If press conferences are anything to go by, the brief sparkle of better politics has come to an end – ABC News

26 Views
Read Time:6 Minute, 33 Second

Here is a tale of two press conferences.

It has been a week of depressing news about job losses at Woolworths and Qantas, as well as the ABC. The reminders from Melbourne that we have somehow not dodged the pandemic were also depressing.

But if the news was depressing on both the jobs and health front, the confirmation that we have also not dodged a class of politics that thinks it’s OK to tell voters that black is white is equally depressing.

That brief, glimmering moment when our leaders seemed to make decisions in the broad public interest, rather than their own political ones, and drew us into their frank confidence, are over.

And that’s where the two prime ministerial press conferences come in.

The first press conference was held at the Allied Natural Wood Exports Mill near Eden, on the NSW far south coast. The mill — and its stockpiles of woodchips and logs — were badly damaged in the Christmas bushfires.

Before the by-election? Just a coincidence

So it seemed a good place to announce new funding to help get the forestry industry ($50 million), as well as wine producers ($5 million) and apple growers ($31 million), back on their feet.

The fact it was announced less than two weeks before the Eden-Monaro by-election was apparently just a coincidence.

It is worth just painting a scene of the press conference first. Not only was the Prime Minister there, but so was Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

While the funding announcement was in no way connected to the Eden-Monaro by-election, the Liberal candidate, Fiona Kotvojs, was there, as was the Nationals candidate, Trevor Hicks.

But the press conference was opened — at some length — by the local state MP, Andrew Constance. Yes, that’s the one: the bloke who briefly put up his hand to run in the by-election.

The PM’s triple-somersault-with-pike

Neither Kotvojs or Hicks got a go, though the ministers made plenty of reference to what a splendid job Kotvojs was doing. Poor old Trevor Hicks was studiously ignored by the PM.

The stand-out moment, though, was the triple-somersault-with-pike performed by the Prime Minister in answer to a journalist’s question which noted the new funding measures would “mainly benefit voters in Eden-Monaro. So how is this not pork barrelling?”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

We won’t ask you to read all 332 words of the PM’s answer, but suffice to say it started like this:

Well, I think that’s a pretty offensive question to people who’ve lost everything in bushfires …”

And finished like this:

“This is about rebuilding economies. Now, that is exactly the point that we’ve been making through Fiona Kotvojs as candidates [sic], as the Liberal Candidate for Eden-Monaro”.

“Fiona” being “part of my team” got three more mentions, including “by supporting Fiona at the by-election, you can ensure that she’s there working with me to get that job done”.

You can see how offensive the pork-barrelling suggestion must have been, can’t you?

A low side angle silhouette shot of Morrison standing at a microphone gesticulating with his right hand. Kotvoys standing behind

All will be revealed… next month

Also at the press conference, the Prime Minister started a pivot on the future of government economic support, amid signs that uncertainty about what happens when schemes like JobKeeper end in September is one of the major concerns of voters in Eden-Monaro.

“I can assure you,” he said at Eden, “we’re going to continue to be there for those who are going to continue to need that support and how that is delivered and how it’s calibrated and how it’s paid for, well, they are the issues that we’re working through at the moment.”

The Government’s argument is that it can’t spell out its exact plans for JobKeeper just yet because things are still fluid and, besides, there’s a review underway.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

This apparently won’t be a problem next month, however, after the by-election, when all will be revealed.

It is true the Government has started to roll out specific packages for different sectors. And maybe it makes sense to have them in place before you announce the withdrawal of the big supports.

But you would have to say those support packages appear to lack consistency, to say the least.

The brief sparkle of better politics is over

Which brings us to the second press conference of the week, in which the Coalition’s package for the “entertainment” sector was unveiled at Rooty Hill in Sydney’s west.

It was sold as a $250 million package. This sounds pretty good since, as the Prime Minister says, the sector employs “hundreds and thousands of people”.

However, the majority of the help is in the form of concessional loans and competitive grant money that won’t be paid until that unknown date when big gatherings can start again.

The biggest commitment to provide immediate support is $35 million in “direct financial assistance to support significant Commonwealth-funded arts and cultural organisations”.

To put this in context, the Government also announced this week that agricultural shows, like the Royal Easter Show, and shows in the country, which don’t employ hundreds and thousands of people and run largely on a volunteer workforce, would get $36 million of cash grants.

Most of these shows have had to be cancelled this year. But they will be able to get grants of up to $70,000 under the scheme.

With the Qantas job cuts announced, the Government has also been keen to say it has a further aviation industry support package in train.

This is despite Qantas, according to a story in the Financial Review earlier this month, getting funding of about $800 million to keep staff on the books and domestic and international routes flying, including about $490 million in JobKeeper subsidies.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

The regional airline Regional Express has received about $80 million in direct government cash grants.

But it was the Prime Minister’s comments about the ABC at this second press conference that confirmed the brief sparkle of better politics was over.

It’s a shame there is not a meeting of minds

The ABC job cuts this week are brutal for those directly affected but come at a time when commercial organisations are also slashing staff numbers.

The depressing difference about this week’s cuts is that when commercial media organisations cut staff, it’s because the bottom line requires it.

What lies behind the ABC cuts is not quite so clear. According to the Per Capita think tank, government funding of the ABC is down around 30 per cent since 1985-86 in real terms.

Or as the ABC’s chief financial officer said in February 2018, “…in 1987, [the] ABC famously cost each Australian eight cents a day. In 1987 dollar terms we now cost each Australian just four cents a day.”

A television studio is seen through glass windows underneath an ABC News logo.

That includes a freeze on indexing by the current Government, outlined in the budget papers as a saving and costing up to $84 million over three years.

The Prime Minister was asked at Rooty Hill whether he could “guarantee there will no further cuts to the ABC”.

“There are no cuts. There are no further cuts because there are no cuts. ABC’s funding is increasing every year,” he said.

People all have their own views about the ABC. Like all news organisations, its role is about accountability and transparency.

It’s a shame there’s not a meeting of minds on that point with our politicians.

Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.

This content was originally published here.

0 0
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleppy
Sleppy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *