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Tag Archives: Kevin Rudd

Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

I hope Rupert is happy

There was a time not so long ago when Australia’s future looked bright.

In 2008, Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation and COAG agreed to a definitive strategy to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

We had successfully negotiated the global financial crisis with continued growth and relatively low unemployment.

We were world leaders in putting a price on carbon. We were addressing water issues with the Murray-Darling buyback scheme and extending marine parks.  We had introduced water trigger legislation giving the federal government the right to oppose mining in sensitive areas.

We had expanded the Renewable Energy Target and established the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Wind capacity trebled and Labor supported the installation of more than 1 million solar panels.

Needs based funding for school education was underway, tertiary education had been expanded, and we had an agreement with the states on hospital funding.

The rollout of a world class fast NBN was underway.

We had a mechanism for deriving some income from the mining of our natural resources which was just about to start earning some money as they moved into production phase and had used up their accelerated depreciation.

We had introduced paid parental leave and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There was a Royal Commission into child sex abuse instigated.

Our troops had finally come home from Afghanistan.

We had our first female Prime Minister who was admired around the world who looked on bemusedly at the vilification she received at home.

But Rupert Murdoch wasn’t happy.

We had a debt and deficit disaster, which is now much larger.

They were a dysfunctional illegitimate government who knifed their own leader, just like the Libs have done.

We had to get rid of the carbon and mining taxes to improve investment and employment, both of which have gone backwards after the repeal.

And Juliar told us there would be no carbon tax, just like Tony said there would be no cuts to health, education or the ABC.

So what do we have to look forward to now?

Another war in the Middle East.

Paying hundreds of billions for war toys.

Paying hundreds of millions for political witch hunts aka Royal Commissions designed to demonise Labor and the union movement.

Becoming a toxic dump for the world’s nuclear waste.

A great big new tax on everything you buy.

Paying billions to polluters.

Forking out millions to try and keep Telstra’s copper network working so we can have really slow broadband.

Lots of big new coal mines and CSG mines dotting our prime farmland.

Getting sued by global corporations if our laws interfere with their profits.

An influx of 457 visa workers.

Condemnation by the world for torturing asylum seekers.

The selling off of all our assets.

Working till we are 70.

The removal of penalty rates.

Being told that government spending on everything to do with society is unsustainable because we need more money for security.

I sure hope Rupert is happy because we have paid a hell of a price for him to get his way.

 

Squeaky Clean

Rat with a gold toothPutting aside the fact that Julia Gillard was treated as a back-stabbing-murderess after she replaced Kevin Rudd as PM. Putting aside that she was labelled ‘the illegitimate PM’ even after she went straight to an election to let the ‘people decide’ and then won, but for some reason was then even more ‘illegitimate’ presumably because she led a minority government and it suited Abbott’s Liberals and their mates in the media to paint this as unstable when really it was the most productive government Australia has ever had. Putting aside the grand hypocrisy of none of these labels ever being assigned to Malcolm Turnbull when he plotted and schemed and white anted and undermined and destabilized and finally got what we all knew he wanted because he was quite openly campaigning for it: Abbott’s job. Putting aside that he hasn’t gone straight to an election and is instead intent of pretending he was legitimately chosen by the people to be PM when he quite clearly was not. Putting aside all these things which really make me so mad I could lose my mind, except that I won’t because it’s all so predictable that the Liberals would have their own leadership spill and it goes completely unnoticed by the mainstream media like a massive ‘meh’, when Labor’s leadership spill was the only thing the media wanted to talk about. For 5 years. What I really want to discuss today is the fascinating situation of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership where he can do NO WRONG, according to the mainstream media, and anything that does go wrong in his government is, incredibly, coincidentally, conveniently, somehow painted as still the last guy’s problem. Still Abbott’s fault. Except Abbott isn’t the PM anymore. Turnbull is. How the hell does Turnbull get away with this bullshit? He reminds me of the classic quote from the classic movie, Shawshank Redemption, but replace ‘Andy Dufresne’ with ‘Malcolm Turnbull’: Malcolm Turnbull – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side. How? How is Turnbull squeaky clean after all the crawling through shit he’s been up to?

Take, for instance, the horrific and tragic case of rape victim and asylum seeker, ‘Abyan’. Dutton is in a bit of hot water over this. That’s not to say Dutton is in as much hot water as an Immigration Minister should be who has denied an asylum seeker, a frightened young woman, the dignity and human rights any human being deserves, for political gain. But there is some criticism of the way Dutton has handled this situation, such as here, here and here. And you will notice in this Dutton-criticism, Turnbull is either given a cursory mention, or not mentioned at all. As if he’s somehow not involved in this situation. As if he’s floating situation, detached, uninvolved, an innocent bystander. As if somehow Dutton wasn’t chosen to continue in his evil role of Immigration Minister in the new Turnbull government, and therefore doesn’t report to Turnbull like an employee reports to an employer, where the employer is ultimately responsible for the decisions made by that employee and liable for any damage done by that employee. Why is Turnbull not being held liable? How is he coming out of this squeaky clean?

Another example is the news this week that the rolling ball which Abbott started rolling in his ideological quest to eat away at the public’s ownership of Medicare by privatising some parts of it, with the ultimate goal of privatising all of it, is still rolling forward. I’m really glad there are news outlets letting us know about this treachery because it’s a really seriously important news story that all Australians would be interested in. But I don’t understand why articles about this news story, such as this one, fail to even mention the word ‘Turnbull’. Turnbull, who we all knows likes to talk, and likes to explain, and is even well known for his particularly patronising ‘mansplaining’ tone, which he no doubt uses because he looks down on all of us since we’re all poorer than he is, is completely silent on this issue. He’s had plenty of time to comment and as far as I can tell he’s made no comment. It’s really not hard to guess why he’s made no comment. There are two reasons: a) because he doesn’t want to be splattered in the dirt of this issue, having to explain why his government is considering turning our universal health sector into a profit making machine for potentially international companies who would then ‘own’ our health records and eventually may own our entire health system. And b) Turnbull loves this idea, and hopes if he keeps his mouth shut it will more likely slip through unscrutinised. Which it possibly will. Turnbull loves this idea both for ideological reasons and perhaps because he has money invested in the companies who will make billions out of taking over Australia’s Medicare system, money which will be filtered through the Cayman Islands, un-taxed and back into Malcolm’s pocket which is bulging with cash. Of course there is a class-war, and Malcolm’s pocket is winning.

