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Message Control

I think we all agree that Labor shot itself in the foot by using the media to broadcast their internal squabbles. Conceding that, far greater forces were at play.

The other seemingly obvious cause was Labor’s failure to get their message across. Their achievements in government were significant, their policies were vastly superior (in most cases), and their ministers, if not overly charismatic, were at least competent and knowledgeable in their portfolios.

We all watched with increasing concern as they allowed the Coalition, ably abetted by the Murdoch press, to dictate the message. Carbon pricing became a “lie” and a “toxic tax”. Rather than answering this campaign with the obvious advantages of carbon pricing in dealing with climate change, they went into defence mode and we now find the carbon tax being blamed for everything to do with the economy, investment, manufacturing, jobs and cost of living.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the economy has a AAA credit rating, that we have had record investment, and that the average household is $14 000 a year better off now than they were in 2007. It doesn’t seem to matter that, until very recently, the mainstream business community was behind carbon pricing. It doesn’t seem to matter what reasons businesses give for closing, we are told it’s the carbon tax. And even after the repeal of the carbon tax is underway, and we still see businesses closing, it’s still the fault of the carbon tax.

In an astonishing transformation, we saw Tony Abbott move from an attack dog to Prime Minister, from misogynist to Minister for Women, from telling Aborigines they should pick up rubbish to crowning himself Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The Opposition had a strategy to keep the focus on the Government, to present a small target, to keep it simple and to exploit fear and populism. In other words, they controlled the message. They began the campaign with the infamous headless chook ad but when it was panned as childish and inappropriate they quickly morphed into the ‘adults’ carrying out a positive campaign warning us that Labor would get nasty. Actually, looking back, the ‘negative’ ads from Labor were quite prophetic.

So the Coalition won, promising us transparency and accountability – no surprises. They assumed they would be able to control the message in government as they had so successfully in opposition. Tony began by shutting the Indonesian press out of his first press conference on their soil. It did not go over well. His tough guy rhetoric for the domestic market has not been well received on the international stage.

His obsession with axing the tax might have done well for Tony here where he, along with people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, have convinced many people that climate change is crap. In the rest of the world his actions are being condemned and his rhetoric is being drowned out by the latest IPCC report and the growing commitment of other world leaders to take action on climate change.

In a further attempt to control the message, all interviews with Ministers have to be approved by the Prime Minister’s Office 24 hours prior to the interview. Scott Morrison is perfecting hiding the boats and Joe Hockey won’t tell us why the debt ceiling needs to be increased. Julie Bishop refuses to disclose details about any of her meetings with foreign leaders and the briefings from departments to the incoming government will not be released.

Newly appointed head of NBNco, former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, has certainly changed his message from 2003 when Telstra told the Senate Committee that the copper network was at “5 minutes to midnight” to now, when he told them it is “robust”. He has also been instructed not to talk to the media.

Experienced public servants have been sacked in their droves and an ‘Independent’ review panels have been set up to look at … well … just about everything. The trouble is that these review panels are composed of ex-Liberals and businessmen who have already expressed very strong views about what they are supposed to be reviewing, and as they have only been given a few months to prepare their advice, they will not be consulting with other concerned bodies. I would suggest these panels have been selected because they already know the message they are supposed to give.

We have BHP advising on climate change, the BCA which represents banks and mining companies doing the Commission of Audit, the former head of the Commonwealth Bank reviewing the finance sector, and one of the fiercest critics of Labor’s NBN, columnist for The Australian Henry Ergas, on the three man panel to do a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN.

And now we having Tony Abbott’s speeches being airbrushed from history – or is it is lies being airbrushed from history? – and his ‘excuse’ for the back flip on school funding highlights what could best be described as a classic case of ‘gaslighting’ (as pointed out by one of The AIMN’s readers):

“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have liked us to make”.

From Wikipedia: “Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity”. With the amount of message control we are being fed that certainly appears to be a technique of the Abbott Government.

