The media to the PM – we have a problem

Prime Minister.  Listen carefully.  The media is powerful, very powerful.  Our journalists write newspaper columns that lots of people read; they create news bulletins and current affairs programmes that many people hear and see; they conduct talkback to which countless people listen.  We have enormous influence.  We can make and break governments and bring down prime ministers.  You should not get us offside.  We call the shots, not you.  You’re beginning to make us annoyed.  Watch it, we can get you, and probably will.

So here’s some advice.  If you take it, we might let you run a bit longer, but if you don’t, remember you were warned. [more]

First, you should know that many journalists have experienced only two prime ministers: you and John Howard.  We didn’t necessarily like Howard, but at least he was predictable.  As one of our young sketch writers wrote about him only this weekend: “...you always had the feeling that Howard would look and sound exactly the same even in the most extraordinary of circumstances, whether called upon to address a group of transgender fisher-people in Alaska or abducted by aliens. You'd still get that wooden little lecture about Australia being a country built on mateship, and so on.”   Howard was not all that inspiring, but he was predictable.  He created in our minds a notion of what a prime minister was supposed to be, a model that seldom surprised us.  He was like a comfortable old lounge chair – we knew how any encounter would feel. 

There are of course older journalists who have known many PMs.  They seem to be able to write in a more insightful way, with the wisdom of experience, but it’s only those that are older and in the ‘elite’ category who read what they write.  Be aware PM that most journalists are younger, and they are the ones most of the people read.  Many write for the tabloids, read by the majority of the people, so it’s what they say that really counts.

Before you were elected you claimed to be an economic conservative.  You even said there was not a cigarette paper of difference between you and Howard on economic matters.  You portrayed yourself as a younger John Howard - a safe pair of hands.  But you’ve turned out to be a chameleon.

No sooner did the global financial crisis sweep over us than you were talking a different language.  Your conservatism and fiscal rectitude vanished.  You began pouring money into the economy to stimulate flagging activity and preserve jobs, just when we expected you to do what we think Howard would have done – nothing.  Sure that might have resulted in a big slump in retail sales and the loss of lots of jobs, but we would still have had ‘money in the bank’ left generously to you by the Howard Government.  Then you brought in a budget, a deficit budget at that, one that required borrowing lots of money.  The Opposition quite rightly castigated you for such profligate spending and borrowing.  You should have taken its approach and pretended that the GFC did not exist, that the loss of mining boom revenue wasn’t happening, and that over $200 billion had not disappeared from the revenue side of the budget.  We’re not sure how they would have made up the shortfall, but what we do know is that those superior economic managers left over from the Howard days would have thought of something.  Instead you reverted to Labor’s old spend, spend, spend.  We pointed out that your behaviour was Whitlamesque, but as most of our younger journalists and many of our readers didn’t know what that meant, we didn’t run that line for long.

How could you change your colours so quickly, just because the world was sinking into the worst financial crisis in three quarters of a century?  You should have stuck to your economic conservative guns; we would have cheered you and waved flags as the country sank beneath the waves.  Consistency, not adaptability is what we want; it is consistency and predictability that makes us comfortable.

Next, you should realize that we have lots of expert economics correspondents on our staff.  They predict outcomes before events happen – they’ll always have a punt about interest rates, national accounts figures, labour forces statistics and anything else you like to throw at them.  Like most of their colleagues in the so-called economics profession, they are often wrong, but their guess is a good as anyone else's.  You should read what they say and learn.  You should not pretend you know more than they do and rush into ridiculous essays, like the one you wrote condemning neo-liberalism and blaming greed, unfettered free markets and poor regulation of the financial institutions for the catastrophic financial mess into which the world has sunk.  Although you pointed out that these had been the factors that had brought down financial institutions in the US and Europe, and that this had not been the case in Australia, the link you made between neo-liberalism and the Liberal Party lead some of our less thoughtful journalists, and of course the Opposition, to conclude that you were blaming them for the GFC.  You should be aware that some of our younger journalists are not so bright; you should give them no cause for confusion.

Another thing – your language!  Now that has really, if we may be permitted to use a colloquialism, upset our apple cart.  You see, we are trying to work out who you really are.  When you first appeared on the scene as shadow Foreign Minister, you looked and spoke like a nerd.  Your square glasses, your measured speech, often bordering on the academic, and your bland demeanour fitted that notion.  We got used to that, but when you took over from Kim Beasley in a bloodless coup, we saw you had other attributes – planning ability and perseverance.  Others might say cunning and pushiness.  We can use whatever term suits us at the time.  Much to our surprise the people took to you, and soon the polls were running in your favour.  We’re still not sure why.  You won the election and did things people liked – you signed Kyoto and said ‘sorry’.  Your popularity kept rising.  You mixed well with all sorts of people from the man in the street to the US President and the Chinese leadership; you even spoke in Mandarin – to Chinese students in Beijing – and they loved it.  Then last week you assaulted us with those never-to-be-forgotten words: “fair shake of the sauce bottle”. We were shocked.  Some of our younger journalists had never heard that expression, let along knew what it meant.  You should be more careful.  If you want them to understand, use words like ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’, or even just the old fashioned ‘fair go’ or ‘mate’, which Johnny would have used.  But ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ – really!  What’s more, when we researched the phrase we found you’d got it wrong, that you’d mixed two expressions.  We can’t have that – colloquial purity is essential for any PM worth his salt.  But it did give many of our journalists something to relieve their boredom with the world’s worries.  They set about creating countless comments on this matter of national importance, in the papers, on radio and TV, on talkback, and of course online, where a video clip of you uttering these words – three times in the one interview – can be replayed over and again.

But there’s something more sinister here.  Why use those words?  We’re sure we know.  It’s because your spin doctors have told you that you need to appeal more to ordinary folks, to be more 'blokey', so you must speak ocker.  We see you’ve got quite a range of ockerisms, including one about the rough end of the pineapple.   We’ve assumed for some time that you’re addicted to spin and that your behaviour is the product of daily briefings from your press secretaries, the spinmeisters, and of course focus groups.  We’ve suspected that you are a robot, and now we’re sure you’re programmed daily to utter whatever phrases are extant for the day.  You couldn’t really be genuine with that sort of talk.  Some of our most senior journalists say that’s the way you really speak, that your somewhat old fashioned expressions are straight out of rural Queensland where you grew up.   In fact one did this weekend.  But we don’t place much store on what these old geysers say. 

Be assured, we’re watching you and we’re not much impressed with what we see.  Remember we the media are entitled to critique, indeed criticise anyone and everyone we please.  While we try to get our facts right, we feel no obligation to report them accurately or in full.  First we decide what our angle is to be, then we fit in the facts to support it.  We usually avoid telling outright lies and generally try to check the veracity of the facts, but sometimes that becomes too difficult or takes too long – we’ve got deadlines to meet you know.  Another device we find useful is to mix fact and opinion so that the reader is uncertain which is which.  In that way we can represent our opinion as fact.  Be aware how powerful this is.  Our editorial writers are even more powerful.  While mostly they are journalists who have risen to the top of the pile and have no specialized knowledge of much of what they write about, because they write with the profundity of a sage, their words are given great credence, arguably much more than they should.  But that’s the power of the pen, which you will know ‘is mightier than the sword’.  They can write killer editorials, especially at election times.

You probably ask how the media can pillory anyone it likes for whatever reason it chooses, but no one can get back at it?  Well that’s just the way it is, or should we say the way it has been.  Lately though we’ve seen some pesky blog sites crop up who have had the temerity to criticise us!  And there’s that online ‘paper’ Crikey that regularly has a go at us.  Still not many read their stuff, so we’re safe for the time being, that is so long as newspapers survive. 

