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Jennifer, who has a PhD, has worked as an academic and a scholar, but now works at little of both her careers. She has published short stories in several anthologies, academic papers and book chapters, frequently on the topic of human rights. Her interests and writing are wide ranging, including cultural analysis. Jennifer has written for On Line Opinion, Suite 101 and ABC’s Drum Unleashed. Jennifer is well-known for her long-running blog No Place for Sheep: an eclectic blog that covers politics, society, satire, fiction and fun stuff.

Education and Political Interference in the Death of Democracy

By Dr Stewart Hase

In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book Farenheit 451, Captain Beatty states that, ‘A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it, take the shot from the weapon. Breach one man’s mind. Who knows what might be the target of the well-read man’. In this dystopian novel, Beatty is justifying the burning of books.

While Farenheit is a novel, there is a long history of book burning going back centuries.

The burning of books is intended to control knowledge, to prevent free thinking, to make sure everyone thinks the same and an affront to liberalism. Book burning is a political issue, and similarly, the 21st century equivalent is Internet Censorship, which, in a political context, has became a hot topic since the propagation of mistruths became so visible during the Trump Presidency.

There are myriad reasons politicians want to interfere with the distribution of knowledge, not least of which is to avoid scrutiny. But, the most frightening, as highlighted in Farenheit 451 and Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, is the need for complete control of ideology-what we think.

Texas has become the latest State to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools, joining several others that have banned it or thinking of doing so. While Critical Race Theory was conceptualised over 40 years ago it has become a target for politicians as racial tensions have grown, arguably since the murder of George Floyd, and continue to be at flash point across America. Some states have also banned Project 1619 from being taught in schools becoming another target of revisionist conservatives.

There is little doubt that both Critical Race Theory and Project 1619 are ‘in your face’ accounts of the history of slavery and racism in the United States that started with the first slave ship arriving on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Critical Race Theory describes the social construction of racism and how it’s relationship to power, civil rights, advantage and disadvantage. What gets conservatives jumpy is that at the heart of Critical Race Theory is its attack on white supremacism. Critical Theory, in general, is a scholarly approach to research, well understood and accepted in universities around the world. It is less liked by the institutions and ideologies that are scrutinised by it because Critical Theory attempts to unearth who are the beneficiaries of the actions of others, and the institutions in which they reside, who are the disadvantaged and what are the real social, political and economic effects. Institutions are not great fans of Critical Theory because it investigates truth to power.

We should be very concerned about political interference of this type when it comes to school curricula. It is a blatant attempt by conservatives to control what people think and, if not to exactly revise history, to control and suppress it. Along with the events at Capitol Hill, the normalisation of lie telling in the media, legislation to suppress the vote, and divisiveness of American politics, and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, we should be concerned with the threat to democracy. We may be observing the death of another republic.

And we should be concerned, as well as watchful, here in Australia about the control of knowledge and information. There is a slow but steady shift to the right in democracies across the globe. This shift reflects people’s propensity to seek simple solutions to complex problems that populist right wing politics provides, underpinned by authoritarianism-tell us what to do. Simple explanations such as, it ‘their fault’ (xenophobia and racism) make it easy for the masses to shift responsibility and to stop being curious as we are fed misinformation that helps us explain our world. We are not immune from this in Australia. It simmers just below the surface.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Morrison (inadvertently) admits he knew?

The following information was reported by Channel Nine news on the evening of Friday March 26, and has so far escaped the attention it deserves.

 

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison states in this interview that when Brittany Higgins expressed her intention to resign from the office of Michaelia Cash in January 2021, she was offered the opportunity to speak with him before her allegations of rape by a senior staffer in Parliament House were aired in the media.

“At the time just before she departed she was offered the opportunity to come and speak with me with Minister Cash,” he says.

The Higgins story broke on February 15 2021. Morrison has steadfastly denied that he knew anything about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins until that day.

Ms Higgins left Cash’s office on February 5 2021, ten days before the story broke.

Why would the Prime Minister offer to meet with Ms Higgins prior to her departure from Cash’s office, if, as he has maintained for the last two months and stated several times in Parliament, he knew nothing about the alleged rape until it was aired in the media?

Facing intense questioning on the involvement of his department and himself, Morrison instructed Secretary Phil Gaetjens to conduct an inquiry into when the PMO knew about the alleged rape, and who had been informed. This inquiry has since been halted, though Morrison did not notify Parliament of its cessation, leading the House to believe it was still underway.

Senator Cash has denied that she knew the “full details” of the allegations until Ms Higgins indicated her intention to resign at the end of January.

Why would Cash consider accompanying Ms Higgins to a proposed meeting with the Prime Minister if Cash believed Morrison knew nothing about the alleged rape and indeed, had only just found out herself?

Ms Higgins, by the way, says she was never informed of this invitation from the Prime Minister.

It’s not clear if Cash was ever informed, either.

Morrison has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince Parliament and the general public that he was ignorant of the rape allegations until the story appeared in the media on February 15. He claims his office was unaware until February 12.

In one sentence, the Prime Minister has done irrevocable damage to this narrative. He has also exposed the unreliability of all other accounts that have been tailored to support his own, accounts from ministers, senators, senior public servants and staffers.

Morrison’s one sentence has the power to bring the entire dysfunctional edifice crashing down, if the press gallery will follow it up.

If the Prime Minister didn’t know, why would he extend an offer to meet with Ms Higgins in January?

If the Prime Minister did know, he’s been lying to Parliament and the public.

Either way, he’s a liar.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Doxxing the Whistle Blower

On Monday, March 22, Peter van Onselen, working with Channel Ten News and The Project, broke a story provided to him by a whistle blower that revealed more of the culture surrounding workplace sexual activity in Parliament House, Canberra.

The story concerns a Liberal staffer masturbating on the desk of his female boss, videoing his performance and sharing it with his friends, including the whistle blower who was at one time in a relationship with him. The whistle blower claims that male sex workers were/are brought into the House for a former and a current MP. The so-called prayer room is allegedly used for sexual assignations.

Naturally, the story holds considerable interest for the public at a time when we have over the last few weeks learned of the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins by a senior staffer in Parliament House; the alleged rape of a sixteen-year-old girl by Attorney General Christian Porter when he was seventeen; the sexual harassment of several other women by the same Liberal staffer, and a myriad of other sordid revelations of sexual harassment, assault, assorted sleaze and cover-ups perpetrated by Liberal MPs, Senators and staffers. The list of those involved in some way is too lengthy to unpack here, but includes such Liberal luminaries as Eric Abetz, Alan Tudge, Michaelia Cash, Linda Reynolds, Marise Payne, Andrew Laming, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as senior public servants and staffers in the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Department of Finance.

