Today we saw the new and the old world represented in the media and politics.
First the new media world, and an excellent piece by Annabel Crabb on The Drum, where she argues that a minority Government means the media needs to adjust:
A disagreement between Tony Windsor or Rob Oakeshott is not an "emerging division" or a "first crack" or a "worrying sign of instability".
It is simply what is going to happen, from now on.
But I think there is going to have to be a change in the way we report politics, and seeing as this campaign prompted more complaints and scrutiny and analysis of the way political reporters operate than any other I can remember, I hereby take the gamble of hoping you, dear reader, might be interested in a quick discussion of how that change might occur
What she proposes is quite exciting for those who crave deep and informative reporting. Sure it should be the norm, but let’s not quibble, let’s take advantage of this new “paradigm”:
All that Windsor and Oakeshott have agreed to do is guarantee supply - ie the passage of money bills - and confidence to the Government, except in egregious circumstances of corruption or similar.
Everything else will be the subject of item-by-item debate.
A Gillard policy being "in peril", or an independent being "at odds" will not be unusual.
What will be newsworthy is when a Government minister finds an innovative way to secure support. Or when an Opposition successfully proposes an alternative approach. Or when an obvious policy compromise is actually agreed upon, rather than being ignored for the sake of political "strategy" or pride or high-handedness, which is altogether too regularly the case in Canberra.
In this environment, in this glut of disagreement, perhaps we in the media can wean ourselves off the quick headline, and MPs can free themselves of the fear of speaking plainly.
Perhaps the media and the MPs can wean themselves off it, I fervently hope they can. But as Crabb acknowledged earlier in her piece, the MPs won’t do it for fear of the media targeting them as “mavericks” or as creating a rift in the party. Here’s hoping though that things can change. Crabb also gives journos some ideas for the new way of doing things:
1.Divisions - that's what votes are called - will matter.
This means that for the first time in generations, reporters will need to turn up to the House of Representatives chamber and keep an eye on who sits where when a division is called.
2. Second reading speeches will matter.
These are the speeches in which MPs indicate the gist of their thinking and arguments on any particular piece of legislation.
3. We won't just be reporting on the success or failure of the government's ideas.
Not if the Opposition makes intelligent use of its opportunities. When the government of the day had the numbers in the House of Representatives, it was able to prevent private members' bills from being debated or brought to a vote in the chamber. Now that neither party controls the numbers, there is a far greater chance that legislation not originating from the Government will be aired and discussed.
A huge change from he said-she said, and then let’s talk to some journalists about what he and she said.
A glorious dream maybe, but one very well worth pursuing, and I believe the journalist who does follow her advice will be miles in front of the pack – it will be tough work, because it will require analysis and insight on policy, but geez the rewards for readers would be massive.
On the new politics side there was Julia Gillard at her first caucus meeting after the election:
Ms Gillard confirmed there would be a “serious review” of the election result and the “future direction of the party”.
She warned that the challenge for Labor was to “set out that clear agenda of what we stood for as to our opponents, not be worried by each day's 6pm news”.
Ms Gillard said despite Labor's achievements, it was clear from the election that the party had to renew its “sense of purpose”.
Oh geez, can I get a hallelujah?
Ms Gillard portrayed Labor as the “navigators of the future” and the party of optimism, stressing that strength now lay in working more as a team.
Yes! Do it. Please, do it.
The ALP needs to look itself in the mirror and ask itself why it wants to be in power. The answer cannot be because it just wants to be in power. There needs to be a reason underlying it, and we need to know it, we need to believe in it, and we need to care about it - it will be tough work, because it will require explanation and analysis of policy, but geez the rewards for the country would be massive.
And then there was old world media best exemplified by Anita Quigley’s tirade of unsubstantiated bile directed to Rob Oakeshott in today’s SMH:
Meanwhile, back on the north coast where the sun seems to always shine, Rob Oakeshott announced he would spend the next few days pondering the offer of a seat in cabinet.
Just a few days? Sure you don't want 17? We know how you don't like to rush these things. At this rate, Iraqis have more chance of a stable government over the next three years than we do.
Welcome to life as we now know it - held to ransom by a few men from regional Australia revelling in their newfound fame and clear disdain towards the majority of their fellow countrymen and women.
Men who don't seem to care much about home affordability levels, climbing rents, increasing population densities, apartment blocks ruining traditional suburbs, traffic congestion, dirty and unreliable trains, cash-strapped councils leaving suburban streets a potholed mess … to name just a few of the burning issues which affect millions of us.
Oh really Anita? Got any quotes from either Oakeshott or Winsdor to support your accusations? Got any policies they have put forward that support your accusations? Got any quote from Windsor and Oakeshott in response to your accusations? Got any evidence at all, or are you just going on your interpretation of events gleaned from whatever part of the Oakeshott’s speech you listened to (because it sure as hell doesn't seem like you were able to pay attention for the – God forbid! – 17 minutes!).
First impressions might be that Rob Oakeshott wants to simply spread fairy dust. For all this talk of sunshine and beautiful politics, he would be better suited behind the lectern as a pastor at a group-hugging happy-clappy church. But now we're stuck with him as one of the most powerful men in the country.
I don’t even know whee to begin. I mean geez. Fairy dust? Happy-clappy church? Are we supposed to take her seriously at this point?
Oakeshott is now pondering just how powerful his future will be, and whether to accept the shameless offer of a cabinet seat. How can he seriously reconcile a position in the Labor ministry and remain an independent?
