him in cotton wool and distract from his disintegration by attacking Julia Gillard as it has done so disgracefully this last week via its ‘Walkley Award winning investigative journalist’ Hedley Thomas, and a host of opinion pieces and editorials, unadvisedly continuing these even over this weekend to justify its reprehensible position.

And there’s more to come. As the polls narrow, how possible will it be to repeal the carbon tax, which would require a Senate majority for the Coalition? How popular will stopping the NBN be among those who want the same as those that have it? How will Abbott man compensate Telstra for continuing to provide and maintain the ageing copper wires required by Fibre-to-the-Node technology, the Coalition’s preferred approach? How will Abbott man find the massive savings to fund his PPL and his other expensive promises? How will Abbott man cope with the increasingly strident connection between him and Campbell Newman being made by commentators and the public as Newman’s decline in popularity continues?

Abbott man and his Abbott machine have had a dream run. Propelled by three word catchy slogans, enhanced by countless stunts – truck driving, banana stacking, and fish kissing – to highlight the ‘catastrophic’ carbon tax ‘wrecking ball’ that will cause ‘unimaginable’ increases in the cost of everything, Abbott man is faced with the inconvenient reality that this has not come about, and the people have noticed. He is left naked, still reciting his negative mantras, scratching around for the odd statement that seems to support his position, and making one up if he can’t, as he did with the BHP Billiton announcement, now being openly challenged by journalists who are sick of his deception and lying, and now looking vulnerable to his own party’s machine men who will be wondering how they can ditch him if the polls fall away for the Coalition. The Abbott machine is shaky, destitute of any positive policies to appeal to the people, still reliant on boring, tired old slogans that are now being seen for what they have always been – hollow, disingenuous, and deceptive.

The Abbott machine is disintegrating, and the Abbott man with it.

What do you think?

Our Media: Prosecutor, Judge, Jury and Executioner

Are you, like me, incensed by the performance over the last week of our mainstream media, particularly News Limited, as it pursued our Prime Minister over matters 17 years ago when she was a solicitor at Slater & Gordon?

What has become of our media? Supposedly the guardian of our democracy, the seeker and purveyor of truth, the erudite analyst of current affairs, the vehicle for learned opinion, it has degenerated into a politically-motivated ‘frothing at the mouth’ rabid attack dog, bent on savaging the elected leader of this nation. Murdoch’s News Limited will not let go. Its teeth are dug deep. It is determined to foster and advance a vitriolic hatred of our most senior politician. Facts have become irrelevant.

News Limited media is an utter disgrace and a pox on our democracy. We are witnessing a catastrophic and seemingly irreversible descent into mediocrity and maliciousness within what once was a respected mainstream media operator.

We are seeing this crucial part of our society taking to itself the role of prosecutor, judge, jury, and if it can, executioner as well. It is obscene.

The last piece on The Political Sword detailed all the material on the Slater & Gordon matter that had been published recently, along with the comments and the opinion. It suggested that the motivation was malignant, and the purpose was the destruction of our Prime Minister and her Government. I need not go into the details. You can read them here.

Julia Gillard has been assailed for years with implications of wrongdoing in the early nineties during the time she was an industrial relations lawyer at the Labor-oriented Melbourne law firm of Slater & Gordon, and about the circumstances of her resignation in 1995. I do not intend to canvass the details here as they are well and truly on the public record. She has stated repeatedly that she was not responsible for any wrongdoing at S&G and left that firm on her own volition. But that has not stopped the matter being raised over and again, most recently over the last week in The Australian.

She has repeatedly refused to dignify this scuttlebutt by addressing it in public. She refused most recently on Sky’s Agenda when questioned by Paul Kelly, but yesterday words published in The Australian precipitated her holding a press conference that followed her announcement, with Chris Bowen, of an increased asylum seeker intake. Here is how she began:

“However, this morning something changed on that. The Australian newspaper republished a false and highly defamatory claim about my conduct in relation to these matters 17 years ago. It is a claim about me setting up a trust fund.

