Category Archives: Politics

Pavlova fit for the POTUS

Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson

Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson

Firstly, let me get this off my chest – is Pavlova Roulade (rolled pavlova) really the best we could dish up for the President? Perhaps I’m being a little too critical given I haven’t had my morning sugar fix, but I would have thought we could be a little more creative in the kitchen. Oh well, I’m sure the pav’ was delicious!

This week Australia welcomed POTUS (President of the United States for anyone who isn’t a West Wing addict!) as part of his whirlwind 2011 Asia Pacific Trip.

Obama and his entourage flew in to Canberra on Wednesday for a 26-hour visit, which included a State Dinner, an official address to both Houses of the Australian Parliament, a grilling by journalism students at a Canberra Highschool and a sombre visit to the Australian War Memorial.

After a day and night of seeing the sights in Canberra, Obama jetted off for the first ever-Presidential visit to Territory, in particular Darwin. It was a coup for the people of Darwin and an opportunity for the President to see yet another part of Australia.

It was also a chance for America to show us how to stage an event. The Americans delivered a true visual spectacle in Darwin where the Prime Minister and the President shook hands with our troops and inspired the masses in front of spectacularly oversized Australian and American flags. I hope everyone took out their pens and pencils and took down some notes!!

Now he’s off to Bali for the final leg of his Asia Pacific Trip. Then it’s back to the States where he’s only months away from a year where he’ll be running for re-election while continuing his duties as President of the United States. (Jed Bartlet would be proud!!)

Pavlova aside – it’s been an exciting couple of days for Australia. A fantastic opportunity to show Obama and the rest of America why it’s great to visit and live in Australia – although Bob Katter singing would make anyone run a mile.

I’m looking forward to seeing what part Australia plays in the next episode of the “West Wing Week” – a fantastic weekly series created by the first official Whitehouse videographer Arun Chaudhary.

Finally, hats (and I mean multiple styles and colours) off to our Governor-General for her outfit change between meeting the President at the airport and welcoming him to Parliament House.

She’s copping some flack from some, but I don’t agree. I don’t know about you but if I’ve got the time and am going to be photographed at two major international press opportunities, I’m going to change too. And she did recycle the outfit – well part of it – from her time with the Queen.

OK enough talk about Pavlovas and outfit changes, now time to get on with some work.

Happy Friday!


the c word

PS. While we’re on the topics of world leaders, we thought we’d leave you with a sneak peak at Margaret – the 2012 movie with Meryl as Margaret. We can’t wait!!

Communicator’s Corner: Sunday Age Political Reporter, Melissa Fyfe


Melissa Fyfe is the State Political Reporter for The Sunday Age. Her career with Fairfax has seen her take on a varied number of roles including: Sydney correspondent, health editor, section editor and also the state news editor. She has won several awards for her reporting on climate change and water during her time as The Age’s environment reporter.

With a State and Federal election upon us, this will be a feverishly busy year for the political reporter.

1. Tell us about your typical day.

I start the day reading the newspapers and keeping a keen ear on the radio. The rest of the day is spent meeting with contacts, digging through reports, talking to my editors about ideas for the paper, interviewing people and, when parliament is sitting, hanging around the big house on Spring Street. I write my stories on Fridays and Saturdays. Every second Friday I chat to Tony Biggs on RRR about state politics.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

Quite young – when I was in Year 7 at high school.

3. Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have had many fantastic mentors at The Age. My journalistic heroes are mostly American writers, particularly those working for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

4. Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile.

5. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Managing my time. I have a weekly deadline, so I have to be very disciplined about what I do. Also, dealing with the spin machine of the government and the opposition is very difficult at times. In an election year the stakes are very high.

6. Tell us about the best story/campaign you’ve ever worked on?

In the scheme of other stories in my career this one was quite small but it meant a lot to me: I reported on the plight of a young mother who was in a public housing flat so mouldy it was causing her and her baby significant illness. The housing minister moved her within months. She is now living in a place with no mould and her life has completely changed. Her baby is so healthy and happy now. I am also proud of the story myself and my colleague Jill Stark broke recently on Kevin Rudd’s chief mental health adviser quitting.

7. Which campaign do you most admire?

This is difficult to answer because in my business a campaign means an election campaign. Barack Obama’s tilt for US president is easily the best example of a political campaign for office that we’ve seen in decades. It’s been said many times, but his harnessing of grassroots support through the internet was spectacular and left the Republican campaign totally flat-footed.

8. What’s been the biggest change to communication industry/journalism since you began your career?

Obviously the internet. It has massively reshaped the newspaper industry, eroded the classifieds and changed our business structure. It has opened up many more opportunities for journalism but obviously threatens the fundamental economics of old-school media.

9. What’s your favourite brand?

I don’t really have one.

10. What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An oldy (1918) but a goody.

11. What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in your field?

The value of confidence. Backing yourself is important.

12. Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… keeping the message simple, powerful and accurate’

You can view Melissa Fyfe’s work when kicking back with the papers on Sunday or follow her on Twitter @melfyfe

Congratulations to our new PM


A lot can happen in 12 hours, just ask Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Last night Twitter and news services went CRAZY with talk of a Labor party spill. This morning, Kevin Rudd didn’t even contest the ballot at the Caucas meeting, and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Australia, 108 years after women were given the right to vote in Federal elections.

Congratulations to our new Prime Minister Julia Gillard!

And as you’d expect, it’s been a morning of press conferences, with an emotional speech from Kevin Rudd who, supported by his family, reflected on his time in office.

Then, Julia Gillard stepped up to the podium. Her first order of business was to extend an open invitation to the mining industry to negotiate about the mining tax. At the same time, she committed to ceasing the publicly funded mining tax advertisements immediately, and called on the  mining industry to cease their ads. Nice move.

