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Tag Archives: Gillard Government

In the Clash of Ideologies, Language Wins the War

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Jim Morrison famously and prophetically said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the minds”.

This is certainly the case in Australia.

In this guest post Loz Lawrey looks at how the media – the Murdoch media in particular – shape out attitudes and opinions.

In 1988, Professor Noam Chomsky reminded us that the media “serve, and propagandise on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them” (1). Never has this fact been more blatantly obvious than it is today.

The glaring anti-Labor/Greens bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news media during the term of the Gillard Government exaggerated Labor’s dysfunction and gave credibility to a Liberal/National opposition devoid of policies or ideas, other than a plan to hand decision-making over to commercial vested interests.

Today much of the mainstream media’s energy is spent fulfilling the roles of apologist and spin doctor for a right-wing conservative government which serves the wishes of a global oligarchy.

Selective coverage of current affairs events, skewed “opinion” pieces disguised as news reportage, simplified “black or white” presentation which avoids all nuance – the mainstream media has an endless supply of tools for the manipulation of public perception.

There is, however, more to the message than what is essentially the delivery system, or the means of presentation. The TV or radio program, the article in the print media or even the political billboard are simply what the megaphone is to the voice – the means of imparting the message. It’s in the language that real power and control resides.

Political forces use language as the weapon of choice on the field of public debate – what some refer to as the battlefield of ideas. In this arena, the army with the sharpest, most evocative language will prevail. There is little need for true logic or reason to underpin one’s arguments, only that a perception of reasoned lucidity is created by the language used.

While all sides of politics strive for control of any public debate through their use of language, conservative forces in our society have become masters of what is known as weasel language, or weasel words. The terms come from the reputation of weasels for sucking eggs and leaving an empty shell – at first glance weasel words create an impression of real meaning supported by research-based evidence or expert advice, which upon closer inspection is found to be hollow and devoid of substance.

This mastery of language, together with the recent structural disarray in evidence on the left of the political spectrum, goes a long way to explain the survival of conservatism around the globe, despite its continuing assault on the public interest, both nationally and globally.

The work of bodies such as the right wing Institute of Public Affairs is as much about formulating the language used to justify its ideologically-based policies as it is in formulating the policies themselves.

Words such as “free” and “freedom” are tacked onto the labelling language used to define and create a perception of a proposal or idea. Hence we get “free market”, “free speech” and “freedom of choice”. Once you insert a word such as “free”, a benign impression is created of harmless intent.

So it is that when a spokesperson for the IPA argues that people should be “given the right” to work for less that $16 per hour, they are claiming that working for less than the established and agreed minimum is a freedom. In this way, shifting employment conditions closer to the slavery end of the spectrum is made to sound like a positive, liberating move. It will hardly be a liberating experience for those workers who endure it, however, when they find themselves working longer and harder for less or very little, unable to meet their own living needs.

The term “free market” creates an image of happy global business, unfettered by tariffs and protectionist regulations, with goods moving freely about, resulting in best outcomes for both business, workers and consumers. The fact that tariffs were developed as a means to counteract trade imbalance and injustice is swept aside, because who wouldn’t want “freedom” in the marketplace?

Now business regulation designed to level the playing field and increase real fairness in trade is labelled by conservative governments as “red tape”, an evil to be done away with. Environmental regulation intended to protect our natural heritage landscapes and control resource extraction is now dismissed as “green tape”.

These terms belie the fact that such regulation has been developed over many years in response to the perceived need to maintain balance and sustainability in all things into the future.

Even the term “sustainability” itself has been highjacked by the weasel-worders. When the term is used in the context of economic debate, any cuts to spending or public funding are easily justified. Old-age pensions? Unsustainable. A living-wage pay rise for child-care workers? Again, unsustainable.

The rhetoric of conservative ideology is cleverly employed over time to erode the positive public perception of ideas and institutions which are seen as contrary to the the right-wing world-view.

A gradual sanding-down of the public’s acknowledgment and appreciation of the workplace rights and entitlements won over years of union organising and picketing has been achieved by the repeated portrayal of unions as hotbeds of thuggery and corruption.

Dismissive rhetoric about “the left” ignores the fact that leftist political values are based upon social justice, inclusion and concepts of decency and fairness. The ongoing message is that an empathetic worldview is “loony” and that to embrace a cynical philosophy of “winners and losers” is to dwell in the “real world”.

In this way a political message has been delivered into the public sub-consciousness: that leftist views are “crazy” and “loony” in their consideration of the public good, and that right-wing extremist views which can only benefit a minority elite are “sensible”, “rational” and “economically sound”.

Somewhere, somehow, logic and reason lie bleeding and forgotten by the masses, while weasel words and tabloid headlines are regurgitated as valid arguments in the arena of public discussion.

(1)  Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988)
by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

 

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Tony Abbott: the ‘million dollar’ man

It has been widely reported that in the last 12 months Tony Abbott has claimed more than one million dollars in expenses. Nobody from the mainstream media has cared (or dared) to tap Tony Abbott on the shoulder with a ‘please explain’ in spite of it being one of the hottest topics in the social and independent media.

