pokies story is about? According to the Australian press gallery, it's a story about individual politicians and party politics. The prime minister they have dubbed 'Jul-iar' Gillard, incapable of keeping promises, has done it again - ripped up a deal, walked away from an agreement and put pure politics ahead of principle. It's the story her opponent wants run. And , of course, the genuises of the press gallery dutifully report it ('The Blame Game Begins', says Seven News).
The story could have been about how a thuggish and self-interested clubs industry - trumpeting the interests of the 'ordinary bloke' - had f**ked over the wider population with a $20 million advertising campaign and threatened a few marginal seats. But in the narrow orbit of the press gallery, it was just too hard to report that. No, this was about "Ju-liar's" capacity to keep a promise. The pokies compromise provides just another excuse for 900 words of analysis on how long the minority government can struggle on - what does it mean for Gillard's leadership, what does it mean for the Gillard-Rudd shadowplay - yada yada yada.
You see, the Australian media - largely because it is part of the machine itself - wants you to believe that 'politics' is about what happens in Canberra. They shine the light almost exclusively on the confected battle between tweedle dee and tweedle dum - the figureheads at the top of decaying political parties that everyone outside the inbred Canberra vortex can see are just shells of organisations pretending to believe in something beyond power itself. The issues they fight about are just props for the pantomime that the media reports on as "politics". The real issues - the pokie industry that destroys families, the mining boom that's threatening every other industry outside resources, the climate change that's threatening the planet - these are just just kindling for the eternal bonfire that keeps the huddled hacks in the press gallery in the warmth of secure employment.
Real politics - how money and position and fear buys power - is actually much more interesting than that. That game is fought outside the political parties. Canberra is just the show at the end of the road. This is the politics the media doesn't report - because it's "too complicated to explain" or because no-one wants to get out of the cosy gallery life or because it involves leaving parliament and talking to people outside the infernal machine. To do journalism like that (and how it should be done) would be to show how the game is played; the complex webs of relationships and favours and the corruption of institutions. Instead, it's just easier and cheaper to replay over and over the "politics" of the Punch and Judy show of Tony and Julia - the sock puppetry hiding the underlying power relationships.
The press gallery doesn't want to tell you about the interest group politics; the narrow groups with deep pockets who fund the journos' bar tabs, both figuratively and literally. Unaware of their complicity in the game, the journos reduce it all to Team A vs Team B and 'what does it mean for Labor's primary vote?' The idea is to keep it simple and monochromatic for the news editors in Sydney who tell them "the punters" are too stupid to get it. So it's Julia vs Tony over and over and over again.
And they wonder why voters have switched off.
Put aside Labor vs Liberal for a moment. The fact is Australia is governed by a handful of extremely powerful interest groups: The miners, the bankers, the "gaming" industry, the media. Journalists employed by mainstream media companies can't tell you this, because they are part of the power structure themselves. They can't take a step back and analyse the institutions that foster the very apathy that allows narrow interests to pursue their advantage unmolested. They want you to believe that the vital contest is between Labor and Liberal when the real and interwoven power structures of money and influence are unexamined. (BTW, the threat the Greens pose to the cosy duopoly is closely correlated to the lies and hysteria the Murdoch press whips up against them).
As a former journalist, that to me is the most disconcerting thing - that journalists who pride themselves on their "independence" seem so naively unaware of how they are a tool in a game designed by someone else.