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Penny Wong, Joe Hockey and the dire state of political punditry

If there is a turning point in the Australian debate on same-sex marriage it may well be Penny Wong’s remarkable grace and honesty when answering Joe Hockey on last night’s Q&A. Wong was asked by host…

Penny Wong’s rare moment of sincerity on Q&A betrayed the paucity of Australia’s political commentary. ABC

If there is a turning point in the Australian debate on same-sex marriage it may well be Penny Wong’s remarkable grace and honesty when answering Joe Hockey on last night’s Q&A.

Wong was asked by host Tony Jones whether Hockey’s view that children were better off with a mother and father was hurtful to her.

“Of course it is,” she said. Then, with a curt nod: “But I know what my family is worth.”

For once, a minister spoke on television from her heart, unconstrained by the need to follow whatever script was issued that day from head office.

But such honesty is rare in political debate in Australia.

Recently I appeared on an ABC program called, ironically, “Outsiders”. Ironic because one of my co-panellists was former Liberal Minister Peter Reith. Whatever else one might say about Reith, he is not an outsider, and he obediently repeated the current Liberal Party attacks on the government.

The trend towards employing ex-politicians to pontificate is increasing at an alarming rate. The Age gives us the reflections of Amanda Vanstone and Peter Costello on a regular basis. Mark Latham seems to be embedded in the Financial Review, and Graham Richardson is such a fixture on Q & A that he is presumably now entered as a depreciation for tax purposes.

Latham and Richardson can at least be counted on for venom, passing as analysis. Costello and Vanstone, being somewhat more loyal to their old mates — well, not all of them in Costello’s case — will tell us, predictably, the current party line.

Other than a moment from Malcolm Fraser some years ago, acknowledging during a speech at La Trobe that he had not handled East Timor’s independence movement well, I have yet to hear a former politician admit to an error, or add much to political understanding. But this is symptomatic of the general decline of political commentary, which becomes increasingly an obsessive rehashing of current events, in which predictable positions are adopted.

If it isn’t politicians, we rely on members of the press gallery, who between them dominate political analysis on Sunday morning talk shows. I suspect no one watches these shows, but they provide footage for the evening news, when the same opinions that were in their newspapers can be trotted out again, and then reported the following day in an endless cycle of repetitive insider knowledge.

There are some dispassionate political journalists: George Megalogenis continues to actually analyse rather than preach, as did Michelle Grattan before her extraordinary dislike of Julia Gillard took over. But the cycle of the same small group of folk reinforcing each others’ views is drowning out anything else.

Until politicians are free to actually express their own views rather than those of the party, they cannot be used as commentators. Perhaps that is why the final exchange between Penny Wong and Joe Hockey on Monday’s Q&A was so electric. Here were current politicians talking about personal beliefs, and Hockey’s clear embarrassment was evidence that his basic decency is restricted by his party’s policy.

Far more important than Gillard’s rather inexplicable opposition to changing the Marriage Act is that the Liberal Party, which claims to believe in individual conscience, has forbidden a free vote on the issue. Australian politics is remarkably restricted by party discipline, which means that what passes for debate is limited to who can be most ingenious in finding ways of selling statements they obviously cannot believe.

Frontbenchers have to defend party policy. I don’t expect Wong to agree that the surplus is a con job or Hockey to acknowledge that his knowledge of economics is sadly limited. Their job is to be combatants, though one wishes their language could be as dignified as Wong was on Monday. But we desperately need commentators whose positions are not compromised by partisan loyalties, or the need to exercise payback.

We used to rely on the ABC for this sort of informed but dispassionate analysis. Maybe it’s time for it to cleanse its stables and move beyond the smug circle whereby “insiders” and “outsiders” merge, as long as Tony Jones can interrupt at will.

Join the conversation

77 Comments sorted by

  1. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    "The trend towards employing ex-politicians to pontificate is increasing at an alarming rate. "

    Oh the glorious irony. I search this article in vain for any details of the doubtless vital research that is being carried out at the Institute for Human Security - funded by the taxpayer.

    So you find Joe Hockey's views that the interests of children are best protected by having a mother and father upsetting. Well, fair enough, but a lot of Australians share this, for you, profoundly upsetting view. Why should it not be represented in the media?

