19 August 2016

Australia's Prime Minister "Kanyed" at First Major Appearance Since the 2016 Election

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In 2009, Rapper Kanye West interrupted the acceptance speech of singer Taylor Swift when she was accepting the VMA for Best Female Video. Whether he meant to or not he went down in infamy and his name alone now stands for being interrupted.

On Wednesday, in his first major economic address since winning a one-seat majority in the July election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was Kayned, by a handful of asylum seeker protesters.

In the opening minute of his speech, attention in the room (and those watching the broadcast live on TV and the Internet) was instantly diverted as a protester climbed up on the stage holding what has to be the most Australian protest poster ever.


FFS Close the Bloody Camps.

While others in the crowd chanted and heckled the Prime Minister, the protester on stage stood with her poster held aloft. I can't tell you what the PM was talking about, from reading articles earlier in the day it was basically a rehash of the Government's economic plan from the election anyway, but I can tell you what that poster said.

And honestly, that's the problem. 

In the 24/7 social media driven world of today's media, there is no attention span. The country - and it's journalist - live on a steady diet of sound bytes, snippets and the latest witty memes. I have read a lot in the media - both mainstream and non-mainstream - over the past couple of years lamenting the 'birth of the 3-word slogan" but it seems anything more than 3 words at a time is beyond a lot of the populations attention span.

A year or so ago I sat in a Sydney Boardroom and listened to then ABC Head of News, Kate Torney discuss the loss of fact checking and the increased need for 'the next headline' in a society now demanding instant, up-to-date coverage. She spoke passionately about the time before social media, about how politicians in the days before Twitter were able to deliver clear, outlined policies and the media was able to dissect them, research them and fact chat them before they were released in one of the days 2 newspaper editions. 

Today however, the luxury of time has gone and with it the ability for the media to paint a clear picture, preferring instead to prop up the inane, the trivial in the drive for ratings, and clicks. Click bait headlines are preferred over in-depth pieces. And while this isn't all the media, the lack of attention paid to the news being delivered is starting to show. 

You don't have to look back to far to be able to find examples of how easy it is for the Australia's media to change the narrative. 

In the lead up to the 2010 election, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a comment that would be drawn out time and again, used as a bludgeon to prove her unfit for office. Then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott crowd it from roof tops, in front of every media camera and microphone he could find. It proved her to be a liar, the nickname Juliar comes from that time. 

The comment, which would later prove to be the best tool in the Opposition arsenal was simple.
"There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead, let me be clear."

Those 15 words are now rather infamous.

They are also inaccurate.

As the Prime Minister was vilified from one side of the country, no one in the mainstream media bothered to stop and hold the Opposition Leader to account. No one said "Mr Abbott, that is not correct."

Instead the media and the shock-jocks ran with witticisms such as; Juliar and Bob Brown's Bitch. Sydney shock-jock Alan Jones said straight out that Prime Minister Gillard's father had died of shame from having a daughter who could lie so badly. And no-one with the power to do anything bothered to think beyond the click bait.

The full quote from the television commerical was:

 "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead, but let me be clear. I will be putting a price on carbon and I will move to an emissions trading scheme." 

In September 2015 Malcolm Turnbull gave the following as his reason for rolling Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the back bench.

 "It is clear enough that the Government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need.... We need advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people."

And yet, the 2016 election was all slogans. Jobs and Growth, Continuity and Change. Perfect policy for the social media age. Even Labor's campaign to protect Medicare got the journalistic boffins in a frenzy when someone came up with MediScare. 

On Wednesday the Prime Minister's message was again ignored. Lost in a sea of tweets, and news bulletins that focused only on the protesters. I saw a lot of news coverage - both online and off  - and there was next to nothing about the Prime Minister's economic address at the CEDA Melbourne Lunch.

The media were instead shocked that a middle-aged woman would hold up a sign with FFS on it. 

The main message from the PM's speech never had the change to resonate because it was destined to be ignored for the juicy protesters scandal instead. 


Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.


Mike’s most recently published story, Seeds of Eden, is featured in the Sproutlings Anthology released in March 2016. Mike is also editing the Anthology – Community: Tales of the LGBTI scheduled for release in June 2017.

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