'The Insiders' gives us ‘insight’ on border protection

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?


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21/10/2009As bad as the pontifical blather from the rotating 'insiders' was, Channel Nine's 'exposé' of the true costs of asylum seeking to the taxpayers on Monday night's Six O'Clock News was worse. They showed pictures only of boat people, but ran graphics and spoke of the numbers of thousands of over-staying tourist visa entries to the country. You saw boats but heard numbers vastly inflated upon those of people who actually turn up by sea, clearly trying to maintain that the figure they gave as the cost to the taxpayer, 600 plus million, was all spent on boat arrivals. Further to this audio-visual skewing of the facts, the story featured no-one at all from the government. We saw and heard Sharman Stone, Opposition Shadow Minister for Immigration, and Barnaby Joyce, Opposition Spokesman on Anything that Sells Him as the Voice of True Australians. Utterly biased, completely imbalanced, mischievous, and so slanted towards the immigration 'policy' of the Coalition, I expected one of those party political statements and slides of authorisation at the end of it. Insiders was all hot air. Channel Nine's News was an exercise in deceit.


21/10/2009It is best just to ignore their incessant non productive ranting for what it is, complete tosh. :) When was the last time any of the[b][i] "Insiders"[/i][/b] ( and I use the term loosely) had a clue about Rudd Labor, never, as far as I can tell. The day they ever predict correctly what Rudd will do will be the day one of them actually has an original thought. Can't see that happening any time soon. Cheers Eb. :) :).


22/10/2009Who is responsible for choosing the panelists? And why are they only choosing the dregs from the Fourth Estate? Fran Kelly's effort on Sunday was on a par with Bolt and Akerman. She made no attempt whatever to disguise her disregard for Mr. Rudd and her assertion that his popularity was sliding until the GFC saved him is ridiculous. She backs up her assertion with the old and discredited mantra that Rudd was 'all talk and no action and no-one knows what he stands for' rubbish. Since the fall of the man she hero-worshipped, Fran has become bitter and is unforgiving of the electorate (a woman scorned?) who turfed him out. Her bitterness has coloured her journalism capabilities to the extent that she is incapable now of any rational thinking. Fran might do well to sit back and take some of the medicine she has in mind for Kevin Rudd so maybe it is time Aunty gave her a retirement package. Thankfully Kevin Rudd doesn't appear to give much credence to his critics and keeps his focus on the job he needs to do. He is comfortable in his own skin and confident in his ability to achieve the best outcome for the nation. These are the reasons why all the strident rantings of mischief and humbug have failed to shake his popularity or change his focus.


22/10/2009Barring some premature exit from office, it's pretty-well certain that Mr Rudd's popularity will come down to earth sooner or later. The Glen Milnes, Barrie Cassidies and Fran Kellies of the world bang on about "the end of the honeymoon" with each rising or trumped-up issue. If the issue passes and the honeymoon stays intact, the "commentators" simply move on to the next issue. They'll keep going on in like manner until the inevitable happens: KR's popularity assumes more earthly levels. Of course, when *that* happens they will be crowing "I told you so!" (One thing they won't be able to say is, they were right all along.) Perhaps they'll have another reason for crowing. Their friends the Liberals will be back in the race with the momentum on to have a chance of ousting this Labor pretender and spin merchant. Not before bloody time either that normal order should be restored. Hey, Fran?

