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Muzzling the watchdogs

The purpose of journalism is to serve the community and the purpose of political journalism is to give citizens the information they need to participate in civic affairs. Political journalists should serve as watchdogs to assure honest governance and campaigns.

Politics is often portrayed as a “game.” Indeed, sports and metaphors pepper political writing. Unlike other “games,” political ones have real world consequences: war or peace; high taxes or low; jobs or unemployment; health care or not; tackling climate change or pursuing unfettered mining. Considering the ramifications, political journalists bear a heavy responsibility to present the facts to the electorate.

The Herald Sun is a Murdoch tabloid newspaper based in Melbourne. It is the highest-circulating daily newspaper in Australia, with a weekday circulation of 515,000 and readership of 1,500,000.

Two days before the 2013 Federal election the anonymous editorial gave this ‘astute’ pronouncement which read more like a paid advertorial than insightful analysis:

“TONY Abbott stands ready today to become Australia’s new prime minister with a set of economic and social policies to take the nation into a safe and assured future.

Mr Abbott and the Coalition have shown they are more than ready to govern whereas another three years of Labor will condemn the nation to more destructive class-war politics and policy on the run.

We believe Mr Abbott stands ready to seize the day. His has been a disciplined performance in a bitter and deeply divided Parliament. He has proved himself a man of principle.

Tony Abbott has matured as a leader. He has gained people’s trust to do a tough job in tough economic times.

The Herald Sun believes Mr Abbott should be given the opportunity tomorrow to restore Australia for Australians.

We urge Australians to vote for Mr Abbott and elect him as our 28th prime minister.”

Righto then. (Note to self: Do not rely on The Herald Sun’s judgement.)

Fast forward to February 2 this year. Also in the Herald Sun, Tony’s most ardent supporter, Andrew Bolt, is forced to concede:

“The LNP defeat [in Queensland] also damaged Abbott because the analogy between Newman’s fall and Abbott’s own decline is so powerful.

Newman broke promises, picked too many fights, rammed decisions down voters’ throats and carried on at times like an autocrat, making idiosyncratic decisions such as appointing an underqualified magistrate his chief justice.

He just seemed arrogant and beyond voters’ control — a fatal flaw.

Australian voters can’t be commanded, tricked, bullied, surprised, taken for granted or treated like fools. How many leaders have learned that already? Abbott, too, has broken promises — on spending cuts and tax rises. And, like Newman, he picked too many fights, announced radical schemes without real consultation and made several idiosyncratic decisions, such as reinstating knighthoods.

He now seems out of touch, unpredictable and too self-willed. One who imposes, not persuades.”

Oh? Do tell.

Abbott, in his all-encompassing search to blame others, has suggested that we have been too generous in giving “benefit of the doubt” to bad people.

I could list countless examples where that is true in domestic violence and child abuse cases. If you look at the history you wonder why those entrusted to protect us failed so badly.

In politics, it is up to the media to protect us but, with some notable exceptions, they have failed to see the pattern and to warn of the risk.

The mainstream media, along with the Liberal Party, are like a victim of political abuse, wanting to believe that their abuser truly loves them and will change.

“I have listened. I will change from now on. I’ll be better…promise.”

How many times do you listen to this before you decide to leave?

Look at the examples of violence and aggression over the years that Abbott has either denied, defended, skited about, or, as a last resort, apologised for.

In 1976, while at University, Tony kicked in a glass panel door after a narrow defeat in the University Senate elections .

There was the 1977 charge of indecent assault where Abbott argued that Helen Wilson “was speaking about me in a highly critical way”.

The same year saw the ‘alleged’ physical intimidation of Barbara Ramjan. After she beat Mr Abbott for the presidency of the Sydney University Student Representative Council, he put his face close to hers and punched the wall either side of her head.

There was also the proven charge of destruction of public property. In celebrations after passing his final year economics examination, Abbott was challenged to bend a street sign. As he did so two policemen spotted him. The offence was proven but no conviction was recorded. Look how strong I am, nobody punishes me.

Lindsay Foyle, a former deputy editor of The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, revealed that Tony Abbott once threatened to punch him because of a disagreement over abortion.

