Man’s opinion changes between his early 20s and late 40s

I’m still chuckling about people who think that Joe Hockey having a different opinion now to the one he had almost 30 years ago is a BIG STORY.

When Joe Hockey was a uni student in 1987, he protested about the introduction of a $250 admin fee. Now, 27 years later, he’s part of a government that wants to make uni so expensive that students will be in debt for the rest of their lives. Women will cop the worst of it. (I couldn’t find anything on how the changes will affect Indigenous students, but we already know that the Budget hammers Indigenous people, with over $500 million cut from Indigenous affairs, including $160 million cut from Indigenous health programs, $3.5 million cut from the Torres Strait Regional Authority, $15 million cut from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, $9.5 million cut from Indigenous language support, and that’s before you consider the GP co-payment and disgusting cuts to youth welfare. If you have an education link, please let me know and I’ll update this.)

Yesterday, the online editor at smh.com.au ranked the Hockey story in the top spot. The same story was still in tops (“above the fold”) this morning until 10am-ish, albeit with the date changed to today. I haven’t checked News Ltd sites because frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about their coverage.

Please note that I’m not saying it shouldn’t be reported. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t talk about it. What I am saying is that, as far as journalism goes, it shouldn’t be the most important political story of the day. I saw journos on twitter congratulating each other over what a “good get” it was. Huh? That Hockey’s views about tertiary education were different when he was in student politics three decades ago is hardly a “GOTCHA” moment. Not least because his 1987 opposition to the $250 fee was reported last week (and at the time).

Mind you, I’m questioning why it was considered the most important political story on smh.com.au on a day when a video of some guys not getting caught in a tornado made news around the world, so I shouldn’t be surprised and why the hell am I wasting my time getting shitty about this stuff?

I’m yet to see a decent argument about why this story deserves the coverage it got. One argument is that it’s important because the education changes will affect a lot of people.

Yes, the changes do affect a lot of people, but what has a decades-old change of mind got to do with that? If it had happened in the last 12 months, then sure. But it’s probably closer to two decades ago, since he was president of the NSW Young Libs from 1991-1992, and made noises about changing Commonwealth funding of education in his maiden speech to Parliament in 1996. It’s an interesting side story, but it’s hardly OMG IMPORTANT.

Another argument is that it’s important because it gives his views context, and highlights his decision-making process.

Except it doesn’t do either of those things at all.

What does knowing that he said one thing in 1987 and now believes the opposite actually tell us about his decision-making process? Nothing. It tells us nothing.

What context does it provide to the current education debate?

None.

But, you know, writing 466 words about what is said in an old video is a hellava lot easier than doing the kind of journalism that is actually important and useful. Yay, jernalism.

10 responses to “Man’s opinion changes between his early 20s and late 40s

  1. I see it as the media/journos FINALLY starting to criticise Hockey/Abbott after relentlessly fawning over their every word. It would be excellent journalism if they were focussing on the actual issues: but we will see the Moshiach before we see that in the mainstream media.
    Pointing out Joe Hockey was once a rabble-rousing student himself is useful in light of the way students currently protesting are being demonised as ratbag commie no-hopers. That they may in fact be our future leaders is a good point.
    This article from Crikey focusses on the issue facing students. The ABC couldn’t print it, Murdoch/Fairfax press wouldn’t.
    http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/06/05/dear-christopher-pyne-here-is-your-hecs-bill/

    • Hi eilish, I agree with what you’re saying about journos finally starting to criticise Hockey and Abbott. But they keep going for gaffe rather than substance. But then, that’s what they always do.

      (Sorry for the late publishing of your comments. Found a bunch of wordpress comments in my spam folder, thanks gmail.)

  2. Making it all about Joe Hockey personally isn’t very useful, but pointing out that the students currently being abused as ratbag commie no-hopers may one day be the leaders of our country is. Personally, I’m pleased to see the media criticising Abbott, Hockey at al after relentlessly fawning over them for so long.
    This is something that focusses on the issues.
    http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/06/05/dear-christopher-pyne-here-is-your-hecs-bill/
    Only in the independent media?

  3. I enjoyed your forthright view on the newsworthiness of the 1987 video and agree with you that the charges of hypocrisy against Hockey don’t quite stick. However, it demonstrates one of Michael Moore’s points that right-wingers, Tories, call them what you will, only truly realize something is bad when it is happening to THEM or those close to them. Back in 1987, Hockey was adversely affected by the tertiary education admin fee, and so opposed it. These days, it doesn’t touch him. His views might have changed, but his motivation hasn’t – pure self-interest wins again. Maybe that’s the angle the mainstream press should have gone for, not hypocrisy.

  4. There’s a case for Hockey’s views not having changed at all: that self-interest determines every position on an issue that someone like Hockey is ever likely take.

    • I think you’re right. When I was writing this post, my partner pointed out that probably all it tells us about Hockey is that his views change depending on who his constituents are.

  5. It’s getting media focus, because the press gallery is utterly incapable of writing about policy with any degree of analysis. And I mean ‘any’ degree – they can barely bring themselves to mention policy, and to actually do their job of explaining complex ideas in simple, easy to understand, terms, is completely beyond them. Consequently, they leap upon anything that remotely resembles a ‘human angle’, by which I mean reporting the gossip and the politicking instead of the substance.

    When was the last time that you read a member of the press gallery talking about policy in terms of how the policy will work, or analysing the barriers to implementation, or anything other than ‘how will this play out in terms of popularity’?

    It’s the same reason that whenever the media do a ‘science story’, it’s always about the scientist – usually about how attractive the scientist is (if it’s a woman), or how stylish / non-nerdy (if it’s a man). Very few journalists have even minimal scientific education – from memory, even the Guardian, which pride itself on its climate change reporting, only has 1 by-line journalist with a degree in any scientific field – so they struggle to understand the story, and they can’t even conceive of the thought that the readers might actually be interested in the science.

    Both phenomena are made worse by the fact that newspapers have shed the writers who once made a living out of conveying complex facts in simple terms – the technical writers. The press gallery see their jobs as covering the horse-race politics, and so that’s the only angle we get.

    (incidentally – no need to welcome me as a newcomer, if that’s still your habit; been here for a while, but I rarely post so you probably won’t recall me – I’ve occasionally posted under your items on body-image related self-harm, mostly in relation to my own history of it)

    • Hello Azrael the Cat, of course I remember you! Sorry for the late publish – I’ve been on holidays.

      I agree with everything you said here. You are right about the lack of technical journalists. I was one of the few journalists with a science degree, and I’m pretty sure there’s only one Dr Journalist (she’s also a science reporter, but I’m so sorry, I can’t recall her name right now). I don’t believe that journalists should have a journalism/comms degree, that’s the least important qualification for the job and should only be a diploma. They should have a degree in another field, such as science, economics, law, health, or arts. Having knowledge outside of journalism will result in more informative reporting.

      The press gallery loves the horse race stuff because that’s what they’re interested in, but there’s very little real value in it. And because journos all hang out with other journos and talk shop, they can’t see that their interest isn’t their audience’s interest.

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