Long-time readers of my blog will recognise that the longer my sentences, the angrier I am. My keyboard will also tell you that the intensity of my fingers hitting the keyboard is a fair indication of the level of blood boil going on. So yes, I’m angry about this ‘Turnbull getting away with swimming in shit, yet still being treated like the beloved-shiny-sparkling-glistening-in-the-sun-squeeky-clean-brand-new Prime Minister who can do no wrong’. I’m terrified the squeaky cleanliness will get Turnbull another Liberal term of government and all the horrors of his political agenda will come about, unabated by any real scrutiny, just like the media did when they betrayed the country by giving Abbott such a free pass. It’s not just News Ltd this time either. It’s also Fairfax, the ABC and even, inexplicably, the Guardian. I’m not asking for these media outlets to do anything except their job and their job is not to let Turnbull get away with zero scrutiny on issues damaging to Australians. Just do your jobs people. For the love of dog, just do your jobs.

 

Against radicalisation

By Barry Hindess

My title might seem to suggest an hostility to radicalisation, that is, to the thing itself – and thus as endorsing the general thrust, if not the actual detail, of Australian public policy towards what is widely seen as the threat of radicalisation. ‘Radicalisation’ is too often presented as something that happens to young people, often turning them into potentially violent extremists. Rather, it should be seen as an ugly figment of the security imagination unfettered, as this imagination so often seems to be, by serious thought. Accordingly, my title reflects an objection to the term ‘radicalisation’ and the ideas it represents.

While it might seem that ‘radicalisation’ could happen to any of us, that whatever views we might presently hold – green, liberal, socialist or conservative, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim or atheist – could become more ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’, when these terms are used without qualification they almost invariably target Islam. This is a problem that Malcolm Turnbull’s inclusive response to the recent Parramatta shooting shares with his predecessor Tony Abbott’s more confrontational stance. In a recent interview with ABC Radio National (PM, October 5 at 18.10), Turnbull insisted on the ‘need to counter radicalisation’ before going on to say that ‘We have to work with the Muslim community in particular very collaboratively … They are our absolutely necessary partners in combating this type of extremist violence.’ Here radicalisation and extremist violence are clearly viewed as issues that arise within the Muslim community, which is why they are ‘our absolutely necessary partners in combating’ them.

However, there are familiar varieties of extremism and of radicalism that are in no sense Islamic. Those of us who watched the recent Bendigo Mosque protests, whether in the flesh or, as in my case, through the security of our television screens, will have observed a truly frightening level of hatred and aggression on the part of some of the protestors. We have yet to see our leaders take a stand against the radicalisation of such people. There are Bhuddist extremists in Myanmar who terrorise the Rohingya Muslim minority. And again, there are militant evangelical Christian extremists in parts of Africa and in North and South America who are not often seen as posing a threat to the Western way of life. There are small groups of these Christian extremists in Australia but, whatever they may do to each other, they generally leave the rest of us in peace.

Leaving religion to one side, we often see radicalism and extremism in political life. At one time, political radicalism was expected of young people – at least, among those of a certain class, a class that allowed its members the luxury of experimenting with political allegiances. The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is reputed to have said ‘My son is 22 years old. If he had not become a Communist at 22, I would have disowned him. If he is still a Communist at 30, I will do it then’. Clemenceau’s comments suggest both an awareness that radicalisation might happen among the young and what now seems a remarkably optimistic response: give it time and it will likely pass.

More immediate examples of political extremism are neo-liberalism and the anti-refugee practices promoted by our two major political parties. The former is a doctrine that promotes radical economic change throughout the world – the privatisation of public assets and deregulation and marketisation of anything that moves. Margaret Thatcher did not come into the world as a neo-liberal extremist but, grew into it in her years as a politician. In other words, she was radicalised. Similarly for the IPA ‘s benighted publicists. Neo-liberal extremism poses a real threat to most people in the West, and to the rest of the world too. It is alive and kicking in the Coalition and, despite Kevin Rudd’s essays in The Monthly, still has disturbing levels of support within the Labor Party.

Australia’s refugee regime is a threat, whose brutality has been well-documented, to the well-being of anyone in its clutches. It is a clear case of irreligious Western extremism, suggesting that both those who run the regime’s camps and those who established them must have been radicalised, perhaps by the thought that being seen to be tough on refugees was a prerequisite of career advancement and/or political success. It is tempting to say something similar about Western military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to counter the threat of terrorism at its source. The manifest failure of these interventions and their counter-productive effects have lead, with the partial exception of Afghanistan, not to serious withdrawal from the interventions themselves but rather to their intensification (or radicalisation).

Another problem is that the term is not well-defined. Both here and in North America where it seems to have originated, it is little more than a reflection of the political concerns of those who use it. It refers to a process identified by its alleged results. Leaving aside the well publicised actions of Western powers in the Middle East, whatever else results in radicalism among Muslims is denounced as radicalisation. As often happens with public policy fads, far too many academics have identified themselves as ‘radicalisation’ specialists, thereby overlooking their responsibility to promote intellectual rigour in public life.

My point is not to deny that talk of radicalisation gestures towards a real problem or problems but it is to suggest that we should examine these problems more carefully before seeking actively to address them. We know that young people and more than a few of their elders, finding themselves alienated from the societies in which they live, sometimes seek support elsewhere and it is hardly surprising that this happens within the Muslim community. The reasons for this alienation and   responses to it may be many and various, sometimes including ill-informed talk of ‘radicalism’, ‘extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism’ and the intemperate actions of our governments. The politically-charged notion of radicalisation has little to offer our understanding of these issues.

Barry Hindess
School of Politics and International Relations,
Australian National University, Canberra

 

Money Is No Object!

Paul Sheahan wrote something rather interesting today…

Well, that’s incorrect. He wrote something that caught my eye. And I’m trying to work out whether the man suffers from memory problems or is simply lying. He wrote:

“In politics, the Rudd Labor government went berserk on deficit spending to remain popular.”

Now, I’m happy for someone to debate whether the Rudd government’s policies were effective, or whether they just postponed the inevitable recession. I’m happy for someone to debate whether the money could have been better spent. I’m even happy for them to debate whether or not the pink batts problems were caused by socialism or unchecked capitalism.

But to suggest that the deficit spending was all about “being popular” just strikes me as a total rewriting of history. Even at the time, much of the spending wasn’t popular. The Liberals were telling us that Labor had gone too hard, too early and there’d be no money left when we were actually in recession – which they assured us was unavoidable.. Many asserted that the $900 would be wasted on alcohol and pokies.

(On a side note, isn’t it interesting that when Labor tried to introduce a voluntary pre-commitment amount for pokies, the Liberals teamed up the Clubs and screamed “nanny state”, but the Ceduna trial of a welfare card which can’t be spent on alcohol or gambling is just fine and dandy.)

