I am fascinated how so much of what is reported is not what we (as in the vast unwashed) really need to know, nor even understand, particularly when it comes to politics?

This morning Judith Ireland tweeted the below:

Senator elect, Ricky Muir has pretty much dissed any discussions with PM saying "he cannot get time off from his job at a rural sawmill in regional Victoria". Now I really like Judith Ireland, I like the way she writes, I also like the way she interacts on Twitter, not being all self-defensive, or in the case of some journalists, totally dismissive.  So I am not using her tweet to bash Journalists, just as an example of the distance between politics, political reporting and punters and wondering “Why is this so?” ;-)

Now, obviously the budget is really important, it will have ramifications for the nation and us plebs in the burbs, unless of course you are a big corporation, millionaire or miner.  We know the Government will need the support of a truly ‘different’ set of cross benchers for any plans to come to fruition.  So I can understand why a journalist would be puzzled by an incoming Senator saying he doesn’t have time to speak to the PM.  Although the "we" I am referring to is the people who are polictically interested and well informed.

As a punter though, I saw that piece in the paper & thought, ‘fair call, you are not in the new job yet, so carry on…’.

Let’s face it, Mr Muir would realistically have never expected to get into the Senate. Most of the smaller groups really only put up a candidate for Senate to try to raise the profile of their special interest group, which I suspect was the case here with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and for all we know, Ricky got on the ticket because he had always paid his membership fee on time, or hell knows, was most sober the night they decided to give it a red hot go? Point is, he is not a career politician, he does not belong to a party that has the traditional structure the big parties have to financially support him until he actually takes his seat in the Senate and we, the taxpayer start paying him (perhaps more than he ever thought he would earn per year).  Yes, he has sort-of joined forces with Clive, though apart from maybe shouting him a good suit or paying for the odd flight when invited for a chat, I seriously doubt he would be on Clive’s payroll either. Imagine the headlines if Clive did have him on a payroll before Ricky hit the Senate? Journo’s would be onto that quicker than a seagull on a hot chip.

So without any of that support, I would say Mr Muir actually ‘needs’ his job at the sawmill. I would also say that his employer has already given him a fair bit of time off in the past 12 months to go off and have a bit of fun with that Senate malarky, but hey, enough is a enough. Out in the real world, not too many could afford to live for 6 months or so with no regular income?

Personally, I reckon that Ricky is probably pooing himself about the new job too. He has been in the papers and after the euphoria of actually being a bit of a legend in his own lunchbox for a while there, I am sure he is now in his small town, more worried about his mates thinking he has a big head than whether the PM wants to chat about the budget. Just imagine the ribbing he has gotten in the pub over the last 6 months? Like a lot of blokes, I would say Ricky has no idea, is feeling pretty stressed and as many blokes do, just pretends all is ‘normal’ until forced to confront a new reality.

OMG Clive is a businessman!

Another big difference is the fascination of Clive ‘the businessman’, and his business 'interests'.  So many articles are written about what Clive owns, how that will affect how his party votes, what is the deal with the Chinese alleging he used their cash for WA senate campaign etc.  You know what? At a recent get-togther we discussed Clive, sort of… We do live in Palmer’s backyard, so maybe we think differently, but basic consensus was, MYEH! Tell us something we didn’t know.

We all know Clive is a millionaire, we all know he gets his moolah from mining, we all know he hates the Carbon Tax, we all know he deals with the Chinese etc etc. So the fascination of reporting stuff we already know is kind of boring to us.

In fact it actually highlighted what we don’t know about the other politicians?

What influences do other decision makers have?

Talking to friends & telling them about the IPA they were horrified. They don’t follow social media, they watch 5 mins of the nightly news only and were seriously dirty. They thought worst issue was “Libs are backed by their business mates & Labor are backed by their Union mates - both as bad as each other…”

After showing them Mr Abbott at the IPA dinner in April last year, they were truly unhappy. They had no idea this ‘group’ even existed and yet seemed to be setting a rather large part of the Liberal agenda. As far as I am aware, we still don’t really know who funds the IPA? Though even punters know that whoever pays the bills gets a big bloody say. Then it was noted that we don’t even know half the time who is making donations? In fact, when discussion moved onto ‘Lobbyists’ a few actually had to admit they didn’t really understand what a Lobbyist actually was?!

     As a side-note: Just how is it that the IPA have insinuated themselves in every form of media here in this country? No other Interest Group, Lobbyist, Union etc has EVER been given so much print & air time? It is really insidious and I would honestly love to know how they have achieved this prominence, particularly considering their *shady funding?

Anyhow… To make a long story short, the conversation rolled back around to Clive and final attitude was, “Well at least we know where he is getting his money & influence from, unlike the bloody Liberal party, why don’t we know more about how is backing them?” (direct quote LOL).

So how do we get to this disconnect between what punters need as information to make decisions & what is reported to us? Why should Ricky being too busy doing his current job be puzzling to Journalists?  Is it becoming harder to be outside the political norm nowadays so Journalists are unsure how to report it as there are new players who are not subscribing to the traditional Canberra rules?

You often hear political commentators discussing “selling message”, “pressure on the Govt in Question time…”, “Caucus feels…”, “Party polling or Party focus group research suggests…” etc.

