A Compliant Media Are Greasing Shifty’s Pole

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax Media

What is it about politicians named Bill? “Slick Willy”Clinton was able to get away with the most appalling behaviour and outrageous hypocrisies, largely because of the confluence of a compliant media and a hopeless opposition. Likewise, as Chris Kenny observes, “Shifty” Bill Shorten:

has been given too many opportunities by the Coalition which, for unfathomable reasons, also has neglected to attack him. If the Opposition Leader were a boxer he would be wondering why he bothered learning how to duck, weave and shield himself.

But the government’s ineptitude does not excuse the media for giving Shorten a dream run.

Shorten has been yanking the hapless Turnbull government’s leash over the MP citizenship debacle for months, now, even while it’s obvious that no shortage of Labor MPs have their own dual citizenship skeletons they’re desperate to keep closeted. Yet,

He is not being scrutinised on even the most blatant hypocrisy.

But the most egregious display of media bias in favour of Shorten came during last year’s Royal Commission into union corruption. The evidence against a supposed “battler’s friend” was damning:

Shorten … fail[ed] to declare a $40,000 [big business] donation to his 2007 campaign, which saw him first enter federal parliament … despite being legally obliged to declare it, he did not do so. The donation remained secret for eight years.

Worse, Shorten secretly negotiated away entitlements from low-paid cleaning workers, to the tune of $400m – or about $80 000 per worker. Shorten also traded away the jobs and entitlements of mushroom-pickers, while at the same time receiving a secret $25 000 donation from the company.

All this from a politician who routinely bellows about “protecting your rights at work”.

But the media couldn’t have been less interested. At the same time, the ABC reported obsessively on another Royal Commission, into institutional child sexual abuse. Every day, news bulletins lead with lurid details testimony against church leaders. Yet the ABC could barely be roused to pay the slightest attention to evidence against crooked union leaders.

The only time the ABC showed any excitement about the trade union Royal Commission was when it was trying desperately to beat up paper-thin allegations of conflict of interest for Commissioner Dyson Heydon.

Shorten … does not even receive a question from journalists about the obvious double standard.

The simple fact is that the media in Australia seem almost uniformly determined to grease the pole that will let Shorten slither into the Lodge. For all the palaver journalism students are fed about “speaking truth to power”, Australia’s media is a dangerously one-way megaphone.

This imbalance in the scrutiny and accountability is a worry.

That’s putting it mildly. Turnbull may be a bumbling, waffling clown, but if the media continue failing to do their job, and hold all politicians to proper scrutiny,

our decade of dismal politics shows no sign of abatement.

– The Australian


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