Anyway, Paul Sheahan thinks that all the Rudd government’s spending was only to make his government “popular”. And I’d like to point out that he does specifically say the “Rudd Labor government”, so he is talking about the spending that was done at the height of the GFC. This not about things like the NBN or the National Disability Scheme.

Sheahan is one of people who like to remind us of that factoid that there’s a limited amount of money. (Note the use of the word “factoid” which, as I pointed out when Christopher Pyne used the word in parliament, means something that’s repeated often enough for people to take it as fact.)

The problem when we discuss “money” is that many people take it as synonymous with “cash” of which there is a limited amount at any given moment. “Money”, on the other hand, is a measure rather than being a thing in itself. Money tells you how much of the limited resources of the world you can access should you convert your money into something else. Of course, should everyone decide to convert their money into things at the same time, then we’d have inflation. And if they all decided to convert their money into the same thing – such as tulips – we’d have a bubble. (See Dutch Tulip Bubble.) We have people telling us that bubbles are inevitable and just part of the capitalist system.

As banks and governments can create money with the stroke of a computer key. money is infinite. Of course, if they do create an excessive amount of extra money, then the existing values of the “money” will diminish. There are a limited amount of tulips and if there’s suddenly an extra trillion dollars in the tulip market that million dollars for a bulb is going to look like a bargain.

Perhaps a good way to look at it is to use a sporting analogy. Money is the score and while sometimes scoring is hard, that’s only because there’s a team that keeps taking the ball of us and trying to score themselves. In the unusual event that we all decide that we’d rather see a good fast, high-scoring game and we start kicking for the same end, scoring becomes a lot easier. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen very often, and many people who are scoring like it’s a basketball game, wonder why the soccer players are finding it so hard to score and conclude that it’s because they’re lazy.

So when people start talking about there being a limited amount of money, what they actually mean is that there are a limited amount of resources. However, if governments can use money to reorganise the economy so that more “resources” are being created then it can actually add to the wealth of the country. If a person is working instead of being unemployed or underemployed, then that adds to the overall pool of “resources”.

The question is not whether such things can be done. Of course they can. The question is what is the most effective and worthwhile way to do it. Will reducing unemployment by two percent create  a wages breakout? And a tulip bubble which leads to problems down the track? Will increasing unemployment by one percent mean that we have a tulip glut on our hands? Or is it better to have a regulated tulip market and stop all this speculation.

Creating more money was more or less what the Rudd Labor government did in the early days of the GFC. It was about economic management. Given that we were in danger of recession, there was little prospect of inflation.

So the idea that it was about popularity is another one of those little factoids that certain columnists are so fond of helping to create.

 

The same but different . . .

When Turnbull ‘knifed’ Abbott a week ago after publically shaming Abbott’s terrible government on national television while announcing his intent-to-knife, I wondered how the mainstream media would treat this story. I couldn’t help but worry this would be yet another example of a Liberal story being treated with a completely different narrative to the same Labor story. A sitting PM is replaced by a member of their own cabinet. A late night coup. A first term Prime Minister. Abbott lasted a shorter time than Rudd and had already been challenged 6 months earlier. By my reasoning, the white-anting, destabilising activities of Turnbull and his supporters over the last 6 months was far more bloody and underhanded than Gillard taking the opportunity to lead the Labor government when it was offered to her within hours of her colleagues’ decision that Rudd’s chaotic leadership was not going to improve, second chances or not. However you argue it, overall a fair observer would see great similarities in the two situations. But these similarities are clearly ignored by the media and it turns out my worry was well founded. Low and behold, the Turnbull/Abbott story is being treated completely differently to Gillard/Rudd. Of course everyone in the mainstream media is very busy mansplaining to little-old-us the voters why the two situations are apparently completely different. But I don’t need this situation explained for me, because I can see with my own eyes that Turnbull just did to Abbott the same, if not worse, thing Gillard did to Rudd.

If you haven’t already noticed for yourself the differing tone of the stories about new-PM-Gillard with new-PM-Turnbull, take a look at this apple-with-apples comparison.

Here is a transcript of Gillard’s ABC 730 interview with Kerry O’Brien the evening she became PM on 24 June 2010 and Turnbull’s ABC 730 PR campaign interview with Leigh Sales a week after he became PM, which aired this evening.

If you can’t be bothered reading these transcripts, take it from me that Gillard was interrogated about her ‘knifing’ of Rudd for the entire interview, and framed as the ‘villain’ who couldn’t be trusted, a tone which continued throughout her time as PM. Gillard was also hectored about what she would do about the mining tax policy, not forgetting she had become PM that day. Turnbull, on the other hand, was treated like a ‘hero’ and provided with the invaluable opportunity to outline his vision for the country on an unchallenged soap box where he was allowed to sell his government’s refreshed credentials. He wasn’t even tested when he claimed Direct Action was working to reduce emissions when there was no evidence backing this claim. Two interviews in similar political circumstances, yet chalk and cheese in their treatment and tone.

A simple word count showed Gillard spoke for 65% of her interview with O’Brien. Turnbull spoke for 77% of his interview with Sales. Sales even apologised for asking a question Turnbull might ‘find offensive’ and then again said sorry for cutting him off. Soft doesn’t even come close to describing this cringe-worthy excuse for journalism. But it gets worse. Check out the word clouds of both interviews and see if you notice the same thing I did.

Here is Gillard’s interview, where the most used words were obviously Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. So the main topic of the interview were Gillard’s villainous replacement of Rudd.

Gillard Wordle

Now here is Turnbull’s interview.

Turnbull Wordle

Can you see what is missing amongst all the positive words? Yep, that’s right. The word Abbott. You can do a Where’s Wally search for it if you like, but I’ll save you the trouble and tell you it appeared twice in the interview. Hardly there at all. Abbott’s already gone and the media aren’t dwelling on the part Turnbull played in his demise. Unlike Gillard, who had to put up with the media’s obsession with the Rudd leadership spill throughout her entire tenure as Prime Minister, even after she went straight to an election to prove her legitimacy in the role. Yet Abbott has been erased and shiny-Turnbull-with-a-sly-grin has got off scot-free. See what I mean about same story but very different treatment? How do you even begin to explain this other than to say Labor is always bashed by the media, and the Liberals always excused? Sadly this is the only explanation that makes sense.

Democracy and diversity: media ownership in Australia

“To protect democracy, governments have an obligation to detect and remove political bias within the media” writes David Vadori. We couldn’t agree more. David, a Year 11 student, analyses the Australian landscape in this guest article.

