The PM to the media – I have a message for you

Three weeks ago you, the media, took a satirical swipe at me on The Political Sword in The media to the PM – we have a problem.  Let me now return the compliment.

You began: “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.”

Everyone knows about media power and influence, but you ought not to believe it is absolute.  You ought not to believe it is beyond challenge.  You should not think politicians are too timid to confront the media with its shortcomings for fear of retribution. [more]

There is a limit beyond which disingenuousness cannot be tolerated.  A case in point has been the reporting of the so-called OzCar affair.  Despite the public denial of the existence of any record of an email having been sent by economics adviser Andrew Charlton to Godwin Grech in Treasury asking for support for John Grant, a Brisbane car dealer, The Courier Mail and The Daily Telegraph went ahead and published the text of the purported email without the editors having seen a copy of it.  I said: "I would have thought a few people would want to know how all of that happened -- what sort of journalistic checks were put in place?"  

In an interview with Madonna King on ABC Brisbane radio, where she asked why I accepted the loan of a ute and would I give it back,  I said: “...I think what the Australian people would like Madonna is for us all to get on with the job of dealing with how we handle the recession, how we handle the problem of jobs, how we handle the small business challenges today...people... scratch their heads and ask, `how can newspapers today, for example, run stories based on forged emails and assume that they are simply accurate as The Courier-Mail has done in Brisbane?’’  That interview caused quite a furore. Christian Kerr labelled my reply a ‘rant’, which in my dictionary means: to ‘speak or shout at length in a wild impassioned way’.  His use of the word points to the sting he felt in my remarks, questioning as I did the professionalism of the papers concerned.  Julia Gillard’s repeat of my criticism further fanned the flames.

In response, The Daily Telegraph has seen fit to editorialize in Utegate saga lesson for all: “Following is the full and unexpurgated extent of The Daily Telegraph's involvement in Utegate, from which all of our coverage was derived: We chased a story.  There is really no other way to describe it.  We, in competition with other media, pursued the Utegate saga with interest and vigour.  As facts became known to us, they were reported to our readers.  As facts shifted and the story took on a different shape, this too was reported.  The Prime Minister is now calling for a public debate on journalistic ethics.  We at The Daily Telegraph would happily submit our Utegate coverage as a fine example of ethics to be followed by all media.  No other newspaper did a better job of recording the remarkable twists of that week in Parliament, from Grech's initial testimony to the email fallout still threatening Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.”   That sounds defensive, not at all plausible and short of relevant facts.

The media seems astonished that a PM should dare to criticize it, and has debated such temerity ever since.  How dare a political leader question it?

The editor of Crikey said: “As practising political pragmatists, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister both did something counter-intuitive this week. They openly and deliberately criticised News Limited. To outsiders watching the daily cut and thrust of politics, these may seem innocuous acts. But inside the political tent there has been an unstated but closely observed rule for decades that publicly poking a stick inside the cage of the country's biggest media gorilla is not a career-enhancing move, given News Limited's long-standing predilection to deploy its newspapers to campaign personally and vindictively against anyone on its enemies list. Yesterday, the PM twice attacked The Courier-Mail in an ABC Brisbane radio interview (with the wife of the editor of that newspaper, as it happens), and this morning on ABC Radio National the Deputy PM explicitly criticised News Limited for its journalism in covering the Utegate matter. These are not un-calculating politicians. By poking a stick inside this particular cage they are making a meaningful statement about media power: how it is evolving and diffusing; how the spectre of Murdoch no longer acts as a curb on politicians doing the right thing; how new media is recalibrating the unhealthy influence of the old media establishment; and how political leaders now feel confident enough to believe that the machinations of one newspaper empire can no longer unseat governments, destroy careers or turn political tides. Kevin 1, Rupert 0.”

