Hagiography takes over from journalism

February 14, 2006 |

Michael Bachelard is a nice enough scribe.  I knew him when we both worked in Canberra in the mid nineties, him as the ACT Politics main man for the Canberra Times and me as the long (or it felt like that) suffering Chief of Staff for the Deputy Chief Minister.   For his sins he covered ACT local government politics. He specialised in “analysis” pieces on who was who in the ACT zoo.  He tried earnestly to make  that sandpit sound interesting and relevant.  He sometimes succeeded in that difficult task.  At the time ACT politics had moved out of its feral beginnings and was just mildly  eccentric. Michael, like most journos in Canberra, was in thrall with the new broom approach of opposition leader and later Chief Minister Kate Carnell. Like Keating before her in the federal sphere she was the toast of the press until she finally crashed and burned over the financing of Bruce Stadium.  For a long time her charisma and networking had the local press lauding her,  hinting at her ability to turn water into wine and, most importantly, ignoring her often glaring weaknesses.  She deserved to crash well before then but that is another story for another time. 

Back to Michael.  Like his earlier coverage of Kate I believe he has acquired a major case of Stockholm syndrome with Bill Shorten.  The coverage in the most recent Weekend Australian under the heading Right on target to boot out Labor veterans is at best a nauseating pap piece. At worst, and more accurately, it is a partisan piece which is an inappropriate use of the press to advance one person over another in a factional brawl.  Bachelard has left the stands and is down on the field as a runner. 

After quotes like “Shorten, 38, is a star. Even his sworn enemies concede the Australian Workers Union secretary has talent and will make a contribution in Canberra.” its time Bachelard told News Limited to keep that weeks salary and submit a invoice to Bill. 

How is Bill a star?  Crunching numbers is hardly a star quality.  What has he actually done?  Who are these sworn enemies and what did they actually say.  Lots of assertions and not many facts.  It is lazy sloppy journalism and typical of the hagiography that Bachelard engages in when he goes starry eyed over a political operator.  No doubt Bill can be charming.  But when Bachelard went from short pants at the Canberra Times to wearing big peoples clothes at the Australian one would have thought he would have sort of looked beyond the cliches and political hackery which are Bills strong suits. 

It is worth reading (or listening to) the most recent Background Briefing and get an idea of some of the real problems with the ALP, one of which is loading up the front bench with union hacks and political operators.  Not that it is a new problem.  Kim Beazley Snr once famously declared:

When I joined the Labor Party as a boy, the branches were filled with the cream of the working class.  When I leave it, it has been replaced by the dregs of the middle class.

(The Dictionary of Australian Quotations, Mandarin, 1992).

It is even truer now.  And Bill ain’t in the cream category, unless it is linked to the word “puff.”

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