“Greg Sheridan, the education writer on The Bulletin, arrived with some people who did not work with us. The interlopers were soon identified as radicals involved in student politics at the University of Sydney.

They quickly explained how the world went around and why they had to extinguish their opposition at the university and the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I did not agree with everything that was said and a few feathers got ruffled. The main point of contention was a woman’s right to control pregnancy, either via contraception or abortion. My view was that it was something those involved should settle on, not people like me who didn’t have to live with the consequences of the decision. To the activists that view was just as unacceptable as abortion.

The largest of the lot was a person named Tony Abbott. He decided the quickest way to settle our differences was to take me downstairs and demonstrate how I was wrong by punching my head in.”

Abbott loves to speak about his sporting past which is more renowned for aggression than talent or finesse.

After being swiftly dumped from the rugby union team at Oxford, Tony entered the boxing ring where he got his much wanted blue for hitting people.

In the 80s, Abbott punched team mate Joe Hockey at football training leaving him unconscious and with two black eyes. The angst was caused by Hockey’s disapproval with Tony’s captain’s picks for team selection. How ironic.

Tony has skited about his point scored in the best and fairest awards for landing a good punch on an opponent suggesting that “sometimes, to be the best and fairest, you have to throw the first punch”.

He has admitted that his only skill at cricket was sledging.

This same ‘skill’ was on display in his threat to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin. What leader of a democratic nation speaks this way?

Throughout his public career, Abbott has expressed his dislike of outspoken women and his mistrust of homosexuals, finding both “threatening”. His attitude to feminists and gays has changed little over the years.

During his time in the Howard Government, Tony Abbott was once escorted out of Parliament because he moved in a threatening manner towards the Opposition benches just after Labor’s Graham Edwards, a Vietnam Veteran who had lost both his legs during the Vietnam War, had interjected: “You’re a disgrace”.

Tony has admitted to ‘mistakes’ over the years, like when he personally attacked terminally ill campaigner, Bernie Banton. These admissions only happen after public outrage and outing by the media.

After Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party, he encouraged his followers to attack Julia Gillard in the most personal vile sexist manner that I have ever viewed in politics. And this is how the Abbott government has proceeded.

When the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, suggested we were already seeing the results of climate change and criticised Abbott’s Direct Action Plan as inadequate, he dismissed her saying she was “talking through her hat”.

Tony will not tolerate being questioned.

When asked about his “shit happens” comment about the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, Tony went into catatonic meltdown where the suppressed violence was palpable.

When asked why Peter Slipper was facing prosecution when Abbott had incorrectly claimed far greater expenses for his book signing tour, Abbott repeatedly says “the matter has been fully dealt with” before telling the female journalist to “calm down”.

When asked about corruption in the NSW government, Abbott attacked the female journalist.

“Prime minister, do you trust this government – the state government – which is proving to be corrupt, to deliver your major infrastructure plans?”

Abbott reacted angrily to the question, lecturing the woman who asked it and demanding that she “withdraw” the question.

“That is an entirely unjustified smear,” said Abbott. “Let me not mince my words, madam, an entirely unjustified smear and frankly, I think you should withdraw that and apologise because there is no evidence whatsoever for that.”

This same attack mode is used against those within his own party who dare to speak up as shown by the violent verbal tirade directed against Wyatt Roy for suggesting that honesty might be a better way to deal with their broken promises.

“Abbott was furious. He rounded on Roy, yelled at him, then directed his remarks to all of them that there were no effing broken promises and no one should concede there had been.”

And if any further proof was needed, Tony Abbott’s reprehensible response to the report on children in detention shows exactly what sort of person we are dealing with.

“The Australian Bar Association and Law Council of Australia agree that personal attacks deflect attention from the very serious findings of the report and place an individual office holder under significant pressure – we cannot tolerate our public officials and institutions being subjected to this barrage for fulfilling their statutory duties,” ABA president Fiona McLeod and Law Council president Duncan McConnel said. “To do so is to compromise the integrity of those institutions charged with holding the government to account.”

