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Strange How Rarely The Media Questions Anything

How many of you thought Joe Hockey “won” his court case?

Well, most of the articles I read started with that headline, and even though, they nearly all explained that he was only successful on the headline, “Treasurer for Sale” and the tweet not the article itself, I found the headlines misleading… which is ironic considering that’s the thing that Hockey won on. The judge found that the accompanying article did not defame Joe Hockey, just the phrase, “Treasurer for Sale” by itself without the context of the article.

And it’s a pretty interesting definition of a “win”. If Hockey was upset about the headline, “Treasurer for Sale”, then his defamation certainly didn’t make the phrase, “Treasurer for Sale” something that everyone forgot, even though it was found by the trial judge that the headline,”Treasurer for Sale”, by itself, without the subsequent story explaining the context was defamatory. So let me be quite clear here. Even though I – along with every media organisation – am only using the phrase, “Treasurer for Sale” in refering to headline that Fairfax published and I personally don’t think that he has behaved corruptly. I’m just making the point that it the phrase, “Treasurer for Sale” upset him, then his defamation action has simply kept the phrase. “Treasurer for Sale” in the media, even though the judge told everyone that a tweet or headline, by itself, was defamatory. If he’d just accepted that this was a private media organisation who had a right to be as opinionated as they like, even if it meant presenting incorrect information, then the phrase, “Treasurer for Sale” wouldn’t be in the media as much as it is.

This is, to me, a strange definition of a win.

Now I’ve always thought that the media had an obligation to educate us wherever possible – unlike failed Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull who thinks that they could be as “opinionated” as they like, unless they’re the ABC. Of course, if I was being opinionated, I could remind everybody of Turnbull’s role in the “utegate” affair and the fake email, but that would be hypocritical. What I mean by “educate” is simply to present us with the additional information that help us to understand what’s being discussed.

For example, to remind us that it’s an accepted convention under the Westminster system that if a minister misleads Parliament, he or she is expected to resign. During Question Time, unless a minister can speak with certainty, then he or she is expected to take the question on notice. Misleading Parliament wasn’t as simple as breaking an election promise. Of course, under Howard this was often ignored, and the excuse that the Minister had the wrong information or wasn’t fully aware of the matter was acceptable. These days, there’s no expectation, and the media rarely report “misleading Parliament” as a big deal.

So when a story comes along, one should expect that the media do more than just report as though they’re reading from the press release. A month ago, the media treated us to several stories about a Christian couple who announced that they intended to divorce if same sex marriage was legalised in Australia. Writing in the Canberra CityNews, Mr Jensen told us:

“So, the decision to divorce is not one we’ve taken lightly. And certainly, it’s not one that many will readily understand. And that’s because it’s not a traditional divorce.

“You see, after our divorce, we’ll continue to live together, hopefully for another 50 years. And, God willing, we’ll have more children. We’ll also continue to refer to each other as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and consider ourselves married by the Church and before God.”

The media lapped this up, and gave Mr Jensen plenty of space. They reported his views on same sex marriage, which I suspect was his aim. Ok, so far no problem. People have a right to their views being aired, so long as they don’t contravene any laws and if someone is able to pique media interest with a clever stunt, so be it.

But I do think that the media has an obligation to challenge what is clearly wrong.

You see, this man is attempting to change the traditional view of divorce. He says so himself. But the trouble with that is that he’ll have to get the legislation changed. In none of the stories about Mr Jensen and his wife did I see anyone point out that he is not eligible for a divorce:

“You need to satisfy the Court that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months, and there is no reasonable likelihood of resuming married life. It is possible to live together in the same home and still be separated.”

Divorce – Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

So, simply walking in and telling the court that you want a divorce because gay people are marrying doesn’t cut it. And continuing to live together as “man and wife” also makes a divorce out of the question. Either he intends to lie under oath, or he won’t be able to divorce.

The obvious point is that he was trying to generate publicity to spread his views, but how is the media such a willing tool? Where’s the challenge to what is so clearly a hollow threat? Even if Mr Jensen intends to “divorce”, there’s no way he could legally do it, on the statements he’s given.