Today, Saturday March 27, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Chip le Grand, currently chief reporter at The Age, late of the Australian where he worked for twenty-five years. In this piece, le Grand names van Onselen’s whistle blower.

This practice is known as “doxxing,” that is, revealing information about someone who has chosen to remain anonymous, that can lead to their identification. It’s a dangerous practice that can result in serious harassment of the doxxed individual, sometimes to the point of death threats. It entirely contravenes the ethics and practice of journalistic principles with regard to whistle blowers.

The doxxing of a Project and Channel 10 source by the SMH is a startling turn in Australian journalism. It sends a powerful signal to would-be whistle blowers that there are journalists who cannot be trusted to respect your role as a source, and the reasons for your anonymity. It is a long way from journalists’ traditional protection of their sources.

Indeed, can we be confident that such protection exists any longer in Australian mainstream media after today?

The whistle blower was not doxxed by van Onselen, but, alarmingly, by another media outlet altogether, bringing into question the capacity of well-intentioned journalists to protect their sources at all.

What does this mean for investigative programs such as Four Corners, for example? How can any journalist guarantee the safety of a source, if their colleagues are willing to dishonour the traditional commitment to protecting them?

Le Grand has attempted to argue that the whistle blower is not, in fact, a whistle blower. Let us look at the definition of whistle blower. A person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity, is a whistle blower. It isn’t complicated.

I don’t know if ejaculating on your female boss’s desk is illegal, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and call it as immoral. Likewise, the provision of sex workers to the Parliament House workplace for assignations in the prayer room may not be illegal, but I don’t think I’m entirely prudish to consider it immoral. What the whistle blower has done is to disclose workplace practices that are entirely unacceptable, and reveal to an appalled public yet another level of abuse in an inherently abusive culture.

That there are, apparently, no boundaries to the gratification of male desire in Parliament House, whether that desire is for sex, and/or power, demonstrates just how abusive that environment is.

In return for this disclosure to the public, in our interests, the whistle blower has today been doxxed by Chip le Grand, who has described his disclosures as a “hit job” against the government. Le Grand also does a good job of maligning the whistle blower in an attempt to discredit him.

It is not a huge stretch to speculate that le Grand and the Sydney Morning Herald under the chairmanship of former Liberal treasurer, Peter Costello, are acting in the interests of a besieged LNP government, and not the public.

Regardless of your personal opinion of the man, there can be no doubt that he acted in the public interest in taking his story, with videos and texts as proof, to van Onselen. Whatever his other motives are, and is there one among us without complex motives for much of what we do, he acted in the public interest, which is all that need concern us as citizens struggling to deal with the outrages visited upon us by a government entirely bereft of all morality.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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The damage Morrison has done to survivors is incalculable

Warning: discusses rape, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault.

 

It is damnably difficult to single out any aspect of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to allegations that his attorney general, Christian Porter, anally raped sixteen year-old Kate in 1988, as particularly heinous. All his responses have been appalling.

However, for mine, Morrison reached a nadir (bearing in mind the matter has not run its course, there is still plenty of opportunity for him to go lower) when he declared that Christian Porter is “an innocent man under the law.”

Morrison made this declaration while simultaneously boasting that he has not read the statement left by Kate, in which she details the offences Porter allegedly committed against her.

 

 

This sorry state of affairs will be familiar to many survivors of sexual abuse and rape, both in childhood and as adults. Many of us have known similar injustice, when our words have been ignored or denigrated, while the word of the man who assaulted us is unquestioningly accepted. To find ourselves witnessing this yet again at the highest levels of government, is a bitter and re-traumatising experience that inevitably evokes profoundly disturbing memories and emotions.

I learned early that nothing I said would be believed. Over time, I told several adults what was being done to me by my stepfather, who was a doctor. Perhaps I’m wrong and someone did believe me, however, nobody helped me. It wasn’t until I was fifteen and the rapes had been a regular occurrence for five years that I finally found someone who heard me, and took action.

I have no idea how I managed to keep on telling people. I have no idea either, how I managed to keep silent.

My matter never went to police, and so according to Prime Minister Morrison’s very personal interpretation of the law, my stepfather went to his grave “an innocent man under the law.”

Morrison aims to confuse the presumption of innocence with his declaration of innocence, and his base will more than likely unquestioningly accept this spin. Christian Porter, like any other accused person, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He remains, and will always remain, an alleged rapist entitled to the presumption of innocence. He cannot, however, be declared innocent, particularly by those who have not even read the allegations made against him.

As far as I’m aware, a Prime Minister does not yet in this country have the power to declare accused criminals innocent or guilty.

Of course Morrison, in declaring Porter innocent, is also declaring his alleged victim Kate to be a liar, or delusional. Without reading her statement. This is not an unusual situation for victims of rape, csa, and sexual assault to find ourselves in. On top of the physical, emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual damage we sustain through the assaults, we all too often must then face the disbelief and contempt of people unable to deal with our stories. There is the original violence done to us, and then there is the secondary violence done to us by those, like the Prime Minister, who will not listen.

Morrison has told every survivor this week that he will not listen. He’s told every survivor that we will not be heard and we will not be believed. He has told every rapist who doesn’t face court that he’s an “innocent man.” The prime Minister has done untold damage to survivors, and set us back decades as a society.

In refusing to have an inquiry into the rape allegations against Porter, and his suitability to hold high office, Morrison is giving permission to every workplace to behave in a similar fashion. Morrison is in the process of undermining all the hard-won workplace processes and procedures specifically designed to deal with situations such as this one. It is sufficient, Morrison is telling us, for the accused to say “It didn’t happen.” From then on he is an “innocent man.”

 

 

However, this has not always been Morrison’s attitude to survivors. There was a time, not long ago, that the Prime Minister told us that women “should be believed.” Watch the video below. It is extraordinary that Morrison has swung so violently to the other extreme, as a consequence of his attorney general, Christian Porter, being the subject of rape allegations.

 

 

Quite the coincidence, isn’t it?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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What Morrison’s “exoneration” of Porter tells women

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today declared that he considers alleged rapist and federal Attorney General Christian Porter to be “an innocent man under our law.”

