The Guardian • Issue #2088

Streaming/TV review:


(ABC iview)

  • by FJK
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2088

Who’s up for a bit over four-and-a-half hours of Liberal and National Party figures talking about each other? Let me try again. Who’s up for an illuminating look at the inner workings of a tumultuous government?

The latter is what the ABC team behind the three-part documentary Nemesis are hoping you’ll sign up for, but it’s obviously the first thing – a gaggle of the Liberal and National Party MPs who took us through ten years of climate change denial, incompetence, opportunistic racism, and pork-barrelling verging on outright corruption, all saying what they thought about the three Prime Ministers the Coalition served up to us. For Guardian readers, a very politically aware segment of the population, there won’t be many surprises.

Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t like Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison much – a fact that has the same astonishment value as the news the sun will rise tomorrow. Abbott was aggressive. Morrison was (and is) an oily and self-interested character even by the standards of Australian parliamentary politics. Some of the women in the Liberal party room felt a bit on the outer. Coalition politicians thought that the ‘stop the boats’ thing was effective, but some of them fretted about it being needlessly cruel and inhumane.   If any of these things come as a surprise to you, you haven’t been paying attention.

For this reviewer, the only real surprise is that Christopher Pyne is just as unlikeable when speaking as he is in still photos. I was prepared to be surprised by his charm and/or wisdom, especially now that he’s out of power and can speak his mind, but no – Pyne is just as nails-down-the-blackboard in these interviews as he was in government. The show doesn’t go into Pyne’s leap into a Defence-related job apparently lined up while he was serving as a Defence-related government minister – that’s a major weakness of Nemesis – it’s just politicians talking about other politicians.

What is there is something Australians are very good at in the area of reality television; dressing up not very much with background music and gripping camera angles.  Nemesis is beautifully, dramatically presented. A lot of ABC viewers probably sneer at the emotion-drums and manipulative camera work when it’s done on The Bachelor, but it’s pretty much the same thing here. It’s just done in an ‘ABC exposé’ style.

What the documentary/talk-fest smacks of is what’s called ‘race calling,’ whereby journalists cover politics as if the only thing that’s really interesting is how well the politicians operated on their own terms. So it is we see Abbott talk about stopping what he called ‘the Carbon tax,’ and Angus Taylor praise him for being “relentless” in doing that quickly, but we aren’t given the list of promises that Abbott broke at lightning pace. We also don’t hear how hard the Coalition worked to make Climate Change worse.

Christopher Pyne gets to give his opinion about what a bad look it was that Abbott only had one woman in his first cabinet, but we don’t hear about the Gonski report. This was an attempt by the Gillard government to introduce some fairness into school funding. Abbott promised that he was on “a unity ticket” with the government about Gonski. When they got into power, Pyne, the new Education Minister, breezily told reporters he hadn’t bothered reading the report, but that it didn’t matter because they were in charge now. These things aren’t in Nemesis. Despite the breathless revelations that all Abbott and Morrison cared about was winning, it’s hard to not think that that’s all the show makers cared about too.

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