Gillard should forget minders and listen to Carlton

I’m a fan of Michael Carlton‘s who writes the backpage on Fairfax’s weekend NewsReview. Last weekend, he tackled the ‘farce of the mining tax’, the latest sympton of what he calls Labor’s ‘terminal disease.’

Vintage Carlton. But then came the very good bit about Tony Abbott.

“Tony Abbott was oddly silent all week. Invisible, even. There was no silly TV stunt at a fish shop or a widget factory, no poncing around in Lycra or hard hat. He kept his head down, allowing his shadow ministers and his obsequious media claque to do the public gloating over the opinion poll.

It was clever politics. Any comment from him would have looked like smart-alec hubris, which is one reason that voters have so disliked him in the past. Abbott still believes he was born to The Lodge and will do anything to get there, but he is learning to disguise this. The election is still his to lose, as his former mate John Hewson managed to do in 1993.

With Labor in turmoil and the smell of blood in the water, the opposition blithely carries on as a policy-free zone and gets away with it.”

Now read this carefully. If you enjoyed it last weekend, you will enjoy it again.

“Yet you know exactly what the Coalition will do if it wins government in September. First up there’ll be the Gothic horror of a Labor budget “black hole” – even worse than expected, we’ll be told. This will be the pretext for a savage round of expenditure “savings” and the sacking of thousands of public servants.

That done, all the same-old, clapped-out Tory machinery will creak into place. Once again there’ll be grovelling deference to the Americans in our defence and foreign policies. Billions will be wasted on bright and shiny military hardware, just as the Howard government did by buying 59 useless main battle tanks for the army, the navy’s Seasprite helicopters that could fly only in daylight in fine weather, and the eye-watering extravagance of the struggling Joint Strike Fighter project for the air force.

Domestically, Labor’s reforms in healthcare and education will be scrapped, with money ripped out of the public sector to be shovelled back into private hospitals and private schools. Climate change will be crap again. WorkChoices will eventually re-emerge with a new name; there will be a swingeing ideological attack on the ABC, enforced by a whopping funding cut; the national broadband network will be gutted; social reforms like same-sex marriage will be further off than ever; and the gap between rich and poor will grow ever wider, as it does in the US.

Been there, done that, deja vu all over again.”

Hard to sum it up better than that. Many of us have been there before and those that haven’t, don’t need to. Tip for Labor. Get rid of the mindless repetitious ‘working men and women’ version of Howard’s ‘working families’. Carlton, perhaps jokingly, says that he emailed John McTernan, your PR “apparatchik from the British Labour Party” last Christmas suggesting a drink but he hasn’t heard back.  I would take him at his word and sit down and have a chat with him. He might have more ideas. I doubt he’ll charge you an arm and a leg, like those expensive lobbyists and advertising firms.

For a start, I’d ditch trying to jolly up those journalists who have been campaigning to get rid of you for years and deliver Carlton’s column to every home in Australia. Skywrite and tweet it phrase by phrase.

Then I would get try one last treatment for that terminal disease and instead of dumping on the Greens follow their advice – fix the mining tax, stop the appalling abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus, speak up about war crimes in Sri Lanka and restore the income Labor’s taken from single parents and give those on unemployment allowance a rise of $50 which just about everyone who has tried living on the allowance recommends as a minimum.

Note : The last 40 words in the first published version of this post were slightly different. Edited for clarity and accuracy.
 

Fairfax smoozing Packer puts independent journalism under pressure

Fairfax’s SMH journalists have been amongst the few to probe the NSW O’Farrell’s government backing of James Packer’s plan for a new hotel casino in Sydney. Reporter Sean Nicholls broke a story about how the government had changed the rules for “unsolicited proposals” in a way that made it easier for Packer to avoid a competitive tender. So I was shocked when I opened the SMH on Saturday and found a plug for a story by Packer pitching his casino plan labelled as an ‘exclusive’ and ‘news’. There were several independent reports inside the paper, but online, Packer’s free promo was number three while other pieces were buried further down the page.

I am not suggesting that SMH should refuse to publish an opinion piece by Packer but this incident which followed Fairfax’s Australian Financial Review’s pushing of the plan through exclusives and a recent AFR business dinner at which Packer was the keynote speaker.

Concerned about the possible threat to independence of reporting, I wrote another piece for New Matilda:

Packer’s PR Coup

Keep Carmel ‘Broke Funding Law’

Nicole Gooch and I continue our investigation into the Keep Carmel Twitter campaign run by One Small Planet during the 2011 NSW Election. The NSW Greens announced that they have complained to the NSW Funding Authority.

Read the article at New Matilda.

Who Was Behind ‘Keep Carmel ?

“Claimed” said a tweet on the ‘Keep Carmel’ Twitter feed. Carmel Tebbutt had just won the inner-Sydney seat of Marrickville by a tight 0.9 % margin.

It signalled the end of a nearly two month long Twitter campaign which posted 370 tweets promoting the candidate’s achievements and future promises, engaged with the media, and rebutted the campaign of the Greens candidate Fiona Byrne who threatened Labor’s hold on seat. What twitter readers would not have known if that the Twitter campaign was a commercial marketing venture run by ex One-Tel director Brad Keeling.

I reported on this story with Nicole Gooch. It raises questions both about role of marketing in political campaigns and whether Brad Keeling’s One Small Planet and the NSW ALP are in breach of the NSW funding laws which limit the value of donations from third- party organisations.

Read the full article on New Matilda.