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The Australian finally jumps the shark

By James Moylan

Like the majority of Aussies I do not mind too much when the editorial slant of a newspaper colours the nature of their reporting. We all expect The Australian and The Fin Review to be right of centre. We expect The Age and the SMH to be middle of the road. We turn to The Guardian when we want to read something written by someone wearing a heart on their sleeve.

However even with a restricted variety of ideological flavours available, the news-stand in Australia has always been a pretty reliable place. Regardless of the particular flavour of your newspaper it still reported pretty much the same spectrum of ‘news’ as all the others. Some had a little bit more politics and some had a little more populist pap, but it was still pretty much the same ‘news’.

However today I picked up The Australian and discovered it was simply impossible to read. I found I couldn’t believe half of what I was being told and most of the stories just didn’t look like ‘news’.

No I am not being histrionic. Way back when I was a lad I spent a fair bit of time working as a journalist. So I am well able to spot what a ‘news’ story should look like. I even know a little bit about how editorial decisions are made. And at first glance the whole front page of The Australian just didn’t contain any ‘news’.

To ensure I wasn’t just having a bad head day I visited the front page of The Age, The Courier Mail, and The Guardian.

The Courier Mail led with an opinion piece about the ‘Housing bubble at risk of popping’. The next was about a report on toxic chemicals being found in the groundwater of a Qld town, then a grisly little story about human remains being found in a croc.

The Age led with the breaking news that a body has been sighted in the search for a missing Aussie in Rio (along with quotes from a tearful girlfriend), followed by political analysis about Turnbull slowly losing his popularity, point by point, then a story about email scammers, then one about misogyny in the Army. Under this was another opinion piece full of criticism about the way in which left wing protesters have been conducting themselves recently.

The Guardian featured articles about the big rainfall event being experienced all across Eastern Australia, shark attacks, floods in Europe, Bernie Sanders, and a sick Muhammad Ali.

So it was not the whole of the press. It seemed that all the other newspapers were still reporting much the same news in their own particular flavour. They all contained a few ‘Opinion pieces’ but these were a mixed ideological bag. Most significantly these ‘Opinion pieces’ were readily distinguishable from the ‘news’.

Then I turned back to the Australian. Under the headline ‘Activists ‘distorting’ reef data’, the lead story described how the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event has been entirely overstated by virtually all the scientists and that the destruction of 20% of the reef was really no big thing at all. The next ‘story’ bemoaned how the ‘Lawfare’ being waged by a bunch of green activists in Queensland have hounded the poor billionaire coal mine developer Gautam Adani to such an extent that he might have to abandon his proposed Adani coalmine in central Queensland. Following this was (yet another excusive) story devoted to describing how: ‘A crackdown on payments to unions from employers threatens millions of dollars that flow to the ALP.’ Then a piece about how a big church will stop cooperating with the government entirely if they dare to legalise gay marriage.

Then at last the fifth and sixth articles actually did refer to events in the election campaign and so might be typified as ‘news’. However instead of reporting on the $160 mill of spending on the arts that was announced by Labor The Australian decided that the real story was that ‘Leaders announce more spending’ (which was obviously unsustainable). A second election story was about how the Labor Party and the LNP are ganging up to defeat the Greens using a ‘preference pact’ – which at first blush seems a tad unlikely considering that in the new voting system there are no longer any preferences to be given to anyone.

Then a story entitled ‘Red flags all over Safe Schools’ which was about how the Safe Schools anti-bullying Campaign is actually a front for the Marxist corruption of our youth.

Other ‘articles’ included ‘A dream to light darkened nights’ which was all about how ‘Gautam Adani wants to bring Indian villagers into the bright 21st century.’ How a ‘Vote for Labor will maim miners’. Also how ‘Word police are on the beat’, and it’s an ‘Exciting time to take offence’. Plus two additional rabidly ideological screeds entitled: ‘Reports of reef’s death exaggerated’ and ‘Senate shaping to deny mandate’.

I can cope with one or two politically charged articles. I do not mind being presented with a slant on the news. But most of these stories are simply not ‘news’. Most of these stories are pure propaganda pieces dressed up as ‘news’. These articles cherry pick information to make an ideological point that often runs counter to both common sense and reality. For example: to assert that there has been little damage to the reef when everyone in Australia has seen the footage of hundreds of square kilometres of bleached and dying coral, in not just one but two articles on the front page, whilst also featuring an article about how an Indian Coal Billionaire is actually entirely preoccupied with the health and well-being of the poor, is simply perverse. I can suspend my disbelief when I am watching the Lord of the Rings but I should not have to do the same when trying to read a ‘newspaper’!