Bushfire Bill

22/10/2009The irony about Insiders is that it's pretty clear now Rudd is boycotting the program because of its format. The relaxed, gossipy atmosphere is more suited to drinks after work than a formal TV show that purports to seriously discuss politics. The panelists get suckered by this casual air time and time again, and say things they would probably think twice about writing in their formal columns (especially the guffawing and sniggering). It's simple: if you can't convince the PM to come on your program, you can't justify the name "Insiders". The mistake Cassidy makes is not to learn from this. Instead he keeps on trying to gotcha the government, and Rudd in particular, with unsubstantiated criticism based on outdated concepts of what is permissable politically, with one partial exception, boat people. Boat People are still a "crisis", but it's a different kind of crisis now. The panelists claimed that Rudd should be a teacher and a leader on Boat People. He had an educative role which he was not taking up. Apart from hearing no such thing about Howard when he had the same opportunity to educate the masses, I was struck by the irony - particularly in Stutchbury's case - of educating the masses on immigration, but ignoring the same chance to enlighten on interest rates. Stutchbury's one note samba says that if interest rates go up it is a bad thing and it is all Rudd's fault, and that he should be rightly blamed and held to account for it. There is no attempt to "educate" the masses along the lines of interest rates being at multi-generational lows, for emergency purposes only. No, if they go up at all you can blame Rudd and Rudd alone. Another outdated concept: "interest rates always bad." Add this to "debt always bad" and you have the Stutchbury suite of political philosophies in a nutshell. There is very little originality exhibited on Insiders anymore (if there ever was any). Its format offers too much opportunity to gossip. Themes are unable to be developed because someone is always bound to interrupt another panelists's train of thought with a quip or a cheap shot. One thing I've noticed is how quickly "Insider" time passes. The hour between 9am and 10am flys by. You look at the clock. It's 9.10am. You look again and its five-to-ten. Normally this might be good television, quick, chatty, non-stodgy, but in this case I think it's bad television. The rate at which time passes on Insiders indicates its lack of substance. There's barely a thought, or an idea worth retaining ever put out by the panel. If there is, it is quickly scotched, by an opposing view, usually from the person in the "Right" chair playing interference. For a show supposed to be discussing serious matters, Insiders' format is wrong. And that's without even discussing the quality of the "talent" itself, which is generally very low rent indeed. A bad format, and second rate nobodies who never get it right. No wonder hardly anyone watches, or in Rudd's case, comes on the show.

Lyn 1

22/10/2009Hi Ad In 2007 Barrie Cassidy spat the dummy, because Kevin Rudd said he didn't have time to appear on his show, from memory Cassidy named and shamed Kevin Rudd, at the same time we (Mr and Mrs public) were seeing on Tv maps of Kevin Rudd criss crossing the whole country 24/7, but Cassidy thought he was more important than the election campaign. Glenn Milne, Andrew Bolt,Piers Ackermann frequently appear on the Insiders what does that tell you. (To demonstrate how emotive the boat people issue is, Lenore Taylor, usually very balanced in her opinions) it would appear Lenore was following orders. On Boat people, look at some of the papers this morning, absolutely ridiculous, I just cannot make myself buy a newspaper. October 22, 2009 THURSDAY "Asylum boat had holes drilled in hull", Nick Butterly et al, Age "Boat was scuttled...to force a rescue" Paul Maley & Stephen Fitzpatrick, Australian Indon military thinks Australia should deal with asylum seekers itself, Phillip Coorey SMH Tim Costello: Bonhoeffer would've handled it better than Rudd, Michelle Grattan, Age Hairy chested Rudd has got himself into semantic hot water, Michelle Grattan, Age Price tag on Indonesian help grows, Malcolm Farr, Telegraph Legally, Indonesia was obliged to take the asylum seekers, Chris Merrit, Australian "It's beginning to look a lot like Tampa", Julian Burnside SMH "Rudd is absolutely right to take a tough line against illegal immigration", Greg Sheridan, Australian "This inhumane response belittles us as a nation", Mike Baird, The Punch Easier for govts than oppositions to win rhetorical fights like this one, Peter van Onselen, Australian Border patrol sailors have morale problems, Brendan Nicholson SMH "Only honesty will produce the best asylum seeker policy", Keane Shum SMH Ad would you have time to look at video of Hungry Beast's show last night, segment on boat people. I thought maybe I could send the link to Malcolm Turnbull's website because I think he would be interested, even if it proves his own stupidity, in blowing up this whole issue on asylum seekers and refugees for political gain. http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/stories/8-bit-immigration

