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Tag Archives: Ashbygate

An Open Letter to Journalists at News Ltd

KickthisMobOut Dear News Ltd Journalists,

I’m writing you this letter on behalf of all Australians. That includes everyone who can vote in the upcoming election, as well as those too young to have a say in their own future. I wanted to let you know that your behaviour throughout the election campaign has been appalling. I know you know as well as I do that it’s not the role of a journalist to campaign for a political party. Journalists often justify their bias by saying that opinion pieces can be whatever they want them to be – whether or not they’re biased, unbalanced, untrue, or part of a conspiracy on behalf of your boss to get rid of the NBN, which threatens his business interests. But you’re not just contributing opinion pieces and amateur PhotoShopped front page images, denigrating the target of your smear campaign. You’re also contributing news articles, designed to bring about a certain result, a result you’ve allegedly been instructed to manufacture to help your boss make money. Doesn’t this make you feel dirty? Doesn’t the 17 year old aspiring journalist in you feel even a little bit sad about finding their middle-aged-self behaving in this unethical way? Don’t you care about the impact your work has on the country you live in?

I’m sure many of you justify your blind obedience in the ‘get Rudd’ campaign to the fact that you need a job. You have to do what you’re told so you can keep working as a journalist. I know there’s not many jobs out there for journalists, but this doesn’t justify you doing the wrong thing. There are hundreds of examples throughout history of ‘employees’ doing the wrong thing on behalf of their bosses, and justifying this wrongness by saying they were instructed to do it. That doesn’t make it OK. If Murdoch told you to hit your wife, would you do that too? Where exactly is the line that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what your boss wanted? Is there a line? When you write puff pieces about Tony Abbott, when you do glamorous photo shoots of Tony Abbott’s daughters but don’t actually ask them a question, when you choose not to scrutinise Abbott, and omit news that is damaging to him, when you support Mal Brough’s campaign to destroy Slipper and then ignore the news that you were part of the Ashbygate conspiracy which a Federal Court Judge has revealed, when you cover your front page with blatant propaganda to help Abbott win government, but don’t tell your readers what his real plans are, when you give a candidate a free run and create the misleading impression that the Labor government is unsuccessful, you are failing Australia. Your job is not more important than your responsibility as a journalist. How are you ever going to get another job with this sort of behaviour in your background?

I actually think it’s an absolute outrage that not one of you has resigned in protest during this election campaign. Not one of you has stood up for journalistic integrity and said ‘enough’. Not one of you has said your pay cheque isn’t more important to you than your ethics. And what about all the jobs your readers will lose because of your campaign? You know Tony Abbott has proudly announced that he’ll sack 12,000 public servants. These are people doing important work in our communities. They help people. They support the disadvantaged in society. How is your job more important than their jobs?

No doubt many of you are Liberals yourself, having been hand-picked by your boss to make sure you’re on his side. But even if you think Tony Abbott deserves to win the election, and even if you like his policies and are completely in favour of his plans for this country (assuming you know what these are), don’t you think the Australian people have a right to hear both sides of the story before making up their own minds? Don’t you think it sounds a little bit like Fascism for your boss to decide that he wants an Abbott win, and then for you, his minions, to do his dirty work in the most blatantly dishonourable and immoral media campaign this country has ever seen?

Perhaps you read letters like this, and you are so hardened to the world that you let it roll over you, like water off a duck’s back. But I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside you, there’s a little voice reminding you that you’re doing the wrong thing. If you even have the ability to feel guilty, to feel ashamed, even if it’s just at 3:00am in the morning when you can’t sleep, I hope you feel awful.