Tony Abbott is an aggressive controlling man who has been encouraged to believe his abilities are greater than they are. He is a serial abuser.

What sort of message are we sending if we tolerate and reward this sort of behaviour?

Are we going to continue to be taken for mugs by this bully?

Are the Liberal Party and the media going to give him “the benefit of the doubt” yet again?

Will the people of Australia believe that a man whose natural reaction is aggression has “listened and changed”?

As Tony Abbott himself pointed out, “we need to have decent standards in this country. We need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so as well as decent standards from politicians.”

Hear hear.


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  1. thevenerable1

    This is the only place one can read all this sewage collected together in the one place: just think what an editor would need by way of guts, responsibility to his readers, etc., etc., in order to publish it in the MSM !
    Go, the pyjama lady ! [grin]

  2. Kaye Lee

    The standard we walk past is the standard we accept

  3. Graham Houghton

    Bullseye again, Kaye. This person is now a real national emergency. He has listened to no one and learned nothing. If he ever deserved it in the first place, he’s had his second chance; he’s not a fit and proper person to occupy the position of Prime Minister of Australia and should be removed forthwith.

  4. Peter Naughton

    “In your guts you know he’s nuts! ” Truer words were never said.

  5. Kaye Lee

    When writing an article like this, where there is so much evidence to include, inevitably much gets left out. But I have omitted one of the worst examples of muzzling the watchdog by this government which was their sacking of Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes.

    When asked for her resignation, Gillian Triggs had the strength to tell Abbott and Brandis to get stuffed and she was immediately supported by all and sundry. Where was the outrage when Brandis decided to reward his IPA friend Tim Wilson by sacking Graeme Innes and giving him the gig? We rightly leapt to the defence of Ms Triggs but, once again, one of the disabled’s most successful advocates was silenced with little more than a passing line in the media. This travesty should be reversed. Abbott and Brandis must go and take Wilson with them.

    To Graeme Innes, I am sorry…..and thank you.

  6. paul walter

    I’d say the latest manifesttion of the phenomena would be in the Kangaroo Court treatment of the ABC’s Sarah Ferguson, for being remiss in conducting a not obsequious enough interview with this countries excuse for a Treasurer last year.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Both excellent examples paul and Stephen.

    Climate scientists and those who report their work have been silenced. Journalists who ask tricky questions quickly find themselves with no-one to interview. This is NOT how it is supposed to be.

  8. stephentardrew

    Great article Kaye.

    The insanity just keeps on going.

    Abbot’s bullying lying and deceit is not socially responsible and never will be.

    I am sure if Abbott’s daughters lied to him there would be hell to pay.

    He is the worst possible example too our youth and kids.

    Would the MSM point out these obvious unbiased facts.

    Not on your life.

    They want to breed a whole new cohort of dysfunction, selfishness, intolerance and ignorance.

    The minister of Educational Abuse and Vitriol simply reinforces this point.

    We are continually being told to accept what is socially immoral and deviant.

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    “In the 80s, Abbott punched team mate Joe Hockey at football training leaving him unconscious and with two black eyes. The angst was caused by Hockey’s disapproval with Tony’s captain’s picks for team selection. How ironic.”

    Hockey should have been aware of Abbott’s captains picks. Some never seem to learn.

    If this happened today, in Sydney, Abbott would be facing a long mandatory sentence. I wonder how the man, deals with disputes in his own home? Especially one that consisted of four women.

    Why give this so yesterday man, any benefitted ot the doubt. He has already proven not worthy of any such consideration.

  10. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Apologies for posting before completing your close to the bone analysis. I realised I am just as badly effected by bullies who do not touch me directly such as Abbott, when I reached your description of his behaviour over the years, I couldn’t read any further.

    Since the spill I have been becoming more depressed I cannot bear to read, see, hear any more of Abbott and his cronies.

    Think I will take some time away from all news blogs for a while.

