Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is the media at fault or has the Government lost the plot?

At the moment, in Federal politics, it seems that the Gillard Government can't catch a break. They are floundering in a sea of misrepresentation, miscommunication, scandal and high court drama. It's frustrating and irritating to watch.

Before the election I wrote a blog on the apparent errors the ALP were making and those that the Coalition were also committing. Both were mired in a pit of negativity, giving voters no clear idea of policy or direction for the future of the country. Trying desperately to outdo each other on the way down.

Not surprisingly, the outcome of that election was unclear. Afterwards I wrote a second blog. This one a positive take on what a hung parliament could mean for this term of government. The idea that the leading party would be forced into negotiations with all other parties in order to develop and pass policy was a novel one which had a certain level of excitement and a sense of real democracy attached.

One and a bit years on and the outcome so far has been mixed. Ask a member of the public what they think of the Government and the answer is usually negative. They are pandering to the Greens. They have lost their way. They are too right wing....too left.....too unclear. ALP members are outraged about the potential changes in human rights laws that will allow offshore processing of Asylum Seekers. Liberal and National members are furious that the Government is ignoring Nauru and is proceeding with the Malaysia deal. Same policy. Same dislike of it. Completely different perspectives.

Then ask one of the Independents. They are the ones who are negotiating throughout this process and they are the ones who hold the balance of power. According to all reports, they are very happy with the way this Government is progressing. They see Julia as a great negotiator, a worthy ally and a progressive leader. They see Abbott as a negative person, have given up meeting with him regularly, are very happy with the 190+ bills that the Government have passed in only one year, and they firmly believe they have done a great deal of good for this country.

So......How can two separate groups be so disconnected in terms of their take on this? How can the perceptions be so vastly disparate when the facts relating to the issue are the same?

Is it the media? Have they focussed so much attention on the 'he said, she said' rubbish and not allowed the policy commitments and bills being passed the coverage they deserve? Partly true. Yes, the media are focussed on the personality's of the leaders. Yes the media are concentrating on the stuff ups and scandals inherent in both major party's. However, after reviewing the news over several years it seems we are missing one fact. The media may well be misrepresenting the Government.......but they always have.

In the past the actions of Howard, Beasley, Latham, Keating, Turnbull and Costello have been featured news in every major paper. Not so much focus on their policy, ideals and plans. For instance.....I know that Latham has a mean streak. He has appeared threatening and has punched people in anger. I can even recall the pictures of Latham leaning over Howard in an aggressive manner while shaking his hand. So, what was Latham's policy on Asylum Seekers? No idea.

I know that Costello coveted the top job and was apparently promised it at some stage until Howard decided he liked it too much. I know that Beasley struggled with his weight and also struggled to get media attention and blanket support from inside the ALP. I know that Keating was arrogant and a bit of a dictator but his presence was such that you couldn't look away when he spoke. I know that Turnbull is the thorn in the Coalitions side as he is quite progressive and firmly believes in climate change science.

The media have become the woman's magazine of politics. I am unsure when exactly it occurred, maybe it's always been slightly sensationalist, but it does make it difficult to read between the personalities to find the politics.

If the media are not at fault.....who is? It's the ALP obviously. When the PM stops trying to defend every single statement she makes, the country will be much better off. Explanations are essential to keep the public informed but defence is not required. Tony Abbott has perfected the art of offence. He is ensuring that the Government are always walking backwards in the public arena and they are abiding by the rules he has set. He's not the PM. He may be one day but right now, today, he is not. The Government sets the rules. The Government leads the conversation and the Government is answerable only to the general public, not to the Opposition.

Julia, take a deep breath, step forward and be confident that the people will listen. You can't please all of the people, no politician has EVER been universally loved or admired. Forget the popularity contest and just do your job.

According to the Independents, the ones who essentially gave you the job, you are doing it well. If you can show confidence and good negotiating skills behind closed doors in meetings with the most powerful people in this country.....surely you have the ability to do the same publicly for the rest of us.

It's up to the Government to change it's communication methods. Not the media. There are still a few years of this Parliament to go, plenty of time to show us it's working.


  1. Well said Leigh. Both the Murdoch media machine and the Abbott opposition are using wedge issues to polarise the Australian population. Pauline Hanson was the first of the modern day politicians to use such tactics, and John Howard immediately followed suit. We see it happening in Cairns as well. Gavin King has been an apt student of "wedge" campaigning.

  2. I don't agree about Julia to be "confident and step forward " that's what shes been doing , i see her as very stubborn and not listening to the people.not just the ones that didn't vote for her but the ones that did also.