The biggest political story today is whether Julia Gillard got enough sleep last night. Yep, the Prime Minister is in Brussels for the 8th Asia-Europe Meeting – the first time Australia has been invited – to talk global economic governance, banking regulation, trade imbalances, sustainable development and reform, and Australia’s journos are asking her if she got her beauty sleep.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the question itself. Journos and politicians do know each other and so a friendly question about sleep – Gillard arrived in Brussels via a visit to troops in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan and then Zurich to lobby FIFA for the 2022 World Cup – is fine. But unless the answer is particularly interesting (for example, if she said she doesn’t need to sleep because she’s got a really good dealer, or that she didn’t get any sleep because she was shagging all night), it shouldn’t be the most important part of the story.
ABC radion has been running two grabs from Gillard all morning:
“No I slept very well last night. I’ll let Mr Abbott work out his own sleeping patterns, for myself obviously as you know I went to Afghanistan, then to Zurich, then came here and did manage to get eight hours sleep last night and that prepared me for a very long day.”
“Thanks for the opportunity to speak, perhaps I should start by saying that with my broad Australian accent, even the English speakers in the room may wanna access, may want to access, the translation to make sure that they’re understanding my words.”
The leader of one of the few Western countries to come out of the global financial crisis unscathed is in Europe to talk to world leaders about financial reform and regulation, yet all the news we’re getting is about humour and sleep. Nothing about what she actually said to these world leaders.
Tony Abbott is in the UK for the Conservative Party conference and his comment about not going to Afghanistan with Gillard because he didn’t want to be jetlagged is the most important party of the story about him: leading the The Australian website: Tony Abbott says he missed Afghanistan trip because he didn’t want to be jetlagged; and the Sydney Morning Herald: Abbott cites jetlag for turning down Afghanistan trip.
Having colour in a story is good, but over the last few years all we’ve been getting is colour. When Kevin Rudd was PM, we all knew that he didn’t sleep very much, but we didn’t know the details of the ETS. He accepted the blame for that, for not selling it to us, but the mainstream media should also cop the blame for not demanding details about it. We failed in our role of informing the public. So it’s no surprise that all it took was Tony Abbott to call it a tax for us to dump action over climate change for greedy self-interest.
When Gillard answered the sleep question, you could hear the resignation in her voice over being asked – yet again – about trivial shit and knowing that it will be the biggest political story of the day. I saw her speak at a women in the public service conference a few years ago, and she’s got a wicked sense of humour. It must be hard not to answer questions about whether she got her beauty sleep with a sarcastic remark about getting the shade of lipstick or brand of jacket she’s wearing out of the way first so journalists can ask her some real questions. But if she did, the headline would be ‘Gillard talks clothes, make-up at global financial summit’.