As if a switch has been flicked, as if a group memo has gone out (perhaps from Rupert Murdoch), Australian political journalists have all very neatly and in a scarily synchronised fashion all decided there are problems with the Abbott government. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but this is the biggest case of too little too late that I have ever witnessed. It is now official that the mainstream political press is exactly one year and three months behind the independent media who, like me, have been pointing out to our readers since the day Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, that he is not fit for the job. Actually that’s not true. I and most others were saying it for six years before that. And now, after over a year of relentless, daily horrors from the Abbott camp, including internationally embarrassing gaffes, broken promises, horrible and unfair revenge policy, rorting of the public purse, corruption and mean spirited behaviour, it’s as if they’ve all suddenly had permission to point out that there might be a problem here. Low and behold, I think they might be right! Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
But if only it ended there. No. There’s another clause in the ‘you may now point out how bad the Abbott government is’ memo which they have all dutifully complied with to the letter. Not that I think it took any convincing. You guessed it. They only have permission to call the spade of the Abbott government a dysfunctional spade if they also maintain their completely misrepresentative and downright dishonest anti-factual narrative of Labor dysfunction at the same time. So the narrative goes like this: Abbott’s government is bad. We only just noticed. We also can’t help but notice it’s just as bad, if not possibly not quite as bad, as the previous Labor government.
Don’t believe me? I hear people like Bolt, Albrechtsen and Alan Jones have been piling on Abbott in their own synchronised act of ‘let’s give Julie Bishop a run’ narrative, while carefully laying the blame mostly at the feet of Abbott’s support team. Because criticising Abbott himself would be career suicide for these types I assume. I’m not, however, going to link to these bottom-feeders. But I will link to Murdoch-Liberal-lite commentator Peter van Onselen, who today contributed this piece: ‘Wheels are falling off as Abbott careers to year’s end’. This article provides bad feedback from Abbott’s Liberal friends about his dire political situation, and also helpfully highlights this line:
‘So far, however, Abbott’s government more closely resembles the dysfunction of the Labor line-ups he fought so hard to defeat.’
Then we also have Peter Hartcher, who today contributed ‘Abbott’s rudderless ship won’t scrape by’, which quotes numerous un-named Liberal sources who are ‘panicking’ about Abbott’s terrible performance (Hartcher’s favourite sources are un-named). Hartcher then summarises:
‘Is the rising panic justified? The comparison with the Rudd and Gillard years is particularly striking. In a couple of ways it is apt.’
I won’t bore you with the ways that Hartcher thinks criticism of Abbott is an apt comparison with Rudd and Gillard, as it’s really just more bullshit from a journalist we have come to expect this sort of bullshit from. Anyone who has read Gillard’s My Story will understand Hartcher is the lowest form of gutter rat ever to inhabit the Press Club and can’t be trusted to report anything about Labor in a way that is objective and fair. Here is a quote from Gillard about Hartcher and his similarly badly behaved Press Club colleagues:
‘No journalist apologised to his or her readers when dramatically reported [leadership vote] deadlines passed in silence, nor publically discussed how they themselves were systematically used and misled in order to puff up claims about the number of Labor members who wanted to vote for Kevin Rudd. A few, like Peter Hartcher, became combatants in Kevin’s leadership war’.
So not only was this man, Hartcher, a key player in the leadership dysfunction that he then wrote about I assume every week for the three years of Gillard’s government (although I couldn’t say this for sure because I gave up reading him after the first broken-record Labor-leadership-tensions crap), he is also still a keen-perpetuator of the misleading information that the previous Labor government was dysfunctional. How this man is still employed and still welcome in the Press Club is beyond me. I’ve written before about how leadership dysfunction doesn’t automatically lead to political dysfunction. Note this isn’t an opinion. This is based on fact. Even while Gillard was fighting against Rudd’s betrayal and white-anting, she was delivering political stability, in a minority government. Here’s another quote from her book to back up my opinion with some facts:
‘Minority government delivered the nation effective and stable government. This was the most productive parliament, able to deal with the hardest of issues. During the terms of my government, members of parliament sat for more than 1,555 hours and 566 pieces of legislation were passed. This is more legislation than was passed in the last term of the Howard Government, notwithstanding their complete command of parliament with a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.’
This record can’t even be compared with Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister, because any comparison would just be too ridiculous to even contemplate. Abbott’s biggest achievements are noted as turning good policy off. The Mining Tax. The Carbon Price. And his ability to stop. the. boats. Even if you’re a Murdoch hack and you think these three policy successes constitute achievements, and not crimes against Australia’s future and the lives of desperate asylum seekers, it’s still a very lonely looking policy achievement scoreboard. It can’t compare to Gillard’s success because it’s too pathetic to even begin to compare. Abbott’s budget is a barnacle covered ship that never even set sail before it became a rusted shipwreck. Abbott’s government is defined by, is awash with failure to its very core. There is no justifiable comparison with the previous Labor government that does justifiable comparisons justice.
Lastly, I’ve include Lenore Taylor. Even when Taylor is being accurate and generally reasonable in the Guardian about the awfulness of the Abbott government (and to be fair, she has been very critical since the start of Abbott’s term), she still manages to get a punch in for the previous Labor government. It does seem to be entirely compulsory for every member of the Press Club to follow this pattern. In her article today, ‘Three things that a good government would do’, Taylor wrote:
‘Abbott told his party room on Tuesday (in the same speech in which he promised to clean the barnacles and before all the confusion about what they were) that his government’s “historical mission is to show that the chaos of the Rudd/Gillard years is not the new normal”. After a truly chaotic week we can safely say that mission has not been accomplished.’
The Labor-government-was-dysfunctional narrative is just not true and everyone who repeats it is treating their readers like idiots. It’s just not true. It’s a misrepresentation of political reality. It’s certain proof of journalistic bias and misinformation. It was rampant throughout the media for the entire length of the Labor government’s previous two terms. And now the myth continues as journalists come up with ways to justify how they missed the incompetence of the Abbott government while the Abbott government was campaigning to become the Abbott government. They missed their opportunity to scrutinise the Abbott government and for that reason they should never be trusted ever again. It’s not like any of them have the courage to stand up and say ‘yes, we got it wrong. Our obsession with Labor leadership tensions led us to misrepresent the Labor government as a bad government when on all objective measures it was a surprisingly successful government. We’re sorry we did this, and we’re sorry our focus on this one political angle prevented us from properly scrutinising Opposition Leader Abbott and his plans for Australian. We’re all paying for our mistakes now’. You just won’t ever see this happen. So instead we get bullshit served up to us as truth. Even when the broken clocks are correct twice day, they’re still wrong about the Labor government.