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    1. Michael J. Lew

      Senior Lecturer, Pharmacology and Therapeutics at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, perhaps you should read the article for what it means rather than simply searching it for confirmation of your negative opinion of its author. You might find it to be interesting, and you will certainly find it to be worth more effort to understand. It isn't about gay marriage and its representation in the media.

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    2. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, far more people support marriage equality than don't. But even if they didn't, is it the role of government to prevent people from the human right to have a civil marriage?

      Just because you and others like you don't think they should, is that actually good enough?

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    3. Dennis Altman

      Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      hey Sean: I know it's more fun to not read an article properly before responding. But I wrote this piece while on leave, so your tax dollars are safe

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Dennis Altman

      You misunderstand me.

      Your views on politicians don't really interest me - you have no more or less expertise than anyone who follows current events moderately closely. Anyone who follows politics moderately closely knows are politicians are dire, overpaid windbags - and always have been. Anyone with a modicum of common-sense and humility is probably aware that if they were in the same position they would do even worse.

      I can read boilerplate like the above commentary anywhere. But as I understood it The Conversation was a place for researchers to share with their funders what they were doing. Herein lies the irony, you don't like ex-politicians expressing their opinion (pontificating), but this and plenty of others at The Conversation are doing little else.

      At the moment we seem to be being treated with an endless stream of spill-over fairfax op-eds

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    5. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Jay Allen

      Me? I don't care.

      Of course, if you really are confident about the majority of people supporting it, why not start a campaign to test it by a referendum? Politicians would love it if the heat was taken off them.

      But while support might be broadening it is not very deep or very involved. Prior to 2005 New Zealand had a decade of Citizen's Initiated Referenda, but no one even made so much as a move to register a petition in Parliament that would, once enough signatures were obtained, require a referendum.

      In the end, in 2005, the Civil Unions Bill was passed by capturing the elite, not a grass roots campaign.

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    6. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      https://theconversation.edu.au/who_we_are

      "The Conversation is an independent source of information, analysis and commentary from the university and research sector — written by acknowledged experts and delivered directly to the public. Our team of professional editors work with more than 2,800 academic authors to make this wealth of knowledge and expertise accessible to all."

      The article by Dennis falls under the "commentary" section of the above.

      I agree with Dennis, you need to actually read the article them attempt to comment. The article was focusing on the extraordinary difference between a frank encounter on Q & A and the majority of other punditry extant in the Australian media.

      You troll under so many threads I think you must own shares in a keyboard company.

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    7. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      "Of course, if you really are confident about the majority of people supporting it, why not start a campaign to test it by a referendum"

      Because it is not a constitutional issue.

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    8. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Let's just say that it was a constitutional issue. In Australia can the people force a referendum (on anything) if they got enough signatories?

      If so, with 62% of Aussies in support of it, this may not be such a bad idea...

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    9. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Ignore the troll.

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    10. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Jay Allen

      Referendum or plebiscite - why get pedantic?
      You can see the lists of Citizens Initiated Referenda here in NZ
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendums_in_New_Zealand

      There is no such automatic mechanism in Australia, although politicians can bind themselves by passing a law with a plebiscite trigger.
      In New Zealand the interest was so slight that among the many fascinating petitions registered with Parliament, same sex marriage did not make it.

      Similar in Australia, support might be…

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    11. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      I wasn't being pedantic, i was asking a legitimate question.

      In any case - your attempt to marginalise the marriage equality support in Australia to something which is 'very weak' is completely false.

      Marriage equality has the largest ever engagement in a parliamentary enquiry in Australia's history (23 April 2012) - with 64% of the 276,437 respondents expressing support for marriage equality.

      http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/2012/04/23/parliamentary-survey-shows-64-support-marriage-equality/

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    12. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Jay Allen

      My reference to pendantry was to Grendal. It was useful to learn that in Australia polls that change the constitution are referenda and those that propose legislation are plebiscites - I just think the distinction could have been raised and then commented on the desirability or otherwise of a plebiscite.