So I will now simply give up reading The Australian. It has finally jumped the shark. It is now apparent that the editorial team have entirely given up on trying to report news and have instead decided to become a part of the political circus. Being a backer of a political viewpoint is perfectly acceptable but The Australian has finally morphed into being a public relations outlet working for the LNP, the far right wing, and the fossil fuel sector. It no longer resembles a newspaper in anything but shape and layout.

In The Australian coal is good for humanity, teachers are disreputable communists who want to corrupt children, the Great Barrier Reef is in wonderful condition, evil unions are trying to impoverish workers, gays are out to destroy the traditional family, climate change does not exist, and there is no housing bubble. In other words the editors of The Australian are now deliberately tailoring its content so as to pander to the bigotries of a very small, very right-wing, readership.

The editors at The Australian are able to abandon the vast majority of Aussies because, unlike most newspapers in our country, The Australian doesn’t have to make money. This champion of market forces has been running at a loss for years (which is entirely understandable considering the sort of crap that is being retailed on its front page). But the US parent corporation remains willing to bear these eternal losses because they understand that The Australian is not really a ‘news’ paper. They spend this money to support an effective Advertising and Public Relations outfit. In fact they keep supporting The Australian precisely because it is no longer a ‘news’ paper.

But for the life of me I can’t work out why anyone else would support or read the rag.



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  1. Peter F

    I bought the first edition with some optimism. I have long since run out of optimism, it being replaced by despair years ago.

  2. Backyard Bob

    […]considering that in the new voting system there are no longer any preferences to be given to anyone.

    Can someone explain this to me? I think I’m missing something.

  3. flohri1754

    Unfortunately you have classified THE AUSTRALIAN in a nutshell ….. too bad that they appropriated the name and have misused it so badly …..

  4. Garth

    ByB, I think the author must have misunderstood the changes made. Firstly, they only apply to the senate and secondly, even now there are still preferences in the senate it’s just that voters can exercise more control over where they go when voting above the line.

  5. Ken Butler

    I don’t buy any Murdoch propaganda rags

  6. denisc

    “I don’t buy any Murdoch” at all is my goal.

    I don’t buy any of the obvious ones, the aust, tele, foxtel etc etc and am slowly discovering others where murdoch has his despicable fingers and skipping them as well.

  7. crypt0

    murdoch press is nothing if not predictable.
    That has been the case for as long as I can remember.

  8. Barrab

    BYB and Garth,

    The full quote from the article is as follows”

    A second election story was about how the Labor Party and the LNP are ganging up to defeat the Greens using a ‘preference pact’ – which at first blush seems a tad unlikely considering that in the new voting system there are no longer any preferences to be given to anyone.

    In the Senate there are no preference deals available to the candidates and parties. This has always been the case in the House of Reps, all they can do is provide the “How to Vote” cards and hope you follow them when voting. This is where the preference deal can be used, that is both major parties state that you should put the greens last on this ‘vital’ piece of paper.

    VOTERS make up your own mind, the parties have had way too much control over the voting system for too long!!!.

  9. Carol Taylor

    To quote Mungo MacCallum: I only buy The Australian when I want to know what the enemy is thinking.

  10. Clean livin

    I WAS an fan of the Australian from day 1. Even had it delivered to Singapore for 2 yrs whilst serving in the navy.

    Gave it up permanently a few years back because of the Murdoch directed crap.

    Cancelled my subscription by phone, and they asked why?

    I told them, and this particular gentlman agreed with my reasoning. A load of right wing criap!

    It seems only the journo side ofthe outfit is prepared to sell its sole.

    I suggest, before your covered in BS, give it up!

  11. Möbius Ecko

    It doesn’t matter if anybody reads the paper or not, that’s not the point of keeping it going. It’s headlines, articles and opinions get reported on every day by TV and radio, with the ABC, the most trusted news source, being the outlet that recirculates Murdoch propaganda more than any other.

  12. Jaquix

    Mobius you are correct – and the ABC has recently shown a definite lurch towards the Coalition – Ive been analysing their headlines, content, Fact Check choices. Could it be that Malcolm is meddling (he has form) or new CEO Guthrie is showing her Murdoch background? Or both.

  13. Chris

    I gave up buying The Australian years ago.

