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Tag Archives: journalists

Journalists Need To Remember That Nobody Is Above The Law!

Interviewer – This week the Prime Minister told Parliament that while he supported freedom of the press, nobody was above the law. To clarify what this means in practice we have Liberal spokesman, whose name we’ve redacted to enable him or her to speak freely. Government Spokesman, do you mind if I call you Neville?

“Neville” – That’s not my name and I’m quite happy to speak freely without the need for all this subterfuge. You can use my real name?

Interviewer – I intend to ask you questions about Peter Dutton’s department.

Neville – Neville, it is then.

Interviewer – First of all, the Prime Minister asserted that nobody is above the law…

Neville – That’s quite correct.

Interviewer – Well, if that’s the case, how can the government justify that Freedom Of Information requests are falling outside the legal time?

Neville – Simply because the volume of requests is quite overwhelming and there aren’t enough staff to…

Interviewer – But isn’t this due to government decisions about the number of staffing…

Neville – Exactly. The government is committed to a Budget surplus and to ensuring that there is no waste.

Interviewer – Hang on. I don’t wish to get distracted by the obvious point that if there’s not enough people to process the requests then more staff are clearly needed. My point is simply that if nobody is above the law, then how can the government justify FOI requests falling outside the legislated time…

Neville – No, not at all.

Interviewer – Why not? I mean doesn’t this suggest that the government thinks that it is above the law?

Neville – No. They’re not above the law, they’re outside the law.

Interviewer – I don’t see the difference.

Neville – Well, something that’s like the difference between your roof and your garden shed. You wouldn’t want your shed to be inside.

Interviewer – I wouldn’t want my roof to be inside either.

Neville – Exactly.

Interviewer – But when it comes to the law, what’s the difference between being above the law and outside the law.

Neville – Well, clearly someone – let’s say a journalist like you – who thinks that they’re above the law feels that they can break it with impunity whereas somebody who’s outside the law doesn’t feel they can break it with impunity; they simply understand that the law doesn’t apply to them in a particular case.

Interviewer – Isn’t the result the same?

Neville – Yes, but the difference is that journalists are trying to suggest that they’re a special group whereas the government can just change the law if it doesn’t suit them, so while they’re getting around to changing it, they can just operate outside it.

Interviewer – But doesn’t that make the government above the law?

Neville – Exactly.

Interviewer – But wasn’t the PM suggesting that no-one is above the law.

Neville – No ONE is above the law, but because there are lots and lots of people in the government, then they’re more than one.

Interviewer – But there are lots of lots of journalists. Doesn’t that mean that they’re more than one?

Neville – Look, if you’re just going to play silly word games…

Interviewer – Let’s move on. The Intelligence and Security Committee announced its concerns about the proposed legislation to allow facial recognition because it felt there weren’t enough safeguards. Is the government prepared to consider further measures to ensure that people aren’t singled out when they’re simply engaging in legitimate protests.

Neville – No, it’s purely an anti-terror thing.

Interviewer – So, you’ll be happy to put in place legislation to ensure protesters aren’t targeted?

Neville – Definitely… Unless, of course, the protesters are doing illegal things such as holding seditious slogans.

Interviewer – Seditious slogans.

Neville – Yes, you know things that… um, let me quote the law directly. Seditious intent includes things such as using words “to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth or against either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth”.

Interviewer – So you’re suggesting that people could be identified in demonstrations for holding signs criticising the government.

Neville – For example. I mean, they could also be identified and charged if they block traffic… or pedestrians.

Interviewer – But what about people’s right to protest?

Neville – They can protest as much as they like so long as they don’t use seditious language or get in anyone’s way. Nobody is above the law, you know.

Interviewer – Thank you.

Neville – Is that all?

Interviewer – I certainly hope so!

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Thanks for nothing

I remember when the United States Congress gave our Prime Minister a standing ovation.

I remember when men and women around the world were touched by her passion in championing the rights of women.

I remember when our Treasurer was hailed as the best in the world for saving our country from the collapse felt around the globe.

I remember when the world was praising our leadership in action on climate change by introducing carbon pricing.

I remember when we reached agreement with the states to implement education funding reform.

I remember when we looked forward to every home being connected to world class NBN.

It wasn’t that long ago.

So how did we end up in our current position, represented by fools and vilified globally?

The people who are paid to inform us, whose job it is to hold politicians to account, failed us, that’s how.

On the eve of the election, every major newspaper in the country, with the exception of Melbourne’s Age, endorsed Tony Abbott to be Australia’s 28th prime minister.

Queensland’s Courier Mail ran a front page picture of a clown’s hat, emblazoned with the ALP logo, toppled in the centre of a circus ring under a headline ”The circus is over.”

”We believe Tony Abbott stands ready to seize the day,” read Melbourne’s Herald Sun editorial, beside a front page headline ”Tony’s Time”.

The Adelaide Advertiser told Australians that ”tomorrow [they] finally have an opportunity to set our nation on a new path”.

The Canberra Times also came out in favour of the Coalition telling us it was “Abbott’s time”.