The man is untouchable. He can do or says what he wants as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

But not with the rest of us. We have questions for him. We want to give him that little tap on the shoulder.

The only way we can do that, in the current media environment, is to use social media or independent sites to voice our concerns. It’s a waste of time voicing them on the mainstream media sites as they have no hope of people published.

Below is a letter to Tony Abbott from one very concerned citizen (thanks to I.M.M. for this anonymous source) and we are more than pleased to publish her thoughts. That’s what we like about independent media: the opportunity to be heard.

Dear Tony (pardon the pun),

I have asked myself many times what the hell the LNP think they’re achieving by keeping such a disliked man as their leader, a man many believe to be the biggest sleeze that Australia has ever imported, a man brimming in negativity who prefers circus stunts over political debate. It’s not as if the LNP could ever win government (in its own right) whilst the looney-right faction are running the Party so, without the possibility of an election win what on earth could be keeping you there?

Up until today I have taken the rationale, that with all the looney-rightwing rhetoric flying around the LNP Members must actually believe they are going to win (what a laugh!). Not so any more. No, instead it seems whether in power or not, our politicians are on a good gig, in fact a really good gig, indeed.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend copious amounts of other people’s money, especially if you can use it to further deceive the people and destroy the Gillard government along the way in an effort to gain power by any and all means necessary eh Tony?

Now Tony, I know you don’t like reading but just a quick glimpse of your expenses for the previous year will show you that you spent more than one million taxpayer dollars within the last year, most of which was put down as “office expenditure”.

Tony Abbott, just one MP, you, racked up 1 million dollars in expenses, in just 12 months.

Now I knew your old boss, friend and mentor John Howard presided over the most wasteful government in history but come on Tony, as his poster-child you are better than that aren’t you?

You and I know, when it comes to government “expenses” that means every single cent of it is OUR money being spent Tony.

It would be hypocritical for you to suggest you will “end government waste” Tony whilst at the same time you rack up ONE MILLION DOLLARS OF OUR MONEY ON GOD KNOWS WHAT, ALL BY YOURSELF! Well wouldn’t it Tony?

Not to mention all that pork you provide for your corporate mates, also at our expense mind you, but on top of that we taxpayers, and I do include you in that Tony, paid you $350,000+ in wages, even though you are simply “the opposition”.

Hell, you even charged us for your “volunteer work” expenses, and your circus stunts! Surely that is more than just a bit rich.

A pretty good lurk that one is eh Tony? Indeed.

I have to ask Tony, what has Australia gained now that you spent a million of our dollars over this past year on “office expenses”? Apart from a political wedge, driving a wrecking ball of no opportunity through our small business sector and the general economy, a constant negativity telling us all (consumers) how bad we have it now and constantly bringing down the chances of major success everywhere we look (all the while not coming up with any progressive legislation of your own) Tony. I repeat, what have we taxpayers actually gained here for that million dollars you spent?

I will take a leap here Tony and I will guess that much of that million dollars you claimed to have spent on “office expenses” was wasted on costs for “investigating” spurious AWU claims made up by known criminals, and of course there is the many other nefarious ways you have tried to bring down a Gillard government this year as well, isn’t there Tony?

How right could I be Tony?

It is rather sad watching you lead the LNP into demise Tony, taking away our chance of a credible opposition and very surprising that other factions within the LNP haven’t yet purged your particular mischievious faction from the Party altogether, if only to stop the constant downward spiral the LNP is in and to provide them some hope of the LNP being elected into power again.

Taking into account the right’s penchant for dirt digging I have considered your dirt unit may have too much information on some LNP Members which is keeping them quiet or from standing up against you bullies. I know one day we will find out the real reasons for their silence for sure.

Logical Australians accept you don’t have the numbers to get there on your own, let alone the integrity required of a PM. More than half the country abhors you Tony, it seems many more just ridicule you.

It is obvious to many that the only hope you have of actually gaining government in Australia is by bringing down the current Gillard government mid-course. Going with the Fraser/Whitlam tactic, hoping the Governor-General may replace her with you perhaps eh Tony, because you know, just like we do, another “regular” election cycle will mean yet another LNP loss?

With all this in mind Tony, during your faction’s quite serious attempts at bringing down our PM by any means possible, may I suggest you and your team take a serious lesson out of #AshbyGate. The lesson being that you and your ilk will never be above the law and you will most certainly be judged by all of your actions along the way.

Our justice system (as well as most Australians i’m sure) can see right through you Tony. Indeed we see right through the whole lot of you, the far-right looney faction of the LNP, and I for one do thank GOD for that!

Yours respectably,
CONCERNED

There are many among us who have a similar story to tell. We will be more than happy to publish your story too and feel free to email them to us via the Contact Us facility.

