Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston
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Margo Kingston

OutsideTheBubble

by Margo Kingston

19 August 2013

It’s over for Labor. I knew it intellectually when I saw Rudd steal from the Coalition the Northern Australia policy Labor had already destroyed, then hold up a bottle of vegemite to scare voters about a GST Abbott had convincingly ruled out in his first term.

I felt it when I read Labor election campaign strategists telling Rudd via Peter Hartcher how he should change his tactics.

So that’s that then.

For those progressives who engage with and care about politics it’s time to drown sorrows, go on holidays or shred your humanity playing blame games or clawing members of the winning team.

For the media, its time to write the same story that Labor has lost over and over again, throw in some blame analysis and, of course, record the pathos and triumph of a changing of the guard. Lots of colour there.

Please, let’s do something different, for all of us.

Voters actually know very little about what a Coalition government would do. Tony Abbott is on the record many times saying he will not renege on commitments to voters, but he hasn’t made many, really. His Real Solutions booklet is very light on policy detail and there’s still no sign of  substantive health or education policies or what the Coalition plans for the ABC and SBS.

Malcolm Turnbull has delivered a detailed NBN policy and Scott Morrison has done the same for boat people policy, but has any other shadow minister delivered a substantive policy?

Some in the disability field fear the Coalition may narrowly define ‘disability’ to save money on the NDIS. The Climate Change Authority will release its recommended targets for emissions reduction in October – will the Coalition commit to endorsing them?

Then there’s privatisation. No Fibs contributor Gratton Wilson emailed me today wondering whether the Coalition would privatise any arm of the ABC, Australia Post, CSIRO or the Film and Sound Archive. Would it outsource the running of Landcare?

Abbott gave voters a useful clue on his intentions in government during a speech to the IPA this year which ticked off  some of the think-tanks 75 big policy ideas. How many more are in the wings?

The more questions asked and answered on substantive policy the better for voters. It is the duty of the media to have a go.

I’m sure many community groups have submitted detailed questions to frontbenchers of key policy areas – how many have been answered?

There’s actually a lot of solid, democratic work to be done before the election by engaged citizens, community groups and the media.

Laura Tingle has noted an important structural impediment to the media doing that work, the removal of many specialist policy reporters from the Press Gallery. May I suggest that voters actually don’t want to read, hear or see yet another colour piece about the campaign circus? How about putting a specialist reporter or two on the campaign bus with a brief to get some serious policy answers?

How about media on the bus get together and decide not to follow the leader’s script for the day and instead co-ordinate questions on a policy issue on behalf of voters?

How about mainstream specialist reporters submit policy questions to each shadow minister and publish them on their websites and keep readers informed of progress in getting answers?

Gay Alcorn’s first column for The Age since retiring as Sunday Age editor identified the stultifying stasis in media reporting of elections, and wondered whether anything would change this time? It hasn’t.

Social media has also failed in drawing out policy from the incoming government, so what can we do? Ideas welcome.