Eric Hoffer once said “Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves”. With the growing reach of the fifth estate, it is becoming harder to control the message and there is little excuse for self-deception. However, we should remember that:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

Thomas Sowell.

We need to put message control into the control of the right people.

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  1. hilderombout

    Well said Kaye Lee and Michael. If it weren’t for people like you and others writing for the fifth estate no one would be any the wiser. Thanks to you, control of the message is not solely in the hands of the liars now, and i have been noticing that more people are joining us, which is fantastic.

  2. lawrencewinder

    Isn’t “airbrushing” the past and deleting documents akin to “Burning the Books?”

  3. FSM is coming.

    You think there would be laws against corruption….

  4. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    Kay & Michael, thanks so much for spelling it out what has really happened is still happening with this dreadfully incompetent member of parliament.

    I also agree with lawrencewinder about the ‘airbrushing’ the past from TA’s files. There is, though, nowhere to run & hide from this man’s lies etc as so many of us have also seen & heard & most probably put in our files on TA’s misspeaks. They are now in ANU archives too.

  5. Graeme Rust

    A great article , how shifty is that old phone tapper?

  6. Michael Taylor

    Thanks hilderombout and Graeme. I’m sure that Kay will be delighted.

  7. hilderombout

    What a lovely reponse to all of us who comment on the AIMN. Kaye Lee and Michael it is you who inspire us all. Or perhaps it is better to say that we all inspire each other. I often wish i had your capacity to express myself so confidently, but i am learning every day and i have the good great fortune of being a pensioner, which to me means having the time to strive to become more informed and hopefully wiser. Thank you to all who enrich my life.

  8. Kaye Lee

    To all of you who comment on the AIMN.

    Your words inspire us, your comments teach us, your concerns make us aware and lead us to look further. We are all entitled to know what is being said and done in our name. We are all tired of the games our politicians play and I salute you all in what you do to help spread the truth. Look out Rupert and Peta, your control is slipping

  9. leighton8

    Your insights are very much appreciated ….

  10. Kaye Lee


    Pensioners have a huge potential in our society. As you say, they have the time to read and research. They have the experience. They remember what has gone before. They have growing families with generations to whom they can speak. They can discuss current affairs with their adult children and nieces and nephews who may be too busy working hard and looking after little kids to read anything more than headlines. They can interest their grandkids in the environment. They often help others in their communities through church and volunteer work.

    I want the pensioners to get loud and proud. I want them to inspire their grandkids to do the same. We need the wisdom of age to inspire the passion of youth because many of us in between are just too tired and busy dealing with day to day to truly get a handle on what is going on.

    So for all our sakes, keep learning, keep sharing the knowledge, and keep caring. Use your voice to make a difference.

  11. Kim Wright

    I live in an area surrounded by pensioners. I haven’t found one yet who didn’t vote for Tony. Many pensioners are also tired “over it”. If they war political they still are, if they weren’t they won’t be. Until we create our own shock jocks we have to find other ways to reach them and other groups in the community. Those who research and post on sites like this already know. I am also in contact with a lot of mid twenties. Many who wish to consider the ill actions of Govt and corporations prefer the conspiracy theory sites to ones similar to this one. I would welcome sites where real conversations and development of ideas occur

  12. dave the brickie

    Murdoch.The Grinch who stole Democracy….

  13. hilderombout

    Kim Wright, Maybe you live in the wrong area or your particular area has only Abbott voters living in it. I tell you though, as a pensioner, my friends – also pensioners or close to that age – did NOT vote for Abbott. And i do not agree with you that young people prefer conspiracy sites either. Actually i don’t know any young people who do. And i do not think we should create shocks to get our progressive message heard. I for one certainly would not like to go down that road and demean myself that way. There are plenty of other ways in which our message can be heard. You could start a petition if you are so inclined. You could look at what happened in Indi and follow that example. Or you could initiate your own unique idea. I think this is a time in which our creativity will succeed in getting the message out in a positive way rather than resorting to negative ones. Anyway, this is my two bob worth.

  14. Kim Wright

    Lots of assumptions there.
    I live in a beautiful regional NSW thank you and I have devoted much of my time and energy encouraging others to consider their political choices. I too am a pensioner, did not of course vote Abbott, devote my days to the environment and political change, but I have healthy understanding that neither pensioners nor young people ( who I worked with and for for 27 years) are not homogenous groups. ( Might add Aboriginal people to that group, and all ethnicities, all religious groups etc etc). I did not say all young people though I do have the pleasure of knowing a wide and diverse group many of whom post me. Perhaps you have heard of Anonymous. Have you not read any posts regarding Climate Change being promoted by Corporations? No? Always good to know what others are thinking and reading. Ah Petitions, how many would you like me to list? Climate Change Events and organisation of same? Letters to Ministers, Opposition blah blah.
    I wasn’t asking you for a list of things I could do, I was suggesting a process of development and activism within a site…and I didn’t even suggest it be this one. I also didn’t suggest we develop shock jock routines…but come to think of it some people other than yourself may actually think it is a reasonable thing to do…though they wouldn’t get the same pay as others
    My friends didnt vote Abbott either. We tend as I said to mix with people with similar views Walking on the Dark side and knowing thine enemy could be of value as opposed to alienating and criticising those who are actually on the same side…though at times I do wonder

  15. Kim Wright

    Thank you Kaye for your considered response. I will say that my neighbours have gone a little quieter since mention of pensions and potential GST on food were highlighted. Sadly we do live ( especially since the last years of the Tony opposition) where sexism racism and acceptance of violence as a means to get what you want were endorsed by our Elders. The promotion of fearfulness and insecurity work very well on some people. The mix of voters and their choices has changed. The working class lad is now making big money for the first time in generations, in the mines…………hence the support for the removal of mining tax and carbon tax. Traditionally these people would have voted Labor. The Internet is full of counter arguments to everything you may wish to argue.
    The biggest ever shock for me and I am still reeling from when Australian women( of course not all) stood back and even partook in the ongoing misogynist attacks on our First Female Leader. Here was an opportunity to stand up be brave and support her. But know, they joined in……….Mr Abbott and his promoters where on to it
    So to end.
    Heres an idea

  16. Kaye Lee

    Kim I agree. The collaboration of all our minds and experience should surely be a formidable resource. I also agree that we are often speaking to the converted, but every attempt I make to converse with people who voted Conservative is met with responses like “we won you lost get over it”. They, perhaps justifiably, point to the disunity in Labor ranks, but when they are challenged on the “bad guvmint” mantra they seem to have no substantial argument to offer. I have tried to ask questions on Tony Abbott’s page and the Liberal Party page and promptly been banned. I don’t know how to initiate a conversation with them. So I come back to writing about what I see and feel and talking to those who respond who are, in the main, as you point out, people who already know.

  17. Emmee Bee

    Wow! Good piece Kaye Lee. Consider it duly shared. 🙂

  18. Rod Bakes

    I really wish people would recognise how much Labor achieved ,never a mention how our houses were cozier after the Murdoch inspired failed Pink Batts scheme ,The good that came from the School Halls Debacle . The power of Spin & we fell for it . Shame on Us !!

  19. doctorrob54

    hilderombout speaks for me also here.Cheers mate.

  20. Bec Brown

    Thanks again Kaye, I am coming to AIMN daily now to get a dose of reality. The MSM is superficial, poorly researched copy paste trash, and ironically, by going to free sites which have no commercial interests we are much more likely to have open views and a better understanding of the issues. I appreciate the work you do in posting and commenting very much, and indeed the entire team at AIMN. Keep it up!

  21. Kaye Lee

    Bec the more people we can encourage to read for themselves, to check what they are being told, to get away from he said she said stupid arguments and get back to thinking about our priorities, the more chance we have to control the message. Thank you for your interest.

  22. Cookie

    Thanks Kate for a fantastic argument. These pieces give me ammunition whenever I debate politics with people who only read the MSM. Kay, most of my friends are pensioners, as am I, and not one of them voted for or can stomach the Coagulation.

  23. Kaye Lee

    Grey rage – I love it. Keep up the good work Cookie and spread the word.

  24. Kim Wright

    Reading the comments back to me Kaye just a affirm for me the capacity for people to believe because they and their friends think in a certain way the majority feels the same. As I said in a response post, pensioners, young people, Aboriginal people are not homogenous groups. Because some don’t have pensioner contacts who voted Abbott ( or don’t admit it)and I do doesn’t make me somehow lacking in authority to speak, because some people have never mixed with the punk, tattooed, or disenfranchised youth ( who also vote)doesn’t mean they don’t exist or don’t have worth or that I am somehow not right in my claims. I am on many sites where people are active and come to this one some times. I am very active politically and am doing my bit. I have spend the majority of my life working in various fields re Social Justice, so I do understand that one is never to underestimate the enemy or assume who you think would support will. WOuld love to know how many of your regular responders attended the Climate Change Event or donate regularly out of their pensions to organisations taking up the fight on behalf of all of us.
    So Kaye, I will continue to read and share widely the articles I read here, and I will resist commenting.

  25. Kim Wright
  26. hilderombout

    Kim Wright, I am glad that you are such a spokesperson for the disenfranchised. And you are right in saying that no group is a homogenous one. So perhaps it is better not to speak about groups but about people we have met on the travels in our lives. That way we avoid feeling spoken to when we belong to a particular group that is mentioned in a perhaps negative way. We are all people and we are all unique. I know i react when spoken to as a groupmember.
    I’ve learnt early on in life that it does not matter what a group does, it matters what each of us individually does. If i am concerned about Climate Change then it is up to me to take action and if i can, contribute to the debate as well as financially. I strongly believe that if we want to change our society we have to see ourselves as human beings first, as Australians second and then, only when it is necessary and as a last resort, to group us. Grouping ourselves inevitably leads to division and right now that is the last thing we need. Whether aboriginal, asylum seeker, young, old, rich or poor, we are all human beings, whether or not we behave humane. We all bleed when we are cut the same colour blood. We all strive for happiness and we all seek love. So please let us see ourselves as what we have in common rather than how we differ. And Kim there are many people who have a concern for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised people like you no matter what our political affiliation. Thank you for responding here and please keep doing so. Every voice counts i am sure.

  27. Kaye Lee

    Kim please keep sharing your thoughts and experience. We all learn from each other.

    I agree that pensioners, young people, and Aboriginal people are not homogeneous groups any more than women are. That’s what I found so offensive when Tony said he “gets” women, so I understand your point.

    I did go to the climate change event and I just sent a donation to the Philippines. Everyone contributes in different ways, even by commenting on sites like this. Information sharing is important, as is listening to different viewpoints.

    I can only encourage you to keep up the conversation and if I offended you by any of my responses then I apologise. It was not my intention.

  28. Dan Rowden

    Hilarious comment on a Fairfax story about the Coalition attacking the ABC:

    I for one cannot for the life of me see the need for a National Independent Broadcaster like the ABC when we have 2GB on the job keeping the Govt on track. Here for instance is the incisive Alan Jones interrogating Christopher Pyne a week ago. The minister’s replies have of course been removed because the policy has been spun, back flipped and completely altered since then and the Minister of Information Cory Bernadi has deemed the answers unfit for your consumption. Thank God for real journalists like Jones and the Murdoch press for ever vigilantly preserving our freedom.

    ALAN JONES: Yeah that’s right.
    ALAN JONES: Yep.
    ALAN JONES: Yeah.
    ALAN JONES: So good on you, now that’s a thousand per cent correct, okay.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] correct.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] absolutely right.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] correct, absolutely right, that’s the crisis.
    ALAN JONES: Yeah.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] yeah.
    ALAN JONES: Yep.
    ALAN JONES: Good on you.
    ALAN JONES: Yeah.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] absolutely right.
    ALAN JONES: Yeah absolutely.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] yeah, yeah that’s it.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] yeah.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] How do you do it?
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] yeah that’s a great idea.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] good idea.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] definitely.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] there you are that’s right because…
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] absolutely.
    ALAN JONES: [Laughs] yes.
    ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] now windup because I’m the speaker I’m giving you the windup here.
    ALAN JONES: Alright, big issue. Good to talk to you, we’ll talk again often.
    ALAN JONES: Thank you for your time. Half past seven, Christopher Pyne.

