Greens' Senator Scott Ludlam has hit a chord with the Australian people with his scorching speech about Tony Abbott ― and that is something News Limited simply won't allow. George W. Bludger unpicks the confusingly amusing Murdoch fightback.
ANY TIME I READ an article under a News Limited masthead, I always walk away thinking:
“But what does this have to do with the price of fish?”
It no longer surprises me the way journalists and opinionistas who work for Murdoch can take a specific event and mince it into a contorted mess of spaghetti logic.
In the end, it always serves two purposes:
- to divert you from the crux of an event via confusion and straw-man arguments; and, ultimately,
- to dismiss it altogether.
Take for example Peter Brent’s latest in The Australian:
ON Tuesday, West Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam delivered a speech to a near-empty chamber that went, according to some reports, “viral”.
Right off the bat, Brent dismisses Ludlam’s speech by focussing on how many other Senators were in the chamber at the time and, in case you’ve already heard any buzz on the speech, by placing the word “viral” in inverted commas.
And yes, it went “viral” in the true sense of the word ― unlike anything Brent’s ever written.
You can read or watch it here. The word “racist” appears near the end.
So just in case you had any intention of listening to the full seven-and-a-half minutes of Ludlam’s speech, do yourself a favour and fast forward to the word “racist”. Then set your player to ‘repeat’ and just play that word over and over and over and over ...
Ludlam is up for re-election in four weeks, and his speech would appeal to some people, but not most.
News Limited never gives up on an opportunity to attack anyone who doesn’t fit their ideal of a “free market warrior” and Senator Scott Ludlam would have a hard time donning that armour even if his life depended on it.
Ironically, the sentence does a better job at dismissing Ludlam’s speech on the basis of “appeal”, because you know, if you’re a Greens politician, who has a progressive message, and are up for re-election and, well, you get the “logic”.
But the Greens are a minor party. They don’t need to attract anything like majority support.
You see kids, if you don’t need to attract majority support, then you can say anything you like ― even the truth!
The Greens receive a lot of unctuous guidance from the political class about how they should position themselves politically. They are told they need to tone down their rhetoric and policies and move to the centre.
And who better to give them that 'guidance' than those who oppose them. Like rightwing politicians, or News Limited writers, or the fantasy world of the 'political class'.
Most of this is just the usual personal preference dressed up as tactical advice that can be found across opinion pages. Some of it is just misguided.
Well, if the shoe fits.
The Greens claim they aspire to replace the ALP as the major left-of-centre party, but that’s not going to happen. With their support waning in every jurisdiction they’re flat out just surviving.
Of course they only appeal to a minority; they just need to maximise that minority.
It is probably in their political interests, for example, to continue opposing offshore processing and mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The major parties don’t agree with them, and neither does a majority of Australians, but a proportion would.
Okay kids, please turn to page 35 of Mathematics Fun with Professor Brent, where we will discuss how around 50 per cent means 'proportion'.
But this, again, misses the point, that Senator Ludlam’s speech has everything to do with the disgusting reality that is Australia’s handling of asylum seekers and nothing to do with what a 'proportion' of Australians think.
The quota for next month’s election is 14.3 per cent, and with talk of Labor preferencing right-wing parties ahead of the Greens, Ludlam needs a primary vote as close to that number as possible.
So, umm, the speech?...
The central theme of Ludlam’s speech was that Tony Abbott’s vile brand of politics is a huge turn-off in his big-hearted, forward-looking home state. When you consider that last year, two-party-preferred Coalition support was bigger in WA than any other state or territory in the country, and that it was WA’s biggest vote, for either side, since 1977, that’s approaching delusional.
What’s 'delusional' is taking fact A, attaching it to fact B, and hocus pocus:
'We keep dinosaurs off our lawn by keeping the lights on in the garage.'
Tony’s politics and persona go down well in WA.
Hence, what speech?
This graph has Coalition two-party-preferred support in WA, and the rest of the country, since 1937.
Somewhere on that graph you’ll find Ludlam’s speech [squint].
But it is also true that WA has a sizeable Greens base, with the Greens there routinely outperforming the party in the rest of the country at federal elections. In this way WA differs from also-conservative Queensland, where Greens attract relatively few votes.
'So just in case the whole thing in Western Australia goes balls-up for conservatives in the coming weeks, please consider the above my disclaimer.'
This graph has WA and rest of country Greens primary House of Representatives votes since 1998.
Gosh, if you hadn’t heard Ludlam’s speech before reading Brent’s, um, analysis, you’d think it had everything to do with graphs.
What speech you ask? Now you’re getting it!
Premier Colin Barnett’s fading popularity and the controversial shark cull provide fallow ground for Ludlam on 5 April. His speech was good politics, but perhaps a bit early. The last sitting week before the 5 April election ends on 27 March. Maybe he is penning some more.
So, what did we learn?
Well, there was someone talking about something, he would say that, because graphs, and no one’s listening anyway.
As with most 'analysis' in News Limited papers, when you’re seeking non-biased, detailed reporting of an event that’s uncomfortable to the conservative class in Australia, always remember to add -news.com.au in your Google search.
That way, you get the opinion and analysis of a different “proportion” of journalism.
You can follow George Bludger on Twitter @GeorgeBludger.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
The originals of John Graham's art, featured above as well as throughout IA, are available for purchase by emailing email@example.com. You can see a gallery of John's political art on his Cartoons and Caricatures Facebook page.