In recent times The Australian has seen fit to run ‘Stimulus Watch’ in which it tries to identify waste and inefficiency in the Australia-wide school building programme.  It quotes examples of what it says are examples of schools being forced to accept amenities they did not want, examples of overpriced quotes being accepted, double-ups and wrong priorities.  Out of the 34 articles listed in Stimulus Watch there are but a tiny handful that relate to such matters; most are political comments. By mid June there were 24 complaints from 22 out of 9,450 schools and 26,000 projects, a 0.1% complaint rate, meaning that 99.9% of projects have been favourably received.  And there is an inbuilt mechanism for resolving any problem with the programme.  In Question Time, Julia Gillard took The Australian to task in response to a question from Christpoher Pyne, pointing out several mistakes in reporting, which The Australian clearly did not like.  Journalistic retaliation was expected and came in the form of unfavourable critiques of Government actions.  The editor of The Australian felt moved to write an editorial A rational critique, not retaliation that concluded: “Mr Rudd's claim that critiques of his government are ‘journalistic retaliation’ for criticisms levelled by members of the government is misplaced. Our analyses of this or any government or opposition are grounded in sound principles that are as relevant now as they were in 1964.”

We expect disingenuous behaviour from the Opposition, but object to the same behaviour from what are supposed to be objective journalists.  The Opposition likes to talk of debt and deficit as if the GFC had not occurred and as if the Government had not lost over $200 billion in revenue, but why do so-called economics editors do the same?  In his piece in The Weekend Australian, A splurge too many where MIchael Stutchbury attempts to dissect out the factors governing Australia's economic situation, you know as soon as you look at the title what the theme is to be, and when in the first paragraph you read ‘indiscriminate spending on school buildings’, your suspicions are confirmed.  The words ‘global crisis’ are mentioned just twice in passing, and ‘revenue shortfall’ not at all, as if it did not exist and contribute massively to the inevitable debt and deficit.  Yet Stutchbury, after a detailed analysis, was able to conclude: “The question is: in a world drowning in public debt, would you lend the government more of your money to build more unneeded primary school halls and the like?”  So this is another hit by The Australian on the schools programme, despite all the facts and figures Stutchbury quotes.  How can economics editors write such material, if not to support the paper’s anti-schools stimulus programme?

Even the ABC can’t get its stories right.  After an interview of Immigration Minister Chris Evans by Leigh Sales on Lateline last Friday, ABC News on Saturday morning reported that the casino on Christmas Island was being considered for housing an overflow of immigrants from the island’s facility.  That was wrong.  The next bulletin even featured a clip of what Evans said, but cut short so that it still sounded as if the casino was to be used for immigrants.  Again, wrong.  What Evans actually said in answer to a question from Sales “Is it accurate that the Department of Immigration could take over the now closed Christmas Island casino to create more accommodation? was: “...we were looking at the possibility of using their staff quarters, their old staff quarters for immigration and other staff. ... there was no suggestion of us putting detainees into the casino.”   So the ABC not only got it completely wrong, but when it tried to cover its error by the use of an Evans clip, it compounded it.  This shoddy journalism has not yet been corrected.

Another thing – the media has been critical about what it likes to call the Government’s obsession with the media cycle.  It says the Government is in continual election mode.  What an awakening!  Did the media notice that John Howard progressively used talkback radio more and more as his term progressed; has it not noticed changes to governments' approach to the media in other countries, particularly in the US?  Times are different – continuous communication with the electorate is now part and parcel of politics.  Get used to it and regard it as normal.  And please shelve the term ‘media tart’ – that’s childish.

In your message to me three weeks ago you concluded: “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's 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.” 

My message to the media is “Understand that the media is no longer entitled to believe it should remain unchallenged when its standards slip, when it reports inaccurately, when it fuels a spurious campaign to damage Government initiatives with trivial accusations, and when it fails to keep up with trends in political use of the media. Consider the prospect that you may no longer be able to call all the shots”

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Bilko

5/07/2009Dear PM, within a few days of you being elected I indicated on another blog site that you would be facing a hostile media and Bushfire Bill confirmed the same and advised me to get use to it. Well I could not and despaired over the period only inspired by how useless the Coalition were and I am glad that you and your government have finally got up off the canvas and are retaliating. Next sort out the ABC we all want it back as an unbiased media stream that we can trustnot an offshoot of News Ltd. Call it fight back if you like but we are with you 100%.