      Your online submissions is probably testament to the 600000 mobilised by the indefatigable Simon Sheik. It doesn't demonstrate the depth of feeling on an issue - slacktivists I think the neologism…

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    13. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, it is hardly pedantic to point out that a referendum is not the appropriate method for this - and neither is a plebiscite really. Australia has had three, two on the question of conscription (both failed) and the only successful one was on what song we should use as a national anthem. They are rarely used and in this case are not required.

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    14. Hugh Sturgess

      Student

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      "Just they can only marry people of the opposite sex..."

      Very generous. I'd vote for that: "Hey, I know you can't worship Allah and all that, but you do have a right to worship the One True God and His son Jesus Christ, so it's not all bad."

      "...in the same way heterosexuals are forced to."

      How much arm-twisting do you think the marriage-industrial complex needs to do to force heterosexuals to marry people of the opposite sex?

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  2. Karen Price

    GP, Chair of women in GP VIC, Juggler of domestic chaos

    I think there should be marriage equality. However, Joe Hockey was stating his view as a Father and I think having watched it, was speaking as an individual than any party political line. He has a right to do that and to express his view based on his experience of Fatherhood. In all of this the rights of the parents to express their free will are discussed. The rights of any children brought into this discussion do not seem to be considered. It seems there IS good quality literature on the outcomes…

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    1. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Karen Price

      Preventing gays and lesbians from getting married isn't going to stop them from having kids (eg. Penny Wong). Preventing gay and lesbian families from having married parents is going to do their family and the children harm.

      Joe Hockey has every right to quote lame reasons why he doesn't like it and why the Liberal Party wont allow a conscience vote on marriage equality. Is that something to be respected? Not in my opinion.

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    2. Lyn Gain

      Publisher at Valentine Press

      In reply to Karen Price

      Karen, I don't think Joe Hockey was stating his views as a father. Having met Joe when he was a much younger chief of staff in John Fahey's relatively left wing NSW coalition government, I think Dennis is right. Joe was embarrassed to have to toe the party line against his more generous instincts. It is naive to think that politicians on either side don't do this all the time. There are very few politicians who don't succumb to this pressure, and Russell's local MP gave the noble reason for this. The other reason is that their career's would suffer.

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    3. Lyn Gain

      Publisher at Valentine Press

      In reply to Lyn Gain

      Sorry for typo at end - should be careers.

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    4. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Lyn Gain

      Hi Lyn,

      Sorry if I wasn't clear .... it wasn't my MP's answer, it was the answer I would have liked her to give!

      If we have a system where our elected representatives are all the time saying stuff that they don't really believe, and we know it, then it must corrode their integrity 'till they have none, as well as our respect for them. The Morgan polls on the image of professions shows what we consistently think of them. That's why I think it's better to ditch the 'disunity is death' thing - I think we're adult enough to cope with the fact that people have different views, but stay committed to a party because they broadly agree with the party's policies, and choose to work within a party to effect the change they want.

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  3. Mrs Rockoyster

    logged in via Twitter

    In your article you write "Far less important than Gillard’s rather inexplicable opposition....". As Ms Gillard's is but one vote, shouldn't that read "Far more important...."?

    Re M. Grattan's dislike of Julia Gillard, does that explain the fact that in Saturday's The Age, a table in her article on recent polling omitted the latest result which showed a decent swing towards Ms Gillard against Mr Rudd as preferred Prime Minister by Labor voters, and highlighted the previous poll showing Mr Rudd still retaining majority support?

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    1. Megan Clement

      Deputy Editor, Politics + Society at The Conversation

      In reply to Dennis Altman

      Hi Dennis and Mr Rockoyster.

      This has now been amended.

      Cheers,
      Megan

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  4. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Good Article Except for the bit at the end about what you expect the ABC to be, I really enjoy QnA the way it is and feel that Tony Jones usually pushes the discussion in a positive direction.

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    1. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Tony Jones is integral to the program but I have to disagree a little here about how much he aught to be interjecting. My recollection is that the earlier formula where Tony Jones basically kept out of the way except to keep the conversation rolling, or to bring it back down to earth when it was getting loopy, was the better way to do it.

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    2. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      In my view Tony Jones is very rude, ignorant and dogmatic and, buy and large, the show is farce....

      They choose the Questions and the Guests ...all based on their pre-known and screened "agendas".

      Crucial questions are very often excluded.

