Posts Tagged ‘Question Time


The Daily Telegraph’s now viral front page juxtaposing Senator Stephen Conroy with Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Castro, Kim-Jong Un and Ahmadinejad was ironically an argument for and against free speech. Going in this hard on the man would not occur in most countries around the world, yet its crassness and overt sensationalism puts in question the Telegraph’s judgement. 

The Telegraph has shown lateral thinking by putting its cartoon on the front page but loses points for being sloppy and not including Hitler. One imagines the response if Sen Conroy had taken the harder line advocated by the Finkelstein Review.

That gold mine I call twitter provided two gems by way of response, from @geeksrulz and @firstdogonthemoon:



The reforms announced by Senator Conroy include:

  1. stronger self regulation via a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA)
  2. a new public interest test for future media mergers via a reach rule
  3. an incentive to increase Australian content
  4. an update to the ABC and SBS to factor in their online content

The PIMA would be a single person sitting above the existing Australian Press Council to ensure that complaints are appropriately managed, in addition to assessing whether any future media mergers are in the public interest. Given that News Corp already owns 68% of the Australian newspaper circulation, it could hardly be argued on an objective basis that some ownership restriction takes place. Malcolm Turnbull argues that the Hawke Government opened the doors for media ownership grabs when they allowed the HWT merger to proceed. Well, that was 22 years ago, and no internet.

The other question that lingers is why is print news remains unregulated where television and radio is?

The fact is that the proposed reforms represent a three pronged attack on the Murdoch and Fairfax interests. The body overseeing the body that oversees the media is seen as a threat to executive media operations and would seek to subject them to closer scrutiny. It could be argued however that the ACCC’s powers could be boosted to avoid unfair competitive advantage. Secondly, the PIMA would, in the media companies’ view, restrict market opportunities and hence trade. Thirdly, shock horror, such a person would demand that all reporting be  balanced and fair minded, not just a mouthpiece for its owner’s market fundamentalism and unashamed Americaphilia.

The News Corp publications have done a fine job in directing traffic in this way, starting with unwavering support for the Iraq War that resulted in anywhere up to 400,000 deaths for an invasion predicated on at best hopeful evidence of WMDs. More recently, the campaign against the ALP’s response to climate change has been sustained and, as Robert Manne calls it, ‘intellectually incoherent’. It has provided the Opposition with the wind assistance that has supplemented its feral negativity since the ALP formed government with cross bench support. The News Corp media have also made the portrayal of the changes as an attack on free speech almost too easy. It has employed tactics like the above front page to convey to its readers this fallacious and sensational message. So we have idiotic symbiosis where the media provides a dog’s breakfast and the reader digests it.

The Reach Rule proposed by Sen Conroy prevents a City based television broadcaster from purchasing regional interests where they would be able to broadcast to more than 75% of the population. How measurable this is remains unclear. Muddying the waters even more is the increasing uptake of digital content. When was the last time you recorded a program when you knew it was available online the next day?

Providing incentives to television stations by halving their licences in return for 1,490 more hours of Australian television in 2015 is a welcome one that surely must be the piece which does attract the most bipartisan support. The updating of the ABC and SBS charters in the digital climate is also logical.

So will these reforms  impact heavily on the way that journalists work’ as Malcolm Turnbull suggests?  It is an attempt to address concerns that the media can be too concentrated in the power of a few. There are doubts about its rushed timing and execution (an unfortunate characteristic of this Government), and it has attracted the inevitable criticisms of ‘changing the media when you don’t like the message.’ If that were the case, these reforms would have been announced long ago.

The impression I get via twitter is that some News Corp contributors feel that these reforms are a severe check their ability to produce factless diatribe and not be scrutinised. I await the snide IPA tweets with interest.

There will be some heavy lifting to convince those cross bench MPs who are upset that the reforms do not go far enough. If it causes angst to the MPs whose support it needs as well as the interests it is serving notice to then it seems to be somewhere close to an unhappy medium.

