ABC online opinion tilts further Left (Week 2)
Share this on

ABC online opinion tilts further Left (Week 2)

Last week, we showed how during week one of the election campaign, commentary at the ABC online’s opinion sites The Drum and Unleashed were overwhelmingly in favour of Julia Gillard.

However, many pundits thought that Tony Abbott had a slow start to the election. In week two he is considered to have put in a much improved showing, having performed well in the debate, while leaks by colleagues demonstrated that Gillard is not so keen on parental leave payments as she has tried to make out. By the end of the week, some polls have the Opposition Leader in a winning position.

If there is any chance that the ABC Online Editor Jonathan Green would give Tony Abbott a fair go, you would expect it to be this week.

Once again, for week two of the election campaign, we looked at all of the articles published at the ABC’s The Drum and Unleashed sites. Where there is an opinion expressed about Julia Gillard (or her campaign) that is positive or negative, it is noted as G+ or G-. For Tony Abbott, it has the value A+ or A-.

Many stories have a political leaning, but there is not a declarative statement made about one candidate or the other, so it is recorded as having nil positive or negative statements.

Here are this weeks comments. Scroll to the bottom for the summary:
/> Glenn Milne:

Tony Abbott probably knows where his first dollar came from. His preoccupation with how much money is coming through the door is legend in Canberra amongst his colleagues.

All in all the taxpayer coughed up $6,651.96 in Battlelines-related travel. A-
/> John Hewson:

Abbott would be bouyed having controlled his acute nerves and survived the debate better than expected. A+

Gillard is already showing some ill effects and strain.G-

Gillard should still win easily.G+
/> Greg Clarke:

The Christian church has plenty to say and do on behalf of the nation (I’m all for social involvement rather than separatism), but it was never part of the plan that we should run the place. Or it shouldn’t be.. A-
/> Dominic Knight:

And that’s because her policies are gossamer constructions, delightfully ornate and yet entirely flimsy. G-

Gillard speaks calmly and placidly, accompanied by constant hypnotic nods of her head which lull the viewer into a slumber. G-
/>Under the blazing spotlight of analysis, her plans melt like an ice sculpture – or a polar ice cap, given her approach to climate change, which was announced on the weekend with a commitment to setting a carbon price that was firm in every respect except the date. G-

She committed a billion dollars for renewable energy to try and safeguard those Green preferences, but the major thrust of the policy felt like an attempt to placate those, like Tony Abbott, who think it’s crap. G- A-
/> Nick Rowley:

Gillard’s much derided citizen’s assembly shows her to be realistic about a solution to climate change. G+

The last Welsh Prime Minister David Lloyd George famously said more than ninety years ago that “the finest eloquence is that which gets things done, and the worst is that which delays them”. Julia Gillard’s speech was both: more words, very light on policy, but promising to help shape the context in which, should she be elected, the politics and the policy settings can be argued for, developed and implemented. G+

This is in contrast to the Opposition plan: a grudging and costly attempt to address a problem…A-
/> Annabel Crabb:

Women are more likely to approve of Ms Gillard, more likely to prefer her as prime minister, and – on the evidence of last night’s admittedly fallible debate-nematode technology – more likely to pay attention when she speaks. G+

“My wife, Margie, and I know what it’s like to raise a family,” began Tony Abbott last night.

He did not add “unlike you and your hairdresser, Madam”, but the impression hovered in the air like a squirt of Taft. A-
/> Marieke Hardy

There’s a gradual melding taking place, a revolting kowtowing to the base entertainment tastes of the general public, with Tony Abbott’s recent squirm-inducing appearance on Hey Hey It’s Saturday – a show whose cultural relevance became obsolete about the same time Tony’s social policies did. A-

Those hoping for some sort of leftist girl-power revolution at the hands of the history-making J Gillard have been left bitterly disappointed, watching as she glides between personal appearances like an inscrutable jewel. She’s handballed the climate change issue like some sort of ditzy dame having a menu crisis at a restaurant (‘Oh, I don’t know. You decide’) and seems terrified of doing or saying anything that may identify her as a) a woman, or b) compassionate. G-

