The Year of the Dog began with the hope that 2018 would usher in a time of luck and wellness — a respite for all of us who endure this vale of tears called life.
But, alas, the reality of the fall prevailed and the year was replete with false prophecy, hyperbole, wish fulfilment, double standards, historical distortions, self-loathing, sins of omission and, needless to say, fake news. Month by month.
Self-declared comedian Charlie Pickering kicks off the year with the refrain that this is “the only time it’s OK to kill a police officer; sorry, I mean kiss a police officer”. Former Liberal Party leader, constant Liberal Party critic and ABC fave John Hewson declares there is a “growing feeling that the next federal election will be held this year”. Michael Spence accuses the Turnbull government of “Sinophobic blathering”. He is the University of Sydney’s vice-chancellor and committed to high standards in intellectual discourse.
Mike Carlton, in a late-afternoon tweet, predicts that with the help of Barnaby Joyce (whom he calls “the Beetrooter”), Tony Abbott will undermine Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton will become prime minister this very month. The Saturday Paper’s Richard Ackland reports that “old-timers swear they saw” Arthur Fadden running naked “in the dead of night through King’s Hall in Old Parliament House”. Since the former Country Party leader retired from politics six decades ago, Ackland’s old-timers must be very old indeed.
Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside re-tweets an image depicting Dutton’s face reimposed on that of an SS officer. In defence, Burnside suggests that Dutton is cultivating a climate of fear of the kind that prevailed in the early years of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Which indicates that even clever lawyers can slip into ignoramus mode when it comes to history. Labor left supremo Kim Carr alleges that Liberal Party senator James Paterson is “in the Hitler Youth”. Well-heeled member for Chisholm Julia Banks attests that she “could live on 40 bucks a day”. Journalist Jacqueline Maley tells Greg Sheridan that his sons are white. They’re not.
Turnbull in his Anzac Day address as prime minister at Villers-Bretonneux describes General John Monash as “the architect of the victory” at the French town in April 1918. In fact, Monash played no role in this battle — his military successes occurred elsewhere. Journalist Tony Walker quotes the view of an anonymous “senior Liberal” who likens Abbott’s behaviour to that of a “suicide bomber” — overlooking the fact Australia’s 28th prime minister has not killed anyone, including himself.
ABC operative and one-time Greens candidate Osman Faruqi reckons that debates about sunscreen provide “some evidence that white people don’t belong in Australia”. Presumably this includes Greens hero Bob Brown. Crikey’s political editor Bernard Keane repeats his criticisms of “white males” — overlooking the fact he is, er, a white male. ABC 7.30 presenterLeigh Sales depicts as “nonsense” the contention that the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster is a conservative-free zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Yet she fails to name any one such person.
Suzanne Hill presents “Remembering 1968” on the ABC’s radio program Nightlife. Her memories include US president Richard Nixon’s “shooting” in 1968. Those with even better memories believe it was Democrat presidential candidate Robert Kennedy who was assassinated that year. ABC television’s Four Corners presenter Sarah Ferguson refers to the election of US President Donald Trump as “the story of the century”. It’s not too clear what century she is talking about. But surely World War II and the terrorist attack on the US in September 2001 were bigger stories — then and since.
In the wake of the winter solstice, Ross Cameron reflects “in a world where trust seems hard to place, the moon will never let you down”. It appears that Catherine McGregor is not dependent on lunar help since she suggests that Labor leader Bill Shorten is “almost unelectable”. The polls indicate otherwise. Paul Bongiorno tweets that what is called by some “Sky News after Dark” includes as panellists “Uncle Tom lefties craving relevance”. He apologises to Sky News panellist Warren Mundine, declaring he was not aware the term was racist. The ABC gives Bonge the green light to continue as a regular commentator since he is merely ignorant.
The New Daily’s Paula Matthewson maintains, on August 14, that “the decision by the Coalition partyroom to support the proposed national energy guarantee was a humiliating defeat for Tony Abbott”. Within a week, the Turnbull government abandoned the NEG. On Tuesday, August 21, Laura Tingle advises ABC viewers that “despite all the noise, what Monday proved was that there is little appetite in the Coalition for a leadership change”. In fact, on the Monday, only 58 per cent of his Liberal colleagues support Turnbull’s own motion to spill the leadership. He loses a similar motion the following Friday and resigns. Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.
Under the Westminster political system, a prime minister remains in office for so long as their colleagues support the incumbent. Apparently unaware of this, ABC Melbourne radio presenter Jon Faine preaches emphatically: “We’ve got Scott Morrison as Prime Minister because (media proprietors) Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes decided.” Faine’s evidence? Zip. ABC political editor Andrew Probyn runs a similar line but then goes into “no comment” mode as to whether he acted out a scene in the leadership change as a bullying Liberal disguised behind a pot plant. ABC management joins the cover-up, conveniently overlooking its advocacy of the right to know.
Fairfax Media publishes a piece by journalist Julia Ioffe, who argues that Trump has the “deafening roar” of an anti-Semite and that the closing advertisement of his 2016 campaign “reprised the kind of anti-Semitic tropes that populated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. This is the same Trump who has moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and who has Jews in his family.
The Nine Network’s Chris Uhlmann opines: “I do not believe that there has been a more dangerous time in my lifetime and I’m 58 now” — overlooking the Cold War when there was a real possibility of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the US. The Guardian claims one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met secretly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy in London as part of Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election. The Guardian does not state how such secret meetings could have taken place and provides no evidence that they did. Fake news, apparently.
And so the Year of the Dog ends as a dog of a year, with Hewson banging away in Nine (formerly Fairfax Media) newspapers about the need to abandon “fear” while preaching about how “our planet’s much hotter” and accusing Morrison of “white supremacism”. Hewson also reflects: “One of the hardest things in life is to see yourself as others see you.” You can say that again in 2019 — the Year of the Rat.