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Tag Archives: ABC

ABC leaks Confidential Information – They Must Have a Government Appointed Person To Veto their Stories!!

“Holden has made the decision to pull out of Australia as early as 2016, according to senior Government ministers.

The ABC has been told the announcement was supposed to be made this week but has been put off until early next year.”

The ABC, 6th December 2103

So, Government Ministers – unnamed – are telling the ABC about Holden’s “decision” to close, and the ABC publicises these rumours. This is further evidence for the argument that the ABC needs to be brought back under some sort of control, isn’t it? I mean, clearly they were the first to run with this story. Surely, the Ministers concerned wouldn’t have only let the ABC know. And they haven’t put the names to the story, so clearly they were speaking off the record. So obviously, all the other media that were told must have decided that it wasn’t in Australia’s interest for this story to run and hushed it up, as good journalists do.

Have I got that right? Is that the way it is?

Or is it the Liberals attempt to prepare us, let us in on the secret so that it’s not a big shock when Holden announce their decision? And, of course, because the decision’s already been made, well, there’s no need for any government support, is there? Why throw good money after bad, trying to encourage a firm to stay when we all knew that they were going anyway. Nothing to do with us.

The question of whether we should be subsidising the automobile industry is fairly complex. The arguments for and against subsidies for any industry, however, should come down to pragmatism, not ideology. Is a subsidy for this industry important to either the short term or long term future of this country? Do we need to find a balance between those two things? And if we choose to change existing arrangements, how do we manage the consequences of that?

Take the fossil fuel industry, for example, as a great example of how not to manage change. There will be some demand for coal for the forseeable future, but there is the possibility that this demand will drop. There is also the inevitability that coal will run out eventually. Instead of planning for change, we do what we can to try and keep the industry going, even to the extent of putting billions into the researching of an oxymoron, “clean coal”!

If the Coalition have decided that they’re ideologically opposed to propping up the car industry, then it would be better to be honest about that, rather than hide behind the fig leaf of the productivity commission report, delaying their own actions till Holden makes the first move. At least then we can start to look at the ramifications and to manage the changes in an planned way.

But I suspect this is going to be another, “Hey, don’t blame us, we’re just the Government, not our problem” moment. (Did I say “moment”? Perhaps I should have said “era”!)

Why else would we be getting ministerial leaks about the so-called decision from Holden? To the ABC, of all places. They should have refused to publish, citing national interest!


ABC update:

‘Mr Abbott said this morning that he wants Holden to stay in Australia, but has warned it will not be getting any more help from taxpayers.

“We took a policy the election, that policy includes very substantial ongoing support for the motor industry,” he told Radio 3AW.

“We stand ready to make that support available but there’s not going to be any extra money over and above the generous support that taxpayers have been giving the motor industry for a long time,” he said.

“I do wish Holden would clarify their intentions because at the moment they’ve got everyone on tenterhooks,” Mr Abbott said.’

Fairfax Backdate:

‘Federal and state government help beyond 2016 remains clouded, but Mr Macfarlane said his intentions were to make the industry more independent and globally competitive.

”Time is running out … but the reality is we’re going to get this right, we’re going to give this everything and I’m going to ask General Motors in Detroit to be a little bit patient,” Mr Macfarlane said.

”I know they’ve got deadlines, I’m doing my best. These guys are all promising me we’ll have a frank discussion behind closed doors – there’ll be no leaks, there’ll be no politics.

‘I’ve got to have a Productivity Commission report before I hand down the final decision. I will try and do something in the short term just to keep everything going. The long-term plan is to have an auto industry here for a long time.”

Before the election, the Coalition vowed to slash $500 million in car industry funding, casting doubt over whether manufacturers would survive.’

So, there ya go, folks, it’s all part of their mandate! But hey, the Government need to wait for the Productivity Commission, it’s Holden that should just hurry up and announce the closure, so that it’s all they’re fault!

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Assaults on democracy

There are at least two fundamental requirements for a functioning democracy. In various ways, in recent years, we have seen political parties in Australia attempting to subvert and limit these requirements. This is an assault on democracy itself. It may not be deliberate – political parties, like business entities, will work within the constraints of the law to achieve their ends, and loopholes and aggressive tactics are a part of the game. But dress it up how you may, attempting to coerce the workings of parliament and the electoral choices of a population is anti-democratic even if done within the limitations of the laws of that democracy.