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Labor Bashing

Cheerleaders It’s surely not just me who has noticed the mainstream media losing their shit this week. It’s like the very sight of Kevin Rudd is crack cocaine – sending journalists into a frenzied, chest beating fit of prediction and smear. It’s not like we can’t explain why this happens. We can. It’s because Kevin Rudd is a stick to beat Gillard’s government with. But mark my words, if it wasn’t Kevin f*cking Kevin, or Telstra’s asbestos, or Joel unhinged-Fitzgibbons or Labor backbenchers with their overnight suitcases being reported as having packed up their offices, it wouldn’t make any difference. I’m not going to waste any more time trying to find blame for this situation with the Labor Party, because surely this job has been done, and done and done and re-done many times with many more words than I could write in a hundred years. Let’s be honest. The axis of self-interests – the Murdoch, Rinehart, Abbott triangle is running the show. And they’re winning. This is a war, and the wrong side is winning. It’s a sad, humiliating fact for this great country. But it’s true. The 1% is kicking the 99%’s arse.

Labor does have a communication problem. I would like to see the best communicator in the world cut through a Murdoch smear campaign when his profits are threatened, but still, Labor does have a communication problem. But if you, like me, think it’s more important to judge someone by what they do, instead of what they say, it’s quite clear the Labor party is an incredibly successful outfit. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re rusted on to. This is fact. Policies, economic credentials and Labor party values intact – the Gillard Labor government is hugely successful. But this is the dagger in the heart of people like me who have been watching politics for the last three years, and have been reading mainstream news, and been incredulously reviewing the poll results. It’s becoming clear that it wouldn’t matter what the Gillard government did. Gillard could walk on water and it would be reported that she failed to swim. It’s as if we need to find a new word to outdo frustrating because it’s just getting too much to accept. The Labor government’s policies are popular. The budget is economically responsible. The economy is outperforming all expectations compared to all other developed nations in regards to growth, unemployment, inflation and interest rates. Gillard’s renewable energy policies are restructuring the economy for future challenges. The Labor Party is doing exactly what they promised us they would do – they’re being progressive. NDIS, Gonski, a nation building NBN, a Carbon Price, the mining tax, Paid Parental Leave. But it wouldn’t matter how many successes they have – in fact the more successful they are the more the Murdoch, Rinehart, Abbott triangle ramps up their opposition. And depressingly, it would appear that the interests of the mega-rich trump public interest hands down.

How have we come to this point in our nation where we would prefer to shrink back into a bigoted, mean, selfish, stop the boats, cancel the Carbon Price, kill the NBN, scrap Gonski’s education funding, boost Gina Rinehart’s fortune, prop up Murdoch’s out of date business model instead of being brave, bold and committed to a better future for our children? A nation who hates unions and public services, but who turn a blind eye to capitalist corruption. For what purpose would anyone in their right mind behave like a irrational Iain Hall (please stop commenting on my blog) troll and think that it’s a good idea to eat shit and whip on the handbrake with a vote for Tony Abbott?

If you’re waiting for the mainstream media to wake up and realise they’re failing the country by waging a political campaign to destroy the Labor government, you’ll be waiting forever. They’re all in Murdoch and Rinehart’s pocket. When the ABC is as bad as the rest of them, you know all hope is lost. All it takes is for one bad poll for Labor and every political journalist in the country shows their true colours by waving their pom poms in the face of every Labor MP they can find. And when I say true colours, I mean the colours of their bosses. Just as one example of the priority of our journalists and the news they choose to focus on – this week Greg Combet told Parliament the Carbon Price is working – emissions have reduced by 7.4%. This is big news, I would have thought. But the radio report on ABC’s Radio National did not mention this important fact. No. Instead, their report was on Combet’s response to a question from them about what he will do if Labor loses the election. I rest my case. If this country wants Murdoch, Rinehart and Abbott’s 1% to decide their futures, they deserve everything they get.

 

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“Thinking, Fast and Slow”

“Unless there is an obvious reason to do otherwise, most of us passively accept decision problems as they are framed and therefore rarely have an opportunity to discover the extent to which our preferences are frame-bound rather than reality-bound.”

“Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman

In “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman talks about System 1 and System 2 thinking. Wikipedia describes them thus:

System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious

System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious”

Kahneman goes on to make the point that often human beings make decisions quickly, then rather than thinking carefully about a hasty judgement, they use their System 2 thinking to justify their System 1 judgement. For example, Tony Abbott announces a policy to improve Aboriginal Health Services in remote areas. Instinctively, someone anti-Abbott says that it won’t work. After that, rather than look at the individual components of the policy, the support it has amongst indigenous leaders or any arguments for the merits of the scheme, the person’s System 2 thinking will keep finding ways to support the initial System 1 reaction.

This partially explains the Gillard Government’s inability to gain traction, and to receive support in areas where people would actually support the idea itself. It’s not totally about the inability of the Government to “sell its message”, or even the MSM’s bias. Of course, it doesn’t help when the first time people hear a proposal that it’s framed in negative terms, or that headline portrays a change in policy as a “broken promise” or a “backdown”.

