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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Canberra gaze: summer fever « Previous | |Next »
February 4, 2012

I quickly glanced through The Australian this morning whilst having coffee before doing the shopping at the Central Market. It was full of commentary about the leadership tensions in federal Labor. The message was pretty simple. ALP is in turmoil. The knives are out. Gillard is toast.

The Canberra media gallery loves this stuff. This is real politics, not that vague, wishy washy policy stuff. The political journalists are counting the numbers for Gillard, Rudd and the undecideds--those who have quietly withdrawn from Gillard’s camp but can’t commit themselves to Rudd. Labor is now the main story, and the commentary is about the shadow plays within the shadow plays based on the usual informed sources.

MoiAALPleadership.jpg

I didn't bother reading the commentary. There was no need to. The headlines and cartoons said enough. The airwaves will be filled with ever more speculation about when the factional bosses will cut off Gillard's head when Parliament resumes next week. On their interpretation the power struggle has come to paralyze national politics.

If Rudd returns to power that means an early election to hold the ALP in line and Labor's major reforms, including the carbon tax, mining tax and the national broadband network will be flushed down the plughole. That's great news for Australian conservatives and the Coalition is already talking post-Gillard strategy. Their assumptions are that Gillard will not survive much longer as Labor leader and Rudd will replace her.

If things are as grim as portrayed by the press gallery's doomsaying fever, then Gillard should push through as much of her substantive reform agenda in 2012 as she can, given that the Gillard Govt is running out of time to implement its reforms. The neo-liberals are just inching to get back into power to start the slash and burn required to cut back big government (ie., the environmental state) and allow things to return to normal (the resentful mining industry runs public policy on iron ore, coal and the environment.)

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:28 PM | | Comments (19)
Comments

Comments

the Canberra Press Gallery narrative is that Gillard clings to power amid growing disquiet in the Labor caucus

Laura Tingle in the AFR: The rot has well and truly set in.

It would appear that Caucus's confidence in Gillard's political management is ebbing.

If Gillard is dumped, that means Abbott has knocked off 2 Labor leaders. Under pressure from Abbott, the ALP lost confidence in their leaders ability to defeat Abbott, and tore down their own leaders.

Silly Labor.

Gillard is rattled. She is making errors--eg., the mishandling of issues over the summer-- and now has less political authority than she did at the end of last year.

She starts 2012 in a more weakened position that she was in in 2011.

I dont believe Rudd brings anything good to Labor anymore. He had his go and failed. Only his ego remains now, his desire for revenge and the need to be recognised on the world stage. Had his vote not been required he would of been pushed out to a media or academic career long ago. But he is becoming of great benefit to the coalition. Crean was right. He was never real Labor.

The media is acting out the old joke about the hypochondriac whose epitaph read "See, I told you I was sick".
Eventually, they hope aided by a bit of prophecy self fulfilling operating, they will be right and they can then, individually and collectively, say "See we told you so".
It would be interesting to test the self fulfilling prophecy bit in a parallel universe where a parallel media are constantly fabricating stories or hyping up gossip about Abbott whose popularity, even within COALition voters [for details see any opinion poll], is abysmal and whose integrity and competence is unquestionably equally abysmal.
If every day we had a story about Turnbull creeping beind Abbott, the National Party being unhappy with the Libs over fracking, the numerous contradictory twists and turns on currently non-existent 'policy' and had every such story introduced with the meme that it can't go on like this much longer then the Libs would be searching for a new leader.

Tom,
one interpretation of the current ALP situation amongst the Canberra Gallery is that Labor's unpopularity is Gillard's problem not Labor's. Why? Because Labor's brand is still good in the marketplace.

However, Rudd doesn't have the numbers. Not yet. Gillard is fighting for her political life.

It doesn't really matter though, according to this line of reasoning. Judgment day for Labor beckons. The baseball bats are ready to hand. People are just waiting to use them.

fred,
The Canberra Press Gallery go on and on about leadership tensions in the ALP and the ticking of the Doomsday Clock. It's all they can write about these days.

I'm sick of it all the chatter about the factional rifts, personal animosities and turf wars.
Political journalism is no longer informative. The Canberra Press Gallery is not interested in analysing the deeper structural and political dynamics behind the decline of the ALP as social democratic party.
Labor insider", senior ALP sources" "
For them the problem is Gillard. She is not loved or trusted by the people. She is cold and untrustworthy. Overly emotional. She's a woman. Unreliable. Etc Etc. The attack is unrelenting. Yet she is more popular than Tony Abbott.

The political journalists base their fictions and speculations on "Labor insider", senior ALP sources", "a senior Labor figure", "backbench MPs"

Gary,
There is a lot of true things there.
I am happy for Gillard to cop a pasting in the media if Labor keeps doing good things. Lets not forget that Rudd was ditched for Gillard because (they) believed that he could not win them the next election and she could. So they were right even if it turned out to be just right.

"The Canberra Press Gallery is not interested in analysing the deeper structural and political dynamics behind the decline of the ALP as social democratic party. "

It was the ALP's rightward shift that created a crisis of representation on the Left of Australian politics. The ALP's hard heads in the Right faction argued that left-wing voters had nowhere else to go, so the ALP should be primarily attuned to western Sydney populism.

