Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Faceless men orchestrate a fresh leadership coup

At first it was only News Ltd newspapers that possessed an animus against Julia Gillard. Its editors believed that, due to the close result of 2010's federal election, which delivered a hung parliament, her cobbled-together hybrid government was, somehow, illegitimate. Australia is not used to these sort of coalitions of non-aligned parties. Novelty is scary, folks. There were "concerns" in the community, we were told by executives when they were asked to comment publicly on the position that their editors had manifestly adopted in their stories.

This low-level harassment by the faceless men of the media of the Right - hiding behind their bylines and their 'right to know' - was irritating, but not deadly. Then about two weeks ago Fairfax newspapers - the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age - amplified a few Labor Party backbench mutterings into a few more stories and so joined the chorus that had been coming from its profitable rivals. Those mutterings were unquestionably a reflection of voter comments that had been spurred on by News Ltd jibes and swipes, but they had their effect. The upshot came on Monday when the ABC's 4 Corners program aired a detailed expose of just what happened, back in mid-2010, in the days leading up to the ouster of Kevin Rudd, and the installment of Gillard as party leader.

This self-reinforcing cycle of claim and counter-claim in the media has started to bear real fruit, and it's a poisoned apple rather than the fruit of real wisdom. Today's SMH story, 'Gillard used polling to trigger coup', basically calls the prime minister a liar because on 4 Corners she had said she didn't recall specific polling being used to convince Labor Party representatives, in mid-2010, to drop Rudd and back her. Gillard had been plotting for "days", we have now been told, whereas she has always claimed that her decision to move on Rudd was taken on the day of the coup, and not before.

It's all very Machiavellian and dingy, dim and damning, with all those faceless men of Labor now creeping out of their lairs to talk with the faceless men of the media, hanging about in the halls of parliament, about what might have happened on a few days, back in mid-2010, before the political execution of "the king" (Fairfax's rueful monika for Rudd today). On the other side of politics, Tony Abbott, the Coalition leader, is very quiet these days, because there's really nothing for him to do. The media are doing his work for him.

Not only is Gillard labelled a "liar" but the public is breathlessly witness to the construction of a new assassination as Labor Party pollies gather round the crusading reporters and whisper dark things "on a background basis" - meaning that their true identities cannot be disclosed, in order to protect them from embarrassment as a source - and so undermine the credibility of the entire party by their disloyalty. No wonder Abbott is silent. Labor is publicly imploding and all the dross from its disintegration is sticking to Gillard.

The media know a good thing when they are on it, and sliding revenues have turned out to be a fantastic motivator. In the ABC's case, former weekday evening current affairs anchor Kerry O'Brien in his new role with 4 Corners is demonstrating that the old dog can still turn a trick or two, therefore reserving a few new eyeballs for Aunty, and showing that you can't take the fight out of a journo even if you take the journo away from the daily combat of the on-air Canberra cross.

It's all theatre, and we're part of the process. But it has a serious side as well. All this disloyalty promises a federal election result in 2013 that could see Labor out on its ear. Just as happened in New South Wales, where the backroom dealings, hyper poll-awareness, and factional restlessness resulted in an electoral trouncing of epic proportions, last year.


Janine & Steve said...

I was struck by how many stories on the ABC Radio news at 7.00 a.m. were reports on ABC exclusives e.g. the Australia Day riot footage on 7.30; Gillard on Four Corners. Round and round it all goes.

Jude the Obscure said...

I am appalled at what is happening to Julia Gillard's Prime Ministership. The faceless men are not going to let her succeed that's for sure. The level of personal invective that has and is on a daily basis, been directed at her is really concerning to me. I always thought that the first ever female PM would cop a fair amount but not this level of abuse. Gillard's government is presiding over an economy that is the envy of the world, social reforms are going ahead, the "education revolution' is actually making progress, indigenous affairs are improving and yet we hear nothing in the mainstream media. I despair, I really do. Why would any self-respecting female politician ever aspire to the top job after this assassination by a thousand insults.