“A claim was first published by News Limited in relation to me and funds during the election campaign in 2007. On that occasion, the claim was retracted and apologised for. The claim was made again by Glenn Milne, a then columnist with the Australian newspaper, such a dim view was taken of his conduct in relation to that matter his employment was terminated.

“Despite these events, a similar claim has been recirculated by The Australian newspaper today. People may have already seen that the claim has been retracted and apologised for and that retraction and apology appears on the Australian web site and as I understand it on all News Limited web sites.”

She had decided that ‘enough was enough’ and allowed journalists to subject her to fifty minutes of questioning until literally they had ‘exhausted’ their questions. Senior journalists such Sid Maher from The Australian, Malcolm Farr from The Daily Telegraph, Michelle Grattan and Phil Coorey from Fairfax, Chris Uhlmann from the ABC, Karen Middleton from SBS, Paul Bongiorno from Channel Ten and Mark Riley from Channel Seven were there amongst many others.

She kept going even as the time for QT approached, until there was not one more question that escaped their mouths. Only then did she go onto unrelated questions.

In my opinion she answered all their questions without obfuscation. Whenever a journalist asked for clarification, she gave it. Her answers were straightforward and convincing, even to most, if not all of the journalists present.

You can view her press conference here. It is worth a look.

So how did the media react? The ABC had Chris Uhlmann on 7.30 who explained: “This rebooting of ancient charges began as an Internet campaign and one of its torchbearers is cartoonist Larry Pickering. His base attacks on the Prime Minister are among the many reasons why much of mainstream media hasn't revisited this story. But The Australian's recent investigation did raise new information and new questions, like why Julia Gillard never opened a file on the association. She says it was routine to provide free advice.”

Later he added: “Malicious motivations aren’t confined to the Internet and Julia Gillard's hope that this marks the end of the matter might be optimistic. But the Prime Minister was challenged to answer lingering questions and she did that today and she did it well. She has, in the estimation of her former law firm and its former senior partner, done no wrong and her performance today was one of the best she's given in a long time.

“But the rise of the embittered citizen journalist raises other questions for those who would seek to serve as politicians.”
Then 7.30 played this clip:

“JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it does worry me that that's where politics has got to. That things that are demonstrably untrue, indeed, absurd, are circulated and re-circulated and re-circulated and somehow, at least in some section of the population, manage to worm their way in to become the orthodoxy.

“CHRIS UHLMANN: The Prime Minister has good reason to worry.”

He seemed to give a reasonable account of the press conference, but why end with that cryptic comment – who knows what he meant?

Then on Lateline there was Tony Jones. Beginning with a report by Tom Iggulden, Jones then interviewed Sid Maher and Phil Coorey – journalist interviewing journalists – a format that has become emblematic of so many political TV shows. They behave as if they are the ‘experts’, the ‘insiders’, privy to information denied less privileged others, whose opinions by definition must be superior to the man in the street. I suppose we ought to have expected that the ABC would want to analyse the PM’s press conference in tedious detail, but it really was a tiresome event. You can view it here if you have the inclination and the stomach.

Of course Sid Maher felt is necessary to defend The Australian, insisting that its coverage was “based on primary sources, not something that's circulated on the Internet”, in effect denying that it was Larry Pickering’s ravings that precipitated it. Pressed on whether the matter was now closed, Maher, who reminded me of the ‘smiling assassin’, said: “I think she's answered a lot of questions…one can never really know what this issue will throw up. Certainly, Julia Gillard - there's no evidence that she had any - did anything wrong. But, as I say, this matter is not closed and so one can't know what can come in the future.” I got the impression that Maher did not want the matter closed, and feel certain that even on the flimsiest pretense, The Australian will reopen it. Not immediately, but when it wants to inflict further damage on the PM, especially if she is having a good run, or if Newpoll is in the field.

Phil Coorey looked a little uncomfortable, blinking a lot. Asked his view, he said: “Look, there are people still digging on this…But I just get the impression by listening to Gillard today that she seems fairly confident there's no smoking gun there…She doesn't seem like she's hiding or worried about something else that's going to come out now.” Like most journalists, Phil seemed unwilling to commit himself confidently. Groupthink, which was the subject of my first piece in June 2008 in the days of Possum Box, is alive and well. No journo wants to be wrong, to be caught out, as they have been embarrassingly over the years.

