He said – She said # 473

When the stuff about Kevin Rudd’s heart broke I thought ‘well here we go again’. A bit of quasi dirt. Now it seems like a reasonable assumption that the government knew of the revelations and encouraged them. Of course it’s entirely possible that they didn’t. But on form you’d have to say it was a question worth asking.

Being surprised at how lacking in aggression the ALP has been when one cooked up scandal after another is paraded through our media I was pleased that they got stuck in – with Ministers other than Rudd asking the Govt to deny their own involvement. Perhaps it was predictable that the Government would feign outrage.

Still I was amazed to see the news coverage that began with ‘smears’ in Federal Parliament. The ‘smear’ the headline was talking about turned out to be the ALP’s ‘smear’ of the Government in asking questions of their knowledge of the whole sorry business. The news footage was of Howard and Costello and a few others being outraged at the ALP’s ‘smearing’. Indeed, the idea that the ALP leaked the story itself to divert attention from something else was also leaked.

Christian Kerr’s ‘he said – she said’ account of this goes like this:

1either side looks particularly good after yesterdays uproar. Ministerial minders were pushing a ridiculous line that Labor leaked the story of Kevin Rudds heart procedure to kill the tax slip story.

But Labor did itself no favours. Kevin Rudd handled the heart story well when he joked yesterday morning that Arnold Schwarzenegger has had the same surgery. Then he went a bridge too far, raising allegations of a smear campaign. The Government fought back. And by the end of the day we had seen the Labor leader lose his cool.

A hard played game ended up in a nil-all draw.

So there you have it, a story summed up entirely in terms of how it all went down, and in complete disregard for what the likely truth of the matter was. As far as I can see, the matters that go to the substance are

  1. Did the government know or and/or orchestrate the leaking of details of Kevin Rudd’s heart operation?
  2. If not, did the details emerge as a result of actions authorised by or known by coalition operatives?
  3. In the light of what we know or don’t know, was it a reasonable thing for the ALP to ask the coalition questions about their knowledge in parlilament and also to accuse it of doing so, on the basis that it is the kind of thing they might well do?

Why is this a ‘bridge too far’? Beats me.

Reading for the day – Paul Krugman on why this shallow reporting is often highly biased reporting.

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16 years ago

There has to be some clause in the Constitution that allows for the possibility of complete and utter ineptness from politicians from both sides and gives the population some means by which to . .. I dunno burn them at the stake? No, a bit passe, its been done. Heads on pikes paraded around town. Nope too ugly. Its just ridiculous. A smear campaign about a smear campaign. Right. Have they lost the plot completely?? We are paying these people to do what precisely?

Viva la revolution!

16 years ago

absolute non-event, but riveting theatre, just the same.

16 years ago

I find it hard, read ‘impossible’, to give them the time of day. I’m glad there are people to report the precis but even the briefest detail I find tooo pointless.
Wot Caroline sed – bring on the revolution’ following which first shoot all the lawyers, second the economists and if there are any spare munitions the evil HR execs.

16 years ago

Personally I think this sort of goss about our political leaders is a necessary evil. We want the absolute truth about them, warts and all and nowadays we get that, in comparison to the ‘good old days'(nudge, nudge, wink, wink and say no more!) Howard and his family life and upbring have been gone over with a fine tooth comb over the years and now Rudd’s is too. The same occurred with Lithium and it cracked him under the spotlight and the nation was the better for that, if not for him. Rudd’s handling it much better. As far as health/age of our pollies goes, the only public interest is the question of wotif? Costello or Gillard perhaps and are we as voters comfortable with the emergencies. It might tip some voters on occasions.

Fred Argy
Fred Argy
16 years ago

I share your sentiments Nicholas. I too was surprised by the hostile press reaction to Rudd. It is good to see Rudd showing some passion on this issue. Fran Kelly, who is these days leaning more to the Coalition than Labor in her morning program, also said that Rydd’s reactioin was justified.

Like so many other mud-slinging affairs, one can never pin the blame directly on Howard or his senior ministers or the Lberal Party organisation. We know it was a Liberal Party member who leaked the medical information (because Shanahan has admitted so) but that person claims he had no prompting from “the organisation”. Ha ha.

Mind you Labor can engage in dirty tricks too so one cannot be too sanctimonious. And there lies the danger for Rudd – that that he gave Howard a chance to say Rudd had a “glass jaw”.