In the business sphere, there is an overarching structure to act as a check and balance. The courts, and above them the legislature, ensure that eventually businesses that exploit loopholes to the detriment of the community can be brought back into line. Through the testing of legislation in the courts, through the drafting of new laws and regulations, there are means to help ensure that the system is fluid and no entities can subvert the intention of the regulations to which all businesses are subject.

Politics has no such overarching structure. The limits on politics are the various parties themselves – where one party oversteps the bounds, the only bodies that can pull them up on it are other political parties. Some of the time this works. And sometimes it does not.

Given untrammelled power – for instance, control of both houses of Parliament – a government can adjust the goalposts in such a way as to benefit their own interests and continued dominance. When the cycle turns, as eventually it must, an incoming government is then able to either take advantage of the changes the previous government has wrought, or to reverse the changes and implement their own.

The Australian constitution holds various aspects of our democracy sacrosanct and to change these requires a referendum. The basic mechanics of elections and parties and the existence of two houses are not in danger. There are plenty of other ways that a political party can act to extend its own hegemony, and any number of ways that the intent of a democracy can be subverted by the details.

Basic requirements for a healthy democracy include the following.

1. A free press

Or more accurately, even and impartial coverage and analysis of the issues. Fundamentally, Australian democracy is about vision. In a hundred policy areas each government has to balance the requirements of the community and the best interests of the country. In order to effectively judge the promised approach of a candidate government to each of these areas, in order to accurately evaluate the needs of Australia’s present and future, clear and informative reporting is needed.

In Australia, the media environment is skewed. Various reports have pointed to the obvious bias in the large majority of Australia’s news media. Against this bias, only the minority Fairfax and the public broadcaster ABC attempt a more balanced view. Readers of this blog will understand that “more balanced”, to the conservatives, reads as “rabid pinko”. A detailed analysis of the relative bias of the ABC vs News Ltd is outside of the scope of this article. What is not, is that the Coalition is currently openly discussing curtailing the ABC’s power to operate in the news arena.

“He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.”

Of course, the Abbott government has form in the area of suppressing balanced information from the populace. In just a short three months in office, they have disbanded information bodies, restricted the information flow out of government, suppressed information on the grounds of “operational matters” despite said information being available to those not unfortunate enough to live in Australia, and continued the active dissemination of misinformation, half-truths and blatant untruths.

2. Robust representation in the Parliament

In a representative democracy, not every member of Parliament is going to belong to or be sympathetic to the government. Those members and senators elected to represent the opposition and independent parties – even those who do not represent a party at all – are not there to warm chairs. They are not elected to become a part of the government machine and uncritically support any intentions of the government of the day. Instead, they are there to be a dissenting voice, and hopefully through negotiation in the interests of the people they represent, to improve proposed legislation through amendments. The operation of the Parliament and Senate in this regard is a deliberate structure to ensure that all new law is viewed through the lens of more than one stakeholder; to ensure that legislation that benefits one group does not act unfairly to the detriment of others.

Both Labor and the Coalition in recent years – and as recently as the current sitting of Parliament – have taken, and are taking, actions to subvert this function. Such actions include scheduling complicated legislation for debate and passage in unfeasibly short timeframes. For examples of this – on both sides – you need look no further than the carbon “tax”. Labor provided a package of legislation running to over 1000 pages to the Parliament with eight days to read, understand, debate and vote on it. In response, the Coalition has given the repeal of the carbon tax – eleven bills, to be discussed together – just three and a half days of debate. It would be bad enough if it were just the “tax” being debated, but tied up in the repeal are dozens of climate bodies, administrative bodies, funding arrangements, and associated clean energy infrastructure.

Arguably, however, the Coalition has been worse in their abuse of the processes of Parliament. During the previous term of government, they brought few amendments to the house, preferring instead to grandstand, disrupt proceedings with continual calls to suspend standing orders, and in most cases in Question Time to ask not one question relating to their own portfolios. This was not effective representation of their constituents. But the worst was yet to come.