But we come now to the most cogent reason we’re warning you PM.  We’re becoming increasingly upset about the way you’re treating us.  After all, given how important we are, and how much power and influence we have, we deserve more respect.  You sometimes call press conferences at short notice, or arrive late, or cut them short, or don’t facilitate all the reporters, cameramen and sound-recordists we want along.  You often take too long to answer a question, or repeat yourself too much, as if you’re trying to get a message out to busy people who don’t dwell on the news all day long like we do.  It’s so boring.  We want some soaring oratory, something new, something controversial, a scoop, something for which our editors and producers can give us a pat on the back, and maybe promotion down the line.  Yet all we get is the same old message.  If you’re not careful everyone in the country will have heard it, but we will have died of boredom.  Remember we call the media shots, not you.  We feel you’re having a piece of us with your tightly scripted media arrangements, and we don’t like it.

Why can’t you be more like John Howard?  Why do you chameleon-like adapt to every situation?  Why do you have to talk soothingly to a bushfire victim one day, give a eulogy the next, answer curly questions at doorstops every day, attend construction sites to advance ‘nation-building for the future’ and jet off overseas to Singapore and back all in the one day?   You’re making our heads spin.  We can’t really believe that it’s necessary to be in such a state of frenetic activity, and have your poor staff working so hard they never see their kids, and getting sworn at to boot – surely there must be a quieter way of running the country, even with the GFC waves crashing around us.   Relax, so we can relax too.

Anyway, you’ve been warned.  Lift your game and be more like what we became used to when Johnny was around.  After all we’re human too, and it all a bit too much for us the way it is.  Remember, as we said at the beginning, we can get you.  Don’t tempt us.

 

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Bushfire Bill

14/06/2009You're too kind, AA. I'd like to shake a few of them by the ears and tell them to wake up to themselves. Insiders this morning (June 15) has already run a clip of Rudd at the swearing in, intercut with Bazza McKenzie film excerpts (backed by suitable Laurel & Hardy type music). One of them showed McKenzie saying "Fair [i]suck[/i] of the sauce bottle" instead of "shake", as if that decided the matter. The PM couldn't even get his Bazza McKenzieisms (from nearly 40 years ago!) right, so how could he possibly run the country? That, at least seems to be the argument. There was also a scene included in the clip of Mark Arbib getting the interest rate backwards: "5.4%... er.... 4.5%... Oh hell I stuffed up!" (or words to that effect). The Insiders apparently didn't realise that, as well as this being a chip at Arbib, it was also a self-parody of their own nit-picking ways. Nowadays it is indefensible for a minister to get any of the figures relevant to his portfolio wrong, or juxtaposed. Vocal slip-ups are now a sign of unfitness for office. Clearly, Arbib's "gaffe" was in response to a question from the media. They're still pushing that line, trying to trip up politicians on the most trivial of matters, playing a travesty of a TV game show, where if you hit the buzzer too quickly with a wrong answer you get The Gong. What a waste of time! The Vox Pop section of Insiders is on now. The music, again, is reminiscent of a comedy sketch. The piece ended with, "'Fair shake of the sauce bottle'? Can't he come up with something more original than [i]that[/i]?". Now the panel is, apparently [i]seriously[/i] discussing whether the Prime Minister should use "outdated Australianisms", and whether this shows he is out of touch. Gerard Henderson, ironically (given his history), is Rudd's sole defender. Henderson points out that Rudd simply he tailors his language to suit the situation (which is something every human being on earth does, after all), but Glenn Milne is having none of this. Neither is Barry Cassidy. He states "Rudd should respond to questions, yes, but it's [i]how[/i] he responds that matters." So there we have it. There is a manner of response to questions that the PM must adhere to, and if he does not, he is a phoney, a stumbling stooge who should realise that the media are onto him, and will expose him mercilessly ([i]CUE: Clown Effects, Silly Music[i]). Milne ends the panel discussion: "We're having trouble deciding just who is the [i]real[/i] Kevin Rudd here?" Can I offer suggestion? He's that complex person over there, surrounded by the media, who are hanging off his every word, a man with a history and an upbringing. He uses different language to suit the circumstances, and (it seems) does it pretty well, given that he ousted his supposedly politically unassailable predecessor John Howard from politics altogether. He has maintained huge and unprecedented approval ratings with the public for three years and has steered Australia to an economic position that is, at the moment, the envy of the civilised world. Not bad for a bumbling clown who can't even rip-off another bumbling clown, Barry McKenzie, without stuffing it up. Yet the journalists, paid handsomely to write their columns, claim not to know who the "real" Kevin Rudd is. I wonder who the real clowns are?

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14/06/2009BB, You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth, (if I’m allowed to use this somewhat dated colloquialism). Barrie started promisingly, seemingly dismissing the sauce bottle episode, but then returned to it at full throttle (there I go again) letting the lightweight canine-esque Milne off the leash (Oh dear, I’m getting into bad habits) to bark about the episode and to inform us sagely that Kevin had got it wrong anyway (did you realize that BB, he got it WRONG and nobody else has picked that up – good on you Glenn – you’re a ripper [sorry, I must mind my Ps and Qs]). Kerri-Anne Walsh, who is usually more sensible, took the bait and ran with it too. The only sensible panellist was Gerard Henderson who through his words and his non-verbals showed his disgust at the tenor of the discussion, and pointed out that Kevin Rudd, like John Howard before him, adapted his language to suit the circumstances. I noted too that Paul Kelly was having none of the nonsense, even after Barrie gave him an opening, and deftly turned the conversation to, as he put it, what Rudd is very consistent about – his non-alignment with the union movement. It’s noteworthy that it was the senior journalists who deflected the sauce bottle nonsense while Milne lapped it up (I think my colloquial habit must be incurable). I wonder has the media ever seriously contemplated what our language would be like if colloquialisms and metaphorical speech were removed. It would become lifeless and sterile, and Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey would no longer be able to accuse the Government of ‘spending like drunken sailors’ or insist that ‘the Government is giving drunken sailors a bad name’. Leaving aside the utter triviality of this issue, what I find breathtaking is the sheer insolence of the media in setting itself up as an arbiter of what language the PM of this country is entitled to use and the manner in which he uses it. If a barrage of obscenities was Rudd’s usual style, the people would back any disdain the media displayed, but I think the media will find itself isolated over the sauce bottle affair, not that this would affect them or even be noticed, so cloistered are they, so subject to groupthink, so tabloid in their approach to news. The upcoming Essential Research poll and Newspoll might give an inkling of the public’s reaction, as far as such polls can be used to ascertain the reasons behind the polling, which is minimal - unless of course the pollsters ask a specific question. Media disrespect of people in high places is unremitting and its arrogance almost out of control. There seems to be a life and death struggle going on between the political media and the political class about who’s in control of the news cycle. Heaven help our country if either wins convincingly. The media believes it should; let’s hope for all our sakes, it does not succeed. I agree that in trying to make Kevin Rudd the clown, the media has spectacularly assumed that mantle.

BH

14/06/2009Your last sentence to BB expressed it perfectly AA. The media now looks like a bunch of dills. Not one original thought between the lot of them and even George Megalogenis lobbing in with them was disappointing. I'd love some canny little producer to make a "Hollowmen" type story about the current crop of MSM journs, shockjocks, opinionated hosts, etc. Seeing that rate them only 9%-15% ethical/moral I think we'd enjoy it. This mornings Insiders was a truly pathetic excuse for a program. I was looking forward to some sort of debate about Milne/Fielding's comments, but no such luck. Just appalling. Think it's time I complained to the newcomers on the ABC Board.

