Flat White

Journos are only human, so forgive us our press passes

20 November 2018

7:48 PM

20 November 2018

7:48 PM

Journalists are human.

That is an undisputed fact, though many in Canberra – not necessarily politicians- regard them as the spawn of hell.

“Never paid his rent on time, never cut the grass’ are familiar complaints from landlords who rent to members of the Gallery, who, in their turn simply insist that, unlike Canberran landlords, there are more important things to do like cutting the grass on Sunday afternoon.

That journalists are human was proven last week when former radio man Mike Welsh revealed that ABC political reporter Andrew Probyn had gone on air to protest the ACT government’s abolishing some special school bus services, including, it appeared, the little Probyns’ bus service.

On air, Probyn called him ‘Andre’ but such is the nature of Canberra’s media class, that his voice was immediately recognised, wrote Welsh, and ‘Andre’ was outed as ‘Andrew’.

Indonesian journalists have the same drive and determination as Australian ones, and the same devotion to their wives and children. Which is why it was especially gratifying that a much respected, elder man of the media chose to give me his thoughts on the current topic du jour, which the Australian media has been excited about for at least since the Wentworth by-election – the proposed moving of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

So was Indonesia really so affronted by this proposal

And how would it really affect our bilateral relationship if actioned?

One thing about the upper classes in countries that have previously been colonised by Europeans is that they understand the subtleties and ironies of realpolitik.

I can feel my friend – let’s call him Pak Christanto, it isn’t his name – grinning all the way from Jakarta to Canberra, a clove cigarette swinging from his fingers.

“You are a sovereign nation,’ he says, “a rich, sovereign nation. My President said what he was expected to say. But your Australian media is now, how shall I say, keeping the issue alive. Honestly, we do not have the right to veto any move a sovereign nation takes unless it threatens our security. And this clearly does not. It is a matter for Australians. But it is a useful ball to kick at the moment.”

Pak, I can tell, is still grinning. I can almost smell the cigarette.

“You know, we are sometimes like Semar, the trickster in our wayang kulit, the puppet show. We can seldom resist making a little mischief here, a little there, just to see what happens. “When Australia suddenly – no warning – ended beef exports, what do you think happened?

“People lost their jobs because hotels could no longer keep them on, food became too expensive – by food I mean meat, because it is not only foreigners who like meat, we Indonesians eat it too.

“If tourists cannot get the food they want to eat, they will go somewhere else on holiday, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia. But don’t get this wrong. We like Australia, we like to have you as friends. It is just that all politicians must please their constituencies. And journalists must get a story.”

So there we are. Journalists are human.

It’s just that, like the ABC’s Indonesia correspondent, they don’t always understand that politics is a two-way street. Just like journalism. Forgive us our press passes.

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