As a Victorian, one of the greatest trials in lockdown has been enduring the biased, entitled media coverage of it.

 

 

A tweet made a considerable impact when it was sent out around a month ago; a five-part thread which detailed the very real frustrations being felt by the people of Victoria during the lockdown.

“Being locked down in Victoria for six months is exhausting, but nowhere near as exhausting as dealing with the daily bombardment of hate and lies from the Murdoch press and the federal government. This is having a far worse effect on my mental health than the actual lockdown.

“The worst part of all this, of course, is that the lockdown is working. The numbers are going the right way and we are almost out of it…so we’re seeing a last-ditch desperate effort from Murdoch and Morrison to do everything they can to make it fail.”

It was a potent, honest dissection of what was the then-current state of affairs, and it obviously hit the right notes with a number of people, with it being re-tweeted 450-odd times and ‘liked’ by an additional 1700. 

It struck a chord because it’s true. Melbourne has essentially been in one form of lockdown or another for the better part of six months. Some (me included) have been fortunate enough to have a steady stream of income during the pandemic and ensuant lockdown. Others, far less so. Legion of small business in Melbourne have been forced to shut: retail outlets who don’t have click-and-collect capabilities; restaurants, pubs and cafes who don’t have take away setups; essentially everyone working in an office. Few industries have been spared.

This is the hard reality of a pandemic. A second wave came about, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews got the advice from the Chief Health Officer and his team, and determined that since there was a small cluster which spread rapidly to become an outbreak, it needed to be contained. The economy would suffer; jobs would be lost, incomes depleted; lives irrevocably altered. The alternative was to let the pandemic run its course, infect thousands more, kill scores, and reap untold horrors on the community.

 

A video got posted on Twitter last week, wherein a hot mike caught some of Victoria’s finest chatting among themselves, complaining loudly about the feedback they get for being shit at their jobs.

 

Daniel Andrews holds a daily press briefing, which outlets including ABCNews24 broadcast live.

In it, the premier rattles off the latest figures, outlines any shifts in law and policy, and takes questions from the assembled media. The point each day at which he says “I’m happy to take any and all questions,” is usually the point at which hope (numbers having steadily decreased from 725 infections in August, to as low as five last week), morphs to despair.

A video got posted on Twitter last week, wherein a hot mike caught some of Victoria’s finest chatting among themselves, complaining loudly about the feedback they get for being shit at their jobs.

 

 

That’s 7 Melbourne’s Laurel Irving doing the David Mamet bit. We also have the Age’s Sumeyya Ilanbey and Australian’s Rachel Baxendale in the mix with 9 Melbourne’s Andrew Lund. Quality stuff – not that journos being rough around the edges is newsworthy in an of itself. It’s just fascinating to hear that any suspicions of their holding close to everyone else in contempt being accurate.

Their approach to Andrews has been dispiriting to watch – given that his government’s strategy has been working, and the number of infections has been plummeting since the second lockdown began. To keep it going, for it to be effective, the people of Victoria need to stay on the course, and every time that message is diluted by window dressing and partisan hackery, we’re further into the weeds.

There was the time Sky News’ Gabriella Power tried to take the stick to Andrews over Chinese imports of train parts, and clumsily lobbed a ‘Belt & Road’ soundbite at him. Andrews was having none of it, called her on it, (“What’s that got to do with Belt & Road?” he asked. “…nothing,” she meekly replied) and shut it down quickly.

There was a moment on September 22 when a walking haircut from 7 Sydney showed up at the press conference and tried to make it all about him. The supposed journalist, Denham Hitchcock, threw what was a clickbait soundbite at Andrews (“Please don’t tell me this is about ego, not health???”), and again, Andrews swatted it away like the annoyance it was. 

But it’s all a parlour game compared to the Australian’s Rachel Baxendale. More of a coalition stenographer than an actual journalist, Baxendale has unfortunately been on the receiving end of threats of sexualised violence since making a name for herself at the daily press conference. This shows that Victoria, and Australia at large is not immune to thoughtless arseholes. Nobody deserves such vitriol.

But the substance of her work is definitely worth scrutiny. Each time Andrews opens the floor to questions, Baxendale is there with blatantly partisan attempts at ‘gotcha’ questions, which Andrews perpetually answers with a) the patience of a saint, and b) the authority of someone who knows the game, plays it well and is completely across his vast portfolio.

On the 26th of September, Jenny Mikakos resigned as Victoria’s Minister for Health. This was after she had essentially painted herself into a corner while giving testimony at an inquiry, and after days, if not weeks of the Herald Sun and Australian hounding her and pressing Andrews to sack her, or for her to resign. The corpse of her career wasn’t even cold yet when on September 30 Baxendale chimed in from the peanut gallery asking (sans irony) “Is it a good thing for a health minister to resign in the middle of a pandemic?”

Therein, the strategy: berate them into doing what you suggest; complain if they don’t; criticise when they do. On September 29 she foisted a garbled nonsense question at Andrews about findings from the Board of Inquiry; findings that haven’t been released, and won’t be until November. Andrews called her on this inaccuracy, and there was some spirited back-and-forth.

Later that day, Baxendale tweeted ‘For the record’ … except it was an altered transcript showing what she *intended* to say, but didn’t. The shamelessness of it was baffling; multiple likeminded Tories quote-tweeted it as some spurious ‘proof’ that Andrews is a misogynist, without noting that IT WAS A FALSIFIED, ALTERED TRANSCRIPT.

It’s fairly safe to say that she may be Australia’s worst journalist, down to her sentence structure. Which is a competitive field, as this ‘mega-thread’ illustrates.

 

 

The pandemic has allowed us in Victoria to be alerted to VicPol’s – an Australia’s – shocking state of journalism. It behoves the state LNP opposition to oppose various political manoeuvres of the Andrews ALP government, for they are in opposition; but since Victoria has fixed four-year terms, the results of such opposition won’t be judged until the next election in 2022.

A Board of Inquiry will be releasing its findings as to what decisions were made by who vis-à-vis hotel security, the genesis of the second wave. In the interim, the LNP – and their NewsCorp acolytes – should simply do what they can to encourage a public health and safety message and not spread lies, rumours and counter-productive, anti-science nonsense.

They should. They won’t, but they should.

 

 

 

 

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