Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

Information? Oh, we don’t put that in the news anymore, silly

I didn’t watch the debate last night. I was at the pub with my derby gang after training, which was a much better way to spend an evening.

So, this morning I thought I’d check the MSM for information about the debate. You know, what Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott said, whether they announced any policies, and how their claims stacked up when they were fact checked.

I wanted some news.

Shush, I can hear your laughter from here.

This is the debate coverage across the top of smh.com.au this morning:

Coverage of last night's debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

Coverage of last night’s debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

There’s an opinion piece by Peter Hartcher about who won – based on style, rather than substance – and 861 words by Judith Ireland (with AAP) about Kevin Rudd using notes during the debate and whether that makes him a cheater, and a video of the same news story. To put the 861 words about a simple “yes he had notes, no they weren’t allowed” into perspective, this whole post about the coverage on two websites is 476 words.

Hartcher’s piece mentioned that both Rudd and Abbott “ducked the question on building Sydney’s second airport”, so after reading the smh.com.au coverage I know about one question from an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Righty-o then.

At dailytelegraph.com.au, there was one story at the top of the website this morning:

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

But it was replaced a short time later by this:

MAKE IT BIGGER - the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

MAKE IT BIGGER – the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

I guess they didn’t want smh.com.au to be the only ones shouting CHEATING CHEATERER.

The story is by Patrick Lion and it’s from the News Limited Network so it’ll be the same story on every website: Election debate: Kevin Rudd accused of cheating after using notes during debate. It’s 496 words about the notes, and not a single mention of any of the topics that were discussed. So, after reading the dailytelegraph.com.au coverage I don’t know anything about the questions in an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Don’t get me wrong – the notes story is a story. But it’s not the story because it’s not really important. Having notes at a debate has fuck-all to do with helping people to decide which party’s plan for the future is the one they want to support. Because that’s the whole damn point of the debate.

But the notes story is an easy one to write. It’s a lot easier than reporting what Rudd and Abbott said and doing some research into their policy ideas and fact-checking their claims and finding a clever way to include all of this info in the same story so it’s actually useful to your audience.

PS – If you want to know about the content of the debate, abc.com.au has broken it down question by question, and junkee.com’s Jess O’Callaghan explains the debate with gifs in a piece that contains more info than Fairfax and News Ltd combined.

Some of Tony Abbott’s best friends are women

I completely understand why women related to Tony Abbott are defending him from accusations that he has a problem with women. I have no doubt that he is a supportive and caring parent, husband, brother and son. (And, of course, they’re not just calling media conferences and speaking to the Daily Telegraph‘s Gemma Jones because they want the public to know the Real Tony. It is politics after all.)

This from Margie Abbott:

“I say to the people who claim that Tony Abbott doesn’t ‘get’ women: You get this. Tony Abbott is surrounded by strong women. In fact, not only strong but capable women.

“He grew up in a household with three sisters. He has encouraged me and supported me in whatever I have chosen to do.”

Just because you’re “surrounded” by women in your family, doesn’t mean you “get” women. It just means you care about your family. It certainly doesn’t make you a feminist. It’s how Tony Abbott acts towards women he’s not related to that reveals that he does indeed have a problem with women. After all, Todd Akin has a wife and I’m sure he respects and trusts her. But in his breath-takingly ignorant and offensive comment that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape“, it shows that he thinks that other women – millions of American women – are probably liars and can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies.

Tony Abbott also believes women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies and their reproductive health. What is it with conservative men and women’s vaginas? In his own words, he shames women who terminate a pregnancy:

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience…. Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year.

He’s right, though – I am troubled by that statistic. Because it’s a lie. He’s wrong by about 20,000. And since he was Health Minister when he wrote it, he’d know it was a lie. He’d also know that most terminations are the result of contraception failure.

But check out the language he uses: 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year. That’s a fuckload of shaming right there. If Abbott really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, he’d be pushing for better contraception, rather than shaming women with words like “destroy”. (Check out Leslie Cannold’s great talk on shaming: I had an abortion… or maybe I didn’t.)

Tony Abbott even believes 14-year-old girls should be made to have babies, to punish them for having sex (no mention of the boys they had sex with, though. Funny that):

To a pregnant 14-year-old struggling to grasp what’s happening, for example, a senior student with a whole life mapped out or a mother already failing to cope under difficult circumstances, abortion is the easy way out… Our society has rightly terrified primary school children about the horrors of smoking, but seems to take it for granted that adolescents will have sex despite the grim social consequences of teenage single parenthood.

That’s right, if you’re a mother who is “failing to cope under difficult circumstances” – like an abusive partner, or illness, or that there just isn’t enough money – you should be forced to have another baby.