Kahneman also talks about the “sunk costs fallacy”. Again from Wikipedia, “In economics and business decision-making, a sunk cost is a retrospective (past) cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with prospective costs, which are future costs that may be incurred or changed if an action is taken.” In simple terms, once you’ve invested time, money or energy into a course of action, it’s hard to simply say that’s it, I’m going to do something else. Rather than admit the car we’ve bought is a “lemon” and spending another couple of thousand getting something fixed, we might be best to just leave it where it is, and put that money towards taxis. Similarly, governments are reluctant to say, for example, that the ticketing system they’ve spent a billion developing is inefficient and that it’d be cheaper to make public transport free and pay people to ask for donations to keep the system running.

I can’t help but think about the notion of sunk costs in relation to coming election. As I suggested in a previous blog, some people seem to see elections solely in terms and winning and losing. It’s probably symptomatic of being one of the major parties. Smaller parties like the DLP, the Democrats and the Greens have always been more concerned with what they can achieve before and after elections because they know the won’t form government.

Both Liberal and Labor should be aware that they won’t keep winning elections. The issue for them shouldn’t be what will win the election, but what will they be able to achieve. How can they – in terms of the “sunk cost fallacy” – stop the other side undoing what they’ve done?

Should Gillard be twisting and turning in the hope of winning a few votes here and there, or should she accept that staying true to the things Labor want to achieve is the better way to go. They’ve let the Liberals set the agenda on asylum seeker policy only to find themselves unpopular with both sides of the debate.

The quote from “Thinking, Fast and Slow” at the top of the page talks about framing, and, of course, if Gillard has made any mistake, it’s been that they’ve allowed other people to frame the debate in the wrong terms. By constantly moving the focus forward to the next election, the question issue becomes about how to ensure a win, not about how to make best use of their time in government. When the dust settles, will Labor be saying we grabbed a few votes here and there with populist policies? Or will the say that in these six years, we managed to set in motion many things that Tony couldn’t unwind.

To take one example – most schools were happy with the money “wasted” on their school halls. Not even the Liberals have a policy of to knock them down.

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The LNP – The party who cried wolf

We’ve all heard the fable of The boy who cried wolf.

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”

The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill.

I’m sure you know the story.

A similar fable is being played out in our political paddock but with different players; the shepherd boy is replaced by the LNP, the villagers the Australian electorate and the big bad wolf the big bad ‘carbon tax’.

I heard this cry of ‘wolf’ recently when the shout rang through the media that the Libs tip $560m carbon bill on buildings:

The carbon tax will add $560 million to the costs of running hospitals, schools, courts and other government buildings during its first three years, according to a Coalition analysis of the climate change scheme.

Independent schools – which teach more than 500,000 children across Australia – have warned they may have to raise tuition fees to offset an estimated $28 million rise in annual energy bills.

And private hospitals claim the carbon tax will add up to $36 million to their annual expenses, although they say there is no evidence the greenhouse scheme has yet led to rises in patient charges.

According to new analysis by the Coalition and based on a report by the Climate Change Department, the carbon tax will add $558.9 million to the energy costs of public and private hospitals, schools, TAFE colleges, courts, galleries, libraries and museums through to 2015/16.

The Coalition initially claimed the carbon tax sums only applied to public institutions – but later conceded that it also included private schools and hospitals, after being corrected by the Gillard Government.

Hospitals – which receive around $50 billion a year in public funding – will have to fork out $227 million in higher electricity and gas charges, while schools will be hit with a $129 million carbon bill.

Bill Daniels, the executive director of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, last night said there were “two possible outcomes of this additional cost. Either school fees from parents would need to be increased to compensate, or schools would have to seek cost savings from the provision of educational services.”

Well that certainly sounds like ‘wolf’ to me. If the Coalition would bother to investigate whether these claims are factual or fictitious, as I have, they need not have imitated the discredited shepherd boy.

I particularly want to point out what I’d call a furphy in regards to the increased power costs expected to be thrust upon the independent schools. Mr Daniels, despite his role as executive director of the Independent Schools Council of Australia apparently must have had no idea of the National Solar School Program where:

Over $217 million has been provided to 5,310 schools (or almost 60 per cent of all Australian schools) to install renewable energy systems, rainwater tanks and a range energy efficiency measures.

The solar power systems already installed are producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4600 average households every day.

The funding has helped to educate students about renewable energy and energy efficiency, and that everyday actions can prevent the production of millions of tonnes of carbon pollution.

A spokesperson from the former Department of Climate Change estimates that on average (disregarding the size of the school or the number of solar photovoltaic panels installed) each school has reduced their energy costs by $5,000 a year. Therefore, over the three year period the power costs for 5,310 schools will reduce by $79.5M. That’s a fair whack we can take off the LNP’s $560M wolf-crying debt.