It’s also important for you to know that we won’t forget what you’ve done. If your boss gets his way, and you do manage to deliver Australia the most conservative, austerity obsessed, downright mean and selfish government we’ve ever had, it’s very likely most of your readers, especially those in areas like western Sydney who’ve you’ve conned most successfully, will not be very impressed with you. They might ask why on earth Abbott is cutting spending on services they need, like health and education, when they didn’t hear about it before the election. They might be disappointed to hear their work rights are being undermined by the same front bench who came up with Work Choices. And they might be really pissed off when the surplus they’ve been promised is actually a gigantic $30 billion dollar black hole. No doubt you’ll do your best to blame all these woes on Labor, as this is your unthinking knee-jerk reaction to everything. But how long can this work? I know you like your readers dumb, but don’t underestimate how quickly people work out that they’ve been screwed over. I hope your precious job is worth it then. I would have thought your entire industry was in enough trouble without you putting another dozen nails in its coffin through your own arrogance and incompetence.

House of cards

HouseOfCards Dear Tony Abbott,

You probably get a lot of letters from both admirers and those seeking to criticise every facet of your existence. I am one of the latter. You might recall I’ve written to you before. Last time I wrote I told you about how concerned I was that you weren’t getting proper scrutiny in the mainstream media. Thankfully, since the recent change in ALP leadership, the media seem to have moved past their obsession with Julia Gillard. And in want of something else to write about, some of the more scrupulous journalists are taking some interest in your plans for the country and your behavior in trying to achieve your ambition to be the next blue-tie-wearing Prime Minister of Australia.

The introduction of the Guardian’s local edition has helped this happy scenario come about. Just in the last few days, Margo Kingston revealed your lies about using Comm cars for private travel while promoting your book Battlelines. I’ve also seen an article about your Direct Action policy by Lenore Taylor, Jonathan Swan from the SMH has taken an interest in the Ashbygate Trust and Chris Uhlmann asked you some direct questions about your ‘stop the boats’ policy on ABC’s 7:30. Did I say policy? Apologies, I meant slogan.

All of this scrutiny no doubt makes for an unhappy week for you, which I’m not ashamed to say makes for a very happy week for me. It’s clear you’re under a bit of pressure, what with your cowardly decision to turn down a debate with Kevin Rudd and this behavior in your pie stacking press conference was just, well, I don’t know what it was Tony?

But the reason for my letter is not to make your week any worse, although that would be a welcome side effect. No, I’m writing to you about your crumbling personal character and policy platform which is quite clearly a house of cards, built on quick-sand foundations. You see, the thing is Tony, when I stand back and look at what you spend 95% of your time in the media saying, it’s pretty clear to any objective outsider that you’ve set yourself up to fail. And it’s quite clear why you can’t possibly risk debating Kevin Rudd at this point in time, because you know as well as I do, if you’re really honest with yourself, that your house of cards could come crumbling down at any moment. Because it’s basis is a massive pile of dishonorable, weasel word, downright misleading and dishonest sloganeering and smear. This is what you have built Tony. And I think it’s time you realise just how dangerous a position you are in.

It’s all been so easy up to now. It’s no surprise that you’re suffering from the worse kind of complacency. The complacency of a man who hasn’t had to defend his own positions. Who hasn’t had to compete on a platform of ideas and intelligent debate about the merits of your alternative plans. All you’ve had to do for the last three years is to call Julia Gillard a ‘liar’ and your work for the day was done. How easy you must have thought life was. How weak your brain muscle must have got over all this time while you leisurely went about your business, doing stunt after stunt on your anti-Carbon-Price-Convoy-of-No-Charisma, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-payers’ money on your never ending election campaign, while paying little or no attention to the policy success of your rivals in the government. And while paying little attention to the merits of what was coming out of your mouth.

Yes, I’m talking about the merits of what you have been talking about for the last three years. Because the fact is, while you’ve been using your Murdoch-inspired media pack to convince the Australian public that Julia Gillard can’t be trusted, the real truth has been that your entire policy platform, your whole view of the world, is so easily unpicked that you literally will not risk being asked any questions about it. It’s as flimsy as your claim to have ‘no specific knowledge’ about the Slipper/Ashbygate scandal. But know this. We can see right through you Tony. And right through your cheer squad of angry Abbott supporters who scream and yell on the radio, write misogynist blogs and troll #auspol.