  11. DanDark

    Kaye Lee
    Graham Innes is a beacon of light, he is smart, resilient, and a true humanitarian, and a real leader.
    Tim Wilson is a leach, a Luddite and couldn’t lead a pack of starving dogs to a bag of meaty bones,
    The contrast is striking, one is a gentle man, one is a ” girlie man”
    Tim Wilson will be a blot on our memory in the nearest future..
    Like the Phoenix, Graham Innes will again rise 🙂

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    There is a breakdown Twitter, of the time each participant spoke on QandA. It shows Turnbull speaking 75% of the time.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    Mark Butler. ABC24 Turnbull in his hour long job application did not mention climate change once. Do not recall him mentioning the non fibre to node either.

  14. stephentardrew


    He is our girlie man and I vill not haf you making da vords like dis.

    Malicous Boringman.

  15. gonemango

    How can this man be the Minister for Women? Like all abuse victims we have been belittled to the point where we accept this and his control over us for a certainty. I think that by this International Womens’ Day, we should have a new Minister for Women, and if it’s not a woman, we should all leave our relationship with this government immediately.

  16. Kaye Lee


    I understand. I truly do. I sit on my verandah and look at the ocean and watch the sunrise as beautiful birds fly past. In the evening I watch the sunset and ring my wonderful girlfriends with whom I can discuss anything that is troubling me – sometimes politics but usually life in general and mine or theirs in particular. I cannot imagine how different my life would be without the love and support of my family and friends.

    I know how lucky I am and I have always felt it my duty (and my privilege) to help people when I can. I am not rich so the money donations I make are small but I give what time I can, both professionally and voluntarily, to try to make a difference.

    I am extremely concerned with what is happening in my country so my focus has expanded from my community to my country and the best contribution I can make seems to be using my memory and research skills to make others aware of the danger we are in.

    But we all need a break to remind ourselves of the things that are truly important and to regain perspective.

    Taking time to remember how important kindness and compassion are, that honesty and integrity still exist, that the planet is still beautiful and that there are people who truly care, that giving is more rewarding than selfishness – these things are crucial lest we all sink into the abyss of frustration and hopeless despair.

    I have enormous faith that, when told the truth, Australians will make the right choices. We are better than what is now on display.

  17. DanDark

    Stevennn T……hardy hardy ha ha, vedy funny, Da girlie man Vwilson vust go, and go he vill, vedy vedy soon 🙂

  18. Barry Thompson.

    Our Prime Minister is delusional.He also exhibits some of the characteristics of the sociopath.

    Lying then denying;

    Win at all costs attitude;

    Unethical behaviour;

    Indifference to the rights of others;

    Attack the messenger;

    Temper meltdowns, and-

    Propensity for violence.

  19. lawrencewinder

    Another depressing summation of the depths to which political standards have sunk in this country.
    But on the bright side, I still have sheet music copies of “The Horst Wessel” available for any of you preparing to swap your hair shirts for a Brown one.

  20. Keitha Granville

    Great piece Kaye, as usual you have nailed it to the wall. We can only hope and pray that the electorate will not be forgiving when the next election comes around. Sadly I feel that many will be like the spouse who so wants the marriage to survive that she continues to believe the abuser – and when the LNP starts handing out the gifts in the form of election promises, there will be plenty who will happily believe the new promises of good behaviour, and forget the past. Unfortunately in this case, it’s the country which will not survive. Keep up the great work putting the facts down so that more and more will know what a pig in a poke we have for a PM.

  21. Win jeavons

    You do a fine job, Kaye!

  22. diannaart

    Deep felt thanks for your thoughtful words, Kaye Lee.

    Now off for a little R&R

  23. vivienne29

    Kaye, a brilliant summary of that lying bully bastard. I’m an optimist Kaye and I do believe that Abbott will be done for sooner than later. People’s will open their eyes and someone of suitable importance will yell out the emperor has no clothes.

  24. Kaye Lee

    I also am an optimist. Life is an attitude – you can live in fear suspicious of change or you can live in hope embracing new things.

    “The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveller than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.”
    ― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fall of Atlantis

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

  25. corvus boreus

    John F,
    The upcoming procurement of JSF/F35 aircraft by Australia(and others) was also cited as justification for the US military to commence work on their ‘6th generation fighters’ (an independent US project), as ‘potential regional rivals’ (ie Australia and others) would possess the same air capabilities as the US, and thus pose a ‘potential threat to US air superiority’.
    The US industrial-military complex feeds itself on our gullibility.