The estimate provided by the department spokesperson is not a stab in the dark amount. The savings are verifiable on publicly available web sites, such as on www.sunnyportal.com where hundreds of Australian schools publish the amount of data generated by their solar photovoltaic panels and how much the generated solar power has reduced their power costs since installation. Click on the photo on the sunnyportal that says ‘Publicly available plants’ (plants include schools) and see if your local school uses this site and if so, how much they have saved. I chose the All Saints Catholic School in Casula, Sydney, randomly. Click on their link and you’ll find this little gem under Plant Review:

CO2 avoided:
35,072.73 kg
Reimbursement:
AUD 8,194.56

That’s one independent school that has so far reduced its power costs by $8,194.56. So much for the increased power costs because of the ‘carbon tax’ that Bill Daniels bemoans. And, obviously, who the LNP are happy to use a credible source. The Government has provided funding of $217M which will contribute to decreased power costs in the range of $79.5M every three years and the LNP pluck out a bloke who says that the ‘carbon tax’ would have a dastardly effect on schools . . . and then they cry ‘wolf’.

Incidentally, nowhere have I found anything to support the Opposition’s claim that “based on a report by the Climate Change Department, the carbon tax will add $558.9 million to the energy costs of public and private hospitals, schools, TAFE colleges, courts, galleries, libraries and museums through to 2015/16”.

I’ve found an error of $79.5M in the Opposition’s costing just on schools alone. Amongst the further readings (below) millions more are to be found. Hundreds of millions, in fact. Too many to include in this post.

There is no wolf. This story ends a bit differently to the popular fable.

Further reading:

Big savings through Energy Efficiency Opportunities program

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Six of the best

Image by dailymail.co.uk

Image by dailymail.co.uk

We are at that moment in the election cycle (and given that we have a Labor Government, much to the consternation of a compliant right-wing mainstream media) that we can expect the said media to ramp up its attack on how hellish the Government is while promoting Tony Abbott and his team as political deities. Nothing is more certain. Their efforts to date – as toxic as they are – will pale in comparison to the venom we can expect over the coming months.

Those of the Fifth Estate (social and independent media) are also ramping up an attack, collectively, but with the opposing message: the Labor Government has performed extraordinarily well and the possibility of an Abbott led government will deliver dire social and economic consequences, the likes of which this country haven’t seen for many decades. And may themselves take many decades to recover from.

Those people wise enough to follow the writings of the Fifth Estate at the exclusion of the Fourth Estate (the mainstream media) could not have helped but notice the flood of articles holding the current opposition and their media mates to account. Only the Fifth Estate are providing a true picture of what an Abbott Government would mean to most Australian families, while themselves being gobsmacked at the media’s reluctance to actually ask a simple question of Abbott for fear of the (half-hearted) answer deterring the nurtured voters.

Over the last few days some brilliant articles about the reality of the incompetent media and the prospect of an Abbott Government have been published. I have picked six of the best from sites other than those on The Australian Independent Media Network site that deserve, nay, demand wide coverage. They are all a MUST read. They are all a MUST share.

Here they are, in no particular order with some selected, and hopefully, enticing quotes:

The Political Sword: Political hatred: its genesis and its toll by Ad astra who writes:

Abbott has always maintained that he should have been PM, that the Gillard Government is illegitimate, and that he would do everything in his power to bring it down, something he envisaged would be easy and swift, and The Lodge his by Christmas. That was two Christmases ago, and with each passing day his anger heightened and his campaign of vilification intensified.

Before any of you tell me that politics is a rough and tumble business, that conflict is at its very centre, that such hatred is the norm, reflect on when you have previously seen such intense hatred. We all remember the unpleasant things that were said about some of John Howard’s policies, about some of his statements, about some of his ideological positions, about some of his reversals – ‘core and non core promises’ – even about his eyebrows, but can you recall such a level of hatred, such vitriolic hatred, being expressed? Older readers will remember some of Paul Keating’s colourful language, but can you recall him emitting hatred such as has been directed to Julia Gillard?

I have not witnessed such hatred as we now hear in the language that Opposition members and some commentators use, and see in the angrily contorted faces of Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and other Opposition members in parliament and in interviews.

The Failed Estate: Damned Lies and Journalism by Mr Denmore:

The sheer volume of this muck prompts one to ask where journalists stand. For instance, we constantly see deceitful scare stories about public debt, devoid of context. In the case of this boogeyman, the News Ltd scribblers conveniently leave out that to ensure a liquid bond market, gross debt will rise if government issuance is kept at a set ratio to the economy (as requested by APRA, the RBA and other key institutions). They ignore that our net debt is among the lowest in the OECD, and they will ritually overlook that, in the eyes of bodies like the IMF, our debt is of no concern at all. These are facts. They are not ‘left-wing’ facts. They are facts.

Independent Australia: The polishing of Tony Abbott by Clint Howitt:

The intrusion of religion into politics runs counter to the traditional separation of Church and State in modern democracies, but Abbott’s statements and actions have already made it clear that his strong sectarian convictions do encroach on his political role.

Given the controversial positions he has taken on the sensitive matters of the status of women, abortion and gay relationships, it must be of great concern to people affected by these issues that the hard-won gains are likely either to freeze, or worst still, wind them back, under an Abbott government.