If you were an emperor Tony, you wouldn’t be wearing any clothes. But you’re not an emperor. And your supporters have no logical argument for why they support you. Because the truth is, they have absolutely no reasonable way to defend your policy positions, except to admit the one thing they, and you, will never admit. And that is that your slogan policies aren’t based on intelligence, truth and respect. Let that settle for a second Tony. Intelligence. Truth. Respect. When you say ‘stop the boats’, you deny the complex problem of displaced, scared, desperate people looking for some way to save their lives. When you say Labor is all about debt and you spread economic doom and gloom around the economy, you deny the Global Financial Crisis and Labor’s success in steering the country away from recession. When you say ‘axe the tax’, you’re pretending the problem of climate change is not important enough to make sacrifices for. And you think short-term opportunism is more important than the lives of future generations of earth’s inhabitants. When was the last time you, or any of your LNP colleagues, showed intelligence, truth and respect? I can’ think of a single instance.

Because let’s be frank Tony. There’s a reason why weasel words are your only option. You’re only interested in helping a very small percentage of the Australian population. The minute anyone examines your slogan policies, this truth is revealed like budgie smugglers tearing open in the surf. The reality is, you’re the enemy of the working people you stand next to at your countless factory visits and anti-carbon tax rallies. You cosy up to them as if you’re backing them all the way, when really you would happily destroy their prosperity, their stability of employment, the infrastructure they need, their access to government services including health and education, if you thought there was a buck in it for your rich mates. Everything you say and do is designed to both fool people that this is not your true purpose, and to reassure those who know you are only supporting them that you will continue to do this. Please understand that when I say you only care about Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch, I’m not saying you literally only support two people. I’m talking about Rinehart, Murdoch and the people who are like them; those who aspire to be as selfish, ruthless and rich; those who fantasize about a world where the Rinehart/Murdoch philosophy is acceptable and success is measured by how like-them you are. It’s a disgusting aspiration Tony, and you should be embarrassed to be encouraging it.

As soon as this fact becomes more apparent to the electorate, as soon as they realise how abhorrent your world view is, you’re done Tony. Because I believe Australians are better than this. While you’ve been aiming for the lowest common denominator, you’ve been underestimating that Australia is a community. Not an economy. The economy serves the community, not the other way around. Your house of cards will come tumbling down as soon as this simple truth is more widely acknowledged. I just hope this happens before the election, and not after.

 

Too little too late

mouse-on-wheel The switch has been flicked. Extraordinary. I have seen more reporting of government policy in mainstream press over the last week than I saw in the last three years. This is probably an exaggeration, but isn’t perception reality? All I remember seeing throughout 2010 to 2013 was yet another report about Gillard’s ‘unstable grip on the leadership of the Labor Party’.

Political journalists treat their readers like idiots by pretending that they got the Labor leadership call right. How dare they now pretend to be innocent bystanders and justify their newfound interest in political policy by saying it was all Gillard’s fault that they couldn’t report her policy success. Because when you’re saying something is going to happen for years and it eventually does happen, you still just look like an obsessive, one-track mind with a Murdoch narrative that no journalist had the courage to rise above. A broken clock is right twice a day; however in this case of course it’s worse than that. The mainstream media just kept picking away, kept writing article after article about Rudd’s campaign to destabilize Gillard’s leadership until they gave her no choice but to give in to the bullying. They made the story a reality.

