October 08, 2004


The Sydney Morning Herald takes a bold fence-sitting stance:

Thirteen million Australians will decide tomorrow who will have the privilege of governing in the name of all Australians, of divining the prudent course for this nation's future while deriving, as America's founding fathers so eloquently prescribed, "their just powers from the consent of the governed". Elections mark a nation's changing times. This election marks change for us,the Herald. There comes a time when a newspaper, having expressed its voting preference for more than 170 years, as has the Herald, must renew and reassess its claim on independence so that its pursuit of truth is not only free of partisanship and without fear or favour, but is seen to be so. From today, the Herald no longer will endorse a political party.

Sounds like another election-campaign lie to me.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 8, 2004 03:32 PM

I dunno, I think that newspapers shouldn't do endorsements. I mean, yes, it's only the editorial page but how can preferring one candidate openly to another not affect the news page?

Posted by: Karol at October 8, 2004 at 04:22 PM

You have got to be kidding - free of partisanship the Sydney Moaning Feral. This rag competes heavily with the GreenLeft as to the most the most biased leftwing paper in Australia the only difference is that the GreenLeft admits it.

Something tells me that they know deep down that Howard is by far the better PM its just that they can not make themselves admit it.

Posted by: Willie at October 8, 2004 at 04:45 PM

Wow! Karol must be on to something! If the NYT doesn't endorse KerryWorld, then certainly nobody could ever accuse them of being a stringer for the DNC could they? Just asking.

Posted by: YoJimbo at October 8, 2004 at 04:45 PM

What a bunch of wankers. The SMH has been endorsing half-arsed lefty ideas for years. Going for the "truth" eh? In Russian the word is "Pravda", and these days the Russian paper looks a paragon of journalistic virtue compared to the rubbish that comes from Fairfax.

Posted by: Craig at October 8, 2004 at 04:55 PM

I love how they make the grand independence pronouncement - window-dressed in the livery of noble "truth" (puhleeeze, the SMH?!) - while the hacks are furiously pounding away in the background cooking up today's bumper-election-coverage-bonanza-liftout which is hideously slanted towards labor.

Posted by: Sweet sweet Bundy at October 8, 2004 at 05:10 PM

Yes, I too, read that self-serving nonsense with astonishment. Of particular interest was the po-faced comment that the SMH had not endorsed the ALP in the first 60 years of Federation "mainly because the party's economic policies were unsuitable." They couldn't back Curtin in 1943? In wartime? They didn't support the government of the day less than a year after the bloody battles at Kakoda? I would love to read that editorial. Without the ringing imprimatur of the SMH, Curtin still managed to win that election by the length of the straight.

So who did the SMH back in 1943? The Japanese?

Posted by: Peter Hoysted at October 8, 2004 at 05:27 PM

This is as farcical as the SMH's "neutrality" during the Republican debate.

But on a side note, pre-1970s, the SMH generally endorsed Coalition governments.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 8, 2004 at 05:33 PM

So who did the SMH back in 1943? The Japanese?

Probably Castro or Pol Pot...

Posted by: Art Vandelay at October 8, 2004 at 05:33 PM

The commentary dream team for Saturday night has the SMH and ABC over selected...call me bias but ya have to select on form.

O'Brien, Jones, Ramsey and Adams pick themselves (Adams probably needs reserve coverage.... let's go with Sheil, tho he's still having trouble defining "he's", there is an Olde Worldy East German dissonance there that I find veeery attractive) .
Margo and the SBS comrades are no fun and too dumb to understand why.

Suggestions for bolters always accepted.

Posted by: TT at October 8, 2004 at 05:49 PM

I for one am not surprised. Typical limp wristed, namby pamby, lefty response. Bag the shit out of Howard et al for years and when it comes to the crunch... sit on the effing fence. Left to the likes of the SMH and it's fans NOTHING would ever get done coz they never have the courage to act on their convictions, as they don't really have any. Lost in the la la land of moral equivalence and vacuous circuler arguments. They disgust me even more now.

Posted by: Dog at October 8, 2004 at 06:21 PM

As a side note, the Daily Telegraph believes its poll is accurate enough for it to already anoint Howard "Australia's second-longest serving PM".

I dunno, all this good poll news is making me suspicious...

Posted by: Quentin George at October 8, 2004 at 06:22 PM

Oh, the good old days when we had twenty newspapers and they all PROUDLY declared their bias so you could read them all and then decide on an issue for yourself.

