Wren's week: The Federal Election, Shorten's mum and the Murdoch press

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Bill Shorten was defiant and emotional about the piece ran by the Daily Telegraph (screenshot via YouTube).

This week, John Wren discusses the leaders' debates, Labor's chances of electoral success and the newest low that the Murdoch media has sunk to.

Wren’s Week


I WAS AWAY last week in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory that is also in the midst of an election campaign. They are holding their provincial elections on the same Saturday our Federal Election is being held.

It was interesting to observe the way the campaigning is being carried out compared to Australia’s.

New Caledonia politically remains part of France. It elects Senators and MPs directly to the French Parliament; it is, however, going through a series of referenda on independence (the first of which was lost six months ago).

New Caledonia is unlike anywhere else in the Pacific. It is quite industrialised (heavily dependent on nickel mining and processing). Its voting population is split between largely European western city of Noumea and the Kanak (indigenous New Caledonians) dominated regions. So there are racial and city/country splits at play.

I spent time in both Noumea and the Kanak-dominant Northern region. In the Noumea markets, clean-cut young “Future with Confidence” Party members were handing out very detailed glossy campaign literature. The Party workers looked like Young Liberals and have a similar economic and socially conservative, pro-France stance.

In the North, around Kone and Poindimie there were many open-air well-attended meetings dominated by old school speechmaking and campaigning by Kanaka Independence parties.

The rancour that is evident in the Australian campaign was not openly evident in campaigning styles. It was old school hand-shaking, baby-kissing and speechmaking. There also seems to be mutual respect between all the candidates and parties.

Perhaps Australian campaigning needs to back off the presidential-style mass media campaign we are seeing now and return to old-fashioned retail campaigning. It’s much more civil.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen three leaders’ debates. As expected, all were comprehensively won by Shorten. Shorten is getting stronger and more persuasive as the campaign progresses. He is backed by a swathe of excellent well thought out policies and an equally superb team.

In the debates themselves, Morrison was caught between a rock and hard place. He should not have engaged in the debates. He has literally no policies to promote and his team are either incompetent or in "witness-protection". Morrison's constant arrogant smirk makes him almost instantly dislikeable even before he opens his mouth and the rubbish pours out.

Morrison was never going to win the debates but if he’d said no, he’d have been portrayed as a coward.

Morrison was reduced to physical intimidation through his “space invasion” tactic, shouting, outright lies and scare campaigns — in the absence of policy.

It’s all he has and Australians have seen right through it. 

If the space invasion move was actually a pre-meditated tactic, Morrison and his minders need to seriously up their game. Shorten is well-educated, a former union delegate and leader and now the leader of the ALP. He has dealt with bullies his entire life. The thought that someone could physically intimidate him is just laughable, even more so that Morrison might have thought he could intellectually bully him.

Shorten ate him for breakfast.

As the campaign wears on and we enter the last week, the Murdoch media is becoming more and more shrill and hysterical as they see the Liberals’ chances of re-election fade away before their eyes. The after-dark crew on Sky News will be apoplectic next week, however there are signs that some of the cooler heads in the Murdoch stable are now reporting the inevitable.

Interestingly this was James Campbell of Melbourne’s Herald Sun, as I understand it, the one Murdoch daily that did not publish the hit piece on Shorten’s mother. The attack of Shorten via his deceased mother is one of the nastiest, lowest pieces of political “journalism” I have seen in Australia. It was straight out of the old UK Sun playbook.

The piece was roundly condemned by all sides of politics including Morrison. It sparked an outpouring of similar stories on social media using the #MyMum hashtag. Ultimately, far from damaging Shorten, the story has had the opposite effect. It’s galvanised large swathes of voters to back Shorten and his campaign for better access to child care, education and family support, all have the agenda to lower or eliminate the glass ceilings many women face.

I doubt Murdoch’s minions will learn from this. Expect more fact-free hit-pieces on Labor next week.

The bias against Labor by the Murdoch press is quite incredible. All pretence of objectivity is gone. In heading down this dubious path, they have effectively broken their social contract to operate in Australia. Further, while actively campaigning on behalf of the Liberal Party (and their extreme right-wing fellow travellers of One Nation, Clive Palmer and others), they are actively campaigning for the privatisation and dismantling of the ABC as we know it.

Former ABC journalist, Quentin Dempster, has leant his voice and name to GetUp’s election sub-campaign to save the ABC. The ABC is seriously under threat. It is stated IPA policy and supported by many within the Liberal Party to privatise Australia’s most revered cultural icon.

The ABC is being deliberately starved of funding as a means of controlling its editorial content. Senator Mitch Fifield, the Communications Minister, is tasked with overseeing the ABC. He is also a member of the IPA that has the stated goal of selling it off.

How is that supposed to work?

Rather than sell-off the much loved and trusted icon that is the ABC, it would be more sensible to break-up Newscorp. They should have to sell off its components, to break the Murdoch stranglehold on our media. It is simply unacceptable that a man declared unfit to own newspapers in the UK is allowed to control 70% of newspapers in Australia.

The opinion polls are tightening as expected; however, the overall trend of a Labor victory remains unchanged. The betting markets have shortened even further on a Labor victory. Sportsbet is currently paying $1.15 for a Labor win and $5.25 for an unlikely Coalition win.

In my experience, the betting odds are far more accurate than Newspoll or Ipsos polling. These betting companies stand to lose millions if they get it wrong. They rarely do. It was reported by Ladbrokes that the largest ever political wager of one million dollars placed on Labor to win when it was paying $1.23 a couple of days ago.

It was rumoured to be Malcolm Turnbull. If it is Turnbull, it may be one of the few ways he has of recovering the $1.75m he donated to the Libs to secure his own Prime Ministership. Regardless, it’s a nice way for someone to make a cool $230,000 tax-free.

According to the AEC, we have also had over a million pre-poll votes cast already. Most pundits are expecting these to go largely in Labor’s favour. Many of those voting early are so excited and keen to despatch the Liberal Party to oblivion that they are voting early. They’ve made their mind up and simply can’t wait to post their votes.

Remember readers: vote early, vote often.

You can sign the petition to have John Wren reinstated on Twitter here.

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