  29. Kim Wright

    Oh Kaye it wasn’t you! and I have no doubts that you are active and donate. It was more a question to those who suggest that I should write petitions or do something. ANyway You keep up the good work

  30. Wun Farlung

    Kim Wright
    You keep commenting
    Although we seem to be few, I welcome other people’s views, even the one eyed type, whether I agree with them or not.
    Kaye Lee
    It is no suprise that there is a renewed call for privatisation of the ABC, the LNP has been calling for privatisation for as long as I can remember. The ABC doesn’t toe the line for the government of the day and they shouldn’t.
    I can’t remember the ALP ever doing so, maybe I’m wrong

  31. Dan Rowden

    Interesting that Bernardi wants ABC websites to be paywalled when the consumer is already paying for them.

  32. Kaye Lee

    Nothing better than a “probing” interview that asks the tough questions. Good job Alan!

    “The ABC’s funding should be cut and the national broadcaster forced to sell advertising and paid subscriptions online to compete with commercial newspapers, according to Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi.

    “I don’t want to see a state run media effectively dominating this landscape,” the South Australian senator said.

    “The ABC has grown exponentially over the years,” Senator Bernardi told ABC radio on Wednesday. “And now it’s basically encroaching into the newspapers of the 21st century, which is the online space.”

    Senator Bernardi said he was happy for the ABC to keep its radio and television stations, but not for it to publish free news on its websites. This would destroy newspapers published by Fairfax Media and News Corp, Senator Bernardi said.

    Malcolm Turnbull attempted to fend off a mini-revolt in the Coalition party room over the ABC, telling the meeting that he believed the ABC did a pretty good job of observing its charter. He denied that the national broadcaster was contributing to the ruin of newspapers arguing the publishing industry suffered from a lack of advertising revenue, not from a lack of readers.”

  33. Kaye Lee

    Very good point Dan.

  34. Kaye Lee

    And in keeping with the other review panels……

    “Weeks after becoming the face of the government’s expenses scandal, West Australian MP Don Randall has been reappointed to the parliamentary committee overseeing privileges and members’ interests.

    Mr Randall will be one of a group of politicians considering “complaints about registering or declaring interests”.

    Mr Randall has previously said that he can “sleep well at night” about his taxpayer-funded trip to Cairns, adding that while he visited his investment property, “it wasn’t as if I got the keys or anything”.

    At the time, Mr Randall blamed the media for the attention on his expenses. “It’s an issue that’s been trawled over largely by the Fairfax Media and then become an issue for the rest of you.”

    Asked then whether he had acted in the spirit of the law, Mr Randall said: “My interpretation of the spirit of the law will be completely different from somebody who is my opponent or my critic.” ”

    It’s all the media’s fault I tell you!!! Just like that nasty ABC doing unpaid advertising for that lefty UK paper the Guardian. Hacking Indonesia’s First Lady’s phone wasn’t a sin, telling about it was. Having an extra-marital affair isn’t a sin, getting caught is, and then it’s your partner’s fault for being inadequate. Yeah… I’ve heard that line before.

    Victims of abuse: “A feeling of guilt about the abuse is almost universal – the victim of abuse believing, and being told by the perpetrator, that they or their actions are the cause of the abuse.”

  35. Kaye Lee


    Finally, a Coalition Senator with some guts!!!

    “Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin are enforcing a culture of “obsessive centralised control phobia” and are out of touch with voters, according to Liberal National Party senator Ian Macdonald, who has delivered a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s office.

    Senator Macdonald is furious that he has not been consulted about the government’s terms of reference for its Northern Australia policies, saying he “discovered” them by accident and was treated dismissively by the Prime Minister’s office.