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14/06/2009BH, Just Me, Thank you for your comments. I feel as strongly as you do about [i]Insiders[/i]. I've written before to Barrie Cassidy to ask if [i]Insiders[/i] was going tabloid, and received a courteous reply. Today’s episode has prompted me to write again in the following terms: [quote]My original email asked if Insiders was turning tabloid, which you assured me was not the case. My question remains. What is the mission statement for Insiders? Is it intended to be a vehicle for light entertainment or a forum for serious political discourse? Nobody minds a few light-hearted moments such as the segment involving the cartoonists, but when much of the programme is taken up by inconsequential matters, such as was the case today over the sauce bottle incident, the tabloid appellation becomes apt. This matter had been done to death by the tabloid media, and some serious publications too, so why was it necessary to serve it up all over again? Initially Barrie seemed to dismiss the matter, only to return to it with gusto. While Glenn Milne predictably jumped at the opportunity to comment, as did Kerri-Anne Walsh, the look of disgust on the face of Gerard Henderson and his dismissive words showed how poorly he regarded the discussion. Paul Kelly too, although given an opening by Barrie to comment, quickly turned the discussion to a matter of import - the Government's relations with the trade union movement. That the two most senior journalists gave the sauce bottle short shrift was a sign of sagacity that Barrie might have followed. A more detailed discussion of the comments of Christine Milne and Steve Fielding would have been interesting. Comments about the most recent Labour Force figures, the state of Australia's economy in global terms, and the new ministry, also could have been informative. Instead we got tidbits about Julia Gillard as the 'anointed' PM, Mark Abib's 'mistake' in quoting the unemployment rate, photos of the swearing-in event, kids and all, and how the ministry could not possibly have been chosen by the PM without consideration of factions, as if that mattered. All entertaining, but of little consequence. Those of us who have an abiding and intense interest in politics in this country have few programmes to follow for balanced political discourse. Insiders has been one, but even it seems to be sliding towards the populist, the entertaining, and at times the trivial. After all, as the saying goes, it's our ABC; we deserve better than we're getting at the moment from Insiders. Of course, much depends on the panellists. The wiser heads, for example George Megalogenis, Lenore Taylor, Dennis Atkins and Gerard Henderson can be relied upon to consistently speak sense, but the same cannot be expected of, for example, Glenn Milne, and panellists such as Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman bring such unbalanced views as to render them almost incapable of sensible discussion with the others on the panel. During Bolt's most recent appearance, he retreated into defensive mode when the other panellists challenged him, (you're getting at me because I'm the conservative member of the panel), while Akerman made virtually no meaningful contribution. Even Barrie seemed to be fed up with his comments. We expect the conservative view to be represented on Insiders, but let's have some balanced representatives. Finally, I feel that even if Barrie is stuck with some of these panellists, he could exercise more control over the agenda and avoid or curtail meaningless discussion. I will continue to watch Insiders, not in anticipation of an informed and informative debate about political matters of significance, of which there is an abundance, but simply to see what's going on there, inconsequential though it may be.[/quote]

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15/06/2009zoomster, 'The narrative' was the media's pet theme last year. They carried on about it so much I wrote a piece in September [i]In search of the political Holy Grail – the Rudd Government narrative[/i] http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/post/2008/09/14/In-search-of-the-political-Holy-Grail-e28093-the-Rudd-Government-narrative.aspx So then it was 'we don't know what you stand for'; now it's 'we don't know who you are'. The media is confused and annoyed that Rudd does not conform with its preconceived idea of what a PM should be, say, behave and believe.

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15/06/2009[i]The Piping Shrike[/i] has posted an interesting piece this morning [i]The unpopular Mr Rudd[/i] http://www.pipingshrike.com/2009/06/the-unpopular-mr-rudd.html It is along the same lines as the above piece: [i]The media to the PM - we have a problem[/i]. After yesterday's [i]Insiders[/i], you may be interested to read two pieces in today's papers, one by Glenn Milne [i]Ignoring the factional elephants in the room[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25635166-7583,00.html and a particularly nasty one by Kerry-Anne Walsh [i]Rudd makes more sense in Mandarin[/i] http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/rudd-makes-more-sense-in-mandarin-20090614-c78q.html They are consistent with the attitudes they displayed on [i]Insiders[/i]. Kerry-Anne even opens with [quote]'Fair suck of the sauce bottle...'[/quote] She is either destitute of more important things to say, or more likely is giving the knife another twist for good measure. I believe what we are seeing is a concerted if not coordinated thrust by the lesser elements in the media to demean and discount the PM, whom they have come to dislike, and whose popularity sticks painfully in their craw - a Tall Poppy whom they are intent on cutting down. [i]The Piping Shrike[/i] believes this is because Rudd is an unconventional politician and does not conform with journalists' concept of what a PM is supposed to be and do. I agree with TPS, and additionally believe, as is advanced in [i]The media to the PM - we have a problem[/i], the media believes it should call the shots and is angry because Rudd thinks otherwise. Have we ever seen such a life and death contest between this sector of the media and a PM? It's some comfort that by and large the more senior and mature journalists have largely divorced themselves from the contest, which they judge to be pointless.

Bushfire Bill

15/06/2009An astoundingly poor article by Kerri-Anne Walsh. The Prime Minister's colloquialisms "just don't cut it with the electorate". I suppose Kerri-Anne, that champion of the Battlers and sage of the Australian psyche should know. Wow! Rudd couln't even get his colloquialism right. He used "shake" instead of "suck". He should slit his wrists in shame. why bother buying a dictionary. Just ask Kerri-Anne for the definitive version of any Australian slang term. But in there is a basic misunderstanding of slang idiom: [i]that it is changeable[/i]. It's as if Kerri-Anne believes there is some sort of Platonic ideal, carved in stone up there somewhere, some sort of Committe On Correct Slang Usage, staffed by linguists and other learned community leaders that sets out exactly what words to use and in what order. She doesn't reveal her source (no pun intended) for any of this, but yesterday's Insiders had a clip from "The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie" in which "suck" instead of sauce" is used, and I guess this is Kerri-Anne's authority: a 40 year-old movie about a fictional cartoon character, written by one of Australia's greatest cynics, Barry Humphries, who was well known for taking commonly used slang terms and tarting them up, making them grosser still. Then - [i]boom-boom.... tishhhhh![/i] - she brings us the "killer" punch. The Australian public is gradually starting to realise Rudd is a bully in private (Hostie Gate... nice to have that one on the hook, ready to run) and a phoney in public. We all know he's a nerd with no ideas other than how to wrap up a concept in verbal red tape. Why can't he just stick to the script? As I said, astounding chutzpa on her behalf. What's even more astounding is that she thinks there's yet some more blood to be gotten out of the Rudd Stone. How many more articles do we have to see on this subject until the media are sure that [i]everyone's[/i] gotten the message? We've seen high-brow, low-brow versions. We've seen parodies. We've seen in-depth analyses by otherwise sensible authors. To what end? All they're going to do is make Rudd even more popular. I dips me lid to 'em. When will they ever learn?

Bushfire Bill

15/06/2009P.S. I wonder when we're going to see the "I can't understand it..." or "It's counter-intuitive..." or even "Despite proving himself to be a verbal klutz, Mr. Rudd has...." articles about his continuing popularity?

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15/06/2009BB, You're spot on as usual. Let's see what [i]Essential Research Report[/i] says this afternoon and [i]Newspoll[/i] tomorrow. Even if the Government and Rudd are still buoyant, the media will still see the outcome as aberrant and mystifying in the extreme. If the polls are down, they will read them as 'the end of the Rudd honeymoon', at long last, and a direct result of his use of old-fashioned colloquialisms, which to use Kerry-Anne's authoritative words, proves that such [quote]"phoney phrases just don't cut it with the electorate"[/quote].

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15/06/2009Shock, horror! After all the talk about Rudd’s inappropriate use of colloquialisms, and even mention of this one, an Opposition member asked at a doorstop what the chances were of support for an increase in the GST, replied ‘Two choices - Buckley’s and none’ a colloquialism commonly used in the last century, said to have been derived from the Melbourne emporium Buckley and Nunn, founded in 1851 and sold to David Jones in 1982, 27 years ago. Call the media police!