Again on Independent Australia: Tony Abbott’s 12 biggest budget reply porkie pies, a gem by Alan Austin:

Observers aware of Australia’s extraordinary economy were stunned to hear Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech on Thursday.

Never so many implied falsehoods, bare-faced hypocrisies and blatant lies in the one presentation since … well . . . since Abbott’s speech at the IPA dinner in April.

Would this be the end of Phoney Tony? Could any leader survive the media onslaught after a hubristic homily with such huge hypocrisies?

Well, not only was media reaction completely devoid of fulmination against the fibs, but it seemed none had even been detected. Somewhat bizarre.

Politically Homeless: Manufacturing Base by Andrew Elder:

This is the point where companies are starting to make investment decisions about the next financial year, and to make long-term decisions for the rest of the decade. We’re at the point where the Coalition should start looking like a confident alternative government, rather than like a bunch of chancers riding their luck. Late last year, The Australian‘s Paul Kelly declared that the Coalition had fifty fully-costed policies ready to go: it’s increasingly clear this isn’t the case, and could well be for Kelly what assertions about Iraqi WMDs were to Colin Powell.

On Turn Left 2013: Tony Abbott announces the Oprah Winfrey of budget replies: You can have free money and You and You, the author writes:

What we witnessed from Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott was the Oprah Winfrey of campaign launches. You can have free money, and you, and you, and you…

Unfortunately Tony was pointing to the Gallery, where his family were watching from, and Gina Rinehart, who was also watching.

Tony’s speech was designed to satisfy only 3 people: Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch, Tony Abbott.

[Correction: Thursday night was a budget reply, not a campaign launch]

The feedback to the Budget Reply was a little like an episode of Orpah – a buffet of everything.

Tony’s plans to scrap the carbon “tax” to save families up to $300 a year in exchange low-income Australians will lose the low-income super contribution as well as the supplementary bonus paid to people on benefits. Makes sense? Perhaps to a Coalition voter. Although, as NSW Senator Doug Cameron points out, the Liberals are far from economic geniuses.

Six great articles among dozens to choose from, and my apologies to those great social media authors and their articles not included – this time. Your turn will come. To all, keep up the great work. You’re all brilliant. You really do give the mainstream media – dare I say it – a caning.

 

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Tainted Journalism

PrintMediaGrave Yes, I’m writing on this topic again. On the same topic that I wrote about last week in response to Mr Denmore and the same topic that my mother, Kay Rollison, has written so eloquently about today. There’s more to be said and no doubt I will keep saying more because this topic is important.

I’m talking about the quality of our mainstream press.

I’m sure mainstream journalists who write about politics in Australia have noticed how angry huge swaths of the politically engaged populace are with them and their measly efforts at ‘journalism’. I often wonder what they think about the criticism they receive, week in, week out on social media, blogs and independent news sites. But I’m not likely to find out, because to tell us, they would have to reveal what they really think, and as I’ve already established, this is a big no no. Having an opinion is akin to hysterical nonsense in their world. So they end up saying nothing at all. They end up saying ‘the Opposition Leader says’ while we all yell at our TV’s ‘so what? This is completely irrelevant!’

I’ve been thinking this week about how has this sorry situation occurred. How has it come about that we have an oversupply of right wing commentators and talking heads all over our TV, including the ABC, but we never seem to hear from anyone who is willing to go out on limb and say anything about the successes of the Labor government? There are a couple out there, I will admit. Channel 10’s Paul Bongiorno is one who battles on, giving his opinion on policy and sometimes even debating on Twitter, proudly showing off what he really thinks about political news. But the fact that Bongiorno stands out as not always negative about the Gillard government, while there are literally tens of journalists, commentators, columnists and personalities on News Ltd, Fairfax and the ABC who are openly partisan towards the right, openly hostile about the Gillard government, and completely unreasonable when it comes to balance and accuracy, shows just how slim pickings there are for a left-wing audience. And I’ve got a hypothesis about why this is the case.

The problem is, the likes of Andrew Bolt in all his revolting disrespect for facts, accuracy and balance, scares the pants off journalists who don’t want to appear to be as downright unprofessional and dodgy as this gutter dweller is. It’s like their thought process works as follows:

‘Andrew Bolt agrees with everything Abbott does, and hates everything Gillard does. He is quite obviously a terrible excuse for a journalist. He is a propagandist and is untrustworthy. If I endorse anything Gillard does, I’m just a left-wing version of Bolt and this is not the type of journalist I want to be. I’m above that’.

The whole ‘above it’ argument has been brought up again by Jonathon Green on the Drum this week. The headline is all you really need to read to understand Green’s point: Journalism tainted by conviction isn’t journalism. Conviction. Defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion”. Green’s basically saying if you have a a firmly held belief or opinion as a journalist, you are tainted. You are alike to Andrew Bolt. But here lies the problem. There are so many journalists making such an effort not to be ‘tainted’, they are missing the fact that their lack of conviction is destroying their work. Because they have no conviction, or they hide their conviction in order to make it appear they are pure and unaffected, they end up being nothing and offering their audience crap.