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009Bilko, If you need further evidence of the hostility of the media, and how badly stung it has been by the PM's comments, read Glenn Milne's [i]Settling old scores[/i] in [i]The Australian[/i] today. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25737024-7583,00.html I've posted a response as follows: [quote]Is this article a reflection of genuine righteous indignation of a straight-as-a-die journalist who adheres strictly to the first principle of the journalists' code of ethics you enunciate? Or feeling badly stung by the PM’s comments, are you are resorting to defensive indignation? Those who are accustomed to your writings will find that question easy to answer.[/quote] Let's see if it gets up!

janice

6/07/2009Ad astra, I know Bushfire Bill submitted his comment to the Milne article (he posted a copy of it in Poll Bludger this morning) and I also put in my own comment about 8.30 am. I notice there are no comments published so I dare say all comments were not to his liking and therefore will not be published. Milne is lower than a snakes bum in a wheel rut (to quote someone else I read recently) and if he is the sort of opinion writer the OO and News Ltd generally are going to rely on to make their news readable they are as delusional as the opposition.

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009janice, I see BB's great post on the Glenn Milne rant was posted, and mine got up too. But I couldn't find yours - what did you say?

janice

6/07/2009LOL Ad astra, I wasn't all that polite in that I asked him if it was okay to write untruths and mis-information about the PM and Treasurer, he probably won't mind if his readers use the nickname he has earned and bestowed upon him by person/s unknown i.e. 'the poisoned dwarf'. Can't understand why he might have censored me out, can you?

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009janice, I guess for Milne that was a 'bridge too far'. Which suggests I suppose that at least a tiny fragment of him is not utterly shameless.

Bushfire Bill

6/07/2009Simply because it was too exhausting to write up again, this was my comment to Milne's blog this morning (with paragraph spacing restored so that it doesn't look like a complete rant). To the Australian's credit, they ran it, and many others of similar sentiment. I have added a couple of details in the last paragraph as my memory if some aspects of Milne's behavior came back to me. Apologies for my hectoring on about the dummied-up email header that the Telegraph printed, but this to me is precisely indicative of how fake information was not only printed without the suitable denial from Rudd's office, but its presentation was actually further faked to make the "email" look genuine to the casual reader. This, to me, is just about the lowest a newspaper can go. I'm sure the Tele would defend their actions by saying they were "making the story punchier" by dummying-up the email with flash, eye-grabbing graphics, or that their tabloid presentation style in general demanded it. But, to my mind, there has been far too much use of PhotoShop at the Telegraph (and other newspapers) lately, in particular the "Air Brush" and "Clone" tools used with stock photos to render them as masquerades of the genuine article. It is not just making the story "punchier". It is outright fraud and should be called as such. Of all the aspects of the story Rudd did not like, this was the one he chose to specifically cite as a failure of ethics in his censure debate speech on the Monday. He was furious. This wasn't just a case of introducing a little gentle verisimilitude. It was an egregious example of doctoring the evidence, counterfeiting a document to give it merit it did not in any way deserve: [i]"Gee Glen, your hatred of Rudd is palpable. Lewis had the emails for days and then gave Rudd's office 2 whole hours to deny the story! How generous! The first edition of the Telegraph was out there with a wrong story all the next day. Shoppers at checkouts and in newsagencies saw the screaming banner headlines... which were wrong. I suppose it was also great journalistic ethics to dummy-up the text of the email to make it look genuine, except that the recipient was listed in the Telegraph's mock-up as "Godwin GRANT". In your article above you admit that Lewis had nothing more than the text of the email, now known to be faked. Yet the Telegraph, to make the "email" look genuine, faked the From and To fields (presumably to convince the casual reader they had the full originals, which they didn't) and didn't even manage to get the most important aspect of them - the addressee - correct! Brilliant journalism. This is not so much a case of disclosing "all essential facts" as it is of making up one too many. Another point: Godwin Grech's testimony was not "sworn" evidence. The transcript discloses no oath being taken at any point on the Friday, and no mention of Grech being already sworn from earlier appearances. Another example of where Lewis's (and your) "striving for accuracy" has failed miserably. All in all let us not forget the story was wrong, and in Lewis's haste to print a tissue of lies that disclosed (if true) a potential political hanging offence for the leader of the government in Australia, the Telegraph should have erred on the side of caution. In its mad scramble to get the goods on Rudd it breached just about every journalistic ethic possible: a faked email, not enough time given for the denial, followed by a faked presentation of that faked email, compounded by a misrepresentation as to the legal status of the main witness's evidence. Not a bad effort for one article, eh? I am also reminded of how you wrote in 2007 that Rudd was thrown out of Scores for unruly behavior. [/i]You planted the idea in your early edition article that Rudd touched-up a pole dancer and got thrown out for it. You repeated this innuendo on Insiders that morning, persisting with it despite Barrie Cassidy warning you it had been denied by the manager of the club, speaking from New York, who said Rudd had been "a perfect gentleman". Before many more hours had passed however, your completely uncorroborated assertions had disappeared entirely from print. That little furphy only lasted for the first edition of the next day's Sunday Telegraph. It was changed in the on-line edition before 11am, but remained in print all day long, and had already gone out on the airwaves from the Insiders set, uncorrected for the punters to read.[i] Even today you characterised that disproved allegation - which you yourself retracted - as "kinda, maybe". You still cling to an untrue story, by insinuation. Luckily, that drama had no effect on Rudd's popularity at the time except to increase it, but if this is the standard of journalistic ethics at News Ltd, then no wonder it is losing readership. Sick and tired of the stench of continual beat-ups, this is a rare case of the ship deserting the rats."[/i]