    If Rupie wants me to know what he’s thinking he can send me a note…

  14. Garth

    @jaquix…the regurgitation of Murdoch rags on the ABC started long ago. It’s been happening for years on ABC24 mornings as well as programs that used to have some credibility, like The Drum. It’s too early to tell if Guthrie will further push the ABC to the conservative side but the loss of Fact Check (and it’s deterioration during this campaign) don’t bode well. I have never understood why the ABC regurgitates Murdoch propaganda so can only come to the conclusion that there is managerial/editorial pressure to do so. I loved my ABC and am mourning it’s demise.

  15. Peteroc

    Trust me, James, I respect people who contribute and don’t want to be perverse. But how can it take until 4 June 2016 to work out that The Australian is a rag not worthy of even a casual glance if walking past a copy? I chose several years ago now that I couldn’t and wouldn’t any longer support in any way papers I had previously read regularly viz The Oz and The Courier Mail. I do read more than my fair share of all sorts of pieces from a wide range of sources – yes, your article here is one of them! I believe I am well and broadly informed and my outlook on life in far sunnier than if I was still consuming the drudge you describe. Best wishes in this new stage of your life – you’ll love it!! ??

  16. Stuart Beatty

    Many years ago I was sitting on a tram, and the person opposite me was reading The Australian. I could read the headlines on the front page. I had already read the news of the day (probably the Age), and I was astonished to see the Australian headlines all referring to the same stories, but ALL focussing on the financial aspect, no matter what the story. Every headline was money related. At that time in my life I had no opinion on the Australian until that moment. Suddenly I had an opinion!

  17. LOVO

    Apart from ‘ Megalomania’ what do Gina and Rupert have in common? ………………my really great dislike of ’em!!! 😡 ……by using their money to try and manipulate Australians and Australia, they have become enemies of Australia 😯 ……One wonders whether the Indian fella will work out that Gina unloaded an ‘stranded asset’ on him and give her curry…..and as for Rupe’s, I hope the cleaners take him to the Hall (or something like that 😛 )

  18. MichaelW

    Many years ago when contracting I had a job to do where the Daily Telelaugh is printed. Had a meeting with the manager in his office, he was reading the SMH. Asked him why he was reading the Herald and not the Telelaugh? His reply: “I don’t read crap”.

  19. Jack Russell

    I haven’t read newspapers for years. The freebies that get tossed on my front lawn are repurposed as floor mats for the dog’s food and water bowls. Gardening Australia is a nice magazine. Please don’t tell me Muckrake owns it – I’d miss it.

  20. Gangey1959

    The last time I utilised voldemurcoch’s “orstayleeun” I had to read my backside in the mirror….

  21. wam

    dear bob,
    Despite above the line being a cop out from personal preferences to party allocated preferences
    (which allowed ‘deals’)
    the boys of the big 2, the loonies plus the slimy X. calculated that the excess to quota will be allocated by the voter not by the party. (I saw a comedy skit where the instructions, the colour of the voting slip and the numbering of the candidates became @%%*^)) oh wtf very funny I hope we are not paying antony green anything)
    When the excess is calculated at only a small % of a first vote(surplus over quota plus surplus) and it eventually meets the minor party votes at a 100% distributed in the same way as the reps this allows the election of loonies muir, lehonhjelm and day.
    With a bit of luck we could have a couple of ‘harradines’ in lambe and lazarus to balance the senate probably a majority of liberals who will need these two and xenophon to cut labor and the loonies out of the loop?? The senate, if it all goes to plan, will make it hard for anyone at the median wage or lower.
    Good time to be old and comfortable enough to help the poor pensioner friends with an occasional roast to supplement their sausages. It will still be impossible to convince them that labor manages the economy and the libs blunder along.
    ps I struggle to read any paper but the Australian has never had a fair journalist or editor since it began and, like cassidy’s insiders’ panel, has only boltians on every page. I have been guilty of doing the crossword on planes free copies but, the howard drivel was such that I haven’t bought one this century

  22. helvityni

    Garth, I turned ABC on early this morning to see how the rains and storms are behaving. Both presenters were brown-skinned, WOW.Is this our multi-cultural ABC! I see it getting whiter and ‘ righter’ by the day…

    I gave up on the Australian years ago, still occasionally bought the Weekend Oz for the articles on Arts, book reviews…not anymore.

