The esteemed Press Gallery continues to fantasise that Question Time and related parliamentary events should be the determining factor in the public’s mind when it comes to political analysis.
Perhaps this isn’t as surprising at it may seem, as the word often missing from “Press Gallery” is “Parliamentary”. Their be-all and end-all is what happens in Parliament, or to be more precise between 2pm and 3.10pm during Question Time and the the endless points of order, SSOs, and other stunts brought on by the Opposition.
They also maintain the fiction that “both sides of politics” are as bad as each other, because for every tactical stunt by the Opposition there is a Dorthy Dixer or a balancing catcall from the government.
But consider the logic…
Why would the government seek to wreck its own parliament?
This simple and obvious question is rarely asked, because the answer is also obvious: childish as it may seem to say it, in the overwhelming number of cases,
“It wouldn’t. The Opposition starts it, almost every time.”
Q. Which side makes the overwhelming majority of pointless Points Of Order? Which side calls unnecessary (and 100% doomed) Suspensions Of Standing Orders? Which side asks virtually no policy questions at all (causing, for example, Craig Emerson to complain that he’s not received a single question on Trade in the life of the Parliament. Ditto for questions from Pyne on Education, Turnbull on the NBN, and Bishop on Foreign Affairs – except for her bogus “Boganville” question, which doesn’t count).
In short, which side is out to wreck Parliament, to discredit it and make it unworkable, despite promising (when it suited them) that we would see after 2010 a new paradign, a “kinder gentler polity”?
A. The Opposition.
If Question Time is to elicit information, what choice has the government but to ask itself these questions, as ridiculous as that may seem (perhaps more ridiculous because the Press Gallery ignores every one of these Dorothy Dixers)?
In the Daily Telegraph today we have a Steve Lewis penned article listing a supposed “poll” of Press Gallery journos “awarding” gongs to various ministers and members for things the Gallery finds important: Best Moment, Biggest Gaffe etc. The contributors to this “poll” keep themselves anonymous, perhaps a case of protecting their journalistic sources, even though their sources are themselves!
Ironically the single mention of policy is an award for the “Smooth Introduction Of The Carbon Tax”, although from the way the same bunch stenograph the Opposition’s outrageously exaggerated claims about the Tax, you could be forgiven for believing they thought it was an abject failure. So, a bit of a surprise there.
Predictably, Steve Lewis cites the Peter Slipper texts as the low point of the Parliamentary year. Well, he would say that wouldn’t he, seeing as Lewis himself was the chief enabler and purveyor of the egregious abuse of process that Mr. Justice Rares found these Slipper “revelations” had become.
Lewis published the stories found to be irrelevant. Lewis suborned the diary leaks found, in part, to prove the abuse of process. The female genitals comments that finally caused Slipper to resign were not even uttered while Ashby was in Slipper’s employment, but in the spirit of stitching-up the Speaker for anything and everything, Ashby threw them into the mix at the last moment anyway, after Slipper’s abuse case had been made, and therefore not included in the judgement. Nothing to do with Ashby’s employment, so probaby they would have constituted part of the abuse of process, if they had been made public earlier. Rares did not mention these, but hey, he only had 76 pages to make his case! He’d have needed hundreds of pages if he was to really give this disgraceful legal episode the write-up it well and truly deserved.
So, we have the Press Gallery delivering their judgement in their terms of what made up the best and worst of the year in politics. They have a monopoly on Parliamentary coverage, so naturally they would reckon what goes on in Parliament is the most important thing of all. You could call it “Protecting their proprietary interest”.
But what was truly important, and while we’re at it, what do the PBers believe were the worst journalistic performances of the year?
I’ll kick off with the Bludger’s Award for “The Most Morally Bereft, Nihilistic, Senseless and Unnecessarily Cynical Article Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty” for Michelle Grattan’s recent column on the upshot of the Ashby court case, where she said that a scandal over which she had once, before the judgement was delivered, called on the Prime Minister to “fall on her sword” had become, by the time that judgement was delivered, a “battle which had been lost, but a war that had been won by Ashby.”
Grattan could not find it in her heart to express one scintilla of synpathy for the ex-Speaker, despite the travesty of justice that had brought about his political demise.
Why? Because even though the judge believed the case was an abuse of process, Ashby had succeeded in wrecking Slipper’s reputation and ruining his career from a position of millions of dollars worth of subsidized legal aid and the liberal use of lies, irrelevancies and outright bullshit, spread evenly around the place by the very people who now call this “the Lowest Moment”.
The Press Gallery’s collective indifference to the tainted process by which Slipper was destroyed was disgusting, but Grattan’s column stood out for its particular brand of casual, indifferent cruelty. In response to all this morally barren behaviour by the complainant and his lawyers, plus the salacious coverage by herself and her colleagues while they thought they could get a resignation from Gillard, Michelle Grattan wrote one of the most disgusting “So Whats?” in recent journalistic history.
So, PBers, I give you “The Bludgers Awards For Putrescence In Australian Journalism And Politics”.
Other nominations for the worst of the journalistic-and-political worst will be enthusiastically considered.