Welsh / Nothing like a leadership spill to boost the ratings

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Crisis, what crisis?… the media musters at Parliament House for the big announcement. Photo by Mike Welsh

ONE of the few winners from a drawn out and bruising political leadership battle is usually talkback radio.

The medium again brilliantly kept pace with the extraordinary and unprecedented twists and turns leading up to the appointment of Scott Morrison. And for local talk stations there was the potential for a ratings spike due to the spill playing out during GfK’s Canberra radio survey.

Mike Welsh
Mike Welsh.

STILL on the wireless and ScoMo’s former bestie Ray Hadley took exception to Nine’s chief political editor Chris Uhlmann’s accusation that shock jocks “waged war” against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Uhlmann countered with: “Unfortunately, the people in the media who yell the loudest seem to have the biggest glass jaws when you point this out”. A furious Hadley opened Thursday’s show – syndicated through 2CC – taunting Uhlmann on his “Labor” leanings.

WITH the greatest respect to Uhlmann, I may be better qualified on the fragility of the Hadley jaw. I once had the temerity to criticise Sydney shock jocks (without naming anyone) and copped a four-minute spray from Hadley at the top of his national radio show the following day. And to make sure I got the message, the following threat was emailed to my boss: “I copped another spray from your drive announcer yesterday. It’s very simple, given he commands about 6.9 per cent of the audience and I have 12.4 per cent, can you tug his coat please, otherwise he’ll cop both barrels to a much larger audience, every day from here to eternity… Ray Hadley.”

BUT the conservative civil war and its destructive fallout had nothing to do with energy policy or tubthumping shock jocks. According to Coalition   Leader of the House Christopher Pyne it’s the fault of we ordinary Canberrans, the parliamentary press gallery and our shared love of a good old party game.

Speaking days before the first spill, Pyne told Radio National’s Fran Kelly: “Everyone in this building and this city loves a leadership story”. The man known as “the fixer” described growing speculation of a spill as no more than “a parlour game, fun in Canberra but doesn’t impress the general public.”

FORMER NSW Premier Mike Baird, pictured, was just another face in the crowd on the Parliament House lawns on Friday as news floated down of a new prime minister. Baird, who impressively returned to private life after resigning in January, 2017, was in Canberra for a financial industry conference. Baird said Morrison “was a good friend” and “a good man” and added “the country quickly needs to get behind him”.

HOWEVER, another high-profile former pollie who refuses to fade into the ether post-Canberra had a bizarre take on the leadership spill. Former NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari suggested we should be grateful we are able to change our leaders.

No stranger to the mathematics necessary for political success, Dastyari told former Canberra radio jock Ryan Jon and his crew on Perth breakfast radio: “If we were in Venezuela or Eastern Europe, there would be a convoy of Toyota HiLuxes heading towards Parliament with AK-47s in the backseat”.

WHILE Machiavellian manoeuvres played out on the hill, machinations of a more mundane and municipal nature bubbled away below in the ACT Assembly. A more equitable spread of portfolios has been achieved with the instalment of an eighth minister Chris Steel, but Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay would no doubt rather flick his gaming responsibilities. Ramsay has imposed a new set of rules for the distribution of funds from ACT clubs, a body which has long been at loggerheads with the government. ACT clubs have retained the right to allocate compulsory community funding but will pay an extra levy into the Chief Minister’s Charitable fund.

AND the final word on the past seven days goes to the Liberal ladies who lunch. Overheard in Manuka, pre spill #2, a declaration they would never vote Liberal again. Hell hath no fury…

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Mike Welsh
Mike Welsh is a serial blogger and former Canberra radio presenter.

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