Bushfire Bill

15/06/2009"Move along onw, move along... nothing to see here... move along..." Don't worry Ad Astra. No-one under 70 will understand what he's saying.

janice

15/06/2009Word fail me. Still, our PM must be doing too much right to stir up all this inane rubbish the gutter elements of the media are dishing up. There was a letter in the Oz today submitted by the Charge d'Affaires ad Interim, US Embassy Canberra, about a Brad Norrington article published in the Oz under the title 'Obama's man junks Rudd's Asia-Pacific plan'. Mr. Clune says "THE article in Friday’s edition of The Australian “Obama’s man junks Rudd’s Asia-Pacific plan” was misleading and wrong. It was a gross mischaracterisation of the Senate confirmation hearing testimony of Assistant Secretary-designate Kurt Campbell." Just goes to prove the misinformation we get from our media.

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15/06/2009janice, I saw that, and today in QT Julia Gillard demolished the [i]Oz[/i] and Christopher Pyne over totally inaccurate reporting of stimulus money going to schools that are to be closed. It turned out to be nonsense in every instance quoted. The [i]Oz[/i] sinks still lower.

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15/06/2009[i]Essential Research Report[/i] today 57/43 up from 56/44 last week. http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/files/2009/06/essential-report_150609.pdf Other questions relate to people’s opinions about the way the Government is managing the economy – all positive. No sign here of a rejection of the Government or Rudd’s style of speech or behaviour Let’s now see what [i]Newspoll[/i] says.

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15/06/2009Newspoll Primary 41/40 TPP 53/47. What does this mean?

Bushfire Bill

15/06/2009"Newspoll Primary 41/40 TPP 53/47. What does this mean?" Australians are not giving Rudd a fair shake of the sauce bottle? Who will be the first to list this as the reason?

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16/06/2009Ebenezer, You're right. We need to view today's [i]Newspoll[/i] against yesterday's [i]Essential Research[/i] 57/43 and Friday's [i]Morgan[/i] 57.5/42.5. Possum Pollytics has a great analysis this morning. http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/06/16/newspoll-on-trend-or-undercooked/ He concludes: [quote]"I personally think Newspoll has undercooked the Labor vote by a few points and the next poll will be back around the 55 TPP mark – but I could well be wrong and the ALP will need to have a good hard think about what they’re doing, while Turnbull will undoubtedly keep on doing what he has been - now with the added bonus of being free from the shackles of the Member for Higgins."[/quote]

Bushfire Bill

17/06/2009Better late than never, and fairly faint in the praise, but Shaun Carney comes to Rudd's defence: [i]"To get to the top, politicians must by their nature be complex and often self-contradictory individuals. Rather than faking it last week, maybe Rudd let down his guard and a little bit of his long-lost self surfaced for a moment.[/i]" http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/want-the-genuine-article-youve-got-buckleys-20090616-cgi0.html?page=3 I don't think "maybe" has anything to do with it. But one journalist criticising another (in anything but the gentlest terms) is even more a taboo, it seems, than a Prime Minister shaking the sauce bottle.

janice

17/06/2009You beat me to it, Bushfire Bill. I've just read Shaun Carney's piece which surprised me no end since he appears to be only journalist with a good word to say about Rudd. Makes me wonder how many more are out there thinking the same thing but say nothing for fear of being the odd man out.

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17/06/2009BB, janice, tweetiepie, Thank you for your comments and links – great stuff. A telling paragraph in Shaun Carney’s [i]Age[/i] article reads: [quote]“In any event, it's to be hoped that Kevin Rudd has learnt his lesson: there are certain types of language the media will allow him to use and other types he must not go near. He is in a box. He must stay there.”[/quote] This in line with what [i]The media to the PM – we have a problem[/i] is arguing – namely the media will decide how Rudd should behave, what he should say, and the manner in which he says it. And if he gets out of the ‘box’ in which it has placed him, it will give him both barrels. That is until journalists like Shaun Carney reflect a little, see that the media has gone way over the top and say so. Not that his piece will alter the behaviour of the bottom feeders. Andrew Elder’s piece in [i]Politically Homeless[/i] is on the same theme. He ends his piece with: [quote]“In recent days those who parsed and slavered over every non-announcement from Costello have distinguished themselves by missing the point with Kevin Rudd's fake ockerisms. Silliness and poor reporting actively discourages people taking an interest in public policy, and when that policy so intrudes in their lives that they take an interest they don't know where to start. The fact that political reporting isn't entertaining, well-written or constructive is important, but it pales beside the sheer awful damage that this counterproductive profession does, ironically, in the name of informing the citizenry.”[/quote] We bloggers can make only a tiny contribution to the debate over media behaviour as few will listen and even fewer hear, but we need to keep hacking away.

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17/06/2009Anyone surprised by the June 16 [i]Newspoll[/i] result with primary votes at 41/40 and TPP 53/47, especially when compared with the June 12 [i]Morgan[/i] poll TPP 57.5/42.5 and the June 15 [i]Essential Research[/i] TPP 57/43, should note what Morgan had to say yesterday about Tuesday’s [b]Newspoll[/b]: http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2009/4390/ [quote]“The latest telephone Morgan Poll released on Friday June 12 and conducted last Wednesday/Thursday (June 10-11, 2009) shows ALP two-party support (57.5%, up 3% from the telephone Morgan Poll of June 3-4, 2009) clearly ahead of L-NP support (42.5%, down 3%). Backing this clear ALP lead is the latest ‘face-to-face’ Morgan Poll for the weekend of June 6/7, 2009 ( not yet released) which shows ALP (57.5%) cf. L-NP (42.5%). The complete ‘face-to-face’ Morgan Poll Federal voting intention conducted the weekends of June 6/7 & 13/14, 2009 will be released this Friday. Both Morgan Polls show a very different result than today’s Newspoll (conducted last Friday to Sunday, June 12-14, 2009) which shows L-NP support up 2% to 40% and a softening in ALP support (41%, down 2%). On a two-party preferred basis Newspoll show ALP support has fallen 2% to 53% while L-NP support has risen 2% to 47% - the closest two-party preferred results from Newspoll since the last Federal Election in November 2007. It is hard to believe today’s Newspoll result when compared with the latest two Morgan Poll results. “There has been a lot of favourable media for the Rudd Government associated with the ABS announcement that the Australian economy recorded positive growth in the March Quarter (up 0.4%). There is little doubt this news contributed to a rise in the weekly Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Rating, now 110.6 (June 6/7, 2009, up 6.1pts from May 30/31, 2009). Historically, around the world a correlation has been shown between ‘vote for the party in office’ and Consumer Confidence. So the strong ALP support recorded in both Morgan Polls ('face-to-face' and telephone) is as would be expected. What is so surprising is that despite continued strong Consumer Confidence the latest Newspoll shows a ‘significant fall’ in the Rudd Government’s support! All indications are that with the publication of subsequent Newspolls in coming weeks today's Newspoll will come to be seen as a ‘rogue’ Newspoll not accurately reflecting the current levels of support amongst Australian electors for the two major parties.”[/quote] It should also been noted that Possum has shown on his site [i]Pollytics[/i] that there is a strong parallel between PM net satisfaction rating and [i]Newspoll’s[/i] TPP, which in this [i]Newspoll[/i] has not been maintained; PM net satisfaction has gone up while TPP has gone down. http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/files/2009/06/marginsatj16.png While no one can be certain, it seems probable that Tuesday's [i]Newspoll[/i] was a ‘rogue’.

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17/06/2009If you have doubts about the thrust of the above piece and the assertion that the media believes it should call the shots and has the right to ‘pillory anyone it likes for whatever reason it chooses’ read Christian Kerr’s article in [i]House Rules Blog: Gillard’s typhoon of unreason[/i] http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/houserules/index.php/theaustralian/comments/gillards_typhoon_of_unreason/ where he castigates Julia Gillard over her refusal to submit the schools programme to the Auditor General at the request of Christopher Pyne in QT on Tuesday. But it all began in QT on Monday when she criticized stories in [i]The Australian[/i] about the application of funds to schools which are closing or merging, My response, which remains to be posted, was: “There is golden rule that Julia Gillard must not break. She must not criticize [i]The Australian[/i], as she did in Monday's QT in response to a Christopher Pyne question. She must not criticize [i]The Australian[/i] even if it has got the story wrong about the use of stimulus funds in schools earmarked for closure or merger. Otherwise [i]The Australian[/i] will retaliate in print and label her as 'Stalinist. That should shut her up.” It will be interesting if it evokes any response, such as, for example, enlightening us as to how [i]The Australian[/i] is right, and Gillard is wrong, rather than ranting against her and hinting that if she continues she will ‘trash her career’.