Writing this has served to crystallise in my mind what the media is. Jonathan Holmes makes the point that it is hard to believe the media anyway, let alone in their treatment of these reforms. Find out for yourself by reading seems to be the take home message. Read widely, follow people whose views challenge you and your opinions, not just those you unreservedly agree with .

These next two weeks will be fun reading and viewing.

Thanks to @geeksrulz and @firstdogonthemoon for their images.


2012 is enjoying its Christmas Party.

Those not attending have reclined to the room of mirrors with a soothing balm for the parts that hurt, some facing away from their own reflection. Others choose to party on,  avoiding their own reflection, either due to a willingness to adhere to their MO no matter the cost or because they are simply inept at the whole awareness thing.

Some sip their drink discretely without making a scene, knowing that they have dodged a few.

The year essentially saw the escalated tensions of minority government, with the Abbott led opposition clearly focused on destabilizing government function by whatever means possible, both in and out of Parliament House. There were more points of order and suspensions of standing orders than the collective brain freezes of Ray Hadley, Kyle Sandilands and Alan Jones – some tally. Still, the government survived the cringeworthy own goal of the inevitable Rudd challenge as well as the opposition shenanigans to pass not only the carbon price, but other legislation, most notably the plain cigarette packaging that had been coming for years, and a NDIS scheme that even conservative states could agree on. In principle. And that includes a premier who sees fit to cut funding for whooping cough vaccinations and who thinks the jury is out on the benefits of fluoride in water.

Regretfully, the government’s policies on asylum seekers can at best be described as uncertain and too clever by half. This year was the first time I had heard of a country excising itself from its own migration zone. The absurdity of this was rightly pilloried by opposition and media alike.

The first half of the year’s parliament was dominated by the concerted assault on the carbon price/tax (semantics depending on your political persuasion). Reams of power bills and reports favourable to the opposition agenda were flourished with the a-ha of an FM gotcha call as Abbott tried feverishly to prosecute the cause of no carbon tax, lest it create a python squeeze on the economy. The cobra was also employed metaphorically without consent. Many fauna, I presume, felt relieved not to be dragged into the method in Abbott’s madness. While many reminded Tony of his own advocating of a carbon tax, the leader of the opposition pushed on, visiting businesses dressed in hard hat, fluoro jacket, gloves, ready for the task (someone else’s) at hand. Gutting fish, welding, there was nothing our Tony wouldn’t do to press his claim for the destructive impact of the carbon price to come.

On July 1, when Whyalla was confirmed as still present, we even had the folly of ALP folk to endure (yes, I am referring to Craig Emerson’s butchered Shyhooks adaptation). Though for any ALP ‘moments’ the Coalition was happy to oblige with some and then more. Tony Abbott had himself thrown out of question time on August 20, coalition members proclaimed that a leg of lamb would cost a pineapple (the currency euphemism not the fruit), and Greg Hunt went all amnesiac about his thesis on, yes, a tax to make the polluter pay, which Peter Martin expertly dissected way back in March of 2011.

When the carbon tax came to being, the coalition stayed with the tactic of procuring any codger’s power bill to illustrate the serpentine effect previously alluded to by waving these during question time. The ALP had smartly educated the public that were prepared to listen that a 7% price increase was expected. This would be offset by income tax threshold changes and other indirect measures. This message, along with the often shrill and repetitive power bill waving during question time bore little fruit. Soon the coalition kept to the line that it was a bad tax and one that would be repealed in Tony Abbott’s own blood. Subtle promises.

When this attack petered out, and the fauna unwillingly trapped in the coalition’s strategy were placed back where they belonged, the coalition turned to the role of Julia Gillard in the incorporation of an AWU Workplace Reform Association. The entity would defraud the union, with a slush fund for re-election of union officials, and $100K being used to renovate the house of Gillard’s then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson. After much sifting, a proactive 45 minute presser held by the PM, and a persistent yet soporific attempt to pin the PM during Question Time, it appeared that while the PM may have been a sloppy lawyer at that time, she did not act unethically. Many lawyers piped up on radios saying that they had done work often for people as a favour and never opened a file. Even so, the opposition spent the entirety of the last week’s Question Time asking AWU related questions of the PM, all via Julie Bishop. The huff and puff only saw the opposition’s polls wane and the ‘there are questions to be answered’ line blowing weakly in the wind, and all without a specific allegation for the PM to address.