 

 

Christian Porter has not undergone any investigation under “our law.” Police have never interviewed him. By no stretch of the imagination can Morrison claim the Attorney General has been found to be an “innocent man” under “our law,” when the senior law maker has not engaged with the law at all on the matter of his alleged anal rape of Kate, in 1988.

NSW Police found that there was insufficient admissible evidence to pursue the case against Porter. That is, please note, admissible evidence.

Morrison claims he has not read the alleged victim’s statement. He does not know what Porter is alleged to have done, outside of a “briefing” from his staff. He claims he did not read the statement because he was not in the same place as the statement. Yes. You read that correctly. He did not read the statement because it was not in the same place as him.

 

 

Morrison has also refused to seek advice from the federal Solicitor General on the Porter matter, despite this being the obvious next step for a Prime Minister confronted with a situation such as this one.

Indeed, it appears Morrison has taken no legal advice at all (that he is willing to reveal) on how he should proceed with an allegation of violent anal rape, made against his Attorney General by a woman who took her own life. Morrison appears to be relying solely on Porter’s claim that “it never happened.”

Now, today, despite his wilful ignorance of the allegations, despite having sought no legal advice, he has declared Porter to be “an innocent man,” presumably because Porter says “it didn’t happen.” I can find no other explanation for the Prime Minister arriving at this conclusion.

 

 

What does this say to women in Australia?

  1. It says if we don’t get a complaint of rape or sexual assault to court, and the majority of us do not, the alleged rapist is an “innocent man.”
  2. It says that men who rape us will be perfectly safe if we die during the act or subsequent to it.
  3. It says that Porter’s alleged victim, Kate, must have been lying or mad.
  4. It says that any woman who is unable to get a case to court is lying.
  5. It says that men, following the example set by the Prime Minister of this country, do not need to bother acquainting themselves with our stories before they decide the alleged perpetrator is “innocent.”
  6. It says that Scott Morrison has set women back decades with his “exoneration” today of an alleged rapist, based on nothing more than the alleged rapist’s denial.
  7. It says that if Morrison exonerates Porter, he exonerates every alleged rapist who is not dealt with by the courts.
  8. It says that as of today, everything just got a whole lot more difficult and traumatic for women attempting to find justice after being raped or sexually assaulted.
  9. It tells rapists, all you have to do is say “it never happened.”
  10. It says, women, everything is stacked against you getting the criminal offence against you to court, and if you don’t, as most of us won’t, you’re a liar & your attacker is an “innocent man according to our law.”

 

 

It says, we should be very afraid of where Morrison is going with this, and note carefully who supports him.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Listen, Men: About Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, Misogyny and Exclusion

By Dr Stewart Hase

Dear fellow men,

I’m writing to you at this moment in time because of the recent media frenzy about sexual abuse in the snake pit that is Federal Parliament. However, the issues currently headlining all our various forms of media is a daily, yes daily, problem in our supposedly egalitarian, good onya mate society.

What I’d also like to say, in support of my fellow writer Dr Jennifer Wilson, is that males writing about sexual abuse (in all its forms) is about the same as asking hungry fox to provide advice on how to build a fox proof henhouse. So, a few notes from a bloke to other blokes.

The most important thing you (as a man) need to recognise is that when it comes to rape, sexual assault, abuse and harassment of women, misogyny and exclusion is that you don’t understand. You don’t get it. If you get that you don’t get it, there is the possibility that we might understand, or at least as closely as we can.

One of the reasons we don’t get it is because it is not in our best interests. We’ve been taught from birth, that women are goods and chattels, second class citizens, handmaidens, someone who will serve our needs, whether it is in the house or the workplace: even the street. We get this from our families, from the major religions that teach, through text written by old men in caves, and from ourselves.

Fellow blokes, it’s about power. To be brief, there are three types of power when it comes to the sexual, physical, verbal, symbolic abuse of women.

The first type of power is exercised by those men who are socialised as above, and never come to question what they are doing. Sounds apologetic (to women who are reading this) but it is perpetuated because it is in our best interests. We are selfish. Glass ceilings, the ‘tea lady phenomenon’, assuming male superiority in all things, and ‘she was asking for it’ rather than accepting that men need to control their impulses, are just a few examples of how we exert power.

Then there are men in positions of power who think that they can get away with anything they want. Mind you, they do this with all aspects of their lives, not just with the appropriation of women. Note the word appropriation. It means ownership. They assume that it is their god (and I mean god) given right to take.

The third type of power is what I call impotent power. These are men who have appallingly low egos or sense of self. They want to take control of women, to appropriate because it makes them feel better about themselves. This is the bulk of female abusers of all types.

And to be clear, blokes, it is not just overt violent power that underpins rape, and physical and sexual assault.

One women a week, on average is murdered in Australia by her partner or former partner is murdered in Australia. One in 5 women have experienced sexual violence, 1 in 3 physical violence, and one in six women have experienced stalking since the age of 15.

It is also the subtle ways in which we (yes you) downplay women, denigrate them, portray them as less equal, diminish them, and appropriate them. And don’t just point the finger at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and friends, the Labor Party or Barnaby Joyce and his mates. It is alive and well in your local golf club, bowls club, in football clubs, on the cricket field and on all forms of social media.

Let me try an analogy to get my point about power across. Imagine getting into the ring with a really skilful boxer or martial arts exponent. It starts with a lot of shuffling around the ring, a bit of feinting, and the occasional jab to the ribs-taunting you. This results in you being exhausted in about a minute. You’re starting to feel a bit helpless because you can’t lay a hand on him. Then the big punches start. Not enough to knock you out but enough to start you bleeding, close your eyes, make your breathing difficult to catch because of broken ribs. He just keeps jabbing away. There are rest breaks between rounds, and some respite as he dances around. But he keeps on coming back. You are totally helpless and your power is completely taken away.

This doesn’t nearly cover the way in which women’s power is taken from them in rape, in sexual and physical assault and in their appropriation because, often, women’s power is taken away forever. After the boxing match, you can recuperate. Women are frequently scarred forever.

Another analogy may help. I work with a lot of returned service personnel who have PTSD and other problems. They remind me most of women who have been abused because they too have had their personal power seized from them by fear, being overwhelmed and, most of all, helpless in the face of what is happening. Their power has been stripped away.

