Malcolm Turnbull has called for less spin in politics, savaged the negativity of public debate and criticised lazy media during a public address at the Woodford Folk Festival.
A large crowd – including former prime minister Bob Hawke - packed the Concert Stage area of the festival to hear the shadow communications minister and one-time leader of the federal Liberal party.
“It's not a 24-hour news cycle, it's a 60-second news cycle now, it's instantaneous,” said Mr Turnbull.
“It has never been easier to get away with telling lies. It has never been easier to get away with the glib one liner.”
The prolific tweeter acknowledged he took a share of the blame in being drawn into negativity and the “game of politics”, but said politicians and the media were wrong if they thought they were “helping battlers” by using one-line sound bites.
“They are not respecting them, they are treating them with contempt,” he said, to a round of applause.
“It is our job above all in politics to tackle the big issues and to explain them, and have the honesty to say to people 'there are no easy solutions here'.”
He called on any web entrepreneurs in the audience to establish a “rigourous” fact-checking website, saying all public figures should be held to account.
“It is a disgrace how much misinformation has been got away with.”
Mr Turnbull said federal Treasurer Wayne Swan continued to accuse the Coalition of voting against measures to protect Australia from the global financial crisis in late 2008, when in fact it voted for them. Mr Turnbull was Liberal leader at the time.
“That never gets reported, because the media has got to the point where they are so cynical about politics that they do not expect politicians to tell the truth,” he said.
“So if politicians are not being held to account, why would they bother? What is the incentive for them to tell the truth?
“Well, of course, there should always be an incentive to tell the truth, which is doing right thing by the electorate.
“But truth-telling and responsibility have to be a key undertaking, a New Year's resolution for each and every one of us in our federal and state parliaments in 2013,” said Mr Turnbull.
He said the world was changing rapidly, with profound challenges ahead of us.
“We have to ask ourselves this question: in the face of a converging world ... how are we going to equip ourselves to deal with that?”