In the current term, in addition to electing a clearly partisan speaker to the chair of the House – Bronwyn Bishop, who remains in the party room and is an integral part of the Coalition’s governing body – they have also taken actions that in one fell swoop ensure the failure of any amendments to legislation and disempower any independent voices. The attempt to vote on all proposed amendments as a block ensures that a flaw in one amendment, or contradictory amendments, or an extreme position on behalf of one proposal will knock out all the amendments at once. As Penny Wong stated in parliament, this is procedurally impossible. She might have added, deliberately so – it is a flagrant breach of the intention of amendments. (I am unable to find references online to this abuse of process. If you can provide a link, please leave it in the comments.)

Understandably, governments want to implement their policies. But subverting debate using procedural methods is as much an assault on democracy as is continual sabotage of proceedings using points of order and interjections.

Does anybody even listen to Parliament any more?

The majority of the Australian people remain minimally aware of the vagaries of Parliament and how it operates, far less the way that it is intended to represent the interests of non-governmental political parties. Tony Abbott and some sections of the news media deliberately play to this disaffection as they talk about a “mandate” for the government to implement its policies and report scant, if any, details of the proceedings of legislation through the parliament. Regardless, the details remain critically important. These are our representatives, this is our government, and any attempt to usurp the proper processes of democracy is an assault on everyone’s rights – whether you support the government of the day or not. Accordingly, those who are politically aware and interested need to draw attention to these abuses wherever they may be found. Only by showing that people are watching, and that we care about the concept of democracy as much as about its outcomes, can we avoid permanent and catastrophic debasement of government in Australia.


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Let’s ignore the polls for now

Just in case you missed this, the latest Roy Morgan opinion poll puts Labor ahead 51.5% to 48.5% two party preferred.

Now, I know it could be argued that a poll this far out from the possible election is hardly worth commenting on. This seems to be the view of much of the mainstream media, because I certainly haven’t heard much about it. Last week we had the Nielsen poll putting Labor in front one day, but Newspoll the next day, supposedly affirming that voters hadn’t changed the election. A couple of feature writers went as far as suggesting that the Neilsen poll was an outlier.

To quote “Australia’s most read columnist”, He Who Must Not Be Named, (Boltemort)”:

Which polls? The Newspoll which has the Government 52 to 48 ahead of “Labor? Or the Essential Media poll which has it ahead by even more – 53 to 47?

Oh, let’s base this analysis on the one clear outlier with suspicious results particularly in Queensland – the only poll which has Labor ahead.”

Strangely though, there doesn’t seem to be much comment on the second “outlier”. I certainly haven’t noticed anything about it in today’s “Herald-Sun”, but maybe I was too busy looking at their letters page, where I discovered this gem:


In fact, the poll doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in any of the other papers I’ve read today. Neither have I heard it mentioned on the ABC.

Although, I did read that Malcolm Turnbull was giving the ABC a “lashing”:

  • Malcolm Turnbull accuses ABC of shocking error of judgment on spy story
  • Interesting that the Murdoch press who were say scathing about the need for any controls on the freedom of the press, now have no problem with the Communications Minister telling the ABC what they shouldn’t be publishing.

Perhaps that’s why there’s so little about the Morgan poll – it’s been deemed an operational matter and therefore it would be an aid to terrorists and/or people smugglers if it were published.


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The ABC must be silenced in the name of free speech!

Image from

Image from

“Fighting for Peace is Like Screwing for Virginity”

Graffiti from the 70’s

A work colleague complained that speed cameras were just a way of raising revenue, and that they had nothing to with safety.

“Really,” he complained,”having to take your eyes off the road to check your speed all the time makes you more dangerous.”

I resisted the temptation to ask him if he could manage to chew gum and walk at the same time, but the conversation stuck with me. Looking at where speed cameras are placed, I wondered if he had a point, but generally, I felt that if one speeds, one can’t complain too much if one gets a ticket every now and then.

It was when the same colleague walked in complaining about receiving a fine that I got a taste of the future. It was for using a phone to text while driving.

“Ridiculous,” he said, “I’m a competent driver – I can text keep and drive at the same time.”

But not keep an eye on the speed without being a safety risk? I wondered.

