Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:32 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:32 | SYDNEY

Keating: The media narrative


Sam Roggeveen


3 July 2009 10:52

I'll have something to say later today about the substance of former Prime Minister Keating's foreign policy remarks in Perth yesterday, and maybe others will too. For now, though, I just wanted to note the consistent theme that leads the media's coverage: the 'conflict' between Keating and Rudd.

To an extent, this is understandable. If it bleeds, it leads, even when the blood is metaphorical. And the fact that Keating questions elements of the Rudd Government's foreign policy is news.

But here's the paradox: journalists routinely and justifiably complain that our political leaders won't speak their minds. They are trained to speak in poll-tested talking points and refuse to say anything spontaneous or original. Yet when a politician (or former politician) occasionally breaks that mold, it's not the substance of their remarks that makes headlines, but the 'conflict' they are creating within their own party.

Both major parties are broad churches and it is not in the least remarkable that its members disagree about policy. That politicians should have to pretend, for public consumption, that such disagreements do not exist impoverishes our political debate. Yet by its actions, that seems to be what the media demands.

Among Westminster democracies, Australia's political parties have some of the tighest party discipline of all. This is largely a function of how those parties choose to operate. Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that, in day to day politics, the toughest enforcer of party discipline in Australia is the media.