Finally, asked if this was a defining moment for the PM, Coorey referred to a John Howard interview many years ago when Howard said: "Hit me with everything you can," exhausted the questions, when he was absolutely on his knees in early '01, 11 years ago, and this reminded me of that. And that was a turning point for Howard. Too early to tell with this. She's got a lot - the Prime Minister's got a lot bigger problems than John Howard did in 2001, I would say.” So Phil, with his awkward words, covers his back, just in case.

I found the interview distasteful. There were three journalists dissecting what the PM said, how she handled the press conference, prognosticating on how it would be received, and how it would affect her future. I asked myself how the opinions of these people, so close to the action that they might not be able to see the woods for the trees, so incestuous that independence of opinion requires unusual courage, were better qualified to opine than we are, who study politics from a distance, day after day.

On ABC 774 Radio this morning Jon Faine, an ex-solicitor who knows how legal offices work, was insistent that the pursuit of Julia Gillard was ‘completely wrong’, and akin to the way Simon Overland, previous Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria, was relentlessly pursued by The Australian and his career destroyed. The Australian has form.

How did The Australian treat the matter this morning? Hedley Thomas, extravagantly described in an editorial as a “…forensic, determined and dispassionate…award-winning journalist”, tediously describes the situation again, I suppose for those just returning to Planet Earth.

He was not going to let go something he has been trawling through for ages. In Looking for answers, start with the ‘slush fund’, after going over the well-tilled ground again, commented as he ploughed on: “In her answers yesterday, the Prime Minister deftly moved the goalposts. It was a legalistic answer, a duck-and-weave that takes a minute or two to see as such.” And: “Gillard's explanations on this will raise more questions about trust, integrity and professionalism.”

There is no joy there for Julia Gillard from Thomas; he didn’t give her an inch. He is on her case and will never let go.

Although his headline Julia Gillard declares file closed on union scandal allegations suggested closure, Sid Maher went over the ground again adding: “Ms Gillard dismissed the issue as a 17-year-old story and declared she had been the victim of a "sexist" internet campaign. She did not expect the "misogynists and the nut jobs on the internet" to stop circulating claims against her and lamented the entry of "an eccentric lunar right Tea Party-style" Americanisation of Australian politics. But she ruled out legal action as "dignifying them with a status they don't deserve". Ms Gillard said she did not believe it necessary to make a statement to parliament after a press conference lasting more than an hour.”

Nothing encouraging for the PM there.

Dennis Shanahan had this to say in Frankly, delay only undermines trust: ”Julia Gillard is right - she will never satisfy the nuts and conspiracists lurking in the blogosphere about her suitability to be Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was also right to front a press conference yesterday and answer relevant questions about her professional conduct, judgment and the manner of her departure after years as a partner at Slater & Gordon.”

“However, she was wrong in political and media terms to delay frankly answering those relevant questions about her character until there was an irresistible tide of opinion that she should do so. In the end, she acquitted herself well - as she always does when she assumes the authority of Prime Minister after deciding on a course of action.”

He ended with his archetypical judgement: “Political damage to Gillard and Labor has again been compounded by a stubborn refusal to frankly deal with difficult issues when they arise, which only serves to undermine public trust in the Prime Minister's judgment and preparedness to be frank.”

The editorial in The Australian: Prime Minister finally confronts AWU questions begins: “Julia Gillard's strong performance yesterday was a belated attempt to address questions surrounding the conclusion of her legal career at Melbourne firm Slater & Gordon in 1995.” It proceeds to describe the press conference, trying all the while to use pejorative words and paint the PM in a poor light.

The conclusion: “The broader political impact of this saga goes to trust in the Prime Minister. Following her broken carbon tax promise and other backflips, it is an area of acute political vulnerability, and the way she has avoided transparency on this issue has not helped”, leaves little doubt about The Australian’s attitude to our PM, and that it will be after her again, given half a chance. The final sentence is a very small concession: “Still, at the end of a difficult week the Prime Minister and her party look to be in their strongest position for well over a year. There can be no doubt she did the right thing facing her questioners.”