  26. Kaye Lee


    From April last year…

    “Liberal MP Dennis Jensen has launched an extraordinary attack on the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar purchase of fighter jets, suggesting his colleagues lacked the competency and the courage to stop the order.

    “It’s a dud decision,” said Dr Jensen, a former Defence Department analyst, on Wednesday after the Abbott government revealed it had ordered 58 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of $12 billion.

    Dr Jensen said: “Once you’ve made a decision like this, it takes more balls to actually say the emperor’s got no clothes than to continue pretending that the emperor in fact has clothes.

    “We should be ensuring that this aircraft is defined as fit for purpose before we purchase it.

    “We haven’t done that.”

    The West Australian MP said he had warned his colleagues about the Joint Strike Fighter purchase in the most recent party room meeting but lamented that Defence Minister David Johnston had said nothing.

    “I wouldn’t be critical of the Defence Minister only,” Dr Jensen said. “It shows a lack of judgment on so many levels.”

    Successive Australian defence ministers had lacked the “technical expertise” to cut through Lockheed Martin’s “extremely convincing” sales pitches, Dr Jensen said.

    He also blamed Defence Department officials, whom he said had been “acting as salesmen for the Joint Strike Fighter” rather than doing their jobs and being “critical buyers”.

  27. paul walter

    Agree with last.
    People will happily go Jensen for his various flaws and transgressions as to other issues, but the Joint Strike Lemon has been a glorious hour for him.

    I find the JSF thing a desolate thing, it has been on the books for so long, no advances except in cost and yet there seems to be a bipartisan Lemming rush to the cliff over it, regardless of ANY arguments to the contrary, whatever evidence that may be presented as to them.

    The Subs look like becoming another version of this; an instant replay if decades can be considered instant.

    And we are still waiting on the twenty years old order for the funny helicopters also, unless they quietly got dropped without publicity.

  28. Mark Potter

    If the Newman government and this travesty of our prime minister has done any good, It is that so many otherwise disinterested people have discovered the damage the wrong leader can do.
    I was never interested in politics.. Since Newman… I watch.. I learn.. I care..
    My vote counts more now.
    Takes a bully to show your weakness.. Then you learn how to stop them…
    Loved this article..
    Thank you Kaye.
    Please keep the news… Just the news.. Not propaganda.

  29. Bacchus

    Congratulations Mark on your epiphany. Mine came courtesy of treasurer John W. Howard a few years back 😉

  30. eli nes

    When our abbutt stood at the dispatch box and read ‘we swear to almighty Allah…’. He revealed evidence from a video which forms part of police evidence and is obviously sub judice. When confronted by comments on his blatant attempt to politicise the arrests, he blurted ‘The police commissioner gave me permission.’
    Imagine the horde of journalist descending on Andrew Colvin for confirmation?
    For Abbutt hardly a report beyond his ‘almighty Allah’ and a broad hint that labor was somehow to blame.
    On the same vein notice cassidy has a ‘balanced’ panel now that all but the sad sack have adopted an almost fair approach.

  31. Jo Field

    Thank you for your article Kaye. As a mental health professional I am aware that many employers require prospective employees to undertake psychological testing as part of the interview process. As the role of politicians in Government is incredibly important and high pressured would it not be ideal for them to undergo similar tests. Prior to the 2013 election just watching & listening to Tony Abbott along with the reported incidents, you have also mentioned, had me very worried. Anti-social personality disorder is specifically a pervasive pattern of disregarding & violating the rights of others & may include symptoms such as breaking laws (white collar crime=fiddling expenses), frequent lying, starting fights, lack of guilt & lack of taking personal responsibility. Also the presence of irritability & impulsivity (knighting Prince Phillip?).

    Psychopathy is considered to be a more severe form of anti-social personality disorder.

    Unfortunately Tony Abbott is not the only member of his cabinet who displays symptoms of anti-social personality disorder and it is terrifying to know that these people are now controlling our lives and we are powerless to do anything to stop them.