The Greens proved them wrong.

The way the media talk you would be forgiven for thinking that a leadership spill in the ALP is just around the corner.

How do they know this?

That's what the tea leaves. The stars are aligned. All the political gossip inside the Canberra beltway says 'expect a spill soon.' There is a consensus amongst the journalists that a spill is on. They all can smell the blood in the water.They have the finger on the pulse of politics.

It's an echo chamber.

fred says:

"The media is acting out the old joke about the hypochondriac whose epitaph read "See, I told you I was sick".
Eventually, they hope aided by a bit of prophecy self fulfilling operating, they will be right and they can then, individually and collectively, say "See we told you so".

The Canberra Press Gallery has little credibility on this. They are making things up.

Ben Eltham in After the fact: adventures in new journalism argues that the leadership non-story that has developed over the last few days represents one of the worst collective failures of the Canberra press gallery in recent memory.

The political journalists are giving up analysis an favour of writing fiction.

The scorn and contempt ('Ju-Liar'; 'Browns Bitch', 'ditch the witch', her marital status, her childlessness etc etc ) towards Julie Gillard (the person) is deep and vicious. ‘Put her in a hessian bag and drown her’, Alan Jones said. The desire of the conservative political unconscious is for Gillard to hang in the wind.

This contempt is based on:

(1) the Gillard Govt being a minority govt, which be definition, is weak and directionless.
(2) the unpopularity of Gillard's reform decisions and,
(3) Julie Gillard being seen by many as not being up to the job (not tough or strong enough) because she is a woman.

the third one illustrates how Gillard's gender has been used as an underlay of the whole criticism of the Gillard Government.The pundits and journalists hound her on a personal level (clothes, hair, voice, make-up, voice, living arrangements, lack of kids), rather than criticizing her policies and agenda. In contrast, blokey Abbott is seen as tough and strong. The right MAN for the job.

We have a deliberate partisan strategy to paint a particular negative image of Gillard as not being up to the job compared to Abbott. The media (the shock jocks and Murdoch Press) are an active player in this strategy. They are part of the noise machine ---spin meisters ---acting to support the miners, the pokie industry, Big Tobacco and the anti-climate change of the coal industry.

The media's defence is that it is neither a media beatup nor do they tap into and reinforce the deeply-held prejudices about gender. Rather Gillard is inept; the polls have shown, week in and week out, for nearly a year, that Labor’s vote is a disaster under Gillard; Rudd is gathering the numbers to make a challenge.

"The media's defence is that it is neither a media beatup nor do they tap into and reinforce the deeply-held prejudices about gender."

One way the media defend themselves from criticism is by constructing straw arguments. An example is Lenore Taylor's column in the National Times--Follow the leader - it's not a game.

Taylor asks:

Is the Labor leadership issue a bizarre beat-up entirely confected by the news media? Certainly not. Is it an unstable and shifting situation, which may lead to a challenge, and which is notoriously difficult to report? Absolutely.

Now Bob Brown never claimed that the Labor leadership issue was a bizarre beat-up entirely confected by the news media. He said:
What I've picked up over the summer holidays is there is a big swing around from the average punter in favour of Julia Gillard. She is getting a rough time and let me state this as others might not be quite so blatant. Quite a bit of the criticism is sexist and unfair and unrelenting and the Prime Minister needs a bit of a break from that and it is time she got that break and the Australian people are indicating she should have it.

Taylor's "a bizarre beat-up entirely confected by the news media" is very different from Brown's "Quite a bit of the criticism is sexist and unfair and unrelenting".

Taylor has constructed a straw dog argument. She then easily shows its flaws. The right account is that the leadership tensions in the ALP are an unstable and shifting situation, which may lead to a challenge, and which is notoriously difficult to report.

The inference is that the media is doing its doing job and the sexist criticism is wrong. QED.

The Gillard camp have turned a lot of this negative stuff around in the last 24 hours. Being the under-dog is a good thing sometimes and when its a women its better. Clearly from now on the coalition need to catch her making poor decisions rather than changing her mind on things if they want to roll her at the next election or before. Katter may throw a big spanner in the works too.
Its on to the Qld state election now. I read a few cracks on the Newman armour and many wondering whether he is up to the job. He was a great lord mayor because he is a civil engineer but being premier is a different job requiring a greater capacity to deflect shit and tell people what they want to hear. The cartoonist may depict him as Clive Palmer's good little wife.
It will all end in tears.

journalists need to become more accountable for what they write. The Australian Press Council is a joke .It is there to protect the interests of the press.

The only media accountability mechanism with any bite – and any credibility in the profession--- is Media Watch on the ABC. Maybe a more credible and effective process of media accountability will come out of the Independent Media Inquiry chaired by Ray Finkelstein. Maybe.

This looks to be a promising development in the form of the internet as a mechanism of media accountability.

Dorie,
That is a very positive and upbeat interpretation ---ie., the Gillard camp have turned a lot of this negative stuff around in the last 24 hours.

I am sure Labor's poor showing in Queensland will be used to undermine Gillard.

Susan Mitchell has an interesting interpretation.