Madonna King is an excellent journalist and a truly gifted writer who has put out some fine books.
So it came as a shock to The Bug‘s Media Glass House when that wonderful ability as a senior scribe to clinically dissect a subject and her fine way with words while doing that deserted her for an article in Crikey on Monday (above).
It started with a standfirst that made no sense at all and then descended into a mishmash of missed opportunities for a meaningful analysis of what might happen on the Queensland hustings come the next federal election.
Her basic story? Mining magnates Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest will be on opposite sides of the coal debate come the next federal poll and are supposedly prepared to throw millions at Queensland voters to push their cases.
It’s why the second par of the standfirst (at right) to her yarn makes no sense at all.
A fiery fight on the ground in some key marginal seats between these two billionaires (yes, apparently Palmer is filthy rich again) might be likely if King’s analysis is right, but the idea that the two men are squaring up for a fight for influence in Queensland’s key seats with Labor in power is an absolute nonsense.
That par should have read something like this: Two mining billionaires are squaring up for a fight for influence in Queensland’s key seats that could harm the Morrison government’s reelection chances.
Well, that’s what we thought until we read the opening pars of her piece.
“While the G7 summit is shining a torch on Scott Morrison’s outsider status on climate change, you can expect a bigger spotlight on both parties’ position in Queensland once the starter’s gun fires on the federal election campaign,” she begins.
“And it might come less from the candidates and more from two billionaires gearing up to battle it out for influence in the key seats that could come into play if the government is ousted.”
So the standfirst – which we were happy to blame on someone else at Crikey HQ – really only reflects her opening thoughts. Both are still wrong and the MGH is entitled to ask why four days later Madonna King hasn’t had them corrected. It’s not as if they are there for the life of a fish and chip wrapper.
The two men Ms King writes about are mining billionaires Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest — with Twiggy hinting “at a counter play to Palmer’s advertising blitz, which helped swing working-class regional Queensland voters away from Labor in 2019”.
She says that Forrest plans to throw some of his ever-expanding fortune at an advertising campaign to convince the very workers Palmer has been pitching his political messages at for the past decade that there is a future for them if the world turns away from carbon.
“And that will involve millions of dollars poured into the dwindling media outlets of regional Queensland.”
Right about now, the MGH can almost hear you all asking the reasonable question: why haven’t the bookies slashed the odds of a Labor victory on the back of this news from King about what’s going to play out in the clutch state.
For that’s what King appears to be inferring. Both men are on opposite sides which suggests they want different electoral outcomes.
For every ad Palmer pumps out that will look surprising like this one (right) – except using Albanese’s name and face – Twiggy will have one that might not exactly say Labor is spot on not to support any new coal ventures but might still swing votes its way?
Can’t see that happening? Neither can we at MGH HQ; it’s a nonsense.
Whatever Forrest spends those millions on, it will not be on anything that could remotely improve Labor’s chances in a handful of marginal seats in the Sunshine state. It’s simply not in his DNA or his love of a welfare card.
And talk about burying the lead – or as the young ‘uns say – the lede!
Here’s Madonna King’s summing up almost at the end of her piece.
“We should all be concerned about the potential for big money to influence political outcomes. While the rules control who can donate, they do not prevent anyone turning their money into advertising, which can persuade voters to support one side or another.
“It’s unlikely Forrest will be so blatant. But his determination to spend money to convince coal workers they won’t lose their homes and jobs may have an influence. At the very least, it puts him head-to-head with Palmer.
We’ll go further than Ms King. Any advertising Forrest does will be so unblatant that if poor Anthony Albanese and Labor think they’ll gain much if anything at all from it, then someone needs to tell them they’re dreaming.
The reality is that come the next election, the anti-worker Palmer will spend up big once again – maybe not $91 million plus like in 2019 but big enough – on totally dishonest, virulently anti-Labor advertising. Forrest will spend far, far less seeing he doesn’t look stupid and he’ll be making sure he gives no hint of a legup to Labor.
The ALP will fuck up their no-new-mines-but-we’ll-help-existing-miners-transition-when-the-time-comes messaging, the LNP and minor parties will once again spread rumours that Labor plans to shut down all coal mining immediately anyway, Morrison, who has crab-crawled his way – or was it my way – away from any net zero emissions target will sit back on his lardarse between photo ops and let the mainstream media once again maul Labor relentlessly on the cost of a zero-emissions policy, and LNP Queensland will offer to pay for another Bob Brown vote-losing caravan to the central Queensland coalfields.
That’s the Morrison template from last time and nothing Forrest does will do much, if any, harm to it.
An essay along those lines is what the MGH respectfully suggests Madonna King should have worked on to maintain that lovely reputation of hers.