James Farrell
James Farrell
16 years ago

Nicholas is right. This is not a case of ‘here they go again, aren’t they childish, they’r all as bad as each other’ at all. Someone is persistently trawling for information to discredit Rudd. Plibersek’s and Albanese’s questions were justified.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
16 years ago

“Did the government know or and/or orchestrate the leaking of details of Kevin Rudds heart operation?”

No. It’s now well-established that Kevin Rudd first discussed his heart operation on “Sunrise.” You can’t “leak” something that’s already on the public record.

“If not, did the details emerge as a result of actions authorised by or known by coalition operatives?”

See above. Whatever its origins, the issue took full shape as part of an ALP pre-emptive strategy aimed at reinforcing the perception of the Coalition as sleazy, dirt-diggers, thereby deflecting any “dirt-file” damage. The issue exploded into the news cycle just as Rudd’s tax gaffe was consuming all available media oxygen. If “coalition operatives” launched it, they would surely have to be terminally inept ones (which isn’t, of course, beyond possibility – see Heffernan, Bill).

“In the light of what we know or dont know, was it a reasonable thing for the ALP to ask the coalition questions about their knowledge in parliament and also to accuse it of doing so, on the basis that it is the kind of thing they might well do?”

In light of the pre-emptive strategy that the ALP have obviously adopted, the Macklin/Albanese/Gillard questioning was tactically sound, but a touch risky considering they have no evidence and Rudd had already cheerfully discussed this supposedly “secret” info on nationwide TV. However, Rudd’s QT dummy-spit was cringeworthy. He came across more as Chris Lilley’s bitchslappy “Ja’mie King” character than the enraged and menacing bull of Keating/Latham confected parliamentary outrage past. He’ll need to watch this.

“Someone is persistently trawling for information to discredit Rudd.”

An observation that might indicate that the ALP pre-emptive strategy is working :) In politics, everyone has “information.” In the current climate, with backfiring a real possibility (see Strippers – New York), all players would be well-advised to tread carefully – including journos: see Milne, Glenn and Oakes ,Laurie and today’s Telegraph, Sunday.

16 years ago

This is an interesting ALP strategy, though it’s not all that attractive to the commentariat, and would be pissing the incumbents off. A pattern is emerging now where the ALP throw a mud pebble in the media pond, and while this is distasteful in that it may lack substance or is a response to something distasteful from the Libs, it’s a fair bet the ripples reach the punter with the desired effect: adding to an image being created of a desperate government, an ugly government, and to diffuse further similar attacks on them.

In the very early days of Rudd being in the job, he presented as someone with a vision for the country by defining the areas in which he could make positive change. These latter days he’s presented more flippantly and as floating, relying merely on throw-away phrases that he “has a vision for the country”.

This floating thing is not good, especially in that the LNP are so good at working that into public mind, and are fully armed and fired up now to do so. Imaginably Rudd is waiting for the campaign proper to bed himself deeper into the electorate with actual policy, but for now, he’s very open to LNP attack – not through smear – but through the factual problem of not showing more solidity.

This is a worry for Rudd’s fate, as it has growing form now, and will lose him the top job if it’s not corrected. He really will have to change the media dynamic soon by staking solid claim in the electorate, representing real, attractive, workable policy.

Further on smear, Latham for his other failures came a cropper by letting them build up, after which he broke. Rudd has a dilemma then, in that he (or the ALP) has to diffuse them and has to remark upon them as they come along and prior, but not be defined himself by doing so. The environment is such that the media is hungry for any sort of punched hole, and any sensationalist reader-grap no matter its own stupidity in that: so a free-for-all is building and no one can expect the media to be above it. Rudd and the ALP have the onus upon them to alter this, and bring it all back to solidity. Public confidence in wanting change absolutely cannot be taken for granted with Rudd being so new.

Coming up is very difficult territory for Rudd where he has to take the dead-right line through all of this, daily.

Concerning also is that Rudd’s tax stuffup happened on a day when Costello did the same on tax, with, what, one small mention only of Costello’s, by Hartcher (maybe Grattan in passing?).

How does media improve? By politicians asserting themselves with national-need solidity. Rudd has the occasion coming up to do this – whether he’s built of that stuff remains to be seen.

16 years ago

It’s a storm in a teacup, as they say, but stuff like this always tends to make them both look bad. I wouldn’t put it past either of them to leak the info to be honest… and they both showed mock outrage at the accusations and counter-accusations. A nil-all draw sounds about right – but that could actually be worse for Rudd: it reminds people that whoever you vote for, you end up with a politician.

ALP should have queried the leak without using all the “trawling through garbage bins” accusations…