Bushfire Bill

17/06/2009Hell hath no fury like the The Australian scorned. The Australian regularly runs print campaigns that they design to be turned into a shitstorm (can I use this? The PM has legitimized it, hasn't he?), taken up by other papers, then they can refer to "newspaper articles". It's bonus if the ABC joins in (which they often do). I call these "bootstrapping" campaigns, as in "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps". Oh the angst at News Ltd HQ when, their daily articles, pleas to the public to dob in a rorter etc. etc. have result in nothing much more than a few half-baked (and, as Gillard pointed out, mostly incorrectly based) questions from Chris Pine in QT. Forced to refer to their own articles on the matter, Kerr's whinges: [i]"[b]For close to a week now The Australian has been raising questions about the use of stimulus funds in schools earmarked for closure or merger[/b]. We have told how money is being used to duplicate existing facilities or squandered on projects with oddly inflated costs. Opposition education spokesman Chris Pyne used question time yesterday to again demand that the $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution program be referred to the Auditor-General. Gillard ignored his calls.[/i]" Imagine that! For "close to a week" the OO has been running one of their classic bootstrappers and [i]nobody has taken any notice[/i]! How [i]dare[/i] the Deputy Prime Minister not immediately refer the [i]front page[/i] (no less) allegations of rorting to the Auditer-General! How [i]dare[/i] she treat issues on the facts and not just immediately cave in and admit the whole schools infrastructure project is a swill trough for Labor mates to guzzle from! The whole process atarted out in typical fashion with an appeal to the Class Warriors among their readers, pointing out that exclusive schools were getting millions. Apart from the fact that if exclusive schools had [i]not[/i] received millions, there'd have been hell to pay along the lines of, "Gillard's Spots Unchanged as Private Schools Mauled", this campaign neatly bypasses the point that the money is going to sparkies, chippies, plumbers, brickies and the sorely pressed Project Management sector (who do badly in construction downturns) to keep them afloat. The young freelance carpenter who came to my house today (to look at our precariously rotted deck) said he wasn't getting one dollar out of the Stimulus Package. It was all a crock, he told me with the grave wisdom of a 21 year old. I sent him away after our appointment with the sobering thought that probably the main reason he had plenty of work was because his competition's time was taken up building schools with public money. So it is with cable pullers, sparkies and most of the other construction trades, as well as those who supply them with their tools of trade, their raw materials, their bits and pieces and those who depend on them, in turn. Eventually a lot of this money will trickle down to retailers, doctors, accountants, tax agents and maybe even some travel agents too, fruitologists, hairdressers, cabbies, restaurants and other struggling small businesses, as it is spent, re-pent and then spent all over again. But the Australian is too busy looking for rorts (which will then be used to prove that Rudd can't manage money) and ultimately to the conclusion that we were mugs to get rid of the Libs and put these "Labor vandals" (as Pies calls them) into office. Julia had a go at the OO on Monday, which really got their knickers in a twist (remember how they hate being laughed at for their coveted Newspoll when it's wrong? Same thing...). Perhaps the OO started out on the wrong foot when they criticised the schools many of their very own readers send their kids to for an education and early lessons in social positioning and networking as being unworthy of government funds. The OO is apparently there to support the poor state schools, the poverty stricken Catholic colleges and the rest of the under-priveleged: those who cannot fend for themselves. Who knew? As soon as I saw the first article a couple of weeks ago, sticking out like a sore thumb because of its very [i]non sequiterishness[/i] (OO bashes Kings School) I knew this was another bootstrap. That they have resorted to giving it to the wannabee blogger guru Christian Kerr so that he can have a wail and a gnash of the teeth over its being ignored is testament enough to the irrelevancy of the campaign.

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17/06/2009BB, I so wish OO and the likes of Christian Kerr would visit this site and read your and others' comments. Mind you, that might make no difference, as they have selective hearing. So far, in four hours since the first comment, there has been seven responses to the Kerr piece, all agreeing with him. So far mine has not been posted although it was submitted around 1pm, hours before later ones. So I've modified it a little and have just now re-submitted it. Let's see if it gets up this time. I'm not hopeful. Some bloggers complain that their comments never make it, so selective posting seems likely.

Bushfire Bill

17/06/2009If Kerr (and the other OO blogers) don't publish all posts (excepting libellous or profane) than [i]they're not bloggers[/i]. This selective publishing shows they are afraid of criticism, or disdainful of it... whatever, it's a basic blogging rule that all commenters are published. It's a debate after all. I suspect Kerr received more than your post critical of the article. I suspect he received scores of them. That he has not published them is a shame on him, and a condemnation of his claims to be the arbiter of blogging good behavior by criticising others. Shanahan does this too. Shuts down his blog when the comments become too biased against his point of view. He chucked a famous tanty a couple of years back when his blog was shut down at 11:30am by the deluge of critical comments. He's never really been the same since, and now seems to have disappeared, without explanation. Not that anyone would miss him. I'd like to see if a concerted effort couldn't be mounted to (politely) respond to one of Kerr's future pieces, each effort registered here, to see how many posts he [i]doesn't[/i] print. His non-response makes a mockery of his claim to be a balanced writer... Kerr can blather on as much as he likes, but for Murdoch's publications to call themselves "Fair and balanced" - another famous term bastardized by Murdoch hacks... Fox News even tried to copyright it once... what a joke! It was thrown out on day one of the case - is the real crock. Pig's sauce bottle they are! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_vs._Franken

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17/06/2009janice, My second submission to House Rules has still not been posted although it was submitted well after yours. Thank you for ribbing Kerr; he thoroughly deserves it. So I've submitted it a third time: Christian, this is my third attempt at submitting this today. Why won’t you post it? There is a golden rule that Julia Gillard must not break. She must not criticize The Australian, as she did in Monday's QT in response to a Christopher Pyne question. She must not criticize The Australian even if it has got the story wrong about the misuse of stimulus funds in schools earmarked for closure or merger. She must not refuse to submit the entire programme to the scrutiny of the Auditor General as Christopher Pyne asked her yesterday in QT. She must not query Pyne's motives in requesting this. Otherwise The Australian will retaliate in print, label her as 'Stalinist’, and suggest her actions might trash her career. That should shut her up.

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17/06/2009It's 9.00 pm Wednesday and still no posting of my contribution to the House Rules Blog despite three attempts. Don't think it's going to happen. So it seems Christian Kerr vets submissions to his site to exclude those critical of [i]The Auatralian[/i]. Now we know. Some blogger!

janice

18/06/2009Funny that Kerr posted my comment, Ad astra. Perhaps we should bombard his blog on a regular basis and just maybe he'll disappear as his colleague Shanahan did.

