No, He Can’t.

August 20, 2010 at 1:36 am (Uncategorized)

When I was out for my walk this morning, I saw a copy of someone’s Daily Telegraph front page, entirely taken up with the gleeful pronouncement, YES, HE CAN! The Tele is Sydney’s biggest-selling and worst newspaper, a News Ltd tabloid, although long gone are the days when the difference between broadsheets and tabloids concerned their content and not their column inches. It’s a last-minute push for Tony Abbott, and no, he really can’t.

It’s revolting and offensive enough that the Tele has blatantly ripped off Barack Obama’s successful campaign slogan, suggesting a not-so-subliminal association to voters between Obama and Abbott (ridiculous on absolutely every level there is, except maybe that they’ve both fathered daughters), but what’s worse is that the News Ltd flagship, The Australian, ran a similar headline on its front page on Tuesday: Yes, he will: Abbott meets PM’s Challenge. Note the cunning omission of the other candidate’s name? You have to admire the subtleties of this kind of manipulation – it’s pretty impressive, even if it does make me sick. Yes, can, will, meets: active, leading, positive language. It’s the eve of the election, and Murdoch-owned News Limited’s message is clear.

At least the Tele is blatant in its bias – and I didn’t expect any more of that particular paper, but I am always horribly disappointed when The Australian takes its reportage cues from its sister publication, and I can’t find any other interpretation of this piece of grotesque populist partiality from Paul Kelly, supposedly one of Australia’s leading and certainly one of its most senior journalists. I actually gagged reading this yesterday:

He offered prudence, personal conviction and the humility of the common man. […] Though tired, Abbott’s natural rapport with people was manifest.

Most questioners called him “Tony”. He came over as an authentic, competent, down-to-earth Aussie asking for the public’s trust. Win or lose, the Abbott personality is now penetrating — genuine, self-effacing and imbued with the sense of human imperfection.

Abbott never promises the sun, moon or stars. He is strong on the limits of government, given his drive against waste and deficits.

Jesus. Give me a break! ‘Though tired’ – please!!!!! It’s embarrassingly romanticised, biased language – as if Gillard isn’t dead on her feet by this stage too! And this is not a biblical struggle, despite appealing to Abbott’s Jesuit education at one of Sydney’s most expensive schools. ‘Down-to-earth Aussie’? You must be joking, Paul Kelly.

By contrast, Kelly repeatedly characterises Gillard as spiky and aggressive (and stresses Labor’s negative campaign against Abbott, as though the Coalition hasn’t run its campaign against Gillard along exactly the same lines), which is smart, because no one could accuse him of ignoring or downgrading her performance, only of suggesting she is one pushy chick, and since the scale of her ambition is no longer in any question whatsoever, well, no surprises there. But it does ever so gently stoke that lingering fear, loathing and suspicion plenty of Australians still have about strong women. Kelly favours adjectives like ‘relentless,’ ‘determined’ and ‘combative’ in his depiction of Gillard, and I can almost feel the collective lip curl in disdain.

It’s shrewd spin, but unbiased reportage it most definitely is not, and it concerns me deeply that there’s no honesty or transparency about media’s by now near total abandonment of its stated remit. Elections are not horse races or sporting events, but everywhere you look today across various media, all you’ll find is the language of the track. And guess what? It’s ‘neck and neck’ and voters are still ‘hedging their bets.’

I hope those huge numbers of undecided voters have come across at least some of the material that removes the muzzle very wisely fixed across Abbott’s jaw throughout this campaign, because there are things that people really should know about him. Among other much more recent clangers, GetUp! unearthed this 1980s example from Sydney University’s student magazine, in which the undergraduate Abbott says: ‘It would be folly to expect that women would ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas, simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiology reasons.’

This guy? Lead my country? No, he can’t.



  1. Final race said,

    Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, he can!

    • doctordi said,

      You appear to be new to DoctorDi, Final Race, so I’m not sure if you’ll be back, but if you do return, I’d be sincerely interested to hear why you think so. I obviously disagree, but I’m very curious to know why you believe Abbott would be a good PM.

