Last week NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet went head-to-head with one of Australia’s true masters of media manipulation, Australia Rugby League Commission and Racing NSW head Peter V’landys.
Probably not a great idea at the best of times, but very questionable with an election a little over six months away.
At stake is a $250 million investment in sports stadiums throughout Sydney involving ‘suburban’ stadium upgrades.
Needless to say, the NRL is keen to have the NSW taxpayer front costs that the Rugby League will benefit from and with an election around the corner, Perrottet would rather that investment focused on marginal seats like Penrith.
Apparently a handshake deal between the pair in which Perrottet promised to make the investment became null-and-void because Perrottet had decided to give the money to ‘flood victims’ instead.
V’landys is now screaming blue murder and threatening to move the NRL Grand Final to Queensland.
The problem for Perrottet is that the ‘flood victims’ angle feels so convenient that it lacks all authenticity. Rather than admit to simply not being able to afford a massive investment of questionable return, it feels like he’s gone through the NSW Government balance sheet and tried to highlight the one thing that might trump the ‘bread and circuses’ of shiny new stadiums.
Even if his claim is true, nobody believes him and if he’d just fronted with a ‘we can’t afford it anymore because our main income from housing stamp duty is falling like a stone along with the housing market’, would have been far more convincing. Now he looks dishonest next to a man with a blatant vested interest who plans to take one of NSW most loved events to Queensland.
So, how do we know that spin has gone too far?
- Is it true?
Seems silly to say, but lying is never a good idea and as our previous PM discovered is uncovered eventually.
- Is it selectively true?
While it is true that both the stadium upgrades and the flood victim payouts come from the same $115 billion NSW budget, it seems doubtful that it’s a direct swap. This is textbook spin with just enough truthiness to be defensible, but in this case, not enough to convince anyone.
- Does it sound true?
This is the territory of the mythical ‘pub test’ in which truth, even truthiness is no match for what half pissed blokes think. It’s a sad fact that how things sound and look can be more important in public opinion than how they really are. In many circumstances no amount of detail supporting a fact can break past a strong personal story or a laconic farmer in peril from a raging river. However, you can stretch this too far, and in this case the NSW Premier did. We felt manipulated and V’landys won….again.
What are some examples of where spin has gone too far?