Bushfire Bill

6/07/2009While I'm reprinting posts, this is another one from Poll Bludger this morning. It is my opinion on Milne, and why he is such a sad case: [i]"Another [/i](poster at PB)[i] here wrote: [/i]'I like the fact that Glen Milne has dragged up the stinking corpses of Burke-gate, Fake-Dawn-gate and Scores-gate in his article today.'[i] This is why these “scandals” were dreamed up earlier on. If the inventors of them didn’t get the immediate hit in the polls they were after, then the consolation prize is being able to list them much later in a litany of supposed “affairs” that serve to reinforce the idea that the object of the campaign is gaffe or scandal-prone, despite the fact that none of the actual incidents amounted to anything in themselves. It seems that in journalistic muck-raking lore, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Or, to use another well-known saying, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” QED… Milne and others are still attempting to keep Utegate alive. Some take the direct approach: they’re still poring over factoids, ignoring inconvenient rebuttals and, if necessary, actual evidence (or worse, making it up). The “sworn evidence” furphy is an example of ignoring facts. The fake dummy-up of the text of the email with lookalike [b]MS Outlook[/b] headers... is an example of “making it up.” But Milne fancies himself as more subtle than that. He is always on about “paradigms” and “themes” when he is interviewed or on Insiders. Glen regards his job as that of the more intellectual journalist. Not for Glen the argey-bargey of directly faked evidence, or misleading graphics (although he will resort to these when there’s nothing else). Glen always goes for the meta-issue, the intellectual angle. Utegate is not about a dodgy deal done between a rich PM who is still so cheap and petty that he wants everything on the nod no matter the source (the “Christian Kerr Hypothesis”), and who destroyed emails and misled Parliament in order to hide the evidence (the “Raving Wingnut On Pies’ Blog Hypothesis”). No, Glen takes the indirect path, and we see articles like this one (and it is not the only article on this thesis that Milne has written in recent days) asserting that Rudd is Kim Il Jong, or Josef Stalin or Hitler and that the AFP is none other than Rudd’s personal Secret Police Force. See? A $5,000 ute morphs into The Clash Of Cultures. Milne is famous for saying that the original gaffe or misdemeanour is not what he’s after, it’s the cover-up that Mr. Milne is interested in. By taking this line Milne (in his own giant of an imagination) both shows that he is a cut abouve the hack reporters who peddle fakes around as the genuine article and generally get their hands dirty to write a story, but it also betrays Glen’s wishful striving to align himself with the vaulted Woodward & Bernstein and the Ben Bradley school of journalism, a clear cut above his grubby colleagues wearing out shoe leather at the Daily Telegraph. One can only come to the conclusion that Milne is so far up himself that he hasn’t got too far to go before his ar$ehole turns up for breakfast, demanding Coco Pops. Milne has always fancied himself as a player, an important ikon, almost an institution in Australian journalism, head and shoulders above the braying pack of hyenas that everybody else in News Ltd belongs to. Yet what are his main claims to fame? He ratted on his patron, Peter Costello in 2006, by breaking the Walletgate story too soon, cruelling his master’s chances of taking over in decent time for the election. I bet that went down well with Peter, Glen. His other big stories - Long Tan, Scores, Brian Burke etc. - did nothing to Rudd except to enhance his popularity. And Glen’s very biggest story was about himself: how he, seven-eighths tanked on Walkley Awards plonk, made an utter and complete fool of himself and the awards ceremony of his peers by drunkenly ascending the stage to take a swing at Stephen Mayne... complete with stained penguin suit, shirt tails hanging out around his girthload of booze and - the sherry on top - headsetted security guards hauling him struggling off the stage. To cap it all, despite humiliating himself and his profession at their one night of the year, to illustrate his trumped-up view of his stature the little Napoleon sought election as President of the Press Club, and got voted down by his fellow members, about 80% of whom were News Ltd journalists... his own colleagues! You’d think Glen would have received he message by now, loud and clear, wouldn’t you? But no, he persisted in the ritual self-humiliation, for Glen Milne is his own greatest obsession. The man clearly cannot take it anymore. The disease seems terminal. He writes about ethics and fairness, balance and facts, while at the same time, in the very same article he perpetuates “scandals” that have been either consigned to the “Disproved”, the “Don’t Care” or (worse for Glen) the “Don’t Call Me Glen, I’ll Call You” bins. I hate to put it this way but Glen’s malady is the classic “Small Man Syndrome”. He is perpetually hard done by. Only Glen can see the truth. Only Glen has the intellect to write the Big Story. Glen is the little guy who punches above his weight etc. etc. Yet he muffs it every time… [/i]every time[i]. Poor bugger, I’d almost feel sorry for him if he wsn’t such a poisoned little dwarf."[/i]