    “What you see in the terms of reference submitted by the government may be the Prime Minister’s office’s version of what it was all about,” Senator Macdonald said.

    “But I have to advise them and my constituents that I will not have unelected advisers in the Prime Minister’s office telling elected politicians who are actually in touch with their constituencies what should and shouldn’t be done.”

    Mr Abbott’s staff seemed “to have an almost obsessive centralised control phobia, over this and every other aspect of Parliament,” Senator Macdonald said.”

    Read more:

  36. Frank Hunt

    We don’t like to admit it but the battle of ideologies is about a war. Watch as the fascist Tories now exultant and overconfident display their real agenda. Petty, destructive and arrogant they will try to return Australia and its people back to the Howard years by demolishing important concepts that impair the begetting of power and cash for their masters. Watch and as the old adage. “actions speak louder than words” demonstrates its validity.

  37. Kaye Lee

    We may be ubhappy about Tony Abbott being Prime Minister but I am FURIOUS about this woman appointing herself dictator of my country!!! NO-ONE voted for YOU Credlin! Piss off and take your headless chook husband with you. This country does NOT need people like YOU!!!!1

    “Rumblings of discontent have been growing since the election win in September.

    The strict media control of ministers by the Prime Minister’s office has been reported but a bigger irritant for Coalition members and staffers has been a tight grip on appointments by Ms Credlin and the so-called “star chamber” staff appointments panel she heads.

    A Coalition member told Fairfax Media: “The level of control is far in excess of the Howard government at its peak. It’s Peta Credlin who is the problem, she’s a control freak and this is feeding into all sorts of things.”

    The selection of government members for committees is now being done from “on high”, whereas in the past, MPs and senators had been given a level of freedom to sort out appointments among themselves.
    “All these things are rigidly coming from Abbott’s office. People are not happy,” said a member of the government.

    A number of ministers have been bruised by dealings with the star chamber, which is made up of Ms Credlin, Liberal ministers Michael Ronaldson and Kevin Andrews, Ms Credlin’s deputy, Andrew Hirst, and David Whitrow, the chief of staff to Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

    Unofficial members are Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane – Ms Credlin’s husband – and John Howard’s former chief of staff, Tony Nutt, who was hired to oversee the transition to government.

    Fairfax Media can reveal that at least a third of Tony Abbott’s 19-member cabinet have had senior staffing appointments either knocked back or imposed on them by the Peta Credlin-led appointments panel, known as the “star chamber”.

    Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Senate leader Eric Abetz, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce have all been overruled by the staffing panel or had senior advisers “imposed” on their offices. Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos has also had a potential chief of staff vetoed.

    Senator Abetz clashed with the star chamber over his intention to retain his longtime chief of staff in opposition, Chris Fryar. Mr Fryar has been kept on rolling short-term contracts as a senior adviser.

    Senator Abetz told a Senate estimates hearing last week: “At the end of the day it was decided by the Prime Minister as to who would be appointed to my ministerial staff and to the staff of my ministerial colleagues,”

    As revealed by Fairfax, Ms Credlin has insisted that all 420 government staff appointments right down to junior electorate officers are approved by the panel.”–accused-of-pulling-coalition-strings-20131204-2yqte.html#ixzz2mUpataF0

  38. Graeme Rust

    it seems there are people other than those voted in are running the country? credlin seems to be as bad as the bishop twins , she must be the SS of abbottsville .

  39. Kaye Lee

    Graeme what I cannot understand is how she gets away with it. She is an employee in Tony Abbott’s office. How come all these senior politicians are allowing her to tell them who THEY may employ?

  40. Graeme Rust

    Kaye, she could be a morduck person put in there to keep an eye on ferret face , (just joking I think ) tone put her in charge of his office so she gets to run the show, do you really think abbott knows how to run a bath, somebody has to organise his office so she’s it, but with far to much say in everything. abbott only acts on her say so, take her out of the picture and what have you got ??

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