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Tag Archives: ABC bias

Ooh Ah James McGrath

When Queensland Liberal Senator James McGrath gave his maiden speech in July last year, Doug Cameron described him as a “fruit loop ” and a “Tea Party extremist.” Perhaps the best appraisal of the speech was by James Colley in his article “Senator James McGrath Is Your Newest Reason To Swear Loudly At The TV.” (worth the read)

The newly elected Senator wasted no time in dramatically outlining his priorities branding himself as a crusader against tyranny.

“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.

Whether I serve here for 16 days or 16 years, I shall always judge myself on how I have battled against tyranny and fought for the axis of enlightenment—that is, liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes. I will let others badge and brand and box me, as, in my great broad church that is the Liberal Party, my pew is a moveable feast. I have campaigned against dictator-loving Islamist fundamentalists in the Maldives; Sinn Fein- and PLO-supporting Labour candidates in London; and godless rebranded communists in Mongolia—not to mention the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party!

My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people.

From the dockyards of Kronstat to the editorial desk of The Age, the Left always want to control and brutalise. By restricting freedom of speech, they are building Australian gulags for words and thoughts.”

But apparently this freedom does not extend to the ABC who McGrath threatened during his speech saying

“I want to support the ABC. I like the ABC. Yet while it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, and funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate. I am calling for a review of the ABC’s charter. And if they fail to make inroads to restore balance, then the ABC should be sold and replaced by a regional and rural broadcasting service. In the meantime, Triple J, because of its demographic dominance and clear ability to stand on its own, should be immediately sold.”

McGrath is now back in the news bemoaning the supposed bias of the ABC’s Q&A programme.

Q&A is the only television program where members of the public can directly ask questions of our elected representatives. The topics and panel members are usually chosen in response to concerns raised on social media, or events such as the budget or the writer’s festival, or to coincide with the visit of different experts or celebrities.

We have a chance to watch the body language, to see rare glimpses of unscripted responses, to hear differing views from other members of the panel.

The program is usually broadcast from the ABC’s studios in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo. Anyone wishing to be in the audience can fill in a form on the program’s website, which as well as asking for contact details, asks some questions relating to the applicant’s political views to help “select a diverse and well-balanced audience”.

Perhaps people from the right of politics are not the questioning kind or have no interest in taking part in something on the ABC. They most certainly are invited.

The most frequently-appearing panellists on Q&A, as of 9 March 2015, were

Coalition: (Total 149)

Christopher Pyne (21), Malcolm Turnbull (21), Barnaby Joyce (16), George Brandis (15), Joe Hockey (14), Julie Bishop (12), Greg Hunt (11), Sophie Mirabella (11), Amanda Vanstone (10), Kelly O’Dwyer (10), Tony Abbott (8)

Labor: (Total 112)

Tanya Plibersek (21), Bill Shorten (16), Penny Wong (14), Craig Emerson (12), Graham Richardson (12), Chris Bowen (11), Tony Burke (9), Kate Ellis (9), Lindsay Tanner (8)

Minor parties:

Christine Milne (10), Clive Palmer (8)

The Australian:

Janet Albrechtsen (12), Greg Sheridan (11), Judith Sloan (9)

The Guardian:

David Marr (9)

Author:

Germaine Greer (9)

By my count, that is 189 appearances from the right and 140 from the left.

Maths isn’t the only questionable thing about Senator McGrath.

McGrath spent his earliest political days as a teenager, doing volunteer campaign work for the Liberals in the seat of Toowoomba North. “One of those nerdy kids who are right into politics”, he joined the Young Liberals, who he describes as the “true bearers of the flame of liberty and freedom”, while he studied law at Griffith University.

After working on the unsuccessful Liberal campaign in the 2002 South Australian state election, McGrath eventually ended up director of political strategy for Boris Johnson in his successful bid in 2008 to become mayor of London.

Following the election on May 1, McGrath became Johnson’s chief political advisor in office, but it was less than two months before he was sacked.

Johnson had an uneasy relationship with the city’s black community having, as a journalist, previously described black Londoners as “picanninies” and “Africans and their watermelon smiles”.

When, in an interview, it was suggested to McGrath that some black Britons might leave the country if Mr Johnson became mayor, he responded: “Let them go if they don’t like it here.”

McGrath was sacked soon after the matter became public.

