Murdoch and Fairfax use Labor to destroy Labor

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The campaign to falsify the record of the Rudd and Gillard Governments by the Murdoch and Fairfax media has not abated since the September election. If anything, it's accelerated, writes Alan Austin.

JUST THIS MONTH, media characterisations of the Labor governments from members of Parliament, past and present, include “bastardry”, “backstabbing”, “dysfunction” and “idiocy”.

Well, of course, we would expect Coalition MPs to spread those condemnations of Labor. But here’s the thing — they are from Australian Labor Party members.

This malignant commentary includes accusations not just damaging to Labor’s community standing, but often verifiably false. This would appear powerful confirmation of the effectiveness of the mainstream media’s disinformation campaign over the last six years.

Former Labor speaker in the House of Representatives Anna Burke gave The Age a series of free kicks against the Labor Party with her emotional outbursts on ABC Television two weeks ago.

Maxine McKew – once Labor’s star member for Bennelong – also gifted The Age such gems as Labor’s refugee policy being “perverse and cruel” and Kevin Rudd’s trip to the Northern Territory to announce tax changes “idiocy”.

Former minister Nicola Roxon gave all media the golden opportunity to use Kevin Rudd and bastard in a prominent headline with salacious criticisms of Labor in the text below.

Perversely, given what is known of the mainstream media’s willingness routinely to suppress pro-Labor good news and fabricate anti-Labor bad news, several Labor figures actually went out of their way to write fresh opinion pieces distorting Labor’s record.

Rodney Cavalier, minister in the Wran and Unsworth governments in NSW, wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald that the ALP since the 1990s has been in a

'...degeneration that shows no sign of ending.'

'Labor is suffering brain death,' he asserted, 'because most members and senators are essentially the same'.

Former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope and ex-staffers Ross Maxwell and Greg Friedewald gave their party an extraordinary spray in The Canberra Times.

Their piece highlighted 'venomous infighting' and

'...the backstabbing, disloyalty and dysfunction that was the hallmark of and will be the enduring legacy of the Labor government.'

Bizarrely, these long-time Labor members claim some current shadow ministers

'...deserve to have been expelled from caucus.'

Former federal Labor candidate Francis Ventura penned a hostile piece for Labor’s most vicious critic The Daily Telegraph, which they gleefully headed

'Labor a joke but the true believers are not amused.'

Ventura – a young politician who climbed aboard the ABC's Shitsville Express – described party procedures as

'... a too-smart-by-half process whereby the outcome was determined in advance'

and an

'... act of pseudo-brilliance [which] nearly matches that of Azerbaijani President Aliyev …'

'Well, the warlords’ time is up,' Ventura declared. 'We’re taking our party back …'

Yet he seems happy to bolster the Murdoch media empire’s war effort which has surely been far more destructive to Labor than any factional leader’s.

Union officials outside the party have joined the chorus. The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s Dave Noonan offered The Australian the advice that the ALP had a

“... lack of values [and] the absence of progressive political ideas” and was beset with “disunity and ego-driven personality politics."

Of course criticisms of the party’s rules and functioning are entirely appropriate. Essential, in fact. And now is indeed the time. But there is no need to do so in Murdoch and Fairfax outlets, thereby validating their authority and credibility.

Cool spots among the bushfires of self-immolation were Labor member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, and Australian Young Labor president, Kerrie Kahlon, whose more disciplined pieces in The Australian last Monday and Tuesday, respectively, were almost entirely free of anti-Labor vitriol and falsehoods.

More constructive still were party members whose critiques appeared in the alternative media. These include Peter Wicks in Independent Australia, Geoff Gallop in New Matilda and by Kimberley Ramplin in Guardian Australia.

The strategists who run the Liberal Party’s campaign through Fairfax and Murdoch publications will have been satisfied, however, that these moderate opinions were overwhelmed by the multiplicity of the mendacious.

The reality, of course, is virtually the opposite of the Fairfax and Murdoch narrative. The Rudd and Gillard Governments were far from dysfunctional or incompetent.

Leadership tensions, while real, were neither unique nor inhibiting of effective administration. Most recent Australian governments and many others in Western democracies have experienced these tensions. The Gillard versus Rudd issues were less vitriolic and debilitating than Peter Costello versus John Howard, Paul Keating versus Bob Hawke, or Andrew Peacock versus Malcolm Fraser. Only the media fixation was more extreme.

Some legislation may have been delayed by internal ructions during the first Rudd period. But the Gillard years saw a record rate of legislative achievement, including several far-reaching reforms. The level of ministerial integrity, as measured by dismissals for incompetence or corruption, surpassed the record of the Savage Government in New Zealand in the 1930s. Labor 2007-13 now has the best profile of any Westminster government since the 1820s.

Most of the entrenched foreign affairs problems Labor inherited in 2007 were resolved. Ministers in the economics portfolios produced the strongest and most equitable economy in the world today.

Watchers abroad – who do not read the falsehoods of the local media, but rely on accurate data instead – awarded Australia triple A credit ratings with all three agencies for the first time in 2011, Finance Minister of the Year 2011, International Infrastructure Minister of the Year 2012, a seat on the United Nations Security Council, chair of the Pacific Island Forum, and the vote to chair next year’s G20 group of the world’s 20 major economies.


As for Labor’s status now, there are more positives than negatives. Party membership has just increased by about 4,000. The leadership ballot was judged successful even by Labor’s opponents. A mere 30,000 voters changing sides, if that were to happen in the most marginal seats, would see Labor returned. And the latest by-election – in the scandal-plagued state of NSW – saw a record swing to Labor of more than 26.0 per cent.

Imagine what Labor’s standing might be if efforts to destroy it were resisted rather than advanced by party members.

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