The Australian, still struggling to justify News Limited’s foray once more into this ancient matter, is going to say all the things it has in its set pieces and its editorial. It will step back a while, trawl some more, set Thomas, its ‘forensic, determined and dispassionate award-winning journalist’ on the scent with the hope he can unearth even a smidgen of ‘dirt’, mud that it can hurl at the PM at a propitious moment when it can do most harm. Make no mistake News Limited is vicious and determined. It will never give up, no matter how distant and irrelevant the S&G story becomes.

It has already been prosecutor, judge and jury, and has found our PM guilty; now it awaits the opportunity to be executioner.

Let’s look at what Fairfax said. Take a look at the video with Tim Lester at the top of this piece by Michelle Grattan Misogynists, nutjobs and falsehoods: PM hits back. He interviews Michelle Grattan, Phil Coorey and Jacqueline Maley. Do play it. It will reassure you that at least some sections of our MSM are not as condemnatory and venomous as is News Limited.

You will see a much more positive Phil Coorey, now among his colleagues who are more supportive of the PM. Groupthink again. ‘Sensible’, ‘convincing’, ‘lets move on’, are words Michelle Grattan used. Jacqueline was very positive: ‘really, really strong’, ‘really convincing’, and she has ‘fight in her’.

Peter Hartcher is his usual pessimistic self in Top effort but it's not likely to work.  He says: “Yesterday Gillard decided it was time to confront the issue. Why? Because The Australian had overstepped the mark on one detail and was forced to publish an online correction. The Prime Minister struck. She would answer all reporters' questions, but only on this one occasion. It was an effort to kill the issue.

“So why won't it work? For three reasons. First, she has now elevated it by her own treatment. She has made it a legitimate issue for prime ministerial cross-examination.

“Second, because you cannot clear the air when the skies are swarming with enemy attack forces. There is a small industry of feverish Gillard haters who inhabit the nether realm of the internet, people she called misogynists and nutjobs. And there is The Australian, dedicated to the destruction of the Labor government. But there are also her enemies in caucus, who are aiding and encouraging the campaign.
(My bolding). “And third is that a political scandal, once launched, is an unguided missile that can take unexpected turns.

“If Gillard wants clear air and blue skies, she'll need to go to the beach on a sunny day because she will not find them in Parliament.”

In Fifty minutes of rolled-gold high dudgeon, Tony Wright, in a more optimistic mood, concluded: “Gillard, magnificent in her dudgeon, assured everyone that she would answer every question they had. She had retained her silence for days, despite being defamed and hounded by an appalling and sexist campaign - including shock-horror circulated on the internet by old cartoonist and conspiracy theorist Larry Pickering - and she wasn't going to take it any more. Here she was, promising to respond to everything. And so she did, for close to 50 minutes, until the interrogation melted to an impotent silence. What a defence lawyer she might have been.”

Quite an endorsement!

Of course Tony Abbott and Christoper Pyne have been on the airwaves today insisting Julia Gillard still has ‘questions to answer’. Despite having had four QTs to ask them, it has not had the guts, or perhaps the good sense, to do so. Still, by saying she still has questions to answer they hope to gain some mileage without taking the risk of actually asking her. Opportunistic wimps!

I trust that this post mortem has given you enough information to be able to judge what is happening. News Limited, particularly via its flagship, is and will continue to pursue this old, old story, squeeze more from it if it can, as long as it believes it can inflict even one more tiny paroxysm of pain on our PM. As prosecutor of this matter for years, as judge and jury with a guilty verdict, it remains malevolently determined to be the executioner, dedicated as it is to ‘the destruction of the Labor Government’ as Peter Hartcher affirms.

It is of some comfort that the Fairfax Media is not as malevolent.

So folks, expect more of the same from News Limited. It’s executioner axe is poised, waiting for its opportunity to decapitate our PM and her Government. No matter what its troops write, that is its intention. No one gave them that right – they just took it.

Is it right that News Limited, or for that matter any part of the MSM, should be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner?

What do you think?

