There has been lots of great stuff written in recent weeks (and months) about why political journalism in this country is broken. Some innovative analysis and solutions have been offered, and many bloggers and ranters on the internet have different takes on why it’s broken, how it’s broken and what can be done to fix it. But everyone seems to agree that it’s broken, that much is clear.
Our media has a painfully short attention span. This is not a problem that exclusively ours either. During the current Republican presidential primaries, Jon Stewart described the US media as the dog from Up. The American media was bored with the current crop of Republican candidates so they started speculating about Rick Perry entering the race. He did, and the next day the media started speculating about Paul Ryan entering the race.
“Mum, can I have a Paul Ryan?”
“I JUST GOT YOU A RICK PERRY. AND YOU ALREADY BROKE YOUR MICHELE BACHMANN.”
This week the Australian media got bored. Bored of Julia Gillard, now they want a new Labor leader to defame (seeing as this one won’t let them).
All week, Gillard’s leadership has been “under threat”. From who? Doesn’t matter. The media is now is self-perpetuating-story mode. The media is reporting on the media’s speculation about the media comments that Gillard’s leadership in now under fire.
And that is the narrative. It doesn’t matter if the story doesn’t really have anything to do with leadership, the media applies their new narrative to it anyway.
This, for example:
“Left jab forces Gillard to defend her leadership”
Julia Gillard’s leadership is being further damaged as Labor’s Left faction demands she drop all plans for offshore processing of asylum-seekers.
The Left’s revolt follows the disastrous outcome for the Government from the High Court’s refusal to allow the proposed people swap with Malaysia.
As the row over Prime Minister Gillard’s judgment continued, the faction insisted cabinet return to Labor Party policy that excludes sending boat people to another country to process their claims for refugee status.
But Ms Gillard is defying her critics within the Government, vowing to remain in her post until the election in two years.
The story has nothing to do with leadership. Nothing. The left faction of the ALP wants a change in policy, not leadership. So how did we suddenly make the jump to “But Ms. Gillard is defying her critics within the Government, vowing to remain in her post until the election in two years”? A policy dispute is not a leadership dispute. But of course, the press gallery has spent all week building this narrative, so any story about the government will now be framed with questions of leadership.
All this leadership talk seems to be based on is some remarks by former Labor minister Graham Richardson and an unnamed Labor sources who said Gillard has “lost authority”. Hardly enough to justify the current media frame which has dominated every story about the government this week.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the entire party is in disarray and demanding a new leader immediately.
After a week of apparent leadership troubles the media is now free to speculate on who would replace Gillard. Even Andrew Bolt has his suggestions (I’m sure that the ALP will be returning his calls soon). Combet, Shorten, the Rudd revival, even Peter Beattie was being thrown around as if the media is so bored with the current options they need to inject leaders that aren’t even in Parliament into the debate.
The cross-benchers get in on the speculative action too, as the media turned to them to justify their narrative when the Labor party wouldn’t. Lenore Taylor wrote:
Mutterings about leadership change within the Labor Party usually end with the assertion that the three crossbench independents did their deals with Julia Gillard and would bring down the government should anyone move to depose her.
For so long we wanted to fantasise about a new Labor leader, but the independents wouldn’t let us.
But the independents themselves say that’s not necessarily true. The three independents are still backing the government, and the Prime Minister, but at least two don’t rule out supporting a Labor administration led by someone different.
See! See! We were right! The ALP could change their leadership!
As an aside, I will say my love for Tony Windsor grows each and every day.
“I don’t think I can conceive of a situation where I would impose Tony Abbott on the Australian people – they might choose him and if they do then that’s their choice, but I would never impose such a person. I have severe doubts about him as an alternative prime minister, always have had, but he’s compounded that in my mind by his absolute negativity and dog whistling. He’s encouraged that nasty edge with the Tea Party talkback people and it’s quite dangerous in my view. He’s making extraordinary claims in the climate debate … he’s denigrated Parliament with a deliberate strategy to make it look dysfunctional when the reality is it is not.”
Of course, I don’t think it is only Tony Abbott who is giving the impression that Parliament is dysfunctional. He is aided in no small way by the media, who have been more than willing to report on the alternate reality that is Abbott’s version of Parliament.
Rather than reporting on the policy, or even the substance of the High Court’s ruling (you had to go looking pretty hard to find out on what grounds the policy was deemed unlawful) the media has turned this week into a week of leadership speculation. A circus.
Much has been written about the Sideshow since Tanner released his excellent book back in May, but nothing seems to have changed in the way the Australian media reports politics.
And it’s hard to see it getting better.