Instead of doing its job and holding the Government to account, the mainstream media seems forever obsessed with the Opposition, says executive editor Michelle Pini.
THE MEDIA establishment seems to be confused.
As Morrison and Co attempt to push through their only election promise of the famed "tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts" – three levels and $158 billion in cuts, to be precise – this plan is being hailed as not only fair but essential by the mainstream media.
DESPERATELY SEEKING THE GOVERNMENT
Maybe it’s that the Coalition has never stopped acting as though it is in opposition. It has, in fact, spent the last six years blaming the previous Labor Government for everything, from its own economic mismanagement to rising power prices and carbon emissions, new boat arrivals, and the indefinite practice of holding people captive, illegally, in island refugee prisons.
And attacking Labor has been a very successful strategy, after all. Not only did this approach dispense with the long-maligned Rudd/Gillard/Rudd saga, but it also delivered the Coalition a third consecutive term in government. This is despite the penchant for leadership spills, continuing with gusto under the Coalition and resulting in the at least as chaotic Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison debacle.
Interestingly, the oustings of sitting Liberal Party PMs, unlike those of the previous Labor Government, seem now to be forgotten — acceptable, even. After all, they were "party room decisions". Case closed.
The approach of attacking Labor’s policies ad infinitum has also afforded this Government a period of hiatus, since attacking the strategies of the Opposition has kept the media spotlight off its own gaping hole where a policy platform would normally be.
All of this is understandable. Winning is the name of the game in politics and the self-proclaimed “miracle” that is the Morrison Government has managed very nicely, thank you.
However, now that the Coalition is once again the Government and the Labor Party and its previous leader are licking their wounds after losing the "unlosable election", the conventional media appears bewildered. Instead of scrutinising the Government, it has turned its attention on the Opposition.
ATTACKING THE OPPOSITION
In an interview on ABC Insiders (23 June) with Labor's Dr Jim Chalmers, acting host Michael Rowland accused the Labor Party of "persisting with the politics of envy" for daring to withhold its unerring support of the Government's tax policy and, instead, offering a compromise.
Perhaps some better questions might be: Why is the ABC repeating, verbatim, slogans from the Liberal Party PR handbook? Why is the public broadcaster not questioning the Government as to why it won't consider a compromise? Why it won't rework its inequitable policy? Why it won't come up with a real economic plan?
Once having his name linked with other "leftie" ABC journos, and so destined for exile, Andrew Probyn, gave a good pitch this week to avoid the scalpel, in what can only be described as an advertorial for the Government, entitled:
'Labor's tax cut compromise likely to haunt Anthony Albanese's leadership.'
Shouldn't the inference, from failing to deliver his one election promise of tax cuts, be that it would haunt Scott Morrison's leadership?
TAX CUTS STRATEGY DEBUNKED
When compared with the glossed over media presentations, the tax cuts strategy reality is quite the reverse.
The Australia Institute's latest study, for instance, debunked this confected idea of fairness and effectiveness and described the Government's income tax plan as:
'... a radical attack on Australia’s progressive tax system.'
In my view, Labor was right to oppose the second and third tranches of the Government’s overall tax-reduction package in the last election ... there are serious doubts about whether these later tranches of tax reductions can be afforded in the long run.
So, why is the mainstream media singing the Government's praises regarding the proposed tax cuts?
Is it, perchance, because Labor was supposed to win? All the polls said so. All the commentators said so. Have they forgotten who really did win? Despite all the articles they dutifully regurgitated, proclaiming Morrisons “miracle” win? Surely they couldn't be that stupid. Could they?
Or it could be that the grim remembrance of Emma Alberici – the last ABC journalist known to have criticised the Government's tax policy – haunts the halls of the national broadcaster like a ghost of journalism past.
Conceivably, it might also be due to those AFP media raids – now yesterday's news – that have put the wind up all sides of the prevailing media giants and associates.
Perhaps it’s that the dominant media players are suffering a type of collective Stockholm Syndrome? So long and so successfully has the Coalition held the media captive, deflecting scrutiny of its policies toward the so-called "internal disunity" of the Opposition. So effectively has it managed to ignore its own very real and ongoing leadership battles. So expertly has the Government managed to undermine the Opposition. And so categorically has the corporatocracy continued its neoliberal agenda via the Coalition and the narrowly held parameters of media ownership, that the line between analysis and advertorial has been blurred forever.
Whatever the reasons, instead of doing its job and holding the Government to account, the mainstream media – now, disappointingly, including the public broadcaster – is obsessed only with the Opposition.
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