Bushfire Bill

18/06/2009Seems that the OO is giving this campaign the full monte. Now they're publishing articles calling for more teachers, better teacher training etc. etc. The article has the call at the top of the page and then sets out.... how the stimulus package [i]is[/i] providing more teachers, teacher training etc. etc.! They must think most of their readers just read the headlines and the first sentence. This part of the campaign is interesting, as: (a) the OO can usually be relied to be [i]anti-/i]-teacher, (b) there [i]are[/i] provisions for better teacher training and so on anyway, (c) the stimulus package is [i]short-to-medium term[/i], not long term. Training teachers takes at least three years, and that's after you have the new guidelines argued about, thrashed through committees and sub-committees and the usual ideological grinding mill that anything to do with education goes through. I am sure that if the package had a lot more for teacher training (as opposed to construction works) the OO would then be whingeing that there were too many long term measures and not enough short term measures and that this reflected the power of the militant teachers' unions over the government etc. etc. and how the Rudd government was wasting money. Instead of having a handful of local critics and presidents of various P&C and teaching associations saying things like, "There should be more accountability" (d'oh!), we'd have an alternative (or perhaps the same?) handful of recalcitrants saying, "My school needs a new [outside learning centre/gymnasium/science block/library extension/hockey pitch] and Rudd is wasting money on unionised teachers!". Commissar Gillard is wise to treat each of these complaints on a case=by-case basis and to essentially ignore the OO's bleatings.

Bushfire Bill

18/06/2009More classic bootstrapping from [i]The Australian[/i] today. One front page story supplanted by another, on the same subject. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25654223-601,00.html This time it's: [i][b]Turnbull attacks 'reckless $14.7b spending spree on schools[/b][/i] Just take the headline... the word "reckless" in quotes is, I suppose, designed to acquit the [i]The Australian[/i] of charges that they are making value judgements. "We didn't say 'reckless', Malcolm Turnbull did!" you can just about hear them protesting. So why, a couple of words later use the words "spending spree" with[i]out[/i] the quotes? Are we to believe the [i]The Australian[/i] doesn't think the schools stimulus plan is necessarily "reckless", but that it is now established fact that it's a "spending spree"? This is typical of bootstrappers eminating from the [i]The Australian[/i]... establish a term in quote marks and then a couple of days later quietly remove them, [i]a la[/i] Erich Von Daniken. "Were there aliens in South America?" becomes, by the next chapter, "The aliens who landed in South America." Likewise "Malcolm Turnbull reckons the spending spree is 'reckless'," becomes, by the next day or so, "The government's reckless spending spree," (after they've cited so-called facts supposedly "proving" this, but [i]before[/i] the hapless relevant minister (in this case Julia Gillard) can find the time to refute them. After a while, though, it doesn't matter if the facts are refuted or not. The refuations are either ignored, or the very fact that allegations are made at all - rightly or wrongly - is substituted as reason enough for a public enquiry. Then, early in the article we get these: "[i]...biggest pork-barrelling exercise in Australian history and a complete shambles... recklessly borrowing money for projects that were not even needed... the terrifying thing.[/i]" and so on. Then we are hit between the eyes with the mandatory self-referencing exercise. The [i]The Australian[/i] writes an article, Malcolm Turnbull quotes it, so thenthe [i]The Australian[/i] writes a second article [i]referencing the reference[/i]. "[i]The Australian has revealed in recent days growing public disquiet about the program, including complaints of inflexibility and wastage caused by the Government's haste in its roll-out.[/i]" It's a classic of its kind, including, as it does, the second vital ingredient of any self-respecting bootstrapping campaign: the [i]anonymous[/i] self-reference, to wit: "[i]... growing public disquiet about the program... [/i]" Where is the evidence for this anywhere but in the the fevered minds of the denizens of the The Australian's bootstrapping boiler-room? Couldn't be the Newspoll, because the only reason given for the Newspoll results (last Tuesday) was Joel Fitzgibbon's resignation. It's an [i]assertion[/i] that there is "growing public disquiet". [i]They made it up[/i]. Also part of "growing public disquiet" is yet another aspect of bootstrapping: [i]the fake public outrage[/i], or the [i]Man The Barricades Syndrome[/i]. Open your window and look outside. There they are, angry taxpayers in their hundreds of thousands, marching down city streets with torches and pitchforks in their hands, demanding blood. That there aren't, doesn't matter. It give the likes of Turnbull or Pyne the opportunity to legitimize the notion of mass public objection in QT that day. Then it can be turned into a class "self-reference" article the next. Well, it [i]was[/i] in "the press" wasn't it? It [i]must[/i] be true! Then we have the [i]Good-Cop/Bad-Cop Ploy[/i], what they'd like us to see as "balance". Julia Gillard defends the program. But there's a sting in the tail... she "rejected" calls for the Auditor-General to investigate. "[i]Education Minister Julia Gillard has strongly defended the program, rejecting Opposition calls for an auditor-general's investigation.[/i]" No matter that the "calls" were made by Chris Pine [i]relying in turn on discredited accusations in The Australian[/i], which now in turn are quoted by [i]The Australian[/i] as if there's no connection between the two. This is a mere trifle. Why let the facts get in the way of a good bootstrapper? Turnbull is quoted again: "[i]This morning Mr Turnbull said it was clear the program was a complete shambles. 'We see day after day, example after example of schools who are being, [b]having expensive buildings foisted on them[/b], forced upon them often at [b]prices way above what they could achieve them or acquire them if they were locally contracted,[/b]' Mr Turnbull said. 'And as we see in these examples [b]in the press today[/b] buildings that aren't even needed.'" He said the program was designed to glorify the Labor Party and provide opportunities for Ms Gillard to cut ribbons and unveil plaques. 'This is the most gigantic electoral pork-barrelling exercise we have ever seen in our history,' he said.[/i]" Note the [i]anonymous self-reference[/i] again: "...in the press today..." (which press? Why, the [i]The Australian[/i]of course!), and the ignoring of the fact that Gillard addressed [i]and dismissed[/i] most of the claims in [i]The Australian[/i] within ten minutes of being asked questions by Pine about them. Most of the "buildings that aren't even needed" refers to schools about to close down, in which case, Gillard pointed out the money would, [i]and always was[/i] going to the new school that the students would switch to. Then we have a new factor introduced: [i]quesioning the government's real motives[/i]: "glorify the Labor Party", "opportunities for Ms Gillard to cut ribbons and unveil plaques," "the most gigantic electoral pork-barrelling exercise we have ever seen"... as if the Howard government never did that! Where is the evidence for this assertion? There is none. They, and Turnbull [i]made it up.[/i] The only honest politician in Australia seems to be Malcolm Turnbull. All the rest are phonies and usurpers. Finally we read the last essential part of this article: [i]contrasting the equivalent Howard scheme, with Labor's reckless spending spree[/i] (don't worry, the quotes won't be needed after today anyway). This would referring to a previous scheme under Howard where [i]only Liberal MPs[/i] could "open" the new facilities, be they a science block, a library or a humble flagpole, irrespective of whether the local member was actually a Labor Party MP. "[i]The Opposition Leader contrasted the program with the Howard Investing in Our Schools program, which he said was a partnership with schools. 'School communities worked out what infrastructure they wanted whether it was a shade cloth in the playground or a new classroom or IT or whatever it was,' he said. 'They worked it out and then were able to assess those that were in greatest need and provide the funding.'[/i] Including such "needy" schools as The King's School in Sydney, alma mater of many Liberal MPs and preferred school for their core voters' children, which received $6 million for new sports facilities, no questions asked. Clearly the public made a mistake in getting rid of the Howard government, a model of efficiency, fairness, equity and [i]no pork barrelling. This section of the bootstrap is necessary in case a few readers, struck by an attack of persistent memory, ponder why Labor's program is different to that of Howard's. Hope that clears [i]that[/i] up. The first absolutely essential aspect of any bootstrapping campaign is [i]self-referencing[/i], followed by references to the utterances of others, who in turn have referred to self-referenced articles, finally culminating in the whole campaign being classified as merely responding to comfortably anonymous "press reports". The second is: [i]keep up the momentum[/i]. Any passing reference to the facts is to be eschewed as much as possible, except the "facts" which support the campaign. Then they lay them on like mortar off a brickie's trowel. In fact these campaigns are a circle jerk. The paper writes an article, which is quoted, the re-quoted enough times to launder the original fact that the newspaper in which the article appears is the originating newspaper. The only problem is that this campaign seems to having trouble getting off the ground. Rudd Stim is [i]popular[/i]. The other trouble is that its original thrust was misplaced: it whinged about "exclusive private schools". Who'd a thunk it? [i]The Australian[/i] waxing on with class warfare rhetoric about schools that their target readers send their kids to! Not much of this seems to be working, of course, as the The Australian's plaintive pleas for citizens to Dob-In-A-Rort seem to be falling on deaf ears. Never get between parents and a couple of million bucks for their kid's primary school, no matter who they vote for. Lastly, did anyone notice the other bait-and-switch in these articles, at least since Kerr's piece a couple of days ago? For weeks we've been hearing how Gillard is wonderful-this, and fabulous-that, clearly better than Rudd, more devastating in QT etc. etc. Even Lib voters and MPs (like Tony Abbott) been praising her lately. She's Labor's Great white Hope, and she'll be comig for Rudd, sooner rather than later. That's the [i]Bait[/i]. Now here's the [i]Switch[/i]. All of a sudden, shes a "Stalinist" wrecker, wasting taxpayers' money on "cash splashes". Christian Kerr, ace investigative reporter for the nation's premier newspaper, has said so. Hmmm... so I guess with Rudd useless, and Gillard hopelessly out of touch in her gulag-like nirvana... that leaves.... [i]nobody to lead Labor[/i]. No wonder "there is growing public concern" and "Labor insiders are unhappily confronting the fact" that the Rudd government is a oncer. [i]There's a total vacuum at the top[/i]. Can't wait for tomorrow's installment. A call for Julia's resignation? Or just another disgruntled parent who reckons he could do the project management better than the bloke who's doing it now? I wait with bated breath. (... Meanwhile, don't get knocked down by the mob of angry parents and taxpayers outside in the street, sick to death of these Stalist usurpers wasting their heard-earned money on their kids. No knowing [i]what[/i] they'll do in this mood they're in...)