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009BB, Thank you for posting on [i]The Political Sword[/i] your incisive comment on the Milne rant. His piece is much more rabid than [i]The Daily Telegraph's[/i] editorial that tried to justify its behaviour in the fake email affair. He has pulled out all the stops in his effort to denigrate Rudd and dismiss his complaint. Expect more of the same from him. The most laughable aspect of his piece is his quoting of the first principle of the journalists' code of ethics: [quote]"Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply."[/quote] If only he followed it.

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009There are now 100 comments on the Milne article, 50/50 for and against his assertions. I wonder how many, such as the comment submitted by janice, never make it. Does he read adverse comments? We know some of them never get posted.

Bushfire Bill

6/07/2009"There are now 100 comments on the Milne article, 50/50 for and against his assertions." This would be called "balance" I guess. Seeing as so many this morning were "anti", it's strange that so many this afternoon rallied to The Cause. I hooted with laughter when one recommending Milne for a Walkley Award was run. It an "anti-Milne" post, but dripping with heavy irony and faint praise ("30 paragraphs, and you've managed to insult Rudd in 28 of them!"). The moderator (if it is not Milne himself) should get a rap over the knuckles for letting that one through. I can see the internal email now, "Next time please make sure to read the whole post...". I would say that if there is a queue for Walkleys, Milne - after his drunken swing at Mayne at the Awards Ceremony - would be right at the far end of it. This is actually a dangerous position for the Little Guy to be in, as it would only feed his sanctimonious sense of being hard done by.... and you never know what he'll dream up next. His heroes - "it's the coverup, stupid" - brought down Nixon. There the resemblance between them and Milne ends, as Milne does not use facts in the same way Woodward & Bernstein did. To Milne a fact is an inconvenient matter, technical in nature, that can be dispeplayede down, ignored or accentuated according to his infallible judgement. My evidence for this? I haven't read one of his stories that hasn't blown up in his face. In trying to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his peers, Milne always goes too far. Now that he has been called "the journalist of choice" for the Liberals, by Rudd, he must realise his pretensions to Journalistic Sainthood are gone forever. Hartigan doesn't even think he should live in Canberra anymore (or at least mused out loud about it to him and the adoring throng at the Press Club). Poor Glen, they're coming at him from all sides. Just the way he likes to see himself: the eternal martyr, but troubling nevertheless. when will he strike next?

