Time for a break, Phillip?

It’s hard, sometimes, not to feel just a little bit sorry for Phillip Coorey.

Especially after the absolute dunce he made of himself at Wednesday’s National Press Club luncheon with ALP national secretary Paul Erickson.

Following a question preamble ramble in which Coorey pressed the argument that Scott Morrison lost the election and “it wasn’t so much that Labor won it” he finally got around to the nitty gritty of it all: “What is it in your view that Labor needs to do over the next three years to get that primary vote up and to win it in your own right.”

To his credit, Erickson didn’t immediately walk off stage, known he had been bettered by a master political strategist.

Instead, after an “umm” and an “aah”, Erikson said simply: “We did win it in our own right.”

He followed up with the bleeding obvious: “So I’d say that the minimum primary vote for holding on and winning in our own right [next time] is 32.58 per cent.”

I’ve mentioned before that Phillip Coorey has probably been a dyed-in-the-blue-wool Liberal supporter and voter since his conception. Right-wing values were probably rammed into his head in the uterus. Like most babies he came out blue but stayed that colour.

And I get that he writes for a business newspaper read largely by bizzoids who would have turned white and seen the Fair Work Commission announcement of a 5.2 per cent increase to minimum wage as the end of the free-enterprise system as we know it. I mean, for fuck’s sake, how is business expected to make a bob if their workers can get a fair cost-of-living pay rise every now and then.

I appreciate that those AFR readers, just like Philip himself, are deeply lamenting the passing of a government that had low wages growth as a deliberate part of its economic strategy.

We all take sides. Since the steam engine helped industrialise Britain in the 19thC, if you take an interest in such things you’ve either been on the millowners’ side or the workers’ side and Phillip has never made any secret of the pin-stripped cloth he’s cut from.

He’ll go to his grave, along with his good mate Chris Uhlmann at Nine Entertainment Co., in believing that the Liberal Party of Australia has always managed economies better. Far better. And always will!!

But I still think – and I’m sure the AFR’s subscribers wouldn’t mind – Phillip could try to be the journalist he never quite became.

Not every utterance has to be an LNP talking point, Phillip. He can tell the truth now and then and it won’t do him any harm at all. His readers might even respect him a bit for it.

Practice in a mirror in the mornings if needs be, Phillip. “Labor won the election fairly and squarely under Australia’s compulsory preferential voting system.” Try it in short bits to start with if that makes it easier. String them together over time.

You don’t need to stand up in a national media forum and do a Hollie Hughes sans pearl necklace, trying your best to deny Labor legitimacy and thus formenting unrest among those who are losing faith in our system of democracy, especially the young.

While I don’t agree with it, I understand Phillip’s pain. His grief is almost palpable.

Something went terribly wrong on 21 May. Labor never has been and never will be God’s choice as the natural government of this country, as I’m sure Chris Uhlmann keeps telling Phillip. Must it be three years, I hear Phillip think. Can’t the governor-general intervene for the nation’s sake?

I also know Phillip’s doubly bitter and confused, after telling his readers and electronic media panels endlessly during the campaign that if the LNP and Labor ended up roughly equal on mid-30s primary support as all the late polls suggested, there would be chaos, uncertainty and a ruinous hung parliament that could only be avoided by a late swing back to the government.

Like most of the things Phillip believes in and holds sacred, that prediction of a disastrous hung parliament turned out to be absolute and total bullshit, much like most of his core political philosophies, come to think of it.

As Erikson softy and kindly pointed out, Labor achieved majority government in its own right, turning that 32.58 per cent primary into 51.96 per cent two party preferred. They got to 77 seats with a primary vote three per cent less than the LNP’s.

My deepest suspicion is that the AFR readership, rightwing as it might be, and those who follow Phillip’s comments on electronic media forums, are not adverse to some truth-telling in journalism. That, as Erikson tried to explained even though Phillip probably wasn’t listening, Labor won the election with a two-prong strategy as much as Morrison lost it tackling one photo-op and a soccer kid too many.

If Labor keep their nose clean, they’re good for two terms, possibly three given the position the Liberals in particular now find themselves in. Business knows this, even if Phillip doesn’t. If they’re smart, they’ll adjust. They’ve got a new devil to know.

Likewise, Phillip should start to treat his audiences, whatever the forum, with some glimpses of good-old fashioned honesty or take a long, long, break from his version of “journalism”.

Don Gordon-Brown