They are madly tut-tutting today, the Coalition’s typing pool. “It was a horror,” lamented Phil Coorey in the AFR. “Unfit to be PM,” shrieked Rupert Murdoch’s most ingratiating windbag Terry McCrann in the Australian, flanked by Judith Sloan who conflated Albanese’s gaffe with the entire “Party’s complete misunderstanding of the jobs figures”. Michael West reports on Albo’s howler and hogwash masquerading as journalism.
No bow is too long, no quiver of arrows too large for this mob.
The Age devoted an entire block of its home page to the “staggering cost” of Anthony Albanese’s stupidity.
“Epic howler” decreed the ABC last night before its morning crew awoke today to follow, for yet another day, the news agendas set by News Corp and Nine.
This grandiose, triumphal condemnation of Albo’s failure to name the cash rate and the current jobless rate is quite the irony. For it was this very party of media hacks which, in its entirety, failed to understand what a franking credit was at the last election, choosing instead, perhaps unwittingly, to trot out Scott Morrison’s fake talking points.
Franking credit freebies were dubbed a “Great Big Retiree Tax”, and Labor’s negative gearing proposals a “Housing Tax” which would bring the economy to its knees. The facts are that these the Labor proposals were not taxes at all, they merely proposed to remove subsidies.
Yes, Albo’s miss on the questions of bank rates and employment stats is a howler, no doubt. It has delivered Morrison and co their advertising campaign on a platter. They won’t have to hire Universal McCann for this one, they could shoot it on their iPhones.
Mind you, Liberal grandee John Howard, when questioned by another reporter cruising for a gotcha, said “Anthony Albanese didn’t know the unemployment rate? So what!”
That was definitely not on message like the corporate press pack and the ABC.
Liberal love story in fantasy land
This same little bubble in Canberra, and their craven corporate bosses, are the very culprits who swallowed the Coalition line in 2019 that removing subsidies for mostly wealthy people, that is franking credits and negative gearing subsidies, equated to “great big taxes”. If anything, both equate to a tax on young people who don’t enjoy massive superannuation subsidies and lurks on their second properties and more.
Even when the idiosyncratic entrepreneur Dick Smith bobbed up before the election and asked why the government was writing him a cheque for $500,000 in a single year, yes from franking credits alone, yes subsidised by ordinary workers, the flock kept on a’bleating “Great big retiree tax”.
To its credit, after the election, and no doubt after some educational pointers by somebody who knew what he or she was talking about, the SMH issued a mea culpa; it was not a tax after all. Oops, too late.
Likewise they went quiet on the big “housing tax”, after some bloke who owned 8,000 homes called for negative gearing to be axed. Big media never met a billionaire they didn’t like, except Clive Palmer.
Truth is the journalists just did not understand how dividend imputation worked, or most of them at least, if they were not on the SMSF gravy train. It’s complex. But neither did they bother to inquire. Taking dictation is more their thing.
Now *that* is an epic howler. Ignorance, timidity and wilful oversight which cost Labor an election. It gave rise to the most corrupt Australian government since the Rum Rebellion.
So it is that the Coalition has already doubled down on its “superior economic managers” mantra. Why wouldn’t they. Though there is no evidentiary basis for this. As demonstrated here many times.
Truth and investigation are not the strongest suits for Australia’s little media club. Preferring to be fed with easy secret briefings by the government and its PR people, preferring to report the political antics rather than policy, the click-bait rather than the reality, they simply can’t see the forest for the trees.
The “drop” of the day, nestled besides no less than social commentator Rita Panahi’s pontifications on the ignorance of Anthony Albanese, is this from Murdoch’s Herald Sun today: “The Coalition will ramp up its attack on Labor’s economic credentials with analysis showing its aspirational policies could cost taxpayers $302bn over a decade.
Oh really? Good thing the word “could” is in the mix. Just making stuff up again, snatching figures from the mists of Coalition in-house modelling no doubt, is this magical mystical $302 billion.
Like coal-to-Ukraine, like the 70,000 jobs for the Hells Gate dam, like the billion trees planted in Tasmania, like “shocking new government research” that a ban on new coal mines would put put 53,000 Queensland jobs at risk, they just make it up and feed it to the chooks.
This is not journalism.
Debt and deficit lost too
At the beginning of the Coalition’s nine-year term in office, it was all “debt and deficit”, every day “debt and deficit”. Where are debt and deficit now in the media discourse, now that the nation’s debt is bearing down on $1 trillion. Yes, from a “crippling $235bn in 2013 to a “manageable” $963bn (Budget forecast) by the end of June; and deficits to the horizon.
Have any of these accredited journalists, the ones permitted to attend a press conference, seen fit to ask Scott Morrison what the debt was when his party came to power and what it is now? No, the official narrative is all jobs, jobs, jobs.
And why is it jobs? For good reason. Merely because jobs are the one thing they have going for them. And why is that? Has any journalist bothered to ask if the major factor in all this is that thing which is still killing people but is not longer part of the PR pitch either, the pandemic?
Covid killed migration, less migration means a far tighter employment market. Yet none have pointed this out, or if they have their voice has been drowned in the cacophony of adulation.
To be fair, the pandemic blew out the debt but so did our soi-disant superior economic managers, forking out $40bn in JobKeeper to corporations which didn’t need it. No clawback mechanism, just a hand-out. Then there’s the lazy $5bn or $6bn frittered away in incompetent defence procurement on submarines, and the list goes on, and on. Abject incompetence, and yet Labor has the cheek to suggest we waste $2.5bn on Australia’s most frail and elderly, those in aged care. It’s an outrage!
Yet the media takes them seriously. Numbers are not their strong suit either.
The antics will proceed for six weeks. And the press will devour the political theatre and ignore the gross failures on climate, asylum seekers, defence, aged care, women, health, foreign affairs, welfare and the economy.
Oh, we almost forgot. It’s not just jobs, it’s also this flimsiest of claims that they’ve improved the financial position of the nation by $100bn. For those not au fait with budget financing and forecasts, this balderdash is based on a balls-up in Treasury estimates. They, Treasury, reckoned the pandemic would hit Australia $100bn harder than it did. Overcooked it. So, they are claiming this as their very own superior economic management. Yes, they did better than a guess.
It’s a bit like the sales assistant at the clothing store putting the wrong price tag on the jacket, then the store discounting it back to what it’s really worth.
But how the blazes are ScoMo and co getting to their figure of 40,000 lives saved in the pandemic? Daggy Dad, hairdresser, fighter pilot, Sharkies fan, curry chef, ukulele player, now lifesaver. Hope it wasn’t mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
40,000 lives, really, where is the modelling? is this the play-it-by-ear methodology? We’ve asked the Health Department, as the minister and self-nominated serial lifesaver Greg Hunt has also sallied forth with his 40,000 lives claim – alas they’ve stonewalled. There is no modelling probably. Not even Deloitte would do it for a chunky fee.
As for all this noise about ScoMo being the bad guy, that’s overdone. Done by colleagues and political rivals alike. Politics is a team game. Morrison requires the entire Liberal and National party infrastructure behind him, its welter of wealthy donors, our slush money to spray about buying votes and the communications apparatchiks of the corporate media.
That’s the government-subsidised News Corp, the government-subsidised Nine and the government subsidised Seven, inter alia.
And right now, day three of the campaign, perhaps just for a while, he is rising as their miracle maker again.
Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.