This year marks my 10th year of writing opinion pieces for the Dubbo Photo News and Dubbo Weekender.
A couple of one-off articles I wrote in 2009 morphed into the Dubbo Photo News editor asking if I wanted to be part of a regular roster of writers for the proposed weekly magazine-style publication Dubbo Weekender.
He thought I had the ability to string words together (he obviously hadn’t meet any of my high school English teachers) and had an interesting way of looking at current affairs.
I gratefully accepted his offer, at the same time feeling like an imposter in the publishing world. I had no writing training and tend to get tense over mixing tenses. But every man needs a hobby, and surely the world would provide enough topics to comment on?
And provide it did. I’ve written more than 170 articles in the 10 years Panscott Media’s managing editor Tim Pankhurst has allowed me a space in his publications.
He’s never asked me to write on a particular topic or given me a word limit. I’ve only once had an article rejected for printing (about seven years ago), and one recently that had the names removed to avoid potentially libellous comments.
The seed for an article is usually something I have read online or heard on the radio. When interviewed by the media, a politician may make a hypocritical remark that prompts me to do some fact checking. I might find a link on Twitter to an article, or just a comment, that starts me thinking about a current event from a different angle.
Politics has been my main target, as it offers a plethora of source material. The cliché, of course, is that politics is showbusiness for ugly people. As much as I would like to write about policy, it is my weariness of the hypocrisy and hubris of the showbusiness that compels me to write.
In 2011, Scott Morrison urged the then shadow cabinet to use anti-Muslim sentiment as a vote winning strategy. In 2019, now Prime Minister Morrison invited cameras into his church to build up his “man of faith” image as a vote winning strategy. Throw in Morrison’s desire to loosen religious discrimation laws and I had the basis for an article on religious zealotry.
Boasting by the Labor Party of its response to the Global Financial Crisis, its purported ignorance of how such a “cash splash” would create rorting in the home insulation scheme, plus cost overruns in school construction, was the basis for another article.
The taxpayer funded farce that is Question Time has received several dishonourable mentions. Barnaby Joyce has been a one man, hubris fuelled, article creating, bonanza.
We obviously get the politicians we vote for, and governing can be the equivalent of trying to herd cats. But I can’t feel any excitement or satisfaction in the elected leadership of the past decade. The trials of NSW State Labor, the backstabbing and front stabbing of sitting Prime Ministers, factional warfare in both major parties, one seat margins and snowballing government debt, convinces me the country has been rudderless this past ten years – and it shows.
This political showbusiness has delivered a stagnant economy, stubbornly high under-employment and unemployment, no wages growth, and interest rates so low they are immune to Reserve Bank stimulus. With GST revenue now falling as household spending is contracting, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
And remember, last week marked 10 years since the Labor Government emission reductions legislation was voted down by the Coalition and the Greens.
When I write about politics it is to push back against the image of “governing for hard working families” – a façade designed to obscure the true state of the nation. The mainstream media is doing an ever weakening job in holding government to account. Murdoch owned media is agenda driven and cannot be taken seriously by anyone with the power of thought. The former Fairfax papers, now under the control of the Channel 9 media empire, are past the point of no return towards the same terminus of tabloid partisanship.
Mainstream journalists like to curry favour with favoured politicians in hope of receiving the next strategic government leak, meaning the Canberra Bubble compromises journalist integrity.
This is why I pay little attention to the mainstream media. I use Twitter to access news and articles outside the mainstream media, by following citizen journalists, academics and independent media outlets who are unafraid to rock the boat. They are thought provoking and frank – everything the mainstream media is not – and keep me interested when politician induced weariness sets in.
There has been a plethora of topics to write about, but what strikes me is how topics have repeated, and not in a good way.
The banking industry threw away its reputation as a solid institution when banking became bonus driven, and the size of the scandal now seems more newsworthy than its occurrence.
A rugby league or cricket season barely passes without a “night club incident”, racism allegation or financial scandal of some sought, and these have provided me with several articles.
The Olympics too have caused me to write several articles, highlighting the outrageous profiteering by the International Olympic Committee and the onerous financial burdens they place on the host country. The International Football Federation draws similar critique.
Every year, more than 50 women die of domestic violence in this country, and this number will be reached again this year. Politicians and the mainstream media are criminally mute on this subject.
The Future Submarine Project (the greatest boondoggle in Australian history) has prompted two articles so far due to government vote buying and continuing stratospheric cost blow outs.
And of course, the failed state that is the United States of America, with its rigged electoral system, perpetual gun violence and petulant man-child in the Oval Office gave me many articles on why we are fixated with that country, and why we seem to do everything we can to become like it.
I once posed the question whether an atheist will ever be the President of the United States – the answer is no. I dissected the nonsensical evangelical beliefs of Scott Morrison, and once labelled Billy Graham an anti-Semite (he is on tape discussing the “Jewish problem” with Richard Nixon). I discussed Israel Folau’s clerical thuggery and demands for the secular to surrender. I have written that divine warrants claimed by two different parties mean there will never be a two-state solution in the Holy Land. If religion is going to demand respect it can’t expect to be exempt from scrutiny.
Am I disheartened by the repeating topics? Yes. I don’t want to be, but it does show there are many factors preventing us from maturing as a society, and many beliefs and people, actively getting in the way.
Writing about this helps me to mentally process the chaos of the modern world, knowing full well that not everything has a solution.
What I hope to do is provoke thought and enquiry, to encourage critical thinking and in some very small way fight against the devolution of society.
By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.