The collated media monitoring figures, current to the start of this week, paint a picture of a year which saw some ministers in constant damage control, while others staked their claims for future elevation.
They contain data on the number of television news appearances by all Weatherill Government ministers, as well as radio interviews for all state parliament MPs.
Jay Weatherill’s two independent ministers – Liberal defector Martin Hamilton-Smith and kingmaker Brock – were contrasting media performers, underlining frequent Opposition claims the latter has been wrapped in cotton wool by a risk-averse Government.
Hamilton-Smith appeared in 67 television news stories, compared to just three for Brock – easily the lowest of any Government minister, including two who only served a handful of weeks on the frontbench all year.
The MP for Frome fared a little better on radio, racking up 27 interviews – but still only seven more than the lowest-ranked Labor minister, Leesa Vlahos, who joined the cabinet mid-January.
Hamilton-Smith evidently feels he has a head for the visual medium, with his radio output (30 interviews) well down on his television appearances.
Of the Labor ministers, Zoe Bettison, Vlahos and Kyam Maher were the quietest performers, racking up 49 (15 TV and 34 radio), 50 (30 and 20) and 65 (44 and 21) appearances respectively.
The outliers were former ministers Gail Gago and Tony Piccolo, who were left stranded on 18 appearances across radio and TV between them when they stood down from cabinet in January – and it’s likely a fair proportion of those appearances were related to their respective resignations.
Unsurprisingly, Premier Jay Weatherill was the most prominent media presence, racking up 572 TV news appearances and 145 radio interviews in the calendar year.
His nearest Labor rival was Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, while likely leadership aspirants Stephen Mullighan and Peter Malinauskas vied for the spotlight with 296 (198 TV and 98 radio) and 230 (160 TV and 70 radio) respectively (although the latter wasn’t appointed to the frontbench until late January, thus missing a few crucial weeks to get some runs on the media board).
On the Liberal side, it is again unsurprising that Opposition Leader Steven Marshall garnered the most radio caps (113), closely followed by frontbencher David Pisoni (100), who is well-known for diligently working the morning radio circuit.
The most media-shy on the Opposition frontbench were one-time deputy leader Steven Griffiths (nine radio interviews) and, surprisingly, Employment spokesman Corey Wingard, a former television presenter who presumably retains a fondness for the visual medium.
Health spokesman Stephen Wade, who wages an almost daily media war on Labor’s ongoing health headaches, clocked up 80 radio interviews in 2016. Many of those would have brought Health Minister Jack Snelling out to respond, likely accounting for a large proportion of his mammoth 213 TV appearances and 57 radio interviews.
Of Labor’s backbenchers, Speaker Michael Atkinson unsurprisingly racked up a respectable 21 radio interviews, as did first-term MP for Giles Eddie Hughes.
A total of 12 Labor and five Liberal backbenchers did not appear on radio at all this year.
The standout Liberal backbencher was Stephan Knoll (long tipped to become a standout Liberal frontbencher), who has been charged with overseeing the Opposition’s audit of superfluous Labor spending, dubbed “Labor Waste Watch”.
While quantity of media appearances is not intrinsically linked to a politician’s performance standards – particularly given some ministers are in more demand than others by dint of their high-profile portfolios – the data can be seen as an snapshot of who is pulling their weight.
Weatherill has reshuffled his cabinet in each of the past four years – three times in January and once after the state election in March 2014.
While his hands are tied to some extent by Labor’s tradition of cabinet appointees being dictated by factional whim, it’s likely some under-performers will be getting nervous at this time of year.
Although, of course, Geoff Brock has nothing to worry about, at least until March 2018.
MPs on the radio
Local News Matters
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