Tamed Estate: Low Emissions, Insolvency Reforms, Responsible Lending and NBN Privatisation

Following on from the opener to the Tamed Estate released in both Michael West Media and Pearls and Irritations, we will be conducting a rolling watch for media failures and manipulations.

Tamed Estate

After the gas drop by Scott Morrison we have seen three more examples this week of early drops to the mainstream.

Drop 1: Taylor’s Low Emissions Technology Roadmap Statement

The first was Angus Taylor’s Tuesday gloss of the first Low Emissions Technology Roadmap Statement. The media release was dropped the night before to The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan, The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy, The SMH’s David Crowe, the ABC’s Melissa Clarke and AFR’s Phillip Coorey and Elouise Fowler the night before.

While this is an example of news outlets publishing ministerial media addresses, Taylor’s announcement did not go uncriticised come morning. Like the Gas Gush in the media last week, the Low Emission Technology Roadmap drew criticism the following day from Malcolm Turnbull, who appeared in the ABC and was highlighted by Katherine Murphy in The Guardian. The Conversation also followed the announcement with an in-depth analysis of the failures and biases of the Roadmap, including its emphasis on unaffordable carbon capture technology and ignoring of renewable energy.

Drop 2: Frydenberg’s Insolvency Reforms

The second drop of the week came from Frydenberg’s office when his plan to “insolvency reforms to support small business recovery” appeared in the mainstream media on Wednesday night before the official announcement on Thursday morning.

The media release was carried by the ABC (Melissa Clarke), SMH (David Crowe), The Conversation (Michelle Grattan), AFR (Phillip Coorey) and The Australian (Simon Benson).

The drop received a small amount of follow-up coverage on Thursday with The New Daily following in the morning and The Australian praising Frydenberg’s Trump-like economic management.

Drop 3: Morrison gutting Responsible Lending Laws

This morning’s announcement that the Morrison government would be axing responsible lending laws, which hasn’t officially been announced, was heralded last night across the mainstream. From the AFR (John Kehoe), The Guardian (Katherine Murphy, Paul Karp), The Conversation (Michelle Grattan) to the SMH (David Crowe).

The move has drawn criticism, however, for placing an unfair burden on poor Australians who are now more open to exploitation by predatory lenders.

Narrative: Privatise the NBN

While it was not a drop, a prevailing sub-narrative surrounding Minister for Communication Paul Fletcher’s announcement that the NBN would receive a $4.5 billion was that the move would increase the profitability of NBN Co. were the government to privatise the venture. Privatisation of the NBN is listed as a possibility in the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 which established NBN Co.

The privatisation narrative appeared in the AFR, followed by the ABC, and The New Daily. Fletcher himself said the Government is looking at this right now.

“That is not something we are pursuing in this term of government, that is several years away,” he said.

The main narrative is, of course, that this investment represents a major backflip on behalf of the Morrison government and a vindication of Kevin Rudd’s original plan.

That’s all for this week. If you see any examples of media failure or manipulation, be it drops, uncritical coverage or non-coverage of important issues within our region please comment below or email them to [email protected] so that we cover them in next week’s edition.

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Callum has a honours degree in political science from the University of Sydney which examined the influence key players in Australia's financial services industry exert over government. He is a sub-editor for P&I.

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