Monday, June 25, 2012

Newmania: The Slippery Slope

The Courier Mail is, like its News Limited sister publications, a little right of centre. It plays to the classic reactionary talk-back style of tabloid newspaper, which is obvious from both the content and tone of the online reader comments. News Limited publications carry the southern commentary of such well known shockers as Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, Janet Albrechtsen and Miranda Devine – the radio equivalent of Alan Jones and Ray Hadley. They appeal to a certain audience and in a self-sustaining cycle of misinformation, shouted from tinny kitchen radios and preached from between the inky pages of the morning editions, then fed back to the media in the most vicious of circles.

News Limited, and particularly the Courier Mail, which was allowed to exist for far too long without competition here in the land of Joh, land on the side of the Coalition, and now, the LNP. It’s what their readers expect.

So confident was the Courier Mail in the ultimate success of the new Campbell Newman LNP Government that it proudly ran a chart of Newman’s first 100 Days In Office. The graphic was of concentric green circles, with green ticks to mark success as measured against the tasks listed in the LNP’s own 100 Day Action Plan…

…Until it became Impossible to hide their problematic truth, that King Newman will not be able to tick off all of the items in his 100 day Action Plan within his hundred day schedule. Suddenly, around the first week of this month, the chart stopped appearing in the Courier Mail. Rather than admit, or even worse, publicise the LNP’s failure to meet their own KPIs, they heaved the graphic altogether.

They seem to have replaced it with Newman’s Razor, a blood spattered image chronicling the latest cost cutting measures. As images go, there’s a huge emotional variance between a bright green target festooned with ticks, and the new image, with the red splatters and photos of Newman and his team wearing Mafia style hats. The paper could have chosen a positive visual to portray the progress of cost-cutting, but they chose instead one that suggests old fashioned values, violence, goodies-versus baddies – just the kind of imagery to appeal to the Courier Mail’s dedicated readers.

Most telling, this image does not contain any key performance indicators – no dates or amounts, no charts or timelines. Let’s not let facts contaminate the beauty of the blood splatters.

It’s not just the imagery, either. The Courier Mail’s reader Poll hasn’t gone according to plan. They’ve been asking readers whether they support the LNP’s changes to the existing Civil Partnership legislation. As at 11:00am today, 55% of readers disagreed with the changes. These are Courier Mail readers – conservative and supportive of the LNP.

Furthermore, in a quick tally of the first 100 comments on the Courier Mail Reader Online section regarding King Campbell’s televised speech last night asking Newmanians to support state-wide belt-tightening, 62% of respondents were sceptical of government’s motives, their willingness to tighten their own parliamentary belts, or their chances of success. Of the 38% who sided with the government, many took the opportunity to blame the previous Labor Government, and snark the public servants whose jobs were under threat.

It’s easy to understand the frustration, when on the one hand, Costello’s Audit squawked a warning about the deficit of $100b, a fact which Sue Lappeman explains in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

There is no argument the previous Labor Government screwed up royally and the state's finances are in bad shape.

But there is no $100 billion debt. I repeat. There is no $100 billion debt.

That is a figure Mr Costello came up with as a possible outcome by 2018 if the spending of the past few years continued spending that included vast investments in major infrastructure including the Gold Coast's new hospital and the massive cost of catastrophic natural disasters and the global financial crisis.

To help manage the non-existent $100 billion debt, King Campbell has terrified every public servant by stating that we can’t afford to pay about 20,000 of them … while at the same time, engineering his team so that every LNP MP gets an $8000 bonus for being a committee member. Okay it’s around half a million dollars for the LNP members versus over $1.5 billion dollars in public service salaries, but as so many readers of the Courier Mail had commented, it’s the principle.

Meanwhile, King Campbell is still planning to spend an unspecificed amount of money to knock down existing buildings in the Brisbane CBD, have private companies build new buildings on the prime riverside land, and then lease the office space back from the private corporations to house the government departments. It was originally a Labor Government initiative, but I wonder why it’s still on the table now, when we’ve been told to brace ourselves for rough times ahead.

Or – Shock! Horror! – is King Campbell considering selling assets? Isn’t that what killed the Bligh Government?

I wonder if there are plans afoot to cancel the Queensland Government’s hundreds of subscriptions for the Courier Mail? That’d just about pay for the 60 seconds that King Campbell of Newmania had his head on television last night.

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