The democratic ideal of a media which is impartial, and designed to inform citizens, is inevitably compromised as media ownership becomes more concentrated. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally states that everyone has the inalienable right “to hold opinions without interference…”[1] However this right is undermined as media ownership becomes more concentrated and the number of proprietors is reduced. Concentration of media ownership is frequently seen as a problem of contemporary media and society[2]. The fundamental threat that concentrated media poses to any society is that, as the influence of privately funded media increases, the democratic capacity of the media as an instrument to inform and educate citizens is diminished. This is due to a reduction in the number of perspectives that are available to citizens on any given issue, at any given time; and this interferes with an individual’s ability to formulate an opinion, as access to information presented in an unbiased and balanced fashion becomes more and more restricted. In Australia, this problem is markedly more acute than elsewhere in the world and thus governments should strive to ensure that the Australian media is impartial and informative.

An International Media Concentration Research Project, led by Professor Eli Noam of Columbia University, found that Australian newspaper ownership was the most concentrated of 26 countries surveyed, and among the most concentrated in the democratic world[3]. For example, News Corp titles account for 59% of all sales of daily newspapers, with sales of 17.3 million papers per week in Australia, making News Corp Australia’s most influential newspaper publisher by a considerable margin[4]. In comparison the two most prominent daily newspapers owned by News Corp in the United Kingdom, ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Times’, have a combined average daily circulation of 2.6 million, or approximately 24%[5] of the total number of all daily papers sold. Therefore, by world standards the circulation and ownership of Australia’s print media is largely monopolistic and this undermines the democratic ideal of a pluralistic society in which a range of views are presented to citizens.

In Australia increasing concentration of media ownership has been a historical trend. For instance, print media ownership has shrunk ever since it reached its zenith in 1923 when there were 26 daily newspapers, with 21 independent owners. This reduction in the number of proprietors may be attributed to the relatively small size of Australia’s market when compared with economies of size and scope in more traditional media markets, such as the United Kingdom or the United States[6]. This has consistently been a restrictive factor on the competitive potential of Australia’s print media landscape. However, this should not be allowed to form the basis of an excuse by which concentration of media ownership in Australia can be dismissed as something which is understandable or even unavoidable. For wherever media ownership is concentrated, commercially driven, mass-market media dominates and democracy is threatened.

Photo sourced from smh.com.au

Photo sourced from smh.com.au

The 2013 federal election demonstrated the corrosive effects of concentrated media ownership on democracy. Individuals and corporations with vested commercial interests in the outcome of the election, such as Rupert Murdoch, the founder and CEO of News Corp, used the media to sway” voters with headlines such as: “Australia needs Tony” and “Kick this Mob [Labor] Out”. These headlines appeared on the front pages of some of Australia’s most widely circulated newspapers, including The Daily Telegraph and The Courier Mail. This type of media coverage is contrary to what is expected of the media in a democracy where citizens should be protected from individuals and corporations that use the media to further a particular political agenda. For example the political agenda of Rupert Murdoch at the last federal election was clearly to secure a Coalition election victory; this sort of partisanship is damaging to the democratic process as it contradicts the media’s obligation to report fairly on facts and to avoid opinion wherever possible. Thus, the 2013 federal election has shown that opinion has become the defining characteristic of mainstream-media coverage, with newspapers making no attempt to conceal their political biases.

In a move to cement the prevalence of their own media empires, commercial media conglomerates have sought to stifle the growth of new-media and mitigate its ability to connect with consumers. For example, Kevin Rudd has suggested that the motivation behind News Corp’s partisan coverage of the 2013 Federal election was to ensure that Murdoch-owned News Corp and Foxtel were protected from a faster broadband network, promised by Labor, which would have provided ordinary Australians with greater means to access alternative media content for free online[7]. At present, there is an evident disparity between the power and influence of large media corporations such as News Corp and new emerging media platforms such as social-media. This disparity undermines the democratic ideal of a media which is able to present a range of views to its citizens.

The difference between the influence of mainstream media platforms, such as newspapers, and the influence of new-media platforms, such as online blogs, is evident when for instance, the reach of the Australian Independent Media Network is contrasted with that of The Herald Sun. The Australian Independent Media Network is a less well-known, but nonetheless vocal source of online news that publishes content regularly and has an audience of around 15,000[8], whereas, The Herald Sun, an established Murdoch-owned paper, has a daily circulation of over 500,000[9]. Primarily it is this disparity between the influence of mainstream-media and new-media that is detrimental to the democratic process, as the alternative, but equally relevant perspectives conveyed through alternative media are inevitably dwarfed by their mainstream counterparts.

Government policies over the last two decades have reinforced rather than challenged, the concentration of media ownership in Australia. Both sides of politics have shied away from moves which might increase media diversity, such as strengthening public service broadcasting or encouraging initiatives that might pave the way for smaller companies to become more significant and influential players. Successive governments have failed not only to acknowledge the public’s interest as citizens, but also to protect them as consumers; their policy actions have frequently invoked free-market rhetoric, but this only obscures just how imperfectly and partially market forces operate, and masks the extent to which government policy has played a role in shaping those markets[10]. A more direct and honest approach is needed to address the problems associated with concentrated media ownership and the government should investigate the ways it can better respond to claims of bias within mainstream media.

In order to avoid partisanship within the media, whilst simultaneously protecting free-speech and fostering the growth of a healthy democracy, measures designed to reverse the current trend towards concentration of media ownership, and encourage diversity and pluralism within the media need to be developed. Currently the primary safeguards that exist against media monopolization are the specific controls over media ownership contained in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992[11]. These safeguards prevent the common ownership of broadcasting licenses that serve the same region. The justification for these laws is that, the effective functioning of a democracy requires a diverse ownership of the daily mass media to ensure public life is reported in a fair and open manner.[12] However, Australia needs tougher laws to combat the undemocratic consequences of concentrated media ownership.

A report of the independent inquiry into the media and media regulation released in 2012, otherwise known as the Finkelstein report, conducted by the Hon R Finkelstein QC, made sweeping recommendations for legislative reform within the media. The Finkelstein report described the Australian media as: “too concentrated in ownership, biased, vindictive, sloppy and at times unethical in its coverage of people and events.”[13] The report proposed that a government-funded regulatory authority be created to pass judgment on news reporting. This hypothetical government-body would have the legally enforceable power to adjudicate on journalistic fairness and make the media answerable to the courts[14]. The creation of such a body must be regarded as an important first step towards greater transparency and accountability within the media, however more needs to be done.