The News Limited vendetta against PM Gillard intensifies

After a good week for PM Gillard and her Government in which she achieved agreement with the Coalition to go along with the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, News Limited has ratcheted up its attack on her. Why? Is it because it feels that the asylum issue has been neutralized somewhat and will not be as potent a weapon with which to beat her and the Government? Any loss of weaponry must be a worry to News Limited as much as to the Coalition.

Of course she lost some skin by adopting the Expert Panel’s recommendations because they included processing on Nauru and Manus Island, places previously ruled out because of expert advice that they would not be effective deterrents to getting on unsafe fishing boats. The Coalition used over forty speakers to ensure that she suffered maximum embarrassment about her change of tack, variously described as a humiliating back-down, a back flip, a monumental reverse of stubbornness in the face of Coalition advice, or whatever pejorative phrase you prefer. But whatever the aspersions, she got the legislation through and gifted her Government the possibility that the asylum problem would become less troublesome.

During the same week, the High Court upheld the constitutionality of the plain packaging of cigarettes legislation to worldwide applause, and the economic parameters showed no sign of an adverse affect from the implementation of the carbon tax. Then Tony Windsor got up in response to yet another ‘Suspension of Standing Orders’ attempt by the Coalition, to blast Tony Abbott and call him a disgrace for his carbon tax rhetoric.

As the piece Journalists awake! You know Tony Abbott is conning you documented, for the first time several journalists began questioning Tony Abbott’s statements, or should I say his scaremongering and downright lies. It was an obvious shift, and was interpreted, at least by Labor supporters, as a ‘turning of the tide’. If one can judge from the weekend papers, they were not the only ones to have this feeling.

Let’s just walk through The Weekend Australian to see how this Murdoch flagship responded to the PM’s ‘good week’.

Its top headline read: Revealed: Gillard lost her job after law firm’s secret investigation. Digest that. First, ‘Revealed’, suggests a starling new revelation, and of course one that casts doubt surrounding Julia Gillard. Then consider; ‘lost her job’, which suggests that she was sacked, whereas it is on the public record that she resigned of her own volition. Then reflect on ‘secret investigation’, which suggests something sinister was under scrutiny. In one headline there are three sets of words that imply guilt; she is condemned even before a word of the article is read.

If the reader needed any more detail to fuel doubt about ‘Gillard’, the first paragraph reads:“Julia Gillard left her job as a partner with law firm Slater & Gordon as a direct result of a secret internal probe in 1995 into controversial work she had done for her then boyfriend, a union boss accused of corruption, The Weekend Australian can reveal.” Now it’s ‘left her job’, a ‘secret internal probe’ into ‘controversial work’, done ‘for her then boyfriend’, a ‘union boss’, ‘accused of corruption’, ‘revealed’ by The Weekend Australian. Note how this cascade of uncomplimentary and negative words gains momentum as the sentence progresses. It’s clever but very nasty journalism – the headline and the first paragraph condemn her. Many people would not read further for the details – they would have found her guilty already.

Not satisfied with that, as only an estimated 120,000 read The Weekend Australian, Sky News decided to raise this matter on its Agenda program, with Paul Kelly putting the questions. Take a look at the video of that segment of the interview. Play it through. Watch Kelly’s eyes and body language as he puts Julia Gillard under intense and persistent questioning. Note particularly how annoyed he gets when she suggests that he was asked to put those questions, angrily rejecting the notion that anyone could or would tell him what questions to ask. So it’s OK for a journalist to question the professional integrity of the Prime Minister of this nation based on a tired old story 17 years old, but it’s not OK for the PM to question the professional integrity of a senior journalist. Work that out. Now if you believe what Andrew Bolt says about this, the PM’s staff was told this matter would be raised, but the words used led to a ‘misunderstanding’ that Kelly had been asked to ask those questions. The last bit of the clip is another delightful illustration of how wet-behind-the-ears is Peter van Onselen, the MC of Agenda.

In the same edition of The Weekend Australian Hedley Thomas generously gives all the tedious details for voyeurs in The political controversy that won't go away. I won’t bore you with them here.

