...or never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The owners of the mainstream press in Australia and the political party that serves their interests largely dictate our one-sided political coverage, says Letitia McQuade.
AS WE MOVE ever closer to the Federal election, there is one nagging question that I cannot get out of my mind. And that is: what is it that drives the media's relentless character assassination of Julia Gillard, and why does the press gallery so consistently fail to scrutinise the policies and rhetoric of the Opposition?
Granted, we have heard very little from the Opposition by way of policy so far, but surely what we have heard ought to have raised some questions, or sounded some alarm bells, somewhere.
The question is largely rhetorical, as the answer is patently clear when you take into account who owns the mainstream press in Australia and which political party serves their interests.
With Fairfax – having Rinehart as its major stake holder – and Murdoch's News Corp making a cosy duopoly, the LNP has the media firmly in its corner, while the Government must struggle against a barrage of hysterical catcalling to sell itself and its credentials to the Australian public.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, the international media are quite gobsmacked by the Australian media's wholesale vilification of the current government. The Guardian recently described Australia's hate affair with the Gillard government as "churlish", stating outright "we don't know how lucky we are" — even going so far as to suggest we should take over the poms long held moniker and be renamed "whinging Aussies".
When confronted by such an article, you have to ask yourself, what exactly is this reputable, mainstream publication seeing that fails to meet our collective eyes?
The answer is simple. Reality! Not the endless belligerent tirades of the shock jocks, not the sexist jeers of witch, bitch and liar. (Honestly, the way the media have carried on you would think Julia was the only politician in history to have changed a policy after an election, whereas I am struggling to think of one that has not.) But if you take away all the white noise and let the facts speak for themselves, a different picture starts to emerge.
We have the lowest rate of unemployment in the OECD, we have the highest growth, we have one of the lowest debt/GDP ratios, we have just hit 21 years of consecutive economic growth, and our treasurer has won international awards for managing our economy through the worst global crisis since the great depression.
Fact is, we are the envy of every nation on the planet. By any global measure we are kicking goals while the rest of the developed world is sinking into the abyss, but our media's reportage remains a cavalcade of negative invective. According to the press gallery our government is "in disarray", "dysfunctional", "in crisis", "under siege", "beleaguered", "all waste and mismanagement". But once again, when you peel back the hyperbole and look at the reality, the picture presented by the media is far from true.
If you look at what the Government has actually achieved from a minority position, it has been staggeringly successful. We have a carbon tax which, to spite all the insane doomsday prophecies, has not caused the sky to fall in, and many low earners are finding that they are actually better off with the tax cut that came with it. We also now have a clean energy industry that boasts $29 billion a year in revenue and employs 53,000 people. We have the mining tax in place, an NBN well underway, we have the NDIS coming, and we have the Gonski reforms to look forward to. These are all solid, tangible runs on the board — and all with an eye fixed firmly on the future of our nation. With all this going on, it's not hard to understand why the rest of the world is totally baffled by our hatred of all things Gillard Government.
Why are we so convinced, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that this Government is a shocker and has to go? The Murdoch/NLP strategy is simple enough — repeat the lie so often until it is generally perceived to be the truth.
Case in point: "Government stimulus was all waste and mismanagement".
The fact is one of the world's top economists, Nobel Prize laureate and Professor at New York's Columbia University Joseph Stiglitz said that:
"Australia's stimulus, as rolled out during the GFC was among the best designed in the world."
He did concede, however, that there will always be some waste with such programs, but he described Australia's debt level as miniscule, and said
"...it was right that Australia got into debt spending money on the fiscal stimulus packages."
And if results are anything to go by, as the only developed nation to have avoided a recession, I would say Stiglitz is spot on with his summation of the governments apparent "stimulus debacle".
While there are number of issues – like asylum seekers and same sex marriage –where I think the government hasn't got it quite right, it is clear that they simply don't deserve the pillorying they have had from our press duopoly. There can be no question about it, Australia needs greater diversity in media ownership to protect our democracy. The Government knows this, and should they be returned at the election, this will doubtless be on their agenda, but in the meantime we owe it to ourselves to seek out other sources, check the facts, and remain ever mindful that we are simply not getting "fair and balanced" reportage in our News Corp dominated bubble.
We all need to take the time to research the facts, review the policies and think hard about what it is we are actually voting for before we cast our ballots on September 14.
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