Provision must be made for alternative forms of media. For example the growth of the internet has been instrumental in the development of new-media and the emergence of some new globally powerful operators.[15] Advocates of the internet’s potential to offset the power of mainstream media, claim that the internet naturally fosters an environment where a variety of views are both tolerated and accepted, and that for this reason the internet should be considered an appropriate medium through which to equipoise the influence of mainstream media. However the internet has only been an ostensible solution to the effects of concentrated media ownership and has had little measurable effect in terms of diffusing the power of mainstream media. The internet has failed to seriously challenge the influence of global media oligopolies such as Fairfax and News Corp, both which own and preside over extensive online networks. For instance, News Corp owns Kidspot.com.au, taste.com.au and homelife.com.au and holds 50% stakes in CareerOne.com.au and carsguide.com.au.[16] Furthermore News Corp also runs websites for most of its 172 daily, Sunday, weekly, bi-weekly and tri-weekly newspapers, magazines and publications. Developments such as this ought to be considered in the process of developing policy relating to media ownership, and Governments should investigate ways that the editorial impartiality of online media can be effectively monitored and regulated.

Furthermore, besides the immediate adoption of the recommendations made by the Finkelstein Report relating to the establishment of a government-funded regulatory authority to preside over matters relating to media integrity, the government should also increase funding for its public broadcasters, instead of cutting funding as the current Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government has announced. Australia’s public broadcasters provide an invaluable alternative to the concentrated and oligopolistic corporate media that dominates in Australia. Moreover, our public broadcasters are consistently hailed for their editorial impartiality, and despite claims of bias in the ABC’s coverage of news and events, a recent independent audit conducted by Gerald Stone concluded that: ‘As an independent observer, [there were] no grounds for concern…’[17]. Therefore Australian governments should use public broadcasters as a model by which to monitor and scrutinize the editorial impartiality of privately owned media.

To protect democracy, governments have an obligation to detect and remove political bias within the media. It is essential that the media act as a safe-haven for political neutrality, and partisan media coverage should not be tolerated. Citizens must be allowed to form opinions free from the undue influence of corporations or individuals that express particular ideological, commercial or social interests through the media. Ultimately, Governments ought to make ensuring the integrity and neutrality of the Australian media a priority. After all, it is in the best interests of any democracy to have a robust, independent and impartial media that is free from encroaching corporate interests.

References:

[1] UN General Assembly, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (1948)

[2] New Internationalist, “Global Media”. New Internationalist. (2001)

[3] Franco Papandrea and Rodney Tiffen, ‘Media Concentration in Australia’ (2011)

[4] The Conversation, ‘FactCheck: does Murdoch own 70% of newspapers in Australia?’ (2013).

[5] ‘National daily newspaper circulation January 2014″, The Guardian, (February 2014)

[6] Op Cit. Media Concentration in Australia

[7] Financial Review, ‘It’s Rudd v Murdoch in NBN slugfest’, http://www.afr.com/p/national/it_rudd_murdoch_in_nbn_slugfest_oZXFoHEQiPOHyYBK932O2O (Accessed 28 May. 2014)

[8] Lee, K. and Kelly, The Australian Independent Media Network, https://theaimn.com

[9] Australian Bureau of Circulation (2009)

[10] Tiffen, Rodney, ‘Political economy and news’ (2006)

[11] Parliament of Australia, Media Ownership Regulation in Australia, http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/mediaregulation

[12] Ibid

[13] Ray Finkelstein QC, ‘Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation’ (2012)

[14] Cameron Stewart, ‘Finkelstein Report: Media’s great divide’, The Australian (2012)

[15] Op cit. Media concentration in Australia.

[16] Columbia Journalism Review,http://www.cjr.org/resources/?c=newscorp

[17] Gerald Stone, ‘Breadth of opinion and impartiality in select TV current affairs coverage of the asylum seeker issue’, (2014)

Related articles:

Can ‘The Australian’ stoop any lower?

Where is the outrage when the media lie?

“Hi Pot, this is Kettle” – Miranda Devine screams hypocrisy on behalf of the right

Independent media: the sleeping giant and the MSM’s response

Greens fringe dwellers

“The Greens vote is complex”, writes Douglas Evans in this analysis of not only where their votes come from, but likely to be found in the future.

A recent AIMN article by Sir Scotch Mistery included the following quote:

Some vote Green, but the vote is meaningless we are told, even though almost 12% of the population vote for them. Why is the 12% so meaningless? Labor gets into bed with Bob Brown and others with ethics and vision, and are immediately held up as some sort of traitors. But no one, even Antony Greene, of the ABC, can explain why that vote is wasted.

This struck some resonances with me and prompted a comment in response to the article that became the basis for this article. As a fringe dweller, more an observer than a participant, I’ve got a few (shamelessly partisan) thoughts about the Greens. My former Federal MP Lindsay Tanner apparently agreed with the ‘experts’ Sir Scotch refers to. Tanner liked to say that voting for the Greens was just “shouting from the sidelines”. Of course that was just before the shouting got a little louder in 2010 and his Labor successor in the prized ALP Seat of Melbourne was defeated by Adam Bandt. In 2013 of course the shouting became positively deafening when Bandt repeated this feat without the aid of Liberal preferences.

The most recent Age-Nielsen Poll has the Greens on 17% nationally (up 5%) mostly apparently (and counter-intuitively) on the back of disaffected L-NP voters. In WA apparently the Greens lead Labor in the polls 27% to 20% currently and over the weekend with Labor still engaged in its own life and death struggle to reform itself, Christine Milne called for reform of the Greens constitution to give more power to members in formulating policy. This in a party that (in Victoria at least) already formally and regularly, as a matter of course, invites the participation of members in policy formulation.

After the decline in the Greens vote experienced in the 2013 and yet another tiresome round of finger wagging predictions of the end of the ‘accursed Greens’ both in the MSM and online, Scott Ludlam’s re-election in the WA Senate rerun and a bit of good news in the polls is welcome to an ageing Green like me. But just as the doomsayers are continually wrong with their predictions of the end for the Greens so the cheerleaders hoping for the triumphant rise of Australia’s social democrats would be wise to take a deep breath.

Despite these positive signs it would not be sensible to get too optimistic. No-one should assume, either that the the size of their vote will correspond closely with the number of seats they win, or that their vote will continue to grow steadily. It is a striking illustration of how uneven the Australian political playing field is that around 10% of the primary vote delivers a single lower house seat (out of 150) to the Greens while 4.29% of the primary vote delivers nine seats to the Nationals.

The Greens have experienced such swings in the polls in the past only to fall back to what appears to be the baseline 10% of the primary vote. Nevertheless, The Greens vote is complex. People vote Greens for all sorts of reasons. Many find a policy agenda that prioritizes environmental responsibility, social justice and compassion attractive. Some ageing social democrats like me, who believe this is what the Labor Party should stand for but increasingly doesn’t, are encouraged to find it is still possible to vote for a party that reflects these principles and is not simply the least-worst option. Many find it energizing and refreshing to be around an organization with a positive agenda that still, in the face of darkening times, has faith in the possibilities of the future and the potential for positive change rather than offering up continually reheated versions of the same-old same-old that has failed us in the past. The irreducible core of the Greens vote, about 10% of the electorate seems (to me) to be firmly based on these factors.

