Saturday, May 14, 2011

Forget the kids, let's get our pollies and other influence peddlers to take the NAPLAN test.

On the evidence of this week, most wouldn't pass.
More on that shortly, but wasn't that great news about the budget funding for mental health in Australia?

Long overdue, if you ask The `Pie, especially since most of us suffer from that debilitating but often undiagnosed condition Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. Everywhere you turn, you can't get away from them, be they politicians, newspaper editors, Dancing With The Stars judges, or even avian-inspired bloggers ... heh, heh, heh.
But in the very week when school kids were sweating it out over mat & cat and two + two, we have had a colourful queue of supposed grown-ups showing that their grasp of maths and English is tenuous to say the least. Wingnut Abbot, the Mother Meerkat PM, Treasurer Goose, Cuddlepie Wallace and even those fibbing confabulators of Ogden Street, Typo Gleeson and Shrek The Ogre Wilkins, have all demonstrated that their skooling was less than perfikt.

First, Wingnut was clearly having trouble with English, and he had his occasions mixed up on Thursday night. Being unable to distinguish between the speeches on his desk, one labelled 'Budget Reply' and the other 'Election Rally', he grabbed the latter and went into the House breathing fire, bluster and brimstone - but barely mentioned the budget once as he turned the despatch box into a soap box to harangue for an early election. The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Hartcher was the most eloquently mystified of those commentators who noticed.

One tactic not lost on the The Magpie menacingly indicated that any federal election was going to be bruisingly personal. Within the opening minute, in the first of two strategic mentions, Wingnut, as ever as subtle as a grenade in a bowl of porridge, talked about his wife and kids. Even naming his missus. Hardly budget-relevant or subtle, his was a barely disguised 'dog whistle' (ie preaching to the converted) message that he was a god-fearing married family man while the PM was a childless atheist living in (gasp!) sin and was therefore unconnected with mainstream Australia (Hmmm, dunno 'bout that anyway).

The PM herself wouldn't make it through NAPLAN on the basis that her shaky grasp of maths has blinded her to the fact that any Carbon Tax will blow a blunderbuss hole in any current budget (not to mention in Australian lifestyle as we know it). But she seems unable to do the maths to enlighten her little helper, so all The Goose's patronising pollywaffle on Tuesday night means absolutely nothing. Nil, ziparooney.

As for The Goose himself, the Treasurer seems to be even more disconnected with the electorate when he made the startling suggestion that those households earning $150,000 were not rich and deserved of certain tax and other breaks, but any couple over that figure was wealthy and therefore not eligible for budgetary goodies.


This standard bearer for the party of the battlers, who has never had a real job or perk-free position in his life, may get his Kung Fu Panda boxers in a scrunch when he finds out that independent studies have discovered the real 'average' (not 'mean') Australian's income at around $50,000, with a goodly chunk somewhere in the $40Ks. It's all here, and instructive it is, too.

Now The Magpie has yet again an exclusive peep at something coming your way soon. This Federal Government has clearly embraced the policy of distributing trinkets, baubles and blankets to the natives (ie taxpayers) to distract them from what is really happening. Now, someone within the Labor bunker has gone better than one-off $1000 grants, lethal pink bats, school shelter sheds or double-price set-top boxes for pensioners.

Here is a look at the latest bauble some cheery spin doctor has come up with, arguing that it is simply a memento for everyone - man woman and child - to remind us metaphorically of the reality of life in Rudd/Gillard/Brown/Abbot/Turnbull Australia.

Here in Queensland, both readers will remember last week's pictorial proof that Premier Blight and Cuddlepie Wallace are looking to join a different circus when they leave their current Big Top. But Cuddlepie seems determined to push his claims as a clown and prove he is a NAPLAN no-hoper when it comes to maths.

You may recall that just after the southern flood disaster, the Queensland Cabinet decided to fund the much needed and laudable assistance program by cutting funding elsewhere around the place. But one cut - $326million earmarked for flood-proofing parts of the Bruce Highway - seemed so idiotic that the ABC's Paula The Mauler Tapiolas, good sport that she is, offered Cuddlepie airtime to voice his regret about lacking both the ticker and the clout to oppose such a dopey and unnecessary cabinet move.

Instead, this Minister for Mean Roads let fly, offering those in his electorate who opposed the cuts a spittle-spraying free character reading, suggesting we hereabouts were greedy and self-centred and didn't care about 'those poor bloody people who've just lost everything'.

Then, guess what, along came Yasi a couple of days later, and when the north was again cut off with quite a few 'poor bloody' people losing everything, and the Bruce impassable in more than a dozen places - multiple times - Cuddlepie had enough egg on his face to attract a take-over bid from Steggles.