To fix this problem needs leadership. From us blokes. It would be great if it came from our male Federal Parliamentarians but it looks like we may as well piss into a force 10 gale. So, it’s up to us.

Speak up and, better, fucking stop it!

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Morrison shows us again how much he despises women

In his press conference today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked about allegations pertaining to the anal rape of a child, allegedly perpetrated by one of his current cabinet ministers in 1988.

Mr Morrison replied:

“We have a rule of law in this country and it’s appropriate that these things were referred to the federal police – they have been…the police are the ones who do that, and the police have had this matter referred to them…”

Let us interrogate the Prime Minister’s statement.

The Australian Federal Police have no authority to investigate an alleged crime of sexual assault that was allegedly committed in NSW. The Prime Minister must know this. If he doesn’t, he should perhaps seek advice from his Attorney General, Christian Porter, who would certainly be aware of this.

Either mistakenly or deliberately the Prime Minister is not observing the “rule of law” in referring the allegations to the Federal Police. He should have referred them to the NSW Police. He should still refer them to the NSW Police if he is interested in respecting the rule of law and intends to continue to claim he is abiding by that rule. Morrison has done nothing by referring the matter to the AFP other than provide a smokescreen, and some breathing space for himself and the alleged rapist in his cabinet.

 

 

It does beggar belief that in the current climate, the Prime Minister would not inform himself of a fact as basic as this. Of course, it’s only about rape, a matter that so conspicuously fails to exercise his concern (he didn’t know about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins for two years, though practically everyone around him did) that one is reminded of the infamous comment by George Pell on hearing allegations of child sexual abuse by former priest, Gerald Ridsdale. It was, Pell observed, “a sad story and it isn’t of much interest to me.”

Mr Morrison went on to claim that he had conducted a “discussion” with the “individual” (cabinet minister) involved, who vehemently rejected the allegations.

No surprises there.

“At this stage,” the Prime Minister pompously concluded,” there are no matters that require my immediate attention.”

In other words the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the alleged rapist’s denial, and is satisfied with having referred the matter to a police agency that cannot do anything at all about it.

I don’t know what the rules are about the Prime Minister speaking with the alleged offender on the matter after he has referred allegations to police, let alone announcing his innocence to the country, but I’m sure somebody does.

 

 

But wait, there’s more. When asked if he had read the detailed accounts of the alleged rape written by the victim, who has since taken her life, and sent to him and other politicians by a group of her friends and colleagues, Morrison said he’d “been briefed” on their content.

In other words, the Prime Minister did not consider it worth his time to read the victim’s account of her alleged rape, and correspondence that supports her claims, but he is prepared to speak with the alleged perpetrator and accept his assurances of innocence, which he then relays to the country.

The implication that the Prime Minister accepts his denial is supported by his refusal to stand the man aside from his cabinet position while police review the matter.

Oh wait. Police will not review the matter because Morrison sent the allegations to the wrong police & has shown no interest in sending them to the right ones.

We will shortly be able to identify the alleged rapist as Morrison sends out one cabinet minister after another to face the media. Just observe who doesn’t appear.

On another note, veteran journalist Paul Bongiorno observed this morning that legal circles in Canberra are buzzing after Attorney-General Christian Porter failed to appear at the historic swearing-in of newest High Court member, Jacqueline Gleeson. Apparently the AG had appointments in Perth.

 

 

What the Prime Minister has achieved today is to send yet another message to women (in case we missed a million others) that in Australia, a perpetrator has more credibility than his victim. Not only that, a perpetrator will be listened to while his female victim will not, at least by the Prime Minister who unfortunately sets the tone. And what a tone it is.

The Prime Minister and his government, our legislators, are currently protecting an alleged rapist. Our most senior legislators are seemingly unaware of the requirements of the very laws they make, and are sworn to uphold.

 

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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The Morrison government is a sewer

An allegation of the brutal anal rape of a child in 1988 has been made against an un-named minister in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet.

The victim took her own life in June 2020. NSW police have confirmed that a criminal investigation into the allegation dies with the victim.

Despite their knowledge that police will not investigate because the complainant is dead, government ministers and some journalists continue to claim that the matter must be left to the police.

All of them are wrong, according to police.

 

 

Morrison said that he has referred the allegations to police.

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, yesterday said the accused minister will not be stood aside, and that the matter should be left to police.

(It is puzzling that Birmingham is commenting on this. It would seem to be more appropriately the job of senior lawmaker Attorney-General Christian Porter, who has thus far remained silent.)

On ABC Insiders program this morning, Australian Financial Review journalist Phil Coorey repeated the government line. “This is for the coppers,” he stated, “and it should be for the coppers first and foremost.”

This seems at first blush to be wilful ignorance, gross carelessness, the peddling of misinformation, or an attempt to yet again create and control a narrative that best favours the government.

The accused minister has not come forward to defend himself against the allegations. It is not credible that anyone who is innocent would want to continue public life with accusations such as these left unaddressed, and yet, that appears to be the case.

It is also only a matter of time until the suspect is named. There appears to be no legal requirement to suppress his name, particularly as there will be no trial. He can also be named under parliamentary privilege. It is undoubtedly in the public interest for his name to be released, and were he anyone other than a Liberal cabinet minister, he would not probably not be protected by anonymity. Footballers, for example, are stood aside while allegations of sexual assault are investigated, and they are named. Not so much cabinet ministers, it appears.

It is also remarkable that the accused minister appears to be happy for his cabinet colleagues to be tainted by the rape allegations. As long as we do not know who the minister is, there are around sixteen possibilities in the cabinet. Every time a cabinet minister opens his mouth we can legitimately ask, are you the alleged child rapist? This can’t help but have a destabilising effect on the government, as its already tenuous legitimacy is further eroded by the presence of an anonymous alleged rapist in its highest ranks.

 

 

Then there is the question of national security, a subject close to the hearts of both Morrison, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, also a cabinet member. In 2017 when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister, he had occasion to warn Christian Porter, prior to making him Attorney-General, that his drinking and his behaviours towards young women were leaving him open to the possibility of compromise, making him a security risk:

“…it is just not acceptable. And he knew that I was considering appointing him attorney general, which of course is the first law officer of the crown, and has a seat on the national security committee, so the risk of compromise is very, very real.”

By the same token, one may conclude that an anonymous cabinet minister who is accused of the brutal anal rape of a child might well be a prime target for blackmail, and is a serious security risk.

