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Why is Kevin Rudd Australian of the Year?

Silly season reached a sort of climax this weekend, when The Australian announced Kevin Rudd was its Australian of the Year “because of the way he dealt with the global financial crisis.”

That was a bit odd, to put it mildly, to put it as understatedly and blandly as possible.  The national broadsheet spent 2009 attacking the Government’s handling of the GFC, attacking the need for stimulus packages, attacking the actual spending within the packages – to the extent of soliciting and running every half-baked rumour from a P&C in blue-ribbon Liberal electorates – and airing every possible line critical of the Government, from complaining the Budget forecasts were too optimistic to, not long afterward, suggesting growth was so strong it was time to cancel the remaining stimulus components.

In other circumstances, the announcement wouldn’t have been that surprising.  As The Oz pointed out as a sort of pre-emptive defence against calls of bias – who amongst us doesn’t harbour the suspicion that The Oz has sold its soul to the ALP – it has nominated Prime Ministers as Australians of the Year before, even nominating Gough Whitlam, in the halcyon days minutes before it all went wrong.

But given the tirade of anti-Government sermonising and coverage throughout last year, it looks just a tad suspicious.

For the conspiracy-minded, and I know there are one or two of you out there, one might wonder whether News Ltd feels the need to get on the right side of the Prime Minister, having managed to get itself thoroughly offside with him since the 2007 election.  Now, media organisation should get themselves offside with governments, but it should be for the right reasons not, in The Oz’s case, the Right reasons. The now definitely ex-Rudd mate Chris Mitchell and his stridently anti-Labor editorial tone is the primary problem there, although it was the News tabloids, not The Oz, which ran fictional front-page emails at the height of the Godwin Grech business, a confection that made Rudd, to use the beloved phrase, incandescent with rage.

Just to show how relative media coverage can be, however, more than one Coalition source has subsequently complained to me that Steve Lewis has “bent over backwards” to appease the Government ever since the Grech stuff.  As a regular reader of Lewis – whom I rate highly as a journo – I haven’t been able to detect that bias, but there you go.

But a conspiracy theory needs a motive.  The motive would be that News Ltd’s commercial prospects are not, currently, particularly healthy in Australia.  Most of its assets are in the stagnant, if not persistent-vegetative-state newspaper market and subject of the vexed issue of how to charge for online content (parenthetically, it was amusing to see the reaction, or rather non-reaction, when the NYT announced last week it was revisiting online charging  – when the premier liberal media organ says it is establishing a paywall that’s seemingly fine; when Rupert says the same, it’s imperial overreach).

News’s subscription television assets have had a long period of success – sports channel provider Premier Media, which it half-owns with Consolidated Media, has along with Austar been the real success story of Australian subscription television through its control of key subscription sports content.  And Foxtel, 25% of which is owned by News, has now been making solid profit for several years and has completed an impressive digitization project that means it offers the most advanced suite of media products in the country. Kim Williams can rightly claim the mantle of most innovative major media CEO in Australia and, given Foxtel’s numbers when he started, one of the most successful.

Problematically, though, Foxtel’s growth prospects do not appear good.  Subscription growth rates have flattened in the last 18 months – although you can blame the GFC for that – half-owner Telstra is trialling its own IPTV/PVR set-top box and may exit Foxtel under government pressure anyway, and the commercial free-to-airs have stopped fighting multichannelling and discovered it can be successful for them.

Not to mention illegal downloading of a subscription staple, foreign drama, and a little thing called the NBN.  Oh, and the ABC’s free 24-hour news channel obviously has dire implications for Sky News, which News one-third owns.

The only growth opportunity in subscription television lies with deregulation of Australia’s anti-competitive, punitive anti-siphoning regime.  It would also most directly benefit News because of its half-stake in Premier Media Group, which will be the single-greatest beneficiary of any removal of sporting events from the list.

A legislatively-mandated review of anti-siphoning is underway at the moment.  So far, however, the signals from government suggest a predisposition to regulate more, not less, with the review discussion paper targeting online sports coverage, which could soon join RC content as internet material the Government believes Australians need to be protected from whether they like it or not.