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18/06/2009BB, That was some spray - you're spot on. It's now clear that [i]The Australian[/i] is pursuing a vicious campaign against the school stimulus programme. Christian Kerr's piece yesterday was just one part of what is now a coordinated and concerted attack. I see comments have finished at eight on his [i]Gillard’s typhoon of unreason piece[/i] (janice, yours was the last and my three attempts were unsuccessful). QT today reflected this campaign; most questions from the Opposition were on the schools stimulus ‘debacle’ pointing out some of the ‘reckless’ waste and mismanagement that had occurred in the implementation of the $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution programme. As Kevin Rudd explained several times in QT the guidelines for implementation of the programme set down how any concerns that local communities might have about individual projects can be handled, and indeed have been. But that did not stop the Opposition attack. Every answer was interrupted by spurious points of order; Opposition members simply did not want to hear the answers, answers that were loaded with positive comments from happy school communities, and a recital of grants given to schools in Opposition members’ electorates. It was one of the most disgraceful displays I have seen in many a QT. Clearly Malcolm Turnbull has decided to go for broke with unremitting negativity, and [i]The Australian[/i] is backing him. Has this got anything to do with Peter Costello’s retirement? Has [i]The Australian[/i] decided, now that the one it had waiting in the wings to upend the Rudd Government has decided to quit, that it will back Turnbull to the hilt and hope he can? Only the brass at [i]The Australian[/i] would know. But its ‘Stimulus Watch’, designed to solicit complaints, its ‘email a complaint’ facility, its ‘exclusive’ online poll that show over 80% of over two thousand ‘voters’ say the stimulus is being wasted, and links to several adverse articles, all point to it being deadly serious. Having just finished Annabelle Crabb’s [i]Quarterly Essay[/i] about Turnbull [i]Stop at Nothing[/i], which I hope to summarize in the next few days, I can see that Turnbull’s nature will propel him down this negative path to its bitter end, no matter what; he will never retreat because he ‘knows he’s right’. So who will win? In my view the thousands of schools receiving the stimulus money and the parents who send their kids to them, will be the winners. There will be some individuals who will complain, the majority of which will have their complaints resolved, and a residual few who will be convinced that the stimulus package is being recklessly wasted on their schools and their kids. These are the ‘never-to-be-satisfied’, most of which would be such rusted-on Coalition supporters that they would be incapable of giving the Rudd Government credit for anything at all. The programme will be a spectacular winner for schools, kids, parents and the Government, despite the Coalition’s campaign and [i]The Australian’s[/i] backing. It’s because they know this to be so that they are fighting it so vigorously, and the Government is pointing out so stridently how the Coalition has opposed, and continues to oppose the stimulus, while hypocritically garnering any credit it can in its electorates. For Turnbull this will be a ‘break through or break’ event, probably the latter.

Bushfire Bill

19/06/2009This morning's article, for the first time, does not appear as the banner headline. It refers to complaints "rolling in". There are 24 complaints, regarding 22 schools, out of a maximum possible 9,450 schools. [b]That's a 0.25% complaint rate[/b]. Hardly "rolling in". In fact, quite surprisingly low, given the number of Coalition voters out there who you'd think would be willing to have a go at the government. None of the complaints are fleshed out. We don't know their nature. They could be about anything. This is another aspect of a bootstrapper: [i]keep facts to a minimum[/i]. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25657832-2702,00.html Michael Stuchbury writes a blog piece asking: "[i]Is this (a) cynical politics, (b) questionable education policy, (c) guaranteed to produce stuff-ups and, consequently, cover-ups or (d) all of the above?[/i]" There is no option "(e)", which might have read, in the words of Stuchbury's article itself earlier on: "[i](e) A scheme to 'hire brickies, chippies and sparkies to build libraries, halls and gyms rapidly at thousands of primary schools in every federal electorate, ASAP.'[/i]" http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/currentaccount/index.php/theaustralian/comments/projects_keynes_would_approve/ Michael seems to have forgotten that possibility as an option. In fact he criticises the schools program as the equivalent of "digging holes in the ground and then filling them in". He neglects to point out that when you dig a hole and fill it in, at the end of the project you're back where you started. In the case of the schools program you will have new libraries, outdoor learning areas, cleaner toilets, better sports facilities and so on. [i]But let's not let facts get in the way of hyperbole.[/i] Stuchbury sees the schools program thus: "[i]The aim is to [b]wedge[/b] the opposition politically on local schools, offset the [b]job destruction[/b] from Labor’s industrial relations reregulation and avoid a [b]technical recession[/b] this year.[/i]" Wow, the Big Whammy. Labor cares not about education. It's only motivation is cynical politics. It doesn't even care about jobs particularly. The fact that thousands might otherwise be out of work [b]due to the GFC[/b] is not mentioned. Instead it was [i]Labor[/i] that destroyed these jobs, by re-regulating the jobs market. How long can it be until [i]The Australian[/i] runs a column entitled "[b]Recession? What Recession?[/b]" but I digress... More evidence from Stuchbury of the "Keynesian" rot that Labor has introduced is the stimulus program's egalitarianism: "[i]The smart education revolution would be to ensure that the biggest school building program we’ve seen - more than 23,000 projects in 9500 schools over the next year - delivers the biggest teaching bang for the buck. Schools would have time to develop projects they needed most and to get their assessment independently checked. The results would be plugged into state or federal plans, which might decide that some schools should get less or nothing in order to finance something really revolutionary elsewhere.[/i]" Every electorate receives funding, when some should get none and others disproportionately more, or so "federal plans" would require. My, my, if that had been the case can you see the headlines? "[b]School For Scandal: Rudd ignores '3rd World' Toilet block[/b]", complete with photos of tiny tots with sores all over them from having to use their unsanitary lavatory facilities while the school down the road gets a new Science Lab (at twice what it should have cost, of course). Score an additional 10 points if the kids with sores are aboriginal. And let's not forget the old (by now) standby, the "technical recession." Never mind that consumer and now business confidence is returning at a great rate as a result of the "technical" results from the past few weeks, Michael [i]knows[/i] that [i]of course[/i] we're in a recession, so any attempts to ameliorate it just [i]must[/i] be cynical. why doesn't the government allow the economy to simply wallow in unemployment, stagnant growth, industrial collapse and the human misery that other countries around the world are experiencing? We know their efforts are only "technically" succeeding, and it would give [i]The Australian[/i] something better to whinge about than a schools stimulus plan which has 99.75% of beneficiaries uttering not one complaint about it. With all the classic bases covered there is no possible genuine reason for Labor to have initiated the schools program. There have been 24 complaints that have "rolled in", it's just a cynical exercise in politics, and every school gets something... quite Marxist actually... or (in Kerr's words) "Stalinist". Back on Planet Earth, I believe the theory behind the schools stimulus plan is that every school is assumed to have a wish list of capital works they'd love to have, only there were no funds. Now the funds are available their wish can come true. And a lot of tradespeople receive the benefit of contributing their labour and expertise as well as the kiddies receiving better facilities. It's really a pretty simple concept. Yet [i]The Australian[/i] manages to turn it into an inefficient, politically motivated "cover-up" to hide the result of the "job destruction" that the policies the government was elected to carry out have caused. Talk about Bizarro Worlds.