The excuse that Rudd’s campaign was newsworthy, and therefore justifiably reportable is rubbish. We all know there is leadership tension in any party. Anyone keen to use Turnbull or Hockey as their unnamed source would find the same thing on the other side of the chamber. We all know there is plenty of news going on in Canberra and elsewhere all the time. It’s journalists’ decision, it’s their judgment call, to decide, with their limited column inches and word count, what news is important to report. When every political journalist in the country was writing the same article every week, they were declaring to readers that nothing else of importance was happening in this country. And isn’t this how the mainstream media have really failed? Because I can’t believe anyone could argue that Rudd’s blind ambition was a bigger story than any of the things they missed, namely:

Gillard’s Success

It’s amusing now to see so many political journalists writing glowing obituaries about Gillard’s career as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Actually, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic. Where were these articles before Rudd challenged last week?

Gillard’s amazing legacy will be intact, and future analysis will only improve our understanding of the significance of the last three years of policy reform to the social fabric of our community. That is, on the assumption that Abbott doesn’t dismantle all Gillard’s good work. But no, this was never the story. The story was never on policy, was never on Gillard’s exceptional negotiation skills. It was never on her poise in the face of constant abuse from Tony Abbott, from his colleagues, from many in the media and all their foul mouthed foot-soldiers across social media and deep, ugly dark parts of the internet. Abbott changed this country the day he stood in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ sign (twice). He gave permission to the Grace Colliers, to the Larry Pickerings, the Alan Jones, to the Mal Broughs and his fundraising dinner, to children throwing sandwiches. Abbott’s message was that it’s fair game to personally denigrate your opponent for political gain, and to denigrate the position of Prime Minister in the process. He made it fair game to call Gillard a liar every day until it became part of her name. That is Abbott’s legacy. And this is what we saw in the press instead of hearing about Gillard’s amazing success while leading a minority government constantly referred to as ‘chaos’. Journalists should hang their heads in shame when the only way to get an accurate account of Gillard’s leadership is for the Victorian Women’s Trust to buy space in a newspaper.

Ashbygate

I can already imagine the groans of mainstream journalists about this next topic. But this time, before you all start complaining, I’m not imploring you again to take interest in the campaign designed by Mal Brough to remove Peter Slipper from parliament, with the hope of bringing down the Labor Government. I’m not asking you to track down James Ashby and to find out exactly what went on. I’ve come to terms long ago with the realization that you’re just not up to investigating Australia’s own version of Watergate. But again, aren’t you shamed by the Ashbygate trust, which has raised over $50,000 from the public to dig into this story and to reveal the truth? While you complain you can’t afford to do any investigative reporting, we’re all donating funds to see this job done properly by someone else. Well played.

Policy, policy and policy

Is it not a huge embarrassment to the mainstream media that they are now trying to spend the few weeks before the election playing catch up in political policy areas far too complex to leave to sound bites? The electorate deserves better than this. We deserve to know about Abbott’s plans, and how they differ from the current Labor government. I could write fifty posts about all the policy areas that have been totally ignored for the last three years, replaced and wiped out by the unending narrative of ‘Labor leadership tensions’. Here’s a snapshot of a couple, and some questions I would like answered which should, in a decent mainstream media, have been asked years ago:

Climate Change – we saw Abbott on the news every night in his latest stunt, wearing yellow safety vests, stacking bananas and driving trucks. What exactly is his Direct Action Policy? How much will it cost? And how will it actually work? Did you not think when you went along on one of Abbott’s stunt trips it might have been worth asking about this? And to keep asking until you got an answer?

What about the effect of the Carbon Price which was meant to wipe Whyalla off the map? Have you held the Liberal National Coalition to account for all their easily disprovable propaganda and lies, designed to scare voters and to undermine action against climate change? If you bothered to check, the effect of the Carbon Price has been to reduce emissions and to increase investment in renewable energy which will further reduce emissions in the future. This is great news! Also, it’s slightly newsworthy that, even after Abbott spent all his tax-payer funded time and travel allowance on his anti-carbon-tax road trip, the majority of voters haven’t been fooled. Doesn’t this story warrant as much of your attention as a leaky Rudd? It’s just the health of the planet we live on at stake after all. Is the tenant in the Lodge really more important than that?