More alarmingly, the only exception to this regulatory approach is likely to be the removal, or softening, of the current ban on premiering anti-siphoning events on free-to-air multichannels, which would pose a substantial threat to Premier Media.

While Kevin Rudd has a deep and personal loathing for News Ltd newspapers, that spells bad news for News Ltd hopes of reform in other areas, regardless of the merits of reform.  News Ltd’s position is made worse by what it doesn’t own – a free-to-air network, which is the only type of media outlet governments really worry about, courtesy of the mass audiences evening news bulletins attract.

The horrible reality though is that, even with Steve Bracks leading the charge for the subscription television sector, the chances of meaningful reform of anti-siphoning are so remote as to be non-existent.  Industry executives struggle to understand this.  Most of the ones I’ve dealt with – bright sparks all – think that, if only they could find the right argument, they’d find a way to convince politicians of the merits of their case.  The problem is that they’ve already put the most compelling arguments they can mount – in fact, the argument for removing the anti-siphoning list altogether is a no-brainer – but they aren’t working because no politician of any stripe will take the risk of alienating both sports fans and the free-to-air networks.

If the prognosis for anti-siphoning reform isn’t bad enough, News execs might also be worried about the possibility of the leakage of government advertising away from newspapers to online.  And then there are the advertising dollars available from Labor during an election campaign.  ALP hardheads might wonder about the efficacy of advertising in newspapers which are editorially hostile to them.

In short, there are several reasons to think the usual balance of power between Labor and News Ltd has, however temporarily, tilted in favour of the former.

The alternative to all this of course is that there is no conspiracy.  That, instead, The Australian took an objective look at what has been happening economically over the last 18 months, swallowed its pride and decided that the Government did about as good a job as it could have done in staving off what looked, at one stage, like a new economic dark age.

I’m not sure that makes Kevin Rudd Australian of the Year.  Paul Keating knocked back an offer of an Order of Australia from the Howard Government on the basis that you shouldn’t get such awards simply for doing what you’re paid to do (and just to show how Keating could never win, he got bagged for being “ungracious” when he did it).  I suggest the Keating argument applies just as much in this case.  Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Ken Henry and Glenn Stevens did an excellent job of handling the financial crisis, aided by a great many advisers.  But handling crises is in their job description.

Regardless, let’s give The Oz the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that it takes guts to admit you were wrong.

31

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  • 1
    Dewgong
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    It might be difficult for The Australian to pick sides this year. Abbott is more of a socialist than Rudd is.

  • 2
    blue_green
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I feel that the Australian has been writing exclusively for its audience- its base. That is grumpy, bitter, old (climate denier) men.

    It would be easy for them to track the online behaviour of its readers and I expect they have heavily favored the skeptic articles. They then adjust by printing more and more folly.

  • 3
    Podsa
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it is because the Australian admires the way the PM and minister Penny Wong have done such a bad job explaining and selling the need for an ETS and the ETS itself.
    The Oz recognises that those 2 have done the ETS more damage than have its own opinion writers.

  • 4
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    It should have been Wayne Swan! Now who would have said that 18 months ago.

  • 5
    Keith is not my real name
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    To provide the excuse of ‘balance’ for the woeful horse-shit they plan to run over the next 6 months perhaps?

  • 6
    66to44
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Why reward a man who does his job? The Australian has lost all credibility in my eyes. He must have been the only contender, only that could explain such a farcical choice.

  • 7
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I quickly checked to see if my online Oz was not a spoof site!

    Until BK posted this I still wasn’t completely sure I hadn’t entered some parallel universe.

  • 8
    my say
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    With out reading many of the comments, I am a labor voter and Mr. Rudd
    is i think the best p.m. we have had in my life time and i am 60.
    But The Australian may have realised people like me dont buy their paper any more.
    i had some one say to me Mr. Rudd is the australian of the year he chose himself. They are a very confused lot out there.
    Perhpas that proves that people just read headlines.

  • 9
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Ah so, just blogged before reading this just now. Methinks I’m an echo. Certainly Tony Abbott would have gagged over his weeties about 7 am last Saturday morning just before the photo op exploiting his own non political children for the Sunday newspapers.

