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August 15th 2010 print

John Izzard

Election scoops

The gladiatorial contest that is the battle between the two leaders of the major parties, is a Roman circus, staged, managed and exploited by the media. It is their show — they are the promoters. They own the Coliseum.

Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.
                                                    From Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.

This election has been marked by daily “scoops’ in the Australian media, but nearly each one, when considered carefully, has lacked that most essential ingredient — substance. Or at least the sort of substance upon which a rational person might use to judge something of the worth and merit of the two prime-ministerial candidates.

Anyone trying to follow this 2010 election campaign could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the political system in this country is in danger of imploding. Have we all gone completely nuts??? 

Instead of revealing to their readers, viewers and listeners the qualities and failings of the two feature candidates, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot, and giving a clear definition of their policies, philosophies and substance, the media generally has been sucked into the very same vortex of spin, lies and manipulation that was the feature of the now discredited Rudd years. 

We seem to forget, as each election approaches, that the gladiatorial contest that is the battle between the two leaders of the major parties, is a Roman circus, staged, managed and exploited by the media. It is their show — they are the promoters. They own the Coliseum. Without media coverage we wouldn’t have a clue about anything. Without the media we might as well pick our preferred candidate from a Dulux colour card. 

So the media has THE crucial role to play in an election. The vital task of exposing cant, spin, lies and deception. But all of this noble questing is on the basis that journalist do not allow their own political preferences to interfere with the task at hand. We expect them not to be feather-footed with their beloved political heroes. 

Take three examples. 

In considering the Global Financial Crisis and the Rudd/Swan/Gillard/Tanner response, the media has successfully failed to separate the two issues. The first issue was Treasury’s recommendation to stimulate the economy. The second issue was how the Rudd government went about executing that Treasury recommendation. 

The Gillard-camp spin is that the Rudd/Gillard stimulus package saved Australia from economic ruin and massive unemployment. Forgetting for a moment that certain leading economists say this is utter rubbish, the big worry in many voters’ minds isn’t the action to stimulate the economy, but the way Rudd and Gillard went about the task. 

Burning pink batts, a rort-ridden school-hall and canteen building programme, a wacky green-loans scheme were never recommendations from Treasury. The Rocky Horror Show that became the Building the Education Revolution was never their idea. That economic mess was Rudd and Gillard’s alone. 

The second example is where the illegal boat-people issue is slanted by Left-leaning cheer-leaders in the media. And this was best illustrated by Jonathon Holmes during his little MEDIAWATCH programme last week

Holmes got his rant underway, wearing his famous Joe E Brown (Some Like it Hot) look-a-like smirk, with an attack on a Brisbane talk-back host, Michael Smith, with the following lines: 

Why does a nation of immigrants get so upset over a few hundred, or even a few thousand, unauthorised boat arrivals? 

It seems it’s a mixture of fear, and resentment. 

Well no, Jonathon Holmes, it’s not! That is the usual loony-Left depiction of the concerns Australians have about illegal boat arrivals. Australians have a distinct dislike about the idea that some people can break the law and get away with doing so. With about 5 to 6 thousand illegal boat-people expected to arrive by the end of the year, this is breaking-the-law big-time. Those involved will all have knowingly conspired with people-smugglers to break our various laws regarding how you enter this country legally. 

Australians know that if they do what illegal boat-people do when returning to Australia from another country — lying on their customs and immigration declarations, destroying documents or using forged ID papers, they would end up in prison, or fined, or both. 

The idea that you can break our laws with immunity is repugnant to most Australians. The idea that 5 or 6 thousand people could speed on our roads or totally disregard laws, and get away with it, just because they are of a special group, is equally unacceptable. 

The final example of Kafkaesque journalism is the treatment that Tony Abbott faced under the greatest “questing vole” in the media, Kerry O’Brien. 

Many observers of the faux-ethical standards used by the ABC have often speculated on the existence of a direct land-line between ALP Central and The 7.30 Report. Tony Abbott must have known his fate and that all the preparation in the world wouldn’t protect him for the onslaught. At least the mugging takes place in a chair. But to divert for a moment. 

Many years ago there was an American TV-quiz-show where the very last question, to win the grand prize, was always impossible to answer. One contestant, whose prize was a trip to Communist Poland to meet her long lost sister, was asked; “The flight control panel for the retro rocket on Apollo 13 space capsule has ten different coloured wires. Name the colour of these wires, in correct order, starting from left to right?” 

Last week Kerry O’Brien did a similar trick on Tony Abbott. He asked a technical question on the Gillard’s NBN broadband in comparison to the $34-billon-cheaper Abbott proposal. Of course the trap worked a treat. Tony Abbott could no sooner answer that question than if O’Brien had asked Gillard how many cylinders in the motors of the12 new submarines that Rudd/Gillard announces some time ago. Or for that matter whether the new medical scanners she has promised for Northern Tasmania runs on AC or DC current. 

Unfortunately, no one , or not many in the media, has floated the idea of a sensible look at possibly the most important issue of this election. The character of the two contestants. Two weeks ago Julia Gillard promised to show us the “real Julia”. So far, all we have found out is the rather nasty side of the real Julia. Attack advertisements, attempts at character assassination of Tony Abbott. 

The only real scoops in this election have been from Laurie Oakes. 

The really big scoop would be if someone could reveal just how a totally dysfunctional Labor government, and its new leader, has so successfully managed to hide the failures of its recent past. 

Now that would be a scoop!