Those quotes are from a speech he made in 2004. In 2006, members of Parliament stripped Tony Abbott of the power to make decisions about women’s reproductive health. He had demonstrated that his personal beliefs were more important than the rights of Australian women. That Abbott believes that women terminate pregnancies “almost [as] a badge of liberation from old oppressions” demonstrates how little he understands, well, pretty much everything to do with women. Most of his own side voted against him.

He told women that the carbon tax would make ironing more expensive – then dismissed women who got annoyed by his comment as “hypersensitive”.

Then he made a rape joke.

The quotes from this video date from 1979 to 2010 (and yes, we were talking about this a few weeks ago, but that post was about the bigger picture rather than Abbott in particular, because it’s evidence that his ideas haven’t really changed):

Tony Abbott’s biggest problem with women is that we refuse to put up with his shit.

Meanwhile, over breakfast in the News Nips household

Me: Pah! The people did vote. Just because you don’t like the outcome doesn’t mean we should have another election. We had to put up with Howard for ten years.
ManFriend: Yeah, suck it up, princesses.

Convoy of No Confidence

Indignant dude in the Convoy of No Confidence. Picture: Stefan Postles/SMH

Signs like this one crack me up. We did vote. And we’re not going to do it again just because you don’t like the winner.

Years ago, an ant bit me on the bum while I was in bed. ManFriend laughed so hard and said the look of indignation on my face was fantastic. That’s what this “Convoy of No Confidence” stuff is like. Being bitten on the bum by an ant. You’ll get over it, but it feels better if you throw a little tanty.

Yes, they should rally. If they want to spend their money to protest over having to spend a little more money to make our environment cleaner, then go for it. (Although I have to laugh at Nick and Fluff Weckert who spent $3000 on fuel driving from Port Lincoln to Canberra to protest over the rising cost of living.)

If they want to demand a new election, then go for that too. But it doesn’t mean we should have one. Particularly when the 2010 election cost us $161 million. And particularly when their argument is “the politician is a liar so let’s have another election”. If we had to have another election every time a politician said one thing and then said another – or broke a core or non-core promise and thankyouverymuch John Howard for that slimy contribution to political discourse – then we’d be at the polls every fucking weekend. It would bankrupt us.

Sure, Labor went to the last election saying there’d be no action on climate change, which is why I didn’t vote for them. But minority governments change the game. It’s called compromise. You know, that thing you arrive at after negotiating with the people you have to form government with. The people who were voted in by lots of other people. Deal with it. Besides, it’s no different to the “never ever” GST. Many politicians will say anything to get into power and I can’t believe people are whining “oh, but they liiiiiiieeeeedddddd”. I don’t recall any pro-Abbott fans protesting over his constant changes of mind. His political opportunism is embarrassing and makes me think his supporters must be stupid. Or selfish. Probably both.

But I do have to laugh at the sign above: “Let’s take our country back”. That’s exactly how I felt in the lead up to the 2007 election when it became clear that we’d finally be able to take our country back from the Coalition and their mean-spirited policies.

Political polling makes pissweak news

How do you do your job when every week you get a report on how much people like you? Because that’s what this constant polling about preferred prime minister is about: likeability. It has to be, because political reporting is all about personality and not substance, so how would you know if a leader is doing a good job?

These polls from Newspoll (News Ltd generating its own news) and Herald-Nielsen (Fairfax generating its own news) and Essential Media (Channel 10 generating its own news) are driving me mad. We’re not in an election campaign so what’s the point of weekly updates about whether people would vote for Labor if Kevin Rudd was in charge? Or the Coalition if Malcolm Turnbull was in charge? Seriously, what is the actual point of asking people these questions at this time? It makes just as much sense as asking people if they’d like a million bucks, and then making the results front page news (mind you, news.com.au and dailytelegraph.com.au would run that story because wah-hey, it’s wacky and zany and light-hearted). Let the parties do their own polling on these questions and sort it out amongst themselves. The only time these constant questions about leadership would be relevant is if someone was challenging the leader, or if one of the leaders was grossly incompetent. And as much as I dislike Tony Abbott, he’s not incompetent. Grossly opportunistic and mean-spirited, sure. But not grossly incompetent.

Before you have a go at me about censoring the news and/or withholding information from the audience, ask yourself this: How important is it, two years out from an election, to have weekly updates of voting intentions? Sure, chuck the info in at the end of another political story, but the polling shouldn’t be the only story. There is only so much space in the newspapers and bulletins for political news and every time news editors run these meaningless stories, we – their audience – miss out on something important or useful or relevant.