Anyway, a paper can't be 'neutral.' It's written by people. And if they're neutral, they're probably dead. Has anybody checked?

Posted by: ozwitch at October 8, 2004 at 07:09 PM

The SMH spends the entire election campaign sanitising Labor and demonising the Howard coalition at every turn. Now it informs readers in a pompously convoluted editorial that it won't "take sides" by telling them how to vote. This is not fence-sitting - it is cowardice.To avoid having to tell the truth that on record and performance the Coalition has to be the party of choice, it establishes a funkhole from which to say nothing at all.Many readers will know it's a gutless bluff. They'll be fully aware that if the polls had given Labor a distinct possibility of winning, the SMH would today have been urging readers to vote for Latham.And it wouldn't have broken its ancient tradition of guiding voters on polling day.

Posted by: ralph cohen at October 8, 2004 at 07:46 PM

Just don't but it. With the rise of the interent the rivers of gold are starting to dry up anyway.

Posted by: Bila at October 8, 2004 at 08:26 PM

It's a nice instance of Bathos, the ludicrous descent from the heights to the depths. All this humbug about consent of the governed (``very important what people think of us here; we are the sort of people who have noble thoughts, unlike the rest of you'') to ``the Herald will no longer endorse a political party.''

They should just call themselves undecided or confused and be done with it. No mention of circulation figures either.

Those would be actual things.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at October 8, 2004 at 08:59 PM

The Coalition is surging, it will be a massive victory for Howard. Labor is collpasing they will lose seats in WA and Qld and Tasmania, also seats in metropolitan Sydney,and Melbourne Lyndsey Tanner and Alberizie are gone, the news story of tomorrow will be the collapse of Labor. To go along with Howard government's victory.

Posted by: klien at October 8, 2004 at 09:01 PM

So, one of the most stridently Howard hating papers in the country canít bring themselves to recommend Latham - ouch, thatís got to smart.

Posted by: Michael at October 8, 2004 at 09:02 PM

You know, in my opinion, open partisanship is part of what makes newspapers in much of the English-speaking world superior to their American counterparts. Our newspapers, in their efforts to hide bias, can't dig as deep as they really should when they smell *real* scum. (Like the kid gloves the Illinois press uses on our mobster governor, Rod Blagojevich.) By contrast, a British or Australian paper that's openly partisan can harass someone like George Galloway til his head explodes. I'd rather see that kind of coverage on both sides and decide for myself.

Posted by: Aaron at October 8, 2004 at 09:10 PM

Remarkable spectacle on tonight's 7.30 Report of O'Brien conceding on behalf of Labor.
Apparently even the ABC think Lifelong is an ex-Parrot.

Posted by: TT at October 8, 2004 at 09:31 PM

These polls and "concessions" that Howard has "won" have me worried too.

It all sounds too good to be true.

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 8, 2004 at 10:06 PM

I'm disappointed with the SMH. We all have views, and it's better to have it in the open than hidden.

That's why I'm so impressed with the Limited News website.

Posted by: Alan Green at October 8, 2004 at 10:08 PM

Yeah Evilpundit, I'm going to watch the results come in live, while drinking.

If ALP pulls ahead, I'll double my shots...

Posted by: Quentin George at October 8, 2004 at 10:11 PM

Polls say 52 Coalition, 48 Labor, two party preferred.

The question is, will 1-2% change their minds by tomorrow?

Posted by: Quentin George at October 8, 2004 at 10:25 PM

Thirteen million Australians will decide tomorrow who will have the privilege of governing in the name of all Australians...
That's it? Jeez, I figure that will be our (America's) number of illegally cast votes come November 2nd.

Posted by: TC-LeatherPenguin at October 8, 2004 at 10:30 PM

It really would be a nightmare ... I could never watch Question Time again - the entire row of plonkers that have been hidden during the campaign, suddenly popping up on the right side of my screen instead of their rightful place left-of-screen. Smirking Macklin, naughty schoolgirl Gillard, preening Creen and smug Rudd. Ministers! (shudder) And if they make Carmen Lawrence Governor General, I shall secede.

Posted by: Sweet sweet Bundy at October 8, 2004 at 10:31 PM

From today, the Herald no longer will endorse a political party.

Probably because there's no Stalinist Party to endorse.

