Posts Tagged ‘Barrie Cassidy’

This morning’s Insiders, hosted by Jim Middleton, showed me some things:

  • As much as I (and others) have lamented the level of debate in the media (including this show) since the Rudd era began, Barrie Cassidy has some talents. These include the ability to move around a TV set while appearing  natural, to find his spot without looking at the floor, and to minimise interruptions while ensuring everyone gets to say their piece in a coherent discussion. Hopefully he will have learned to pronounce “Barack” properly by the time the US show broadcasts next week.
  • George Megalogenis continues to impress me as being as close to objective in interpreting politics as anyone can be – his interactions with Bolt were interesting to say the least, and he hinted at some impending polling data that might have an impact on the rising level of stupid.
  • Andrew Bolt can bring the stupid in a very special way. Attempting to engage him in legitimate debate, as MegaGeorge did, will prompt him to lash out by repeating the same line over and over again.
  • Annabel Crabb appears to have adopted the “sketch writer” role in her TV appearances as well. Every time she approached the point of making an intelligent contribution, she seemed to spoil it by trying to be funny. She’s sexier when she concentrates on being clever and insightful.
  • Political cartoonists should be read and not heard.
  • Chris Uhlmann just plain shits me – I don’t find him interesting or informative.
  • Middleton isn’t an on-camera kind of journalist. He also lowered himself to trying too hard for “gotcha” response (“Is this party policy or not?” ad nauseam).
  • Warren Truss trod dangerously close to advocating a quadrupling of the stupid.

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On Insiders this morning, Barrie Cassidy had Peter Costello well and truly on the back foot – and then managed to completely lose the plot, trailing off with a whimper.

When Costello trotted out the well-worn “70% of Labor’s front bench are former union officials” line, Cassidy took him to task on it. His argument was essentially that the Labor pollies targeted by the Liberal advertising included Wayne Swan and Craig Emerson, who have been union members, but never union officials, and that the Liberal Party had engaged in false advertising.

Was he right? This is where things get complicated. Take a look at this first ad:

In that advertisement, Swan and Emerson are each referred to as a “trade unionist”, while others are referred to as a “union lawyer”, “union official”, “former union national secretary”, etc. So, The Libs seem to have skirted the margins in terms of saying anything that is factually incorrect.

But that ad did not include the magical 70% number the Libs are bandying about. Let’s look at the next ad:

In this ad, the voice-over asks, “How many union officials will be ministers in a Rudd Labor government?” As the number goes up and the photographs are coloured red and stamped “Unionist”, both Swan and Emerson are included among the red faces. Then we are told, “That’s right, 70% of the ministers in a Rudd Labor government will be anti-business union officials.” So, given that two people who have not been union officials were included, that must be a lie, right?

Actually, no. If we count the number of red faces, there are 23 out of the 30 who are marked as unionists – that’s 76.7%. Taking away Swan and Emerson leaves 21/30, or 70%. Again, the Liberal statement appears to be factually correct.

But their advertising is still troubling in the liberties it takes with the truth. The issues I have with it include the following:

  1. Apart from the questionable assertion that trade union officials are, by definition of the fact that they have been trade union officials, “anti-business”, the inclusion of Swan and Emerson means that they want people to think that anyone who has been a member of a union is “anti-business”. That’s right, 20% of the workforce wants to destroy Australian businesses.
  2. Attacking the credibility of Wayne Swan is, quite naturally, a key target of Team Howard’s campaign. If they can make people question the credentials of the would-be Treasurer, it can go a long way toward winning back the ground they have lost in the battle over economic management. By including Swan in this advertising, purely because he has been a union member in his lifetime, they are attempting to distort perceptions of Swan (and Emerson) and using deceptive advertising to do it. While, as I have explained above, it appears that there are not any factual inaccuracies in the ads, the inconsistency between what the audio and graphics in the ad exaggerate the union involvement of Swan.

Despite highlighting some of the problems with the advertising, Barrie Cassidy ended up allowing Costello to wrap up the argument – which he did by noting that Cassidy had found one or two who weren’t union officials. It was a pathetic display, especially after he had started with such a strong critique of the claims against Swan and Emerson.

Interestingly, the ABC had posted a news article titled “Costello admits wrongly naming ‘union officials’” – that article has since been pulled down from the site. It included direct quotations from of Costello, particularly the exchange regarding Craig Emerson. One wonders what (or who) prompted the ABC to remove the story from their site.

UPDATE: The Herald Sun has some quotes from Swan on Nine earlier today, and the SMH is now carrying a story about Costello’s “admission”. The ABC still has not put its story back online.

UPDATE #2: Andrew Bolt highlights the bonus the Libs get out of this – even with Labor kicking up a stink, they can say “it’s still 70%”.

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