So, I was in Melbourne yesterday, I got two newspapers with my hotel. The Australian, and The Age. You could be forgiven for thinking that these two newspapers were about two different countries. Which led to me thinking a bit about the influence newspapers have on the political debate, in particular in the way they report “news” as opposed to “opinions.”
Let me give you a sample. From the Age we have:
“State shuns experts on road blitz.” The theme here is that the Baillieu government passed some laws on road safety and didn’t consult the “internationally renowned” Monash University Accident Research centre. I’m guessing that the research centre is a known haven of hippy lefties, but I could be wrong, the article doesn’t tell us anything about that. So basically the headline article is that the government made some policy without consulting a university that is probably a haven for lefties. Right below that is an opinion piece explaining how governments pretend to be touch on law and order so as to win votes, entitled “Playing the John Wayne card.” Subtle, isn’t it.
Then inside the paper the first article is “10,000 more waiting for surgery under Baillieu“, with a small heading “Davis blames federal funding cuts.” That could have had a heading “10,000 more waiting for surgery after Gillard funding cuts,” but I guess that doesn’t fit the theme so well.
In The Australian we have “Coalition eyes IR reform – in 2016.” This piece quotes from unnamed Liberal sources that the opposition is considering a policy of not changing any IR policy in the next term, instead pushing it to the productivity commission for a review, then taking it to the 2016 election for a mandate. But everyone on record from the Libs says “we’re not releasing policy yet.” In short, this is the Libs floating an idea to see if it has legs, and The Australian is facilitating it. Nice work.
Then we have an asylum seeker story, with photos of the houses that asylum seekers are living in whilst on bridging visas. Important quotes would be “Fears that Labor’s policies would lead to the creation of an underclass of asylum-seeker within Australia appear vindicated” and “The asylum-seekers are among thousands living in the community without work rights who are facing the likelihood of years of poverty due to a decision by the Gillard government to suspend processing the claims of all illegal arrivals since last August.” I think the situation here is a little more complicated than that.
The Age also covers asylum seekers, on page 5. We have “Few asylum seekers charged with crime: Coalition accused of dog whistling.” We learn that “Asylum seekers living in the community on bridging visas are about 45 times less likely to be charged with a crime than members of the general public.” Unfortunately the statistics used to derive this seem rather dodgy – they’re based on “A department spokeswoman said that ”a handful” – or five or less – had been charged with a crime. This equates to just 41.32 people per 100,000 people.”
Election season is in full force, and similar to the last US election, I suspect we will have a very polarised country. As I recall reading somewhere about the US election, we’ve reached the point where those of the left and right don’t just have their own opinions, they have their own facts. If you read the Age exclusively, you’d be wondering how anyone could be so stupid as to vote for the coalition – you’d have to assume that they were idiots. And vice versa if you read The Australian exclusively. And, frankly, neither of them are providing any useful analysis.