The mainstream political commentariat now performs as a group of extra-parliamentary politicians and is becoming a danger to the nation, writes Dr Klaas Woldring.
THE ENORMOUS INFLUENCE of the traditional media is becoming a serious danger for the progress of this nation. It is therefore essential that the suspended media legislation be retrieved and re-introduced as soon as possible in an acceptable form. Its major objective, creating additional diversity of media channels is obviously very important for Australia future governments but there are further aspects. We need freedom of abuse and political interference by journalists and media barons. In the recent political drama a number of disturbing aspects emerged:
The political commentariat performs as a group of extra-parliamentary politicians.
Some of these unelected politicians function plainly as agents of the plutocracy. This is particularly the case with News Corporation media outlets. The onslaught against the Gillard Government has been relentless. As they have 70 per cent of the newspaper circulation this has been a major handicap for the Gillard Government.
In the Fairfax stable are housed several Ruddites who equally undermined the Gillard Government consistently. Jonathan Holmes, in a recent ABC’s Media Watch, correctly exposed this situation. In their defence they claim to have consulted “impeccable sources”, remaining anonymous though, and predicted a successful Rudd coup. How utterly wrong they were! More than half of them keep telling the readers, even now, that Gillard has been a “poor campaigner” and a disaster as a PM. These same, apparently highly qualified, writers informed readers that the winner of the drama was Tony Abbott.
Notions that the Gillard Government is virtually certain to lose the September federal election are basically presented as fact. In reality, such claims are irresponsibly premature, superficial and/or based on wishful thinking. The mere fact that Rudd and his staunchest supporters have been moved out of their positions or neutralised could well prove to be a highly positive development for the new Gillard Cabinet. Rudd has withdrawn totally. He didn’t have the numbers in any case, and his backers stuffed up altogether. Perhaps they could give Gillard credit for bringing on the spill quick smart, giving them little time to organise. The Gillard Cabinet can now move sensibly towards implementing positive policies, together with the Greens and Independents. Gillard’s new Cabinet has been put together in less than four days and has been sworn in already. It has generally been regarded as a competent selection.
With Gillard having at least 80 per cent of the traditional media arrayed against her it is absolutely breath-taking that she has survived three of these contests. One would think that there are more achievements in the offing that might stun the incompetent commentariat.
The claims by four ex-Ministers that they resented policy directions to revive the class war are nonsensical, presumably based on statements made by Paul Howes after Gillard addressed a union conference. What is the real evidence for that? It looks more like face-saving after a pathetic coup effort. The fact remains that in spite of some preventable managerial and judgement errors, the record of the Gillard Government is quite credible. There is time to better communicate this to the general public and, most importantly, to add it. The media legislation certainly needs to be revisited and strengthened as well particularly in view of the truly appalling record sketched above.
New initiatives could be flagged in the period leading up to the September election. There are massive problem areas that require bold Government initiatives. The thorny area of federal-state relations ‒ not at all solved by Rudd’s “cooperative federalism” ‒requires a search for a new Constitution. Of course, a new Constitution is not just needed for that telling reason.
Furthermore, the parliamentary shambles of the last few years requires an answer. Why is this so? Is it because the electoral system is so grossly biased towards the major parties that it prevents diversity of representation and meaningful democratic elections?
In the industrial relations system, still grounded in the class war of the 19th and early 20th centuries, businesses are struggling with declining productivity. Australia needs to boost employee participation in the workplace. That requires legislation from a progressive labour party. How is Australia going to avoid being drawn again into US foreign affairs follies like Iraq and Afghanistan. Will the Gillard Government start a debate about that?
Should the ALP distance themselves from the Greens? It would be a fundamental error. The Greens are their natural allies, despite claims to the contrary from people in the NSW branch of the party, who should know better. The idea that the ALP can return to a party that needs to govern in its own right is sheer madness. That is the past. All continental European social democratic parties have long been part of coalitions with the Greens. Successfully in most cases.
One does wonder who Gillard’s immediate advisers are. The preventable management and judgement mistakes that have hurt her Government suggest incompetencies in that sphere.
Given the prospect that the Abbott-led Opposition, if elected, would at best be a mirror image of the Howard Government, the field is now open to Gillard and her Cabinet to launch major initiatives. Voters may soon begin to understand that a strongly reformist ALP, realising that it needs to tackle these major issues, is their very best option.
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