News That’s Fit To Punt – 28/Oct/2013

Foreign Misadventures

The worst aspect of Tony Abbott might not be his stupidity but his inability to represent all of Australia. You expect the Prime Minister of Australia to front for the whole nation when he speaks to foreign media, but not Tony Abbott. He can’t resist the urge to put the boot in to his domestic opposition. Here’s the offending bit in the Washington Post:

Labor wanted a national broadband network?

It’s a government-owned telecommunications infrastructure monopoly, which was proceeding at a scandalous rate without producing any commensurate outcomes. We are changing the objective from fiber to every premise in the country to fiber to distribution points, and then we will use the existing infrastructure to take the broadband to individual premises.

Is that cheaper and more efficient?

Vastly.

But Labor wanted to extend fiber to every household?

Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.

So you believe the former government was doing a lot of things that were bad for the country?

I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.

Be more specific.

They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power.  It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.

Where does one begin with how this interview exchange is so wrong-headed. You all know how I feel about the NBN, so it surprises me none that Tony Abbott is trying to paint the NBN as evidence of how the ALP were “wacko”. No evidence, just a straight up assertion as if its some kind of self-evident thing when the opposite is clearly true. This is followed up with this sloganeering assertion that the former ALP government were somehow lying incompetents. No evidence. So when he gets pressed on the points, he makes a whole bunch of blank assertions – none of which are factual – and finishes off with another crappy assertion that I’d like to see tested at the ballot soon.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think this “throw the other party under the bus at every opportunity” style of conduct really is becoming of a Prime Minister. It’s the dead opposite of what he’s supposed to be doing when he is representing our polity. Regardless of our differences in our nation, when he’s talking representing Australia, he’s supposed to have the common decency to be speaking for the whole nation. Not just for the people that voted for him.

That Tony Abbott was given to talking out of his hat was a known quotient. What was not really understood was how he would use such an interview to keep playing these domestic politics. This has surprised quite a number of people.

Norman Ornstein, an author and political scientist with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he ”winced” when he read the interview in which Mr Abbott put the boot into the Rudd-Gillard government in unusually strong language for a foreign interview.

”It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad,” Dr Ornstein said. ”It certainly can’t help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party, government and – at least implicitly – leader, with whom Obama has worked so closely.

”Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.”

Politicians around the world typically refrain from engaging in fierce domestic political argument when they are speaking to an overseas audience.

It’s a worry he’s gallavanting around the globe like this. Which reminds me of something I learnt way back when: The number one rule after a bad shoot is that you never bad mouth your own production. It might have been hell to work with so-and-so, but if you ever find yourself in front of a camera or a ape recorder, you’re supposed to say, “It was great. It was fantastic working with So-and-so.”

Grin and bear it for the production so that it has some shot of surviving the market place.That’s the golden rule.

Tony Abbott should have grinned and beared it and said, “Hey, the NBN was an adventurous idea in its time but we’re trying to be more pragmatic.”  Instead he threw the ALP under the bus and made Australia look foolish. I guess you send an idiot to to do a job, you get idiotic results.

While I’m on this one, Pleiades sent me an article, presumably from Crikey which went through the ways in which Tony Abbott flubbed Australia’s position with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Indonesia:

According to sources close to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is less than impressed with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It is said this view was formed before the election, when Abbott, Bishop and now Immigration Minister Scott Morrison talked loud and long about turning around refugee boats and sending them back to Indonesia.

The rumour was confirmed when Abbott turned up late for two important gatherings at APEC where SBY was in the chair, and in case there are some who would to contest this, when the egos of heads of state are on the line the attendance at all meetings of conferences such as APEC are important.

Politicians and other public figures do not live in a vacuum; whatever is said domestically about another government will be reported, with comment, to that government by its embassy, and additionally its foreign ministry will pick up the remarks from wire service reports.

It is a measure of the lack of sophistication and parochial outlook of Abbott and the government he leads that there is an apparent failure to understand the way the world works.

So far, he’s been quite adept at making an ass out of himself on the international stage. In that way he is exactly like his mentor John Howard, a man you’d be embarrassed to show anywhere on the planet.

Screen Australia Still Sucks

This one comes from Monologan.

I must confess, I’ve been feeling uneasy about Screen Australia for some time now.

I’ve never been able to shake the impression that the whole thing is something of a club. When announcements come through of the latest beneficiaries of the millions of taxpayer dollars that go into feature and television production, the same names tend to pop up again and again. Even if their films lose money at the box office again and again.

And in part, I’m uneasy because I feel conflicted about whether those millions of dollars should be spent at all, when they as often as not appear to be used to prop up a local film industry incapable of standing on its own feet, rather than in primarily funding the telling Australian stories. The decision to pour millions of dollars into the quintessentially American story The Great Gatsby is a good recent example. If the car industry no longer needs propping up, why should the production sector? But that’s a debate for another day.

The reason for writing this now though is the fact that it emerged last week that Screen Australia had ponied up $50k to get The Conversation writing about the screen industry more regularly.

I say emerged, because normally, Screen Australia holds a board meeting, then issues press releases about the projects it intends to fund.

The trick is that the guy writing this runs Encore magazine:

I’m heartened that Screen Australia now recognises that “arts journalism is under pressure”. Based on our previous experience, Screen Australia doesn’t spend its “sponsorship” money easily. In the four years or so we’ve owned Encore – which is the oldest title of its type with a three decade heritage in the production sector – our sales team have never been successful in persuading them to spend a single dollar on sponsorship or marketing – and indeed they never once put out a brief. A cynic might say that they don’t like some of the things we’ve written so it was never going to happen anyway. But there again, perhaps our sales director, otherwise excellent at his job, just had a series of off days on the five or six occasions he went in to see them. Either way, having closed the loss making print edition last year, I can’t help ruminate on what a difference $50k would have made to the title.

But I can’t help thinking that the explanation is more likely to be that Screen Australia took a liking to the cut of The Conversation’s jib, and decided to find a way of helping it out. If you’re wealthy like Global Mail’s funder Graeme Woods or are a business with a budget for this sort of thing like CommBank, that’s fair enough. But if you’re a public body, you have a duty to do these things in a fair and above board way, no matter how worthy the recipient.

I think The Conversation deserves the money. I just don’t think that Screen Australia can justify how it made the decision.

If you don’t want people to think you’re a club, then don’t act like one.

So, yes. It does look like a club, and it’s pretty friggin’ awful.

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Filed under Cinema, Film, General, Movies, Television

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