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A Coalition government will not allow the public to be told the truth

When the Gillard government tried to appoint a Public Interest Media Advocate, the Coalition, aided by an hysterical Murdoch Press, went into overdrive.

“Freedom is at stake, liberty is at stake, democracy is at stake,” communication spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said.

Former press council head David Flint said “It is dangerous … it will give the government a power it should never have, the power to determine the content of the press. The press is there as a check and balance against the government.”

“This government will go down in history as the first Australian government outside of wartime to attack freedom of speech by seeking to introduce a regime which effectively institutes government sanctioned journalism,” News Limited chief executive Kim Williams said.

Considering the veil of secrecy that has descended over government actions since the Coalition took power, their hyperbolic opposition to Conroy’s proposals is laughable.

Malcolm Turnbull said “As Senator Conroy descends further and further into the pit of paranoia the ranks of the hate media in his mind get bigger and bigger. Anyone that disagrees with him is engaged in a vendetta.”

If you want to talk vendettas, how about the one carried out against anyone who raises concern about the plight of refugees locked up on Manus and Nauru like Gillian Triggs or the Save the Children workers or Sarah Hansen-Young.

The Drum recently reported that the AFP has been conducting an investigation of Dr Peter Young, the former medical director of mental health services for our offshore immigration detention centres, after he commented publicly and critically about the medical care of asylum seekers and particularly the horrible and completely avoidable death of Hamid Khazaei.

When an Amnesty International report provided evidence of the Australian government paying people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia, Peter Dutton slammed the report, saying it was “a slur on the men and women of the ABF and ADF”.

This secrecy also extends to climate change.

It wasn’t so long ago that Greg Hunt assured us that the decision to not list the Reef as in danger was proof of his good work.

“It’s really an astonishing and outstanding outcome for Australia and what it means is that the physical work is now being held up to the rest of the world for dealing with complex challenges facing the great coral reefs of the globe,” Hunt told the ABC.

Move on a few months and we now have the government insisting that all reference to Australia be removed from a UNESCO report titled “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” because it would be “bad for tourism” if people heard the truth about what is happening to our Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

Even the progress of the NBN rollout appears to be a secret.

This information control extends much further.

Public servants were urged to dob in colleagues posting political criticism of the Abbott government on social media, even if the comments are anonymous, under new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines.

Gag clauses preventing organisations who receive government funding from speaking out about legislation have silenced many advocates.

Freedom of information requests are denied for the most spurious of reasons and court orders to release information, such as Ministers’ diaries, are ignored. Anything they are forced to release is so heavily redacted as to be indechiperable.

Contracts such as free trade agreements and defence procurement are negotiated in secret. Costings and potential benefits are hidden behind words like “commercial in confidence”.

In 2012, Tony Abbott said:

“Thanks to free speech, error can be exposed, corruption revealed, arrogance deflated, mistakes corrected, the right upheld and truth flaunted in the face of power. On issues of value, purpose and meaning, there is no committee, however expert, and no appointee, however eminent, with judgment superior to that of the whole community which is why the best decisions are made with free debate rather than without it.”

That same year, Malcolm Turnbull asked:

“How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?”

Despite their words about freedom of speech, transparency and accountability, and our right to know, one thing has become patently clear. A Coalition government will not allow the public to be told the truth.

 

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18 comments

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  1. David1

    I saw an example of free speech the day after Nova Peris officially announced her resignation. It came from Murdoch Papers front pages where they, because they are fortunate to be publishing in a free society (sort of), attacked the lady’s personality, her motives, her lifestyle. Full on, abuse.
    Led by the DT they stooped to a new low when they decided to attack her in such a disgusting manner. I fervently hope, in vain I fear, Labor will have the courage to do something about Murdoch. I don’t have the answers however in many areas this campaign they have displayed good helpings of ‘courage’, that would be a start.

  2. etnorb

    How can they “allow” ANY free speech, when they ALL persist in talking so many untruths, lies & twisting of the truth themselves? They would (probably) be horrified to think that, perhaps, we might speak the same. How bloody “bad” would that be?

  3. jimhaz

    [Public servants were urged to dob in colleagues posting political criticism of the Abbott government on social media, even if the comments are anonymous, under new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet guidelines]

    A tool used by dictators that seems to work well for the dictator. I think this policy shows the great level of sickness in our society due to the neo-con fire and brimstone brigade.

  4. jimhaz

    Information is confusing. For instance this reads like one would expect.

