Wentworth: low politics and fake news

Caption: (L-R) Kerryn Phelps, Dave Sharma and PM Scott Morrison.

The Wentworth by-election has to be one of the most over-analysed in recent memory. Political soothsayers have been poking through its entrails for the past week ? me included. What is notable is just how many media shamans are determined to see too much, and the wrong messages (at least, it seems to me: I?m just as likely to be wrong as anyone else) in the steaming mess.

For a start, Wentworth is as unlike the rest of Australia as it?s possible to be. Only someone as insulated from the real world by their wealth as member-elect Kerryn Phelps could possibly claim Wentworth as a barometer of the national mood. Like previous member Malcolm Turnbull, Phelps is a multimillionaire whose property portfolio alone tops ten million dollars. Phelps doesn?t have to worry about how her lady-boner for renewable energy is going to affect her power bills, unlike a single mother in Yennora.

Something else largely ignored in the Wentworth election is the role of underhanded politics and fake news. Quote:

If last Saturday?s Wentworth Stakes had been the Melbourne Cup, the stewards would have had an inquiry and probably overturned the result. The beaten horse, Liberal Sharma, was ?interfered with right around the track and in plain view of the punters in the stands.

The nobbling was effective, narrowly giving the race to independent Phelps. End of quote.

From the start, Phelps was the undisputed favourite of the left-wing media, especially the ABC. After all, she?s One Of Them: a wealthy, ?progressive? celebrity lesbian, clutching her pearls about children on Nauru. Naturally, the partisan media barracked for her all they could. Quote:

The most egregious meddling was the ?introduction of a slimed email during the last leg of the race which the laughably self-regulating and neutral race caller, Our ABC, falsely claimed targeted Phelps. It didn?t?[it] was leaked by the ABC and news of its existence was broadcast on high rotation by the ABC in the closing days of the by-election.

In one line it claimed Phelps had been ?diagnosed with HIV and was no longer in contention.

But the ABC didn?t tell its viewers and listeners that the email also claimed Sharma?s candidacy was designed to open the doors to immigrants from India and ensure Australia had a Hindu prime minister. The dog whistle could be heard from Bondi to Harold Park. End of quote.

Not reporting the full contents of the email is a gross violation of journalistic ethics. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance?s code of ethics cites honesty and accuracy as its first principle: ?Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis?. Lying by omission is also fake news.

The dirty politicking of the Labor party was also allowed slide along without comment. Quote:

Throughout the race, the Labor Party ran dead. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten didn?t want to know his party?s candidate, Tim ?Murray, and a slew of Labor advisers had their way cleared to work for Phelps.

Such party disloyalty normally results in suspension if not expulsion but Labor conveniently overlooked their fickle folly in Wentworth and there?s no doubt that those who steered Phelps? tactics will be putting their shoulders behind Labor in the general election. End of quote.

The dead hand of Malcolm Turnbull was also everywhere. Again, the ABC disgraced itself by giving a prime platform to Turnbull?s son, a political nobody based in Singapore, to rubbish the Liberal candidate. Quote:

Incredibly, the NSW division of the Liberal Party?It assigned a former Turnbull staffer Sally Betts to run the Wentworth campaign for the new chum politician [Dave Sharma]?Betts, a former mayor of Waverley and long-time councillor, had incurred the enmity of the beachside suburbs with her contribution to a long-running dispute over the revamp of the iconic Bondi Beach Pavilion.

On her watch as campaign boss, the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club, a Turnbull stronghold, fell to Phelps and became the site of the Independent?s election victory party. The Liberals, long identified with the club, had to settle for a pub across the road. End of quote.

What is also ignored by the commentariat is that Sharma actually increased the Liberals? primary vote. Quote:

Despite all this unnecessary lead in his saddlebags, Sharma still managed to get a greater percentage of votes (43.12) than Turnbull garnered in 2004 (41.79). End of quote.

But in the end, this results says less about the Liberal party’s chances in the rest of the country than it does about the whackadoodle elites of Wentworth. Quote:

Like the yuppie Wentworth voter seen clutching a GetUp poster as they stepped out of a top-of-the-line Range Rover at one polling booth last weekend. End of quote.