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22/10/2009Michael I didn’t see the Channel Nine expose. It must have been awful to be worse than last Sunday’s [i]Insiders[/i]. Why is it that these attacks on Kevin Rudd and his Government occur? Do they occur simply because it is in power and therefore an obvious target; is it because the outlet is pro-Coalition; or is it because the outlet is seriously attempting to explain a complex issue to an ill-informed audience? From what you say, the latter is improbable, so it is likely one of the other two, or both. It’s a sad reflection on the contemporary quality of current affairs in this country. Ebenezer I think you’re right. The majority of the media seem not to understand Rudd’s ‘new politics’, They are stuck in the old paradigm established long ago and perpetuated by John Howard, and resent his refusal to fit into the Procrustean bed they have conceptualized for him. His refusal to be subject to union and factional pressure, his refusal to be intimidated by the media, his attention to matters that the media feels he should ignore, his refusal to accept cultural cringe, his big ideas for this country, his willingness to engage in and influence the international scene, his capacity to take the initiative, all infuriate some of the media. He just refuses to conform to their notions of what a PM should be, do and say. How dare he – how dare he cause them to think outside the traditional box – that’s too mind-bending and energy-sapping. The Piping Shrike http://www.pipingshrike.com/ has written often about Rudd’s ‘anti-politics’ stance and Paul Kelly shows some understanding of this although he is rooted in the past, but few other columnists seem to understand it. This I believe is why we get such superficial comment from so many of our journalists. janice I don’t know how Barrie Cassidy picks his panel. I’ve written to him twice about the panel’s use of the grossly biased such as Bolt and Akerman, and on both occasions he says it is in pursuit of balance. While I agree that we all have our biases and preferences, and our preferred political party, we are still able to carry on a balanced conversation, yet people like Akerman seem never to be able to say a good word for the Government or a bad word against the Opposition. He is incapable of balanced comment. In contrast, Gerard Henderson, a known Howard supporter and Liberal, is still able to make balanced comments. As you indicate, it’s Rudd’s capacity to ignore his critics that infuriates them so much. To me, that is one of his more endearing attributes. Rx It reminds me of the treatment of common skin warts – whatever treatment in use at the time gets the credit. Similarly, whatever event that is extant when Rudd’s ratings decline, if indeed they do, will be advanced as the reason, just as Fran Kelly attributes Rudd’s recent narrowing of his satisfaction/dissatisfaction rating to his stance on people smuggling. BB Thank you once more for a thoughtful appraisal, this time of [i]The Insiders[/i]. I agree that the format lends itself to what we see, and the panellists fit in with the chatty self-opinionated style that permeates many episodes. Twice I’ve indicated to Barrie Cassidy that the program is becoming tabloid, but of course he rejects that. I once enjoyed the program, but now watch it more to see what mischief is being perpetrated. Maybe it’s become a lost opportunity to have sensible dialogue about important political issues. Pity. Lyn 1 Barrie Cassidy will not get Rudd on his show until he cleans up its format. What a motley collection of articles, each picking a aspect to write a column, but how many attempt a comprehensive analysis of the many complex facets of this near-intractable problem. Even if one doesn’t agree with Greg Sheridan’s analysis, at least he has attempted to be thorough in his appraisal of this complex situation. By the way, he takes a tilt at Lenore Taylor’s idea of a quick turnaround of asylum seekers in Indonesia. Most of the rest are superficial, tabloid-style and unhelpful in understanding the whole picture. But while we might be annoyed we ought not to be surprised. I caught only bits of ‘Hungry Beast’; I was stuck at my computer. I’ll watch it later. Houston Heights The problem is very complex – that is why we need from our political commentators balanced thorough analysis and plausible suggestions for improving the situation. Political point scoring and shallow paltry articles serve only to inflame an already emotive state of affairs.


22/10/2009Does anyone know if the ABC still produces 'Order in the House' in sitting weeks. For me, the Insiders would be better considered as a fill-in program in non-sitting weeks, with Order in the House filling that timeslot during sitting weeks. It is a shame that the latter program is usually shown around 12am, when few people can watch it. It kind of defeats the purpose of having the show. Some of the finest parliamentary performances, and some of the most amusing, take place outside Question Time, and these should be more widely exposed.