Indeed, everyone in the cabinet who is aware of and concealing the alleged rapist’s identity is a security risk, and vulnerable to exploitation.

Is this government even tenable while this matter is “left to the coppers?”

It is alarming that Morrison seems oblivious to the security dangers the situation presents. It’s even more alarming that Morrison seems entirely impervious to the immorality of protecting and hiding an alleged child rapist.

The hideous situation has come to light just days after the government spectacularly failed to cope with the alleged rape of media advisor, Brittany Higgins, in Parliament House just metres from the Prime Minister’s office.

Ms Higgins was left unconscious and half naked by her attacker on Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ couch. This could have cost Ms Higgins her life, as she was inebriated and unable to care for herself. Security guards “checked on” Ms Higgins through the night, but nobody called for medical assistance. At least thirty people, including ministers, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office most senior staff knew about this “serious incident,” and none of them informed the Prime Minister until two years later.

The Morrison government is a sewer. It is steeped in allegations of rape and sexual assault of the most serious and sickening kind. It is almost certain that Morrison will attempt to brazen out this latest allegation. He will not stand the minister aside, and he will continue to contend that it is a matter for police, in full knowledge that the police cannot pursue criminal charges.

The minister will not be investigated by police. He will not be exonerated. His name will not be cleared. Suspicion will linger over the heads of all male cabinet members, including Scott Morrison, Christian Porter and Peter Dutton.

We should probably assume that being suspected of the anal rape of a child does not necessarily perturb any of them.

While we know not all cabinet ministers are alleged child rapists, we do not know which one is. The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to conceal that knowledge from us.

How good is that?

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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“He said, she said”: How Dutton is attempting to control the narrative

One of the greatest challenges for a political commentator in recent years has been keeping track of the Morrison government’s lies and obfuscations.

These have escalated considerably in the last couple of weeks, since former media advisor Brittany Higgins revealed she had allegedly been raped in Parliament House by a senior staffer.

Since then, ministers, MPs, Senators, their advisors and staffers have devoted an inordinate amount of their taxpayer-funded time to covering their backsides about who knew what and when. According to estimates by the ABC’s 7.30 program last night, there appear to be thirty or more people with knowledge of the so-called “serious incident” in 2019, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison conspicuously excluded from the circle of knowledge.

The latest government member to speak up is Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton. Dutton is, among other things, the minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police, as well having once served as a police officer in the Queensland Police sex offenders’ squad.

You need this background as context for what comes next.

In keeping with the government line that neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Prime Minister knew anything about the alleged rape before February 12 2021 and February 15 2021 respectively, Dutton claims he was only informed of the alleged crime by the AFP on February 11 2021, and only because they had been alerted that the matter was about to be revealed by the media.

AFP guidelines require that “politically sensitive” matters such as this alleged crime be reported to the Minister as soon as possible. The AFP first became aware of the allegations on April 4 2019, when informed by Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds. The AFP did not inform Minister Dutton at that time. Indeed, according to Dutton, the AFP did not inform him of this “politically sensitive” incident, despite being required to do so by their guidelines, for another two years.

One might be forgiven for risking the observation that “politically sensitive” and “politically embarrassing” might be interchangeable concepts in this instance.

Amazingly, Dutton also failed to inform the Prime Minister that the excrement was about to hit the ceiling fan, not alerting his office until 24 hours later. The PMO didn’t like to disturb Morrison over the weekend, we know weekends are sacred to him, so they didn’t inform their boss until Monday.

Dutton then went on to describe the rape allegations as a “he said, she said” affair.

Some reasons why this gratuitous comment from the Minister appears to be an attempt to influence both the AFP and the public:

  1. The AFP, who is investigating this alleged crime, is answerable to Peter Dutton. Their Minister has just signalled through the media that he considers the alleged crime to be not crime at all, but a “he said, she said” affair. In other words, Dutton is telling the AFP how to frame and deal with this alleged crime.
  2. “He said, she said” is one of the most invalidating dismissals possible of allegations of rape and sexual assault. It implies, as it is intended to, the unworthiness of a woman’s word and description of her experience. “He said, she said” intentionally minimises the experience of rape and sexual assault, and explicitly favours the narrative of the alleged perpetrator. It is appalling that a former police officer, who worked with victims, would hold and voice this opinion.
  3. The AFP has not yet questioned the alleged perpetrator. Nobody knows what “he said” because he hasn’t said it yet. Unless of course Minister Dutton has had occasion to speak with the alleged perpetrator and knows his side of the story.
  4. Dutton is also, despicably, dog whistling to the demographic that is his base & the base of the Liberal Party more generally, that women lie about being raped. It’s a “he said, she said” affair, and nobody should take it anymore seriously than that. You’re only actually raped if you’re killed as well.
  5. A woman cannot consent to sex if she is falling down drunk, as Ms Higgins claims she was, and as, apparently, both CCTV footage will confirm and the security guards involved will verify. In his “he said, she said” attempt to control the narrative, because that is exactly what he is trying to do by using this phrase, Dutton is attempting to subvert the power of this evidence, prior to the AFP investigation.

The infamous Steve Bannon, among other things a former advisor to former US President Donald Trump, liked to talk about “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the strategy of saturating the media with disinformation and misinformation, in order to bamboozle both media and the public, to the extent that nobody knows anymore what is real and what is fake.

Make no mistake the Morrison government has adopted this tactic in the Brittany Higgins situation. They are flooding our zone with shit, attempting to confuse and exhaust and gaslight, with the ultimate goal of controlling a complex narrative about power, women, sexual assault, and cover ups.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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If you’re a woman in Parliament House, nobody hears you scream

Over the last few days, no less than five federal government ministers have publicly stated their support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claims that he knew nothing about the 2019 alleged rape committed just metres from his office and reported by former media staffer Brittany Higgins, until February 2021.

Mr Morrison also claims his staff in the Prime Minister’s Office were unaware of the alleged crime.

The precariousness nature of Mr Morrison’s claims is addressed in this piece written by me for Independent Australia. Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have stated their incredulity that such a serious incident could take place in Parliament House without the Prime Minister’s Office being made aware of it immediately.

The Ministers who have supported Morrison’s claims to ignorance are:

Lynda Reynolds, Minister for Defence.

Marise Payne, Minister for Women.

Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills Small and Family Business

Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs

President of the Senate, Scott Ryan, has admitted being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was.

The Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, has admitted to being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was.

All the above are conspiring to conceal the full circumstances of a serious crime committed in their workplace.

This week, former Liberal Staffer Chelsea Potter claimed she was sexually assaulted when working in the office of Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Finance. Birmingham refused to assist her.

Also this week, Ruby O’Rourke claimed that in 2016 she was “continually assaulted by a well-know politician.” Ms O’Rourke says she has named Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, because he knows.

 

 

In November 2020, Four Corners aired a program titled Inside the Canberra Bubble. The Morrison government went to great lengths to try to prevent the program going to air, and then threatened the ABC to the extent that the broadcaster’s Chair, Ita Buttrose, publicly defended the program.

Alan Tudge, Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, who campaigned on family values, was revealed to have had an extra marital affair with staffer, Rachelle Miller, who has now lodged formal complaints of bullying against him, and against Michaelia Cash.

Attorney-General Christian Porter was alleged in the program to have a history of sleazy sexist behaviour towards women. Porter immediately announced he was taking legal action against Four Corners. However, we have heard nothing further about any such action.

The number of Morrison’s ministers involved in allegations of sexual harassment and the concealment of sexual violence against women in their workplace is astounding.

The message to women working in Parliament House is clear. No minister will support you.

At time of writing Linda Reynolds, who was due to appear at the National Press Club today, has been admitted to hospital. Reynolds was expected to come under intense scrutiny at the Press Club today over her management of the Higgins rape allegations.

The alleged rapist is also in hospital.

 

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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It’s time to fix our media laws

By Dr Stewart Hase

You have to admire, at some level, the brass of Paul Fletcher and Josh Frydenberg claiming that the new media code will contribute to more fact-based, rigorous news content. In the background Scomo is nodding his head like one of those little plastic dogs in the back window of a Kingswood. While the ‘code’ is probably the right step forward, let’s not let it gloss over the role of media in shaping public opinion.

The Murdoch empire has over many years provided trillions of dollars of free advertising to the Liberal Party, massaging the editorial stance of every paper Murdoch takes over. It’s impossible not to laugh hysterically at the adverts for Sky News, in which they say that it offers the only truly balanced view, reporting ‘all sides’ as Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray et al stride onto the screen. You wouldn’t buy a used car from any of them.

Mind you, in the interests of balance in this blog, you know what you are going to get when you read the Guardian, the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald and the New Daily, for example. Any student of cognitive bias, in which reality is distorted to remain consistent with one’s attitudes, values and beliefs, will tell you that true independence would be a small miracle. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ Not sure many of us do that and is a skill that needs to be taught in school.

The issue of media bias would probably be fine, since it mirrors the predilection of the human brain, were it not for scope. Kevin 07, like a candle in a gale force wind, argued to a Senate inquiry last week that News Ltd has a monopoly in Australia (Murdoch owns 70% of media in Australia and in Queensland, nearly 100%). In exhibit 1, a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph, Kev showed how five pages of text was no more than an opinion piece, rather than news. His view was nicely and ironically reinforced by the Telegraph, which has run a campaign of vilification about Kev not seen since their attacks on Julie Gillard-nothing to do with news and everything to do with suppressing a voice.

And Facebook, as Kev notes, is another demonstration of what can happen when a monolith with too much power can hijack information. One can only marvel at the prescience of George Orwell in ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’-a world in which information is manufactured, controlled and meted out at the whim of ‘Big Brother’.

The debate over the code, and Facebook’s demonstration of power, has brought into stark relief the issue of media ownership in this country. We need our Federal government to fix what is a threat to democracy and ensure we have the opportunity to have real news, not just opinion, real facts not manufactured reality, and journalists that can report what is really happening, to speak truth to power when necessary: nay, when essential. Most of us are cynical about politics and the news that surrounds it. So, now is the time to act and put pressure on government to fix this travesty, even as Murdoch signs a deal with Google to transmit even more of his bile.

 

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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“Don’t tell me her name…”

On Friday, a second woman alleged she had been raped by the same assailant who allegedly raped media advisor Brittany Higgins in then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019, shortly before the May election.

Ms Reynolds was promoted to defence minister in the returned LNP government.

The second victim/survivor was attacked in 2020 and understandably feels that had the first alleged crime been better handled, the man would not have been free to rape her, and any other women who might not have come forward.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reaction to news of this second alleged rape was to declare himself “sickened.” He also said this:

“I’m very upset about those circumstances and particularly for the young woman who I don’t know who that is, and nor do I need to know who that is, that is a very distressing event.”

Summary:

Journalist: A second woman has been raped. Prime Minister: I don’t need to know who that is.

Imagine for one moment the tremendous privilege Mr Morrison enjoys that allows him to choose not to know.

By any measure this is a bizarre reaction to such news, and one wonders why the Prime Minister felt compelled to let everyone know that he doesn’t know the name of the second victim, and, even more oddly, that he does not need to know.

Our names are a signifier of our humanity. This is why oppressors use numbers, not names, a practice Morrison is more than familiar with after his term as immigration minister. A refusal to know someone’s name is an act of hostility. It says: you are irrelevant to me. It says: you aren’t fully human to me.

When someone is not seen as fully human, anything can be done to them.

Anyone who refuses to know our name should be treated with the utmost caution.

Perhaps Morrison is broadcasting a warning. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Keep it as far away from me as possible. Give me plausible deniability in case I need it. What I don’t know can’t hurt me.

The Prime Minister wants to efface the second survivor, to make her appear insignificant, the crime against her inconsequential. He wants to delegitimise her suffering. He wants to entrench the power imbalance that gifts him the privilege to decide he doesn’t want to know.

Victims are the problem for Mr Morrison. They’re the ones causing him trouble, in his world-view.

Refusing to use someone’s name is a classic dehumanising tactic. Raping a woman is also dehumanizing her. You can’t dehumanise someone just a little bit. Morrison’s dehumanisation of the second woman is no different from the rapist’s. It is expressed in a different way. Dehumanising is an all or nothing process. There’s no such thing as a sliding scale.

Refusing to use someone’s name is also an expression of profound contempt, and a signifier of the disgust in which the deliberately un-named is held. It’s also a decision to deny publicity and notoriety. The decision not to name terrorists is an example of this.

There are no good reasons for deciding, “I don’t need to know their name.”