There are some interesting points to take away from today’s press conferences.

Firstly, it’s OK to be emotional when you’re speaking with the press or a group of people, it shows you’re passionate about what you’re talking about and shows people you’re a real person. So the next time you step up on stage, don’t be afraid to let people see how you’re feeling.

Secondly, it’s best to be upfront and honest and talk about the good and the bad. For example, Julia made it a point to mention she had been involved with both the good and the bad side of the Rudd government. Fess up and then move on!

Most importantly, she has confirmed she will not be taking up the full forward position for the Western Bulldogs. I suppose she’ll have her hands full as Prime Minister! 😛

Finally, while we don’t have a date for the election, the campaigning has begun for sure, and the c word will be watching the upcoming election trail with much anticipation.

Can someone bring the mop, please?


Did you know what a spill was before last week? I have to spill the beans (pardon the pun) and admit until I saw it pop up on Twitter I didn’t. But that is the power of Twitter and like they say: “you learn something new every day”.

Australian politics has been littered with spills over the years. In fact this isn’t Malcolm Turnbull’s first nor second, it’s his third after winning his leadership in a spill vote against Brendan Nelson.

In June 1977, a parliamentary Labor Party leadership spill saw Gough Whitlam defeat Bill Hayden (32-30). Other famous spills include Beazley v Rudd and how can one forget Latham taking over the Labor leadership in 2003 from Simon Crean. Or his downfall in 2005 against Kim Beazley.

How times have changed from the mixture of radio, print and a little television coverage of earlier Australian political spills to the continuous coverage of the regular Labor party and Liberal party spills earlier this decade on television and websites. Twitter now brings us real-time coverage and commentary of Turnbull v Andrews v Hockey v Abbott in the latest #spill.

With no 24-hour free-to-air news channel in Australia (come on ABC, 7, 9, 10 & SBS), most of my information about the Liberal Party leadership spills came via Twitter. Of course we did manage to tween some information from Lateline and other current affairs shows.

However political journalist such as @sandraom, @smurray38, @annabelcrabb, @latikambourke, @Colvinius, and @David_Speers gave up to the minute accounts for their followers. It felt like you were walking the halls of Parliament House yourself. Watching the #spill feed on Twitter was far more entertaining and lively than any of the debates seen on television. I guess this fly-on-the-wall coverage is what makes Twitter such a useful news broadcasting tool.

Back to the #spill and for those of you out of the loop, Turnbull’s leadership was challenged for the first time last week after backing the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with a motion to spill held at 1pm Wednesday. Opposition MPs opposed to the bill said there were many among their ranks to support them. However Malcolm Turnbull retained his leadership after the secret ballot with a result of 48-35.

Climate sceptic Kevin Andrew (of Mohamed Haneef fame) led the challenge with Wilson Tuckey putting forward the motion to spill. Most opposing this scheme believe the economic costs to individuals and businesses are far too costly to take on.

Tony Abbott was quoted as saying the leadership fight was not an issue of leadership but of policy, and said that had now been resolved.

“We forced the Government to effectively admit that its ETS was going to badly damage Australia’s industries, badly damage jobs,” he said.

“We think that the amendments that we forced out for the Government will save 25,000 jobs that otherwise would have been lost.”

As the weekend rolled around, rumours were flying left, right and centre that Hockey and Abbott would challenge. There were resignations, offers of support, wheeling and dealing.

Tuesday morning, another motion to spill was passed and Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership to climate sceptic Tony Abbott following yet another secret ballot vote with a result of 42-41. Hockey was ousted from the race early on. We watched the Twitter stream and the live stream from ABC (Thank you ABC).

Twitter is used as an information source by journalists and is an effective place for communal note-taking which adds plenty of background colour to what’s happening on a particular story. Although journalists tend to be serious and professional in their tweets, when House of Representative chambers allowed the use of mobile devices in the chamber this year, a new Twitter superstar was born – the political journalist. Suddenly, Question Time or #qt became a trending topic on Twitter.

Journalists such as Sydney Morning Herald’s Annabel Crabb, Crikey’s Bernard Keane and 2UE’s Latika Bourke began to “..provide up-to-the-minute fashion comment, online heckling and an undercurrent of political analysis…these Australian journalists present a unique larrikin voice in the twitterverse – unedited and informal for the twitter public

In a recent survey of editors and senior editorial staff by The Alliance, they encountered a mixed response, especially due to economic constraints putting added pressure on staff and quality. However not all respondents were quite so grim with some outlining the added engagement of audiences through online channels.

“Our audience is bigger than at any time in my career and there are more ways to deliver the news than ever before,” wrote one, while another wrote: “I think that journalists are in a great position to gather, harness, interpret, deliver great quality journalism, and now there are a plethora of opportunities in the way that content can be delivered.”

This is certainly the case with the recent coverage of #spill 1.0 & #spill 2.0 with some even prophesising #split as a demise of the Liberal Party. Yesterday during this battle of leadership, policy and whether or not the Liberal Party want to be a throwback to the 1950s or a party with foresight, there were 10,000 #spill tweets in three hours (statistic courtesy of @wolfcat). This doesn’t include all the tweets without the #spill hashtag. Those interested in politics were stuck to their screens and an organic political discussion about the Liberal party, its leadership and climate change policy has taken place over the last week. Coupled with traditional media, there has been a serious amount of coverage for Australians.

The most disappointing part about this whole fiasco is that it has pushed aside important dialogue about the ETS. If economic costs are such a big concern for Liberal Party members – how are they not disturbed at what the economic impact will be when the natural resources we rely on disappear?

If you’re interested in positive solutions and actions to curb climate change, please support our client Run for a Safe Climate. They are raising funds to develop and implement a Safe Climate Transition Plan.

Hope you had a happy hump day! 🙂

the c word