Mr Johnson said in a statement that if Mr McGrath had stayed, his comments would have provided “ammunition” for critics of his mayoralty.

McGrath didn’t return straight away to Australia, instead running a successful 2008 election campaign in the Maldives and an unsuccessful one in Sri Lanka in 2009.

Amidst widespread pre-poll violence, allegations of vote-tampering and intimidation in the Sri Lankan election, Mr McGrath, who was working as a campaign adviser to the opposition, blamed Rajapaksa’s domination of election coverage on Government-owned media.

”The coverage Rajapaksa got on state media just destroyed us,” he said.

I would have thought the intimidation and alleged fraud may have been greater concerns but, for a man who mentioned Mark Textor as a teacher and mentor in his maiden speech, I suppose it’s all about the ads.

In 2010, Brian Loughnane suggested McGrath for the job of running the LNP’s federal campaign in Queensland.

In 2011 the then 38 year old campaign director was revealed as the architect behind a scheme to pay disgruntled former Labor staffer and candidate Robert Hough for dirt on government MPs.

The LNP dirt file detailed a minister’s epilepsy and childhood adoption, claims about some politicians’ sexuality, sex lives, drinking habits and health matters, and included details of the schools of the children of government MPs.

Senior LNP figures including president Bruce McIver and aspiring premier Campbell Newman denied knowing about the dirt files until The Courier-Mail raised the matter.

They said LNP campaign director James McGrath and state director Michael O’Dwyer had been “strongly reprimanded” for commissioning the $3075 research but would not be sacked.

The saga came after Mr Newman had accused Labor of unleashing a dirt unit against him and his family after weeks of attention focused on his personal financial interests.

He labelled Premier Anna Bligh as a “sleaze bucket” and said the state was run by “drunks, punks and desperadoes”.

The message seems to be financial dealings are sacrosanct but personal gossip is an acceptable weapon.

Far from this shameful episode ending McGrath’s political career as many suggested it would, we now see him elected to the Federal Senate where he is pushing for the GST to be raised to 15% and broadened to “cover everything”, the abolition of payroll tax and the reduction of company tax, the abolition of the federal departments of health and education, with universities also to be run at a state level, the abolition of compulsory student unionism, and the repeal of Section 18C of the RDA.

“Each year, I will be compiling my own red-tape report to keep my government and my party on the Hayek road—away from serfdom and towards lower regulation, lower taxes and smaller government.”

I will close with the words of Doug Cameron who was “gobsmacked” by Senator McGrath’s maiden speech.

“These are the people that are supposed to be the high-calibre Liberals. If this is the high-calibre Liberals I’d hate to go to a Liberal party branch in Queensland and see the low-lifes in operation.”

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They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere. So beware!

When the IPA published their wish list of 75 plus 25 ways to “reform” Australia, they conceded that it was “a deliberately radical list. There’s no way Tony Abbott could implement all of them, or even a majority.”

They suggested that if he “was able to implement just a handful of these recommendations, Abbott would be a transformative figure in Australian political history. He would do more to shift the political spectrum than any prime minister since Whitlam.”

Perhaps they were right but not in the way they intended.

Tony is assiduously working his way through their list and he has certainly shaken the Australian public out of their political apathy.

Even before we get to the list, the article introducing it gave us a picture of what was to come.

“The vast Commonwealth bureaucracies and the polished and politically-savvy senior public servants have their own agendas, their own list of priorities, and the skill to ensure those priorities become their ministers’ priorities. Fresh-faced ministers who do not have a fixed idea of what they want to do with their new power are invariably captured by their departments.

So when, in the first week as minister, they are presented with a list of policy priorities by their department, it is easier to accept what the bureaucracy considers important, rather than what is right. The only way to avoid such departmental capture is to have a clear idea of what to do with government once you have it.

We should be more concerned that senior public servants shape policy more than elected politicians do.”

The IPA highlight “Gillard’s National Curriculum” as an example of ministers acquiescing when they should have been opposing. And why should they be opposing?

“The National Curriculum centralises education power in Canberra, and will push a distinctly left-wing view of the world onto all Australian students.”

So, presumably, when you put a lawyer in charge of education he should not listen to his department, he should not listen to the state ministers, he should not listen to the education experts. He should have already decided what he wants regardless of any advice from the public servants that have worked in that area for decades, and he should instruct them to implement his ideas.

