On ABC News 24 there was never a cross word, not an insult, nor a whiff of political point scoring. No spite, no jabs, no barbs. It was as though we were attending a political funeral and everyone was showing respect for the dead. And, well, they were.
Having elected to forgo the less-than-scintillating TV offerings on both the ABC and SBS, the lure of some political excitement in the NSW election coverage on ABC News 24 was irresistible. The chance to experience regime-change, live, had all the potential of watching dictators topple in the Middle East.
“Where’s the bar?” asked one Labor supporter as he entered the party’s election-night venue at Randwick. It looked like being a lonely and forlorn evening for the true believers— to say nothing of the ABC News 24 viewers— poor things.
A freshly scrubbed-up Kerry O’Brien opened the News 24 election-night special at 6.30 with a live cross to the Liberal Party’s party at Parramatta Leagues Club where the champagne was beginning to flow. This was followed by Kerry announcing that we all knew what the result was going to be. At this stage there wasn’t even a result on the board. Talk about giving away the ending!
It was as though the ABC was trying to downplay what was to follow. It certainly lacked that ABC scent-of-blood excitement; the nostril-flaring Kerry O’Brien, when John Howard was about to go down to the Kevin-07 in 2007. At 7.15 about 5% of the vote had been counted and Kerry was trying to prod the two-person panel into some sort of political, election-night excitement. The panel consisted of two virtually unknown (outside NSW) political players, Gladys Berejiklian (Liberal) and Luke Foley (ALP), and the ABC News 24 producers couldn’t have picked two more polite, well-mannered, confrontational-lite politicians if they had done their talent-scouting in the court of the 15th Century Ming Dynasty.
By 7.30 about 12% of the vote had been counted—and wait for it— a trend was about to emerge. A graphic flicked up. Nathan Rees had lost his seat. He hadn’t, actually. But it create a frisson of fleeting excitement. At this stage a Labor minister (couldn’t catch the name as there were no captions) stated that the party had “suffered a range of mis-adventures” recently, which would have to be one of the great understatements of the evening.
It was about this time that the new whizz-bang computer-model or whatever, started to give the ABC’s election guru, Anthony Green, a tad of trouble. That is, it wasn’t working. Viewers were constantly told to take no notice of the particular graphic as it was wrong. At one stage viewers were actually asked to “just wait until we re-boot the computer”. I mean we all have trouble with our computers, but with a $1,000,000,000 service industry like the ABC you would think that they would use the sort of computers that land Boeing 747’s or Airbus 380’s. That is—reliable!
By 8.30 we were hearing that seats that had been Labor for 60 years were falling to the L-NP, and in numbers. One seat, that had never had a non-Labor member, was “gone”. And so the night progressed. It had a sort of Arsenic and Old Lace feel about it. He’s gone…she’s gone. He’s……….yep, he’s gone! But, as Kerry said, we all knew the result. And with the gentle politeness of both Luke Foley and Gladys Berejiklian what was needed was some Mozart, as an underscore, to add some depth to the night’s unfolding events.
One of the really strange things about graphics for each individual candidate was the amount of mayors standing for election, or re election. Every third candidate seemed to be a mayor of somewhere or other. But the top mayor of the evening was the Green Mayor of Marrickville, Fiona Byrne, who at the time of writing, seems to have failed to take the seat of Marrickville. Byrne seems to have had her eye on Kevin Rudd’s job by managing to introduce Middle East politics into local government and state politics.
Israel is safe.
Things eventually unfolded, as predicted by the polls, with the massive rejection of the Labor Party and its candidates. As the News 24 coverage drew to a close, it appeared that the ALP in opposition would be little more in size as the opposition in Tasmania. As Luke Foley bravely stated, “The heartland is gone … we will save some sticks of the furniture”.
The two highlights of the evening? The first was Barry O’Farrell’s victory speech. If ever there was any lingering doubt in the minds of the electors about O’Farrell’s light-weightedness, it would have surely disappeared when they saw his steely eyes which revealed perhaps more of Barry O’Farrell than any image during the election campaign. It seemed to say “bureaucrats beware”.
The second moment of magic was when Kerry O’Brien announced that he was going to interview the Premier Elect from the floor of the Parramatta Leagues Club. When the camera cut to O’Farrell, the new Premier said “I’m not being interviewed by you, I only want to talk to Gladys Berejiklian.” Which he then proceeded to do.
The extraordinary thing about the ABC News 24 coverage was the light-weight effort. The lack of interesting interviews, lack of some sort of excitement and the fancy graphics that failed to be accurate. The apparent lack of organisational skills. No one for Kerry to talk to! The lack of money and support from Aunty’s purse is beginning to show.
To paraphrase William Shakespeare “When politicians die there are no comets seen”, but a least we could have some decent lively television when they go.