By Denis Bright
As it is my 75h birthday on 13 March 2021 – today – I will take this opportunity to remind readers of the positive reasons for my commitment to articles for The AIM Network.
Although my articles for The AIM Network cover a range of topics, they are often linked to one or more of these mega-themes:
- support for responsible democratic activism and inclusiveness
- commitment to peace, disarmament and human rights as foundations for strategic policy
- commitment to the sustainable social market within contemporary globalization
Let me illustrate how these commitments positively affect my writing within the MEAA’s ethical code and commitment to Fair Comment.
Commitment to Responsible Democratic Activism
Journalism should always have an activist component. Apologists for eyewitness news service as a mechanism for neutral coverage of the day’s events overlook the extent to which the news agenda is a planned promotional event. Staged events showing leaders making pasta derivatives at the opening of an apprentice policy launch are hardly newsworthy. However, they are soft news items which foster loyalty to the federal LNP and improve audience ratings.
Australians would be more open to alternative critical journalism over news communications from media releases. Lots of fellow Australians are rightly turned off from involvement in formal politics by the largely rhetorical nature of mainstream political debate with its emphasis on point scoring over a quest for real solutions.
Having worked in political positions almost continuously since graduation, our political insiders should be aware of Labor values as eloquently expressed by Labor’s Victorian Branch:
Some elements of royal privilege have permeated the mindset of political insiders and minders who could easily be at home in the House of Windsor. Even the right of members to express informed opinions are questioned in the Yes Minister traditions.
As a financial member of the MEAA, I should be protected against such excesses in defence of the right to fair comment which was enshrined as a journalistic right even in colonial times before 1901.
Non-members of the MEAA of course enjoy common law rights to free expression. There should be few concerns about the right to social communication when every point in my articles is well sourced. I often use block-quotes to promote discussion on issues which require specialist knowledge.
This right to fair comment is embedded in common law which was restated in colonial defamation acts such as Queensland’s Defamation Act 1889.
A block quote from the Defamation Act 1889 would be a tedious exercise. Interested readers should check s.13-14 of this colonial legislation. This legislation was enacted in a still very conservative era of Queensland colonial politics when strong personalities competed for electoral support from a male only constituency long before the extended periods of Labor Governments in Queensland (1915-57) with the exception of that single term of the Moore Government (1929-32) under the banner of the Country and Progressive National Party.
From commitment to inclusive democratic activism, this article will move onto the other two mega-themes.
Commitment to Peace and Disarmament in Accordance with the UN Charter
While global freight moves at a slower pace during current COVID restrictions, Australia is more seriously affected by a curtailment of service trade including tourism, international student enrolments and all forms of travel. Added to these shocks, are the current trading, investment restrictions and strategic problems between Australia and China.
Australians are being asked to make more commitment to the US Global Alliance through continued support for Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea when China’s goodwill could be tested without undermining traditional strategic goals. Ironically, the US superpower has not yet signed the UN’s Law of the Sea conventions (1982) which was implemented from 1994.
With the US in domestic crisis, a proactive ally like Australia will hopefully press for diplomacy over more strategic tensions as noted in New York Times coverage of the two-hour telephone conversation between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping:
In a summary of the call, the White House said that Mr. Biden “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”
But the leaders also discussed “the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation,” according to the summary.
According to the official Chinese account of the two leaders’ call, issued by Xinhua, Mr. Xi cautioned Mr. Biden that the two powers had to cooperate or risk calamity, and gave no sign of giving ground on Xinjiang (NW China), Hong Kong or Taiwan.
Contrast such possibilities with gung-ho press statements by US military leaders who are stoking up tensions in the Taiwan Straits in the traditions of the old Cold War era (US Defense News, 5 March 2021):
WASHINGTON – The United States should provide “consistent arms sales” to Taiwan to deter Chinese aggression in the Pacific region, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Thursday.
“And I would say, you know, for the greater U.S. government – consistent arms sales to Taiwan to help in this deterrence strategy is critically important. And again, that takes a balance to capabilities to go to them,” he added.