Subsequently a statement by Slater & Gordon partner Andrew Grech confirmed Julia Gillard’s contention that she had done nothing wrong and had left of her own volition, but that didn’t stop turncoat Graeme Richardson, now a News Limited man, from indignantly jumping to the defence of Paul Kelly on Monday’s Q&A and rabbiting on about a file he said she should have opened, nastily smearing her in the process.

Stung by the reaction of the PM and the Fifth Estate to the assault of The Australian and Paul Kelly on her, the paper has come out this morning with a large front page cluster of smears, and a ‘leaked’ draft confidential statement by previous partner Peter Gordon, strategically placed next to the Newspoll results, that says, amongst other things: ‘‘My examination of the material available to me at that time led me to the view that there was no sufficient basis to dismiss Ms Gillard for misconduct’’, which a reasonable person might believe would put the matter to rest, but we know it won’t. The vendetta will continue. Read the article by Crikey’s Bernard Keane: This is what the Right is expert at: smearing if you have any doubts.

See how what started as online scuttlebutt on social media emanating from disreputable cartoonist Larry Pickering has been picked up by News Limited, who ran it as a headline story, ostensibly on the grounds that it had new information that it could now ‘reveal’, and then escalated on Sky News Agenda so that it exploded well and truly into the public domain. Andrew Bolt picked it up and made mileage out of it, and other News Limited outlets repeated the original story, embellished with the Agenda interview. Even Fairfax gets into it through the Australian Financial Review with an unpleasant article from Jennifer Hewett: Old ghost is Gillard’s recurring nightmare. If you’re wondering how Fairfax got involved, remember that the editor of AFR is now Michael Stutchbury, an old Gillard foe who worked for News Limited. Michelle Grattan has written the only relatively positive piece: Internal inquiry cleared PM, law firm reveals Then this morning it is again splashed all over the front page of The Australian.

In case you think all this piece is about is the Slater & Gordon episode, it is not. I start with it only because it is News Limited’s current ‘winning’ card, which it turns over at the top of the pack. It illustrates the venom with which it is prepared to attack and denigrate our PM. But there is much more to the attack on PM Gillard over the weekend.

The next headline in The Weekend Australian is New offshore processing regime bars appeal on asylum, with a byline: Surge in boats to test ALP resolve, a double header!

The first paragraph reads: “Julia Gillard's new offshore processing regime has effectively locked asylum-seekers out of Australian court appeals, legal experts declared yesterday, as four boats arrived in 24 hours in a rush to beat the new laws. Human rights lawyers said the new offshore processing regime had stripped back the capacity for judicial review of government decisions and eliminated many of the grounds for legal challenges by boatpeople.” So already the paper that has repeatedly castigated the Government for its ‘failure’ in border protection, is now throwing up concern about the ‘stripping out’ of legal rights in the new legislation. Don’t imagine that the authors are beating their breasts in anguish at this ‘stripping’ of the rights of boat people; their purpose is to beat the Government around the ears for its callousness to these desperate people.

It goes on. Paul Kelly chimes in with For a determined Opposition Leader, all roads lead to turning back asylum-seeker boats. He begins: 
”Despite the gloss of bipartisanship over Nauru, the split between the Gillard government and Abbott opposition over border protection and asylum-seekers is now more obvious in its depth, range and fateful consequences. If you think this week solved the political divisions over border protection then you are misguided. This issue will only deepen as a public policy cancer because there is little prospect the boats will be stopped.” Don’t you love Kelly’s sense of drama – the ‘split’ with the Coalition ‘is now more obvious in its depth, range and fateful consequences’ and is a ‘public policy cancer’. The guru thereby denies any relief from the pain of boat arrivals. The pain must continue – News Limited needs as much Gillard pain as possible.

Later Kelly warns: ”In office, Abbott will face immediate pressure to halt the boats – pressure and expectations that he has created. He cannot wait years to negotiate and implement the protracted diplomacy Houston envisages. What is Abbott's alternative? It remains the policy he outlined to me in an interview published on January 21. Abbott said: "It is time for Australia to adopt turning the boats as its core policy. What counts is what the Australian government does, not what it says." Despite almost universal commentary that it is impossible, Abbott intends to turn the boats. This is his real solution.” Kelly concludes: “And most of the Coalition, dancing on the grave of Labor's retreat, seemed oblivious to the consequences of its own policies and the vast challenge it faces immediately on taking office.”