  • 10
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Good point Podsa. Kev ‘science’ Rudd (meant ironically) is a half boiled on global warming. And so are all ALP voters let alone coalition.

  • 11
    john2066
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Lets face it, the Australian (thankfully) is finally dying, hopefully of a prolonged cancer just like Frank Devine. I can’t wait to see these people have to get real jobs. heh heh heh.

  • 12
    john2066
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Actually I also get what the Australian is doing. For years they’ve preached that all of Australia should be on individual contracts with the power to hire and fire and no awards.

    Now, in a great act of generosity, they are carrying out their own practical demonstration of labor market flexibility by the recent sackings at their newspaper!

    Thanks for the demonstration, ‘Australian’ !

  • 13
    Peter Adams
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Not that I buy the partisan little rag… but when I pass the newsagent on a Saturday morning I like to have a squiz at the front page just to see what the latest end-of-the-world bilge is that they’re peddling. It’s a good thing I was standing up when I read about Rudd’s gong otherwise I would have fallen out of my chair.

    It’s about as bizarre as Fox News calling Obama ‘American of the Year’.

  • 14
    Cuppa
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    They’ve worn their bias too blatantly for me to trust them or take them seriously.

  • 15
    BH
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Keith and Cuppa have got it right. Watch out for what is going to hit the Govt. (and the fan!!) in the months ahead to the election.

    Murdoch is enjoying his power over the Republicans in the US through his Fox channels and he’ll want it here too. Problem for Murdoch is that Rudd knows what he is up against and may be much smarter.

  • 16
    Johnfromplanetearth
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Is this for real? When has April Fools day been mistaken for Australia day? Krudd hasn’t been in the country long enough to be Australian of the year? The Australian is clutching at straws here, Krudd is quite mad you know!

  • 17
    carolew
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    So everypone is entitled to change their minds aren’t they. Good on the The Australian for finally working out that our Kev is doing the best job he can in a very difficult world climate. Noone should be castigated for trying hard and in the big questions in 2009 like the GFC – getting it right! We are all so parsimonious – do we always get things right when we try? Are we prepared to take the tough, risky decisions – not always!! and I have to add that anything is an improvement on the Howard Government era of hear nothing, do nothing. Another term of that and another inch to the right and I would have been out of here.

  • 18
    j-boy57
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    why would you give anyone australian of the year
    on the basis of financial decisions that benefitted
    your corporation
    the “heart of the nation”
    what a sad joke (if the oz hasn’t already shark jumped this could be it)

  • 19
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Rudd will lose the ALP leadership not long after winning the next election…it’s on the cards.

    Mr ’20% ALP Federal Party support base’ has lost 15% of it so far, and is gone for all money.

  • 20
    Looking Confident
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Great article and I commented on it (and posted a Link back) over on my own blog, at Seeking Alpha.

    I’d suggested that (with the Internet) a new and whole lot more ‘sinister’ world is now with us. – And that it appears to me, that in the hands of (both) “friend or, foe” it is already becoming a very, very dangerous weapon. – For I believe it’s ‘mind boggling’ just thinking about the unlimited ‘tricks’ that they can already get themselves up to.

    The message within [The McCarville Report Online: Blasting The Message: How Scott ...], had consolidated my early fears.

    And it is the story of……

    “How Scott Brown Used Social Networking Tools To Win In Massachusetts” ….

    http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/36191-lookingconfident/45311-censorship-ip-addy-targeting-and-electoral-mayhem

    Cheers!

    LC

  • 21
    Jeremy Williams
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    When I read that article in the Australian it reminded me of when they endorsed rudd for the last election. Totally inconsistent with everything they’d been saying. Another example is where they have all these climate change denier articles (not peer reviewed) and then in the editorial pretend to take a middle position in supporting the industry generous version of the ETS.

    Its not about admitting they are wrong its all about appearances, this why they mentioned their advocacy of Gough etc, its why they talk in retrospect about their supposed criticism of Howard’s middle class welfare. The Australian is all about vested interests if Crikey had a paper I wouldn’t bother with the Oz.

  • 22
    Looking Confident
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    On a lighter side, Mr Rudd is one smart cookie ….

    Kevin Rudd meets with the Queen of England.

    He asks her, “Your Majesty, how do you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give to me?”

    “Well,” says the Queen, “the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people.”

    Rudd frowns “But how do I know the people around me are really intelligent?”

    The Queen takes a sip of tea. “Oh, that’s easy. You just ask them to answer an intelligent riddle.”

    The Queen pushes a button on her intercom. “Please send Gordon Brown in here, would you?”

    Gordon Brown walks into the room. “Yes, my Queen?”

    The Queen smiles. “Answer me this, please, Gordon. Your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?”

    Without pausing for a moment, Gordon Brown answers, “That would be me.”

    “Yes! Very good,” says the Queen.

    Rudd goes back home to ask Wayne Swan, his Treasurer, the same question.

    “Wayne! Answer this for me. Your mother and your father have a child. It’s not your brother and it’s not your sister. Who is it?”

    “I’m not sure,” says Swan. “Let me get back to you on that one.”

    He goes to his advisors and asks every one, but none can give him an answer. Finally, he ends up in the men’s room and recognises Tony Abbott’s shoes in the next stall.

    Swan asks Abbott, “Tony! Can you answer this for me? Your mother and father have a child and it’s not your brother or your sister. Who is it?”

    Tony Abbott yells back, “That’s easy. It’s me!”

    Swan smiles, and says, “Thanks Tony!” Then, he goes back to speak with Rudd.

    “Say, I did some research and I have the answer to that riddle. It’s Tony Abbott.”

    Rudd gets up, stomps over to Swan, and angrily yells into his face

    “No, you idiot! It’s Gordon Brown!”

    :)

    LC

  • 23
    David
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Excellent comments from BH and Kevin Rennie…then you get the infantile crap from thing fromplanet earth who should be certified,,,however it is a fact Wayne Swan may have looked like a duck out of water when he started as treasurer but he has worked tirelessly particularly since the economic melt down. Yep Murdo will know he is in a scrap if he takes the PM on. Forget Abbott he will do as Minchin tells him, there is no way the hard core right wing Libs want the monk as PM he is the fall guy.

  • 24
    C@tmomma
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Give me one good reason why Kevin Rudd would want to facilitate Rupert Murdoch being able to establish the Aussie equivalent of Faux News?
    Sky News is bad enough, though light years ahead of Fox in the US. Luckily Australia, even during Howard’s time, didn’t allow the American to buy Ten. I would like to believe that Howard knew what sort of a can of worms he would be opening if he let Murdoch anywhere near a free to air network, and so didn’t.
    Kevin Rudd is equally as smart and politically savvy as Howard, and, having seen the mauling the News Ltd. newspapers are willing to dish out to his government, on the slightest and even confected(Grech) pretexts, then he would simply be a fool if he allowed Murdoch to get even a fingernail-hold in this area, in any way, in Australia.
    Our market is too small, and Murdoch’s influence would be thus too great.

  • 25
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    Well the Australian has won on a couple of fronts. They’ve shown that to really be ‘from planet earth’ and smart one will be multi-dimensional rather than stuck in krudd like John.

    The inevitability decent portion of its manpower have been able to congratulate the Australian Government on the ‘world’s best economic science based super successful attack on a global ‘alien’ monstrous financial and economic crisis’ while the world pours affection and praise on the Australian government for the same and at the same time convince their boss that to nominate Mr Rudd so only brings to the Australian people’s attention that he’s not the ‘Australian of the Year’ ‘cause he was only doing his job after all.

  • 26
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    You realize Johnfromplanetearth that the known uni-dimensional nature of ‘aliens’ is such that they try too hard to convince all that they’re from planet earth.

  • 27
    JamesK
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Foxtel did well with the thousand dollar cash handouts.

    $30billion in the black Nov07 but now well on the way to $300 billion in the red.The interest repayments alone more than the defense budget.

    Rudd should probably be tried for treason .. or at least the rape of treasury.

    Its all explained in the Keynes/Hayek rap:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk&feature=player_embedded

  • 28
    David
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    And JamesK YOUR CRIME OF BEING AN ARESOLE? whats the penalty for that? Just keep on taking it, as opposed to the hun of private Jones world, who dont like it up em.

  • 29
    JamesK
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow David!

    You’re soo brave if nonsenscal but ….. you don’t fear the boom n’ bust

  • 30
    TecTonic
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, I was usually a centre left leaning Labour voter but still read the OZ as I would not like to totally rely on the Courier Mail or even Crikey, sacriledge. I also enjoy reading the Age and the SMH, the Guardian and Wall Street Journal online, along with the Fin Review in paper format.

    But I was bemused by the Oz naming Rudd Australian of the Year, I must say! Did some rogue editors get in there on the weekend or something and flip the OZ on its back, legs madly rotating in thin air? Did they miss that Andrew Ollie Memorial lecture by the Chaser comedian, methinks?

    I’m quite happy with the zippy new winter coat Rudd bought me, but cannot help thinking that the money may have been better spent on port infrastructure, etc. Or even an extra bonus for our fighters of WWII, war widows, Vietnam vets, our pensioners doing it tough in their old age as in youth. I even found myself wondering what Costello might have done with all that money? Would he have built school gymnasiums, even for schools that already had them, in the hopes of buying the ute vote?

    Now, sorry to disallusion blue-green, but I am definitely not a portly bald cigar smoking captain of industry either, being younger, female and liking fashion; and yet I still seem to have been put offside by the blind “the science is settled” mantra of this current Rudd government, and cannot for the life of me see how the (UN)world making carbon traders richer along with anyone who wacks ” global warming” or “glaciers melting” in their science grant proposal for handouts, will save the world from carbon.

    So, I think we have a very misguided OZ Australian of the Year, but if he’s not reading the OZ he’d have no idea about glaciergate or climategate then, would he?

    As someone who prefers the notion that solar flare activity, tilting axis and orbital anomolies had a lot to do with warming and cooling throughout the history of the planet, you know, so that the Vikings discovered “Greenland” not Iceland, etc, I tend to be a sceptic. If you’re not looking at doctored hockey stick graphs from the IPCC, then you note that CO2 rises to a peak hundreds of years after warming peaks, so the two tend not to be correlative, and noone mentions H2O the most prevalent green house gas by far?

    I also happen to think we’re far better off in the warmth (inter-glacial) than in a big freeze of an ice age , which is how this plane spent the majority of time, but nature is such that it will do as it pleases with the weather which then make up climate. Historically, Ice Ages tended not to be fecund, drought and famine prevailing, as all the water gets locked up in , you guessed it, ICE.

    And just look at the havoc Arctic temperatures caused this year in the European winter! The last one brought on the Dark Ages.

    In the meantime , who’s saving the world’s rainforrests? Ho hum.

    Talking of media bias. It’s really fascinating to note that the ABC 7:30 Report has failed to cover both climategate and glaciergate, as has been covered by Wall Street Journal, the Australian and even by the Guardian; well, the ultra greenie blogger of the Guardian Monbiot for climategate at least, although he’s gone strangely silent for glaciergate.

    If I were a true newshound I’d have my nose glued to the scent of a story not an orthodoxy.

    So, I’m left with the impression the OZ’s Australian of the Year, is highly gullible, naive, and is not widely read! Surely he’d have time on all those jet flights? But perhaps he will only read reinforcements of his own arguments.

    After all, the Public Service mentality is such that a boss often hires foot soldiers who sychophantically echo them, and he was formerly a public servant in Queensland.

  • 31
    john2066
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Yo TecTonic, clearly a relabelled sockpuppet from the usual right wing morons posting here.

    I noticed you’ve trudged up the old faithful ‘it used to be warmer in greenland’ meme. Here’s just one really quick point that hasn’t got into your brain yet, which I will type very very slowly for you:

    They. are. growing. more. crops. in. Greenland. now. than. ever. before.

    Reason: because it is warmer than ever before. That also why, strangely enough, the Greenland ice cap is disappearing. But maybe its melting itself as part of a trick to make us think the science is settled?

    Also just once, I’d like to see the denier morons explain (a) how Co2 doesn’t absorb heat and (b) why the artic ice is disappearing.

    Now, I know you’re extremely stupid, but please please try to understand.

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