What has become sickeningly obvious since Ms Higgins went public just a few short days ago is that politics trumps everything, and politics especially trumps rape. It hasn’t been the crime that is the focus, not for politicians and their advisors and with a very few exceptions, not for the media. It’s been the politics. Morrison, in his declaration, did not hesitate to very publicly put his needs before those of the victim. He needs to keep his distance, it’s politics. He’s willing to dehumanise her in order to achieve his goal.

Rape is a crime. Rape is a serious crime. It isn’t a sex scandal. It isn’t consensual bonking in Parliament House. It isn’t a “serious incident.” It is a crime.

Scott Morrison doesn’t want to know the name of the latest victim of this crime. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s the vibe.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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When you can’t trust the leader…

One month ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that it is his government’s aim to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, with a target to roll out 80,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per week by mid to late February.

First, do the maths and see if you think this is honest.

Then consider for a moment what kind of leader makes a vaccination announcement that is so glaringly untruthful it can’t be rationalised as a careless mistake by even the most committed sycophant.

You might conclude, as I have, that the Prime Minister doesn’t give a toss what he says about the vaccination rollout, as long as he says something.

Two days ago, Mr Morrison told the media that our vaccination program is “on track” having clearly forgotten his January announcement, or else consigned it to his dustbin of announcements without substance that is, by now, surely filled to overflowing.

Strangely, nobody at the press conferences where Mr Morrison has insisted we are “on track” has bothered to refer him to his January claims, or indeed, asked him to define what “on track” actually means, given those claims.

But wait. There’s more. On the ABC Insiders program today it was stated that the vaccination roll out will begin next week. I asked for the source of this claim, because there is no such information on the government health website.

 

 

As yet I’ve received no reply and I don’t really expect that I will, to be honest.

What I would like to know is why Insiders is apparently gifted with this announcement when the information is not available on the government website, and no politician has confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine has even arrived in the country.

It is mid February. No roll out has been announced. We will not achieve a vaccination rate of 80,000 by the end of this week, and neither will we reach the four million figure pulled out of somebody’s nether regions by the end of March. We are not “on track.” We are very far from “on track.”

On January 25, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to cover around 20% of the population. However, as of writing the Pfizer vaccine has not yet arrived in Australia from Europe and some 80,000 -100,000 doses are reportedly expected next week. These will be batch tested before they are rolled out, adding another week to the estimated wait time.

Then there is the AstraZeneca vaccine, to be used for the majority of us. There are 50 million doses in production on shore (or as Mr Morrison likes to call them, “sovereign” doses) while we are importing 3.8 million more. This vaccine has not yet been approved for use by the TGA.

So as of writing, there is, in fact, no vaccine at all in Australia that is ready for use. But don’t worry. We are on track!

On February 4 the PM had the chutzpah to announce that given our “sovereign” production rate, we would begin vaccination before New Zealand, due to start in April. But that isn’t true either, dear readers! New Zealand will start its Pfizer roll out on February 20, 6 days from now, when we may or may not have our vaccine and even if we do, it won’t be ready for use!

Mr Morrison has repeatedly referred us to the government health website for up to date and reliable information on matters to do with COVID-19. However, as mentioned above, you will find no indication on that site of when the vaccination roll out is due to begin.

But what you will find on this government site is a statement by infectious diseases expert Dr Nick Coatsworth that COVID-19 “is definitely not an airborne pathogen”: (thanks to @SusanSmithAus for alerting me to this)

COVID-19 is definitely not an airborne pathogen. When you have airborne pathogens, like measles for example, the basic reproductive number that we’ve all come to know so well is much higher than what it is for COVID-19 – so, so definitely not an airborne. It’s got- this is a droplet pathogen which means it settles on surfaces. Once it is coughed up or expectorated it tends to- it drops to the ground very quickly. And that’s why hand hygiene and physical distance are our most important measures, and will be our most important measures particularly when we start opening businesses that they that they enable processes that allow us to keep our distance from each other until we have a vaccine or effective treatment.

Yet on January 16, a group of senior scientists, health and safety experts and doctors claimed that:

Failure at a federal level to acknowledge COVID-19 is transmitted through the air has been putting the community at risk…Leading scientists said the virus could be leaking through our border controls because authorities have not put in place precautions that provide the greatest possible protection from airborne transmission.

On ABC QandA last Thursday evening, Professor Coatsworth was forced to defend his position on aerosol transmission. On February 4, experts claimed that the neglect of aerosol transmission was clearly a gap in Australia’s quarantine system.

In short, the federal government’s health website tells us nothing about when we can expect vaccines to be rolled out. It does, however, convey misleading information on the airborne nature of the COVID-19 virus, misinformation that is causing considerable consternation as experts work to address ongoing infections associated with quarantine hotels.

It would seem a futile exercise, to attempt to mislead the community about something like a vaccination roll out. It’s not as if we won’t notice that we aren’t getting the needle. However, this is what Scott Morrison does. He’s entirely focused on the announcement and entirely disinterested in the substance. Unfortunately, no one in the media seems to have charted his vaccine announcements or confronted him about their lack of substance.

While the majority of Mr Morrison’s announcements are not concerned with life-threatening matters and are generally misleading, exasperating, hurtful and deeply disappointing, the COVID-19 situation demands from a leader clarity, straightforwardness and trustworthiness.

None of these requirements are met by Morrison, or any of his ministers.

Morrison must have known, when he made his announcement one month ago, that there was no possibility of vaccinating 80,000 people in February and 4 million by the end of March. He must have known this, and yet he delivered this message to the country anyway. This is not how we need a leader to behave in these circumstances, or any other.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Being Indifferent to Difference

By Dr Stewart Hase

Humans are not particularly adept at accepting difference. I suspect that we are hard wired to at least be wary of others who are not the same as us. In fact, research studies have shown that there is a genetic influence in racism and in other areas such as political attitudes. There may well be an intolerance gene.

An aspect of wisdom or at least being civilised, you’d think, would be the ability to rise above impulse and to bring cognition into play. Sadly, there has been little of this lately. First, we had the unbelievable decision to upgrade Margaret Court’s gong. She received the original for her tennis achievements. Fair enough, she was able to repeatedly smash a tennis ball where she wanted to and made Australia look good on the world stage. But if you’re an observer from anywhere other than the awards committee, you can only conclude that her upgrade was for the homophobic bile she manages to spit out, using her position to influence the more feeble-minded that agree with her. Her rationale: that god’s word is the TV guide for life.

