Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Is Prime Minister Abbott so desperate to control the message and lift his flagging polls that he risks alienating Australian mainstream media?

This was how The Australian commenced its 5 January 2015 article about Prime Minister Abbott’s latest public relations misstep:

TONY Abbott’s office has triggered frustrations with the media by excluding a TV crew from the Prime Minister’s sudden visit to Baghdad, limiting access to his speech to Australian troops and joint statement with his Iraqi counterpart.
A camera crew sent by the major TV networks was left in Dubai when Mr Abbott flew into Iraq with his personal staff, forcing the media to rely on footage provided by the Prime Minister’s office.

This is how individual journalists reacted to the unannounced Iraq trip on Twitter:

What Iraqi News knew on 29 December 2014:

(IraqiNews.com) On Monday, the official government spokesman, Saad Hadithi revealed that the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott plans to visit Baghdad in the coming days, while noting that Abbott will discuss with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the support and the equipment of security forces to confront the organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Hadithi said in an interview for IraqiNews.com, “Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will visit Baghdad in the coming days to meet with President Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss military cooperation between the two countries.”
He added, “Abbott will discuss with al-Abadi the subject of development, training and equipping of security forces with weapons and ammunition,” adding that, “Australia has shown its willingness to provide military support to Iraq to face the terrorist gangs of ISIS.

This is part of the 5 January speech Australian journalists were not allowed to hear as it happened:

This is my first visit to Baghdad. It is my first visit to Iraq.
Iraq is a country which has suffered a very great deal. First, decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein. Then, the chaos and confusion that followed the American-led invasion. Most recently, the tumult, the dark age, which has descended upon Northern Iraq as a result of the Daesh death cult, but Australia will do what we can to help.

These are some of the images of varying quality which Team Abbott appears to have released to the media and/or posted on Facebook:

These are the poor quality propaganda videos his personal media crew created:

However, the Prime Minister's attempt to control the media message was not successful as one can see from this interpretation of that 5 January speech in The Sydney Morning Herald later the same day - which contained only one mention of 'death cult' and opened with this message about a war of which he approved and agreed to Australia's participation in:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has blasted in his strongest terms yet the US management of Iraq following the 2003 invasion, branding it a period of "chaos and confusion".

It seems the days when Abbott just had to don a helmet and flak jacket to have the media treat him like a hero have long since passed and his latest attempt to reverse the public relations situation is only making matters worse.

I imagine Jane McMillan is thankful she is on holidays and not returning to the the prime minister's office as his media chief

To quote Bruce Hawker writing in The AgeWhen a Prime Minister is on a collision course with public opinion there can only be one result.


Political cartoonist Alan Moir sums up what appears to be the general response, to the Prime Minister's visit to Iraq, in his latest effort for The Sydney Morning Herald on 6 January 2015:

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