Then there is a soft vote that will come and go. Some whose natural habitat is either the steamy L-NP swamp or the scorching ALP desert have found themselves so disturbed by individual policies on, for example asylum seekers or climate change that they have moved to the Greens at least temporarily.

Some have voted for the Greens simply because they are not either of the two old parties that so many Australians are so very tired of. A large chunk of this group (which is politically pretty disengaged) is fundamentally conservative. These deserted the Greens in the last election when Palmer showed up on the horizon offering them a conservative alternative to the L-NP. Others (who are basically Liberal ‘wets’) close their eyes tight and vote for the Greens because they profoundly disapprove of what Abbott and his bunch of goons are doing to their Party and they can’t bring themselves to vote for Labor – the old enemy.

Others have voted for the Greens because they have seen them as the new-on-the-block-little-guys sticking it up the tired old tweedle dum and tweedle dee parties in Canberra. For these people the sight of the Greens actually wielding some power both in Canberra and Tasmania (Oh no they are a political party after all!) was disturbing and at the last election these voters deserted for The Pirates, the Animal Liberation Party, the Sex Party etc.

The breakdown of the most recent Age-Nielsen Poll is informative. While about a quarter of Australians between the age of 18 and 39 suggest they will vote Greens, the percentage of older Australians who would do so falls away strongly until apparently only about 10% of the oldest cohort (55+) votes for the Greens.

By contrast Labor scores around a third of the vote across all four age groups. The L-NP coalition captures about a third of the vote from the two youngest age groups but this increases until about a half of the oldest age group say they would vote for the mad monk and his band of merry pranksters. If this breakdown were to be maintained for a decade or so natural attrition would see the Greens steadily increase their vote to somewhere north of 20% Labor marking time in the mid 30s and the Coalition falling back to Labor.

The Nielsen poll is consistent with research for the Whitlam Institute carried out in 2011 by Dr Ron Brooker which examined the voting intentions of young voters (18 – 34 age group) prior to a series of Federal elections from 1998 to 2010. This showed the following:

  • Those intending to vote for the ‘old’ parties declined by about 10%, from somewhere north of 40% in 1998 to around 35% in 2010.
  • Those intending to vote for the Greens increased by about 18%, from around 5% in 1998 to roughly 23% in 2010.

The study shows that young voters are the natural core of support for the Greens and perhaps the vehicle for expanding the vote. It notes the substantial, possibly determinative, impact’ of the youth vote ‘on the outcomes of the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 Federal elections.’ However it also notes the volatile nature of the youth vote as reflected in dramatic swings both to and from the Greens over the whole period.

The study argues that the electoral volatility of young Australians reflects that they ‘are strongly values driven and their attachment is to issues rather than traditional political organization.’ They ‘tend to … make decisions based on whose proposal or offer best fits their values on their issue of priority at a given time.’

The youth vote is electorally powerful but volatile. However it is also increasingly disillusioned with the political process. Half a million of them did not register to vote in 2013 and many more of them are presumably among the roughly 3% of Australians who deliberately voted ‘informal’. The rewards are rich for the political party that captures the attention and support of this group, particularly those currently opting out. The conservatives, in government, are focused on the establishment of ‘Australia Inc.’ for the benefit of their backers. Factions permitting, Labor in opposition might finally seriously begin to address its own deep structural and spiritual malaise. With the attention of the ‘old’ parties focused elsewhere and support for both falling among young voters anyway, neither are likely to make headway growing their support among this group. Both Scott Ludlam’s and Adam Bandt’s re-election campaigns bore strong similarity to independent Kathy McGowan’s successful community based campaign to unseat the unspeakable Sophie Mirabella in the Victorian rural seat of Indi. Taken together with the steady flow of emailed invitations from Adam Bandt’s office inviting participation in issues-based door-knocking and letter-boxing campaigns this suggests to me that the Greens’ approach to consolidating and strengthening their vote aligns precisely with what is most likely to attract the crucial youth vote.

I assume that as the crisis deepens (as it surely will) and both L-NP and ALP show themselves to have no remedies (as I expect to happen) support for the Greens will grow. I believe this will occur not only because of the revealed shortcomings of the ‘old’ parties but also because of the perceived strengths of the Greens. In a piece for Fairfax media discussing the current good news for the Greens Michael Gordon notes that they are being rewarded for not wavering in their policies and priorities.’ I think this is self-evident but this, of course is also the characteristic that marked the Greens as ‘unfit for government’ in the minds of granite brained, finger wagging, conservative political pundits and desperate Labor politicians in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd soap opera.

However for Greens’ ‘policies and priorities’ to have any effect will mean coalition of some sort with Labor. For this to happen a number of things must change. Labor will have to realize that a Labor primary vote in the mid 30s and a Greens vote in the mid teens (eminently possible in the current climate) might just translate into some sort of progressive coalition government but in the absence of this would probably deliver power narrowly to the coalition.

Labor cannot simply assume that they can continue to disparage their progressive potential allies and float into power in their own right on a raft of Greens preferences. Those days are probably gone. Nor can they assume that they can get their primary vote back up into the 40s from where they might just achieve power in their own right. The breakdown of the Nielsen poll discussed above and the decades long decline in their primary vote to its current position in the mid 30s both suggest that ALP governing in its own right is increasingly unlikely.

They should get busy exploring the possibilities for co-operation and get used to the idea of shared power as an acceptable Plan B. Brad Orgill argued this in his eminently logical but (to me at least) hopelessly politically naïve book ‘Why Labor Should savour its Greens’. They should start exploring the possibilities for re-educating the Australian public who have been conditioned to believe that coalition with the Greens equates to a communist takeover or a pact with the devil. The Greens for their part must learn the hard political lessons of a couple of stints in power in Tasmania and the part they played in the Rudd-Gillard Federal era all of which ended in tears and recriminations.

Exposing the lie of politics

Image courtesy of tomohalloran.com

Image courtesy of tomohalloran.com

It is no surprise that when it comes to trust, collectively politicians rate very lowly. And individually there are many politicians that we definitely do not trust. Yet they continue to win our votes, if not our trust. In this guest post, Sir Scotch looks at this baffling phenomenon.

