Biased media outlets usually explain away their unbalanced reporting by pretending they are putting governments or would-be governments under scrutiny and that the same rigour is applied to both sides of politics.
No doubt that tissue-thin pretence was used by the Daily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail for their publication of Wednesday’s attack-turned-debacle on Bill Shorten using his dead mother as ammunition.
But let’s take a quick look at how the Daily Tele reported Labor policies and other initiatives in the week leading up to its “Kill Bill” pre-Mother’s Day splash.
Wednesday 1 May
Starting at Wednesday 1 May we saw a hatchet job on Labor’s dental policy for pensioners with federal Health Minister Greg Hunt claiming at length that Labor had its figures wrong and the perfunctory two-sentence response from Shadow Health Minister Catherine King.
Thursday 2 May
The next day the Tele found room on its glossy, wraparound David Jones advertisement for a story claiming Labor’s electric vehicle policy would see house prices rise as building regulations changed to accommodate the necessary home charging facilities.
It also ran a story claiming a doctor running as a Labor candidate was “using” a sick child to promote the party’s policy giving financial support to cancer patients. It turns out the Bennelong candidate Dr Brian Owler is letterboxing a message from the parents of a young patient of his urging voters to support him — freely and willingly written and authorised by them.
The Tele also found room for a small item yet again claiming a “secret bill” for Labor’s climate change policy.
Friday 3 May
Last Friday the Daily Tele splashed with a supposedly scandalous story detailing the fact a pathology firm had made a donation to the Labor Party. The same firm also donated to the Liberal Party, but apparently Labor’s policy for funding more pathology tests meant it would somehow gain a benefit.
Inside the paper was story claiming Labor’s policy to moderate the level of fat, sugar, and salt in foodstuffs to fight obesity would see some of the nation’s “favourite treats on the chopping block”.
According to the Tele the ALP’s health spokesperson, the previously mentioned Catherine King, was “scant on detail” about how the policy would be implemented. But then again, the Tele was scant on detail in its claim about “favourite treats” disappearing. In fact it had no specific details of which ones it was talking about.
For good measure the paper’s election coverage that day also included Miranda Devine’s column saying just how brilliant Tony Abbott was in a public debate with his independent rival Zali Steggall the night before.
Saturday 4 May
Last Saturday the Daily Tele took another bite (sorry) at Labor’s anti-obesity policy and this time it did give a list of some favourite processed food products supposedly to be affected.
Well, the Coalition government had provided it with the list which was dutifully printed.
In the same paper good old Miranda Devine couldn’t bring herself to say Bill Shorten had won the previous evening’s debate with Scott Morrison, although a news story earlier in the paper had included the points victory to the Labor leader awarded by the live audience.
Miranda had to be content with saying how brilliantly Morrison had done and how “cocky and nasty” Shorten had been.
Sunday 5 May
The Sunday Telegraph gave a bit of a leg-up to the PM’s policy launch of the day — getting tough on internet trolls — by running a preview story and a front page story on a TV celebrity who had faced the genuine terror and horror of being stalked on social media.
The Sunday paper also ran an item on Labor’s mental health policy, but claimed its own campaigning on the issue had prompted the promised boost in funding outlined by Bill Shorten.
It also carried an “exclusive” interview with the PM’s wife Jenny Morrison and an “exclusive” interview with her husband saying how he would beat “shifty” Shorten.
There was also a separate story saying some female voters thought ScoMo was “smirking” too much but others were turning off “smarmy” Bill Shorten and now favoured that nice Mr Morrison. The source for the information? Internal Liberal Party research.
The Sunday Telegraph, as usual, carried Peta Credlin’s column attacking Bill Shorten and Labor, plus Peter Gleeson’s column attacking Bill Shorten and Labor, as well as a column by Piers Akerman — last seen doorknocking for Tony Abbott in Warringah wearing a Tony Abbott t-shirt — attacking Bill Shorten and Labor.
Monday 6 May
Monday saw an anti-Labor story promoted on the Daily Telegraph’s front page — Bill Shorten apparently wants to kill and maim all retirees or take $34 billion off them in new taxes on superannuation. It’s one or the other, I can’t clearly recall which. Probably both if the Tele is to be believed.
Inside were a couple of stories on Labor’s campaign launch the day before and an item based on Newspoll figures claiming a “poll surge” for Scott Morrison.
The only problem was that the very same story noted that the Coalition’s primary and 2PP vote had remained unchanged and Morrison’s preferred-PM rating hadn’t moved.
For goods measure, inside the paper was Andrew Bolt’s column taking aim at the policies of the Labor Party and those of any other party he doesn’t agree with.
Tuesday 7 May
Tuesday dawned and the Daily Tele had on its front page a pointer to an inside story about how Labor’s policy to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles would end up costing car makers about $1 billion in fines for new petrol or diesel-powered cars not meeting Labor’s new, lower emission standards, which in turn would be passed on to car buyers of non-EV vehicles at the rate of $5,000 per vehicle.
The supposed impacts, including the $1 billion figure with no time-frame attached, were all based on claims by the Australian Automobile Association which calculated its own fines and their supposed impacts even though Labor has not yet outlined how it would encourage compliance.
Inside the paper was a big spread attacking Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Labor’s policy to boost the wages of child care workers.
So, there you have it. Just some of the anti-Labor stories and columns the Daily Telegraph ran in the seven days leading up to its appalling Wednesday front page which was mirrored in Brisbane by The Courier-Mail.
Can anyone point to stories lambasting Liberal Party initiatives to the extent the Daily Telegraph has torn strips off Labor’s so far in this campaign, and before it even started?
Yes, biased media reporting is usually excused by pretending it is a way to scrutinise both sides of politics.
But the Tele isn’t even pretending to pretend.