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Federal Election ’22: The ghosts of social posts past come back to haunt

Image: Gokarna Avachat

Image: Gokarna Avachat

Week five of the campaign: The RBA’s decision to rise interest rates dominated headlines this week, while old social media posts continue to haunt hopeful candidates.

Malcolm Farr
Malcolm Farr

This was a scarifying attack.

“The government has created the expectation out there in the Australian community that it can control the revolution of the planets, that it can go out there and it can control the universe. It can control petrol prices. It can control grocery prices,” the big hit began.

“So it is a fair thing — a very fair thing — for the people of Australia to hold this government to account for that pledge (to restrain interest rates).”

That was Scott Morrison letting loose against the Rudd Labor government in 2008 in a replay which underlines a striking element of coverage of this 47th federal election campaign.

More than in any other of the 46 federal elections, this campaign has exploited the reality that in the digital age many of your worst notions and most embarrassing statements have gained immortality.

Party officials, journalists and mischievous amateurs are dredging social media past and present and a tally of those ugly opinions and rhetorical missteps is growing.

Most prominently, Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves can testify that tweets consigned to the bin can be given new life. She continues to pay a political price for opinions considered transphobic.

A Labor Senate hopeful in NSW, Mich-Elle Myers, has been caught out by social media posts offering the theologically challenged opinion that Jesus was gay. She was number five on the ALP Senate ticket and unlikely to be elected, which has been ensured by her views.

And if Scott Morrison can be exposed by a comment he made at age 40, Anthony Albanese can be confronted by outbursts made when he was a 20-year-old leftist tub thumper.

Interest rates winners and losers

Back to interest rates.

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe understandably is unknown to many Australians who, again understandably, couldn’t tell you what he did for a living.

But Mr Lowe took over centre stage of the election campaign on Tuesday after he and his fellow RBA board members simply did their duty and increased interest rates to peg back growing inflation which was harming household finances.

This long anticipated increase and the forecast of more to come started a round of unbecoming political shuffling: Scott Morrison resisted the accountability he had demanded from Kevin Rudd in 2008, Anthony Albanese was unable to detail how he might avoid a rise repeat.

Most coverage was on who would win or lose from the increase.

Journalist Shane Wright in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age noted the average mortgage nationally hit a new all-time high in March of $600,000. When the Coalition came to office it was about $354,000.

His colleague Matt Wade on Thursday reported an analysis showing the three seats with most financial stress, and thus most vulnerable to an interest rate rise, were Werriwa, Greenway and Paterson — all Labor held.

But next came North Sydney and Wentworth, held by Liberals under assault by strong independent candidates.

Morrison labels federal ICAC ‘public autocracy’

On another issue, Scott Morrison again demonstrated his fascination with quirky jargon. He collects it like a linguistic bower bird.

He was going to “shake and bake” the economy. As Treasurer he admired projects that would “wash their own face” — cover their costs. Criticisms could be dismissed if they came from within “the Canberra bubble”.

Add to the list “public autocracy”.

This is the term Mr Morrison used in an interview with Nine newspapers (SMH, The Age, WAtoday and Brisbane Times) published Wednesday. His aim was to argue against an ICAC-like federal body which would examine dodgy spending ethics of MPs.

He didn’t argue that a monitoring of corruption wasn’t needed, but that it should be restricted to criminal matters. MPs should not have their spending of taxpayer money for political purposes monitored by a public body. Otherwise they might not be able to deliver goodies to selective seats.

“It wouldn’t be Australia any more if that was the case, it would be some kind of public autocracy,” he told the newspapers.

What exactly constituted a “public autocracy” was not clear, apart from its capacity to interfere in pork barrel largess.

It is tempting to think the term might have been inspired by Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who earlier this year said loudly her leader was “an autocrat”.

‘Everyone gets one question’

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese on Wednesday riled some reporters by declining to take follow-up questions, which are usually asked to expand on inadequate initial answers.

“Everyone gets one question. I was criticised by some in the media for giving you more than one so I’ve taken that on board and you only get one,” he told reporters in Melbourne Wednesday.

And in a related matter, the swooning treatment of Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare by The Australian continued.

“Of the 15 or so questions asked during a sweltering 45-minute press conference, Clare was called in by Albanese to a third of the exchanges to calm the reporters as they probed for detail on Labor’s policy which would have the government take a joint stake in homes with about 10,000 qualifying punters,” said a report Tuesday.

“Clare jabbed and stabbed at the Coalition with puns and metaphors, revealing himself as the zing king of the campaign.”

If this was intended to be a comparison embarrassing Mr Albanese, the gushing is also starting to be an embarrassment for The Australian.

Episode 1: Get your go-bag ready

April 6, 2022

Episode 2: Hire me, please

April 12, 2022

Episode 3: Press pack mentality

April 20, 2022

Bonus Episode: Tory Maguire, executive editor, The SMH and The Age

April 21, 2022

Episode 4: Positively negative campaigning

April 26, 2022

Bonus Episode: Anthony De Ceglie, Editor in Chief, The West Australian

April 28, 2022

Episode 5: Mounting criticism of the media

May 2, 2022

Bonus Episode: Tony Windsor

May 2, 2022

Inside the Media Scum

Have you ever wondered how and why journalists and editors cover elections the way they do? Don’t know your doorstops from your divisions? Have you ever wanted to be inside the media scrum to see what happens behind the scenes of the biggest media event and most consequential form of democracy in Australia?

During the 2022 federal election the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas will take you Inside the Media Scrum to give you an insider’s guide to how and why the media is covering the election the way they are.

Veteran journalist Malcolm Farr, who has covered every election since 1993 and has written on federal politics for publications across the media landscape, including The Australian, news.com.au, Crikey, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and more, will provide an eagle-eye view of the media during the campaign.

Amanda Copp, Political Reporter for the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s National Radio News, is covering her first federal election. She will be out on the road with the major parties and will provide a first-hand perspective of what it’s like reporting on a national election.

Each week Malcolm and Amanda will be filing stories, newsletters, video and podcasts to help you keep across the media in Federal Election 2022. So, sign up for the latest updates and follow JNI on social media to go Inside the Media Scrum.