It’s not all negative, but it starts that way and that’s what counts.

Chris Kenny, who can always be relied upon for an anti-Gillard article doesn’t disappoint with: Jibes about dog-whistle politics on asylum come back to bite Labor. He begins: “Border protection, more than any other issue, demonstrates how Labor has alienated itself from the political mainstream. Right until its offshore processing conversion, moral grandstanding by the Rudd and Gillard governments offended voters. Labor's contortions over asylum-seeker policy have rivalled London's rhythmic gymnasts in all but elegance. But beyond the significant humanitarian, immigration and security implications of last week's backflip, the electoral fallout is consequential.” Note the sarcastic pejorative language.

Kenny has another article – one was clearly not enough for him to express his venom. Titled The onus is on moral posturers to say why they persist with their disingenuous myths, he begins: “The report of the expert panel on asylum-seekers has exposed some long-denied realities, not only demolishing arguments used against tough border control measures but dispelling myths that have been patronising to mainstream Australians. This week's policy reversal might slow the boats - given time and a resolve not seen to this point - but because of the about-face on what has been framed as a moral stand, it is impossible to envisage Labor escaping a political reckoning. Ineptitude, leading to needless trauma, tragedy and expense, will play a role in public assessments, but so will the way the progressive political class has insulted voters over this for more than a decade.” You don’t read any further to get his rancorous drift.

Cameron Stewart has a go in: Finger in the dyke can hold only so long He begins: “The initial euphoria in some quarters about a breakthrough in asylum-seeker policy is being tempered by the realisation that the grand plan unveiled this week by the Houston panel faces a series of potentially fatal obstacles.” And ends: “The government can only hope that those parts that can be introduced immediately can slow the momentum of the boats for long enough to allow the bigger picture of the Houston plan to ripen. It's a gamble of the highest order and the odds are not good. But this government, having comprehensively misread the asylum-seeker issue for the past five years, has little choice now but to roll the dice.” Not much joy for the Government there. Just doubts and uncertainty!

Predictably Christopher Pearson revels in See, Abbott was right all along I won’t bore you much with his hubris; only with his conclusion: “As the Houston report makes clear, Labor was blind to the power of pull factors. It substituted moral self-righteousness for sound policy. The Australian people will not forgive Labor for elevating its moral vanity before the national interest. The reckoning will be protracted." You don’t need to read the rest to get his self-satisfied message.

Peter van Onselen, who is strongly supportive of asylum seekers, couldn’t resist the opportunity to heap scorn, admittedly on both Labor and the Coalition. In Let’s dispel a few myths about asylum seekers he begins:“Attempts by both major parties to rationalise support for offshore processing of asylum-seekers on the grounds that they are saving people from drowning really is a hollow argument.” And ends: “If it doesn't like the laws of the land that afford asylum-seekers appeal rights equal to those of Australians, change the laws. If it doesn't like the international responsibilities being a signatory to the UN conventions on refugees requires, rip up the agreement. Then our political leaders could do what they like without being in violation of the very laws they are elected to uphold. I might not agree with their approach - and would continue to argue against it - but I could at least respect it.” A pox on both their houses says PvO.

Greg Sheridan was particularly critical in Collapse of resolve is to blame. He begins: “The Gillard government lacks the strategic credibility and, on the evidence, the strength of will to deal with a people-smuggling industry that is a worldwide phenomenon of growing sophistication and criminality.” Here are some other excerpts: “…Australia’s liberal institutions have become craven before naked aggression. This aggression often involves the threat to self-harm, but no other group has a blanket licence to ignore the law. Similarly, the Opposition Leader’s proposed push back of boats is lawful and sensible policy.” He continues in this hard-line vein: ”Labor is wrong and weak; Abbott is right and tough.” There’s not a drop of joy for Labor in his piece; only sneering criticism, and Abbott gets a leg up for good measure.

