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

junk political theatre « Previous | |Next »
February 15, 2012

I've been watching Question Time in the House of Representatives this week. It's been bad---real bad. I know that Question Time is political theatre designed for the Canberra media galley, but the theatre this week has been low grade junk. It is much worse than Moir's representation of politicians as clowns in a pantomime whose inept performance is sad rather than funny:

MoirAHockey.jpg

It's cartoonish politics. In Question Time the Coalition claimed that the government was going to kill the aluminium industry with its carbon tax whilst the government claimed that the opposition didn’t care about manufacturing jobs except to exploit their loss politically. On and on they went oblivious to how they sounded like schoolyard idiots playing nasty, petty games.

Oh, we've revisited the ABC's Four Corners trashy journalism on the Rudd assassination in June 2010, and the media's misrepresentations of the recent tent embassy event.

As Bernard Keane points out in Crikey with respect to the Gillard Government:

we’re at the same stage as previous leaders reached before their demise, when even the most trivial things are attributed significance. Get confused over your Roves, or be upstaged by your opponent who speaks Mandarin, or comment on a junior reporter’s outfit, and it dominates the media cycle, drowning out everything else. A politician needs clear air to communicate, and leaders die when the media cuts it off.

This is at a time when the Gillard Government passed the legislation to means test the private health insurance rebate ---a major reform that helps to reduce the blow out in the health budget in the near future. That was pretty much downplayed, even though some of the most difficult choices in the near future are likely to be about how to manage the scale of health and pension costs associated with ageing.

Parliament is not a clearing house of ideas. It is a hothouse increasingly divorced from the everyday life that citizens live in their daily routines. What is "debated" bears little connection to our daily life and is becoming marginal to it.

The Canberra media gallery just see the decline of the Gillard Government and the end game of Gillard's leadership and delight in being players stirring the plot. What they ignore is Parliament being trashed by the junk political theatre and the slow, steady collapse of its political authority.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:44 PM | | Comments (21)
Comments

Comments

I'm sick of Canberra politics

There was a fair bit on the overdue health insurance rebates reforms, with Tony Abbott left foaming at the mouth.
But I'd rather see that than read more of the vicious level to which politics has sunk through neoliberalism achieving dominance in Britain just at the moment.
At least its a dinkum reform rather than an ideologically-driven pogrom imposed on the least well off in a society by the wealthiest.

"That was pretty much downplayed, even though some of the most difficult choices in the near future are likely to be about how to manage the scale of health and pension costs associated with ageing."

The budget deficit and total debt will surely start increasing again, the main reason for this is simply the ageing of the population.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, of the options for radical surgery on spending, most would have to come from changes to pensions, welfare, health and perhaps education.

"The Canberra media gallery just see the decline of the Gillard Government and the end game of Gillard's leadership and delight in being players stirring the plot."

The media do go on and on about coups, and blood-on-their-hands, and knives in the back, and the shady role of the "faceless men" in assassinating Rudd. It's as if political parties do not change their leaders when they are not successful.

I still think that the current awful state of political theatre is only possible because we have the particular leaders we have. If it was anyone other than Gillard and Abbott we'd have less of a circus.

We'd still have nonsense, of course. Question Time would still be farce. The government is getting through so much serious legislation that is being completely ignored, and the opposition is putting forward Cat in the Hat style rubbish as policy and getting away with it. That is only possible because of the peculiarities of Gillard and Abbott.

"I still think that the current awful state of political theatre is only possible because we have the particular leaders we have."

Abbott and Gillard do appear to hate on another. But Julie Bishop is particularly nasty as well in question time. The subtext is that Gillard is a witch or a Lady MacBeth.

It would be a cardinal error for Abbott's Bishop to even remotely criticise ANY other woman for being a witch. This is a lawyer who participated for James Hardie whilst was ducking its obligation to its sickened workforce.
This is a more likely candidate for,
"a witch or...Lady Macbeth".

"Abbott and Gillard do appear to hate on another."

Agreed. It seems to be personal with them. Like a couple going through an ugly divorce who are so intent on destroying one another they're not aware of the impact their behaviour has on other people.