    Please keep up your articles.

  32. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    An impressive and disturbing article!
    Thank you and please keep up the good work.

  33. Florence nee Fedup

    I wonder what our Tony would do, if it was suggested revisiting turn back the boats, out of respect for Indonesian sovereignty could save the two men’s lives.

  34. Kyran

    Your opening paragraph and Paul Walter’s comment (17/2, 1.00 pm) set me off on a quest, of sorts. The ABC charter and complaints mechanism is regulated and published on a regular basis. If you go to the base of their news page, there is “feedback”
    It details all of the complaints, founded and unfounded, their findings/responses and their remedies. I trolled through, looking for the complaint made about this particular broadcast, and it wasn’t there. So, I resorted to modern investigative techniques (google) and found the articles Paul was referring to, predominantly MSM articles on a report by “Colleen Ryan”. Several implied, but did not state, it was an ABC introspection on their budget coverage. Again, I searched on their website and couldn’t find anything. Whether it be serendipity or happenstance, an article magically appeared on the Drum website this morning.
    “Since 2013, the ABC has done what no other Australian media organisation has ever done. Four times a year, we ask an experienced and independent outsider to review a small cross-section of our content and give us a warts and all view of it. A different reviewer each time, and a different selection of content, measured against our editorial commitments to accuracy, impartiality and fairness. And we always make those reviews public.”
    This one was “an audit of the ABC’s 2014 federal budget coverage by Colleen Ryan, the highly respected former editor of the Australian Financial Review.”
    The article linked above lament’s the ignoring of the main content of the report, concentrating on a few word’s within the report, which question Ferguson’s approach, as opposed to any suggestion of competence or professionalism.
    Just for the record, there is no “equivalent” charter or complaints system for MSM other than a self regulatory body, which has no effective power in enforcing any “adverse” findings it may make against its constituent members.
    Seems to me, we only want to muzzle some of the watchdogs. Thanks again for the tips on “linking” and, more importantly, the article. Take care

  35. paul walter

    My name is taken in vain.

    No Kyran. The ABC is not even a bad joke when it comes to objectivity and relevance anymore. ABC 24 in particular is an utter travesty, filling space with pro Abbott IPA propaganda. The so called news is unbeleivably badly edited- stories that could be told in a few minutes drag on for hours and always involve selectiveand coloured terminology, reducing often complex issues to Murdochised cartoon level stuff.

  36. Kaye Lee


    I don’t think that can be said of Sarah Ferguson which is probably why she has rated specific mention.

    Nice investigative work Kyran. For me, that is the purpose of this site, to encourage people to find out more for themselves and to learn new things and to share the information they come across (always checking the credibility of your sources).

  37. Kyran

    I think we are in furious agreement, Paul. I didn’t intend to extol the virtues of the ABC as some sort of exemplar of modern journalism. I agree with your frustration about an apparent agenda that colours so many of their broadcasts across all platforms, most often explained by “they’re worried about their jobs”. The other nonsense I don’t understand is the 24 hour news cycle, which is, as many have already commented, an excuse to play a 1/2 hour newscast 48 times. The article I referenced is a very good read on that exact point. I cited your comment and Ms Lee’s opening paragraph as the spark for my curiosity. It certainly wasn’t intended to use your name as any form of endorsement or to take it in vain. And Ta, muchly, Ms Lee. Take care

  38. Mike

    @Jo Field
    As well as being a psychopath I’m convinced flip flop has got Multi Personalty Disorder, at times we have this cocky, smug um ah attitude then we have this slurring of words sounding just like John Howard thing, kinda like he goes of to some la la land thinking he really is John Howard.

  39. corbs2014

    Kaye, you certainly deserve a break from the computer. Your output is enormous and always so well articulated and researched. The whole disgusting political situation we have in this country weighs me down and I need to take a regular break and look at the good side of humanity. I (and I’m sure a lot of other people) wish you a peaceful break and look forward to hearing what you have to say on your next post

  40. Loz

    I have never been sure of the purpose of a Minister for Women. Has someone always had this portfolio? Also is there a Minister for Men?

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