You have to marvel at the naiveity of the Press Gallery, especially when writ large, as set out in the excerpt below.
There’s been a lot of this about lately. This example is from Michael Gordon in The Age today…
If one slogan resonated more than stopping the boats, or axing the tax, or ending the waste, in the lead-up to the election a year ago tomorrow; it was the promise of grown-up, no-excuses government, founded on the unity of purpose and discipline that defined Abbott in opposition.
The expectation, at least my expectation, was that Abbott would scrupulously honour that commitment, even if it meant being branded timid in his first term, with the aim of building trust and putting a more ambitious reform agenda to the voters in 2016.
Gordon’s “expectation” turned out well, didn’t it?
Never mind that Abbott Opposition’s “unity of purpose and discipline” wrecked the processes of the Parliament, vilified a female Prime Minister, fertilized the hateful spite of the shock jocks and sent the nation into a black economic and mental funk from which it has still not recovered.
Cheerleading hacks like Gordon don’t worry about the nuances. The Boats have been stopped, and bugger the cost. The Carbon Tax has been repealed, making Australia the only country in the world to go backwards on Climate Change, rendering us a laughing stock, the reversal about to throw thousands out of work to no practical end. The Mining Tax is struck down at the cost of the superannuation hopes of millions of lower paid workers. And all of them are costing a fortune, dreamed up years ago as knee jerk reactions, and kept for no good purpose other than to be able to place a dubious tick in a dusty check box.
And of course Gordon does not rate the promises broken. For him and his ilk only one side of the ledger is visible. And if you can squeeze a kept promise out of the cowering, cringeing state under attack from all sides that Abbott has turned Australia into to get his bony arse on Howard’s Chesterfields, then so be it. Michael Gordon’s in marketing. It’s not his job to count costs of production, only the sales. Abbott’s victims will bear the price. Gordon’s job is to keep himself in a job by being right, and to stay detatched from his readers’ day-to-day miseries. “Promises kept” equal “Abbott success”, equal “Press Gallery savvy”.
The simple truth is less complicated… Abbott: once a scrapper in opposition, always a scrapper in government.
Forget the Hartcher man-love and the “International Statesman” bullshit. And the dashed hopes of the Michael Gordons of this world that maybe their boy might have tried a little bit harder not to make the Gallery hacks look like fools. No worries, there’s still time, Gordon tells us. If he and his pontificating colleagues can wring a “success” out of Abbott, you can bet they will.
Abbott’s government has been running like a well-oiled publicity machine, more devoted to set piece PR stunts than substantive governance. We’ve had Tony The Negotiator, Tony The Fiery War Prime Minister, Tony The Sober Adjudicator, Tony The King Solomon Of The Nation. It’s the publicity machine that the Gallery likes to write about, without an admission that they’re part of it. Damn the reality.
Abbott’s changed his hair so that he looks like (or thinks he does) one of those sombre-suited business types, all slicked and perfectly coifffed. The idiot fringe is gone. The ears don’t seem to stick out as much as they used to. He tries to be photographed from the left so you can’t see his hooked nose. I’m sure Tony would prefer the word “aquiline” nowadays.
He speaks as if every word has the fate of nations resting upon it.
And he’s found a niche. A small town bovver boy speaking truth to power: telling Putin off, threatening ISIS, sticking his nose into every potential war going about. In doing this he conforms to the classic Liberal Australian Prime Minister mold: yapping like a lap dog, looking for a National Security hook from which to drape his credentials as a gritty fighter, punching above his weight, making Australia proud.
In order to do this he has to find a war, any war to join in.
He tried the Ukraine with that ridiculous notion that somehow we could insert a battalion – yes, a battalion – of SAS troops into East Ukraine to fight off the Russian backed rebels while the AFP (another one of his favourite uniformed mobs) calmly and forensically went about gathering evidence of the Russian bear’s perfidy.
The he tried Iraq (again!). We sent a couple of Hercules transports that dropped some desultory supplies to the top of a mountain that had already been substantially evacuated. “Please, PLEASE Mr. President, can we play too?” Like a Jack Russell doing loops over going in the car, Tony has been, above all else Tony Everywhere.
He even travelled to the UK to meet with minor officials over we-do-not-know-what (something for which Gillard or Rudd would have been vilified in the media, their receipts and their wanderings subject to the most ptitless analysis as a waste of taxpayers’ money on a grandstanding junket). While Rudd or Gillard’s trips overseas were written up in the context of travel rorts or shoe malfunctions by a faux reluctant press (and still are), Abbott has been branded an International Statesman for doing what any PM would be expected to do in the circumstances.
Oh, and of course, while in the UK seeking relevance, he managed to pick a fight with Scotland. Scotland! Who next? Chile? Lithuania? Lower Bosuto Land?
You can’t resist the thought that the most surprising thing about all this VIP adventuring is that he didn’t completely fuck it up. So elated were they that he managed to survive at all, his pals in the newspapers, the Gallery and the electronic media have elevated him to the status of Leader Of The Free World. Anything at all to distract from the fact of failure, while at home, to get anything constructive done. All he has “accomplished” (yes, they’re written-up as “accomplishments”) is to destroy Labor’s achievements, and in the process rob the revenue of tens of billions of dollars, while closing down entire industries on ideological grounds. I’m sure the shift workers of General Motors, or the thousands about to be disemployed from the Solar industry, the students struggling under crippling HECS debt and the young unemployed faced with six months of penury before they qualify for the dole will be cheering Tony on as he takes the fight up to the evildoers in Iraq.
And to have a war, you have to have an enemy.