Bushfire Bill

19/06/2009I wrote this comment to Michael Stuchbury's article this morning (which, ay 11am still has no responses posted): [i]"Another article today in The Australian on the schools package, claims in its headline that complaints are "rolling in". But if only 22 projects out of 26,000 have generated complaints - a 0.1% strike rate, meaning 99.9% of projects have been favourably received - the latest bootstrapping campaign out of the News Ltd. boiler-room appears to have failed miserably. There are so many illogical, disingenuous and outright false assertions and wacky opinionation in your article I cannot begin to criticise it, except to offer this friendly advice: "Get a life, Michael."[/i] My previous 0.25% calculation was based on the number of complaints as a percentage of the number of [i]schools[/i] (9540). When you recalculate it as number of complaints as a percentage of the number of [i]projects[/i] (26000) it shows a 0.1% complaint rate, or alternatively, a 99.9% [i]non[/i]-complaint rate, even worse for [i]The Australian[/i] than my previous figure.

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009BB, Thank you for yet another perceptive account of the way [i]The Australian[/i] is relentlessly pursuing the schools stimulus programme and trying to demean the Government in the process; indeed I suspect that latter is its main objective. After it started this about a week ago, Julia Gillard hit [i]The Australian[/i] hard in QT in response to a Christopher Pyne question, pointing out that story after story in that paper was wrong. That she should so publically criticize the paper must have seriously upset the editorial staff who decided to hit back even harder. Thus we had the angry Christian Kerr piece and subsequent articles and devices (Stimulus Watch) designed to stir up antagonism to the scheme and the Government. The programme was announced 10 weeks ago. Today the paper tries to argue that since there have been 24 letters or emails of complaint from 22 schools out of the 9450 schools in Australia that ‘complaints are rolling in’. Journalists know that many, if not most people will read only the headline and the first paragraph or two, and not bother to carefully analysing the supporting data and argument, which in this instance do not support the headline or the opening gambit. Although the first paragraph began with the number of schools complaining, it was not until halfway through the article that the total number of schools involved was stated. This is disingenuous reporting. Then the editors got their economics editor to buy in on the economics of the programme, even reverting to anti-Keynesian arguments to detract from it. Michael Stutchbury went in boots and all, not entertaining for a moment the laudable reasons behind the programme, ending with an amateurish no-good-option multiple choice question. Another pointer to the determination of [i]The Australian[/i], and I suspect News Limited papers in general, to diminish the Government, and in this case Kevin Rudd himself, are the articles in [i]The Australian, Old boys' network a headache for PM Kevin Rudd[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25658551-601,00.html and in [i]The Telegraph, Kevin Rudd's in a spin over car deal[/i] http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25657561-5001021,00.html both relating to the John Grant Motors and OzCar affair. I’ve just heard on the news Wayne Swan saying that Turnbull threatened a Rudd staffer at the Mid Winter ball over the matter, and that Turnbull should apologize to the staffer and Rudd. Hopefully the matter will be put to rest at the Senate Estimates hearing today, but any smear, even when dismissed, leaves its mark, as Turnbull knows. Turnbull’s bullying and ruthlessness is legend as is detailed in Annabelle Crabb’s [i]Quarterly Essay, Stop at Nothing[/i]. He was at his bullying again at a meeting with the Business Council of Australia on Wednesday. Lenore Taylor gives an account of this in [i]The Australian, Malcolm Turnbull puts heat on business: don't 'snuggle up' to Labor[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25657879-601,00.html More about Turnbull when I get around to summarizing the [i]Quarterly Essay[/i]. PS. Let's see BB, if you go any better than I did on the Chridtian Kerr blog.

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009Now the 'Turnbullying' a Rudd staffer story is in the [i]Oz, Rudd staffer Andrew Charlton accuses Turnbull of bullying over car dealer[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25659112-601,00.html

Just Me

19/06/2009[i]My previous 0.25% calculation was based on the number of complaints as a percentage of the number of schools (9540). When you recalculate it as number of complaints as a percentage of the number of projects (26000) it shows a 0.1% complaint rate, or alternatively, a 99.9% non-complaint rate, even worse for The Australian than my previous figure. [/i] And if you compare the number of complaints to the number of parents with kids at school, the complaint rate is several orders of magnitude lower again. The OO is getting dangerously close to straight fraud.

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009More about Turnbullying on [i]The World Today[/i]. Sounds as if the Government is pretty sure of its facts - telling Turnbull to put up the evidence or shut up and apologize. If nothing turns up today in Senate Estimates, it will not look good for Turnbull. Some of the mud he’s chucking might ricochet.

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009BB, So far nothing from you on the Current Account Blog, but it's only up to 7.33 am. If your's is going to make it, it should be in the next batch. Nine out of the ten comments to date are negative. What a surprise that if you write a negative piece, negative comments will follow. Some of these people don't seem to sleep!

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009Senate Estimates hearing on OzCar on now. http://www.abc.net.au/news/

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009BB, Your comment made it. I’ve just added this comment to the Current Account Blog: [quote]I agree with everything Bushfire Bill has said. You must know that if you write a negative piece, those with similar negative feelings will flood to support you, so far in a ratio of about three negative to every one positive. To end with a multiple choice question that gives all negative options to cue your supporters ensures a largely negative response. You give people four options: Is this: (a) cynical politics, (b) questionable education policy, (c) guaranteed to produce stuff-ups and, consequently, cover-ups (d) all of the above? Why did you not add a couple of positive options? Is this: (e) an attempt to upgrade school infrastructure run down during the Howard years, (f) improving facilities for Australia’s schoolchildren, (g) giving support to the local building and construction industry during the downturn, (h) giving tradesmen work at a time when unemployment is rising, (i) all of the above? It’s fortunate you’re not an educationalist writing multiple choice questions, or a pollster trying to ascertain public opinion. You’d be out of a job. Stick to economics.[/quote] Let's see if my comment makes it.

Ad astra reply

19/06/2009It's almost 9 pm and so far my comment didn't make the Stutchbury blog. He got 42 comments, the last posted at 1.04 pm. So I guess he thought he had enough negative comments - three out of every four, so he closed the blog down.

janice

20/06/2009My comment to The Current Account Blog didn't make it either Ad astra, not that I expected to see it there LOL. Truffles has really gone out on a limb with his blatant intimidation of Andrew Charleton at a social event where he's not protected by parliamentary privelege. As things stand at this time, I think the dirt politics the Coalition are indulging in, in attempting to bring down a popularly elected PM by unsubstantiated allegations will not leave Truffles looking 'clean'. He has also jumped the gun in holding a press conference calling for the resignation of Rudd and Swann and alleging lies and dishonesty on their part, without any proof that what he is saying is correct. IMO this amounts to libel and, as a barrister, Turnbull should know better.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?