Over the last 18 months, there’s been some very disappointing turns in the political debate in Australia, but one which remains an ongoing puzzle is the way Fairfax has seemingly lurched to the right of the political discourse rather than being centrist.
Take today’s (online) front page of The Age, for instance. Two political stories – “Slipper resigns in tears” and “Property Links PM to Stolen Funds”. Two opinion pieces as well, one by Michelle Grattan, and the other by Tony Wright.
This might all appear innocuous, except for the stunning and well-deserved take-down of Tony Abbott by the Prime Minister, yesterday. Julia Gillard, to use a somewhat base euphemism, tore Tony Abbott a new arse in parliament yesterday.
That’s already been forgotten, seemingly, by Fairfax. Fairfax, who should know better – who should understand that the stinging rebuke issued by the PM was long overdue and requires lengthy analysis and coverage. Instead, Tony Wright’s opinion piece merely covered it as:
“The screeching of the most senior members of the Gillard government and the Abbott opposition yesterday was the sound of Australia’s Parliament scraping the bottom of its barrel.”
(Tony Wright, The Age, “Speaker Gathers his soiled robes to end hateful day“, 2012-10-10.)
Tony goes on to say:
“Reaching as far into the barrel as he could stoop, Abbott roared that the government … ‘should have already died of shame'”.
“Julia Gillard could hardly defend slipper, so she stuck the knife into Abbott for being an Alan Jones lickspittle and a misogynist.
‘The government isn’t dying of shame’, she sizzled. ‘My father did not die of shame. I will not be lectured by misogyny by this man. Not now. Not ever.’
And so it went.”
Thus Fairfax in less than 24 hours reduced one of the most potent and appropriate speeches delivered in Parliament since perhaps the days of Keating to screeching and sticking a knife in.
On the other hand, Michelle Grattan, who should know better, but over the last 18+ months has seemingly forgotten, reduced the entire incident to:
“Julia Gillard and other government speakers were forced to defend on dubious grounds Mr Slipper continuing in his job, when his situation had become indefensible.”
(Michelle Grattan, The Age, “Texts made Slipper’s role untenable“, 2012-10-10.)
Think about that for a moment – “dubious grounds”. Those “dubious grounds”, Michelle Grattan is talking about, was the Prime Minister responding to months, indeed years of stinging, sexist and abusive commentary by a vocal and unpleasant minority within the conservative party. (And let’s not for a moment pretend they’re still a “Liberal” party. They’re conservatives, in all but name, now.)
Michelle seemingly didn’t feel the need to re-read her March 24, 2011 opinion piece, where she wrote:
“Yesterday’s rally, with its crude placards denouncing the “witch” and “bitch” would appeal to the hard core of Abbott’s base …
Julia Gillard might not be wildly popular, but most ordinary Australians expect their prime minister to be treated with a degree of respect. Even allowing for the robustness of our politics, they are not likely to be attracted to the crudeness that was on display.”
(Michelle Grattan, “Climate Rally Turns Ugly for Tony Abbott“, The Age, 2011-03-24.)
Michelle said, in that article, that Tony Abbott appearing at a rally with placards denouncing the Prime Minister as a “witch” and a “bitch”:
“made for ugly politics, which could rebound on him.”
Well, yesterday it did rebound on him. In spectacular format.
And Fairfax swept it under a rug, as if it had never happened at all.
Yet, don’t take just my word for it. Listen to what Julia Gillard had to say, yesterday, and think for yourself – is there any excuse for a news outlet that seeks to promote itself as unbiased, to drop coverage of this rebuke in less than 24 hours? Here’s the link to the ABC video of her rebuke.
Fairfax: now leaning far enough to the right that they’re kissing the ground … that Tony Abbott walks on.
[Addendum – The Age has at least subsequently published this piece, “Julia ‘badass’ Gillard: Slipper resignation just a sidebar“, by Stephanie Gardiner.]