But where does the lawyer get his ideas if not from all those paid to assist him?

Enter the IPA-aligned former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews, Kevin Donnelly, who has written many publications over the years arguing that the Australian school system is failing because schools have been taken over by radical educators who see their role as being to “liberate students by turning them into new-age warriors of the Cultural Left.” Pay him to reaffirm those oft published views in a “review” of the National Curriculum.

And while we are at it, get the former head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Tony Shepherd, to do an audit commission which came out like a wish list of BCA/IPA policy prescriptions, neatly cut and pasted, but not very well backed by facts.

The IPA go on to warn us of the real danger posed by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency – “a new Commonwealth bureaucracy dedicated to lobbying other arms of government to introduce Nanny State measures.”

Sure enough, it was one of the first agencies to be axed in Joe Hockey’s contribution to the wish list.

As the Melbourne Age’s economics editor, Peter Martin, noted in a piece of post-budget analysis: “Big food, big tobacco and big alcohol have been thrown the carcass of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.”

The IPA also demanded an end to food and alcohol labelling, and to end “all government-funded Nanny State advertising” against unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking and junk food consumption.

And so in February last year we saw the health department ordered to take down its new healthy food ratings website, and then $130 million was cut from a program to tackle Indigenous smoking despite it making significant inroads into reducing the high percentage of smokers in the Aboriginal community.

The IPA also quoted a previous Intergenerational Report and came to the following conclusion:

“Australia’s ageing population means the generous welfare safety net provided to current generations will be simply unsustainable in the future. Change is inevitable.”

No mention of the generous superannuation tax concessions which will soon overtake the aged pension, a stance also adopted by this government.

Whilst Brandis may not yet have satisfied the IPA’s desire to abolish the Human Rights Commission, the government has cut $1.65 million from its budget, refused to renew the position of its disability commissioner and appointed – absent the usual due process – one of the IPA’s own, Tim Wilson, as one of the remaining six commissioners. Attorney-General George Brandis flagged an intention to “further reform” the HRC which seems to be what this attack on Gillian Triggs is all about.

Brandis also flexed his muscles when, a month after being sworn in, he announced the forced resignation of ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy from his new job as chairman of the Old Parliament House Advisory Council.

Brandis said in his media release that Cassidy “accepted the importance of the Museum of Australia [sic] Democracy [in Old Parliament House] maintaining its apolitical and nonpartisan character”.

To have someone in the job currently engaged in politics, even if only as a political journalist, was “not consistent with that character”, Brandis said and then promptly replaced him with David Kemp who is a former Liberal minister and continues to practise politics through his work with the IPA.

The institute wants all media ownership laws eliminated along with the relevant regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and requirements put in place that radio and TV broadcasts be “balanced”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is duly considering changes to Australia’s regime of cross-media ownership. The likely outcome: more concentration in Australia’s media, already the most concentrated and least diverse in the developed world. More influence for the IPA and Rupert Murdoch.

Not that the IPA need more exposure. In the year to June 2013, according to the IPA’s annual report, it clocked up 878 mentions in print and online. Its staff had 164 articles published in national media, mainly in the Murdoch press which, considering he is a long-time IPA director, is not surprising. They managed 540 radio appearances and mentions, and 210 appearances and mentions on TV.

The allegedly bias ABC, which the IPA would break up and sell off, gives the IPA a lot of air time too. One count, by Independent Australia, clocked 39 appearances by IPA staff in the year 2011-12 on The Drum alone. That’s almost as many Drum appearances as the combined total of all other think tanks, left, right and centre.

The repeal of section 18C of the RDA is number four on the IPA’s policy wish list, and before you knew it, Attorney-General George Brandis was up there championing the right to be a bigot.

On October 5, 2011, the IPA ran a full-page advertisement in The Australian supporting Andrew Bolt, paid for and signed by more than 1200 people including federal politicians Mathias Cormann, Jamie Briggs, Michaelia Cash, Mitch Fifield and Andrew Robb, to name a few, and literally dozens of other ex-pollies, staffers, and advisers.

Before he won the prime ministership, in April 2013, at a dinner celebrating the IPA’s 70th anniversary where Andrew Bolt was the MC, Abbott noted the IPA had given him “a great deal of advice” on the policy front, and promised them he would act on it.

