Friday, 6 September 2013

Faceless editorial backs Abbott in tomorrow's poll

People this morning will be surprised to see a faceless editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald backing Tony Abbott in tomorrow's poll and while this might seem sneaky it's got to be preferred to the recent habit of Murdoch papers dressing editorial up as news as the billionaire's henchmen work to ensure a Coalition win. In fact, editorials published without a byline and dinkus are a long-standing staple of the media economy.

The Herald efficiently outlines its reasons for backing the favourite, which boils down to the matter of trust, especially the twin-engined toxicity of Labor scandals that have plagued the party for months and months; it's useful to remember that the Herald has spent a lot of reputational capital covering the NSW Labor scandals that culminated in an ICAC ruling, and that continue to play out as different individuals pursue their options through the courts and the media.

Then there's the matter of the hung Parliament and the deal with the Greens that caused Gillard to renege on her promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Many Australians still find it hard to move beyond this barrier as they think about who to vote for federally.

Putting this single issue aside it's clear to a lot of people that Labor has behaved badly and that it's just too difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff; no doubt some in Labor will point to legislative excellence and white hands for others in the party's ranks. The Herald editorial asks Labor to think on its sins and to make sure that - next time - it respects the "privilege of power" bestowed by an electorate that usually votes politicians out of office, rather than voting them in.

Another thing that strikes me is the residual animus against Labor's tendency to stage leadership coups. Republicans should take heart from this dislike, as it points to an attitude among many in Australia that leans toward a more presidential type of role for the prime ministership. The (possibly) ugly truth is that the party chooses its leader; it can do so at any time in the electoral cycle. But there seems to be a view that the voters should be the ones to be ultimately consulted in the matter of federal leadership. Time for a new referendum?

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