The well-known and quite rightly often maligned Readers Digest, over several years, have surveyed Australians, for the 50 professions they trust most. The list goes like this from the 2013 survey:

1.   Firefighters26. Builders
2.   Paramedics27. Alternative health practitioners
3.   Rescue volunteers28. Plumbers
4.   Nurses29. Mechanics
5.   Pilots30. Accountants
6.   Doctors31. Shop assistants
7.   Pharmacists32. Truck drivers
8.   Veterinarians33. Charity collectors
9.   Air traffic controllers34. Professional sportspeople
10. Farmers35. Bankers
11. Scientists36. Financial planners
12. Armed Forces personnel37. Airport baggage handlers
13. Police38. Clergy (all religions)
14. Dentists39. Lawyers
15. Teachers40. Tow-truck drivers
16. Childcare workers41. CEOs
17. Flight attendants42. Taxi drivers
18. Bus/Train/Tram drivers43. Journalists
19. Locksmiths44. Talkback radio hosts
20. Hairdressers45. Real estate agents
21. Postal workers46. Sex workers
22. Waiters47. Call centre staff
23. Computer technicians48. Insurance salespeople
24. Security guards49. Politicians
25. Cleaners50. Door-to-door salespeople

What does the list say about us as a country, as voters and as human beings? What are we able to learn from the way people vote, compared to the way people give credit, to people who would generally interact with them at some stage in their lives, though not necessarily, all that often, that politicians are only above door to door salesmen in those “trusted professions”?

Likewise, the most trusted people list, has several politicians in it, and that really is what we are about here. Why do Australians vote for folk they don’t trust, enough to admit to a survey taker, that they don’t trust them?

The first on the list is Malcolm Turnbull, at number 68, who is more trusted than Julian Assange. A funny outcome considering the normalcy of us, as voters expecting politicians to also be liars, since the two go hand in hand, and on any reading of the work of Julian Assange, who if one is to be completely fair, is the exact opposite, despite what is said by Rupert Murdoch and his tame typists, doing everything they are told.

It was Assange who brought to us the actual truth of the governments we elect in terms of their activities, after having spent years being told by politicians what they think we want to hear. Kevin Rudd appears just after Assange, again, a supreme obfuscator and liar, certainly in league with the Murdochracy, yet his trust rating is below that of Assange. Do punters actually know what Assange represents or are they dependant on the lies of the tame tabloid typists? The answer to that in simple terms appears to be a resounding “yes”. Without Murdoch and his co-conspirators, we are uninformed as a country. What a worrying situation!

Worrying, I’m thinking? Perhaps that’s why ethical politicians feel some control over media access makes sense.

Less ethical politicians of course, who tend to pop off to New York on the Murdoch cheque account, from both sides of the political divide it has to be said, don’t see it as an issue if the only paper/s in a whole state, come from one single self-absorbed egotistical octogenarian nabob, who isn’t even an Australian, (to avoid taxes not because of some high moral objection to Australian law or system), and the punters (you and me it could be said but I don’t buy his bullshit rags), is the framing device used to manage the entire Australia Conversation. And we accede to this? We are fools. Another correspondent a couple of weeks ago took me to task on the subject of the hyper generalisation inherent in “we get/have the government we deserve”. I have thought long and hard about how to assuage his disquiet at my generalisation, especially when I talked about the “water cooler conversation”, when we who see ourselves as “activist” in terms of our displeasure at the work of that failed priest currently occupying The Lodge, are given an opportunity to actually have a say to colleagues about the state of the nation.

My view is we don’t care to expose our distrust in case someone reports us to the boss, or holds us up as “agitators”, though in reality, that is what we need to be. We need to expose the negativity of a government for the corporations, such as we have had since Paul Keating first wound a French clock in an Armani double-breaster.

Lincoln, at Gettysburg opined, “. . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” But what are we, Australia, left with of that great hope?

Government by people we don’t trust, of people they don’t know, for people they don’t care enough about, to listen to, or ask what do we want from them. And we fail to call them to account!

Rather in secret little circles in darked back rooms in carefully managed blogs and fora, we cry out for “justice” but fail to act for those afflicted in PNG as a direct result or our inaction. We call for transparency, but ask little of the plans for the “TPP”, which stands ready to strip away more of our rights as members and citizens of a sovereign state. We ask for honesty, and then vote for Clive Palmer “because he offers some alternative to conservative politics”. I am yet to see an example of that.

We lie to ourselves as Australians. We lie to others, wearing the same cloak of humanity we had earned after Vietnam, failing to see the similarities between two wars fought for the US, with no other purpose, than to feed the industro-military swamp, which is the American economy.

Even our national anthem is a lie, but we still sing it at the football. We are afraid of change, a normal state for a conservative voter.

We are afraid of the pitfalls a new direction may bring. We are afraid of everything, but we still vote for people we don’t trust, who have proven themselves to be liars, time after time, we allow the same biumvirate of accession to the will of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to “guide” us on our way to hell.

Some vote Green, but the vote is meaningless we are told, even though almost 12% of the population vote for them. Why is the 12% so meaningless? Labor gets into bed with Bob Brown and
others with ethics and vision, and are immediately held up as some sort of traitors. But no one, even Antony Greene, of the ABC, can explain why that vote is wasted.

It appears to me that there is seems no offence that can be committed by our current government and opposition, which can be held up as an example of outrageous and egregious conduct. We are now seeing some of the minutiae of the goings-on in foreign affairs in the Carr/Gillard regime, where it was important enough to diarise that the carrier of choice had the effrontery to not provide pyjamas. We find the old Foreign Minister holds himself up as the success of the day when Australia got a spot on the Security Council of the United Nations. He fails to mention in his memoir that the process of getting that seat took longer than the time that the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd process was in play, but is happy to accept responsibility.

I am moved to remember, that Rudd himself also held up his hand as being responsible. All lies.

So we’re left with the question “what does the government have to do to get to a point where Australia realises that we’ve been had?” The short answer is exactly what they are doing now, without having to worry about the question being asked in the first place.

At what point will Australians realise that government is not being conducted for them, for their families, for their futures, for their country or for much else with anything approaching value. Government is in fact being conducted for the betterment of United States corporate interests and the re-election of the main offenders and little else.

 

Abbott is Murdoch’s dream come true

Abbott and Murdoch (image courtesy of smh.com.au)

Abbott and Murdoch (image courtesy of smh.com.au)

The Australian’s Christian Kerr was the one called up to last bucket the Labor Party’s leader.

There is nothing unusual about this but I was struck by the column inches wasted on what can be only labelled as an infantile array of unnecessary and completely un-newsworthy cheap shots at the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

He bases his commentary on Bill’s initial response to the closure of Toyota in Australia.

He derides his passionate press stop with Labor colleagues, saying Shorten’s ‘jumble of thought and emotion served neither his cause nor his constituency’.

