A FEW SURPRISES, BY GEORGE
Inevitably, after the stunning election result, the media week has been filled with lots of “nyah-nyahs” from one side of the commentariat to the other, about how the left could get its predictions of an ALP victory so wrong. Whereas the truth, of course, is that with one or two notable exceptions, just about everyone in the media, not to mention the bookies and the politicians themselves, got it wrong. Who seriously thought Bill Shorten’s cohesive policy platform, which he presided over with great stability for six years, would be gazumped by Scott Morrison after six years of huge instability, and the first PM in Australia to be elected on a mandate to do . . . not much in particular? That is, there were no huge policy innovations by Morrison, just more of the same, and if he wasn’t quite a one-man band, he was at least on bass guitar, drums, trumpets, whistles and lead vocals. Personally, I have no clue how the same electoral tide that swept Tony Abbott away by 14 points looked at George Christensen – infamously absent in the Philippines for more time than he spent in Parliament over two years – and said: “Yup, let’s swing to him by ELEVEN points!” Whatever, democracy has spoken, the Morrison government is in the saddle and we can at least all be thankful to be in a country where questions of massive power can be resolved without a bullet fired.
SKY IS FALLING
But, speaking of different sides of the commentariat . . . David Speers leaving Sky to go to the ABC to host Insiders in the place of the departing Barrie Cassidy? It is nothing less than the media coup of the decade, a game-changer for the ABC that positions it right at the prow of political journalism in this country, while considerably weakening Sky. Speers is not just another talking head. He is one of the most trusted broadcasters in the country, respected by both sides of politics, very much in the manner of the late, great ABC broadcaster Andrew Olle. When Olle died a quarter of a century ago, his colleague Paul Lyneham said: “I worked with him for 30 years and still don’t know which way he voted.”
Ditto for Speers. His loyalty is to no political tribe but to journalism itself, he is deeply respected by all and sundry because of it, and not for nothing did the cry go up in the ABC newsroom when the story broke: “We got him!”
Credit for the coup goes to Gaven Morris, ABC’s director of news, analysis and investigations. When Barrie Cassidy first advised of his retirement several weeks ago while at the Melbourne Press Club for the Quill Awards, the first thought of Morris was Speers. And when he sent a text not long afterwards, he . . . got a nibble! The timing was good, with Speers evermore uncomfortable with Sky’s increased positioning as an Australian version of the USA’s ultra-right Fox News. No, ABC couldn’t match the half-million dollar salary Speers was on at Sky, but what it could give him was an enormous national audience, many times more than that offered by Sky, and with no more even tangential association with “Sky News after dark”. He will go well.
Yes, it’s a month late, and yes the Guardian has already noted it, but I don’t care. It hasn’t been covered till I, (sniff) have covered it. Ahem. Late last month the Northern Territory News gave a wonderfully NTN kind of correction …
“Thursday’s NT News quoted Jason Hanna as comparing the stench of a group of hypothetical tourists to Darwin to ‘a brew house fart’. That was incorrect. Mr Hanna said the group would have smelled ‘like a brewery horse fart’. The NT News sincerely apologises for the error.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Paul really wanted to come over and see him, it was lovely. And it was great. They sat and they yarned about old times. Paul came a few times.” – Blanche d’Alpuget on Bob Hawke’s final days.
“The quality of toilet paper and stationery will need to be significantly decreased at the Sportsbet offices to cover these costs and we can only keep the heaters on for two hours a day, but in the end, we have a result where most of our punters on a market are winners.” – Sportsbet spokesman Richard Hummerston joking, a bit, about the company losing at least $5.2 million on election betting.
“The war on Julian #Assange is now a war on all. Eighteen absurd charges including espionage send a burning message to every journalist, every publisher. The target today is #Assange. Tomorrow it will be you on the New York Times, you on the BBC. Modern fascism is breaking cover.” – The redoubtable John Pilger tweets, in response to the USA bringing serious charges against Julian Assange.
“At this point, I cannot reconcile the important responsibilities I have to my family with the additional responsibilities of the Labor leadership.” – Tanya Plibersek withdrawing from the Labor leadership race to replace Bill Shorten.
“Over-exercising, extreme pursuit of muscle growth and steroid abuse are on the rise in Australia and one in four Anorexia sufferers is male.” – Sarah McMahon, BodyMatters Australasia, as a recent campaign from UK men’s health platform, Manual, revealed a disturbing development: body-shame has spread to men.
“New Zealand is a wonderful destination full of possibilities. I’m not at all surprised. If Australians are looking at us, that’s great.” – New Zealand’s Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, amused by the news of a more than 10-fold increase in Australians looking at its website on Sunday, after the election, and expressions of interest increased by more than 25 times on the same time the week before.
“We were drowning in hubris.” – A Labor source about the partying that had been planned for winning the election.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
In late 1996, just after Bill Clinton had beaten Bob Dole in the presidential election but before the inauguration, Bill and Hillary are in the presidential motorcade just leaving Little Rock, Arkansas, heading back to that town’s airport, where Airforce One is awaiting to take them back to Washington. As they pass by a dingy little garage on the edge of town, just as dusk falls, Hillary points it out and says, “You see that garage, Bill? I used to go out with the man that owns that garage.”
Wryly amused, the President chortles and says, “That is amazing, Hillary! Just think, if you had married him, you’d be the wife of a garage proprietor.”
“No, Bill,” Hillary says firmly. “If I’d married him, he’d be president.”
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.