Henry Ergas jumps in with Gillard's morality of convenience He begins: “Julia Gillard is a woman of principle: the survival principle. And if the backflip on asylum-seekers is about saving lives, the life it is intended to save is her own. Little wonder she dressed soberly for the occasion. English judges donned the black cap when passing a sentence of death; this was conservative Julia, in twinset and pearls, dispatching another promise to the high jump.” That’s enough from Ergas – you can guess the rest.

There was an editorial that at least acknowledged that Julia Gillard had had a good week: Good week in parliament tinged with Green hysteria. It was mainly a tilt at the Greens. It began: “After four years in which 23,000 boatpeople arrived on our shores, and at least 1000 perished at sea, the past week was constructive for Australia's parliamentary democracy.”, but the editor could not resist a tilt at Labor and a touch of hubris en passant: “This newspaper has advocated bipartisanship since the High Court scuttled the half-baked Malaysian Solution a year ago. And, as early as July 2008, when Labor abandoned John Howard's policies, we urged the government to guard against an influx of newcomers taking advantage of the changes.”

In case the Greens missed the message, the editorial concluded: “Like the Greens' holier-than-thou rhetoric, the provision of public money to organisations agitating for a more open-door policy is out of step with the values of mainstream Australians.”

Moving away from the asylum seeker debate, there was an article by Christian Kerr: Appeal to WTO may yet deliver Big Tobacco victory. No doubt The Weekend Australian felt it would be a pity if the Government’s big win in the High Court was not sullied by the possibility of ultimate defeat by the WTO. Kerr begins: “We have taken on big tobacco and we have won," a jubilant Attorney-General Nicola Roxon declared on Wednesday when she spoke to the media after the High Court ruled plain packaging of cigarettes did not violate the Constitution. Her glee was understandable - Roxon introduced the laws for plain packaging as health minister - but in the excitement of the moment her rhetoric became hyperbole. The government has won a significant battle against the tobacco companies but it has not yet won the plain packaging war. Two more clashes must be fought and won before it can claim victory, and these battles will be waged on very different terrain.” He ends on a gloomy note: “Plain packaging may yet be doomed”. Of course it could be argued that the article is simply stating the facts and the obvious implications. Perhaps, but its tone suggests that Kerr would take pleasure in that outcome.

There was also a Tom Dusevic puff piece: How would Abbott Govern? and a nicely written piece by the reliable George Megalogenis How the language of shock-jocks came to drive political debate.

Herewith concludes the excerpts from The Weekend Australian.

But there’s more from News Limited. Just take a look at Lyn’s Front Pages for the first day of this week.

The Daily Telegraph screams Carbon Pain Registers: “Half of small businesses are already feeling the effects of the carbon tax – but only a third are passing price rises on to customers. An exclusive Daily Telegraph survey has found some small companies struggling with rising power and supply costs... “ and in The Advertiser a mega headline: Our Carbon Pain “Struggling small businesses are absorbing the higher costs caused by the carbon tax, resulting in reduced profits, and are calling for the tax to be scrapped. In the latest challenge for the Gillard Government, a national survey of 186 small...”

And on cue many of the Opposition questions in QT on Monday were about the awful effects of the carbon tax.

So what is this piece asserting? It is pointing to the concerted attack on PM Gillard, her Government and its policies in News Limited media following a successful week for Labor. It is improbable, even implausible, that this attack on so many fronts is a coincidence. My thesis is that fear that PM Gillard and Labor might be on the up, that the tide might be turning for them, and running against Tony Abbott, has prompted a savage counter attack from a news organization that is devoted to the removal of the PM and of the Labor Government and its replacement with the Coalition. Sensing that the chance of this happening was beginning to recede, and even the bookies were changing their odds, they pulled out all the big guns to give the PM and Labor a massive broadside, hoping it would sink them, or at least hole them amidships.

Murdoch’s News Limited media empire is formidable. We must never underestimate its power, its malevolence towards the Government, and its determination to destroy it. When the signs are improving for Labor, the News Limited vendetta will intensify. It will be out there firing broadside after broadside in a ‘take no prisoners’, ‘rescue no survivors’, ‘fight to the death’ battle.

What do you think?