Ad astra reply

6/07/2009BB, Milne is irretrievably his own worst enemy. He condemns himself out of his own mouth. For a journalist, his lack of insight and his inability to evaluate his own work, render him a liability to his outlets, except of course if his offerings are what they want. Maybe he’s looking for strokes.

BH

6/07/2009I can't bring myself to read Milne's article but I read Bb's earlier response today on PB and I love your last paragraph above AA. It should be sent to every media outlet. I can't believe that Milne has the gall to insert part of the journalist's code of ethics - the man appears to be completely deluded.

janice

7/07/2009I see Truffles and his team of mice have jumped back on the debt and deficit wagon. They're going to bring out the 'Debt truck' and go back to graize the long paddocks. Meanwhile the News Ltd media are still maintaining their rage against Rudd on all fronts. Although the NSW govt is seen to be 'on the nose', it also has been under seige by the media anti-labor forces since the rise of Howard, and I wonder just how much all these revelations of corruption and incompetence is the truth and the whole truth. It seems to me that any attempts by NSW state govt to fix the problems come up against the brick wall of a hostile media and the coalition parties. IMHO the state of NSW look like it might jump out of the frying pan and into the fire come the next election.

Bilko

7/07/2009G henderson in the SMH is in full flight defending Ltd News, me thinks he is working for the wrong media chain. Q What is the Sydney Institute a liberal think tank set up?? who funds it ??

Bushfire Bill

7/07/2009[i]"Q What is the Sydney Institute a liberal think tank set up?? who funds it ??"[/i] I think you could say it's a conservative organization, dedicated to lauding Liberal politicians and their ilk, but occasionally giving lefties a go (if only to set them up for a usually inevitable denigration). Gerard Henderson would probably style it as a "conservative think-tank. From their self-description : [i]"The Sydney Institute is a privately funded not-for-profit current affairs forum devoted to encouraging debate and discussion."[/i] http://www.thesydneyinstitute.com.au/index.php Hmm... well... doesn't sound so bad, until you read this on their Media Watch Dog page: [i]"[b]Media Watch Dog [the Institute's regular media review publication] is a fan of Fox News - which carries a greater diversity of views among its regular commentators than does the ABC or SBS - along with Australia’s Sky News.[/b] However, there is evidence that the Sky News PM Agenda program seems to be following the ABC tradition of setting up discussions where everyone (or almost everyone) agrees with everyone else - in the current Lateline tradition on climate change matters."[/i] http://www.thesydneyinstitute.com.au/wordpress/ That's where Gerard lost me. To not only see Fox News as a bastion of diversity (and one would presume fairness), but to comment that [i]Agenda[/i] is swimming in dangerous waters when everyone, or "almost" everyone agrees with each other,the final nail in the coffin for this eager reader. Seems Gerard's idea (Henderson writes MWD) is that, if you are to have a discussion, you need statistically verifiable disagreement among panelists: as close to a 50/50 split as possible. It doesn't seem to matter that opinion among scientists on Climate Change is around 99% agreement that it exists. If you have 2 scientists discussing the subject one has to be pro-Climate Change and the other should be a denier, to fit Gerard's format. Suddenly a 99-1 breakup becomes 50-50. That's balance. One wonders how they'd go if the topic was, "Is the Earth flat?".