It’s no wonder so many of us are frustrated. Because it’s perfectly clear that while the left has this problem, the right doesn’t.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about this left/right divide. If I write that I think the Gonksi education reforms are a fantastic idea and will be good for the long term success of the Australian economy and I provide evidence for why I have this view, am I automatically ‘tainted’ as a ‘lefty’? Remember I’m analysing the policy and I’m providing evidence for why I think it’s a good policy. Does this make me a Labor stooge? Does this make me a propagandist? Does this make me a tainted ‘lefty’? No. It doesn’t. I’m not behaving like Bolt in any way shape or form. Because Bolt doesn’t use facts. He prefers to misrepresent them. He prefers to use hyperbole, mock outrage and general nastiness towards people he doesn’t agree with. He doesn’t reason. He doesn’t analyse. And his conclusions are always utterly predictable and easy to refute. But somehow, journalists have let the Bolts of the world win by using this tactic, as they have convinced themselves that if they say anything complimentary about the Gillard government, they’ll be tainted in the same way Bolt is who obviously campaigns for Abbott regardless of what he think of his policies.

It’s quite obvious that the reason there is an abundance of left wing bloggers, and a distinct shortage of right wing ones, is because the right have their opinions adequately covered in the mainstream press, and the left are screaming out for a voice. So us bloggers are doing the job of journalists in analysing policy and providing our thoughts on the impact of these policies. We can’t find this analysis elsewhere so we write it ourselves. Let’s be clear – we’re not doing this because we’re campaigning for the Labor party. We have convictions that we have no intention of hiding. We’re not in anyone’s pocket and there’s no vested interests dictating our views. Just because I’m a Labor voter, and proud to say it, does not mean I’ve given up the right to analyse with an objective eye. Each and every post I write is filtered through my view of the world – which is all any one can ask of any writer or journalists. In fact, most independent bloggers I read, who would be considered ‘left wing’, are critical of the Labor party when they feel it’s warranted. And we’re always very particular about getting our facts right. We’re doing the job of the journalists too when it comes to correcting the official trail of lies the right wingers in our press leave in their wake. For example, since journalists aren’t pulling Andrew Bolt up on his blatant misrepresentation of climate change (and his insult to mathematics), independent bloggers like Greg Jericho point out these facts instead.

Independent writers and bloggers seem to have more conviction in one post, than the mainstream media have collectively in all their work. Mainstream journalists don’t care that Abbott’s Opposition are constantly distorting the facts about the current state of the Australian economy and the size of Australia’s debt. They don’t care that a well orchestrated campaign was carried out within the Liberal National Party to force the resignation of the Speaker, to try to force an early election. They don’t care that Abbott’s Direct Action policy has been left un-scrutinised, while the story about climate change and the Carbon Price was all about Gillard’s supposed ‘lie’. If they had even an ounce of conviction (not left or right, just plain old conviction about right and wrong), how could they possibly ignore this? How can we trust what they say if they are so determined not to care about anything? Surely this is the definition of tainted; writing without conviction.

The question of balance is also one that needs to be examined. Does balance mean being negative about Gillard one day, and positive the next, while being equally negative and positive about Abbott? Do climate change deniers funded by vested interests get the same access to an audience as distinguished scientists who have proved time and time again that the deniers are wrong? Of course balance means none of these things. Gillard should only get positive coverage when her government deserves it. But when you look at the facts, and the resulting coverage, there is a huge hole when it comes to positive stories about the Gillard government. Balance is the ability to weigh up facts fairly, to report these facts fairly and to provide analysis of the impact of these facts fairly, without prejudice or dishonesty. There is no simpler way to explain it.

Frankly, I’ve had enough of the whole scene and I don’t think I’m alone. While Abbott gets a free run in a cowardly press, who refuse to question anything he does, while Gillard’s achievements are buried and her problems over-exaggerated or created, and while the right wing mouth-pieces get free rein to say anything they want without any standards of fact-checking or decency applied, we are all losers. While journalists are ducking and weaving to hide their convictions, all that is left for the thinking public is to find analysis and inspiration elsewhere. And if we can’t find it, we write it ourselves.

 

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Why I vote Labor

I first wrote this popular post mid 2012, but with the election this year I took the liberty of updating it and reinforcing why I vote Labor.

I was too young to vote for Gough Whitlam (the first time) and until then I had no interest in politics, but it wasn’t hard to get swept up in the wave of excitement of his anticipated victory. I would have voted for him. The Vietnam War was still raging and kids my age and older were dreading their 20th birthday and the subsequent prospect of conscription. We didn’t like the idea of fighting another senseless war. I think we were the first generation to take that stand.

Although I still wasn’t interested in politics in 1975 I voted for Gough as I wasn’t happy at the way he was dismissed by John Kerr (with the help of Fraser, in my opinion).

