The other night, I listened to the so-called debate between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten as they vied for the votes of the ALP rank and file as part of the process of electing a new leader. It was called a debate, but was more like one of those stately minuets in BBC period dramas where everyone knows their role, which is largely mincing around, exchanging pleasantries and making courtly bows to each other. But is this what the ABC should really be doing, covering the purely internal rituals of a single political party? Or can we assume that the same free kick will be given to all other parties? Will the ABC cover the next car rally of the Motoring Enthusiasts party, the annual BBQ of the Shooters and Fishers party or perhaps a weekend romp with the Sex party? I doubt it.
There were literally dozens of references to Tony Abbott, with whom the ALP clearly remains besotted; it seems that no ALP personality can get through a sentence without invoking the Prime Minister and how he has unleashed the seven plagues of Egypt. I think they really should be told in the interests of a viable two-party system: get over it; you lost. And as I predicted some weeks ago, the image makers are now in full swing in turning Albanese into some sort of lovable Ben Chifley whom you can call ‘Albo’, as he had such ’umble origins, while Shorten promotes himself with a quivering voice as a new age saviour with unique healing powers for the disabled and the power to right endless wrongs. The Coalition parties should get ready to debunk both images, as they will certainly take hold.
The best clue to what Shorten is all about came in his summing up in the debate. Why, he confided, as his voice dropped to a whisper for dramatic effect, the age of messiahs in the ALP was over; we are now one big, happy family. But what he meant was, ‘You have no more need for egocentric messiahs like Kevin Rudd because, lo, I am here, I have been called and I am ready.’ The luvvies rivalled a Q&A audience with their rapturous applause of any reference to the disabled, refugees, handouts, government schemes, climate change and women, whom they apparently see as a dispossessed and alienated minority. And underlying it all was this depressingly dependent and mendicant view of society that was rejected at the last election, or so I thought.
The oddest part of the current performance of the Labor party is that, on the sidelines, anxious not to be left out of the fun, is young Paul Howes and his announcement, not that he is a candidate for the Senate vacancy caused by Bob Carr’s resignation, but that he is not a candidate for the non-vacancy in the Senate caused by Carr’s not having resigned. The Labor party’s grandees must have wanted to throttle Howes when he made this announcement. After all, the party is supposed to be in healing mode, with shrinking violets doing anything but talk about themselves and doing their best to negate the last seven years or so of self-promotion and personality divisions, when along comes this whippersnapper, hogging the limelight, promoting himself and confirming in the public mind that the Labor party is little more than a collection of rival warlords. It also appears that he wants to remain a director of the board of Australian Super, one of the funds that provide sinecures for apparatchiks on the way up and down the greasy pole. A simple reform that would be well received by the public would to require all super funds to publish their directors’ fees, say three times a year and in a prominent place. After all, super funds are the people’s money, especially those of humble workers.
Despite all the abuse hurled at the Australian, one of the many good things about it is that it contains the most extensive coverage of Aboriginal issues. The treatment is factual, sympathetic and goes far beyond the usual political argy-bargy. In particular, it has frequent and detailed pieces on Aboriginal art and culture by some very good journalists, particularly Nicolas Rothwell, a brilliant writer who captures the Aboriginal spirit and ethos more than any other journalist. As such, it is amazing that the progressives are not out in the street celebrating this wonderful newspaper for its coverage of what is supposed to be a matter of great interest and concern to them, instead of smearing the newspaper and, by proxy, its owner. Speaking of abuse, this is now a regular feature of a lot of ABC programs. For instance, the other day Clive Palmer was calmly making a few valid points about defects in our electoral system. Naturally, the interviewer would not ask any questions, as journalists no longer know how to do this (except when they are interviewing each other) as they regard their role as making assertions, as if they were parties to the debate. So the journalist contented herself with launching an intemperate attack on Palmer that provoked him to say: ‘These are facts and all you can do is launch an attack on me for raising them.’ I actually felt sympathy for him. Likewise, Media Watch is now a vehicle for anti-Murdoch diatribes. I realise that nothing will probably be done about this, but I intend to keep asking, is this what the ABC should really be doing? One of the sleepers in Australian politics is whether the Coalition Government will force some objectivity and balance onto this divisive organisation. Will it?
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