Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fresh Air: Back to Campaign Fundamentals

After watching the self-parody on ABCTV 7.30 on Monday, I’ve made a decision.

I’ve been following the media and politics for more than half a century. The advent of the internet has enabled the average punter to document and critique the media's role in day-to-day news coverage and opinion, and election campaign coverage in particular. Increasingly I’ve become one of those critics.

Reluctantly I’m withdrawing from the field until after the Federal election and leaving it to the growing band that have been inspired by bloggers such as Grog’s Gamut and Mr Denmore.

It’s time to get back to some campaigning fundamentals. Elections should be about vision, policies and programs. The focus should be on past and present achievements, options and promises, the skills and expertise of candidates, the quality of the leadership.

Paul Keating famously said, “when you change the government, you change the nation”. It also changes our international role: at the UN, in climate change forums etc. The election should be about the choices we have and the kind of nation and world we want.

Those interested in the game rather than the result can salivate over opinion polls, leadership speculation, personal attacks, fancy public relations and spin. It should not be about standup comedy, glib lines and media stunts. Politics is too important to be just another reality show as part of Planet Hollywood.

Those who try to hold the media accountable when it dresses up regime change as news and entertainment as analysis have a vital job to do. Please keep it up!

Just bowing out of covering the media circus, blow by blow. Not political discourse itself. Will leave Tony Jones, Chris U, Leigh Sales, Kochie and Karl, Michelle and Laurie, Piers and Andrew to the rest of you.

I’m enjoying the fresh air already. I’ll be lurking on the policy patch. It’s the deep end so it’s not crowded. Most of the media would be out of their depth. (Love a mixed-metaphor!)

PS. Of course, media concentration and public broadcasting are public policy areas that remain inbounds.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Turning the Crime Commission into the Real Sports Villain

So is the real villain in Aussie sport the Australian Crime Commission, closely followed by the Federal government? From the ACC website:
'As an agency we provide intelligence, investigation and criminal database services.

...We are a niche, complementary agency that delivers specialist capabilities and intelligence to other agencies in the law enforcement community and broader government.

...The ACC can draw on special coercive powers which enable it to source information that cannot be accessed through traditional policing methods.'
So they're a small, secret and apparently toothless mob (in the Aussie sense of course). The latest report is part of Project Aperio which investigated 'the extent of use of PIEDs by professional athletes, the size of this market and the extent of organised criminal involvement.' It is supposed to provide 'an important opportunity for Government, regulatory bodies and the sporting industry to address these issues head on'. It is a follow-up to their 2010–11 Illicit Drug Data Report.

According to the ministerial statement by Jason Clare and Kate Lundy:
'The Australian Crime Commission has referred its findings in relation to suspected criminal activity to relevant law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police and all State and Territory Police Forces.

ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority] and other regulatory agencies will undertake additional investigations on the basis of the Crime Commission findings.'
The thinnest parts of the report concern organised crime links, and match-fixing. The hot bits are in the full report no doubt. The ACC works and reports in secrecy it seems. It will be interesting to see if any prosecutions result or is it just a “wake-up call”.

Part of ASADA role is to enforce 'any breach of a policy by ensuring those violating anti-doping rules are prosecuted and sanctioned'. According to its media release:
' has met with the two major sporting codes following the commencement of its formal investigation in late January 2013.
During the course of ASADA’s investigation, it will approach individual clubs as required to complete its investigative work.'
Unfortunately for those who would like names named:
'ASADA is not able to talk publicly about its investigation of these codes and that includes speculating about, or naming clubs or individuals until such time as its legislation permits.

This ensures the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of any individual under investigation is protected.'
It seems that all those innocents in the sports industry who are currently outraged about the ACC processes have nothing to fear but... possibly unavoidable collateral damage such as loss of sponsorships. The alternative seems to be keeping the public in the dark about the extent of the problems surrounding sports doping, match-fixing and criminal connections.

Sponsors can take Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Pottharst's advice: 'Time for sponsors to put their $'s in clean sports and Aussies that don't cheat'.

The ACC was established by the Howard government in 2002. Its powers, and those of similar bodies, reflect our lack of vigilance following September 11,2001.

It didn’t take long for the conspiracy theorists to decide that the government had released the report to deflect publicity from itself. I favour the alternative: Pope Benedict has fallen on his sword to save Aussie sport.

For some early responses in the blogosphere and twitterverse, please see:

Australian Sport: Drugs, Match Fixing Linked to Organised Crime

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Australian Media Fuelling Doubt with Speculation Specfest

It hasn't taken ABC Radio National's Breakfast program long to get back to normal. Its bleak view of the world in general and Australia in particular was in full swing this morning.

Presenter Fran Kelly and Michelle Grattan, daily guest from Fairfax's newspaper The Age, shared their usual specfest about the national political scene. They hit a new low, discussing the speculation that there may be further ministerial resignations from the Gillard government before the 14 September election.

The analysis: "it is fuelling doubt". It's all about perceptions: "impressions of chaos", "perceptions have taken over". As Kelly noted, Grattan's article on Saturday argued that "JULIA Gillard's problems with her reshuffle will be how it is perceived".

By whom, the press gallery? I'm sure they're not using terms such as "sinking ship" or "spinning out of control". On ABC Tv news, Greg Jennett offered this gem when introducing Gillard's press conference with the two retiring ministers: "These are the melancholy days of governing". An "emotional" event in the PM's words, a sad day. Why the hyperbole, with an emotive, negative and inaccurate word like "melancholy"?

Just who is fuelling doubt?  What was the origin of this speculation? Michelle's take on more resignations: there are "none known about. The government probably doesn't expect anymore". BUT "you never know what happens".

There aren't even the usual anonymous party sources or leaks used as justification for this kind of beat-up.

You can listen to their segment here.

This kind of negativity goes hand-in-hand with the constant talking-down of the Australian economy. If you believed the gloom on Breakfast and other ABC programs, you'd have sold all your shares months ago and slashed your financial wrists.

Another Fairfax journalist is grappling with this problem. Economics editor Ross Gittins wonders:
It's long been clear from polling that the electorate doesn't regard the government as good at managing the economy. 
Why this should be so is a puzzle.
At least Ross usually tries to counter this perception. The headline might well be a factor: Why voters believe the economy is in trouble

Another Fairfax publication, the Australian Financial Review, joined in the specfest in
Gillard feared leadership tilt. According to Phillip Coorey and Laura Tingle:
Fear of sparking a leadership ballot at the end of last year was a key ­reason Julia Gillard delayed until last week the decision to reshuffle her cabinet.
Or did she? Later the article gives the game away. It clearly contradicts itself under the sub-heading MEDIA SPECULATION:
While the Prime Minister did not think there was a likelihood of an actual challenge, media speculation at the time was stoking unrest.
Perhaps Phillip and Laura took turns to write paragraphs.

Apparently, the Insiders managed to get to policy matters 47 minutes into the hour long TV show. I'll rely on twitter as the source. It's as reliable as "you never know what happens"!

Anyway the current specfest is a substitute for the usual mindless speculation about the date of the election or the Kevin Rudd challenge meme. When there is no challenge or likelihood of one, the journos have to dance around it, creating their own smoke.

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