Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy by Lindsay Tanner

by |April 5, 2011

‘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

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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. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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Comments

  • MARY CAMPBELL

    April 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

    LOOKING FORWARD TO READING THIS BOOK.

    READ BETRAYED AVIDLY AND REALISED WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FIRST OF ALL BEHIND THE SCENES IN GOVT. IN NSW AND NOW SOME MORE INFORMATIION AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. LEAVES ONE WITH A FEELING OF ALMOST DESPERATION FOR OUR WONDERFUL COUNTRY.
    WILL BE GETTING MY COPY SOON ………MC

  • John Byrne

    April 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I can’t wait to read this book. Lyndsay Tanner was head and shoulders above everyone else in the Federal Parliament, and should have been Prime Minister. Alas, the present political system doesn’t allow cream to rise to the top, evidenced by the dregs of Tony Abbott who, as leader of the opposition has degraded the political process more than anyone else in living memory.

  • Serge Knezevic

    April 29, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Lindsay Tanner was a great loss to the ALP and the country when he decided to leave parliament. I am pleased to see that we can still benefit from his wisdom with his new book. I can’t wait to read it. I only hope our present leaders read it as well.

    Mark my words, when the Gillards and Abbotts are asked by journalists “have you read Lindsay Tanner’s book?” They will respond with…”I do not comment on the past, I am looking to the future (moving forward (sic)).

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