      I have always thought the show is a deliberately biased "politically spin" copy of Jeff McMullen's ABC show "Difference Of Opinion" which was truly sensational and I wish they would bring it back.

      It had 6 real experts & no screened questions!

      Also, Jeff cut through the crap and let everyone fully state their opinions...Oh Yeah...VERY GOOD!! .....With this system prevaricators are exposed & generally the best solutions a evident.

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  5. Frank Pollard

    Adjunct Associate Professor leadership at Griffith University

    As a newcomer to The Conversation I have enjoyed many of the articles posted. This one is no exception. Well written Dennis. Forget the distractions of the ABC's role or what Tony Jones does or does not do, the key, and most important, point of this article was its reporting of Penny Wong's honesty and dignity at the end of Q&A. If only all politicians, including Penny, could emulate this more of the time.

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    1. Carol Daly

      Director

      In reply to Frank Pollard

      Having listened regularly to the Senate debates on the 'Carbon Tax' bills last year and other debates this year, including Senate Question Time, I can assure you that Penny Wong's dignity and honesty were highlighted by her patience and calmness in replying to the ignorant, insulting and hyped abuse hurled at her every sitting day by Barnaby Joyce and others.
      I find this also to be the case with many of the government ministers when they are not being howled down by the Libs/Nats opposition.
      Try listening to the source of governance in our country (ABC News Radio Parliamentary broadcasts) and enter a reality totally at odds with that 'reported' by the Press Gallery.

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  6. Dave Smith

    Energy Consultant

    What is extraordinary about current politics is that we have several Party policies that almost no-one in the respective Parties would actually and honestly believe in. With Labor we have same sex marriage, the budget surplus and asylum policy. From the Liberals we have Direct Action on carbon emissions (an approach which Liberals abhor to address a problem they don't believe exists) and Maternity Pay funded by company taxation.

    How has it come to this?

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    1. Norm Stone

      Farmer

      In reply to Dave Smith

      Hard to say HOW it has come to this but it is clear what THIS is. One look at our fearless leaders shows that pretty well none of them believes in anything much other than their own re-election and or retention of or assent to power. This supposed art of compromise has given us leaders who a happy to win power with a mish-mash of "policies" many of which they would, should a miracle happen and the truth be told, reject.

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    2. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Norm Stone

      Dennis, did you really mean this: "Hockey’s clear embarrassment was evidence that his basic decency is restricted by his party’s policy".

      What kind of basic decency is it that would let party policy over-rule your own views on a basic moral issue? I asked that question of my local MP over the refugee policy - she had been a human rights lawyer for the U.N. and I'm fairly sure she did not agree with her government's position. I know people say 'Disunity is Death' in politics, but I don't agree…

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  7. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    Since women are more honest and reliable and have the interests of their children at the forefront of their lives, according to the creator of the Grameen Bank, who lends money to them, it would follow on that having two mothers instead of a mother and and father is at least a good idea or perhaps better.

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  8. Flavio Menezes

    Professor of Economics at University of Queensland

    Great article! I pretty much have given up reading op ed pieces in the main newspapers -- except for the odd syndicated piece -- so no wonder why by and large their readership is down. The Conversation, on the other hand, becomes more relevant and interesting every day. Well done!

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  9. Ann Davie

    logged in via Facebook

    I'd be interested to know what you think of Keating as a commentator. Agree about Latham and Richardson - they seem to have flames blazing from every orifice. Keating has always seemed to have a certain degree of measured consideration in what he says...even if it is caustic.

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  10. MsKatieKatieKay

    logged in via Twitter

    Fantastic article. It is truly worrying that our democracy is so heavily reliant on media organizations who have no interest in playing their part in democracy (as opposed to the marketplace).

    The point about ABC is spot on. The ABC is no longer a reliable source of information. It falls over itself to emulate the commercial channels and it's mindless pursuit of "balance" (rather than truth or accuracy) fails us all. Alas, all those complaints about ABC bias by the Howard Government appear to have had their effect through the changing of ABC culture. Not sure how the damage will be rectified to bring back a culture of truth.