Political journalists are obsessed with the Gillard/Rudd story and the Gillard/Abbott story because they think it makes them insiders, like they know all the gossip, but it’s pretty meaningless as far as real news goes. I believe that news should be useful, otherwise it might as well be Home and Away or Angry Birds. The shit that’s laughably called serious political journalism is not useful. Focussing on the personalities and not the substance of policy and debate means that when the next election is held – and you know we’re in for weekly popularity polling for the next two years – we’ll just be voting on which leader we like the best, and not which party’s ideas are best for the country (yeah, yeah, I know I’m an idealist). And it will be all the MSM’s fault.

Proudly not a real Australian

I go away for 10 days and the Coalition falls apart and suddenly Cate Blanchett isn’t a “real” Australian because she’s rich, or an actor, or modified her house to use less energy, or something. If the second part wasn’t so pathetic, I’d say I should go away more often.

By now there’s simply no doubt that Tony Abbott thinks we’re all idiots. And the everyday Australians that he always speaks about, he thinks they’re the biggest idiots of all. That’s why he happily admitted that people shouldn’t believe what he says unless it’s scripted. He believes that no one will remember and/or care that he’s a big liar. That’s not the most flattering view of the electorate, is it?

Abbott seems to think that, despite the large number of Australians who didn’t vote for him, we all agree with everything he says and want him as our leader. Talk about being delusional (in the colloquial sense, not the DSM-IV sense). Dude, we know you’ve had your dickstickers in a knot for the last nine or so months, but you didn’t win so let it go.

I arrived back in Sydney to this utter nonsense about Tony Abbott/Barnaby Joyce/Australian Family Association* saying Cate Blanchett – whose environmentalism is well known, installing Australia’s second largest roof-top solar system at The Wharf – isn’t a “real” Australian because she’s in an ad for a carbon tax. Of course they’re attacking her – can you imagine them trying to say Michael Caton isn’t a “real” Australian? Actually, I’d love to see them try, that would be hilarious.

Blanchett isn’t a “real” Australian simply because she disagrees with them. It’s the Howard-era “unAustralian” bullshit all over again, where instead of acting like an adult when people hold views that are different to your own, you act like a petulant child and attack them personally. Can someone please call the waaaaambulance for Tony Abbott? For a great post about the attacks on Blanchett, see The Conscience Vote.

Abbott said “People who live in an eco-mansion have a right to be heard … But their voice should not be heard ahead of the people of Australia”. I call bullshit. By “the people of Australia” he means those who attended that awful anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra where he stood in front of the sign calling the Prime Minister “Bob Brown’s bitch”. So actually, Blanchett’s voice is being heard after the voice of “the people of Australia”. But Tony Abbott has never been big on the truth. Or making sense. Or being consistent.

And so Labor continues to let the Coalition control this discussion (it would be a lie to call it a debate). What the hell is wrong with them? Before the last election, Labor should have been selling the country’s economic health thanks to the BER and stimulus packages, but instead they couldn’t sell beer to a pissed rugby league fan.

The pathetic state of public discourse in this country makes me cringe.

So, having had my first post-holiday whinge, I am proud to declare that I am also not a “real” Australian. Not because I’m a rich actor with an energy-efficient home, but because I want the carbon tax. And if doing something for the environment costs me a little bit of money, then that’s ok because I’m not a selfish arsehole who thinks my cost of living in a rich country with a good welfare safety net is more important than everyone else on this planet.

*The Australian Family Association was founded by the National Civic Council, a conservative Christian organisation that believes a woman’s role is to have babies and that her “self-identity and self-esteem may be found and grown through giving themselves to and loving their husband and family”. They also want “extensive” censorship of film and tv. Funnily enough, I think they’re rubbish.

The un-Christian Christian

When I was doing my psych undergrad I shared a flat for a semester with another student. In the interests of protecting the bigoted, let’s call her Sally. In that awkward flatmate interview, where you have about 20 minutes to work out if you want to live with a complete stranger, she asked me if I was religious. I’m not. She said she wasn’t either, but went to church at Christmas and Easter with her family because it was a tradition they did together. After I moved in I discovered that not only was she intolerant of eveyone who was not like her, but she was also a great big liar: she was a born-again Christian who went to church every Sunday and then, with the other young people at her church, held “house church” on Wednesdays so they could have more church in their lives. That’s their business and I have no problem with it, but why lie about it when it means you’ll only have to search for another flatmate a few months later?

Anyway, one night we were watching an awards ceremony on tv, and we had the following conversation:

Sally: I don’t know why they’re all wearing those red ribbons.
Me: The AIDS awareness ribbons?
Sally: Yes. Because people with AIDS deserve it.
Me:

I was speechless. And aware that nothing I could say was ever going to change her mind. That particular Christian would never display so-called Christian values, such as forgiving people for their sins and loving all of “God’s creatures”. (Personally, I don’t believe Christians have a monopoly on the “goodness” values that we call Christian values.)

Anyway, the reason I started with this story is because I was reminded of it when Tony Abbott said this on the weekend:

“This idea that they will take one and we will take five, just risks Malaysia becoming the open back-door to Australia.”

