Katharine Murphy deconstructs Abbott

Comment & opinion By Barry Tucker                    29 January, 2014

The taxpayer funded ABC is supposed to be impartial, according to its Charter. For practical reasons it attempts to be balanced over time. It is not an arm of government policy. During the past three years, at least, the ABC supported the Liberal National Party federal Opposition while being openly hostile towards the Labor government — there is absolutely no doubt about that in my view; I watch and listen constantly. I was a Labor supporter but I’ve withdrawn due to the party’s incompetence. I now focus on exposing the true nature of LNP leader Tony Abbott.

Of all the problems facing Australia early in the life of the new federal “Liberal” Conservative government, support from the ABC is low on the list. The “Liberal” party’s policy development arm, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), recommends the privatisation of the ABC and its sister SBS. These organisations are not the only almost independent sources of news and commentary, but they produce a range of programs and diversity that commercial enterprises come nowhere near matching. The fodder that free enterprise newspapers, radio and TV produce is akin to the mind-numbing drugs that are fed to asylum inmates to keep them quiet, unquestioning and happy. Australians deserve the kind and range of stimulating product that ABC/SBS produces.

Rupert Murdoch (I’m sure you know who he is) disagrees. In the UK and here, he wants publicly funded broadcasters sold off because they compete with his news and entertainment empire. Rupert’s father, Sir Keith, was an originator of the IPA. The IPA was one of the bodies/interests that launched the Liberal Party of Australia in the following year.

Before the 7 September 2013 federal election Abbott and his now Treasurer Joe Hockey said the ABC would not be privatised if they won government. Hockey said any “waste” would be cut from the ABC budget. Since the “Liberals” won the election the News Corp/IPA inspired campaign to discredit the ABC (but, curiously, not the SBS) has gained considerable momentum. The ABC is criticised for doing its job, which is about as bad as the situation can get.

In the latest irrational outburst today Abbott claimed the ABC instinctively took “everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should show “some basic affection for the home team”. You have to wonder to whom Abbott is referring in the term “home team”. In the “Liberal” view, if you are not 100 percent behind them all the time you must be biased against them. Today’s “Liberals” are not Liberals. They sometimes behave like neoFascists. They are in fact Conservatives, with a political philosophy inheritance from the time preceding the French Revolution: God, King, church, nobility, backed by the military, and everyone else is a peasant. Know your place and stay in it. An Army general heads the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders and a former Army general (Peter Cosgrove) is the Governor-General designate. The Attorney-General’s COS is a former ASIO spook. Dole and Disability Pension recipients are prime targets for the government’s savings program, although cutting their welfare will yield a pittance.

Here is a transcript (on a government website) of the Hadley/Abbott interview.

Here you will find Guardian Political Correspondent Daniel Hurst’s take on today’s remarks by Abbott.

Here is Ben Packham’s report on Abbott’s remarks (in Murdoch’s The Australian, no pay wall), with partial video of Abbott’s appearance on shock jock Ray Hadley’s radio show and quotes from others.

Finally, a link to Guardian Deputy Political Editor Katharine Murphy’s article.

Before the election Abbott said his government would do after the election what it said it would do before the election. This is nothing less than the political utilisation of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s clumsy handling of the introduction of carbon pricing. His capacity for lying is well established. I still don’t understand why he was not carpeted for misleading the House on the effect of the carbon tax (pricing mechanism) on household electricity bills — a deliberate distortion for a political purpose. You have to wonder if our two major political parties don’t sometimes self-sabotage in order to give the other mob a go at government.

In my opinion, Australia has elected the most blatantly cynical government in its history. Now that it has demonstrated it can act as it pleases with impunity, you can expect worse to come.

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Disappointing start for Guardian Oz edition

COMMENT By Barry Tucker                    31 May, 2013

Australian consumers of political news must be disappointed with the first few editions of GuardianAus, which launched last Monday.

With a core of former Fairfax journalists, it is being described as Fairfax lite. A story by David Marr on Cardinal George Pell’s appearance before a Victorian State government inquiry into child abuse was probably the highlight of the first week. A very well written piece of work.

But a story on federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s virtual forum with 8,000 voters in the Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury’s western Sydney federal seat of Lindsay epitomised the worst of journalism. In fact, it was the most pathetic piece of reporting I have read in the past several years.

Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy

To begin with, it is little more than a re-hash of a partial transcript of the forum, provided by Abbott’s office. It seems that the journalist, deputy political editor Katharine Murphy, checked a single fact in the story. This was Abbott’s claim that the moderated phone hook-up was a first. The ALP claims it has already conducted virtual town hall meetings. This appears in the last paragraph, but the claim of a first remains, unchallenged, earlier in the story.

What is a first, perhaps, is that the participants were polled on various issues and responded via hand-held devices.

Ms Murphy has chosen for her introduction the fact of the story: there was a virtual meeting with 8,000 voters. Ms Murphy knows this in itself is not news because she has checked that claim with the ALP.

The real story is in the questions that were asked and the answers to some of them. Participants were polled during the session. One question was: “Are you concerned about rising electricity prices?” That is a leading question and I doubt many would have pressed button 2 for “No”.