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22/10/2009Rewi 'Order in the House' is somewhat of a misnomer, for this week's sittings at least. Yes it is too late (around 2 am) for those who need their sleep. It would be better if it was available at a reasonable hour. Today in QT the Wilson Tuckey comments about terrorists coming in among the boat people has inflamed debate, and Sharman Stone's refusal to comment on Tuckey's remarks, and Malcolm Turnbull's decision not to repudiate them at a press conference, suggests that the Opposition feels the comments might be to their political advantage. I understand Christopher Pyne distanced himself from them. As evidence that the Coalition is playing the boat people card, Turnbull moved a censure motion aginst the PM that of course was defeated. What a waste of Parlaiment's time. Again, Turnbull's decision to go down that track is evidence of his poor political judgement.

Sir Ian Crisp

22/10/2009We must also thank the ALP for maintaining the harlequinade in parliament house. Enjoying the luxury of those Connolly™® leather benches is Steven Smith. He is a master of maintaining a straight face because in 2004, a year in which 3 illegal boats arrived he said: “The arrival of a boat on Ashmore Reef should be a wake up call for the Howard government to adopt Labor’s tough stance on people smugglers. Not to be outdone, the Bird of Paradox offered her own entertainment. About the same time as Steven Smith was filling the role of the ALP’s fabulist, the Bird of Paradox issued a press release under the heading “Boat proves government has no solutions’. So if the arrival of three illegal boats proves a policy failure what does the arrival of 42 boats indicate? Gross incompetence perhaps.

Michael Cusack

22/10/2009It is interesting that Barry Cassidy should claim that Bolt/Ackerman/Milne are invited onto the show as "balance". Balance to what we must ask. If they have an intelligent guest, do they turn to Ackerman for "balance"? A guest with journalistic credibility and good standing warrants a call to Glen Milne for "balance"? What fulcrum calls for the presence of Bolt to provide "balance"? I stopped watching the show early in the piece when I realised that there was seldom going to be anybody with a worthwhile opinion appearing, certainly nobody that would balance the dead weight of Piers et al.


23/10/2009The fibs beat up on this issue is having some effect if one looks at the unleashed poll on the subject on the ABC website. I know it is an early count so far but it is 59/41 against the Govt response. The fibs will stoop lower to get back into power.

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23/10/2009Sir Ian You must have a great file of the past utterances of politicians. The fact that words sometimes come back to bite the one who used them is why politicians are so careful in answering questions posed by the media, who record everything they say, and play them back, even years later – as Laurie Oakes did to Julia Gillard last Sunday. Michael Cusack The only way one could ascribe to Bolt/Akerman/Milne a balancing function would be if those representing the opposite view were as biased as they are. [i]Insiders[/i] does not use ‘radical rabid lefties’. I watch it now only to see what mischief is being perpetrated there. Bilko I’ve checked that poll just now – only 710 voted and 57% said the Government’s asylum policy was failing; 43% said no, it wasn’t. I note that the current one is on whether voters believe in Kevin Rudd’s ‘big Australia’. Of 142 votes so far, 70% say no; 30% yes. These online polls are notoriously inaccurate as the respondents are self selecting, not randomly selected as in regular opinion polls. And part of the selection is conditioned by the paper’s readership. They might be disconcerting, but as they bear no resemblance to the opinions expressed in opinion polls, I ignore them. Possum has some very uncomplimentary things to say about these online polls. No reputable statistician gives them any credence.

Sir Ian Crisp

25/10/2009AA, have you gone into the real estate market or are you now flogging life insurance? Can't we escape these people for a few hours each day or must they plague us inside the hallowed space known as TPS. Salespeople, give us a break please.

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25/10/2009Sir Ian Offending posts deleted.
How many Rabbits do I have if I have 3 Oranges?