Of course, it’s the same with politicians. Far too often they’re allowed to make statements without reference to the facts. Occasionally, one of the “aggressive” female interviewers on the ABC will point out that there is, in fact, film of the head being nailed to the floor, so there’s no way that it can be denied, but generally it’s all treated much like a high school debate where you get points for making up the most convincing case and neither the facts nor the consequences are relevant.

So this morning, when I heard a sound-bite where Andrew Robb told us that the decision to tell the Clean Energy Commission to exclude wind farms from future investments was part of a deal with crossbenchers over the renewable target, I had more than a few questions. Weren’t we promised that this government wasn’t going to do deals? Didn’t Labor support the new target? Why the need for the deal? Oh, Labor weren’t going to support burning wood as part of the RET. Well, how can we justify cutting down trees as helping the environment unless it’s part of “renewable energy”?

I wonder if Mr Robb was asked any of these questions.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Have no idea of what he was trying to prove. Marriage not necessary?

  2. townsvilleblog

    Are there any investigative journalists being employed these days, journalist who are not afraid to ask questions of their governing politicians, it was political sport in decades past but nobody seems to ask penetrating questions anymore, the public is poorer for this situation.

  3. Pingback: Strange How Rarely The Media Questions Anything – Written by Rossleigh | winstonclose

  4. Mark Needham

    Thank heavens, we aren’t “opinionated”, Hey!
    We really can be “Strange Buggers”, Hey!

  5. guest

    No doubt, we could come up with many examples of failure of interrogation of statements in the political sphere. A recent standout was the discussion on The Drum about coal mining on the Liverpool Plain. The talk was all about whether or not the mining would impinge on prime agricultural land. The only real question was whether a supporter of mining had ever been there. It was clear that the real effects of coal mining were not in the experience of supporters of the mine.
    There was no discussion about whether the mine would be economically viable at a time when the price of coal is in decline. Now we are told that the Government is ramping up its criticism of wind turbines. The Government’s support is all for coal, coal, coal. What?

  6. Phi

    Rossleigh – good points. Abbott is PM as a result of the media refusing to questions him, and they still won’t question him or his ministers.

  7. Vicki

    What you fail to understand is that MSM is only going to tell you what the matrix wants you to know. Stop believing that any Main Stream Media wishes to educate you. It is all about control and being dumbed down so that you will follow blindly and not question.

  8. Karma is coming

    If we don’t have wind farms, then how will we get our summer breezes. Don’t Tony & Joe that wind farms make the wind….

  9. pamelac65

    Does anything mean anything anymore?

  10. Peter F

    @guest. The argument about the Liverpool plains mine proposal is that the mine will be located on the ridges, where the water enters the aquifer supplying the irrigation to the farms. it is correct to say that the mine is not on farming land. It is NOT correct to state that therefore it will do no harm. Abbott has said words to the effect of ‘ it is not on farming country’. Another day, another lie by omission.

  11. Bilal

    The role of the Murdoch dominated media is becoming so clear that even the Tea Party bogans and rednecks must be starting to understand. This government under our Dear Leader is taking us towards a very unstable and divided society, ruled by a tiny minority which will inevitably be resisted. The economy is in deep trouble, the deficit is really starting to get towards problem territory, with Abbott adding $100 billion to the level of government debt, yet all we hear is “terrorism” “border protection” and various techniques of whipping up fear and diverting attention from what is actually happening to the country. Murdoch does have a tendency to drop basket cases, so even his media may start to move away from its ardent support for this PM. Never have we needed an independent media so much.

  12. Lee

    I wish the ABC would boot Leigh Sales and bring back Sarah Ferguson.

    By the way, there’s an event on Facebook to celebrate Nick and Sarah Jensen’s divorce. 187,000 people are attending.

  13. M-R

    AGREED ! I’ve whinged about the press and its refusal to take its rôle seriously for so long that I’ve given up.
    I blame them – yes, I mean it ! – for the majority of our political woes. If they behaved as they should, just imagine what the pollies’ behaviour would have to do … Why, they might even have to start telling the truth [gasp !] !!!

