Laura Tingle laments ‘stupid and depressing’ election campaign as Morrison dodges ABC debate

·9 min read
<span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

For the veteran political correspondent Laura Tingle, elections are “stupid and depressing”, and this one has been no different. What with Anthony Albanese “basically just going around and kissing babies” and Scott Morrison avoiding all the places where “voters hate him so much”, it’s been a “strange campaign”, the ABC stalwart told Malcolm Farr on the Judith Neilson Institute’s election podcast.

She said press conferences may seem “shouty and aggressive” but the travelling circus was doing its best under difficult circumstances.

But on Thursday, Tingle wasn’t so charitable. The 7.30 chief political correspondent lost her patience as the media repeatedly tried to catch Albanese out over his election costings. She called the display “embarrassing” and, once, again the behaviour of the press came under the spotlight.

Tingle also took a swipe at Morrison for avoiding scrutiny during the campaign, including turning down an invitation to address the National Press Club and an ABC debate. “If politicians don’t want to speak to the ABC, that’s fine,” she said. “That’s really fine. But they think that they’re somehow punishing the ABC journalists for that. Whereas my view is they are actually accountable.”

NITV rebuffed

It wasn’t only the ABC that was largely ignored by the prime minister, SBS’s Indigenous broadcaster, NITV, was dismissed by Morrison when he was confronted about why no one from the Coalition had accepted an invitation to appear on The Point’s election special.

When the SBS political correspondent Shuba Krishnan asked him why no one would appear he continued walking towards his car and said: “We’re investing $30m in connectivity … that’s how you close the gap.”

When Labor’s Linda Burney and the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe joined John Paul Janke and Narelda Jacobs for a discussion about key Indigenous issues, there was an empty chair for the Coalition.

We asked the prime minister’s office why no one was made available to talk to NITV but it ignored us too.

Markson’s campaign

One feature of the campaign has been the Australian’s Sharri Markson’s highly critical pieces on candidates who she says have not been supportive enough of Israel.

Anthony Albanese was a vigorous critic of Israel, Markson wrote this week. His position was there in “black and white, for all to see” – and “it’s not pretty”, she said on Sky News.

Related: Nine mutes one of its own critics after shouty leaders’ debate | The Weekly Beast

For the record, Albanese has condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and reaffirmed Labor’s strong support of Israel.

Earlier in the campaign Markson revealed that the independent candidate for Goldstein, Zoe Daniel, had signed an open letter last year which referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime” and accused it of launching a “brutal war against the besieged population of Gaza”. Daniel is now on the record saying “the word, ‘Apartheid’, should not be used to describe the situation in Israel” and proclaiming herself “a strong supporter of Israel as a Jewish State, existing within safe and secure borders”.

Markson also highlighted in another article that the climate activist Blair Palese, who was linked to the independent candidate for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, had once expressed support for the BDS movement on social media. Spender has said she strongly opposes the BDS movement and also expressed strong support for the Jewish community and Israel.

In a revealing interview with the Australian Jewish News, headlined “Sharri Markson’s brilliant career”, the reporter explained her motivation for pursuing candidates over their historic attitudes towards Israel.

“The sentiment in the leftwing media to attack Israel is deeply upsetting and it makes me really, really angry – absolutely furious,” she told the AJN. “I’m really worried that if the Labor party gets in in the next federal election there won’t be the same support for Israel that we have seen under the Coalition government.”

Speaking role

Scott Morrison won significantly more mentions in the media during the six-week campaign than his opponent, tracking 47,877 mentions to Anthony Albanese’s 39,914, or 55% to 45%, according to Streem data.

But it was Albanese who won the dubious prize of the most negative press, in particular in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers and on Sky News Australia. Just one example of a personal attack came this week from Miranda Devine, who has de-camped to the New York Post but continues to write for the Daily Telegraph.

At an Italian club, Albo finally found “a few people who can pronounce his Italian surname correctly”, Devine said. “Not that pronunciation is the opposition leader’s strong suit.”

Related: Headlines go hardline on Albanese while Morrison looks to the Sky | The Weekly Beast

“After a campaign full of ‘deshishions’, ‘lejushlashun’, the ‘conomy’ and the ‘shituashun’ in ‘Straya’, it’s hard to believe Australia might have a prime minister heading to the Quad meeting in Tokyo next week with such a lazy tongue.”