In the same vein, we then witness the leadership, if you want to call it that, at the St George Rugby League Club make the mind-numbing decision to negotiate with Israel Folau to return to Australia to play. Difficult to imagine what kind of logic that went into that idea. Luckily, the fear of losing sponsors and a backlash from fans slayed that dragon, but the fact they even thought about it was breathtaking.

Then we have the Collingwood scandal that exposed systemic racism at the club over many years, and the ugly reality that this is not an isolated case. This weekend, racism was called out again in football in the UK, albeit on social media by lunatic fans. Back here in Oz, Eddie Maguire managed to put his foot in his mouth again as he declared the release of the report on racism at Collingwood to be an historic and proud day.

Given his gaffe over Adam Goodes, does Eddie have a problem with language or is he inherently racist? I think the latter, given he was completely blind to what was happening at his club. The buck stops with him. I’m amazed that they are waiting until the end of the year for him to step down as chairman. Why was he not sacked last week?

We need to be careful to not assume that these high-profile cases are exceptions. They are the tip of the iceberg. I hear racist, homophobic and other slurs around difference at my local golf club and in other places where people mix, on a regular basis. And so do you. We damn the different, no matter what the form. We don’t value diversity, only diversity that makes others more the same as us, in other words, assimilation. We want migrants to be Australians, as long as they cook their authentic national dishes.

Sadly, we are not as civilised as we would like to think ourselves to be. I think we are getting better at calling out prejudice when we see it but we still need much more leadership from politicians and institutions such as those that support the events I’ve described above.

The quip of the week goes to Deborah Devine who talked about her son Dan Levy, the star of Schitt’s Creek, who is gay. She had a message to Dan’s bullies at a school camp when he was a boy: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Dan was hosting the prestigious program, a measure of his enormous success.

 

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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What Australian media doesn’t report and …

This article was written by the founder of #ThisIsNotJournalism, a social media account that looks at the reporting of mainstream Australian media, particularly on stories relating to politics at both state and federal levels.

They are constantly dismayed at what they see.

Follow them on Twitter here: @StopLyi58491572

I’ve just read a piece by CJ Werleman in the Byline Times.

I am angry.

NO!

I am absolutely furious!

The main subject matter is the role of media, particularly the likes of Fox News in the January 6 attack on democracy in the US. Yes, that made me angry but I’m pretty sure most of us see platforming lies and partisan spin as a very great danger to many of the institutions we hold dear. What made me absolutely FUCKING FURIOUS was this:

Werelman quotes James Murdoch in a stinging rebuke of his father’s media empire where, in a joint statement he and wife Kathryn say:

“Many media property owners have as much responsibility for this as the elected officials who know the truth but choose instead to propagate lies. We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever”.

This was reported around the world. Well, around the world with the exclusion of Australia.

Murdoch’s news business, which owns a vast number of regional news papers as well as the major mastheads in most capital cities, did not report on this and, as such, it failed to get the coverage from other outlets that it rightly deserved. In many areas, the daily news agenda is set by Murdoch.

On the one hand, we have Australian politicians openly supporting Trump and his absurd claims of election rigging while, on the other, we have a media organisation withholding a vital international story in order to promote their own agenda.

I’m sorry, this is simply not good enough. It’s time we, you, me and anyone else who believes we have a right to a decent standard of reporting in this country, started calling this rubbish out and calling out those that work in these organisations. If you agree, stay with me. If you don’t, thanks for coming this far.

I have recently established a Twitter account with the aim of identifying poor journalism. I call it #ThisIsJournalism. I wanted @StopLying but instead, ended up with @ StopLyi58491572

My intention had been to highlight bias and misinformation in the lead up to what I believe will be a 2021 election. There is no doubt in the minds of many that media bias plays a significant role in misinforming the electorate and as such, distorting our democracy.

Rather than following, “The usual suspects”, the legion of erudite, passionate and often like-minded #auspol Tweeps, I set about following a very large number of people who actually get published on a daily or weekly basis. I noted some interesting things as I looked through their profiles. Are you aware, for example, that a number of outlets, particularly Sky and some News publications have moved away from calling a significant number of the people who write or speak their content “journalists”?

I was also blocked immediately on following by a few of their accounts including, somewhat ironically, by one with #JournalismIsNotACrime in their profile

O…K.

Journalism is absolutely not a crime. Blatant and misleading propaganda for one side of politics over the other is not journalism and probably should be a crime but at the very least, needs to be called out.

This brought me to a question: What is journalism?

It seems a pretty fundamental question, particularly for those of us who express our dissatisfaction with the standard of journalists and their work so, what better place to start than a peak industry body?

@withMEAA give guidance and provide scrutiny to members. They also only look at published pieces so comments on social media clearly do not classify as journalism. I’m perfectly happy with that.

MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics is as follows:

“Respect for truth and the public’s right to information are fundamental principles of journalism. Journalists search, disclose, record, question, entertain, comment and remember. They inform citizens and animate democracy.”

Interestingly, it goes on… “They scrutinise power, but also exercise it, and should be responsible and accountable.”

This is pretty much the point James Murdoch made in the evisceration of his father and his minions. Yes, the one we didn’t see. It also happens to be one of the areas in which I believe we find journalists fail most frequently. I believe it’s our duty to scrutinise them.

Historically, as early as 1837, the press was deemed the Fourth Estate. Originally, there was the clergy, the nobility and the commoners as the first three estates. Media was seen as the perfect tool to “keep the bastards honest” to steal from the great Don Chipp. Many of the comments I see on Twitter and even conversations in real life, question if that very admirable objective is being achieved. Personally, I believe there are a few outstanding MSM journalists but it’s obvious that the vast majority are either too stretched to explore topics to the extent they should or influenced by ideology/bias be it their own or the publication’s they work for.

Journalist should be the protectors of our fragile democracy. James Murdoch has very clearly identified the consequence of poor journalism. It’s not only their historical role but also what is set out in their Code of Ethics here in Australia.

We, the people of #auspol Twitter need to rise up and become the Fifth Estate, holding the Fourth Estate to account and calling them out when they fail to fulfil their time-honoured duty. I hope you’ll join me in doing so

Remember, #ThisIsJournalism because #JournalismIsNotACrime but crap journalism should be.

Oh, here’s a link to that great Byline Times piece. Get Furious

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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