  2. Marty said,

    I’m just glad that at least there may be some hope and sanity in a Green’s balance of power option. Although many of the Green’s candidates may be lacking in political experience, guess they’ll learn quickly if thrust into the thick of political power, and hope they can hold on to their values as well (not to mention a bald bodied pro ACF former rock legend cum environmental minister who seemes to have lost his way within labor’s factions).

    Tony Abbott will do just fine in opposition, he does that well, opposed to everything labor.

    Wouldn’t it be great if (like the Greens) the opposition parties began to see that they can actually be a positive force for change by co-opting with the majority (party).

    I feel pissed-off by all the promises, the coercion to buy votes, the outright slander and negativity of campaigns labor & liberal, and the constant telling us (the people, the voters) what we are thinking and wanting.

    Tony can’t and will never; Julia will tell us she can but really can’t; however if there is a glimpse that the Greens truly can (given they are given a chance) then I know where my votes are going tomorrow.

    • doctordi said,

      Hi Marty – yes, I think the likelihood that the Greens will get the balance of power in the Senate is really high. I think people are responding not only to the party’s environmental message, but also to at least feeling they know what the Greens stand for. That’s very appealing to voters who feel disillusioned, misled and spurned, and the leaders of the two major parties haven’t become known throughout this awful campaign as Tweedledum and Tweedledee for nothing. In their scramble for the wasteland otherwise known as the lowest common denominator’s middle ground, they’ve eroded any sense of defending distinct territory. It’s backfired badly.

      I am very sympathetic to the Greens and their agenda, but I must admit, I am also concerned about the lack of genuine political experience that you identify, which importantly includes economic management. I recall reading a profile of much maligned Labor MP and ex-Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett a couple of years ago, in which he pointed out the harsh difference between lobbying and governance – he said it was one thing for him to agitate and pressure government via his music, and another thing entirely to become an effective part of the government process itself; it strikes me as true. Constant compromise and negotiation are part of the reality of democratic governance, as is managing real and relentless fiscal pressure, so ideology – and the Greens have first and foremost operated as ideologues – often struggles to keep its place in the queue as it competes with the other demands of government.

      Still, the Greens have done an excellent job capitalising on the vast voter dissatisfaction with Labor and the Coalition, so they’ve certainly demonstrated plenty of political savvy! Also, I hear a lot of Greens policy and I think, “Beauty!” – but there’s always the budget to negotiate too, and the House of Reps is still where major policy is debated and decided. It’s unlikely the Greens will have much if any impact there; the major parties will still have to work with the Greens a great deal more to get things through the Senate, that’s true, but equally the reality of the electoral system, if I understand it correctly, is that there’s very little likelihood of the Greens really penetrating the House.

      • Marty said,

        That’s life, experience and qualifications in one field don’t equate to being an effective pollie, although having an effective vote in the upper/lower houses may be cause for some interesting debates.

        I’m looking forward to the next few days, my sense is that there may well be some major surprises, for instance: if I am Muslim, who will I vote for? Family First (at least they believe in a god)? If I am overseas born, well Julia has pushed that, but then after looking at Tony Abbott’s background (see wiki), I find he was born in England, so who should I vote for?

        The next few days will be interesting.

      • doctordi said,

        They certainly will.

        I didn’t know Abbott was born in England – and with Julia born in Wales, well, maybe the sporting language is appropriate after all…! To use a rugby metaphor, we’ll soon see who has packed a tighter scrum!

  3. Grad said,

    Um…here in the US increasingly few politicians (including democrats) want to be associated with Obama these days. Things are not going well – at all – on just about every level. I’m surprised Abbott would think it a plus. But maybe perceptions are different there. Who knows. I do feel that the Fourth Estate should get out of the business of politics altogether and become true journalists again. But I thought it only went on here.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    I get so frustrated here with what is happening politically. My sympathies, Di.

  5. litlove said,

    I am no fan of newspaper journalists at the best of times, and elections are not the best of times. But the reality of their partisan and unbalanced reporting is at least clear to see, I guess. Like LIlian, I get very frustrated with politics of late, so sympathies too.

  6. Pete said,

    Have tuned in very late to this campaign so have no knowledge of the candidates. But do you think Rudd would have delivered a second term? I think it’s good in a way that the voters are punishing Labor but other than that have no real opinion. I’m relying on you to explain this one!

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