The resignations of the Premier and Deputy Premier of New South Wales, blaming ICAC and Friendlyjordies, respectively, signal the worst time of mourning for establishment media, writes managing editor Michelle Pini.
Did the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (NSW ICAC) bring about the sudden resignations of either or both of these politicians?
And what role, if any, did Friendlyjordies play in the bizarre events of the past week?
Whatever the answers to these questions, one thing is certain: neither Berejiklian nor Barilaro’s resignations were brought about by the “public interest” journalism of Australia’s establishment media.
Never has the Coalition public relations machine that now occupies the nation’s Fourth Estate displayed more blatant bias and downright negligence than in the media coverage in the days following the implosion of the New South Wales Government. The shameless failure to hold the Premier, Deputy Premier and their entire Coalition Government to account after their respective resignations has been nothing short of breathtaking.
These failures would be comical if they weren’t so telling as to how far the mainstream media has fallen.
When the former Premier of NSW suddenly chose to announce her resignation this week, expressions of sympathy for Berejiklian dominated "news" reports. It falls on us, then, to remind the general populace that Berejiklian has not died or been the victim of some terrible injustice, but is instead being investigated for corruption and breaching public trust by the State's independent body charged with this responsibility.
It appears the media cabal is suffering from collective amnesia since even a short trip down memory lane reveals a Premier who:
- had a secret relationship with one of her ministers;
- covered up and lied about it;
- awarded millions of dollars in grants for his business interests, while still involved with him;
- instructed her office to shred documents that may have provided evidence of her wrongdoing;
- when first questioned by ICAC (in 2020) about these dealings, repeated that she couldn't recall details more than 150 times; and then
- freely decided to resign rather than simply stand aside (as other premiers have done) while the corruption allegations against her are investigated.
John "Call me Pork" Barilaro, meanwhile, seems to have taken inspiration from former Attorney-General Christian Porter, who, while on mental health leave, decided to sue the ABC for defamation over the reporting of rape allegations against him, then chose to abandon the lawsuit and, finally, claimed this amounted to vindication.
Barilaro similarly chose to take defamation proceedings against YouTube comedian and political commentator Jordan Shanks-Markovina and is now claiming the lawsuit – which Barilaro instigated – is taking an intolerable toll on his health, such that it contributed to his resignation.
Shanks-Markovina told IA yesterday:
'Bruz can claim his demise came from the supposed racial abuse he suffered from me — a very defamatory claim I might add. He can't hide behind parliamentary privilege either as he said it under a tree where the ghost of a koala was hopefully pissing on him.'
It was Friendlyjordies, of course, who continued to shine the spotlight on Barilaro's shameless funnelling of public moneys into those electorates that served his personal political ends.
Time will tell if Barilaro will also drop his defamation case before likewise claiming victory. Of course, this could be the reason Barilaro resigned. However, perhaps the revelations that may be unearthed by this action against Friendlyjordies together with a possible appearance before ICAC, yet to be confirmed, may have had some bearing on his sudden exodus.
Meanwhile, back at the mainstream media ranch, David Koch gesticulated with outrage and demanded answers from the PM as to whether NSW ICAC needs to be "reformed":
"Who the hell are they [ICAC]?
Who are they responsible to?
Who reviews them?
Does ICAC need to be reformed?"
The Prime Minister, seizing the scrutiny avoidance baton handed him by Barnaby Joyce, answered in a suitably sombre tone:
"It's not a model that we've ever contemplated at a Federal level."
Because... wait for it:
"...You've gotta have processes that assume people are innocent before proven guilty."
A patently false statement that does not reflect NSW ICAC's remit or actions in any way — but that didn't stop the media at large from pouncing on the investigative body instead of the politicians it is investigating.
However, not only have these media insults to our intelligence continued ad nauseam, they are now accompanied by a full-on offensive on the supposed misconduct by Labor state premiers.
Staining the cover of yesterday's (6 October)The Age – now an unrecognisable shadow of the former hard-hitting publication others once emulated – is not an image of either of the fallen New South Wales politicians. Instead, it featured a photo of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews alongside the headline, 'Graft body examines role of Premier in firefighters deal'. This was followed by reports of Andrews "defending himself".
The mere mention of the Victorian Premier, of course, prompted Victorian Shadow Attorney-General Tim Smith to call for Andrews' resignation.
Sadly, as the old adage of the "truth never getting in the way of a good story" now seems to form the motto for many mainstream publications, this ridiculous beat up was even picked up as a 'big story' by the ABC’s Michael Rowland.
Leaving aside the fact that it is not Berejiklian or Barilaro on the cover, despite its misleading headline, the farcical “report” doesn’t even indicate that Andrews is the subject of any investigation. In a radio interview later yesterday, Smith admitted to having "no idea" whether the investigation even involved Premier Andrews.
Where, you may ask, is the outrage over both the Premier and Deputy Premier of NSW abandoning ship on the cusp of that state opening up, under persistent dark clouds of alleged corruption gathered years ago?
"I'm sure there are millions of people who are seeing what's happened to Gladys Berejiklian and understand that's a pretty good call not to follow that model."
Rounding off a week of irresponsible, if not downright idiotic, reporting, yesterday on Afternoon Briefing, the ABC's Jane Norman asked The Centre for Public Integrity's Stephen Charles AO QC about a Federal ICAC:
“Is there a risk here that if you allow a corruption watchdog to look back, well, then, if there’s a change of government the new government might use that watchdog to sort of settle political scores or level the ... um ... settle scores?"
A standard of journalism to which we can only aspire.
Shanks-Markovina is nonetheless philosophical about Barilaro's exit, telling IA:
Yet, despite [Barilaro] blaming me directly, I'm sad to see him go.
A massive cancer like that, who, on recalling his proudest accomplishments in office, listed the destruction of Kosciuszko National Park as numero uno. The best thing he ever did in his life!
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a once in a lifetime gift to comedy. When will we ever see someone that overtly dumb in such a powerful position ever again?
Perhaps, when racing to the defence of Berejiklian and co in future, the establishment media could, instead, take Shanks-Markovina's lead and at least find something to report that carries an element of truth, however terrifying.
This editorial was originally published as part of the weekly subscriber-only newsletter and may be read online in the IA members-only area. You can receive this weekly in your inbox by subscribing HERE.
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- Friendlyjordies v John 'Call me Pork' Barilaro
- An open letter from Friendlyjordies producer Kristo Langker
- 'Fixated' Friendlyjordies case brings us closer to a police state
- Fixing fixations by arresting Friendlyjordies' Kristo
- Friendlyjordies breaks governments