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  11. Marc Sassella

    Freelance writer

    Hear, hear - well said Dennis. Many of us are thoroughly dispirited by the standard of the 'news' media in this country and the almost total lack of any proper public debate. As you rightly point out, a major part of the problem is that 'current affairs' programs spend most of their time interviewing other journalists who repeat what we already know, former politicians who parrot their party's line, or members of 'think tanks' whose views seem mysteriously aligned to the major political parties…

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  12. Mark O'Connor

    Author

    Well said Dennis! Penny Wong usually infuriates by using her high intelligence to obfuscate, and rarely giving a straight answer to a question. She has even spoken glibly against legalising gay marriage, no doubt on party orders. How much better she seems when she speaks more honestly!

    You're right too about the recycled repetitive views expressed on The Insiders and elsewhere. And surely a bit too kind to George Megalogenis, who is as uncritical a growth spruiker as the rest -- on his biases see http://markoconnor-australianpoet.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/megalogeniss-growth-propaganda-rebuked.html

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  13. Mark Christensen

    Social commentator

    Agree that honesty in politics is a rare thing. Ditto the quality of political commentary. But aren't you sharing in the decline by inferring Penny Wong's frankness superior to Joe Hockey's? Both spoke from the heart. The difference is that Penny comes from a minority position. Much political punditry, including yours, cannot escape a self-defeating righteous presumption: all forms of perceived social or economic suffering are worthy of immediate political action and anyone who disagrees is bigoted.

    Also, the gay marriage debate completely misses the irony. If Penny Wong is right ( and I think she is) about knowing the value of her family, why, then, are so many same-sex advocates completely hung up on the marital contract, not the transcendence of love? For is it not the latter you are championing?

    I have an op-ed on this which will be published later in the week. I'll forward you a copy.

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    1. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Mark Christensen

      Have you ever had your own child ask you why you and your partner weren't married?

      Have you ever had the parent of your partner refuse to let you hold your hand during the last hours of your partner's life, speak at your partner's funeral or refuse to tell you where they spread your partner's ashes?

      There are many many reasons why same sex attracted people do want the human right to civil marriage (which is an equal right, not a special right).

      When you write your op-ed, I hope you take these things into account - because if its just about transcendence of love, then you would also advocate for straight couples to be denied the right to marry too.

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    2. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Jay Allen

      Spare a thought for the children of clergy having to live a life of subterfuge, they can't automatically claim any rights whatsoever as far as the chuch is concerned without a fight.
      Even taking into account the UN Convention which Australia has been a signatory to since 1989.
      It doesn't make any reference to father or mother either, it just states 'parents', unless I've missed something.

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  14. Jack Arnold

    Polymath

    It is a brave conservative politician who would buck the party system of pre-selection controlled by unelected hacks protecting the best interests of party sponsors. It is unthinkable in the ALP.

    So, my perception of bias in the morning reporting by Michelle Gratton & only elementary economic expertise of Joe Hockey has been observed by others. That is satisfying.

    However, when will the Opposition Leader without majority support in his own Liberal Party start to participate in government for the benefit of ALL Australians regardless of gender preferences rather than pursue the Biggest Dummy Spit in political history?

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  15. Michael Burrows

    Mr

    Poppycock......is how I would describe this 'political' debate but seeing how it is flavour of the month...some food for thought.
    If 'mother and father' is the the only right way to raise children them maybe we should look at outlawing single parents.
    To enforce the correct way of rearing children, we legislate to take the children and/or 'mothers and fathers' (parents) into custody when they don't turn out as planned; commit a crime, make grade averages, play sport, be overweight or bulimic, become…

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  16. Chris O'Regan

    guy who had to create a login account to comment

    "as long as Tony Jones can interrupt at will." < I agreed with everything right up until then. Tony Jones' rude interruptions are to me the height of insidery cleverness. They are never about the issue; they always personalise the comment; and more than once they have cut off politicians who are on the point of deviating from the script. Jones doesn't want good comment and quality debate as much as he wants good television. That is why most of the time Qanda is part of the problem.

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  17. Bob Liddelow

    No title

    +1 for the last para of the original article.

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    1. Michael Burrows

      Mr

      In reply to Bob Liddelow

      ...and another 1+ for the last line of the 2nd last paragraph.

      "But we desperately need commentators whose positions are not compromised by partisan loyalties, or the need to exercise payback."