Lindsay Tanner in his Window Dressing: The Mirage of Political Reform essay in The Monthly says that:

Parliament has largely failed to adapt to the age of intrusive electronic media, and needs sweeping changes. Television has changed the significance of particular parliamentary processes and the wider political context dramatically, making a lot of previously important parliamentary mechanisms almost redundant. Formulaic speeches on legislation by backbench conscripts are largely a waste of time and could be cut back substantially to allow for more serious debate about major issues.

He continues:
Further changes to Question Time are needed, including abolishing Dorothy Dix questions from government members and drastically curtailing the use of condolences and indulgences that allow leaders to hold forth on everything from touring rugby teams to deceased singers. Individual ministers should be required to answer questions on their portfolios before relevant House committees, as many rarely receive questions in Question Time.

Sensible suggestions. I cannot see them happening soon. Meanwhile the Liberal Party is becoming the party of the political ferals, whilst Gillard leads one of the least popular governments in Australian political history.

Its the Slippery Pete Show as far a as I am concerned.
The opposition don't have to do much anyway. With this latest poll scandal with Rudd (4 corners) and 190 new boat people Abbott and co can just sit there and grin.

"The media do go on and on about coups, and blood-on-their-hands, and knives in the back, and the shady role of the "faceless men" in assassinating Rudd."

The anti-Rudd coup by the factions still sits uneasily in the national political imagination. At best it is a mystery; at worst a symbol of something sinister in the culture of the contemporary Labor Party. Rudd was popular with the Australian people.

Dorie
re your comment:
"The opposition don't have to do much anyway."

On present indications, under Gillard or any of her likely successors, Labor will be destroyed at the next election. Or it will take the NSW Right option-- it will try to save itself by electing a new leader.

Nan,
Perhaps a reason why Labor has not sent Rudd to oblivion and why many MP's still refuse to publically say they would not support his leadership. They know that their only chance of winning the next election is with either Rudd or Gillard. With Gillard through hard work and good press maybe. With Rudd if it is well timed. No one else in Labor has enough street cred or poll appeal.

Dorie
re" They know that their only chance of winning the next election is with either Rudd or Gillard. With Gillard through hard work and good press maybe"

Gillard does the hard yards in legislation--cutting back on the regressive subsidy for private health insurance is an example; even if it is only a small step in making the health system fairer and more effective.

However, I do doubt that this kind of hard work will save Gillard because she does not receive a good press. She will not receive much credit for being able to pass good reforming legislation--eg., beating back the big tobacco companies on the public health issue of tobacco packaging.

"[Gillard] will not receive much credit for being able to pass good reforming legislation"

Not from the media. They are obsessed with the rumours, spin and noise around the ongoing fixation with Labor’s leadership tensions. So the main legislative event of the day---the passing of the means testing of the private health insurance--- is relegated to an inside page. It is of minor concern.

We live in an inverted world.

Gary,
I am yet to see any plain packaged ciggies. I don't smoke but have noticed they are no longer displayed in view(which is good). Most voters I think realise what a big chunk of money the government makes from people sucking poison into their bodies so beating up on tobacco is a bit like swearing at shoes.

Why don't the media do their job and question the subsidies to the private health insurance industry---like they do with the car industry?

The media seem to be in favour of ever more support (public subsidies) for the private health insurance industry. Not many of the journalists are in favour of rolling back the middle class welfare that was locked into the welfare state by Howard and Abbott.

"most voters I think realise what a big chunk of money the government makes from people sucking poison into their bodies so beating up on tobacco is a bit like swearing at shoes."

its incremental change. But credit where credit is due. Plain packaging was a good public health initiative. It would not have come with an Abbott Coalition government.

I think Abbott was a quite good Health minister in his time. He's a fit fellow and if he had his way he may like to ban smoking altogether.

maude,
he is a fit fellow but his political philosophy says that its primarily a question of individual responsibility.

The media "are obsessed with the rumours, spin and noise around the ongoing fixation with Labor’s leadership tensions. "

The leadership speculation is killing Gillard. Nothing else is breaking through.The leadership issue needs to be dealt with soon.