I will begin by asking the question – why is the newspaper coverage of the devastation so interested in the politics of it? We’ve had Moir in the SMH showing Gillard looking small while Bligh is talking about the floods; people speculating about Bligh’s political future beyond the election and comparing her to Gillard. Yes, Anna Bligh has the job of explaining and talking to her people of Queensland while Gillard has the job of talking about more general Australian Government things. It would sound silly if Gillard was asking “fellow Queenslanders” to help “Rocky” recover. Comparing them is pointless and just a little bit tacky.
It is during these types of events that normal, boring politics can be dropped and leaders can speak from the heart. That’s because journalists and readers would be more forgiving of “mistakes”. It’s also the case that politicians give far too many press conferences on too many small, pointless things. There stand the often unforgiving pens of journalists and – even worse – the jackals on the side – that has meant politicians have to be safe and scripted. We in NSW saw the demise of Nathan Rees, partially because he actually said what he thought.
Then we have Tony Abbott. The eternal politician arrived, first speaking not of devastation and bi-partisan support, but instead raising the idea of spending billions on more dams – which was repudiated pretty swiftly by political interests and actual hydrology experts – demonstrating the gap between Abbott, his media cheer squad at the Australian and experts in the field. Next, he made the link between post-flood repair costs and the entirely irrelevant NBN project – showing that he will use anything, even devastation and loss – to make a hackneyed political point. It may be a hackneyed and irrelevant point to people, but in this editorial, The Australian demonstrated their disconnection with true empathy in order to further display their lockstep support of Abbott’s Liberals.
My point? Now is not the time to make political points – whether it be Bligh, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, The Australian. Now is not the time for journalists to be asking whether the spending on the post-flood recovery operation will affect budget surpluses. That can come in the months down the track when the reality hits and the hard work begins. Now is the time for words of the sort that Julie Bishop came up with in her excellent National Times piece – “There is a powerful La Nina effect, resulting in warm water surrounding Eastern Australia and directing moist winds over the eastern states. One measure of the weather patterns is the Southern Oscillation Index, which ominously has already reached record levels in terms of anticipated rainfall. All indications are that our magnificent men and women of the emergency services have many sleepless nights in front of them. Our prayers are with them all”. Indeed they were. And so should be those politicians and political journalists who just can’t help themselves.
By the way… Why The Preston Institute?
People of the outer suburbs have had many people talking about us – even Gerard Henderson in the Herald purports to speak about “Western Sydney” (here’s a quick precis from Loon Pond ), he speaks as someone who would be much too scared to walk through Penrith Plaza or sit on the beanbags at the Mt. Druitt Halfpipe Cinema. Gerard, of course, for those who don’t know, is the Executive Director of the Sydney Institute.
Hence, I speak to you as Preston Towers, Executive Director of the Preston Institute. The Preston Institute will sit somewhere between the Sydney Institute, which appears to be a supper club for rich and powerful people listen to a revolving list of reactionary conservatives railing against the “elites” while tucking into their Confit of Suffolk lamb loin with smoked white carrot cream, fennel infused milk curd, Pantelleria capers, nasturtiums, green almonds and fennel pollen; and the Ponds Institute, which is a secretive place dedicated to keeping us all clean and young looking. Hence, I will rail against elites while cleaning up things – all of which is dedicated to making you all young looking.