Virginia Trioli writes a ‘weekend read’ which is emailed out most Saturday mornings. A few weeks ago, there was the story about
a bakery of the kind of layered, puffed, frosted, creamy delights that you'd usually only see on the table of your just-baptised cousin.
that has been trading for eleven years, earning a wonderful reputation for its products. Nat, the owner, had even being invited to be a guest on Masterchef. The business operated through Melbourne COVID lockdowns and all the other troubles and trials that running a small business entails. Naturally, Nat hadn’t really had a day off since the business started and finally decided enough was enough. She announced on the bakery’s social media channels they would close in three months.
According to Trioli, the world went mad. People on social media telling the business they were not allowed to close, customers abusing staff if their favourite bakery delectable wasn’t available or had sold out, not to mention the people camping out from the early morning to be first in line when the bakery opened — and being very rude and arrogant (putting it mildly) about the ‘rights of regulars’ to jump the queue. The general anger and rudeness made the owner consider shutting the business down earlier. Trioli invited the Nat on her Melbourne radio program and discussed the vitriol and hatred that was generated by some of the customers
And then the strangest thing happened. Her customers got their act together. They started to say thank you and mean it. They queued quietly and respectfully. Masks were finally put back on. Some customers who must have heard the chat even wrote Nat an apology for their pushiness. Manners returned, it just took a little reminding.
In the first week of Parliament, there was a hope for a less combative style. Sadly, it didn’t last long. By Wednesday, according to The New Daily
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton launched an hour of sustained innuendo on the topic of Labor and trade unions.
He asked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese if he had ever met any CFMEU official who had engaged in criminal behaviour.
While not directly accused, there was certainly the implication that Prime Minister Albanese was pandering to sectors of the union movement. The appropriate Minister had announced the previous Sunday the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) would be effectively neutered until the legislation could be prepared to disband the Commission. According to the government, the ABCC was encouraged by the former government to go on a political witch-hunt against the construction unions under the guise of workplace health and safety. As The New Daily
One Liberal suggested this was proof that Mr Dutton was fashioning himself after a predecessor and parliamentary bruiser.
Politics grew more hostile and rude when Tony Abbott was opposition leader. That’s not a matter of taste but the conclusion of political scientist Marija Taflaga, who ran an analysis of the levels of disruption across parliaments.
Former Prime Minister Abbott got the job by being relentless in his criticism of the government of the day. The media didn’t question his claims on a number of issues including the carbon tax (that even his Chief of Staff now admits never really was a tax), the pump priming of the economy during the Global Financial Crisis (since copied reluctantly by the most recent Coalition Government during the COVID Pandemic) to name just two.
In the same week, new Coalition Senator Jacinta Price, representing the Northern Territory, gave her maiden speech. According to Crikey, Price
laid out how that opposing “pointless virtue signalling” instead of addressing “true causes of why Indigenous Australians are marginalised” is her political raison d’etre.
Price directly took aim at the Voice to Parliament and the prime minister, claiming that Albanese had said “that our Voice to Parliament bestowed upon us through the virtuous act of symbolic gesture by this government is what is going to empower us”.
Two other indigenous Senators also gave their maiden speeches during the first week of Parliament and supported the ‘voices’ concept. One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson also walked out of the Senate rather than pay respects to the indigenous owners of our land. Guess which opinions got most of the media interest.
The New Daily
Question time is now mostly an opportunity to mug for the cameras with lines that fit into a TV bulletin. Journalists and readers are often willing accomplices.
Many MPs are in politics precisely because it is an excuse for dominance displays. Only recently have we heard more from those who feel otherwise and only after some ugly allegations.
Polling suggests that creating such a body [an Indigenous Voice to Parliament] is fairly popular (although not as popular as some of the Albanese government’s other major policies). Giving a disproportionate amount of air time to arguments like Hanson’s case that Indigenous recognition is itself promoting division and Price’s belief that a focus on symbolic gestures obstructs real work improving Indigenous welfare will only undermine that.
Price and Hanson are from different political parties. One’s been in federal politics for decades, the other is just getting started. But what they have in common is how they’ve used racial politics to make a name for themselves.
The fight over the Indigenous Voice to Parliament will draw national attention, stoked by a media built around amplifying conflict and controversy. The first week of Parliament shows Price and Hanson are all too ready to seize this opportunity.
While the views of Dutton, Hanson and Price should be reported, there needs to be consideration in the various newsrooms around the country about balance and accuracy. Most Australians probably don’t care if there is a CFMEU or any other Union sticker on the side of a construction worker’s helmet and it clearly isn’t a safety hazard as claimed by some. There is considerable support for a reconciliation process with our indigenous peoples. Why report people making an issue out of either topic for their own self-aggrandisation without also reporting there are other opinions?
While negativity and scandal invention apparently sells papers and keeps eyeballs glued to the media, there seems to be a lot of picking winners rather than reporting the events. The media doesn’t have to start their reports with the antics such as Dutton’s or Hanson’s. Hanson is not the only one who has been playing the media, rather than paying the media, for her publicity for decades. Like the bakery in Melbourne, if the aggravation and poor behaviour subsides, everyone is better off. The media should be reflecting this in their reporting.
What do you think?