Tony Abbott has been relegated to the role of inoffensive uncle too, spending his downtime frolicking with shrieking school children and touching up zucchinis. Perhaps his campaign managers are hoping he becomes so distracted by the giddy combination of youth and fruit he forgets to dangerously open his mouth and spout forth more of the unhinged diatribes he does so well. A-

Tony Abbott has a personality in there somewhere, I know he does. Personally I’m of the firm belief that said personality is borne of the loins of Satan, but it’s still a personality regardless. A-

Yet even he is gagged on this campaign; the permanent stiff smile, the false bonhomie, the everyman bravado. A- Bob Ellis:

It’s hard to see Gillard prevailing now. G-

Only a blazing fool would come up with the figure 150, the same as the number of members in the House, and it may have been Gillard’s. G-

She could ask Tony Abbott to apologise to the many, many nurses he put out of work. A-
/> Glenn Milne:

So Gillard behaves more and more like a Mallard on the opening day of duck shooting season. G-
/> Annabel Crabb:

It was compelling to see Julia Gillard fire up with some serious fight today. G+
/> Fran Kelly:

When Julia Gillard fronted a press conference in the morning she was steamed up. She was focused, she was furious and she was unforgiving. G+

She was also eloquent, persuasive, powerful and above all, passionate. G+

Shrugging off questions and cutting down journalists’ queries with a steely gaze she displayed the political capacity that her colleagues were banking on when they dumped Kevin Rudd and installed her as leader. G+

It was a spirited performance, single-handedly turning an extremely damaging story around and portraying it as a virtue – that she’s a responsible, focussed fiscal manager and not a soft touch.G+

Tony Abbott is re-thinking his plans to whack a 1.7 per cent tax on thousands of bigger businesses to pay for his very generous paid parental leave scheme. A+
/> Harry Minas:

Tony Abbott says that ‘we’ve got to take stronger measures now’ to ‘stop illegal immigration’, while a map of Australia is menaced by red arrows labelled ‘Indonesia’, ‘Sri Lanka’, ‘Afghanistan’, ‘Iran’ and ‘Iraq’ – nations much associated in the news with, variously, religious extremism, dictatorship, suicide bombing and civil war. The Opposition has even publicly claimed that the Government is ‘putting Australian lives at risk, by failing to secure Australia’s borders’. No wonder people are anxious. A-
/>These distortions have inflamed anxieties and have encouraged the confusion of issues which are distinct and best thought about and dealt with separately. A-
/> Mark Bahnisch:

Julia Gillard showed passion and fight this week. G+

She is more than capable of communicating a strong message which will ensure the government’s re-election G+

These polls are not definitive, of course, but it should be clear by now that the trend is towards the Coalition. That’s despite anything they’ve done, other than have a disciplined Tony Abbott turn up to capitalise on the government’s woes…A+
/> Bob Ellis:

She met the new Oakes ‘revelations’ with a change of tone and a crackling display of linguistic skills and theatrical depths…G+

And now she has become the one thing she should not become, a mask of secrecy G-
/> Chris Uhlmann:

It’s beautiful, glossy, near perfect. It’s also utterly contrived. G-

It’s disturbing because the makeover is a metaphor for the Labor campaign.G-

The assassination of Kevin Rudd was an extreme makeover and the “Moving Forward” slogan is designed, in part, to divert attention from Labor’s livid scars. G-

The mining tax was recast and briefly the policy scars seemed adequately covered by clever politics. But it didn’t take long for them to reappear. G-

The border protection makeover didn’t survive a day because the Timor solution is a paragraph deep. G-

And no-one but the cheap make-up artist who applied the citizens’ assembly policy lipstick believes it’s a credible solution to a serious problem. G-

But the trouble isn’t with the campaign team or the leader; it is with the product they are trying to sell. Its core is empty. G-

And one of the clear themes of this campaign is that Labor prefers political fixes to proper fixes. G-

Tony Abbott shouldn’t have a chance and there is little sign that the campaign around him has been well designed. A-

At least Labor has a clear theme on which to hang each announcement; by comparison the Coalition seems disorganised, negative and reactive. G+ A-

But Mr Abbott is campaigning well and emerged from the debate looking more like an alternative prime minister. A+
/> Lucy Saunders:

Which leader scares babies less? Turns out the answer’s Julia. G+

To be fair to Tony, he is a genuinely strange looking man. A-
/> Ben Pobjie

So we can safely say that Gillard might be dishonest at times, but it’s all in a good cause. G+