On the home front, the local Muslim demographic has come in for a pasting from the Murdoch media. They have been vilified, branded, mocked for their funny ways and clothes and stamped with the “Terrorist” brand. The ridiculous “Team Australia” invention, so reminiscent of an in-house promo for some Reality TV show… a “Must See Episode”, comes to mind. Watch as Tony holds out the hand of friendship to the local Muslim community leaders, while his nasty side is unleashed in the Daily Telegraph.
My operating assumption is that whatever the Daily Telegraph prints is the Old Tony talking. The threatener, the standover man, the bully. They are the Bad Cop to Tony’s Good Cop act.
(Incidentally, don’t youse just love the muted bleatings of the Fairfax scribblers as they lament the number of Exclusives drip fed to their competition at News?)
And it hasn’t only been Muslims. The disabled, unemployed, even his precious pensioners and superannuants (the ones whose savings he wasn’t going to touch, remember?) have been set up as bludgers, miscreants, unworthy drains on the future of the nation, and (Joe Hockey’s word) “Leaners”.
This is as opposed to the “Lifters”… the rent-seeking, tenured bizoids running cartels and monopolies based on antiquated technology and ancient business models. There are the simple diggers, coming to a back yard near you for their coal seam gas, or to build their freeways. There are the construction thugs – not not the unions, but their bosses – looking for any opportunity to rig up a crane and squirrel long tunnels to nowhere through bedrock and residents’ back yards. There are the spivs and the shonks of the finance industry who, terrified of having to work in their customers’ best interests, petitioned the new government for a return to the good old days of rorts and confidence tricks where well-oiled sleeve tuggers told hapless retirees of the next “dead cert” investment. Ponzi schemes most of them, but hey, a man’s got a right to be crook hasn’t he? If the punter wants to read the prospectus there’s a copy available on Alpha Centauri for their perusal, right? In the meantime, just sign here, here and here.
Yet despite this kick in the teeth to the Australian people, a few stern looks through slitted eyes and some mumbled Abbottian outrage has the voters not quite flocking back to the safety net of Liberalism, but at least edging back towards them again. What a pack of easily manipuated sheep they are! No wonder Gordon writes about them with such detatchment. They are the ones who fall for the spin and the snake-oil, not those with the savvy, like Gordon. Yet his whole piece is predicated on how he swallowed Abbott’s shit sandwich without chewing. As Andrew Elder would put it, they should have attended to their job descriptions, not just attended press conferences (and worse, believed what they heard).
Any fool with a gramme of understanding of human nature and functional brain cell could see that once Tony Abbott, always Tony Abbott. They could see that the Coalition had no policies. They only had tactics (for which the Press Gallery offered them heaped praise). We even had some (yes Michelle, this means you) who said it didn’t mater whether the Coalition had any policies at all. They were going to be elected anyway. These are the same people who now gnash their teeth and rend their garments with the miserable anguish of the betrayed. There’s only one thing for it: pick themselves up, dust themselves off, wipe away the tears and get on with making history fit what they wrote.
What better way than to invent a war? You can’t have War Journalists – full of high dudgeon and outrage against the barbarities ISIS perpetrated against their colleagues – the REAL hero journalists, who actually go to the front lines – without a War Prime Minister. If Tony Abbott hadn’t existed, the Press Gallery would have had to invent him. Come to think of it, that’s just what they did. They just have to find a round hole into which to insert the square peg that Abbott has always been, right back from the days when his own seminary sacked him by sending him to a place worse than Hell… they lumbered him with a congregation in Penrith. It burns! It burns!
We have a supposedly seasoned political commentator like Michael Gordon saying that he fully expected Tony Abbott to change the habits of a lifetime, overnight. It is now revealed that, all along, he personally wanted Abbott and his gang to win (as if it hadn’t been bleedin’ obvious from reading his opinionated meanderings). Michael Gordon thought their were going to bring sobreity and stability back to government. He didn’t think they would be the disorganized rabble they turned out to have always been. It was going to be The Miracle Of Manuka: a bunch of private school, privileged prefects, more suited to wrecking and heckling than building, were suddenly going to turn into responsible, rational elder statesmen.
Even today, from reading the various Press Gallery hacks and their summaries of the First Twelve Months, you can see that they’re still expecting things to calm down, for the Coalition to take back a strong lead in the polls (their rightful place) again, for Abbott the Scrapper to turn into Abbott the Statesman. The slightest hint of improvement in the opinion polls – from total obliteration to mere erasure of their entire majority – is regarded as a strong sign that the Grown Ups Are In Charge at last. They – the ones who bragged they had 200 policies ready to go and were prepared for government on a heart beat’s notice – only took a year to get…. where? About a million votes behind where they were 12 months ago, with their Budget in tatters, wandering aimlessly around the world looking for a war wagon to hitch onto. Some achievement!
If anything, columns like Gordons (and a few more I’ve read but can’t be bothered linking to) have told us one thing: the Press Gallery has a BIG investment in seeing their predictions come true. Their attitudes to the Coalition are now revealed in an orgy of self-confession. Abbott was their boy all the while! They thought, they hoped, they believed that Abbott could turn his personal habits around and actually do something, rather than just knock things down. They will thus go out of their way to write up the slightest hint of success as a triumph of earth shattering proportions. The circle jerk thus completes itself.
What’s the occasion for their candour? A slight improvement in the polls coinciding with the end of the first year in government. I can feel a Grattanesque metaphor coming on.
We can’t have our esteemed political gurus being wr.. wr… wrong, can we? In an orgy of self-justification they will make sure they try their level best to make us see it their way, the way (as it turns out) they have always seen it. This weekend’s columns are just the start of a festival of “We told youse so” mutual back slapping.
Expect reality to be re-written even more egregiously as time passes by. Like their employers, stuck in the ancient traps of printer’s ink and in the grip of herd mentality, going broke, losing relevance, the Press Gallery, lecturers of a nation, will give Abbott any concession he needs to make themselves look good.