  14. Geraldine Reid

    I don’t hear of anything that this Government is doing in any form of media. Let alone whether or not JH won or lost his court case. They are a totally unknown government, not having to answer to anyone, because we don’t know what they are up to.

  15. Harquebus

    Computers now write news articles. I am waiting for Max Headroom to make an appearance.

  16. Kyran

    In the spirit of your headline, I also have a few questions.

    With regard to hokey, the decision is likely to be appealed as the judgement inferred the headline would be seen by people, with the attention span of a goldfish, jumping to a conclusion, without reading the content. It is the perfect confrontation of the MSM and social media, which current defamation laws do not address. Another interesting point in the judgement is that “costs are reserved”. He may have got $200k, but with legal bills on either side calculated at $1mil, and his loss of the substantive part of his claim, this may go against him. In defamation precedence, it’s not unusual to be awarded a claim, and then have costs awarded against you. Not sure why, but I keep hearing Franko Cozzo yelling “Grand sale, grand sale”. (My bad, he was importing drugs with his furniture.)

    Regarding the ‘inventor of the internet’, malcontent, I can only ask he get’s back to his day job. His forays into leadership are getting really tiresome and I don’t think I’m the only one in Australia wanting NBN. The working one, not the copy they are trying to flog.

    As for misleading parliament, it was only a big deal when we had a parliament. “A parliamentary system is a system of democratic governance of a state in which the executive branch derives its democratic legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature (parliament);”. If you lie to get in to power, you’ve already extinguished that flame.

    That a Christian couple would threaten to divorce (as you so correctly point out) at law, requires twelve months separation and irretrievable breakdown. Doh, they went to the media and said that would never be the case. The other part that annoys me is which Christian church acknowledges divorce? I’m tipping the one they belong subscribes to the theory that “What God put together, let no man tear asunder, till death you do part.”

    As for the wind farm’s, with due disregard and disrespect for our alleged leaders, build the feckin things in Canberra. How much wind can we possibly need?
    My apologies Rossleigh, I needed a vent. Take care

  17. Sir ScotchMistery

    @Kyran – this dreadful reference t goldfish vis a vis the Australian body-politik is WRONG.

    First, they pay attention for 7 seconds, it has nothing to do with their memory. They become bored. I have a snake does exactly the same thing unless Dragons of Berk is on TV in which case he watches avidly.

    Goldfish have a much longer memory than Australian voters and demonstrate far more interest in the world around them, than any LNP voter I have ever met.

    Finally, goldfish make better things at your front door than the local LNP RWNJ or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I have seen both of them take flight when I answered the door and my 3 metre Jungle Python was around my feet wondering about the bell noise.

  18. Mark Needham

    Sir ScotchMistery.
    We are a skiting little possum, aren’t we.
    3 meters.?
    And around your feet.!
    Now, 200mm……..mmmmmmm?
    Bloody sure, I wouldn’t hang around either.!
    Mark Needham

  19. Lee

    Meme of the week has just appeared in my Facebook feed. It features photos of Tony Abbott and –

    I love a dumbed-down country
    a land of empty brains
    where thugs like me can make shit up
    and Rupert backs our claims.

  20. Kyran

    Thank you, Sir Scotch, for the input. I was unaware of the 7 seconds and concur that this greatly exceeds any mental faculties currently on offer from the conservative end of politics. On reflection, I should have been more aware, as the fish travel in schools, and the current mob hold schools in contempt. I will cease and desist in my vilification of the goldfish, if only for the ‘guilt by association’ in such disparagement.

    With a view to seeking your bipartisan support to find a life form devoid of intellect and scruples that would suitably reflect the moronic capacity of the current mob without risking alienation of life forms that should rightly be offended by any such association, may I suggest ‘bacteria’ or ‘mould’? Whilst I accept they are both borne of cultures (and before you point out the current mob are uncultured) there are many cultures that are unwelcome and destructive. Just ask our First People. Again, my apologies to the goldfish. Take care

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