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  18. LJPSaveSaveSave

    logged in via Twitter

    I loved this article. Somebody had to say something about the state of political commentary and reporting. The amount of editorializing by Emma Alberici and others at the ABC, Channel 7, 10 and 9 is getting out of hand. Instead of beginning a news report with: "Today the Federal Government announced a compensation package to offset the carbon tax..."
    Instead we get "Too little too late. Gillard and her floundering Labor Government attempt to bribe households with their compensation package..."
    If reporters don't personally agree with the issue or policy, that's fine but it seems a line has been crossed here. The news is becoming more and more like "TodayTonight" and similar tabloid programs.
    As for politicians towing the party line, it's difficult to pinpoint when it started but it is getting increasingly annoying. If more politicians spoke honestly and openly from their own point of view it would make for more interesting viewing and reading.

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  19. Lynne Newington

    Researcher

    Thank you for picking up on this.
    Irrespective of where you stand personally on the issue, her grace in responding to Joe Hockey was very moving.
    I wish her every good thing.

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  20. Gillian King

    logged in via Facebook

    I fidgeted through the program, making notes for suggestions for politician-free Q&As. Then Penny redeemed the whole program in the last two minutes, after Joe treated us to another example of foot in mouth.

    I'd like to see a Q&A about Architecture with panellists like Elizabeth Farrelly, Ken Maher, Caroline Pidcock, a Town Planner and an Academic.

    Or a Q&A about transport, with panellists who can talk about a fast train, bio fuel, cycling, a journo and an academic.

    No pollies, just interesting people with a range of perspectives who are prepared to share and discuss. Does it have to be comabtive to be engaging?

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  21. Carol Chenco

    Research Officer

    I just can't understand why Sean Lamb is so hostile in most of the comments I've read on all sorts of topics. Quite frankly it puts me off reading the comments section which is a shame because there is such a rich amount of information there. The Conversation should be applauded for providing access to the latest research in an interesting format and for encouraging the dissemination of this information to the public and whether we think the ABC has let us down or not, while it remains properly funded and free from sponsorship, it still provides a more balanced approach to news and political discourse than other media.

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    1. Colin MacGillivray

      Architect, retired, Sarawak

      In reply to Carol Chenco

      Hi Carol
      Don't let any one bigot put you off Conversation. Just don't read their contribution and enjoy checking how many red marks they get.

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    2. David Boxall

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carol Chenco

      Carol Chenco: "I just can't understand why Sean Lamb is so hostile in most of the comments I've read on all sorts of topics."
      On the face of it, Sean seems to be a form of troll - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29.

      Carol Chenco: "Quite frankly it puts me off reading the comments section ..."
      That's evidently his intent.

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    3. Jay Allen

      Writer in training

      In reply to Carol Chenco

      Hey Carol,

      It's called 'trolling' and people get off on doing it (believe it or not - google it). However it does tend to flesh out points of discussion that otherwise may have been missed, so its not all bad. Its good to hold these things up to the light to examine them sometimes, if only to reconfirm why you think the way that you do.

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Carol Chenco

      Carol, it's called dissent.

      I don't have strong views on whether children should have a mother and a father, I vaguely think their experience of childhood will be richer if they have both role models, but its not something I feel very strongly about.

      What I do feel strongly that people should have right to express the view that the interests of children are best served by having a mother and father without being subject to vilification, sneering or being told their views are somehow hateful…

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    5. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      "The reasons for this are complex, but there does seem to be heavy streak of intolerance in liberals for the views of people they disagree with - to the point they make the experience so unpleasant that most people can't be bothered. Unlike liberals I never get concerned when people disagree with me. In fact when people agree with me, I suspect I must have said something really stupid"

      Try posting a dissenting view on the Herald Sun on Bolt's blog and see how accommodating the conservative views…

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    6. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      I haven't read Andrew Bolt's fascinating blog or participated in his comments section, so you have the advantage of me there. But I agree with your basic point that the two audience do seem to share the same characteristics, a basic intolerance to differing views, simply a different political flavour.

      As it happens I did give my view of gay marriage a day or so ago and since it hasn't changed since then I haven't elaborated on it further.