I stayed with Labor until the early nineties. Yes, I voted for Hewson and I voted for Howard. Hewson’s loss disappointed me, probably because at the time I was not a big fan of Keating’s, while Howard’s victory brought out the champagne, as by this time I quite despised Keating (for his arrogance). In my eyes Howard couldn’t do anything wrong. He was perfect.

It wasn’t long, however, before I would mumble to myself: “Come back Paul. All is forgiven”.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at their prime ministerships both history and I will/have judged Keating to be the far better of the two. And by a country mile!

But I digress.

After securing work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) it soon became obvious to me that Howard was nothing but a political opportunist. Aboriginal people became political footballs and he soon caught on that ATSIC bashing provided him with the Midas touch. Despite having at his disposal skilled policy makers and Aboriginal people with their pulse on community needs and real contemporary issues, he found it was better politics to be driven by media demands and editorials. There were more votes in helping with the bashing than formulating some real beneficial programs to help these marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society.

It was sad having to visit remote Indigenous communities and make excuses as to why they were continually being ignored by Canberra. “Oh how different it might have been under Keating” I would silently mutter.

The disappointment I detected in the Howard Government in remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia was nothing compared to the detestation of him I felt within the Public Service when moving to Canberra. Frankly, it was quite a surprise and one that found me asking questions as to why.

The answers weren’t that complex.

From working closely with him and his government, Public Servants saw first hand what a mean-spirited, conniving, lying bunch of pricks they were. It didn’t take me long to discover this either. Policies were formulated to ensure their own political survival while ignoring the needs of wider Australians. Lies were told to the media about how successful their policies were when in fact they were failing miserably. Public Servants were bullied into providing them with confidential information in order to secure a political advantage over the then Opposition. I am not at liberty to disclose what I witnessed, but let me say that in my eyes Howard was still perfect. The perfect asshole, that is.

I often wished that those people interstate who still worshiped him could come to work in the Public Service and see first-hand for themselves what a miserable turd he actually was. It’s a pity that the truth never ventured past the boundaries of Canberra.

On the Monday morning after he lost office, the sight of public servants going about their business with a spring in their steps and a smile on their faces gave Canberra a good feel about it. The bullying had stopped and the Public Service was again apolitical, which is how it should be.

But it was after they lost office that I saw how miserable and mean-spirited this Liberal Party is.

I can not give exact details, but I was involved in formulating many policies that were aimed at assisting both disadvantaged and mainstream Australians. To see something finally being done for the wider community was inspiring. Sadly, the programs went nowhere or somewhere at a snail’s pace, keeping disadvantaged Australians disadvantaged. Why? Because the Opposition made every attempt possible to ruin these programs because the delivery of them would bring credit to the Government. And naturally, the Opposition would then shout to the media that this Government was doing nothing and the wider community started to nod in agreement. If the wider community knew of the billions of dollars that were wasted because of the Opposition’s tactics they might not have nodded so obligingly.

At about this time it was very easy to become demoralised as a Public Servant; working your arse off to get this country moving then watch everything crumble because the Liberals didn’t want it to move. They exhibited no interest whatsoever for the community or its needs. Adopting Howard’s manipulative trait, they were only interested in ruining a duly elected Government and having parties in The Lodge. They haven’t changed much, have they?

I’ve seen enough of the Liberal Party in my dozen or so years as a Canberran to carry a hatred for them for many years yet. I’m definitely Labor to the core and not afraid to admit it.

I couldn’t care less about all the media speculation of ‘the faceless men’ or ‘union hacks’ of ‘leadership speculation’. I couldn’t care less when people scream that the ‘new’ Labor has drifted from its traditional base. I like the Labor of now. I ignore the rants from the rabid right that this Government is ‘toxic’ or that Julia Gillard is the worst Prime Minister ever. It’s all shit, spoken by ignorant fools.

I can also take the abuse and taunts from right-wing nut jobs over my political leaning. I don’t care if I’m the last Labor voter in the country, for I’m not changing.

This is not to say that I’m entirely happy with the current Government or Julia Gillard, but these are over issues that don’t affect me personally, such as gay marriage and the refugee impasse. I’d like to see gay marriage legalised and I’d like to see ‘boat people’ processed here in Australia. On the latter, I don’t like the way they’ve played into the Liberal’s grubby hands on the asylum seeker crisis.

I also think that since 2007 Labor have done a lousy job selling itself. Here they could take a leaf out of John Howard’s book of telling anybody with a microphone or a TV camera how good they are. Howard drummed it into us, and we heard it that many times that many actually believed it.

It’s the same manner Tony Abbott uses to shout to everybody how bad the Gillard Government is. And the friendly media are happy to keep printing his lies.

Again I’m digressing.

The point is, I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment: the Australian Labor Party.

Can I really believe that the LNP would put ordinary Australians first? Can I really believe they’d be a better alternative for pensioners, parents or minority groups? Can I really believe they’d offer a better system for education, health or technology? No.

Can I believe that they would offer a better form of government for the upper class, the media barons or the mining giants? Yes.

I repeat: I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment … and that’s the Australian Labor Party.

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