Ad astra reply

7/07/2009charles, BH, We should get used to reading Glenn Milne for amusement, even astonishment, not for informed opinion. He is a laughing stock in the media and among bloggers, except of course dyed-in-the-wool Coalition supporters. janice, I see the resurrection of the debt truck has begun with all its disingenuousness, and heard Turnbull on [i]AM[/i] this morning talking up the ‘debt truck’ and deflecting Lyndal Curtis’ pointed questions http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2009/s2618639.htm As I listened, I wondered how many, other than rusted-on supporters, would give any credence to anything he was saying. After the fake email affair, who will listen to him, let alone believe what he says? I wonder should the Government create a ‘Coalition debt truck’ with the debt that would have occurred if the Coalition was in power and having to deal with the $210 billion loss of revenue. The figure would be a little less than the Government’s debt, but who would notice? They could offset the difference in debt by adding the things that would [i][b]not[/i][/b] have happened under the Coalition, such as stimulus to the retail economy, to the building industry, the school building programme, avoiding a recession so far, and the loss of jobs that would have been higher under the Coalition. That would be a more powerful message than the tired old ‘debt truck’ the Coalition has launched – they seem to be suffering brain failure. Bilko, BB, It looks like News Limited is expecting all its journalists to come to its rescue; Gerard Henderson is another. I thought his piece was pretty lame. Clearly he and others are trying to reframe Rudd’s criticism of News Limited over this issue into [i]“It seems he does not like criticism and, consequently, does not see any reason to be gracious in victory.”[/i] So Henderson’s assertion is that Rudd doesn’t like criticism, and in this instance he ought not to criticize News Limited's journalism (which was shoddy) because he had a ‘victory’. What disingenuous twaddle. Your critique BB of Henderson’s notion of balance is razor-sharp.

Ad astra reply

7/07/2009After a lot of searching, I’ve found the John Hartigan speech to the National Press Club last Wednesday. If you’re interested in it, here’s the pdf file: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/files/hartiganspeech.pdf I couldn’t find it via [i]The Australian[/i], but did so on [i]Crikey[/i]. It’s not a paragon of logical flow and argument. There are some references to bloggers that will infuriate. Towards the end I was struck by these words: [i]“I see changes in the news mix – less of the negative stuff and more content that inspires, surprises and delights readers, more humour, more escapism. We have been imprisoned by traditional news judgment. Too often, things we think are important are far removed from what people say they want to know. To give you one example, most people in my view are well and truly bored with the politics of politics. If ever opinion polls showed this, it was at the start of this week.[/i] (I don’t know what he’s referring to here). [i]We need to do a much better job of addressing our credibility in the wider community. We need to become stronger advocates for the social value of what we do, and more prepared to correct and apologise for our mistakes.”[/i] I’m not holding my breath. These ‘media wars’ warrant more attention – later in the week.

Ad astra reply

7/07/2009I hear on ABC News just now that Chris Bowen has launched Labor's own 'debt truck' in Malcolm Turnbull's electorate, announcing that Australia has the lowest debt level in the world. Not a bad riposte.

janice

7/07/2009I don't know that this tit for tat thing is the best idea though Ad astra, as it may bring Labor down to the Coalition's low level. Should be okay though if they don't persist beyond the Wentworth electorate. It's all getting to be a bit childish at this stage in the electoral cycle I think.

Bilko

7/07/2009Janice Sometime you need to fight fire with fire remember Kenny Rogers "sometime you got to fight to when your a man" aka coward of the county.

Ad astra reply

7/07/2009janice, AS Bilko says, sometimes one has to fight fire with fire, and clearly Labor anticipated the revival of this Coalition stunt and was able to counter it the same day. Maybe Malcolm Turnbull will now reconsider the wisdom of his debt truck, although being the bull-at-a-gate fellow he is, that's probably asking too much. I liked what Julia Gillard said, namely that Turnbull should also include on his truck what drastic cuts he would be making in defence, education and health to avoid himself running a deficit. Turnbull's approach is, as usual, dishonest, and needs to be called as such. Chris Bowen's truck message is at least factually accurate.

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8/07/2009Ebenezer Both debt trucks are stunts. We've seen in the past that the Coalition has been able to exploit the debt truck to its advantage despite it being a stunt. That Labor has now produced its own truck may persuade the Coalition that there may be little mileage in the truck for them, and encourage them to put it in the parking lot, whereupon Labor will probably do the same. I'm saying that Labor's quick rejoinder may turn off the stunt on both sides. I don't like Labor getting involved in stunts, but if its rapid action aborts this particular Coalition stunt, I see it as the ends justifying the means. I'll be putting up a new post today - [i]Media wars - where does the blogger fit[/i].

