Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

New pecking order in the Canberra chook pen?

By John Harrison - posted Tuesday, 12 November 2013

It was that wily warhorse of conservative politics, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen whose regime defined media relations as "feeding the chooks". Central to this dictum was the principle of giving the media pack a few scraps to fight over each day, otherwise their curiosity might be engaged by other topics, such as police corruption, prostitution, or even use of the government jet as the Premier's personal taxi.

The policy of the Abbott Government so far has been to limit its exposure to the media. The wisdom of this practice is yet to be properly tested. It has certainly caused complaints from journalists. Laurie Oakes, launching his book offering for this Christmas, accused Abbott of not keeping his campaign promises of transparency and accountability.

There are two reasons for this policy. First, the government saw how the 24 hour news cycle damaged the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. Or perhaps more accurately how the previous government damaged itself through constant "announceables".


Secondly, Abbott's inner sanctum, read Peta Credlin, knows that Tony Abbott, despite his much vaunted skills as a journalist, is a shocking performer on the medium where it counts most – television. His appearance and gait; his manner of speech, including his equivocation and his nasal tonality, all count against him in this medium. This is why he avoids serious television interviews: 7.30, Lateline, Insiders. Not because he hates the ABC, but because his flaws are so obvious under the arc lights.

Operational matters

The first manifestation of the "no show" or "no tell" policy became explicit with the rollout of Operation Sovereign Borders, complete with props such as a newly promoted three star general, Angus Campbell, who disappeared on leave within days of his appointment. "Operational Matters" became the figleaf behind which Morrison hid anything he did not want to talk about.

More recently the three star general has given a four star performance refusing to talk about "on water" matters. What was obvious to all except Campbell and Morrison is that their policy and performance were taking on water, and that both of them are at risk of drowning in a sea of obfuscation, incorrect information and rudeness.

Morrison's contempt for the media pack is palpable. Not without reason. They lapped up and amplified his every utterance in Opposition, irrespective of the moral bankruptcy of his position, and the rank stupidity of the thought bubbles he floated as policy (such as buying Indonesian fishing boats). That Morrison recognized such pandering for what it was, is now evident.

Crowd sourcing investigative reporting


The use of crowdsourcing by Fairfax Media to uncover more MP expenses rorts is an example of the risks associated with media disengagment; idle hands are find things to do and these are not always helpful to the government. Interestingly the Fairfax MP rorts campaign has forced Abbott's hand. He has made an announcement that there will be changes to the protocols from January 1. He has also banned employment of family members by MPs – which is nepotism. This will encourage the rise of what has long been called 'second phase nepotism'. "I employ my relatives; you employ my relatives." A practice jocularly described in one organ of the media as "wife swapping".

On the policy front, it is unlikely that an Abbott Government will reduce red tape to any significant degree; and even less likely that they will be held to account for not doing so. Why? Because reporting red tape reduction is boring.

What about Rupert?

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

6 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr John Harrison teaches journalism and communication at The University of Queensland. An award winning journalist and higher education teacher, he is at the forefront of the development of new ways of learning using digital mobile media.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by John Harrison

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of John Harrison
Article Tools
Comment 6 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy