I don’t dispute that there are some interesting twists and turns in the utegate/fake email saga.  But it always infuriates me that politicians and political commentators will devote endless hours to such things, thus excluding any real examination being given to issues, policies and legislation that directly effect peoples’ lives.

There has been some small attention given to the climate change related legislation seeking to implement a carbon pricing mechanism, but even that coverage has mostly been about the politics surrounding the legislation, rather than the content and impacts of the legislation itself.  Meanwhile, many other proposed laws, such as workplace relations or transparency of donations to political parties, get almost completely ignored.

This isn’t about blaming the media – you can’t blame them for providing what people want to hear, and people prefer conflict, scandal and intrigue, rather than policy detail. But we should recognise such firestorms for what they are, and the excuse that such events suck the oxygen out of other issues is no real excuse at all. It is not politicians that determine what gets media attention, although they understandably try to do everything they can to influence that.

It was refreshing (and depressing) to read Ben Eltham’s perspective on the whole matter at New Matilda.

the OzCar debate is not about anything as real as actual policy. It’s not even about integrity. It’s about tactics. In other words, it’s not really about anything substantial at all.

But tactics and the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary attack and counter-attack seems to be what most politicians and political journalists care about in this country. For the media, it’s politics as a football game, complete with armchair coaches and half-time analysis. For both Labor and the Opposition, it seems, this affair is evidence that politics is really about manipulating the political process, rather than about the policies you propose to implement. The result is that in a week when emissions trading legislation is to be finally voted on in the Senate, Australia’s legislature and a large part of its senior public service have been consumed by a circus.

Of course, the emissions trading legislation wasn’t voted on in the Senate this week – it was put off until August. I doubt that bothers the government much. As I’ve noted before, the chances of the government wanting to call an election this year were very slim anyway.

If the legislation is voted down in August, reintroduced in November and finally voted on early next year, it just continues to leave the apparently unresolvable divisions within the Coalition festering. If another vote on the emissions trading legislation happens early next year, the Coalition will no longer be able to use the excuse that they need to see the results of the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009 before implementing an emissions trading scheme. And whenever that final post-Copenhagen vote happens, it seems inevitable that the Coalition’s position and message will be split between at least two camps, if not more.

That will certainly be worth writing about.

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