With new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese off being a debut statesman the news reporting attention was on Liberals struggling to navigate the jagged political debris from the Scott Morrison electoral train wreck.
There was an understandable interest as individuals and factions clashed over who was responsible for the Morrison locomotive — or bulldozer — leaving the tracks in such spectacular fashion.
The Liberals were left pinned — on one side by a Labor government and on the other by independents who had captured cherished Liberal seats.
The man himself was silent as he departed political centre stage to be simply the MP for Cook, but there were those ready to ensure we didn’t forget him.
“He had a negative approval rating in seats like mine, and he certainly was a drag on the vote. When you spoke to people it was sort of non-empirical. It was almost … visceral, the reaction,” Liberal Dave Sharma, who lost the Sydney seat of Wentworth to independent Allegra Spender, told Radio National Wednesday.
And that day The Sydney Morning Herald reported, and others confirmed, there had been an approach to former treasurer Josh Frydenberg for him to challenge Morrison and remove him for the good of the party.
Frydenberg stayed loyal, and lost his own seat of Kooyong to another independent, Monique Ryan.
Among those in the Nine newspapers — The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age — confirming the coup suggestion was Jason Falinski who lost his Sydney seat of Mackellar to independent Sophie Scamps.
There would seem to be a pattern forming here, of moderate Liberals becoming casualties to moderates from outside the party because they hadn’t stood up to the inaction, incompetence and hard right priorities of Scott Morrison’s leadership.
That didn’t prevent calls for the Liberal Party to move further to the right, the proposition South Australian Senator Alex Antic made on Sky News Monday.
“The dominance of the left in the Liberal Party now needs to end. That time needs to be over,” he said, ignoring the stark fact there aren’t many so-called “left” MPs remaining in the party.
Numbers had been winnowed by outsiders who distinctly were not from the Antic approved right.
No right wing candidates were popular enough to knock off a moderate Liberal.
In broad media terms, only the presenters of Sky After Dark were prepared to back him. It could be significant to see whether those commentators will continue to be feted by Liberal MPs who have queued eagerly to appear on TV with them.
Perhaps the neatest sidestep of accountability came from NSW Liberal senator Jane Hume, who appeared to blame the voters.
“Liberal values are very much Australia’s values, and I don’t think that Australia understands that anymore,” she told 2GB this week.
The constant attention given to the election losers was understandable, given the magnitude of the political disaster, and the dismal plodding of surviving party leaders to deal with it.
PM Albanese steps onto world stage
Further, Anthony Albanese was in Tokyo for a mini summit with the heads of Japan, India and the USA, where he clicked with fellow suburban kid made good Joe Biden.
This Quad conference was to have been — and was specifically timed to be — Scott Morrison’s grand global performance after towelling up Labor in the election.
Instead it became Albanese’s opportunity to introduce himself to world leaders, as well as many Australians back home, and to demonstrate he could treat with the big kids without embarrassing the nation.
That introduction to the job ended Wednesday night when he returned to Australia to face multiple and legitimate questions on how he would deal with the new regiment of independents in Parliament, what his prospects were for negotiating in the Senate, how he would manage the vital climate change debate among others, and how he would complete the housework of creating a ministry.
Further, he will have to get the measure of Peter Dutton, who is expected to be the new Opposition Leader, and who on Thursday assured The Australian he would be “gentler and caring” in the post.
The Nine newspapers reported Dutton promoting his unseen nice side, saying that as Opposition Leader “the Australian public can see the rest of my character. The side my family, friends and colleagues see”.
Economic settings are not going to behave as the new government might wish with another interest rate rise likely soon. Being prime minister is now getting a lot harder for Albanese, and greater media focus will be put on his every word and action.
Meanwhile, those successful independents continued to be scourged in some media quarters for their electoral impertinence.
On Tuesday The Australian ran an op-ed in which the headline described them as a “rebellion of the top one per cent” who benefitted from an “anti-working class vote for the elite”.
On the front page was an “exclusive” news story which described the independents as “tertiary educated, affluent, liberal”.
The implication was all these qualities were disqualifications from representative democracy, even though they had just been elevated as MPs.
As a contrast, one could imagine a sales person going to a potential advertiser in The Australian and proudly describing the newspaper’s readership.
This might be the sales pitch: “You’ll love our readers. They’re successful, well educated, affluent and politically moderate, just the classy people you would like associated with your high class product.”
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
Episode 6: Bush politics
May 9, 2022
Episode 7: The final stretch, featuring Laura Tingle
May 17, 2022
Episode 8: Breakdown of the Media Scrum
May 23, 2022
Bonus Episode: 7.30 chief political correspondent Laura Tingle
May 25, 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.