It’s just this sort of logic that seems to be prevalent at the moment. Principles change depending on the personalities involved, or what the person wants to happen. Abbott’s insistence that he has a mandate seems at odds with his determination to block the ETS when Rudd was PM. Didn’t Rudd go to an election promising to introduce this in 2007? Didn’t he have a mandate?

I don’t think that the Left is immune. People who complained about the personal attacks on Gillard or the legitimacy of her government are now using sexist and demeaning language about the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, and trying to argue that Abbott wasn’t legitimately elected. (There’s an argument that people were misled, which makes his claims for a mandate on everything a little dodgy, but whether that makes a government “illegitimate” is a more complicated discussion.)

However, it fascinates me that those who have been squawking about freedom of the press, and how any attempt to regulate or provide checks and balances was a threat to the very foundation of democracy. Just because the Murdoch empire had – allegedly – been engaged in inappropriate relationships with police and politicians, and hacking people’s phones in the UK, there was no evidence that they had done so here, and to suggest such a thing was just an attempt to stifle their criticism of Labor.

In fact, to even have an inquiry, to even look to see if there was any evidence, well, that was an insult to the integrity of the hard-working members of the Murdoch Media in this country.

As for suggestions that it was too big, and too powerful, well, these days, thanks to the Internet, there are so many ways that people can access the news, that there’s no need for restrictions on the size of any company.

Ah, glancing at your speed makes you dangerous, but an experienced driver can text without being distracted.

Yesterday, Andrew Bolt wrote the following in his article, “Abbott Must Take On the ABC”:

“Just as concerning is how the ABC is metastasising, using our $1.1 billion a year to strangle private media outlets and stifle diversity.

No healthy democracy should have a state media this dominant, with the ABC sprawling over four national TV channels and four radio networks, and now an online newspaper that gives free the kind of news and views that dying Fairfax newspapers must sell to survive.”

The ABC has grown too big and it’s “killing diversity”? Mm, I suppose if you chose to define left-wing as anyone who doesn’t support the idea that the rich should pay no tax at all because they provide all the work, rather than the Occupy Movement or the Socialist Workers’ Party, then the ABC hosts would all address each other as “comrade” while the Fairfax journalists would be plotting the overthrow of the system by the ballot rather than the bomb.

Of course, Bolt’s views are designed to provoke. He makes a living out of being controversial. So I wouldn’t even bother were it not for the fact that there are similar views being promoted by so many on the Right, and for the fact that the IPA clearly have the sale of the ABC on its agenda.

Then we have the distraction in the spying scandal – should the ABC (and “The Guardian”) have published, or should they have decided that it wasn’t in the national interest and buried the story? (In much the same way that certain newspapers in Australia have buried the Leveson inquiry or the charges against the Murdoch Press in the UK – presumably they weren’t in the national interest either!) But surely, if the Government-owned media starts to censor its news because it might embarrass the Government, they’d be open to all sorts of criticism. Secondly, does anyone really think that Snowden’s revelations would not have found their way to Jakarta – and eventually, some media outlet – anyway?

Ah, how quickly we’ve gone from this:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” Voltaire

To this:

“I disapprove of what you say, so shut up, because free speech only applies to those who are right. And you’re part of the Left, so you don’t have anything to say!” Bolt aire.

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Politics is even more boring than I thought! (I just watched the debate…)

The trouble with the debate – and politics in general – is that people were asked complicated questions, and the “winner” was the person who could come up with the most CONVINCING answer in a couple minutes.

We’ve gone from “Interest Rates will always be lower under a Coalition Government” to “The Budget bottom line will always be better under a Coalition Government”. No facts or figures, no evidence, just a quick, slick statement.

Still, it’s a little longer than the normal three-word statement. Abbott was wooden and Rudd came across as a man who was about as interesting as your accountant explaining the joys of double entry bookkeeping.

Every now and then, Abbott would smirk as though he remembered what his coach told him about not using this gesture or remembering to look at the camera. So, who won? And in terms of it, who cares?

Yes, yes, I’m sure we all care because this will determine who runs Australia and all that. (Let’s just say Rupert Murdoch is being ignored for the purpose of this blog.) But I can’t help but think about something I read on job interviews.

If you were picking the 100 metre relay team for the next Olympics, would you take them to the track and get them to run, or take them into a room and ask them questions to see if they answered them like other sprinters?