    “The Fair Work Commission found public servants were not bound by their code-of-conduct to show deference to the government while on their own free time.

    Commission Vice-President Adam Hatcher found the Public Service Act gave departments no general right to discipline their employees for political speech outside of working hours and such powers would be a “gross intrusion into the non-working lives and rights of public servants.”

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/the-hunt-how-the-public-service-tracks-down-internal-critics-20160404-gnxjqv.html

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/centrelink-vows-to-fight-to-get-rid-of-reinstated-public-servant-who-called-clients-spastics-20160410-go3700.html

  5. kerri

    When will this nightmare end?

  6. Jexpat

    A Public Interest Media Advocate is the very least of that’s needed.

    The problem of serial and abject dishonesty (about nearly every issue under the sun) and personal attack ought to be dealth with via a Fairness Doctrine, whereby media outlets are required to broadcast or publish prominent corrections of objective fact to the record by responsible spokespersons.

    That there’s virtually no accountability for the vast majority of the so called “journalists” in corporate media (and the ABC) is not only dangerous to a working democracy, but also renders a nation incapable of understading, much less meeting the challenges and solving the problems of the 21st Century.

  7. lawrencewinder

    As I said a week or so ago…. (repeating parts of my blog of three years ago) this ruling rabble slides from Orwellian lies to Kafka=-esque absurdity and will soon be more akin to a Kurt Schwitters DaDa performance …..but then, they are leaders… in cognitive dissonance!

  8. Kaye Lee

    MALCOLM TURNBULL: “In case you think my call for a change of attitude and practice to truth in politics is just idealism – let me make a practical political point. It seems to me that we don’t simply have a financial deficit, we have a deficit of trust. We can argue for hours which side and which politicians, which journalists indeed, have contributed most to it. But it affects all of us and all of our institutions. The politicians and parties that can demonstrate they can be trusted, that they will not insult the people with weasel words and spin, that they will not promise more than they can deliver, that they will not dishonestly misrepresent either their own or their opponents’ policies – those politicians and parties will, I submit to you, deserve and receive electoral success.”

  9. Keith

    Often when Abbott was the leader of the big end of town my comment was if you take the complete opposite view to the COALition you were in the ball park as to what is going on. Sadly, now that Turnbull is leader of the big end of town, he has not evolved to the position of Prime Minister of Australia; little has changed.

    Should the LNP maintain a majority in the House of Reps and gain a majority in the Senate; then, the last three years will be looked on as a good time in my opinion. A good mix of Independents and small Parties will keep the “bastards honest”.

    I’m beginning to wonder whether the ABC is being harassed into going easy on the Liberals, Chris Uhlmann appears to be quite partisan.
    Now there is a minion from Murdoch who leads the ABC.

  10. David1

    Keith for my money, there has been a Liberal party ra ra team in the ranks of ABC News and Current Affairs since Howard started the stacking. Managing Director Scott worked for the New South Wales Greiner Liberal government, as chief of staff to the Education Minister, Virginia Chadwick, and as a senior adviser to education minister, Terry Metherell. Not a tie to the Libs easily cut.

    I have challenged Uhlmann on many ‘discussions’ on Twitter to deny he is a card carrying Lib. he eventually blocked me without any denial, ditto news Radio’s Marius Benson
    News Radios breakfast host (shared) Sandy Aloisi formerly program director of ‘Sydney’s 2UE’. She also co-hosted the station’s breakfast program, before moving to ABC NewsRadio in 2010.
    730’s Leigh Sales and Sabra Lane plus Radio Nationals morning (wrote boring mistype first up) Fran Kelly, all hardly great advertisements for the ABC Charter of balanced broadcasting.

    Now the latest ABC recruit , another from the Murdoch bosom, David Lipson, one time colleague of Skys Chief Political Reporter David Speers. The list goes on, Drum and all up there in the Ivory Tower.
    The ABC Board dominated by Liberal Party and News Corp hacks.

    Aunty lost her family some time ago RIP

  11. Kaye Lee

    Don’t forget Abbott appointed Janet Albrechtsen and former deputy Liberal Party leader Neil Brown to the panel overseeing appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS.

    Albrechtsen, a columnist for The Australian, has previously derided the ABC as a “Soviet-style workers collective”.

    In November 2013, Albrechtsen called for ABC managing director Mark Scott to resign for airing stories based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden about Australian intelligence operations in Indonesia. She is the partner of Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger.