      However, to refresh your memory my view it is an insignificant…

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    7. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      I get that it is an insignificant issue to you, but it is not a insignificant issue to the people seeking the change. Your point a) while amusing is not logical since if people really are only doing this to feed their need to feel aggrieved then they will find something else to be aggrieved about and you can still do them a flavour and oppose them on that issue. Point b) pretty much the same logical failure as point a) by your reasoning before this issue they must have been hot -under-the-collar…

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    8. Hugh Sturgess

      Student

      In reply to Carol Chenco

      Sean Lamb is the comment-thread equivalent of a vexatious litigant. He lives in a private fantasy world constructed from immense ignorance and self-deception. He's a clown reactionary who destroys any argument he attempts to mount.

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    9. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, absolutely you are correct that it is advantageous thatchildren have a male and female role model, but nothing in a same sex parent's marriage precludes this, uncles/aunties, friends can provide this role.
      Opposition to same sex marriage is not logically coherent. The dissonance of joe hockey's and the prime minister's opinion was plain to see at the end of Q&a debate. It's difficult to see any logical argument in the anti gay marriage position;therefore, it is likely to be a matter of political expediency or distaste at one end or prejudice at the other.
      It is reasonable for writers informing this debate to marginalise or stifle comments that are emotion or prejudice dressed up as logical argument. The exception would be opinion pieces expressing opinion, people are free to believe anything and express it... Just need to be prepared for criticism of their position.

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  22. Carol Chenco

    Research Officer

    Before anyone picks me up on this the last word should be two last words - 'mainstream media'.

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  23. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Another point made by Penny Wong on the last Q&A was that political "debate" and commentary re the present government is much more toxic than in the last few decades. It's amazing that Opposition supporters like Judith Sloane ( also on the program ) despite being "sure" of victory at the next election can't resist shafting a government representative on any occasion - she constantly interrupted Senator Wong ,for example . Joe Hockey is an exception there - as his comment re Shorten's family showed…

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  24. Andrew Kos

    logged in via Twitter

    "We used to rely on the ABC for this sort of informed but dispassionate analysis. Maybe it’s time for it to cleanse its stables and move beyond the smug circle whereby “insiders” and “outsiders” merge, as long as Tony Jones can interrupt at will."

    Hear hear!

    A new post today on a new blog that is documenting the decline of the ABC, has written about the ubiquitous presence of Peter Reith on our public broadcaster. And whether this is in breach of ABC editorial policy, and good judgment in credible ABC commentators.

    http://the-abc-has-gone-to-hell.tumblr.com/post/23139909522/abc-poster-boy-peter-reith

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    1. Carol Daly

      Director

      In reply to Andrew Kos

      When I wrote to the ABC about Chris Ulmann's constant interruption of Wayne Swan's interview after the budget and lack of interruption of Joe Hockey, I received a reply to say Chris had met ABC editorial standards because
      "For example, as the nation’s Treasurer, Wayne Swan has vast responsibility for the state of the economy and economic policy generally. It is a natural consequence of holding this profound responsibility that he will be subjected to strong critical questioning.

      To the best of our knowledge, Joe Hockey currently has responsibility for nothing other than his own electorate and his responsibilities to his own party, not the broader economic well being of the country."

      I found this a useful insight into the application of ABC editorial policies. No more ABC news/7.30 for me!
      The Conversation and Crickey.com are my only sources of news now.....

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    2. Lyn Gain

      Publisher at Valentine Press

      In reply to Carol Daly

      I find this unbelievable, Carol, that the ABC asserts that the Shadow Treasurer has no responsibilities that relate to "the broader economic well being of the country". Don't they think that Abbott will get elected, or do they realise that any existent (or should I say non-existent) Opposition policies will all turn out to be 'aspirational', so Hockey won't become relevant until the dreadful deed has been done by my fellow Australians. I must repeat myself - 'Unbelievable'.

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    3. Carol Daly

      Director

      In reply to Lyn Gain

      My reply to Communications ABC was
      "While I understand what your responsibility is and how you have discharged it, I take issue with the statement that ‘Joe Hockey currently has responsibility for nothing other than his own electorate and his responsibilities to his own party, not the broader economic well being of the country.’