And that’s the whole thing with an election campaign. People are expected to have answers, rather than intelligent questions. We judge people on hand gestures and body language, rather than an amazing grasp on what needs to be done. We pick our future based on flimsy things.

When the buzzer goes off, a speaker has to round off their answer and finish. And no-one is allowed to say, “Well, this something we should stop pretending that this a problem where ANYONE has an answer. Let’s all sit down and take this one out of the political arena…”

Yeah, I’ll keep watching too. I know I should stop and do something worthwhile. I know that politicians will only occasionally make an actual difference once or twice in a generation, but it’s like watching a domestic argument; you know you shouldn’t stare, but sometimes you just can’t help it!

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Murdoch and the Internet

“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery. Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.” (Rupert Murdoch, on Twitter.)

Some of you probably remember SOPA, the attempt to protect copyright owners from digital piracy. (For those that don’t: quick Wikipedia summary: “The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the websites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the websites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.”) Like attempts to stamp out child pornography on the internet, or cyber bullying, it’s something that we should all get behind.

But, as they say, the devil is in the detail. (Or perhaps, it’s the devil who is behind it.) The problem with the legislation was that – in effect – it has the potential to become censorship by stealth. Rather than someone who felt their copyright was being infringed asking the provider to remove it before any action was taken, the bill gave the power to judges to block it immediately. In essence, it placed the onus on the website provider to monitor breaches of copyright, including links to other sites. In other words, under some interpretations of the act, a cut and paste containing links to other sites – like I just did from Wikipedia – places the onus on me to ensure that none of those other links contain breaches of copyright.

Naturally, some people argued that concern about its misuse is misguided, and well, like with the security services and rendition, “you can trust us, we’re American” – it will only be used to stop piracy – legitimate sites have nothing to worry about. (“If you’ve done nothing wrong, why are you worried?”) Others, like Google and Wikipedia, joined the conspiracists in protest actions that have prevented the Bill from becoming law.

Rupert on the other hand, argues that Google is complicit in the piracy. As he tweeted, “Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case.”

So what’s Murdoch’s big problem with the Internet, and why am I bringing it up after all this time? Well, obviously, people pirating the products of Fox Studios undercuts his profits, and he has a legitimate concern with stopping the illegal reproduction of films and other media for which he owns the copyright. I can see that, and I’m sure that any reasonable government will see that. Australia, I’m sure, could be a world leader in this, just as we’ve been a world leader in seat belt legislation and the plain packaging of cigarettes.

And whereas once you’d need to travel to some market to get a dodgy copied VHS of “Fatal Attraction” or some such new release, these days, you can download from the Internet in minutes. Or seconds, once the NBN is installed in every home. Oh, that’s right. We don’t need those sort of download speeds. And the NBN is digging up asbestos – (it’s the NBN asbestos, not Telstra’s). Well, whatever, people can still undercut his profits illegally from their own homes. And Google is helping to aid these crooks.

Of course, when one is trying to put up a pay wall to ensure that people don’t get their news for free, it helps if you can block providers who are repeating the news that you have copyright on. Oh, that’s right, there isn’t a copyright on the news. Just individual articles, by particular writers.

And if Murdoch puts up paywalls for his newspapers and media sites, won’t that encourage people to be “misinformed”, because they may go to the ABC where they can see it for free.

I have an idea, let’s make it fairer by privatising the ABC!


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Up The Opinion Polls

If we are to take the latest Fairfax Poll at face value and try to analyse the sudden voter turnaround it conjures up a number of possibilities. Those on the right might argue that’s its all the bad news that has confronted Labor since Christmas. One writer lists the following.

Craig Thomson finally got arrested. Other union identities (Williamson, etc) going through their own court proceedings, legal issues, etc. In NSW, two senior former ALP ministers, Eddie Obeid and Ian McFarlane, are in ICAC accused of defrauding NSW of $75 million. Nova Perris “captains pick” looked tokenistic. Long-standing Senator Trish Crossin dumped in the trash through no fault of her own. Makes Gillard look ruthless. PM announces longest election-campaign in the nation’s history. If nothing else, it seemed “weird”. Two senior ministers resign days later. This terrible timing is a strong indicator that they had no idea Gillard was about to announce election-date. Suggestive of secretive and dysfunctional cabinet. Treasurer Swan finally admits that the surplus he promised 200 times won’t be delivered.