Paid Parental Leave – This is Abbott’s ‘signature policy’. He is offering to pay women a full time salary, capped up to $75,000 for six months maternity leave, presumably to help them pay their mortgages while they take leave from work. Apart from the fact that this is middle and upper-class welfare on steroids, I am quite concerned that many voters have very little information about the mechanics and cost of this scheme.

Abbott has said he will tax companies to fund this policy. However he hasn’t mentioned it much since business said they weren’t happy about it. I don’t need to imagine Gina Rinehart’s reaction to a tax increase. Can someone please follow up with Abbott about this? Is his policy a policy or not? We want to see another blood oath! One question, which still hasn’t been answered, is a fairly simple one – will a woman who already receives paid maternity leave as part of her employment contract receive Abbott’s paid leave as well? Or does it just top up the employer’s contribution to six months fully-paid leave? Or is it instead of the employer’s contribution? I would have thought this information is kind of important, no? Is anyone going to ask the question?

We could have seen three years of policy analysis, including plenty of comparison of Abbott’s broadband plan, his education funding versus Gillard’s Gonski plan. We could have heard how Abbott’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy of turning back boats was not going to be accepted by Indonesia, and how it contravened the agreement Australia has made by signing the UN Refugee Convention.

But no. All we saw was sound bites about how Abbott wants to destroy the Labor government, how Rudd wanted to take over from Gillard and how Gillard’s government was always on the brink. We will surely look back at the last three years as a proud, successful time for the Labor Party with an amazing leader. And a time where trust in the mainstream media was eroded to the point of no return. Because journalists and their vested interests in the vested interests of their bosses have failed the electorate. We are now seeing too little too late and democracy is the loser. Shame on you all.

 

Oh please, shoot me now!

Anybody who watched – sorry, laboured through the ABC’s QandA last night could not have helped to notice that, despite the multitude of tweets begging for a question to Christopher Pyne on the Ashbygate affair … it was definitely off limits. The ABC, in their wisdom, preferred to direct the discussion about a Labor Government who is apparently out of touch with the electorate (and quickly gave the floor to Amanda Vanstone), or the lack of public transport in Western Sydney. It was about as gripping as an episode of Basil Brush.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer to tune in to watch Pyne face a few curved balls. I guess we know the ABC’s agenda: Go lightly on the Opposition. Somewhere up the hierarchy someone is pulling a few strings.

Last night the public might have thought it was given its first real chance to pursue this important electoral issue. We’ve sat by and watch our media do nothing, say nothing. And last night they shut the door on their viewers.

The media has an agenda. Today on news.com another side of the agenda was on pathetic display. We read:

Mr Abbott is expected to have a wealth of material to draw upon from over summer since parliament last met last November.

Ms Gillard’s leadership has been dogged over the past week by speculation about a Kevin Rudd return, more poor opinion polls, the mismanaged Cabinet reshuffle and the charging of suspended Labor MP Craig Thomson a day after announcing the election date.

So in less than 24 hours I’ve learned that the media wants to kill the real stories and replace it with opinion, speculation, and outright lies.

I want to dissect the second sentence of the above quote and ask the writer some questions:

  • I’d like to know a bit more about the leadership speculation about a Kevin Rudd return. To my knowledge the only speculation has been generated by our mainstream media in search of another unsubstantiated story, yet one that will tarnish the Government. Can you thus substantiate that claim?
  • How much poorer are the opinion polls for Labor compared to their showing over the past 12 months? And have you bothered to look at the latest Morgan Poll which shows Labor only one point behind the LNP?
  • How was it a mismanaged Cabinet reshuffle? Is that a fact or is that just your opinion? Can you tell me how it should have been conducted?
  • Yes, Craig Thomson is a suspended Labor MP but he is now an Independent MP. Why not state that? Oh that’s right, it would be less harmful to Julia Gillard to do so.

If this is the best our media can perform, then please, shoot me now. I don’t want them deciding who runs this country.

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