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40788NSW elections, the media and the will of the people

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  • bobgould987
    Mar 27, 2007
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      Bob Gould

      After the heroic East German uprising against Soviet occupation in
      1953 the German playwright Bertold Brecht, who was an enigmatic
      Stalinist politically, wrote a short poem, The Solution.

      After the uprising of the 17th June
      The Secretary of the Writer's Union
      Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
      Stating that the people
      Had forfeited the confidence of the government
      And could win it back only
      By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?

      To capture the reality of the recent election, in NSW, substitute
      the words "the media" for the words "the government" in the above
      poem. As former Premiers Wran and Carr have remarked, there hasn't
      been a State Election in living memory in which the media in NSW has
      gone into such hysterical overdrive against a State Labor
      Government. Week after week. Day after day. Real problems of
      government constantly spiced up by extravagant and crude beat ups.
      Dozens of columnists and alleged commentators on the case, most of
      whom are just hacks and hackettes, but some of whom should have
      known better. The News Ltd papers, particularly the tabloid Daily
      Telegraph, whose readership demographic is concentrated in the Labor
      voting working class and migrant areas of Sydney, went into an
      almost stratospheric alternative universe of its own creation. For
      donkeys years it has run on its letters pages a curious email poll
      of its readers, the ones who bother to respond, to dog whistle
      reactionary questions. On this occasion the Daily Telegraph created
      a kind of virtual reality world in which, surprise surprise, the
      inhabitants were voting Liberal and National in large majorities all
      over the State. This kind of journalism applied to the real world is
      just about as wacky as you can get. In the more elegant, largely
      broadsheet Fairfax Newspapers, which circulate in the Labor voting
      inner west and the Liberal voting North Shore, the tone was one of a
      kind of hand wringing moralism, again belted out implacably, day by
      day, with the bottom line, vote Liberal. None of this journalistic
      frenzy seems to have affected the outcome much.


      This election campaign was largely a TV war of attack advertising.
      The bottom line is that the Labor attack ads proved to be deadly
      political weapons. The main Liberal attack ad, also proved to be a
      deadly political weapon for the Labor Party, not at all what was
      intended. The Liberal attack ad, was the "Three Wogs" ad, an attack
      on three ethnic Labor Ministers over planning, implied corruption,
      and financial abstractions. The problem with this ad was the issues
      that it tried to raise were only comprehensible to political and
      journalistic insiders, but the implicit racism, as Michael Costa
      pointed out, which selected these three ethnic Labor Ministers, to
      make them look like the Sopranos, was obvious to all. A carefully
      thought out pitch no doubt, but one that hadn't noticed the
      dramatically transformed ethnic and cultural mix in Australia. This
      sort of dog whistle politics clearly blew up in the Liberals faces.
      What member of any ethnic group of the 150 or so in NSW, other than
      a few benighted Anglos, is going to respond positively to that
      stuff? The results of the election demonstrate that that ad offended
      everybody, including non-racist Anglos. This is demonstrated by the
      electoral results in areas like Earlwood and Drummoyne, where pretty
      affluent second or third generation Greeks or Italians, might be
      expected to shift to the Liberals, but this did not happen. The
      Liberals' racist advertising explains this failure of the vote to
      shift. In more economically working class migrant areas, like
      Granville, Parramatta, Lakemba and many others, the Labor vote went
      through the roof due to a combination of the obvious Liberal racism
      and the Workchoices issue.


      By way of contrast Labor's attack advertising worked in spades. The
      personal attack on Debnam was effective. It underlined his Vaucluse
      and navy officer credentials, not good features in most of the rest
      of the State, and it focussed on establishing him as a certain type
      of not-too-successful small-scale speculative entrepreneur, now
      turned to Liberal politics. A type with whom many are acquainted and
      don't particularly like. The anti-Workchoices ads, which were a
      culmination of the general labor movement advertising campaign of
      the last couple of years, clearly resonated with the electorate. The
      other Labor attack ad which focussed on Debnam's threat to sack
      20,000 public servants clearly had an enormous impact. There's no
      real question now that Workchoices as a whole is on the nose with
      the whole population. The proverbial blind Freddy can see that, even
      if all the conservative spin doctors try to push it away. Taken as a
      whole, the labor movement owes a debt of gratitude to Mark Arbib,
      Luke Foley and the ALP Head Office Team who crafted this deadly
      barrage. We also owe a secondary debt of gratitude to the Anglo
      dills in the Liberal Party back room who dreamed up the "Three Wogs"
      Sopranos ads.