If we accept these as legitimate reasons (and they are) then we also need to look at what the electorate is prepared to reject in order to strike a balance. So if this poll is correct it also means (given the margins involved) that the electorate has overwhelming rejected every government policy. Let’s go through them at the same time remembering that the Coalition has none. Well other than a maternity leave policy that economists say is unaffordable. Considering this point is important if we are to understand voting intentions. Otherwise the voter is being asked to make a decision based on incomplete information. If this is so, how seriously do we take this poll? Is it actually saying that the electorate fundamentally rejects all of the following policies in favour of Mr Abbott’s unknown ones? That none has any merit and that they don’t care what his policies are. They will accept them anyway. I think not.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a price on carbon. This in spite of the fact that it is bedded down and working well. They are prepared for the opposition to rip it up in favour of a plan that economists and environmentalists say will not work. And they are even prepared to go to a double dissolution.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a broadband network of the standard the government is building and would be happy with a Mickey Mouse network that the experts say is inferior.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a better and more equal education system for their children and think that the Gonski report is not worthy of implementation despite it receiving loud applause from academics and the public. Remember the Coalition had said they are happy with the current system.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for an NDIS and are happy with the status quo. Again this policy has received widespread community support. The Coalition while supporting it say it is not in their immediate plans.

They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that gay folk would ever achieve marriage equality.

They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that Australia might ever become a republic with its own head of state. Not even a plebiscite.

They overwhelmingly think it’s fine for families to lose their school hand outs that help to pay for school fees etc.

They overwhelmingly accept that a large portion of the population (3.6 million and mainly women) will have their taxes increased.

They overwhelmingly say that they are not interested in a 3% increase in their superannuation.

They overwhelming think its fine for the Opposition to rip up the Murray Darling agreement.

They overwhelmingly reject the Government’s handling of the economy which most observers believe to be amongst the best in the world. If not the best.

They overwhelmingly want to get rid of the mining tax despite it having the potential, repeat, potential to spread the wealth of the nation.

They overwhelmingly could not care less that between 13,000 and 20,000 public servants will lose their jobs.

So they have decided overwhelmingly to reject all this even without an Opposition card on the table.

Now I could probably go on and some might also add some other policy areas but these suffice to make my point.

And of course we have a judge finding that members of a political party (The LNP) conspired with James Ashby to use the courts to bring a false claim against the speaker of the house with the eventual intent of bringing down the government. Do I take it that this means nothing to the electorate?

Or do I argue that the average punter has not yet had enough information to make a considered judgement and the ramifications of what a vote for the coalition might mean in real terms? Is the poll seriously suggesting that the electorate has already overwhelmingly rejected all of these policies? That none are worth a pinch? Could it mean that they don’t care and they simply dislike a women in The Lodge and are prepared to forgo any policy at all? It could also mean that the bias of the press and the media in general has been extremely persuasive. And how does one explain the turn a round in the popularity of Tony Abbott from one the most disliked opposition leaders ever, to being more popular than the Prime Minister? You simply cannot.

So all this is strange. There was a Morgan Poll after Christmas that showed the government one percentage point behind the opposition. Was it so far out as to be worthless? On the Café Whisper’s blog in the piece There’s something odd about the Nielson Poll the writer lists in chronological order the political events since Christmas and suggests that there is nothing out of the ordinary that might be a reason for Labor’s demise in the polls. I agree, except that the manner in which the media reported them demonstrated a bias that colours the public’s perception of both the Prime Minister and her Government. The resignation of two ministers was but one example. The media response to this was a complete and utter disgrace and the ABC were at the forefront. And of course there is the ever present Rudd challenge that has developed into some sort of media fetish. Every article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but there is little of it and they are full of unsupported statements. It has reached the point in this country where the media believes its own unsubstantiated bullshit. It has gone from reporting news to making it and in the process prostituted itself.

Could it be that opinion polls are about a perception in time and not a reality of it? Going by this one, hundreds of thousands of people came back from their Christmas holidays after giving much of their time to deep thoughts on the political process and decided that Tony was a good bloke after all. If I were a swinging voter how could I reasonably be expected to say who I might vote for? I would inclined to say: “More info please”.

