Saturday, June 25, 2011

On The Drum - Political Press Release Dressed Up as Opinion

The Drum is part of the ABC website and features commentary/articles not only from ABC writers and journalists but from the public at large.

A look through the list of contributors show a number of politicians, comedians, amateur bloggers, academics, non-ABC journalists, business leaders, lobbyists and other government types.

The purpose of The Drum is, and I quote “Analysis and views on the issues of the day”. This will mean that people will often write views that will most likely will be in keeping with their political leanings, whether left, right, green, communist, etc.

Now normally this doesn’t bother me too much. The last few weeks, however, you cannot read a media site without falling over at least a dozen articles scathing in their criticism of the Gillard Government with only a small handful of articles actually mentioning, if not discussing, some of their accomplishments.

Now don't get me wrong here. I do not, for one moment, think that this is perfect government, nor do I think the prime minister has been blameless in all this. Areas that have not gone well for the government include:
  •  The asylum seeker debate has been nothing short of atrocious; as each party seeks to outdo the other in how they low they can go. As the son of a refugee (Hungary – 1956) I have a small inkling about the mindset of people fleeing their homeland and what they go through to make their family safe. For those that did not watch it, I highly recommend the recent series on SBS, Go Back To Where You Came From as additional food for thought.
  • The discussion and decisions made in respect of the mining tax ended up as a win for the mining industry. The government should have gone in much harder, and it seems that our current leaders do not have the necessary fortitude to go up against these mining giants. It seems like all you need is a few million dollars to mount a scare campaign and the government backs right down.
  • The carbon tax debate has been poorly executed by the government, at least in terms of how it promotes its message to us, the voting public. This is, however, a “work in progress” and will leave final judgment until the legislation is announced, debated and passed.
These are a few of the biggies, anyway.

Now offsetting this are the achievements that the government has made in the last twelve months:
  •  First of all, it is in government. Yes, it was a piss poor election campaign but at the end of the day it was Julia Gillard that has the support of the independents and not Tony Abbott. Since then there has not been one piece of legislation that has been rejected by parliament. So, for the time being, I believe this to be a success. I certainly doubt that Tony Abbott would have managed it.
  • The Australian economy is still one of the best performing in the world. Yes we have the mining industry to help us there, but the mines do not employ a significant percentage of the overall workforce. Yes, previous government policies (both Howard and Hawke/Keating) have created a good base for our economy. However the decisions made by, first, Rudd, then continuing with Gillard, in respect of cash payouts, the BER program for schools etc has certainly assisted us in avoiding recession. We are still in uncertain times, as the current Greece issue shows, however our country will have a better chance than most in avoiding a significant downturn.
  • The National Broad Band Network will be seen in the future as a significant infrastructure development for the country, in much the same way that the Snowy Hydro Scheme was praised last century. This week the government moved a step closer to ensuring this will happen with agreements with both Telstra and Optus concerning the transfer of existing infrastructure and customers. Many will argue that governments should not own and operate infrastructure of this type. Having seen how private enterprise can stuff up on large scale infrastructure (electrical asset maintenance in Kilmore is one that readily springs to mind) I can only disagree.
So, as you can see, my opinion is some wins, a couple of losses and some work still in progress. Which is why I find it harder and harder to accept some of the commentary being published looking for Gillard’s scalp as she has apparently “failed’ in this last twelve months.

The tipping point for me was an article read on The Drum composed by Kevin Donnelly. Kevin is currently the Director of the Education Standards Institute (actually a private company that likes to think of itself as a "think tank") but was previously known as the former Chief of Staff to Kevin Andrews (former Minister of the Howard Government). Yes, this should have sent alarm bells ringing but I read it anyway.

Having built up a fair head of steam, I then let rip with this response (now published on The Drum):
It is hard to know where to start in finding fault with this article.
It could be the pointless comparisons that are made between all our prime ministers since 1972 (I seriously doubt you could have properly made those observations about any of our prime ministers after they had been in the job for 12 months. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?)
It could be the glossing over of John Howard's reason for longevity as Prime Minister (the misconception of the last 30 years in politics is that you "knew what he stood for" - he was a pragmatist and flip-flopped as much as any other politician has, or will).
It could be the irrelevant inclusion of an observation made about a documentary made "a few years ago" (so empty bookshelves and an inability to find time to cook are pointers to someone not being fit to be prime minister? What rubbish!)
It could be the tired attempt at the suggestion that her choice of career vs kids or married vs unmarried somehow changes her view on a number of policy matters, in an unconstructive way (an example or two would be useful if you want to bring up that hoary old chestnut again).
It could be the incorrect use of the Peter Principle (I cannot see how you can say she has failed or is acting incompetently. You have not provided any examples of failure, just cases of work in progress, or random perceptions.)
It could be the fact that the article fails to discuss or at least acknowledge the successes that the Gillard has had in the last 12 months, and there have been many, not least of which is successfully managing a minority government.
It could be all of these things combined. Or it could just be that the whole article smacks of a Liberal Party press release in order to take advantage of the media hype that is the one year anniversary of this prime minister.

I think this came about because I had been sick in bed with a stomache bug all yesterday. Being incapacitated for such a long period of time means that sooner or later my normally active mind needs to have an outlet to let off steam, and here it was. I felt much better after writing that.

Have a nice day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said Steve, i totally agree....

This is the era of bagging, total cult of personality politics and sadly, a too powerful lobby from some parts of the media that seriously damages the old Aussie notion of a fair go.

The rubbish of Murdoch driven ABC 'percieved bias' is driving this attempt by the ABC to be more right....when it is only the outrageous rightness of the News Linited (or should we say Limited News) that makes any balanced opinion appear far left!

Ahh that does feel better!