Post-truth politics and the media, Country Labor style

Post-truth politics and the media, Country Labor style


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Speaking to media at the Country Labor National Forum and trying to maintain a bush focus - Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon (left) and Shadow Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister, Anthony Albanese.

Speaking to media at the Country Labor National Forum and trying to maintain a bush focus - Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon (left) and Shadow Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister, Anthony Albanese.

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When things don’t go your way at a political media conference in the bush, you have to move on quick and focus on the next battle.

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AS they say, that’s how it rolls in the tough and testing world of politics and media - especially in the often flippant landscape of reporting on post-modern, post-truth and Trumped-up alternative facts.

When things don’t go your way, you have to move on quick and focus on the next battle.

But it would have been hard for Labor’s rural powerbrokers Anthony Albanese and Joel Fitzgibbon to hold back their frustrations at the media’s blatant rejection of the bush topic at hand, when they fronted ‘journalistic’ questions in Rockhampton yesterday.

After Bill Shorten gave his stirring leader’s address at the party’s Country Labor National Forum, Mr Fitzgibbon, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, and Mr Albanese, the Shadow Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister, didn’t field one legitimate, direct question about issues pertinent to the regions, during their media appearance.

Nor were they quizzed about the budding Prime Minister’s pitch to try to win-over regional voters.

Instead, immediately after giving a short, sharp summary of the Labor party’s regional platform and how it underpins a path to win power at the next federal election, the line of questioning was hijacked by an inquisition about terrorism.

Terrorism is of course one of those nasty, perennial topics that can easily scare people; way more than investigating the fluctuating fortunes of marginal rural seats in Australia.

“Are you shocked that the government wants the ability to detain ten-year-old children or terrorism suspects for up to a fortnight without charge?” a reporter asked.

As they say, if it bleeds it leads the news bulletin - or if it can explode and make loud noises capable of waking the dead, that’s even better.

Mr Albanese tried to skilfully steer the press conference back onto regional issues like infrastructure, but to no avail.

The next question was about the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which then dovetailed into an obvious and predictable query about the “threat” from North Korea.

“A question from Melbourne”, Mr Albanese and Fitzgibbon were asked, in Rockhampton, with no hint of a sigh in sight.

Next on the list was a chance for reporters to get their teeth into the gritty issue of Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s travel expenses - a potential political scandal that could see her hauled over the coals by Malcolm Turnbull - accused of timing four trips to Adelaide to coincide with her sister’s birthday.

“That is a matter for Julie Bishop,” Mr Albanese said.

An opportunity then presented for some further ‘investigative questions’ about travel and why Bill Shorten has actually visited Mackay and surrounding regions of Queensland - targeting seats like Dawson, Flynn and Capricornia - six times since the election last year.

But alas, it wasn’t to be.

After holding a ‘politics in the pub’ session on Friday night with Mr Shorten in Rockhampton, at a venue named ‘The Giddy Goat’, Mr Fitzgibbon’s head must have still been spinning somewhat.

But the grounded, knock-about rural MP with 22-years’ experience representing the rich farming and mining electorate of Hunter in regional NSW, then took another opportunity to divert attentions back to matters of the bush, with a tribute to retiring Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne.

“As a former Defence Minister I am very conscious of his service within the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“As an Agriculture Minister and more recently as Shadow Minister I worked very closely with Bill on those issues around the agricultural sector.

“He made an outstanding contribution to his country as a leader of our military forces.

“He made an outstanding contribution here as the local state member and he certainly made a great contribution as Minister for Agriculture and a number of other portfolios.

“We will miss him very dearly - I am sure the community will miss both him and his very, very hard and effective work and I wish him and his family all the very best for the future.”

But then sadly for non-metropolitan folks it was more of the same.

The next hard hitting question had a rural bent of sorts - about the Stop Adani protests being held throughout the nation this weekend, which included some creative artwork denouncing the Carmichael coal mine via a human inscription on Bondi Beach.

But in reality, most of the push-back to kill-off the coal mine in regional Queensland was driven by city-centric ideologues, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – possibly even Bondi-inspired backpackers - who don’t and won’t have to live the prospect of being jobless in the bush, if their collective anti-mining wishes are granted.

“Well we always support the right of people to have their say on any issue and on any project,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Next was a question about SA Independent Senator Nick Xenophon retiring from federal politics last week to take a tilt at winning a seat, in the SA parliament.

“I think this is a decision that those people in SA who have voted for Nick Xenophon to serve a six-year term just one year ago will be surprised by - the fact that he is leaving that position so early,” Mr Albanese said.

Back to the start of the media conference to record Mr Fitzgibbon’s message which is worth highlighting and one to be noted by the Nationals who hold Dawson, Flynn and Capricornia which could determine the fate of government, again, at the next election.

“This morning 120 Labor Party members joined Bill Shorten and some of our most senior members of the Shadow Cabinet including Anthony Albanese to talk about rural and regional Australia, to talk about Labor’s policy development and to talk about how we can best empower the regions and provide them with the best opportunity to make the best of the economic and social opportunities in the regions,” he said.

“We make no secret of the fact that the Labor Party is determined to make every rural and regional seat across the country contestable at the next election.

“We are here to win, but not for winning’s sake.

“We are here to help those local communities.

“We believe they are being sold short, taken for granted by the LNP.

“We believe they would be better served by a Labor government and the progressive policies we bring to the table.

“We’ll be fighting all the way up to election day and of course we have our sights in particular on Capricornia where we believe Michelle Landry has been completely missing in action.”

The story Post-truth politics and the media, Country Labor style first appeared on Farm Online.

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