Last Sunday’s episode of The Insiders included an extraordinary segment titled “Border protection to test Rudd's popularity - The panel discuss how the controversy surrounding Australia's asylum seeker policies is going to effect Kevin Rudd's popularity.” Too bad about the English!
For breathtaking arrogance, it takes the cake. I’ve been waiting for the transcript, but as it seems as if it’s not coming, I’ve listened to the replay and have extracted some quotes. I invite you to listen to the rest. It runs for about 10 minutes. [more]
Barrie Cassidy had already made up his mind when he introduced the segment. Referring to Kevin Rudd’s unremitting popularity in the polls he reminded us that no issue had come along to disturb that, but that the issue of border protection might be that issue and “whichever way he goes he might be on a hiding to nothing”. Fran Kelly was quick to agree, pointing out that this “was a disturbing issue and there is no clear answer”. She opined that “Rudd’s popularity was beginning to slide until the GFC came along and gave him something to latch on to, which he did – this is national security, blah, blah, blah, and they responded appropriately.” You could see where she was heading. “It was beginning to slide because he was a lot of talk and not a lot action and it was hard to know what he was standing for. I think this is one of those issues where you’ve got to stand for something and he’s all over the place”. And later she said that Rudd’s talk “was designed to look tough” and that “people have had that and want and expect something different from a Labor leader, and they’re not getting it from him, and he’s finding it hard to get the right tone, and he should be out there talking about this is a very complex issue, it is not easy, this is a difficult world we live in, these are the global issues, we have to deal with this, we have wound back temporary protection visas which didn’t work and sent people crazy...” and so on this self-opinionated dissection proceeded. Yet what she said Rudd should be saying, was what I heard him saying – she must have missed it.
Then Cassidy indignantly commented that when the video of the little girl pleading for asylum was played, Rudd “made no comment about that at all, the plight of the people, he just talked about Government policy”. Obviously a black mark for Rudd!
To demonstrate how emotive the boat people issue is, Lenore Taylor, usually very balanced in her opinions, stridently chimed in that she found the Government’s reaction astonishing – caught between wanting to be more compassionate on the one hand and responding to the visceral fear that Australians have of people arriving on their borders. She then went on to expound on the prerequisites for ‘the Indonesian solution’, and what would be needed to make it work. Michael Stutchbury, economics editor for The Australian, too expressed his opinion and proffered his advice.
What a pity Rudd does not have such expertise at his side to assist him to avoid the pitfalls into which he has clearly fallen, to advise him how to think, how to behave, what words to use, what demeanour to adopt, and of course to indicate what policy direction he should take.
A mere transcript misses the tone of the discussion. It’s only when you listen that you hear the confidence with which all the panellists make their diagnoses of the problem and its ramifications, their conviction about the inappropriateness of Rudd’s approach, and their certainty about the value of the treatment they advise to fix the problem. If you have the fortitude to listen to all ten minutes, click here, scroll down to ‘Border protection to test Rudd's popularity’ and select either Lo or Hi fidelity.
You may feel differently from me, but the condescension implicit in their remarks was the overtone that struck me. It seemed as if they had pre-determined that Rudd had made a mess of the situation and they were going to give it to him. Groupthink prevailed with each seemingly trying to outdo the other.
They set themselves up as authorities in this complex matter, entitled to be severely critical of Rudd’s statements and approach, and supremely knowledgeable about how best to handle it. It was the one of the most flagrant exhibitions of conceit I have seen from panellists on The Insiders. Balance was in short supply. It’s a pity this segment came before the more balanced comments from Paul Kelly.
Since then we have had two opinion polls taken around the time this matter was extant. The Government ratings remain astronomic, especially this week’s Newspoll which shows the highest Newspoll TPP for the Government of 59/41 for over year. The only negative was a narrowing of Rudd’s satisfaction/dissatisfaction rating by eight points to 63/28 from a high of 67/24, back to where it was in August, which no doubt the Insiders panel would attribute to his stand on border protection. After all, Cassidy predicted Rudd was ‘on a hiding to nothing’, and Fran Kelly agreed. Case closed! One can only hope that Rudd is ready ‘to sit there and take his medicine’ as Kelly insists he must.
Bushfire Bill suggests that Onesiders might be a better name for this ABC program.
What do you think?