Just when you thought this was stumps for the year, there was more. Justice Rares threw out the sexual harassment claim by James Ashby against former speaker Peter Slipper, claiming that it was ‘an abuse of process amounting to a political attack’. Tony Abbott, doing important things in London (and improving productivity by letting factory workers alone), said unreservedly that Mal Brough has acted ‘rightly at all times’, despite not having read the Rares judgement and despite over 100 mentions of Brough in Rares’ statement. It was telling that yet again, the coalition leader had not read reports that had some direct relevance to his agenda. As Laurie Oakes observed post Abbott’s ‘shit happens’ debacle: “as a politician, he is very flat footed when he gets into trouble”. Words that Abbott has lived by since his ascension into the role of leader. Do we really want a man who admits to have not read these and other seemingly important reports yet finds time for 50 Shades of Grey as our PM?

Misogyny, or at least male stupidity reached a critical mass this year. Take your pick, from the Alan Jones ‘died of shame’ gaffe to Graham Morris’ ‘cow’ comment on Leigh Sales to Tony Abbott’s repetition of the ‘died of shame’ term in question time, Julia Gillard had clearly stomached enough. She unleashed her tirade famously, which was lauded by most, even if the significance of her delivery was somewhat overestimated. Ultimately, it was the salvo that obviously many thought was coming to the opposition leader . In the fall out, and with wall punching allegations still nipping at his heels, Abbott brought out his wife Margie to redress the balance and show the real Tony. The usual darlings of the right dismissed the PM’s speech as simply redefining misogyny, with the ever amiable Piers Akerman offering scant regard for the speech. Surprise surprise. Meanwhile, Andrew Bolt kept on being, well, Bolt. Nevertheless, the coalition had their scalp, and Peter Slipper moved to the cross benches to join the disgraced but still be convicted Craig Thomson.

At year’s end, the ridiculous pipe dream of a budget surplus was no longer. A reduced tax take forced Wayne Swann’s hand. A stupid promise to make and maintain, a budget surplus didn’t even impress the usual business constituents who saw the maintenance of jobs through avoiding a contractionary policy stance as a far more crucial issue than being preened to by a party unable to produce a surplus. Boos all round, although Tony Abbott broke his London silence on the Ashby/Slipper judgement (and threatened to walk away from ABC & SKY hacks if Ashby/Slipper were brought up) to announce he would hound the government daily on their broken promise and in the same breath declaring the ‘it’s in our DNA’ core but non-core promise of a surplus in every year of a Liberal government. 

So we head into an election year with the middle year of the cycle dominated by at best an abrasive opposition and a government with good intentions but prevailing problems with execution. Media will be a crucial ingredient in 2013, with the mainstream media providing the opposition with some appreciated wind assistance. The incremental rise of internet journalism and social media, specifically twitter, will play a larger role than anyone on either side will concede. The Liberal Party’s ban on backbenchers tweeting is telling. They risk alienating a huge part of the electorate which is not, despite the imploring of conservatives, a lefty domain. Certainly Joe Hockey wishes the ban applied retrospectively after his dunderhead swipe at the PM for daring to visit her widow mother after the surplus concession.

A Merry Christmas to all, and may 2013 be kinder to all of us. But as it is an election year, fat chance. It will be a bruiser, and no one will be spared.


Some other highlights (please feel free to add your own and develop this further as a document of the year)


Tony Windsor tells Tony Abbott some home truths

John Laws interview with Leigh Sales

Rudd/Turnbull joining forces in a new political party?

Joe Hockey channels Cartman: ‘they can go to hell!

Simon Sheikh’s collapse on Q&A and Sophie Mirabella’s grand display of empathy

Political Cartoons

Andrew Dyson illustration - Surplus, for News. The Age. 20 December, 2012. Showing Wayne swan in a life raft named


Meme of 2012

A thank you to my good friend @evanbinos for the title and for those Gods of political cartoonists.