A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers

Seven months ago I dared to hope that the vicious turn national politics had taken could be reversed (Can we turn the tide of vitriol in Canberra? May 15). It was a sentiment I'd heard from dozens of business leaders, everyday voters and a number of MPs.

News cycles had come to be dominated by angry debates that got the nation nowhere. Was 'Ju-Liar' a liar? Did Craig Thomson or one of his colleagues pay for prostitutes with union money? Did Bill Shorten do that thing that nobody could say he might have done? And so on...

The acrimonious turn in the national mood really began with the arrival of Tony Abbott as opposition leader in late 2009. Bi-partisan moves of his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, which had angered so many of his colleagues (support for the CPRS, mostly), were over and a ruthless political warrior took his place.

To be fair to Abbott, he achieved the goal set for him by the 42 Coalition MPs who, in the second round of voting in the December 2009 leadership spill, voted against the 41 MPs who wanted Turnbull to stay. (Joe Hockey had also thrown his hat into the ring for the first round of voting, which returned 35 Abbott votes, 26 Turnbull votes and 23 for Hockey).

He forced Rudd to back down on the CPRS, took his party to within a whisker of forming government from the hung parliament distribution of seats produced by the August 2010 election. And he then carried on grinding Labor's primary vote to historic lows.

The 'carbon tax', was a godsend for Abbott – even though it was designed as a cap-and-trade ETS, the stipulation by the Greens on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee that it begin with a three-year fixed price, made it "function a bit like a tax", as Julia Gillard put it.

But then it is wrong to say the bitter mood in political debate was all down to Abbott. Rumbles of dissent on his own backbenches had to be stomped on – young turks Jamie Briggs and Steve Ciobo couldn't help themselves, reviving the 'ghost of WorkChoices' by speaking out on the need for IR reform, when Abbott was hell bent on keeping his party's IR track-record "dead, buried and cremated".

That brought loud jeers in Question Time from the Labor benches, but also brought alarmist, hyperbolic claims from union leaders. No sane person would believe Abbott was leading the party back to the WorkChoices regime, but that was the overblown union rhetoric.

And journalists, often, haven't helped.

At the height of the recent Julie-Bishop-vs-Julia-Gillard AWU conflict, a press conference held by Trade Minister Craig Emerson to demand Bishop be sacked for "lying to the Australian public" included not one, but five questions from journalists relating to a tweet from Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons. He had earlier called Bishop a "narcissistic bimbo", was reprimanded by the prime minister, and had unreservedly apologised. He's soon to retire from politics. Where is the story?

Seven months ago I suggested that "politicians, unionists and, importantly, journalists must look back at that [2009] turning point and find the circuit breaker" to return the debate to important issues.

That hasn't happened – indeed, things have become considerably worse through the Peter Slipper scandal and the AWU brawl.

But then all is not lost. Who knows what seismic shift could occur over the summer to focus minds and hearts on topics such as education and training, infrastructure, migration, tax reform, the changing face of agriculture, and the aspects of productivity that have nothing to do with IR.

There are vexed issues of how to pay for disability reforms while attempting to balance the budget, and how to deal with asylum seekers in a more humane and effective manner as part of a regional solution, and how to engage with Asia in a way that doesn't suggest we're stuck in 1983. All of these need to make more frequent appearances at the top of new bulletins or on the front pages of print/online media.

And there are plenty more such topics if we can ignore the tweets, twits, 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, and pay a bit more attention to serious policy thinkers. There might just be time to squeeze in a few serious debates before the election.