  23. Pingback: The Australian finally jumps the shark — The AIM Network | SUSAN'S SPACE

  24. Stephen Brailey

    Do not buy any Murdoch papers ever even to find out what flavour crap they are peddling this month. Cancell your foxtel and watch sports at the pub…beer will be provided by a nice person behind the bar. Finally, stop buying movies from fox at $24.99 a pop. The only way to kill the Murdoch beast is to starve it of funds till it implodes!

  25. guest

    Reading the headlines in The Australian is bad enough, but looking more closely at the details is a nightmare. Two examples of propaganda on the front page (June 4-5) are “Activists ‘distorting’ data on the reef” and “‘Lawfare’ risks Adani exit’.

    The reef article written by climate change writer Graham Lloyd – read climate change sceptic – and Sid Maher, make use of statements by Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef marine Park Authority. That Authority is a Government committee formed to advise Government on management of the Reef. Of course it is reluctant to take any criticism from anyone.

    Like Malcolm Turnbull, Reichelt prefers to look at positive statements of the kind made by Maria Bohmer of the World heritage Committee, who apparently said that the Reef was a “world class example of reef management.’

    Also mentioned is the UN assessment, which Government was accused of censoring, was complimentary. But Reichelt does not tell us whether or not criticisms were censored.

    But of course there are critics (‘activists’) such as Professor Terry Hughes of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. Reichelt says the task-force does not ‘tell the whole story’ and its maps are ‘misleading’. He says the story is ‘frightening enough’ without ‘the need to dress them up’. So, how frightening is the story?

    He quotes a number of statistics which suggest distortion. He himself says the ‘overall mortality rate’ is 22% from Cape York to just north of Cairns. He goes on to say, ‘Seventy-five percent of the Reef will come out in few months time as recovered.” An interesting speculation. How does he know this? And why is he not discussing the whole reef?

    He criticises Dr Tim Flannery, who said the Reef is ‘dying before our eyes’ and he had seen his father die and knew about death. This was just ‘dramatic’, ‘theatrical’ and ‘speculative’, according to Reichelt.

    He rejects reports based on leaked documents that improving water quality would cost $16bn – rejected by ‘a committee’ (the Authority?) and ‘taken totally out of context’ in media reports. ‘Out of context’ is always a good out – we do not have the context.

    The article finishes with concerns expressed by tour operators that ‘some marine scientists’ were highlighting their ‘personal political beliefs’ to ‘lobby for increased funding in an election year.’ That is, they are ‘activists’,you know, apparently just like those IPCC people seeking funds based on the ‘scam’ of global warming.

    I have looked at this article to demonstrate the to-ing and fro-ing and contradictions that go on in the Murdoch press, where opposing views might be expressed (for ‘balance’), but later might find it convenient to say in the end that they always said that there is global warming even though they published mainly sceptical opinions. So here, the Reef is doing just fine.

    The article about Adani and the projected Carmichael mine is backed by what amounts to a full page article in the Inquirer section. It highlights Gautam Adani’s dream of providing electricity for all of India (pop. now 1.3 bn). The author, Michael McKenna, tells us the mine will provide thousands of jobs in Qld – which we know is not true. He says it will provide 60m tonnes of coal per year. He does not say the mine is supposed to last for 60 years. Nor does he say how big it is:10 times the area of Sydney Harbour. McKenna hopes it will be the ‘catalyst’ for more coal mines and increased investment with India..

    Strangely, he admits the world is grappling with climate change to ‘wean itself off fossil fuels’ and the Reef is ‘suffering its worst recorded coral bleaching’. Has he spoken with Reichelt about this? He says nothing about the effects on climate change of burning millions of tonnes of coal per year. It is all about the money!

    But he quotes businessman and environmentalist Geoff Cousins who reminds us of the effects of global warming.

    McKenna, however, has a sad story to tell, about a man in a village in India who says he cannot find a wife because of the lack of electricity in the village. There may be some truth in that, but to ignore the more concerning effects of continuing to burn coal is ridiculous Besides that, there is light available quite cheaply in the form of solar light – and solar power for cooking. It is already happening in India.

    Adani knows this. His business also involves solar power – and by 2020 coal will make up 60% of India’s supply of power, the rest is solar. So how long will India be depending on coal from the Carmichael mine?

    McKenna’s article finishes with a plea from Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister for Power, who says: “Europe and America and Australia have messed up the world and the planet…” and is asking apparently, that India be allowed to do the same. They want to lift the poor out of poverty, but at a cost, as they know.