      Left politics in Australia is now divided between a large mass Labor
      Party with a big trade union, ethnic and liberal middle class
      component, and a smaller largely tertiary educated group, The
      Greens, who get around 10% of the vote compared to the ALP's 40%.
      These two mass formations compete for votes and influence, which is
      a pretty healthy kind of competition, and is often expressed in
      policy clashes and discussions. The differences are real, but the
      common interests in defeating the Conservatives ought to be
      paramount. In this election the negotiators on both the Labor and
      the Green side threaded their way through the obvious minefield, and
      reached an acceptable preference arrangement despite the problems.
      This arrangement delivered a number of marginal seats to Labor in
      the Lower House and may well deliver a Labor-Greens majority in the
      Upper House for the first time. A good outcome!


      Morris Iemma is the first Labor Premier of non-British migrant
      background in this State. He and his minders deliberately cultivated
      a rather conservative personal demeanour for him though they didn't
      entirely succeed in helping him to overcome the camera conspiracy to
      photograph him side on to make him look shifty. In this campaign he
      emerged as a credible capable Labor leader, who made a point of
      emphasising his migrant background and celebrating it, and the
      family history that emerged during the campaign of a proud leftist
      father and a proud religious Catholic Mum would have made members of
      many ethnic communities, Greeks, Italians and Arabs, and even Irish
      Catholics laugh, because of the way it replicates family history and
      life in the labor movement. Anyone who didn't warm a bit to the
      Iemma tribe during this campaign, lacks a both a heart and any sense
      of the real social history of Australia. Iemma is now clearly going
      to be around for quite some time as the Labor Premier of NSW. He is
      rather right wing for my taste, on such questions as public-private
      partnerships, and some aspects of multiculturalism, and he has got
      some hard dries in his Cabinet, like Mick Costa. These questions
      will have to be resolved by serious political struggle in the ALP,
      the Unions and the broader labor movement, which now includes the

      I worked on Saturday, as I always do, for the ALP, at the Church in
      the middle of Newtown, which has now become the Greens Tiger country
      enclave in the generally Labor voting seat of Marrickville. I yelled
      myself hoarse and my agitprop slogans for the day were "Ditch
      Howard, Debnam and Fred Nile! Vote Labor! Put the Liberals last! If
      you are voting Labor or Greens for the Upper House, stick to the
      ticket and get rid of Fred Nile!"

      My message to the reptiles of the press is look at the maps of the
      electoral results in all your papers on Monday after the election.
      Those maps, particularly in Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast,
      are also, as well as being political maps, maps of class and
      ethnicity. The urban areas of the Illawarra, Newcastle and the
      Central Coast show a solid mass of Labor seats. Rural areas are
      divided sharply between mainly the Nationals and populist
      independents with 2 or 3 Labor seats. Sydney with 70% of the voters
      in the State is sharply divided between the working class South and
      West, which votes solidly Labor and the leafy North Shore with the
      highest incomes votes solidly Liberal.

      These electoral results underline the dramatic changes that have
      taken place in Australia in the last 50 years. If you want your
      predictions and propaganda to have any impact on reality in the
      future, study those maps carefully. Australia is not the Anglo-
      dominated, conservative country it used to be. The circulation of
      the print media, is, as we all know, in free fall. If you want to
      have any impact in the future, you should take all of these factors
      into account, instead of babbling about abstractions like
      leadership, which most people can see that in this context, masks
      the class interests of your proprietors.
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