Davidson’s comments come amid a tour of Washington to make the case for funding the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, for which his command is seeking $4.6 billion in fiscal 2022, and $27 billion through 2027, to build up capabilities in the command’s area of responsibility. Part of that funding involves reinforcing ties between the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
For military planners, Taiwan remains a potential flashpoint in the region, with U.S. intelligence analysts saying in 2019 that the Chinese military is getting closer to the point it may feel it can successfully invade Taiwan. Both the U.S. and China have stepped up activity around Taiwan in recent months, with Davidson expressing concern about recent activities from China.
Surely, the disputed Island of Kinmen, now occupied by Taiwan, could be a shared picnic area for people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. It currently lies within in sight of the Chinese city of Xiamin but is off-limits to Chinese citizens.
Every billion dollars spent on military manoeuvres or non-essential purchases of military equipment, detract from commitments to reduce the social and economic divide in Australian society.
Many of my articles also address this social divide in Australia. Pragmatic policies can make market ideology more inclusive in an era of rampant and legalized tax avoidance which the current LNP persists in fostering.
Stoking up a return to old style market ideology is no exercise in long-term political stability on both international strategic and domestic fronts in Australia.
One of my previous articles addressed the economic and social divide between Riverview in Ipswich and Moggill in the Ryan electorate. Excessive tax concessions to wealthier families and opportunities for legalized tax avoidance have contributed to problems with delivery from the federal government.
Bill Shorten offered an alternative to such delays in his 2019 policy launch but it was rejected by the electorate with a net loss of one Labor seat in the House of Representatives and some big swings to the federal LNP in Queensland where Labor currently only six of the available thirty federal seats.
How did the political and social divide on the Riverview-Moggill Straits along the Brisbane River in Metro West respond to Bill Shorten’s legitimate appeal for a change of heart?
Alternative Commitments to the Sustainable Social Market Within Contemporary Globalization
Although Ipswich, as part a sprawling Moreton electorate, elected an Independent Labor Member to the first two Australian parliaments in Melbourne in 1901 and 1903, interest and involvement in social democratic movements has not been maintained in very recent federal elections. Falling rates of trade union membership outside key unionized sectors should be a cause of real concern to the future of the broader Labor movement.
Steering Traction for Social Democracy
While the Labor Party was comfortably ahead in Riverview at the 2019 national elections, there was a strong indirect swing to the LNP through preferences from One Nation (21 per cent primary vote) and the disciplined preference flows from the UAP and Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party.
On the more comfortable side of the Brisbane River at Moggill in adjoining the Ryan electorate, Labor performed relatively better.
The irony of the whole exercise was a small swing to the Left (2.85 per cent after preferences) in the traditional LNP seat of Ryan but a 6.93 per cent swing against Labor in Blair on the other side of the social divide.
Ryan and Leichhardt in North Queensland were the only federal seats where Labor slightly increased its primary vote. In the case of Ryan, the LNP primary vote was down by 3.51 per cent. This was the fourth largest reversal in the LNP’s primary vote across Queensland in 2019 (after Moncrieff -6.84 per cent, Kennedy -5.11 per cent and McPherson -5.05 per cent).
Beyond Political and Social Divides
Despite the recent regressions in Australian political life over insider bullying and support from saber-rattling by joint US-Australian naval convoys on so called freedom of navigation jaunts, most Australians are still quite detached from involvement in formal politics. For many, a quick scan of news coverage on mobile phones as a substitute for real involvement in public affairs with an occasional glance at an eyewitness television news programmes if the coverage offered is entertaining enough.
The major challenge facing Labor in 2022 is the need to draw back some of those protest votes from both the left and right. Adding more players to the Labor team is a logical imperative. The ghosts of those Cold War era splits in Labor’s support base from that 1955 national conference in Hobart still lurk behind the scenes in Australian federal politics.
Readers might check the policy agenda being offered and offer their own feedback as welcomed on the Labor Special Conference site (Image: Labor Special Conference Platform).
Labor is planning to fine tune its policy frames with a special platform conference of four hundred delegates in late March 2021 and involvement from across the Labor Movement to develop an appealing change agenda.
Even if your perspectives lie to the left or right of the Special Conference Platform, why not take a glance at the policy platforms on the site and submit your comments to your nearest local Labor federal member and senators.
With communication links still affected by the current global COVID-crisis, critical journalism can assist in reporting on developments across the three mega-themes which are a recurring feature of my own articles.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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