Blind to a stitch-up

Saturday, 14 June 2008 

What on earth is wrong with the political journalists in this country? Here we have a naked political power play going on in front of our eyes and they miss it.

Almost the entire discussion around Belinda Neal has been irrelevant because it misses the central point. Rudd-Gillard’s humiliation of her by sending her to therapy for anger management was not done for her benefit or because her behaviour at the Iguana club was a major embarrassment for the Rudd government. It was done because of who her husband is.

It seems the only connection being made between Neal and her husband by the press is that he was also at the Iguana club and also accused of bad behaviour. But that type of boorish carrying-on is what you would expect from a power couple used to calling the shots in the NSW Right political scene and it is that power that is under attack. Della Bosca is routinely just described as the Education Minister, but he also happens to hold another portfolio, Industrial Relations, and in case the press has not noticed, IR and the unions is a rather touchy issue at the moment in NSW. This is not only because of Iemma’s privatisation plans but also Gillard’s push to overturn NSW’s lone opposition to centralising IR, an opposition which Della Bosca is leading. Iemma’s push to make a break with the unions and join his other state counterparts means that he has common purpose with Canberra’s wish to bring the NSW unions under their anti-union regime. The latest example of the Della Boscas throwing their weight around was an opportunity too good to pass to deal with their common enemy. Canberra played its part with the easy target, the junior MP wife, Iemma has finally sorted out the tougher bit.

To grasp how naïve the Canberra Press Gallery is you only have to look at one of its best and most experienced, Michelle Grattan in The Age. Unable to see the link between Iemma’s push on electricity and Canberra’s agenda, she makes this blooper a few hours before Iemma forces Della Bosca to stand down:

Iemma has been left on the back foot. No wonder state Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell was yesterday praising Rudd’s move. But the Premier’s hands are tied politically. With his party split over plans for electricity privatisation, he can’t afford to lose Della Bosca from his front bench.

Having now removed one of the main barriers to introducing Canberra’s anti-union agenda, Iemma’s position is of course greatly enhanced, rather than weakened, against his union opponents in his own government. Grattan is hardly alone in a media (and blogosphere) discussion that has tended to get waylaid by the distraction helpfully thrown in by that fellow chum of the Della Boscas on the NSW Right, Julia Irwin, that Rudd’s action was sexist. The only real exception in the press, it has to be said, was The Australian whose editorial policy and chief political journalist may be all over the place, but at least has had the most insightful reports of the real agenda going on in NSW, flagged early on by a fascinating piece from Stephen Loosley last year and more recently by a perceptive little piece this week.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 14 June 2008.

Filed under State and federal politics

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