“What works is Nauru, Manus, temporary protection visas and a willingness to turn boats around, where that can be done safely.”

If by “works” you mean that Nauru cost $24 million a year to run; that at least nine asylum seekers who were forcibly returned to Afghanistan were killed when they got there; that the Howard Government spent more than $1 billion to process “less than 1700 asylum seekers in offshore locations” when it would cost $35 million to do it at Villawood in Sydney; that the enormous psychological damage from being held in a remote jail for years (longer than many convicted criminals spend in jail) isn’t our responsibility; that despite offshore processing the numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia doubled from 2004-05 to 2007-08; and that the Government of Nauru said Australia was taking far too long to process people’s claims, then sure, Nauru works.

I am amazed that Tony Abbott identifies himself as a Christian yet consistently pisses on people who need help, and no one thinks that’s weird.

And now Australia will send the next 800 people who arrive by boat to Malaysia, and in return will take 4000 refugees from them over four years. Australia takes just 1.6 per cent of the world’s asylum applications. It’s really shitty that 800 desperate people will be forced to bear the cost of us starting to pull our weight.

Just when we need it the most

I read the Sydney Morning Herald every morning, listen to ABC radio during the day (two of the benefits of doing a PhD full time), and watch SBS news every night, and all I know about Tony Abbott’s carbon plan is that it’s better than the Government’s unmade one because he said so. Oh, and he’ll “stop the tax”.

This is a really important issue and he said, she said journalism is just not good enough. In that link, Jonathan Holmes quotes one of my brain heroes, Jay Rosen, who defines he said, she said journalism as:

* There’s a public dispute.
* The dispute makes news.
* No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
* The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
* The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.

Familiar, huh? It’s what we get every day. Holmes writes:

Consumers of news are largely left to fog it out for themselves. Of course, those who have the time and inclination can do so. But as the news story develops, the assumption is made by daily journalists that everyone knows what happened yesterday, and a week ago. It’s far harder than it should be to find the background analysis.

I wrote yesterday that I think it’s going to be a good year, and that doesn’t just apply to women. The gutter politics we’re seeing – in particular, from Cory Bernardi and Scott Morrison – can’t last, because the backlash has already started. Joe Hockey is positioning himself as the not-Abbott, which will leave Abbott’s attack dogs without a supportive master. And the independents keep showing that they are above the petty bullshit that passes for “political debate” these days.

This from Tony Windsor on the carbon tax:

He says people in his electorate are telling him that they want a productive debate, rather than one dominated by politics.

“They want it a little bit more advanced than the word ‘lie’ and the word ‘tax’,” he said.

“I think they want to find out what could happen, what sort of contribution we should be making, what are the advantages in regional Australia for instance in terms of renewable energy?”

He says he would like the same, and says he needs plenty more information about the implicit price of carbon and how Australia’s efforts sit globally before the Government can win his vote.

But this is all we get from Tony Abbott:

“I’m running a truth campaign against the carbon tax, because the truth campaign appears to be having an impact,” he said.

“I imagine that [Labor] will run an ad campaign, because the one thing that these guys specialise in is ad campaigns using taxpayer’s money.

“In this case it would be a dishonest ad campaign – this is a tax based on a lie and it shouldn’t happen.”

This would be a really good time for journalists to do the most basic of basic Google searches and point out that the Howard Government spent $2 billion on advertising:

According to Melbourne University academic Sally Young, the author of Government Communication in Australia, the Howard Government’s spending on advertising is among the highest per head in the world.

“It’s up there with only a few other countries,” she said.

Seriously, it’s not that hard to inform your readers. You know, that thing news is supposed to do? Otherwise we’re not being journalists, we’re being state stenographers (hat tip to John Pilger for that term).

It is precisely when an issue can be reduced to slogans – “we’ll stop the tax” – that we need better reporting than just he said, she said.

And, in honour of the title of this post, this:

I was looking for the Dolly Parton version, but this video is gold! And Randy VanWarmer is my new favourite name.

Update March 10: I stand (a little) corrected. One article today on the Coalition’s Direct Action plan: Direct yes, but not a lot of action:

Over the past week some journalists have made Coalition MPs squirm by asking: can you name an economist who backs your direct action climate policy?

The Coalition is banking heavily on being able to massively boost the amount of carbon dioxide stored in soil, estimating it could deliver 60 per cent of Australia’s 2020 emissions target. It remains a bold call…. Soil carbon is not recognised under international carbon accounting rules

But, it’s an opinion piece from The Age‘s environment reporter Adam Morton, so it’s not on the SMH homepage, nor is this information in any story in the paper. Why is a journalist giving readers the information we need to judge the Direct Action Plan considered an opinion?