He's been around politics long enough to understand that he will be required to toe the party line.
It would be naive in the extreme to think otherwise and yet, he tells us, he needs a few days pondering and to consult his wife. There are financial benefits to consider too, as short-sighted as that would be. Does he honestly think his electorate would tolerate for a moment re-electing an independent who opted for the pay rise that goes with being a Labor minister? That would be delusional.
My God. She essentially accuses Oakeshott of wanting to accept the ministry purely for the pay rise. Has he ever said anything that remotely suggests that? I mean it’s not like he has complained about having to take out a second mortgage on his home like another MP did, or that Oakeshott has complained when he lost office he was forced to take a pay cut. But still forget facts, he wants the money, that must be the reason!
She also assumes she knows the deal of the Ministry offer. She assumes that Oakeshott will be bound by Cabinet loyalty, whereas we don’t even know if the position is a Cabinet position. He may not be attending any Cabinet meetings at all, but is operating as a junior minister under a larger portfolio. No one knows, but hey, let’s just assume – and let’s assume the worst, because it’s not like facts matter.
She ends with this:
While Oakeshott likes to give the impression of a cheesy, affable, boy-next-door country lad who has reluctantly found himself thrust into this situation, seemingly, it's not the case at all. He's been grooming himself for years for bigger things.
Tony Abbott said on Tuesday while he was disappointed with Windsor and Oakeshott's decision to give Julia Gillard a 76-74 majority, he believed they "were acting in good faith". Many, me included, aren't buying it for a moment.
He’s been grooming himself for years for bigger things?? Yeah that’s why you leave a major party and run as an independent, because independents always get the big things in politics. I guess Oakeshott always planned that a hung parliament would occur and that his vote would be needed to form a Government. Geez, he’s sharp that bloke. And you’re not buying it Anita, and neither are “many”? Well fortunately for us you don’t need to buy it; it’s already been sold.
The Australian's editorial also found itself a bit tardy on the whole new paradigm:
We believe tax reform equals lower taxes, but we are not sure Labor agrees now that it has to answer to high-taxing Greens and rent-seeking regional independents. Greens leader Bob Brown has accused The Australian of trying to wreck the alliance between the Greens and Labor. We wear Senator Brown's criticism with pride. We believe he and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box.
It is hard to believe that “the national paper” could include such a rant from an opinion writer, but in its editorial? Just be sure you remember that line whenever you read anything written about The Greens in The Australian over the next three years. The editorial also included this bit of piffle:
Ms Gillard's embrace of the Greens underlines the vacuity of her party: this alliance would never have been agreed by Bob Hawke or Paul Keating, who led a party with a clear direction and beliefs.
Bullshit. Hawke and Keating would have done whatever it took to stay in power were they in Julia’s position. Hawke especially used the greens movement in 87 and 90 to win. If the Greens had been a party with 9 Senators back then, he would have done deals as well. This alliance is not a coalition, despite what The Oz editorial writer might wish us all to believe, it is a deal – a deal that kept her in power – Hawke and Keating would be proud.
There were some in the Liberal Party struggling as well with the new world. Here was Christopher Pyne outlining Tony Abbott’s vision of a kindler,gentler polity:
"We might, for example, choose to move for a judicial inquiry into the school halls debacle and if that is voted through the parliament, then the government will be required to do it".
Yes a judicial inquiry into a program despite a report into it which found no illegal behaviour and around 97% satisfaction. The AWB guys must be laughing at the suggestion.
"The government won't know at any point whether they will have the numbers to pass their bills," Mr Pyne said. "There will be no-confidence motions moved in the government in cases of incompetence. The government can expect to be given a torrid time".
Given the Libs’ view that a program which helped save the nation from a recession and produced an overwhelmingly positive response constitutes gross incompetence, I guess we can expect the usual once a week no-confidence motion as occurred in the last 2 1/2 years.
Sigh, meet the new paradigm, same as the old paradigm.
UPDATE: Just when I thought I would never read anything as pathetic as Anita Quigley’s op-ed piece, along comes Glenda Korporaal from The Oz writing about the fact that Julia does not have… wait for it… a handbag. Try this on for size, and see if you can keep down your lunch:
JULIA Gillard may have chosen a dress for her first visit to the Governor-General as the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, instead of her traditionally efficient power pants suit.
But she continues to show her superwoman characteristics by walking into events sans handbag.
She wore a dress?! What a hussy!
While the rest of us who apparently hold up half the world struggle to fish out our mobile phones from overstuffed handbags, our Julia strides the corridors of power hands free.
Even the Queen and Margaret Thatcher tote the inevitable handbag, carefully matching the shoes. But Julia positively glides around, confirming her superwoman status by operating without the usual female props.
Well geez, I know my wife takes her fashion tips from the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. God knows all women should behave like a pair of 84 year olds.
The typical overstuffed female journalist's handbag can also include notepads, tape recorders, mobiles, printouts of the latest assignments and contact books.
And that's without having kids in tow. While one does not want to do a Bill Heffernan here given Gillard's historic achievements, it is certain our first female Prime Minister has never had to go through the tote-bag-as-mobile-nursery routine that is the lot of mothers of young children. Getting out the door involves an Everest-like expedition preparation with a hold-all crammed with baby wipes, bottles, nappies, clothes, snacks, Panadol and toys.
Oh, so glad you don’t want to do a Bill Heffernan.
What utter tripe.
And they wonder why everyone laughs when Murdoch says people will pay for this stuff behind a pay wall…