15 Mar 2007

Villification of the Greens' drugs policy

The most focus we've seen on the Greens all NSW campaign came when they announced a policy which was actually outside the generally-accepted political frame: a demand for the general decriminalization of drugs.

The Daily Telegraph's coverage of this, focusing on criticising Labor for even dealing with the Greens, rather than on the Greens themselves, indicates a complete unwillingness to even engage with the policy proposal – presumably because any analysis would lead their readership to some kind of understanding. Both smh.com.au and the Tele give the most hysterical reading of the policy possible, focusing on the decriminalization of methamphetamine ('ice') almost exclusively. The normally relatively sober smh.com.au ran a poll on the topic 'Greens and Ice : Rate the Greens' policy to decriminalise ice'. The SMH website didn't give any prominence to the topic other than this though, and this is not so much a lack of hysteria, so much as a complete lack of interest in the Greens' campaign.

The policy proposed by the Greens, while well outside of the mainstream of political opinion reported in the media, is well inside the mainstream of opinions by researchers on the subject. It's not pro-drug, and only supports decriminalization of drug use, not supply or manufacture. Indeed, I think this actually puts it well within the range of sensible popular opinion. See the Greens' clarification here.

While one can perhaps understand ignoring the Greens while covering the campaign given that it will certainly not be the Greens who form the state government, the overall lack of interest in the Greens by the papers cannot, I think, be explained without some imputation of anti-Greens bias, since fairness and the commercial imperatives of reporting the election would seem to me to imply a greater amount of coverage of the campaign of a party which enjoys such support in the electorate (I cannot find data for any NSW polling – anybody?). Fred Nile's policy pronouncements get more coverage in absolute terms, hence vastly more in relative terms.