Hats off to ABC TV News 24 for their fearless, recklessly endless live coverage of the death of the G20 today. Hats off also for generously including footage of the death throes of any last thread of credibility the Abbott government could pretend to. Stoic seekers of truth, the dutiful, the elderly and infirm, the perpetually confused and others who found themselves inexplicably close to a TV during Tony Abbott’s opening of the G20 show gasped as they were treated to some of the most compelling television ever made. In an excoriating, unhurried-to-the-point of-languorous expose, the ABC revealed the emperor has no clothes.
Under siege itself for preferring the truth over what politicians choose to tell them, our ABC, a publicly under-funded broadcaster mustered the courage today to make TV without fear or favour. It showed its public the shocking truth. True, there was some gesture towards timewasting twaddle, such as forms the substance of commercial TV, when drift-sock anchor Tony Eastley padded things out with his sonorous grain-fed beef basso profondo. We were spell-bound as much by his tone as his capacity to extemporise. And improvise. And keep talking. And talk some more.
Impressively long on the waffle Eastley even ventured into boosting the event with his speculation that just getting together was an end itself for G20 leaders. Nothing like lowering all expectations. Nothing like conveying the truth that the even the anchor is bored witless. Finally having the PM’s parliamentary secretary Joshua Anthony Frydenberg on screen was a master stroke. No doubt, Mr Frydenberg was volunteered by the Abbott machine just to keep the commentary on the rails. Having Frydenberg of Kooyong on camera to bounce ideas off proved a master stroke. Every unctuous comment Eastley made appeared objective by contrast to his master’s voice, Frydenberg.
Yet, despite the show’s all at sea anchor, and perhaps because of him, it was shockingly real, live coverage. Expect reprisals. Heads, no doubt, will roll on Monday. The ABC’s inept coverage illuminated Abbott’s idle posturing perfectly, set the stage for his government’s inevitable collapse and gave the coup de grace to the G20 itself. On this day, the ailing G20 died and was reborn, stripped naked of any pretension to substance, revealed as a bone-crushing, hand-shaking, personal space-invading almost nipple rubbing photo opportunity come TV game show. International guests had to come on down as Tony Abbott centre stage came too close, held hands too long and grimaced shamelessly at the camera. This was the point of the whole shebang. Tony the media tart pressing flesh, pulling unwary unwilling world leaders into his chest, holding that handshake for the camera.
It cannot have been easy TV to make. Evidently Aunty had to economise on adequately briefing journalists covering the event and it did lack that handy extra camera to show us the faces of international leaders hanging on every Abbottism. Or, on the other hand if anyone present was paying any attention whatsoever least of all making the risky attempt to follow along.
A random, accidental shot of Putin showed him to be completely disengaged, while appearing to occupy himself with what may have been navy ballistics calculations on a notepad. The overall effect was strangely heightened as the PM’s halting opening domestic piffle appeared to be delivered into a vacuum or a stony indifference. But then to get your guests to listen, you need first to have something to say. And the means to say it. Eastley’s smooth flowing basso profondo effortlessly utterly upstaged Abbott’s halting staccato strine baritone. And shredded any final hint of credibility.
First, as anticipated, the Prime Minister was completely unprepared. When he warned earlier that it would be no talkfest, we did not expect him to lead by example. Instead of any inspiring words, any meretricious rhetoric or, heaven forbid, any vision statement, Abbott insulted world leaders with a platitudinous and hypocritical injunction to be honest with each other followed by an insufferably irrelevant and tedious rehash of his own deceitful, stale election slogans. To cap it off, Abbott’s tone was apologetic. World leaders were treated to his frustrations as he shared his inability to impose a $7 fee on GP visits. Not all was sharing. He blamed voters who love free government programs for supporting wasteful spending. In brief, he whinged to the world how hard it was to be Prime Minister. Inspiring stuff.
Second, the ABC coverage reinforced the superficiality of proceedings. Whilst we were assured that the hard work had gone on beforehand, nowhere was that in evidence, except perhaps by the absence of physical conflict. After the Prime Minister’s ponderous wasting of everyone’s time with a recap of the highlights of his trivial and unsuccessful domestic policy over the last fourteen months, there may have been a few observers who either fell asleep or were generously prepared to give his government the benefit of the doubt. Later shots spliced into the commentary revealed that this indeed was the case. When Joe Hockey faced the cameras to smarm his way through another flatulent barrage of platitudinous hokum purporting to be the consensus of the finance ministers, the intellectual and moral poverty of the Abbott government was as they say, firmly locked in.