Opinion polls are now the news. Bring on the next one. WHOOPS, sorry I said that.

And an afterthought. Why not simply ask this question: “How to you think the Coalition’s policies stack up against the governments?” That might confuse the punters.

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News media: A little word, a big effect

I sometimes pick up on some sloppy reporting, deliberate spin or bias in the mainstream news media (MSM). It always creates huge interest on Twitter because many people are aware of the decline in professional standards and bias throughout the MSM.

I refer to it occasionally. But I could make a full-time career of it, so widespread are the examples of biased, unbalanced and unprofessional reporting.

To some degree, a process of correcting a perception of Left-bias in Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News and Current Affairs has been under way for some time (since the last Liberal government of former Prime Minister John Howard, in fact).

At the same time, Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited (at least 70% of Australia’s news media outlets) has been running a Right-wing Conservative agenda against the federal Labor government, which is probably related to mining taxes, environment/pollution control, news media regulation, construction of a National Broadband Network and control of Radio Australia (the ABC’s overseas broadcast network) Australia Network News (now operated by the ABC).

Now that you have the background, let’s look at a specific example I picked up yesterday afternoon. It was still being discussed on Twitter late this afternoon. But if I hadn’t referred to it I imagine it would have gone unnoticed.

On the ABC’s website, Simon Cullen (ABC Chief Political Correspondent) produced a report that referred to a story published earlier in the day by The Australian. The story referred to the latest Newspoll figures. Now, you need to know that The Australian has exclusive rights to publish the Newspoll results, that The Australian is 100% owned by News Limited, which also owns 50% of Newspoll.

Labor figures are quoted in three paragraphs, Newspoll chief Martin O’Shannessy gets two paras and Opposition front bencher Greg Hunt gets four. Two Labor politicians and one Opposition politician commented, with slightly more quotes. Let’s call that a draw because it’s hard to strike a perfect balance.

My attention was drawn to one little word in the third last paragraph. It doesn’t need to be there and the fact that it is there can be seen as an attempt to influence the reader. That is either careless or deliberate writing, or lazy clichéd writing, or amateurish sub-editing. Here are the last three pars; my comments continue below.

Despite recording a six-point bounce in Labor’s primary vote, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s personal satisfaction rating increased only two points to 38 per cent.

That compares with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s personal satisfaction rating of 29 per cent.

More people are dissatisfied than satisfied with the performance of both leaders, with Ms Gillard recording a voter dissatisfaction rating of 49 per cent, while Tony Abbott is on 58 per cent.

The word that caught my attention was “only” in the first of the three pars above. “Only”, used in the context of the highly charged atmosphere of the relative popularity of the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is a serious breach of professional ethics. It is a subtle attempt to influence the reader.

But it gets worse. Simon Cullen, the ABC’s Chief Political Correspondent, ought to know how the Newspoll works and what it measures. He has made the mistake of comparing the government’s popularity with the Prime Minister’s popularity. They are two distinctly different measurements. Mr Cullen seems to think if the government’s popularity is up by six points then the Prime Minister’s popularity should have risen by about the same amount. This is demonstrated by the use of “Despite” and “only”.

He does not emphasise the fact that the Prime Minister’s personal popularity has risen by another two points, continuing the upward trend that we began to see some months ago.

By separating the second par from the first, Mr Cullen (or the sub-editor) is separating the good news from the bad – avoiding a direct comparison of the two. Mr Cullen begrudgingly points out, by using “Despite” and “only”, that the PM’s rating is up two points, but he does not point out that the Opposition Leader remains stuck on his historically low rating of 29.

I could also take issue with the use of “while” in the third par. If I was subbing that par I’d rephrase it to avoid any accusation of bias, like this:

People remain dissatisfied with the performance of both leaders. Ms Gillard’s voter dissatisfaction is 49 per cent. Mr Abbott’s is 58 per cent.

How much of those dissatisfied ratings is due to policy debates we are not having and how much is due to sensationalist, sleazy and sloppy reporting, along with rampant bias, is something that keeps me awake at night.

Read Simon Cullen’s report here.

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