“I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the department of climate change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red-tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”

In fact, one might argue that Abbott under-promised at that dinner and has over-delivered since. Other major items on the IPA’s published wish list included stopping subsidies for the car industry (done), eliminating Family Tax Benefits (part-done), the cessation of funding for the ABC’s Australia Network (done), abandonment of poker machine reforms (done), the introduction of fee competition for Australian universities (part-done), and negotiating free trade deals with Japan, South Korea, China and India (almost done).

While several of the IPA’s wish list are being held up in the Senate, they do have flesh in the game, and even more so should PUP Senators hold to their threat of abstaining from every vote until the leadership turmoil is resolved.

Cross benchers Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm are both “long-term IPA members”.

Bob Day was a driving force behind the IPA front organisation, the Owner Drivers’ Association, which purports to represent the interests of independent contractors in the transport industry. In reality, says Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, the ODA has consistently campaigned against laws improving working conditions and safety for drivers.

Another IPA front organisation is the Australian Environment Foundation. Two of its directors were IPA staff, including executive director Mike Nahan, now the treasurer in Western Australia’s Liberal government. For its first two years, the AEF shared the IPA’s postal address.

It was actually an anti-environment group. It opposed new marine parks and plans to increase environmental water flows in the Murray-Darling Basin, and supported Tasmanian woodchipping and genetically modified foods. It also lobbied the World Heritage Committee in support of the Abbott government’s plan to de-list parts of the Tasmanian forests.

Source watch even lists Peta Credlin under former staff of the IPA. I have not been able to verify that from any other source but she sure sings from their hymn book.

Not only are they determining policy and infiltrating all levels of government, they are also being rewarded with gifts. Despite cutting $100 million from the Arts budget, Minister for the Arts Brandis found $1 million to give the Australian School of Ballet to put towards the purchase of a $5 million mansion to house their 28 students in luxury. On the board of the school is Daniele Kemp, wife of former Liberal Minister Rod Kemp who is now the chairman of the IPA.

To paraphrase Pixie and Dixie…

They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere. So beware!

As Jinx would say…

“How ree-dick-ul-luss.”

 

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An apology to Lord Deben

For anyone who thinks the ABC shows left wing bias, I suggest you have a look at the disgraceful display by Emma Alberici on Lateline last night when she tried very hard to discredit the chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben.

Her tone of voice the whole way through implied that this very eminent man was talking crap. Her attack on him and her defence of Tony Abbott’s policies were humiliating and shown to be so by Lord Deben.

The appointment of far right wingers Janet Albrechtsen and Neil Brown to the Nomination Board for the ABC and SBS must have given Emma some pleasure, though Jonathan Holmes does not agree. He said if Dr Watt, who made the appointments,

“thinks that these two are the most suitable people in Australia to ensure that appointments to the ABC and SBS boards are, and are seen to be, merit-based and non-partisan, he is profoundly stupid.

If, on the other hand, he has made the appointments at the unacknowledged insistence of Tony Abbott, he is pusillanimous.”

A clue to Alberici’s behaviour may be found at The Spectator where Neil Brown regularly spits his poison. Two weeks ago, in a rant against people who suggest income inequality is a problem, he said:

“It is like climate change, a defence for all seasons; whether we have cold snaps or hot snaps, floods or droughts, full dams or empty, good seasons or bad, it must all be due to climate change and don’t you dare deny the science, even if it is really religion.”

J. R. Hennessy describes Albrechtsen’s position on climate change as follows:

“Albrechtsen’s position on climate change is emblematic of the general corporate position: it might be happening, but who are we to try and stop it? It’ll cost too much. Besides, humanity is pretty tough. We’ll probably survive a raise in temperature. A warmer climate might even be nice. It’s probably the worst middle-ground position in the history of boring centrism. To accept climate change as probably real, potentially our fault, but not worth stopping is hardly an opinion worth articulating. It’s a moronic, self-serving position best whispered in an otherwise empty room rather than trumpeted on the front page of a bad newspaper.”

No doubt we will be seeing a lot more of Lord Monckton back on the ABC.

So in closing, I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to Lord Deben for the ignorant rudeness he endured at the hands of Ms Alberici, and to assure him that there are many of us who agree with his assessment and will see it as our duty to global action on climate change to vote out these colossal fossils as soon as we can.

Oh and Emma, saying “with respect” does not compensate for you supercilious self-important arrogance.

 

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