You know what, the average punters could not care less about ‘messages’, they just want to know if they are going to be hit up or not for extra cash. They never watch Question time and they sure as hell have no idea who this secret cadre of decision makers called Caucus is? I say secret because as far as my friends were concerned, they don’t really know who the front bench are, nor care, so are just a group of faceless men to them - I did tell them there was ONE woman there LOL. Focus Groups? Hello? Punters are ‘the’ ultimate focus group. Anyone doing polling knows that ‘where’ you have polled and the manner in which the questions are asked will totally slant any answers you get, so referring to that which has been supplied is sort of dumb and out here in punter land, people will often hear those ‘focus group’ references and just go “HUH?”.

So why is this this sort of ‘news’ the fascination in political reporting?

Is it that journalists spend so much time in Canberra, closely attached to the political games, hanging out with other journalists that they often don’t see outside that circle? Or is it the fast pace of reporting now where they run from press conference, to Parliament, to speech at lunch and hopefully file a few notes in between that running around that they just don’t have time to take a step back and see a bigger picture in what they are reporting as they already have another presser to go to and have not even had time to file their last report yet?

I am not having a go at Political Journalists here. Some do suck up to what they know their boss wants reported, there is no denying that, but hey, even those ones (barring a few hard core fanatics who we all know about) have mortgages to pay, families to support etc and it is not like journalism jobs are plentiful, so you can understand to a certain degree why you are not going to rock the boat or take on what a sub-editor has done to the piece you submitted.  Though I do wonder if maybe the odd Saturday morning at the kids football game, or holiday with rellies is enough of a break for Journo’s to get a good perspective of the audience they are actually reporting for?

Maybe it should be like how TAFE used to be (this applies to pollies too), where Trainers had to spend a certain period every year doing Industry experience? Like our Trainer came and did a week with us, seeing exactly what a small IT business experiences on a day to day basis, in reality. He really enjoyed it, said it made him a better trainer for the kids he was not only teaching but preparing to go out into the workforce in businesses just like ours.

Maybe more journo’s need to get out of Canberra, and not just for a holiday in Noosa or overseas, but really get out. If their papers have regional & suburban affiliates, maybe they need to work in them for a week or two once a year? Most corporations have training programmes, would not be hard and would probably refresh the journo’s, particularly if each time they had to go to a totally different demographic, not to mention the flipside where they could be imparting experience and knowledge to the regional/suburban journo’s who have not climbed that high up the journalistic ladder yet?

I know people on Social Media get cranky with reporting

I know people on Social Media get cranky with reporting, BUT they are not Joe Blow & Jill Dill punters either, these people (and I include myself here) in most cases are ‘interested’ in politics, they are more aware of what has been happening than the average punter, but they are not indicative of those out in the burbs and regions who care more about whether the council is going to up water rates, or if it is going to rain because the tanks are getting low?

I don’t know, maybe I am reading this wrong. But to this punter it seems there is a really big gap in the middle here, the vast unwashed majority of punters, who are not on Social Media, yet are also totally out of the loop in regard to what our press gallery is reporting? People tend to write this group off as politically disinterested but are they? Is it more maybe they have been ‘left out’ and talked ‘above’ so they are disengaged and show no interest in politics, as maybe, no interest has been shown in them and their concerns, resulting in, “Bloody hell, I don’t have to vote again do I, what is it this time?” or “Politicians, what do you expect, they are all the bloody same”?

Then again, what the hell do I know, I am just a punter ;-)

PS: Other "comments" on the deck raised (though not in media) for your giggling entertainment :)

- Get stuffed! Six months without dole, I can't afford to support my kid if that business goes bust like others in the area? I can barely afford to support myself.
- WTF! PM's daughter got a freebie for study but he is going to make my daughter pay more for years to come.
- HUH? The AFP really didn't tell PM & Pyne that they could not go to the Uni, why wasn't that on the news, they happily reported the dangerous bloody students?
- Seriously? Barnaby Joyce is good mates with Gina? Hobnobbing at Indian party & celebrating his win? What a tosser! Out in St George made out like he was one of us? Just a struggling Farmer my @rse!
- What? I thought we were still getting Broadband, just not to the house but was going to be quicker? What is that site again, bloody hell, nothing planned for our area at all now?
- Not Happy Jan, I thought that brand new Medical Research fund was the only good idea in budget, but thought it was extra to the $7 bucks we have to pay? Why tell us that there is a problem with Medicare, charge us extra to see a doctor, but not the put that extra charge into Medicare, dumb, can't they add up?
- No-one in my family has lived past 75 yet, WOOHOO maybe I will get to live the life of Reilly for 2 or 3 years without dribbling into a sippy cup in a nursing home.

That's about all I can remember at the moment, though interesting to note, only one of the comment above was made by a 'progressive' party voter, rest were Liberal or National voters??
*IPA funding may not be 'shady', it could be fully legit and they honestly do policy work that is not unduly influenced by any donors, BUT, until they show exactly who their donors are and where they make their money, they will always be 'shady' in my mind and I can't take their commentary seriously, even when well researched, as I don't know how it has been influenced.
Noely Neate
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Noely Neate
Talks too much on Twitter
Professional desk jockey
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