On the first day of the election campaign the Daily Telegraph ran a front page photograph of a distressed-looking Kevin Rudd accompanied by the headline: ”Finally, you now have the chance to . . . Kick this mob out.”

And the Sunday Telegraph published a front page picture of a statesman-like Tony Abbott standing in front of a billowing national flag, with the headline: ”Australia needs Tony.”

The Sydney Morning Herald said ”Abbott does not so much deserve the chance to do what Labor could not do in the past six years. But the party he leads is untainted by scandal and infighting, and therefore has the best chance to unite a tired and despondent electorate.”

The AFR judged that ”Australia’s prosperity would be better served by a Coalition government”.

The Australian pushed for the Coalition to be given a majority government and for Mr Abbott to seek a ”mandate for reform”.

The newspaper praised the Opposition Leader, saying: ”Rarely in the modern era has there been a more grounded prime ministerial candidate than this volunteer firefighter, surf lifesaver, endurance athlete and charity cyclist.”

The Northern Territory News compared Labor’s reign to natural disasters afflicting the NT.

”Territorians cope with a lot compared to the rest of Australia. Searing heat, torrential downpours, cyclones and the tyranny of distance,” the NT News editorial read.

”One thing we cannot, and should not, have to cope with is when a government . . . goes troppo. The Labor Federal Government has gone troppo. And that’s being kind. It has lost the ability – and the right – to lead.”

But ”fortunately”, the newspaper concluded, “there is a candidate to bring the country to its senses”.

Melbourne’s Age was the only paper in the country to back Labor.

The Age judged that Labor’s policies – especially the national broadband network, better schools plan and commitment to a price of carbon – meant the government deserved to be returned, but they had already cruelled any chance of that when, in June their headline read “For the sake of the nation, Ms Gillard should stand aside.”

How can every single one of our journalists have got it so terribly wrong? These people are trained and paid to do a job. They have access to the inner workings of Parliament and they are fed briefs, press releases and leaks. Perhaps, rather than slavishly believing and printing what they are told, they would do better to stay in their jammies and do a little research for themselves.

We are owed an apology.

Careless whispers nothing to dance about

In my years of being old enough to know what an election campaign is, I cannot recall one so inundated with media tales of what unnamed persons have to say.

The number of stories quoting unnamed Party sources, primarily on Labor’s side of the political coin has been nothing short of staggering – nameless “ministers”, “senior party officials”, “party heavyweights”, “senior sources”, “powerbrokers”, “spokespersons” and the rest of that particular journalistic nomenclature.

It’s been incredible. For my part, I’ve been deeply cynical and skeptical about it. It was much easier to believe that a biased media was just making stuff up. Mind you, in truth, there’s no way to show they are.

Then came the Gillard leadership spill of June 2013, about which there had been whispers aplenty.

On top of that, we’ve come to learn that Kevin Rudd has a weaker bladder than Julian Assange. The journalists were seemingly vindicated.

But that leaves me, as a Labor supporter, with a terrible reality to face: Labor personnel are actively undermining their own party. It beggars belief but it seems to be the only alternative to media mendacity.

Has the relationship between Labor and journalists become too cozy, too personal, too endowed with self-interest and ambition to be tolerable? Or is Labor just politically inept?

Of course, the relationship between politicians and the media is a complex and important one, but I can’t help but think it’s become something corrosive to our political culture and especially dangerous to Labor.

Generally speaking, Journalists are supposed to report the news, not be part of it.

Brisbane’s Courier Mail ran a story today posing the question of whether it would have been better for Labor to have gone into the election campaign with Julia Gillard.

whispers

Courier Mail Website

Now, the story is pure, tabloid schlock, and goes so far as to use a manipulative photo taken from the funeral of Joan Child (Australia’s first female Federal Speaker), presumably just so they could slip in the Slipper.

It’s not the first time that the Courier Mail, or News Limited generally, have disrespected this sombre occasion in their opinion pieces. But the interesting and pertinent thing about the story is that it contains multiple quotes from unnamed Ministers and “powerbrokers”.

Just two months since the Labor Party dramatically switched its leader, some senior members of the Government are now complaining that Ms Gillard would have performed better than Mr Rudd.

 

The minister said Ms Gillard would have slowly improved Labor’s vote, while under Mr Rudd it soared and then plummeted.

 

“One of the questions that will be asked is would Gillard have met Rudd on the way down? In the end, we’ll never know,” the source said.

 

“She made mistakes, no doubt, and she made mistakes under pressure. But she was much cooler under pressure and she coped with a greater intensity.”

If based on recent history, we’re forced to accept that these quotes are real, one has to wonder out loud: what the hell is going on?

Why would senior Party figures be speaking to members of the Murdoch press in such a fashion at a time when Labor is busily pushing the idea that News Limited is out to get them?

Why would they be saying things to journalists that they know will result in damaging “news” stories? Are they mad? I simply cannot fathom it.

I invite readers to offer their speculations and theories. Heaven knows I could use a theory that doesn’t have me catching flies, mouth agape.