Who should we blame when politicians lie?

Here’s my latest piece for the King’s Tribune…

Late in August, the Canberra Press Gallery awoke from a collective slumber and simultaneously concluded that Tony Abbott hadn’t been entirely honest with them. Or with the Australian people.

Well at least that’s one way of interpreting the political news at the time, following on from Leigh Sales’ challenging of Abbott’s relationship with the truth in one of the Opposition Leader’s all too rare appearances on a “serious” current affairs program.

Those of us whose cognitive capacities haven’t been entirely reduced to that of goldfish by the Age of Twitter can vaguely remember that at different times last year the media had similar revelations.

In March there was a searing piece in which Bernard Keane positioned 11 Abbott statements with another 11 that contradicted them. Annabel Crabb noted in July, “Mr Abbott’s one-man battle against demonstrable logic has entered a new and compelling phase”.

The cycle repeated in October, with Laurie Oakes reminding us, “while he lambasts Gillard over her broken “no carbon tax” promise, Abbott has form on the broken promise front himself”. Lenore Taylor questioned the veracity of both leaders, noting that “politicians have always gilded the lily, spun the message — in effect, stretched the truth. But lately they seem to feel free to take things one step further and ignore facts altogether.”

Then, as if an invisible hypnotist had snapped his fingers, the Press Gallery again fell into a snooze and Tony Abbott’s cursory relationship with the truth was almost entirely dropped by the mainstream media.

That is, until last month, when the revelation was experienced all over again.

What was different this time was the media’s collective conscience had been pricked by a non-journalist challenging them to acknowledge that they could no longer simply observe Abbott’s deceptive tactics. Journalists were embarrassed into exposing those lies and reporting what their consequences would be.

It was The King’s Tribune writer, Tim Dunlop, who called the Press Gallery to account. He described the Gallery’s theretofore admiration for Abbott as a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, with senior journalists like Laurie Oakes giving Abbott points for being the most negative Opposition Leader ever, Phil Coorey judging him “wise” for refusing to answer questions on funding, and Lenore Taylor publicly acceding to the Coalition’s tactical avoidance of the media on a “tricky policy issue”.

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