So what has happened in the last few days?

The Federal Government announces funding for the Bruce to the tune of $285million. This prompts Cuddlepie to struggle into his Blathering Bozo clown suit, smear on the greasepaint smile and start doing the party line that this upgrade program is a great win for North Queensland. When in fact, even the youngest NAPLAN kid could work out that it is actually a $51million loss. A gormless Cuddlepie is now in the queue waiting for a spine donor, and North Queenslanders are still waiting for someone to represent them in the corridors of power in Brisbane.

But the prize for the Dopiest Discoverable Porky Purveyor of The Week jointly goes to our old pals, Astonisher editor Typo Gleeson and his dancing master General Manager Shrek Wilkins. In Friday's Astonisher, Typo followed his riding orders and waxed lyrical about how you-beaut his paper has become after the bit of a tart-up earlier this year, clearly in a pitch to increasingly disenchanted advertisers.

This sort of self-puffery in all newspapers has always been a smoke and mirrors exercise based on highly selective interpretation of independent surveys, but this one is a doozy.

Putting aside the silliest claims (like comparing the paper's claimed numbers with television ratings for entertainment shows, which is a new, and idiotic, one for The Magpie), Typo offers some truly creative but carefully worded conclusions, using very ambiguous figures on the paper's place in the community.

He had this to say about what he claims to be 'the best performing newspaper in Queensland' - god help the others:

'Since the paper re-launched with a new design and format and full colour on February 1, readership is up 6.7% on Saturdays and 5.8% Monday to Friday, according to figures published today by Roy Morgan Research.'

Now, unless Typo means the figures are up on February numbers (a notoriously slow time of the year for papers) then he isn't reading the same Roy Morgan survey figures as The Magpie. It is clear that Typo cannot be talking about the annual nosedive trend, with Monday to Friday readership for March a year ago at 84,000 while this year, March is down a wincing 9000 readers to 75,000. Saturday's edition, the money machine for the Astonisher, is just as stark with the paper's readership from last year's 109,000 down to 95,000... a loss, for you NAPLAN tragics, of a whopping 14,000. Surely the advertisers can expect a drop in ad rates soon, can't they? Don't be hanging from the left one waiting.

Or has The Magpie himself failed NAPLAN and got it wrong. Happy to accept your admonishments, Typo, if The `Pie is wrong on this, he will humbly publish your correction.

The Magpie, ever generous with his free advice, suggests Typo and Shrek should be giving closer attention and investigation to the number 30 ... that is the latest percentage whispered to the old bird that NQN Newspapers are down by on projected revenue demanded by Sydney for this financial year.

But Typo is always good for a guffaw when he tries this sort of guff, with an amazing brand of shameless self-deluding twaddle. 'We're really happy with the latest figures (Why? `Pie) ... it showed people wanted a cleaner, crisper product, and we've delivered that. It also shows they crave quality journalism and they love inspirational stories about North Queenslanders doing well ...'
Chortle snurffle ...Inspirational stories? ... oh, gawdlorlummy wheeze... what, don't tell us, another garden gnome stolen? Another lawn uncut in protest about something or other the council supposedly hasn't done? Another inspirational whinge from Jenny The Talking Mullet Hill? Gasp - stoppit - get away with you. 

A cleaner, crisper product? 'They' crave quality journalism?

Well, 'they' sure do, can't argue with that. And numbers speak louder than words in this grown-ups NAPLAN test, so the cravings look set to continue.

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs' Bar, where the Magpie will seek his own crisp, clean product with whom he will discuss certain vital statistics and personal numbers. And like Typo, The `Pie hopes he will be believed, and it will be too late after lights out to find out he was fibbing.


  1. We crave quality journalism, but certainly don't get it from the Bully!

  2. You could always try the Northern Services Courier....

  3. I too read the Astonisher's overenthusiastic self-congratulatory how-fantastic-am-us piece (although I noticed they swept if off their website pretty quick), and thought it unseemly. I realise it's all about trying to keep the advertisers sweet, but when a news organ becomes its own story, it's not a good look (exception: recent coverage by the New York Times about their paywall in the run-up to its introduction was necessary to keep its customers informed about an important change; there's a difference, is my point). My first reaction on reading it was to think, 'how about you allow another paper to set up shop and compete on equal terms? Til then, not impressed'. One thing I'd been eagerly awaiting, 'Pie, was your parsing of the series on alleged indigenous rorting of government funding that ran over several days. It was so out-of-character for the Astonisher as to be - literally - remarkable, but was sorry to see it didn't rate a mention in your blog. I'd be most interested to know the backstory / real motivation behind it (trying to score a Pulitzer, a last gasp effort by an on-the-ropes EIC, etc.?), if you're privy...