You can’t see his lips move

Most Australians would know by now that Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t need help when it comes to verbally attacking, and even verballing, his political opponents.

But one part of the Liberal Party’s PR machine – Rupert Murdoch’s national broadshit The Australian – is always ready and able to help anyway. Take this small story that appeared today in its federal election coverage.

It’s about an incident on Tuesday when a young man interrupted a private event for media reps to film himself shouting abuse at the PM.

Anyone reading the headline would be in no doubt that it was based on a direct quote from the PM saying the incident “was Albo’s fault”, that the PM had directly blamed the Labor leader for, if not organising, at least condoning the young heckler.

But here is the transcript from the Liberal Party’s website of the question and answer at yesterday’s news conference where Tuesday’s incident was raised:

JOURNALIST: There’s now been at least three times in the past week where angry punters have ambushed you or tricked you into believing that they’re supporters and clearly they are very angry with your leadership. And also so far on the campaign trail, it’s been very heavily controlled, where there’s been no street walks to meet everyday Australians. Are you concerned for your safety? Are you worried about the reaction of these punters and do you think you might lose the election?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I was very pleased to be able to spend time with Ray up in in the Hunter the other day. I listened very carefully and respectfully. And I listened to the challenges that he was facing in his own life. It was a very, it was a very complex set of issues that Ray had been dealing with, going back to when he first roasted Tanya Plibersek when she was the Minister responsible. That’s when he first started raising those issues. So, they have a long, they have a long history. Throughout my Parliamentary career, I’ve always been pleased to sit down and listen to people, understand what their problems are, and where I can, seek to solve them. On the other cases, I mean the Labor Party, effectively already apologised for what we saw last night. I mean, it was the equivalent of a pitch invasion by a Labor apparatchik. And, you know, when Anthony Albanese sets the tone for the last three years, where he basically says it’s okay to sledge and attack and engage in personal attacks for three years, you may think that’s a substitute for having an economic plan, but it’s not. But when he sets that tone, you can’t be surprised that people come and behave in that sort of way. I’m not referring to Ray. Ray was a very separate case, but as Shane Warne told his kids, manners cost nothing.

Bear in mind that Anthony Albanese has criticised the heckler’s actions in invading the PM’s soirée with scribes (that sounds much better than a free pissup) and abusing him.

While the PM does sneakily draw a link between the Labor leader and the heckler, he never says anything as direct as the words attributed to him in The Oz’s headline.

His response is pure Scott Morrison – implying Albo was directly involved (“…the Labor Party, effectively already apologised for what we saw last night..”), cementing the first false claim in people’s minds (“…when Anthony Albanese sets the tone for the last three years…”), accusing Albanese of setting new and lower standards and rules of engagement which he hasn’t done (“…it’s okay to sledge and attack and engage in personal attacks for three years..”), again reinforcing a false claim (“….where he basically says it’s okay to sledge and attack and engage in personal attacks…”), making a non-existent link to draw the argument onto Labor’s alleged weak point (”….you may think that’s a substitute for an economic plan…”), in case you missed it, blaming Albo again (“…he sets that tone, you can’t be surprised that people come and behave in that sort of way..”), then finally finishing by stitching himself to a recently deceased national sporting icon in Shane Warne having given a hint of what was to come by referring earlier to a “pitch invasion”.

All in all a masterclass in deception from a man whose own colleagues declare to be more than a sledger but a bully and terminal liar and who is the one, not Albo, who has spent more time than anyone else verballing others with zero proof. Exhibit A are his lines from the 2019 campaign about Bill Shorten and Labor “lying” about a non-existent “death tax”. And that’s just one incident. There’s a whole alphabet of other exhibits.

We’ve all heard of politicians who will say and do anything to be elected. Here in one little grab is proof positive that Morrison is president of that club.

But back to The Australian. It’s headline is dead wrong. Albo is not to blame for the young heckler even though he is supposedly a Labor Party member.

Morrison tried his best – and he is good – to lie his way to saying it was so.

The headline should have reflected that fact and should not have given oxygen to another of the PM’s lies.

Perhaps those at The Oz were frustrated that the PM didn’t say the words they attribute to him and just pretended he did anyway.

***

The grizzled, washed -up old hacks who put out this column are stunned by the “news” that The Sydney Morning Herald is leading with online right now!

Namely that the paper thinks it’s news that Peter Dutton is criticising Labor’s “shocker” of a first week on the campaign trail. Still, Peter Costello has been head honcho at the paper’s owners for some time now so the SMH’s obvious idea of a balanced heading is news that Albanese is campaigning somewhere and Dutton is putting in the boot. It might have been news if he wasn’t.

And what’s this “criticising” shit – shouldn’t the Spud with Dead Eyes be ecstatic or delighted by such events?

There was a time way back – pre-Peter Costello – when the SMH would have found plenty of things on the LNP side to come to the conclusion that they pretty much had a horror first week too. The half-million dollar payment to Tudge’s former squeeze? Plenty of lies being told there; old, new or both. A captain’s pick candidate with shocking views about transgender folk? Some focus on Smoko’s latest, laughable, photo-ops? If picking a factory that is about to shred jobs to boast about jobs wasn’t an own goal if not a gaffe, what would be?

Surely some of those things were at least equal to poor Albo forgetting a farcical, made-up and highly distorted unemployment rate that 60 per cent of respondents to one pollster thought was total bullshit… sorry, quite unbelievable.

If the SMH still believed in its “Independent. Always.” slogan, there were plenty of stuff to quite rightly declare a shit first week was had by all. If a news organisation were being fair and balanced, that is, instead of happily being part of the MSM’s almost total devotion to dragging Labor down.