Journalists need medals for reporting on such dull politicians

Nov 27, 2020

The late, great comedian John Clarke always said that the best actors he had ever heard were sports commentators. The reason, he explained, was that they were able to convey the impression, with the utmost conviction, that the outcome of a football match was crucial, almost a matter of life or death. And then, suddenly, the game was over, and life resumed.

Spare a thought for our mainstream political journalists then, who deserve a collective medal, as they struggle on, from day to day, covering absolute nonentities, who are almost universally tribal, colourless, elitist, unoriginal and indescribably dull. They speak, as if in unison, from prepared notes, about ‘talking points’, and they will swear, on a stack of bibles, that black is actually, after looking at all the facts and taking into account a multiplicity of factors, white.

Trying to write something new about politics in Australia, and about our politicians, is like trying to make boiled cabbage exciting. To try to do it every day is beyond heroic; it actually verges on the masochistic.

Although the country heaved a huge sigh of relief when Tony Abbott was finally ejected from power, I am beginning to miss him. The other clowns on display lack his mad smile, his earnest and innocent fustiness, his anti-social beliefs stated so disarmingly. They instead display a cagey quality that makes their utterances generally lacking in – interest.

Craig Kelly tried out for the part, but he lacks commitment. His misunderstanding of the facts, his tortuous use of English is just not in Abbott’s class. He could no more eat an onion without a hint of self-consciousness than he could order an electric vehicle. And his climate change denialism, although monumentally stupid, never hits the rhetorical heights that Abbott’s did. Remember climate change being described as crap and a cult? And Kelly never talks about suppositories.

Pauline Hanson was another wannabe, but she seems to have removed herself from the public gaze. Perhaps it is disenchantment with her hand-picked minions, or is it an attack of self-awareness, of shame, licking at her confidence? Nothing is so debilitating as discovering that no one likes you any more.

Michaelia Cash might become mildly interesting but, on reflection, anyone who models her hair on Maggie Thatcher’s ‘do’ is struggling. She wants to present like her, but maybe she needs a few more seasons of classic neoliberal orthodoxy. I suspect she needs to lose some more of whatever humanity remains, and toughen up.

The Party Boys, Tudge and Porter, looked promising but who can tell. Bob Hawke had their spirit on the dance floor, but he also had ideas, charisma and heart. The Party Boys just seem to parrot their leader and to hide behind his avuncular protection. They would be more newsworthy if they were to shout, from the top of a roof-top bar, “Take me, or leave me, suckers. This is me!” That won’t happen. They have gone into ‘weasel in a burrow saving his arse’ mode.

They have shown some mongrel, I admit. Tudge promising to hunt down, and even jail, those targeted by Robodebt, was sort of interesting, but his recent begging for mercy after his affair was made public brought him back to the pack, as he was shown to be just another religious, family-values hack. Hypocrisy is interesting, but there is a lot of it around.

Porter is the Attorney General, as well as Minister for Industrial Relations, and Leader of the House. His outing as something of a loose cannon when he has been ‘on the town’ suggests he might need to lose a few of the big jobs he is signed up for. Big jobs require a big effort.

Currently, he is ‘looking’ at an Integrity Bill, which I suspect none of his colleagues want, which would explain his go-slow tactics. Usually, a man who likes to party should provide some interest, but the public is not that interested in arcane matters such as holding secret trials, destroying legal careers, not reporting to Parliament on time. He is no Lionel Murphy, although he does like a drink, we hear. He also wants to look at his legal options regarding the Four Corners revelations, but he seems to have backed off a bit. He recently ‘looked at’ Defamation Law.

That leaves us with Mr Charisma himself. Scotty from Marketing could talk the leg off a piano, is adept at saying, “Look, over there”, or “Labor did the same thing”, or “nothing to see here”. Sometimes he even tries to save us from boredom by claiming that he has “already answered that question”. Which is decent of him. My favourite is “I reject the premise of your question”, which is gaining currency. That grand old vaudevillian Michael McCormack recently used a variant of the phrase.

This Government seems prone to disastrous incompetence, dishonesty, failure to meet obligations, and outstanding secrecy. It has been reported that the Prime Minister’s Office met its Freedom of Information deadlines in just 7.5% of requests. I’m not sure if the PM counts well, but that meant they missed the deadline 92.5% of the time.

That fact is interesting, and indeed damning enough, but it suffers from ‘boiled cabbage syndrome’. It shows what we all know, day in and day out. They are dishonest, chronically breaking the law, with seemingly no consequences. So you can see why journalists deserve those medals.

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