‘WARNING: This book contains painful truths for journalists and politicians. It provides a pitiless, first-hand exposure of the trivialisation of our national discourse by the media, aided and abetted by the political classes.’ ALAN KOHLER
Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy by Lindsay Tanner
“After spending much of my life dedicated to the serious craft of politics, I have to admit that I am distressed by what it is becoming. Under siege from commercial pressures and technological innovation, the media are retreating into an entertainment frame that has little tolerance for complex social and economic issues.
In turn, politicians and parties are adapting their behaviour to suit the new rules of the game — to such an extent that the contest of ideas is being supplanted by the contest for laughs.
The two key rules that now govern the practice of Australian politics are:
(1) Look like you’re doing something; and
(2) Don’t offend anyone who matters.
These imperatives are a direct consequence of the interaction between media coverage and political activity — the aggregated outcome of countless individuals acting rationally in pursuit of their own interests. The sideshow syndrome, the overall result of these actions, is a direct threat to the nation’s well-being.” Lindsay Tanner
When Lindsay Tanner resigned in 2010 as the ALP’s federal minister for finance and member for Melbourne, having had an 18-year career as an MP, he notably managed to retire with his reputation for integrity intact. In Sideshow, he lays bare the relentless decline of political reporting and political behaviour that occurred during his career. Part memoir, part analysis, and part critique, Sideshow is a unique book that tackles the rot which has set in at the heart of Australian public life.
Lindsay Tanner was the minister for finance and deregulation in the Rudd–Gillard governments, and held the seat of Melbourne for the ALP from 1993 to 2010. Having retired from politics at the 2010 federal election, he is now a special adviser to Lazard Australia, and a vicechancellor’s fellow and adjunct professor at Victoria University. Mr Tanner is the author of several previous books, including Crowded Lives (2003) and Open Australia (1999).
‘Lindsay Tanner does us all a service in underlining the inadequacies inherent in the relationship between politicians and the media. These circumstances degrade public life and diminish our future. It must be changed.’ — Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH, former Prime Minister of Australia
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.