    So there it is. Australia is to help India ‘mess up’ the world. And why? For the money – otherwise Oz is left with stranded assets – millions of tonnes of coal no one wants over the long term.

    Again, this is propaganda. It is about supporting the Coalition and the fossil fuels industry in an election campaign.

    Reading this propaganda, knowing what we know, is a disturbing experience – frightening in its implications.

  26. diannaart

    James Moylan – I enjoyed your article….. but…. it is halfway through 2016 and NOW you realise The Australian has jumped the shark?

    Better now than never, I guess.

  27. cornlegend

    As even those with an interest in politics seem confused, imagine the average voter
    To help his is ABC Antony Greens how to

    How do I Complete my Senate Ballot Paper (the large white one)

    The instructions are that you should number at least 6 boxes above the line (ATL), or at least 12 boxes below the line (BTL).

    Do I have to stop at 6 ATL or 12 BTL preferences?

    No. The suggested number is a minimum. You can number as many squares as you like, and your preferences will count for every valid preference completed.

    Should I keep numbering beyond 6/12?

    The most effective way to vote is to express a preference for every candidate who has any chance of being elected. That ensures that your vote will be live and taking part in the choice between candidates for the final vacancy. If your ballot paper runs out of numbers and ‘exhausts’ its preferences, it will not take part in choosing the last candidate elected.

    Can I just vote 1 above the line?

    For the last 32 years, a single ‘1’ above the line has been formal, with the ballot paper then taking on the full group preference ticket of the chosen party. The new system has abolished the tickets and now a minimum six preferences is the instruction for completing an above the line vote.

    However, with 95% of the electorate having voted with a single ‘1’ for three decades, requiring six preferences had the potential to create a huge increase in informal voting caused by voters not being aware of the new instructions.

    To avoid increasing informal voting, a generous ‘savings’ provision has been included in the act. Any ballot paper with a valid first preference above the line will be ‘saved’ from being informal. Such a vote will count for the candidates of the chosen party and for no other candidate or party on the ballot paper. A ballot with a valid first preference will be valid for every further preference completed, so a 1,2 is also formal, a 1,2,3 is formal, as is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and so on.

    Some people have been unwisely saying just voting ‘1’ is good enough. This is a mistaken view.

    The Senate is not like the lower house where the contest almost always comes down to Labor versus the Coalition. In the House it is always the candidates from parties with the lowest votes that get excluded and have their preferences distributed.

    The more complex counting system used in the Senate means that in certain circumstances, the party with the most votes can be excluded and end up having its surplus to quota preferences distributed to the other parties.

    Do not be confused with ‘just vote 1’ strategies used at single member electorate contests in NSW and Queensland. In the Senate the most effective vote always has preferences, even if you are voting for one of the major parties.

    If you only vote ‘1’, and your party has a surplus beyond the number of elected candidates, then your vote would ‘exhaust’ and play no part in determining which of the remaining candidates and parties win the final vacancies to be filled.

    In the Senate your vote can play a part in electing more than one party, so make sure you vote for more than one party.

    Do I Have to Number all the Squares Above the Line to put the major Parties last?

    Yes. The AEC will only count preferences you fill in. With the abolition of preference tickets, parties can no longer fill in preferences for you. If you want to put the major parties last, or any other party last, you have to number every other square.

    However, putting a particular party last means you might end up randomly voting for a bunch of parties you have never heard of. If you think it is wise to give your preferences to a candidate or party you have never heard of, that is your choice.

    The best strategy is always to number parties above the line, or candidates below the line, in the order that you would want to see them elected, and to number all the parties or candidates you have a view on. If you also want to randomly number unknown candidates and parties, that is your choice.

    Can I Vote Above and Below the Line?

    The instructions say to vote above OR below the line. If you mix and match the options, your vote may or may not be informal depending on what you fill in and how this interacts with formality rules.

    The Electoral Act contains a savings provisions so that if a ballot paper is marked above and below the line, it can be saved if it is formal either below the line on its own, or if below the line is informal, if it is formal above the line on its own.

    Under the old Senate system where you had to number every square below the line, I used to say that also voting ‘1’ above the line gave your ballot paper an insurance policy if you mucked up numbering 1 to 110 below the line.

    The options under the new system are so simple I would no longer encourage voting above and below the line. Make your choice, 1-6 for parties above the line, or 1-12 below the line. Above all, don’t fill in a sequence that crosses the black line.

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