Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Brissenden: Sees politics as a sport and he seems to be a fan

By Brian Arnell

Michael Brissenden of the ABC’s 7:30 Report sees politics as a sport and he seems to be a fan.

His report entitled, “Political ceasefire as nation mourns Australian soldier” was broadcast on the ABC’s 7:30 Report on October 9, 2007.

Brissenden first pays due respect to fallen Australian soldier David Pearce and then it is back into the game. Next, we hear from the Prime Minister, John Howard,

Ladies and gentlemen, I've called this news conference here to announce that the Commonwealth Government will fully fund to tune of $30 million, the Kingston bypass. This is a state road, but you all know the history of dithering and
prevarication which has occurred in relation to the construction of the bypass.

The opportunities, the employment opportunities both here and in Adelaide that will flow from this contract are very significant indeed. What we have contracted or what we are about to contract to do is the construction of two superb state of the art vessels.
At this point, the ABC’s audience might expect some additional information or an Opposition rebuttal to put John Howard’s assertions in context with known or even disputed ‘facts’. For instance, Brissenden could have reported the Tasmanian government’s response to the funding of the Kingston bypass.

Tasmanian Treasurer Michael Aird sent out a media release in response to John Howard’s announcement. The Mercury had posted the story on its website by 10:30am and AAP had filed the story by 2:05pm, when the Sydney Morning Herald site published it.

Why did Brissenden neglect to provide this context to John Howard’s assertions? Because he was not interested in a road in Tasmania or any of the issues associated with it. Nor was he interested in defence and the building of ships in Adelaide. His sole interest was in the state of play between Labor and the Coalition. Brissendon says,
But the Prime Minister has been stubbornly holding off, hoping for a shift in the poll (sic) or a Labor gaffe that might stall the ‘Kevin 07’ momentum. And today, on the eve of another significant anniversary, that stubbornness was rewarded.
The ‘gaffe’ was that Robert McClelland made a speech the previous evening outlining Labor’s position on the death penalty in Asia. McClelland said that a Labor government would speak out consistently against the death penalty, including the execution of the Bali bombers. Kevin Rudd, in admonishing McClelland, said the speech was near the fifth anniversary of the bombing and insensitive in its timing

Brissenden never makes it clear whether the gaffe was McClelland ‘s speech outlining Labor policy or Rudd’s admonishment of McClelland for stating that policy. The government attacked Rudd and Labor on both counts.

Brissenden included comments attacking Rudd and Labor, from Howard, Costello and Downer. However, Brissenden never shows any interest in the substance of the argument. He does not provide contextual background on the Government’s policy or any comparison between it and Labor’s policy.

Again, Brissenden fails to provide appropriate contextual information because he is fundamentally uninterested in the issue. He was not interested in the capital punishment debate, only in the competition between Labor and the Coalition. The following quotes in bold highlight his view of national politics as a sporting contest.
It may have been Labor's position, but aware of how this was going to play out as the day progressed, the speech forced Kevin Rudd on to the defensive.

Kevin Rudd may be relatively new to this game, but he's been around long enough to see a political pot hole when it presents itself, and as you would expect, the Government's heavy hitters came out swinging.

Time is running out though, will he bring the parliament back next week? Some still think he will. Others are convinced he'll kick the campaign off this weekend.
Policy lies behind almost all the words and deeds of politics. A policy is akin to a decision. Not making a policy is a policy too. Yet Brissenden ignores policy. By doing so, he encourages policies based on political positioning rather than national interest. In this way, Brissenden becomes a de facto political player.

This is not his role. His job is to communicate the words and deeds of those engaged in politics to the electorate. This process is necessarily selective, but he can balance the selections he makes by providing factual context. Brissenden might see himself as a fan, but politics is not a sport.

No comments: