Listening to Emma Alberici interview David Marr on his new Quarterly Essay, the casual listener would have been forgiven for thinking Bob Santamaria was about to rise from the grave and become our next prime minister. Neatly conflating the views of the anti-communist, staunch Catholic founder of the DLP with boorish and loutish tales from Mr Abbott’s university days, Ms Alberici and Mr Marr had great fun conjuring up the image of some terrifying abortion-crusading misogynist who can barely restrain himself from punching any woman he meets, particularly those who stand between him and the Lodge. ‘And we just touched on there this idea that Tony Abbott has a problem with women,’ said the amenable interviewer, reading straight off Labor crib notes that presumably had been left lying around the Lateline studio by Tanya Plibersek or Nicola Roxon. ‘Did your research reinforce that perception?’
The short answer was, of course, ‘no’. But Mr Marr, acutely aware of the need to satisfy both his audience and his publisher, cunningly twisted his response to appear as if it were in the affirmative. ‘Tony Abbott has a problem because he will not give up the possibility of one day being able to do something about abortion.’ (Sorry David, but as a journalist you know that wasn’t the question.)
‘He kicked in doors and he — you know, he kicked in doors and he upset people and he was — you know, a big guy, much bigger than he is now,’ asserted Mr Marr, dwelling at length on an alleged incident from Mr Abbott’s uni days which contemporaries Greg Sheridan and Jeremy Jones do not believe occurred, and which Mr Abbott himself denies. Known as ‘the Punch,’ the non-event is the headline-grabber of Mr Marr’s book, based on which he and Ms Alberici dissected Mr Abbott’s character. ‘What he’s shown as Leader of the Opposition is really astonishing, superb self-control. He’s brought a lot from his university years into his career in politics, but he’s a man of great self-control now,’ said Mr Marr, hinting that beneath Mr Abbott’s calm exterior lurks a psychopathic combination of Hannibal Lecter and the albino from The Da Vinci Code.
A better indication of Mr Abbott’s character might be to study how he has conducted himself over the past two weeks, as Coalition unity has been tested on several fronts. The Turnbull speech, which was perceived by many as critical of Mr Abbott’s leadership, has been superbly handled, as has Barnaby Joyce’s opposition to the sale of Cubbie Station. Both events contained a dangerous mix of egos, styles, portfolios and policies, and could easily have blown up in Mr Abbott’s face. His handling of them says much about his understanding of the Liberal ethos of a ‘broad church’ of opinion, and tells us more about his fitness to lead both his party and the country than any number of lurid uni tales.
Stephen in a spin
At The Spectator Australia we are delighted to offer our full-throated support to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy — who, let’s face it, is not only an outstanding cabinet minister but also one of the brightest of the stars that make up the sparkling firmament of this progressive and morally enlightened government — for his realistic and characteristically modest acknowledgement that the NBN, although not perfect in every way, represents a milestone in the history of Australian government initiatives and will be responsible for a golden age of prosperity that awaits us provided we re-elect… er, hang on, wrong editorial.
Not sure where that one came from; it was just lying on the desk here with nobody’s name on it so we assumed it was one of ours. Anyway, what we meant to say was that at The Spectator Australia we were unimpressed to learn that public servants from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy were caught sending out ‘meticulously researched’ articles spruiking the NBN to any news outlet that cared to publish them, suggesting they do so under their own journalist’s names. It is amusing that these spin-merchants were stupid enough to send such material to, among others, the editor of the IPA Review, James Paterson, who is not only a strong advocate of freedom of the press but also a determined critic of the NBN.
But when Mr Conroy’s constant advocacy of a News Media Council to monitor and restrict ‘bad’ reporting (i.e. opinions that his panel of ‘experts’ disagree with) is combined with the fact that he himself would be the minister responsible for such a body, the warning bells start to clang. Have Labor become so enmeshed in their own media manipulation that they no longer know or care what’s truth and what’s spin?Tags: iapps