POLITICS

Shock Jocks And Dirty Laundry In A Liberal Leadership Spin Cycle

Did the Coalition learn nothing from the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years?

12/07/2017 12:11 PM AEST | Updated 12/07/2017 12:13 PM AEST
Fairfax/Andrew Meares

CANBERRA -- The word 'mateship' is thrown around a bit in Australian politics. John Howard was quite fond of it. And Malcolm Turnbull has used it a few times. He's said mateship is "deep in Australians' DNA".

Genuine friendship in politics is much harder to find. Loyalty usually comes from a different source. Factions. Debts. Power.

Hatred, contempt and grudges can run deep.

Ongoing and very public strife in parties, whether it be the Liberals or the Greens, are evidence of the strange truth in politics: politicians often abhor others in their own party a hell of a lot more than people in the other parties they are supposed to be fighting.

It all comes down to how good the politician's acting is. Or whether they are actually in politics anymore.

Some don't care about hiding. Others appear to think they speak in an unbreakable code. For others, spilling publicly about party problems is the only way to speak to your opponent/colleague.

And yet others choose to make pointed remarks while on the other side of the planet, to the perplexed disdain of certain whisky drinking types.

Here's the rub: why would any politician, in this time of distrust and disdain for politics when few people are listening and want inspiration, think airing dirty laundry is a good thing?

Of course, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott appear locked in a death spiral and the ruling Liberal Party is now actively defining and redefining its heart and soul. But politicians were elected to lead, not publicly tear each other apart.

The members may protest, but it is as if the Coalition learnt nothing from Labor's unedifying Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

But this is not without boosters in a small but vocal section of the media. Conservative commentators like Andrew Bolt urge Turnbull to fall on their swords and routinely describe him as is "dead in the water".

Former senior Australian journalist and Mike Baird staffer Imre Salusinszky has ripped into conservative Sydney based broadcasters Alan Jones, Paul Murray and Ray Hadley as "friends the Coalition could do without".

His thesis is that people are self-defining what "true conservative principles" are supposed to be and those broadcasters who "bully and harangue" are a "bigger problem for the conservative side of politics than they are for Labor".

The influence of these right wing warriors, Salusinszky argues, is not so much with the electorate. He said it is in the Coalition partyrooms. And Jones, he said, operates like his "own unruly faction within the Liberal Party", which means Turnbull "cannot simply ignore him".

It is an uneasy relationship between media and politicians with a shifting power balance. The media loves conflict and nothing better than conflict in high places. Legitimate and important leadership stories must be reported on.

But is the hungry 24-hour media feeding the fracas, hour upon hour, for its own ends? Or is the situation within the Coalition so broke it cannot be contained? Why would you go public with what the public don't generally want to hear?

Well, unless you want to destroy the joint.

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