Posted by: murph at October 8, 2004 at 10:50 PM

The fact that the Sydney Morning Herald has chosen not to endorse either political party this election may be related to the allegations made over at Crikey that the editorial staff at The Age were ordered to back the Coalition by Fairfax management. It isn't too great a suggestion surely that The Sydney Morning Herald may have recieved the same instructions, which might explain this non-partisan position if the staff were able to argue for this as some small comfort for not being able to support Labor. Of course, this story isn't proven yet but it might just be true despite acting editor Simon Mann's assurances that it isn't. Crikey however cites three Age insiders in confirmation of their story. Then again the possibility's there that these are just journos who weren't happy that the editorial decision to support Howard was made. I guess it's up to you to decide.

These polls though, not so sure they'll prove true tomorrow night... I can't believe it isn't going to be closer than that, though I still think the Coalition's got it won. I'm glad the election campaign is over, if I never hear "Keeping interest rates low", "Ease the squeeze", "Ladder of opportunity" and "Protecting Australia's $800 Billion dollar economy" again in my life it will be too soon. The 7.30 Report was the best pre-mortem I've ever seen: the election hasn't happened yet and the liberal media is already trying to determine why Latham lost it.

Posted by: Evie at October 8, 2004 at 11:02 PM

Re: the SMH non-endorsement in the editorial: they don't have to endorse the ALP in the editorial, they just do it in the stories.

Re: The Federal Election: Since I live in Canberra, the odds of my vote affecting anything are pretty remote.

I'm the only person I know (apart from relatives) who'll be voting for the Coalition. I'm also the only person I know who thinks Latham is going to get in on Green preferences. Greatly reduced Labor primary vote, but nearly 100% flow-on of the massively increased Green vote. Everyone else - all the people I've talked to - think that Howard's a shoe-in, at worst with a reduced majority. Many are pretty unhappy with the thought, but they're tolerant Lefties. Yes, they exist, some of them quite sane. Difficult to believe, I know.

It'll all be decided in the marginal seats, to state the bleedin' obvious. The Greens will have white-anted the far-left section of the ALP vote, and picked up the moribund Democrats who would otherwise have been right-wing ALP or left-wing Coalition. Howard will have picked up some of the right-wing ALP vote though. The question is, how much of the Green vote will flow his way? I haven't been able to track what the Greens are doing in the marginal seats, but the last-minute coup the ALP scored in getting their official endoresement in Eden-Monaro (for example) does not bode well for the Coalition.

Finally: Remember that Australia's isn't the only election going on tomorrow. So's Afghanistan's. in many ways, far more important, not just to Afghanistan, but to us.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at October 9, 2004 at 12:40 AM

On the opposite page to this sanctamonious editorial was a black and white cartoon which featured, in order, from left to right: Flames surrounding an oil well with two barrels of oil at its base; one those barrels on its side, spilling its contents into a puddle where a fat private schoolboy with a mobile phone is sitting; in the background there are tree stumps, one of which features an embedded axe; a fat, humanoid pig in a top hat, smoking a cigar, pointing right with one hand, the other resting on Howard's head; a fat Howard, repleat with Pinnochio nose, also points right with one hand and holds a cricket bat with the other; a fat priest with a wrinkled mouth, holds a staff with one hand and also points right with the other. The final character in this tableau, the one all that is pointed at, is Latham, climbing a ladder, tie undone Dan Rather style, literally having stars for eyes.

And the SMH reckons they're not biased. Not half!!

Posted by: Peter Ness at October 9, 2004 at 01:05 AM

So who did the SMH back in 1943? The Japanese?

In 1943, as I recall, the SMH took a strong pro-Tito stance, urging greater AUS involvement in the Balkans and urging the electorate to ignore the administration "sideshow" in New Guinea...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at October 9, 2004 at 01:10 AM

A day late and a dollar short, if you ask me.

Posted by: Rebecca at October 9, 2004 at 01:11 AM

Aaron, why would Pravda-by-the-Lake attack Blowdry?

They're on the same side.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 9, 2004 at 01:26 AM

Crikey however cites three Age insiders in confirmation of their story. Then again the possibility's there that these are just journos who weren't happy that the editorial decision to support Howard was made. I guess it's up to you to decide.

Crikey's three unnamed insiders are about as likely to really exist as tooth fairies. Taking into account Crikey's biases, I'd say most people would take about a second to decide that the story is nothing more than an attempt to discredit an editorial thats very damaging to labour.

Posted by: JB at October 9, 2004 at 04:06 AM

With a week-day circulation of about 200000 does anyone really care if these sad-sacks have an opinion or not?

Posted by: Lew at October 9, 2004 at 03:19 PM