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8/07/2009Bernard Keane, writing in [i]Crikey[/i] about the six economists' call for a review of the Australian financial system and the idea of a People's Bank, added to his piece a comment about the Coalition and Labor trucks that aligns with your views janice and Ebenezer. Keane says: [quote]"The timing couldn’t have been better, coming the day after Malcolm Turnbull revived the debt truck from the early nineties and the ALP - who had evidently been waiting for just such a moment from the Coalition - replied with the clunkier "Supporting Jobs Truck", which presumably hasn’t been donated by John Grant. While our politicians mess about with trucks, there are pressing issues to deal with.[/quote] Clearly Keane is unimpressed with the stunt. In another piece in [i]Crikey[/i] Richard Farmer writes [i]A brief history of political gimmicks and debt trucks[/i]: [quote]"Getting a political message through to people is no easy matter. When the opinion pollsters tell us that, by and large, Australians are confident about the future despite the world being in its worst economic recession for 80 years, it is clear that more than words are needed to turn thoughts away from the everyday matters of work, family, friends and football. Which is why politicians keep trying to come up with gimmicks that will create the 'cut-through' in interest that will let them improve their own career opportunities. I mean, how do you scare someone about government debt when people don't regard it as anything to do with them? "This week the Liberal Party has resurrected an old idea that worked back in the 1990s in the hope that history might repeat itself. Welcome back debt truck, with its giant billboard that can be constantly updated to illustrate in dramatic fashion how a Labor Government is funding us all living beyond our means. Australians are paying a heavy price for Labor's reckless spending, said Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull at the unveiling. "Within hours Labor's Superannuation Minister Chris Bowen was outside Mr Turnbull's electorate office in Sydney to launch Labor's very own attempt to get a message on the television. He was launching "Labor's Supporting Jobs Truck". No doubt we will be all trucked out by the time this particular game is finished in 18 months time when the next election is held. And it will probably take that long if either message is to finally get through to voters, perhaps even longer. Labor had some success with one of its little political games before the last election Labor when it decided that the time was right to really develop the impression that Mr Howard was a man who, with his history of core and non-core promises going back to his initial electoral victory, was incapable of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yet again the side of a bus was the chosen medium for the opening thrust -- not because the message would actually be seen by many people but because it gave that very necessary prerequisite for television coverage of a moving picture. The day a new interest rate rise was announced, Pinocchio Howard began touring the streets.[/quote] Here was an image of Howard with a Pinocchio nose on a bus side [quote]"The message was reinforced later when the Labor Party kept bobbing up in Parliament with copies of advertisements that the Liberal Party ran back in 2004. The then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd got a wonderful run on the nightly television news bulletins as he held up his little posters. There were no ifs, buts or maybes about the words in the ad; The HOWARD GOVERNMENT plan -- KEEP INTEREST RATES AT RECORD LOWS. "Mr Howard, by choosing to ignore what his party's advertisements so clearly said, and maintaining that his only promise was that interest rates under him would be lower than under Labor, managed to increase the credibility of Labor's attack on his pile of non-core promises. Using the opponent's own words, this time dressed up to look every bit like a Liberal Party advertisement, was tried a second time when Labor Party research started showing that people hated what they thought was a constant claim by Mr Howard that 'Working families in Australia have never been better off'. Well, in truth, the PM had said that once but in the year before the election it was members of the Labor party who kept repeating it ad nauseam. This little campaign worked a treat. Research showed that even those Australians who were better off did not like politicians reminding them of it. "Not that all of these attempts to get a message across are successful. In 1988, I rather painfully recall, those of us running the NSW Labor Party campaign were in desperate trouble and needed to back a 1000/1 winner to avoid an ignominious defeat. John Singleton was given the task of devising the impossible television advertisement that would convince the people of Sydney that Nick Greiner as Premier would be causing them great pain as their benefits were devoured. The result was the ugliest octopus you have ever seen with its tentacles capable of reaching into everyone's pocket. We unveiled the beast to hoots of derision from assembled journalists and received a great deal of free air play, but all we proved is that 1000 to one winners are hard to find."[/quote] Some of these stunts worked; time will tell how much dividend yesterday's stunts accrue.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?