Ms Murphy then writes: “Another question concerned the WestConnex, a motorway through west and south Sydney.” That’s it. No answer given. Instead, we are told that Abbott “conducted the forum from the Liberal party’s national secretariat in Canberra”. Funding for the motorway is a contentious issue. Is that why Ms Murphy avoided dealing with it?

Abbott was asked about the major plank in his opposition to the very existence of the federal government, the dreaded carbon tax. Here, Ms Murphy has let the reader down badly. She writes: “Abbott said the Coalition’s plan to abolish the carbon tax ‘should mean a 10% reduction’ in electricity prices.”

Now, that’s interesting because when today’s Nice Mr Abbott was busy being Nasty Mr Abbott he repeatedly claimed during Question Time in the House, and wherever else the opportunity arose, that the real impact of the carbon tax was far greater than 10%. Again, the Guardian’s deputy political editor lets that one go by.

Then we have this: “According to a partial transcript of the event released by his office, Abbott also signalled a planned review of renewable energy schemes would have ‘a particular focus on their contribution to power costs, because we want power costs going down, not going up’.”

The alarm bells should be ringing. Let’s look at that one again. A planned review of renewable energy schemes … a particular focus on their contribution to power costs … because we want power costs going down, not going up. That looks to me like code for a severe blow to renewables. Again, no comment from this supposedly top-flight political journalist. Nothing on gold plating or the huge return to most States from the weird structure of power pricing. No focus, in fact, on Abbott’s spin.

As I wrote above, the real story is in the questions and answers. Abbott was asked a lengthy question about refugees who arrive in Australian waters by boat and “How can we tell them not to come here when we have invaded their land?”

Abbott replied: “Well, I hear what you are saying but if you ask [Indonesian] President Yudhoyono he says that the problem is, to use his own phrase, Australia has put the sugar on the table — and they are coming to this country not because they’re being driven out of their own country because if they were simply being driven out of their own country they would be in Jordan, they would be in Pakistan, they would be in countries like that.”

“They are coming to this country because they want the life that Australia can potentially give people.”

Now, because of the way the quotation marks have been used, it’s not crystal clear which part of the above is Yudhoyono’s and which is Abbott’s. But I think (and I shouldn’t have to think about it) the last sentence is Abbott’s, because of the phrase “They are coming to this country …” What’s interesting about that is the last bit: “… because they want the life that Australia can potentially give people”.

As far as I am aware, it is the first time that I have seen Abbott reported as saying: “They are coming to this country because they want the life that Australia can potentially give people.” Again, it slides right past Ms Murphy. What has happened to Abbott’s blame game plan, to Labor’s failure to stop the boats, to tow-back-the-boats, to “illegal arrivals”? This is a significant shift by Abbott, another flip-flop, but it slides by as something unremarkable.

The section editor, if there is one, the sub-editor, if there is one, and the writer have all let the reader down on the focus and the missing details in this story. The word “told” is missing in the third paragraph and there’s some curious handling of quotation marks.

Oh, I almost forgot. This was a telephone hook-up forum with 8,000 participants, plus Abbott. Did it occur to Ms Murphy to ask if any part or all of the NBN which Abbott hates so much was used to facilitate this event? If it was, that’s a powerful argument in the NBN’s favour. If it wasn’t, that’s a powerful argument that, in some cases at least, the NBN is not all that necessary. There’s no reference to the NBN in this story of a massive phone hook-up.

Abbott is not standing for election on behalf of the people. He is seeking power for the corporate elites, the miners and the media barons who attended the recent IPA 70th anniversary dinner, where he was a speaker. The IPA plan for Australia is not very voter friendly and I think that may be why certain key things have been glossed over in this Guardian story.

The story also says the major political parties are endeavouring to speak directly to the voters by cutting out the news media. I wonder who we can blame for that one?

If you have some idle time to waste you could read the original in full.

Few of those who commented below the story noticed the gaps I’ve pointed out here and not many of the comments are relevant anyway. It’s the usual disintegration into gibberish.

Pedaling on the 24-hour news cycle

By Barry Tucker                    1 March, 2013

If you have a portable communications device you have in your hand a news on demand device. You can capture the news, write it, print it, post it, pass it on, read it, view the video and demand more, the latest, a follow-up. Consumers are driving demand, and driving journalists nuts as they try to keep up while maintaining quality.

Katharine Murphy (@murpahroo) is National Affairs Correspondent with Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age and blogs on The Pulse Live. She is also Deputy Political Editor designate with the planned Australian edition of The Guardian.

In an article in sister publication, The Sydney Morning’s Herald’s on-line edition National Times, Ms Murphy wrote about the pressures today’s journalists face and how it affects their relationship with their readers:

“Audiences have never been more hostile to the journalistic filter. They don’t trust us. They want information without the narration, the calculated ellipsis, the bias, the back story. I can understand the impulse, because there is a lot about the modern media cycle that is toxic and random, even if the intentions are to be otherwise.

“I think we are responding, either thoughtfully or by default, to a desire from the audience for a purer form of journalism — ”just the events, ma’am” — coverage so fast and furious and unfiltered that there’s not time to overlay some secret agenda on it. Technology enables this shift.”

Read all about it: http://bit.ly/13sjP6d