Connect with Rob Burgess on Google+

More from Business Spectator

Comments

Please login or register to post comments

Comments Policy »
We are all aware of the major role the media takes in keeping the public's gaze away from good electoral reform and on to controversies they think will sell newspapers (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
What rot. Good government consists of running a conservative approach to the problems of the day, providing a fair days pay for a fair days work, giving individuals and business owners freedom of choice, not over taxing those who want to get ahead in life and reversing the ridiculous 'politically correct' situation we find ourselves in. If the media can't grow up & stop their nonsense reporting on peripherals, let governments create pathways for everyone to succeed, we will have a good humane conservative society. Protect our borders, retain our culture, expel those who come here and try to change our society to mirror the one they left as it was so bad, and lets get on with living within our means.
An excellent article. We can but hope, although given the rival personalities of Abbott and Gillard I would not bet on it (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10). There has been too much ill-founded abuse, a great deal from the Prime Minister and her chorus of acolytes and certainly the Coalition, although less bad, is not blameless either.
Well, the last three paragraphs were well-reasoned and convincing. The rest was a recital of Labour faults and an apologia for Tony Abbott (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
Where's the story (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10)?
Say what? You say "At the height of the recent Julie-Bishop-vs-Julia-Gillard AWU conflict, a press conference held by Trade Minister Craig Emerson to demand Bishop be sacked for "lying to the Australian public" included not one, but five questions from journalists relating to a tweet from Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons. He had earlier called Bishop a "narcissistic bimbo", was reprimanded by the prime minister, and had unreservedly apologised. He's soon to retire from politics. Where is the story?"
Had Abbott or any Opposition member said or tweeted something similar we'd still be hearing about it from people like you!
And .....you ask where's the story?
Believe that you can make a difference, Rob, and lead by example. Others may follow (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
Mr Edwards (comment above) is incorrect. I consider Mr Burgess to be very balanced in his political commentary. I see no evidence of bias either way. Depending on the issue he has criticised both parties (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
Other parts of the media are not enlightening the political conversation. Most members of the media today do not have the mental acuity to carry a story on the complex issues facing Australia and the world. Hence, they readily descend to gossip and scandal.
Putting this in perspective, our current political leaders also lack this ability.
We need one side of politics to stand above the rubbish and poor behaviour we are now seeing and set a standard (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10). I have no confidence what so ever that the 2 current leaders have the desire or the courage to do this so we are stuck with politics that are alienating and disappointing the Australian public.
Thank you Mr Burgess, hopefully 2913 will see debate, reporting & less commentary on the real issues confronting us in an election year. Well put by Mr Kesby above (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
You won't change the current focus of our federal leaders and wannabe leaders from spin and cheap political pointscoring to more substantial and more pressing debates and issues until you change the personnel in parliament (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10). We need less party hacks and career politicians (many of whom seem to come from the law or the union movement)and more engineers, builders and successful business people. We need more people who have succeeded in the real world and can solve problems and see further ahead then the next press conference or dirty trick.
The media isn't to blame for the way parliamentarians behave and think.
a well written article.
hope more people wake up (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
We also need educated journalists who are willing to ask the hard questions (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers Janaury 10).
I would like to journo's stop a politician who is speaking in circles, avoiding the question and just going on about how "bad" the other side is.
Make them answer the question. We, the public, want to know the answer. We don't want to hear a speech learned by rote from the spin doctors. It becomes the usual yabba, yabba white noise
I really miss Jana Wendt and Kerry O'Brien.
I'm still fuming (high carbon) about Christine Milne's support for criminal damage to a business and fraudulent use of a corporate logo. Given she believes that non-violent direct action is ok, perhaps I shouldn't pay the 10% of my power bill that's due to the carbon tax or maybe hack and pull down the Getup web site. Or maybe we should all stop paying tax for the government to waste. (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10)
I think the media can make a huge difference (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
Just start asking information on policy. What is the Govt doing, what does the opposition plan to do.
Take the oxygen away from the stupidity they are showing. Ignore those that wont provide anything useful. They'll get the message quick smart. Politicians are like movie stars. They love the camera and face time.
I agree with jeffrey O'Neill. If the modern media kept to policy issues, then much of the verbose diatribe that comes from the politicians would never be heard. As you mention in your article, 5 questions re a 'tweet', for heavens sake (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
When do the media return to examining policies - or the lack there of?
Why is the media consumed with events of yesteryear, when we don't know what policies would apply for tommorrow?
Do they really think the constant re-hashing of personal events is serving the interests of the community?
I think not, and until some journalist shows some respect for media ethics, the present model of reporting will remain.
Rob,it would be great if we could focus on "serious policy thinkers" as you put it. The trouble is that the Union do not produce such an animal, and consequently Labor has none. All we currently have is ideologically driven dimwits in power. (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).
Agree wholeheartedly with Chris Gregory.
Nicely put Sir.
I would assert far more strongly though that "allowing people freedom of choice" should be changed to "respecting people's freedom of choice" - nothing needs be allowed - it is inalienable and self-evident.
Politics is simple: get out of the way.
People know how to build great nations for themselves without governments interfering in every breath they take (A nation distracted by 'bimbos', brats and bruisers, January 10).