“Now I want to emphasise my electorate of North Sydney has one of the highest bulk-billing rates in Australia and I have one of the wealthiest electorates in Australia, To me there is something wrong with that.” Joe Hockey.
Yes, Joe, there is something wrong with it. It’s just not true. In fact, your electorate has one of the lowest.
Now, I don’t want to call it a lie, because that suggests that you’ve attempted to deliberately mislead the public, and we know that it’s the other mob that does that. You just must have been misinformed, but now that you’ve been told the actual situation, I expect you’ll correct your statement. That would only be right, wouldn’t it?
Ok, we’ve grown used to politicians lying. Back in the early 90’s Bob Hawke went on TV and said that while he’d promised Keating that he’d stand down after the next election, he didn’t really mean it – it was just a ploy to convince Keating to stay on as Treasurer. I commented at the time that it struck me as quite amazing that here we had a Prime Minister admitting that they told a deliberate lie to a colleague, yet nobody was making an issue of it.
But I guess that’s a big part of the trouble. The Canberra Press Gallery are involved of the theatre of it all. They know much of the behind the scenes stuff and it’s part of their role to perpetuate the illusion, while occasionally tearing down a facade or two and saying, “Look what I’ve discovered, aren’t I a clever little journalist?” I suspect this why they failed to understand why Julia Gillard’s mysoginy speech was so well received: They viewed it cynically and saw it as connected to the politics, and overlooked the fact that, for once, the public actually heard a politician saying what they meant and saying it passionately.
Which brings me to Malcolm Turnbull. (A man who often suggests that secretly, deep-down he doesn’t go along with the extreme agenda of this government. Except that he does. Always. There’s the odd statement or two, suggesting that he really supports something like gay marriage, but because there’s no conscience vote, if it comes to a vote, he’ll just follow orders and have no conscience.) A few weeks ago, Malcolm Turnbull suggested that media ownership laws weren’t that important any more, because, well there’s such a diversity of information out there. We have the internet (which Turnbull invented in Australia, if you remember), so it’s no big deal if One Person owns all the newspapers and television stations, because people get their information from a variety of sources.
In other words, it doesn’t matter that Murdoch prints Hockey’s lie on the front page, because I’ve repudiated it here. On the internet. And you’re reading it. So you know Hockey’s lying.
But let’s think this through for a moment. Imagine for a moment that I write something that you find unbelievable. (Let’s say that a group of fundamental Christians has teamed up with a group of fundamental Muslims because they realised that they actually have so much in common that if they just worked together, they could ban homosexuality, abortion, women’s rights, alcohol, and any opposition to their views.) The first thing you’ll do is check for other sources. If the mainstream media haven’t printed anything at all on the subject, you’ll probably decide that either I’m writing satire, or else I’m one of those nutters who thinks that everything is a conspiracy. Even if the mainstream media presents a story with a slant, the majority of people still rely on the mainstream media to frame the things that are worth debating. For example, we argue over whether it’s worth electing Labor or the Coalition, but we don’t have a discussion about whether there’s a role for more referendums on controversial issues. When facing elections, should we have the always have the opportunity to vote on a handful of other things as well?
If the only place you find evidence of the fact that Joe Hockey was inaccurate is on the Internet – and from just one person – you’ll tend to doubt it. If it’s only websites that give you a particular piece of information, you’ll tend to put it in the same category as the sites saying that the moon landing was faked or that Bob Hawke was a martian.
Then, of course, Mr Turnbull completely ignores one simple fact: What if the Internet starts to become censored? This is Australia, that couldn’t happen. While that seems unlikely – even far-fetched – history shows that we should never discount anything just because we believe it’s unlikely to happen.
So Mr Turnbull, I think you’re wrong. I think that even in the days of the Internet, we still need diversity.
But I guess, you’d say, we’ve always got the ABC.