October 20th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Issues for the forthcoming election

TESTIMONIAL: Digger James: Why I support 'News Weekly'

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The 'other' election on November 10

ECONOMICS: Who's looking after world trade

BIOETHICS: Cloning: a mixed bag

Straws in the Wind: Come in, Spinner

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Parents call for increased penalties for drug trafficking

TERRORISM: Why the Muslim world hates America

AFGHANISTAN: Australia must protect the innocent victims of war

Letter: Refugee analysis wrong

Letter: Free trade challenge

Letter: Marriage costs

PACIFIC: After the civil war: Bougainville looks ahead

MEDIA: Mutual admiration / "Beazley-class" subs

COMMENT: Baddies are not always cowards

DOCUMENTATION: Latest data show mothers' preference for home

COMMENT: Don't hurt us, we're men

Books: 'THE LITTLE ICE AGE: How Climate Made History 1300-1850', by Brian Fagan

Books: 'One in Thirteen: The Silent Epidemic of Teen Suicide', by Jessica Portner

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Mutual admiration / "Beazley-class" subs

by John Styles

News Weekly, October 20, 2001

Mutual admiration

"I've got to congratulate the beginning of your program," Kim Beazley told 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O'Brien during an "election special" on October 5.

The special edition went to air just over five hours after John Howard announced the date of the Federal election. If the program represented the tone and balance we can expect from the show throughout the campaign, the 7.30 Report will continue to attract criticism.

Beazley was chuffed by a little background package presented by Fran Kelly at the beginning of the program. It purported to encapsulate the year in politics. And Beazley obviously thought his side of politics came out of it looking very good.

While perceived Howard Government "backflips" were sent up with slapstick footage and a wacky sound effect, Labor embarrassments were virtually ignored. On how Labor can achieve substantial GST rollback and fund its big spending program, Fran Kelly acknowledged "there was not much detail", but left it at that.

How Labor intends to penalise and disadvantage some independent and church schools merely because they're private? It did not rate a mention. And how the ALP has had quite a lot of trouble working out who really does speak for the party on foreign policy - Kevin Rudd or Laurie Brereton? Not a word.

Barely anyone in Australia these days, with the exception of Beazley, Barry Jones and, it seems, Fran Kelly, can string the words "knowledge" and "nation" together and conceal amusement. Fran spoke up for the policy. "The Knowledge Nation report was widely acclaimed in some quarters," she noted. No wonder Beazley was so enthusiastic about the segment. Well done, Fran.

The program also featured a verbal duel between John Howard and Kerry O'Brien. When Howard accused Beazley of flip-flopping over the border protection bill, O'Brien roared to Beazley's defence, parroting the Labor position on the issue. But when, following the Prime Minister, that same issue arose in an interview with Beazley, we discovered that Kerry O'Brien had changed from adversary to information broker.

John Howard had argued that the revised border protection bill that Labor supported was, in many respects, a "broader" bill. "It contained measures, particularly about the transfer of people that weren't in the first bill."

Of course, there is an even more fundamental flaw in Labor's position on border protection. Not only did it at first reject the bill, then support the revised version. Labor lost credibility when it said that, if elected, it will water down the legislation it helped to pass. Flip. Flop. Flip.

In a kind of reverse image of the Howard interview, Beazley raised the issue of border protection in his pleasant little chat with O'Brien, accusing John Howard of a backflip in relation to the bill. But did O'Brien confront Beazley with Howard's argument, just as he had forcefully defended Beazley's position when interviewing the Prime Minister? Not on your life. He let it slide.

For the political parties, the election campaign has just started. At the ABC, it never stops.

"Beazley-class" subs

If Beazley had been the Defence Minister in a Liberal Government, we would have ceased long ago to talk about Collins Class submarines. Almost certainly, Labor's friends in the Canberra press gallery would have dubbed them the "Beazley Class" subs - to serve as a constant reminder of the shambles. Only with a compliant media could Beazley boast about his record as a defence minister, as he has been inclined to do lately, and get away with it.

A week ago, on ABC TV's Insiders, Sydney Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman, attempted to bring Beazley's submarine record to the surface. But when he did so, fellow panellist Mike Seccombe of the Sydney Morning Herald immediately moved to defend the subs.

Seccombe, is another journalist deserving of Beazley praise. The SMH reporter recently expressed sympathy for Kim Beazley over the Tampa issue. On September 19 he made the ludicrous assertion that should John Howard be re-elected, "It will be an illegitimate win based on a morally bankrupt scare campaign." Illegitimate? Oh, come on.

In an interview with Laurie Oakes on Channel 9's Sunday program, deputy Liberal leader Peter Costello delivered a reminder of the ramifications of Beazley's adventures in the world of submarines.

"In a lot of the meetings that I've sat in in the National Security Committee of Cabinet," Costello said, "we've spent time trying to extricate Australia from one of Mr Beazley's worst decisions, the Collins Class submarines. I can't tell you the number of times I've sat in the National Security Committee and worked on the issue of how do you get that submarine, with adequate firing systems ... so that it can't be intercepted by the enemy."

Remember how, back in the Keating years, press gallery journos would pick up every little Keatingism and it'd be all over the news?

In that same edition of Sunday, Costello also delivered the best line of the week. However, it didn't feature in soundbites and 10-second TV grabs.

In response to the suggestion that a vote for Howard is really a vote for Costello, the Treasurer shot back. "At the end of the day," he said, "you've got to remember this, that a vote for Kim Beazley is a vote for Kim Beazley."

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