Who is dysfunctional?

Abbott dysfunctionalIt’s hard to find a single political journalist in Australia who doesn’t trot out the same tired old line they’ve been using for three years to describe the Labor government, and now the former Labor government. Dysfunctional. The narrative between 2010 and September 2013 went something like this: The Gillard/Rudd government is dysfunctional so they must be voted out. And since the election, the line is: The Gillard/Rudd government was dysfunctional so they were voted out. But hang on a minute folks. Let’s scrutinise this narrative for just a moment. First by looking at this favourite word. Dysfunctional.

There are a couple of definitions of dysfunction that are relevant in this context. The first is the meaning no doubt justified by the journalists as true by evidence of the backgrounding by members of the Labor Party against Gillard and sometimes Rudd.

Dysfunction: characterized by a breakdown of normal or beneficial relationships between members of the group.

It would be entirely naïve of me to argue that Gillard and Rudd’s relationship was anything but dysfunctional, and damaging to the government’s reputation. However, when you look at a second definition for dysfunction, the journalists’ entire narrative falls apart through lack of facts and entirely contradictory evidence.

Dysfunction: unable to function normally.

The Gillard government, even whilst being white-anted by Rudd, even with its ability to govern precariously balanced on the knife-edge of minority government, even with the Abbott Opposition doing its best to push them off the knife-edge, and even with the media running with Peta Credlin’s ‘Labor bad bad bad, chaos, chaos, disunity, dysfunction’ circus, was anything but dysfunctional. If you don’t believe me, how do you explain all the fantastic progressive policies that the Abbott government is now busy undoing? The National Broadband Network. The proper one. Education reforms. Paid Parental Leave. The National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Mining Tax. The Carbon Price. Environmental reforms. I could go on and on. All in all Gillard’s government successfully passed over 300 pieces of legislation whilst in government, without Abbott’s Opposition blocking any of them. This record made Gillard’s government, as outlined in this analysis by the Guardian’s Nick Evershed, the most productive in Australia’s history. This is fact. A fact that the political journalists in this country continue to conveniently ignore, whilst also implicitly defending their ineptitude in reporting this success while it was happening. Hang on, no, not ineptitude. I’ve got a better word. Dysfunction.

The mainstream media in Australia was so obsessed with the Rudd and Gillard relationship, and still are, that they are completely dysfunctional in doing their jobs – reporting on what is actually happening. And now that their dysfunction has supported the Abbott government, ironically the most dysfunctional government Australia has ever seen, in winning power, they’re keeping up their pretence that the Gillard/Rudd governments were dysfunctional to explain how this mess came about. But I’m not buying it. Because it’s crap. The ‘dysfunction’ narrative is crap, and doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny, let alone the scrutiny of hindsight.

On the subject of hindsight, it is very interesting and telling to compare the media’s portrayal of the Gillard/Rudd government, with governments from the past. I was a child and a teenager through the Hawke and Keating years. I remember thinking that all Prime Ministers were amazing, inspirational, intelligent and working in the best interest of Australians, until I grew up and understood politics properly, during the Howard years. But after watching the Keating interviews on the ABC recently, I realised that the sometimes very bitter division between Hawke and Keating over who was best fit to be leader, was not completely dissimilar to the ‘leadership tensions’ reported for the last three years between Gillard and Rudd. Throughout the Hawke and Keating years, there was absolutely no doubt that Australia was going through the most profound economic reforms the country had seen in years. People have a lot to say about the Hawke and Keating years, but dysfunction is never one of the words they use. No doubt some journalists will, like a broken record, blame the pressures of the 24 hour news cycle on this inconsistency, but I’m not buying this either. Because it’s crap. And I’m correcting the record.

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9 Comments on “Who is dysfunctional?”

  1. hilderombout says:

    Thanks VIctoria, calling the Labor government under Julia Gillard dysfunctional is indeed crap. It seems to me that these journalists who are selling this idea to us are so stuck in their broken record of inaccuracies that they are projecting their own dysfunction on the previous government and are blind to the dysfunctional government we are currently branded with. A good thing is that they are becoming more and more irrelevant and soon there will only be a few left who actually take them seriously. And that time can not come soon enough, as far as i am concerned.

  2. Heather says:

    The media are truly rattled now. Abbott & Co, having gained their win, is now treating them with complete disdain.

    And the media are finding it hard to keep up the positive spin on these incompetent fools. They even have to report on the drop in polls. Ha!

  3. Sad James says:

    Australia’s dysfunctional media circus is right on target, while Abbott’s dysfunctional brain needs to be analysed under a microscope to see if there is any intelligence there at all. Well said Vic and it will take time for those losers to wake up and change their minds Abbott their wrecker hero of the Australian economy with his negativity to the bank.

    By the way why General Motors has to pull out of Australia is that when Obama announced his stimulus bail out for GM, they were told to bring those jobs back to America. GM was on the brink of bankruptcy and that is why GM is closing down all off shore manufacturing and has nothing to do with Julia’s Carbone Tax.

    I didn’t know that GM America imports 70% of their small parts from China into America. So Mr Rabbott! Not only has GM Holden Australia have problems with the very high Australian dollar which continues make life difficult for the car industry in Australia. GM America is going broke and is closing down Chevrolet manufacturing in Europe and too.

    Now we don’t hear our News gurus and so called experts commentating on GM’s woes do we as they are more than dysfunctional they are just plain stupid.

    Now that is my bitch for today and have a great weekend Vic and write some more about this loser country we live.

  4. joy cooper says:

    Thank you so much, Victoria, for your wonderful (& accurate) blog post.

    It is strange how, now that we DO have an extremely dysfunctional government complete with a public service left totally without any form of direction from their relevant ministers, the alleged journalists have failed to notice. The public service’s lack of any edicts or guidance from their ministers possibly means that Credlin hasn’t had time yet to tell these ministers how they need to run their portfolios.

  5. JohnB says:

    Australia’s MSM journalists are now wrestling with personal confusion and uncertainty in reporting on federal politics.

    With Labor in power it was all so easy – they could confidently pursue populist consensus journalism with anti Gillard/Labor memes, knowing with certainty their masters would be not be dis-pleased with their reporting – in fact the larger and more outrageous their exaggerations, the higher their public profile, the more likely their careers would be smiled on from high.

    However, with the corporations choice Abbott successfully installed in office it’s not so easy to report events. To report the truth is to risk standing out from the pack, better to play safe than risk career oblivion – so they are mostly standing back, watching, waiting for some of the “old hands” with less to lose/fear to stick their neck out first.

    When one works for a ruthless boss in a shrinking industry, to stay employed one must not displease the master.
    To diligently apply the code of ethics for professional journalists (Honesty, Fairness, Independence, Respect for the rights of others) is to guarantee one will be ostracised from employment by major media.

    So much for the integrity of MSM.

  6. vivienne29 says:

    Spot on Victoria. Everytime this word was used in articles and MSM blog comments I screamed at my computer your very word – CRAP. Mike Seccombe has written a good article on this shit Abbott govt – see the Global Mail.

  7. Bob Lloyd says:

    Great article Victoria. Spot on as usual.

  8. […] is still employed and still welcome in the Press Club is beyond me. I’ve written before about how leadership dysfunction doesn’t automatically lead to political dysfunction. Note this isn’t an opinion. This is based on fact. Even while Gillard was fighting against […]


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