Source: Wikimedia Commons
Australian journalism is in trouble. News media ownership is concentrated in too few hands and day after day ‘news’ stories are published that are little more than lobbying on behalf of one side of politics or the other.
The result? A rancorous and hostile political environment in which politicians are almost encouraged to put power struggles ahead of good policy.
La Trobe University’s journalism program can’t change that overnight, but we’re committed to turning out graduates that understand what fourth-estate journalism means and that have the skills to ‘keep the bastards honest’.
Launching the Backbench Insiders project is one step along that road. We asked second-year journalism students to profile backbench MPs to uncover their strengths, weaknesses and their views on public policy.
The shocking result was that many of these MPs wanted to be heard, and wanted to talk to citizens about how they were representing their electorates and the nation. You can read the result via the links below. The stories were written and edited by second-year students.
However, together they say one thing – the fourth-estate journalists of tomorrow are coming and the old guard better get out of the way.
Rob Burgess teaches journalism at La Trobe University.
Here’s a list of the backbenchers we’ve profiled so far. Please note that for the purposes of this section, we’ve defined a backbencher as anyone who is not a minister or shadow minister (ie anyone not on the frontbench).
1. Craig Thomson: A career clouded in controversy
2. Mark Dreyfus: making his mark
3. Steve Ciobo: Betting on tourism
4. Wyatt Roy: The ‘little’ boy who could
5. Jamie Briggs: The future of the Liberal Party?
6. Melissa Parke: Labor’s humanitarian hero?
7. Ed Husic: Helping Chifley connect
8. Kelly O’Dwyer: Our own ‘Iron Lady’?
9. Tony Smith: Costello’s man in Canberra?
10. Sharon Bird: Labor’s quiet achiever
11. Craig Kelly: A political rookie with vision
12. John Alexander: The people’s champion
13. Jill Hall: Allowing seniors to show their worth
14. Barry Haase: An enduring commitment to the bush
15. Amanda Rishworth: Fighting sexual exploitation
16. Josh Frydenberg: disability champion
17. Tony Zappia: politics and power…lifting
18. Kelvin Thomson: An environmental crusader
19. John Forrest: Mr Pipeline
20. Richard Marles: unionist, politician…or both?
21. Karen Andrews: engineering a better future
22. Deborah O’Neill: Gosford’s education crusader
23. Harry Jenkins: a man of the people
24. Sharmon Stone: cultural warrior
25. Rob Mitchell: Fostering new growth
26. Mike Kelly: From soldier to politician
27. Russell Matheson: Born to lead
28. Darren Chester: still running for Gippsland
29. Luke Simpkins: hard work the key to success
30. Kirsten Livermore: To choose or not to choose Kevin Rudd?
31. Alex Hawke: Turn right for Mitchell
32. Andrew Laming: The Bear Grylls of the backbench?
33. Dennis Jensen: Honesty is the best policy
34. Steve Irons: Removing the badge of honour
35. Joel Fitzgibbon: No stranger to controversy
36. Alan Tudge: A true believer in education
37. Anna Burke: Community connection is the key
38. Chris Hayes: Canberra’s count
39. Paul Fletcher: Anti-NBN warrior
40. Philip Ruddock: Staring down the critics