…his habit of utterly contradicting himself at regular intervals is a sign of the greatest kind of honesty of all: the honesty to admit to the Australian people that you really have no idea what’s going on in your head. So we, as voters, can trust the Opposition Leader implicitly on at least one point: he is as confused as we are. A-

By spouting such absurdist slogans, by abruptly running off to compete in a triathlon, by randomly giggling like a mental patient for no apparent reason, Abbott depicts the reality of our modern nation and governmental system far more eloquently than he could by simply saying things which are true. A-
/> Malcolm Mackerras

I want to say something about the date August 21, the date sensibly chosen by Julia Gillard. G+

I do, however, criticise her refusal to live at The Lodge. G-
/> Annabel Crabb:

Mr Abbott for his part is also being slightly disingenuous when he characterises his parental leave scheme as “standing against the mob”. A-
/> Lauren Rosewarne

Gillard seized her opportunity. She played the game by the rules that men always have. If Rudd trusted her, that was his error. G+

But to claim Gillard’s actions reveal anything about her abilities as a PM is one awfully long bow to draw. A-
/> Cheon Tham: nil. Nicholas Stuart nil. Kohler nil. Sparrow: nil. Cannane: nil. Kell: nil. Knight: nil. Dunlop: nil. Holmes: nil. Gillies Smith: nil. Dunlop: nil. Bahnisch: nil. Bridges: nil. Eltham: nil. Berg: nil. King: nil. Janda: nil. Cassidy: nil. Curson: nil. Bahnisch: nil.


For the week starting Monday 26 July and ending Saturday 31 July at the ABC’s online websites, The Drum and Unleashed, Prime Minister Gillard had 19 negative mentions and 17 positive mentions.

Over the same period, Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott had 20 negative mentions and four positive mentions.

Thus, in a week where Tony Abbott placed the coalition in a winning position, comment in articles published at ABC online are running against him by five to one, while Gillard’s comments were running at about one negative comment for each positive comment.

Many critical mentions of Gillard came from the Left, but eight of the critical mentions came from Chris Uhlmann in a single article. This was the first article out of 70 election stories published at The Drum or Unleashed where Gillard was substantially criticised from a conservative perspective (though Uhlmann himself would dispute the tag).

However Gillard had substantially more positive mentions this week, after she eventually admitted that she had opposed the parental leave scheme in Cabinet. While last week she had two negative mentions for every positive mention, this week she had almost one positive mention for every negative mention. In other words, in what many consider to be a disastrous week for her campaign, where her hypocritical stance on a major policy issue was exposed, Gillard’s positive mentions doubled compared to week one.

Gillard was showered in praise at times, with Fran Kelly saying: “She was also eloquent, persuasive, powerful and above all, passionate,” and Bob Ellis “She met the new Oakes ‘revelations’ with a change of tone and a crackling display of linguistic skills and theatrical depths…” Amazingly, one piece even praised Gillard’s much pilloried citizen’s climate change assembly.

Criticism for Abbott was at times trenchant and even personal, with a suggestion that he is more likely to frighten babies – “To be fair to Tony, he is a genuinely strange looking man” and “Personally I’m of the firm belief that [Abbott’s] personality is borne of the loins of Satan, but it’s still a personality regardless”.

Abbott was even criticised for things he didn’t say: “My wife, Margie, and I know what it’s like to raise a family,” began Tony Abbott last night. He did not add “unlike you and your hairdresser, Madam”, but the impression hovered in the air like a squirt of Taft.”

The four positive comments for Abbott once again came grudgingly and in otherwise negative stories such as: “It should be clear by now that the trend is towards the Coalition. That’s despite anything they’ve done, other than have a disciplined Tony Abbott turn up to capitalise on the government’s woes.”

All the evidence is that The Drum and Unleashed continue to be massively biased towards the Left.

In addition to this, nearly every opinion piece that is given a “nil” value here this week had a left wing slant.

For example, two pieces were published arguing the Greens should have been allowed on the Great Debate (what, nothing about the Nationals?), and one was published promoting a GetUp campaign. No fewer than four stories were published complaining about News Limited – apparently making this the biggest issue of the week as far as Jonathan Green was concerned.