      I agree with this fact but the context of all political discussion in Australia since the last election (now over 18 months) is not based on this fact but on the Opposition’s…

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    4. Lyn Gain

      Publisher at Valentine Press

      In reply to Carol Daly

      Yes, On the grounds of brevity I didn't include the effect on current public perception and attitudes to policy of the constant media coverage of the Opposition's non policies and their undermining effect on public understanding and reactions. Poor Joe, I suppose he has no responsibility for that either.
      You must post the ABC's reply, if you ever get one!

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    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Lyn Gain

      I think that the problem here is not just about truth as that so much of the political is divorced from the intuitive and the personal: Tanya Plibersek and Jenny Mackin, both tellingly women, are two who manage somehow to blend their humanity with their policy discourse.

      This must surely be a way of arresting the widespread public antipathy towards any form of policy-speak, including from some highly articulate performers, such as Wong herself and, of course, Kevin Rudd. Lindsay Tanner was another…

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    6. Andrew Kos

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Carol Daly

      Carol, I would like to relay your communications (when they come to an end) on the blog if you wouldn't mind? abcgonetohell@gmail.com

      It is extraordinary that the ABC believes that Joe Hockey has no wider responsibly or effect in regards to national discourse beyond his electorate, and therefore shouldn't be accountable to his words. What a myopic view, and frankly a cop out.

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  25. Mark O'Connor

    Author

    That's two excellent pieces of trollery (viz. prevarication/provocation), Sean Lamb. You wrote:

    1. BTW, gay people do have the right to get married in Australia and large numbers of them do. Just they can only marry people of the opposite sex, in the same way heterosexuals are forced to."

    and
    2. . . . my view it is an insignificant issue but worth opposing on the grounds a.) It gives people who seem to have an existential need to be aggrieved something to be aggrieved about. By opposing gay marriage we are doing them a favour b.) Ties up their attention over a fairly meaningless issue and prevents them moving their attention to causes that have the potential to cause serious harm.

    But enough is enough. Your game is obvious, and you risk becoming a bore.

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  26. Hanson Flint

    logged in via Twitter

    Let this be Penny Wong's epitaph, and we can forget all her slippery evasive non-answers to everything else.

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  27. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    I wonder if anyone thinks that refugee and aboriginal families know the value of their families though?

    Penny used to advocate for Afghan refugees, then she voted to shove them to Malaysia to die.

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  28. Jim Wright

    Retired Civil/Structural Engineer, IT Consultant/Contractor

    A couple of reminders of the past. I came to Australia in 1965 and I loved the political climate with its really robust debate. Mavericks like Billy Wentworth and St.John (should that be Sinjun??) Irvine had absolutely no hesitation in standing up in parliament and criticising their own parties policies where they felt they were less than perfect. Later on, I was a committee member of Friends of the ABC when Bob mansfield held an inquiry into possible bias in its programming. He found that there…

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  29. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    An overwhelming endorsement of your view, so well-raised, Denis; though I imagine that most conservative reservations (which I don't share) about gay parenting (which I thought was the point of the Quanda question) relate to surrogacy and the fact that Penny's child already has a biological father. Incidentally, this reservation would apply to barren heterosexual couples as well and therefore meets the requirements of equity.

    If Hockey had been bright enough he might have said this. Alas, he has left us all wondering. My view is that with all the legalities relating to donor consent presumably accounted for, and the obvious commitment of Penny and her partner, regardless of their same-sex relationship, to raise the child, Hockey's potential bioethical concern (as a Roman Catholic, perhaps, like his equally inarticulate party leader) cannot matter since that horse has well and truly bolted a very long time ago.

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  30. Cain Roberts

    PhD Student at University of Melbourne

    An excellent piece and I agree with the comments that it highlights the real need for the Australian and a refresh of those we turn to for political analysis in this country. Am also glad that someone has gone ahead and said I for one have been increasing feeling about Michelle Grattan - come on Michelle, you're better than you have been of late.

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  31. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    Pity help Labor’s few brave souls in parliament (come pre-selection) who publicly denounced the falseness and insanity of a government and coalition’s cowardly ego-culture and all the exaggerations that result in the abuse of non-humans too.

    Self-interested Wong and Hockey support the abuse of animals. Both speak with forked tongues.

    “It is dangerous to be right when your government is wrong." (Voltaire)

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