She went on to accuse the man who grew up in public housing of being unable to pronounce even his own name.

Devine’s nasty piece was in stark contrast to the profile of Jenny Morrison produced by James Massola in the Sydney Morning Herald this week: ‘She’s just lovely’: Jenny Morrison joins Scott Morrison on the campaign trail.

“Morrison regularly casts his eye around for a half-second, here and there, mentally locating Jenny; you can hear it in his voice, too, as he calls out ‘c’mon Jen’ as the touring party prepares to dash to the next event and he reaches for his wife’s hand once more,” Massola wrote.

“If Jenny Morrison could meet 50.1% of voters, Scott Morrison would be prime minister for life.”

According to Streem, the major issues canvassed in the media this campaign have been the cost of living, Covid, employment, housing, budget and climate change, with the PM’s major topic the cost of living while Albanese’s was employment.

Prize mess

After November’s debacle at the Kennedy awards when the Australian Financial Review’s Michael Roddan was ejected from the journalism prize night for labelling it the “Bogan Walkleys”, we thought the annual event couldn’t get any weirder. We were wrong.

David Ross revealed in the Australian that the Kennedys have received $100,000 from two rightwing Queensland organisations, one of which is reportedly part of a group that has supported challenges to anti-vaccination mandates: the newly formed AJA and TNT Radio. They will now be known as the AJA Kennedy awards.

Related: To Russia with love: ABC takes down interview sympathetic to Moscow’s stance on Ukraine | The Weekly Beast

The Australian Journalists’ Association is a new, alternative and unregistered, professional association started by the Red Union, which also formed the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland.

The AJA is also the name of the original union for journalists formed in 1912. The name was dropped when it amalgamated with the union for performers to form the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance in 1992.

The MEAA, which has sought legal advice over the use of the name and the logo, has accused the Kennedy awards of doing themselves “a disservice” by associating with the new AJA.

“MEAA has become aware of another organisation purporting to be a union for journalists in Australia,” the union said after the sponsorship was revealed. “This organisation is not a federally registered union and does not represent journalists. Their operations appear clouded in secrecy. The only evidence of activity seems to indicate some sort of political agenda around opposition to vaccines.”

A hub director of the AJA parent group reportedly rejected suggestions by the ACTU that it was a “fake union”, saying: “Whatever. Who cares? Australian journalists, most of whom are smart, will judge us by what we do.”

Palmer fails to rate

With the networks not rushing to broadcast Clive Palmer’s campaign launch, the United Australia party founder was forced to buy primetime airtime on networks 10 and Seven as well as an afternoon slot on Nine. Palmer has of course already spent millions buying advertising across newspapers, billboards, digital media and TV.

Viewers who happened to land on Channel 10 on Wednesday might have been surprised by the hour-long advertisement for the Palmer party, filmed at his Coolum resort in April.

“The following program has been produced and paid for by the United Australia party. Authorised by Clive Palmer for the United Australia party, Brisbane,” they were told.

Related: Soft focus: News Corp embraces Morrison and Joyce’s flattering election photos | The Weekly Beast

The Paramount Australia and New Zealand boss, Beverley McGarvey, said in a note to staff: “An election campaign doesn’t happen without the ads. If you’re like us you would be sick of seeing them right now, which means our revenue ad sales team have done a sensational job. Well done.”

As far as ratings go, The Party Policy Launch was a flop, with 58,000 metro viewers tuning in and 230,000 switching off from 10’s lead-in program.

Palmer’s jet has also came in handy for the billionaire who, unlike Morrison and Albanese, doesn’t have the company of the travelling press as he goes about his campaign.

The mining billionaire took three journalists along for the ride when he was campaigning in central Queensland this week: Charlie Peel from the Australian, Zach Hope from the Brisbane Times and Tim Arvier from Channel Nine. Guardian Australia and the ABC did not get the invitation.

Palmer may have regretted the jaunt, however, as Hope captured the event with style, documenting that Palmer had two lunches and forgot the name of one of the UAP’s local candidates, Tanya Wieden, whom he mistakenly called Tracey.

Peel reported that “about 100 party members met Mr Palmer at rallies in Cairns and Gladstone on Tuesday morning”.