    In an article for The Spectator early in 2014, Neil Brown called for a full privatisation of the ABC on the grounds it is biased to the left.

    “The only solution of any practical value today is the one that should already have been adopted: sell it,’’ he wrote. ‘‘Clearly, concern about the ABC has arisen and increased in recent years because of its political, social and current affairs coverage, where its hallmark has become an endemic lack of objectivity and balance.’’

    Those choices were about as good as appointing Freedom Boy to the Human Rights Commission. They are the people you would pick if you wanted to destroy the joint.

  12. Terry2

    Pulling together all the pieces, I got the clear impression in the Morrison/Bowen debate that all of the 2014 Budget items that have been rejected by the Senate will be front and centre after the election and the coalition, should they win, will present all of those Bills immediately if they have a majority in both Houses or by way of a joint sitting of both Houses otherwise.

    The $18 billion of savings that the coalition say have been blocked by the Senate are part of the savings that the coalition are banking on as part of the 2016 budget.

    Maybe I’m stating the obvious but Australia needs to be very careful how it votes because one false step and we’re back to fulfilling the Abbott legacy.

  13. Diane

    It seems like Channel 10 these days is the only channel prepared to criticise the Liberals in any way. Even then, obviously the powers-that-be insist The Project has to have that awful Steve Price (married to Greg Hunt’s Chief of Staff) on as often as possible to nullify any influence of the eminently sensible Waleed Ali.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Terry2.

    That is what makes the Charter of Budget Honesty such a farce. The Coalition have kept measures that they have been unable to pass for two years in the budget. If they don’t force them through, they face the same $18.5 billion dollar shortfall they are accusing Labor of.

    Has anyone else noticed there has been NO mention of the reason we are having a double dissolution – the ABCC?

    Yet another of Heydon’s TURC prosecutions has been abandoned.

    They dropped legal action against construction union national secretary Michael O’Connor (Brendon’s brother) after he was wrongly accused of engaging in unlawful industrial action in Sydney. The referral was based on a photo – the guy in the photo wasn’t him. What a waste of time and money that RC turned out to be. Pretty much every case has been abandoned for lack of evidence.

    The one person where the case is rock solid, Kathy Jackson, remains immune.

  15. Jaquix

    One of the best defences against Murdoch is the ABC. It should be fully funded and encouraged at all levels. The Board should also NOT be appointed by the government of the day. Ive long thought the cost of the ABC should be put under “adult education” because that is certainly what it does. It also enjoys a very high degree of popularity and trust of the population. I dont trust the new CEO, scrapping Fact Check immediately, and right at the beginning of an election campaign, shows her true colours. (It was probably one of the prerequisites of getting the job) If it was costing far too much, some trimming could be done, but the unit should be reinstated. Whether Labor would have the guts to do so if they are elected, that is the question. Their research was extensive and far reaching, and again, comes under the heading of “adult education” in my book.

  16. totaram

    This “stacking” of these organisations started indeed under John Howard, but when Labor came in, in 2007 they made no effort to “unstack” them. Everytime the coalition comes in, they stack some more of their culture warriors into key positions, and Labor in its turn does nothing. By now it is so late that all these organisations will have to be rebuilt from scratch if we are to have anything decent. Will Labor have the guts to do it? I think not. So although the majority of australians do not agree with the neo-liberal hard-right agenda of the IPA, that is what they are going to get, time and time again.

    And most importantly, the neo-liberal agenda is based on their false macro-economic model of “how will you pay for it?” and if Labor has also bought into it, and cannot even say “we will borrow for investment just as any corporation does” then there is not much hope. Remember, this false idea about macro-economics has been drummed into the populace over the last 30-40 years by the media, so reversing it is very hard. Labor’s idea of “putting people first” is on the right track but they are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. You can’t put people first, if surplus budgets are the holy grail.

  17. dadsdasaiPC

    “If you want to talk vendettas, how about the one carried out against anyone who raises concern about the plight of refugees locked up on Manus and Nauru like Gillian Triggs or the Save the Children workers or Sarah Hansen-Young.”

    And let’s not forget, Kaye Lee, Duncan Storrar who asked a question on Q&A. When Murdoch and his little evil flying monkeys unleashed an insidious character assassination in a blatant attempt to cut down freedom of speech.

    That could have been any one of us.

    People are becoming increasingly tiresome of that tactic of the right in projecting their infantile diseases onto the rest of society.

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