He then gives a backhanded compliment to him:

‘But it was a different Shorten who appeared in question time. He looked smart; well-groomed, well-dressed – even well-pressed’.

Well I’m glad he met your standards, Christian.

To top off this childish spray he says:

 “The schoolboy hair and rumpled suit were gone, but the Opposition Leader may have spent summer in class in elocution lessons.”

What a puerile effort!

The only opinion writers you will find in The Australian that present the other side of the debate are either former or present Labor Party MPs.

The list of Liberal acolytes and staunch conservatives at “The Heart of the Nation” is extensive. Judith Sloan, Henry Ergas, Chris Kenny, Grace Collier, Janet Albrechtsen, Nikki Savva, Peter van Onselen and Dennis Shanahan all speaking in one voice.

To be fair, Peter van Onselen does occasionally stray into the territory of supporting Labor occasionally but it is always uncomfortably done and in a backhanded manner.

He becomes indignant, his glass jaw on display, when it is suggested he is a Liberal.

He’s a former Liberal staffer, who writes for The Australian and has his own show on Sky News, along with the TV host-cum-shock jock wannabe Paul Murray.

Do I really need to say anymore? He knows which side his bread is buttered on.

All this isn’t an accident. They are paid to push the IPA Fox News conservatism Rupert Murdoch is so in love with.

A quick look at Murdoch’s Twitter stream is enough to make me ill. A pulpit from which this self important man lectures governments and guides his minions.

This is done both for self-interest, to keep the Abbott Government in his pocket, but also to drive the resurgence of Murdoch’s ideology in Australian society.

Abbott is Murdoch’s dream come true. A willing accomplice in dragging Australia back to the bad old “Golden Age” of Howard or, better still, back to the visionary Menzies era. An era where Australia stagnated as a conservative bastion and complete backwater.

A lot of his opinion writers seem to enjoy trying to immaturely bait and annoy progressives and are making a habit of constantly defending the bungling Abbott Government at all costs.

Can you imagine the commentary if Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd started their terms in office how Abbott has? The cabal of Murdoch facilitators would be feverishly speculating about leadership challenges from the front pages of the entire News Corp Australia stable of publications.

All this is completely fine in a free press but who does The Australian serve?

Would it not be best to try and present news in an unbiased manner, without riddling it with opinion?

Would it not be best to have a balanced stable of opinion writers from across the spectrum to present the diverse array of views in our nation?

For somebody as experienced as Rupert Murdoch you would think he would respect the values of “fairness and balance”.

Given the tagline for his joke of a “news network” Fox News is “fair and balanced” it would seem Murdoch has no concept of the most basic of journalistic principles. Or maybe he simply doesn’t care?

Can I make a suggest Rupert? Don’t call The Australian “The Heart of Australia”.

“The Voice of Rupert Murdoch” has a ring to it I think.

Matthew Donovan (pictured) is a former Labor candidate for the seat of Surfers Paradise in Queensland as well as a political commentator and freelance journalist. He’s an active Labor campaigner from Burleigh Branch on the Gold Coast. His interests are progressive politics, policy development and media/social media strategy. Matthew’s studied Journalism, International Relations and History at the University of Southern Queensland. He plans to study Political Science in the near future.

Griffith Big Bash By-election is Just Not Cricket

There is a cricket team of candidates for the Griffith By-election on 8 February 2014. Nine of the eleven candidates represent registered political parties, but will electors really have any idea about who or what they are voting for in Kevin Rudd’s old House of Representatives seat?

The 2013 Senate results exposed some of the bizarre idiosyncrasies resulting from our compulsory electoral system: we have to vote and we have to allocate preferences to all candidates.

The party names will be written on the Griffith ballot paper so that should help, shouldn’t it?

Policy Bazaar

If you choose the Bullet Train Party, you’ll know what comedian Anthony Ackroyd will be fighting for if he wins. He may have to give up his impersonations of Kevin Rudd. However, it won’t be hard to take the mickey out of himself since he will be required to abstain from voting on any matters except the train. Now that’s taking a lot of taxpayers’ money for very little jam.

At least Family First’s candidate Christopher Williams could follow the example of former senator Steve Fielding who often made up policy on the run. In the absence of a hung parliament, he’ll have to rely on FF’s South Australian senator-elect Bob Day who doubtless will continue the traditional of backroom deals.

The Secular Party has lots of the policies you might expect: no religion in schools, support for an Aussie Republic. It stands for a carbon tax but against emissions trading schemes. Some voters may be surprised to know that they are pro-abortion and strongly favour Australia participating “in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, including power generation and waste disposal”. Presumably, these will not be located in Griffith’s backyard.

In order for ‘…new Australian citizens understand that their primary loyalty must be to Australia and its values, not their religion…’ the SPA’s citizenship pledge will be:

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights, liberties and values I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

The list of shared values will be found in an expanded Australian Values Statement. The secularists want “Evidence of compliance with the Australian Values Statement, such as witness statements, …before permanent residence visas and citizenship are granted.’ If you’ve forgotten or never heard about the Statement, you’d better rush to read it before you vote next. It involves ‘a shared identity, a common bond’ that all Aussies accept implicitly, don’t we.

Timothy Lawrence may be regretting the shaky status of his party’s name, which will soon change from the one on the ballot paper to the Sustainable Population Party. The thesaurus doesn’t have them as synonyms. The current name could easily be associated with right-wing anti-immigration parties while ‘sustainable’ has definite green connotations.

Ray Sawyer is wearing the hat for Bob Katter’s Australian Party, having gained only 1.92% as candidate for the seat of Fairfax in 2013. They directed their second preferences to Clive Palmer and his eponymous party, who won that by a nose, but PUP has squibbed this contest.

According to independent Karel Boele, “He supports needs-based education funding and an effective solution to climate instability, for example an ETS. He supports improved discussions and trade with neighbouring countries, and a no offshore processing by Australia policy for refugees.” He is independent. Or is he?  He runs the People Decide platform and will vote on Bills in Parliament directly through the Internet. Now that’s a real pig in a poke. He will vote on each Bill in accordance with the majority of votes. It’s a bit murky as to how he will vote on amendments.

Dealing preferences

The Pirate Party proudly claims to be “the first and only political party in Australia to decide all its candidates and Senate preferences by a party-wide vote”. However, the process in 2013 involved making deals with other parties for preference swaps that were then put to the members for ratification. How many of the party officialdom or membership were aware of the possible ramifications in the Senate is unclear. They responded to a tweet about whether they helped to elect the motoring or sports mob or Palmer’s miners to the Senate in 2013:

The Liberal National Party has put its faith in the reverse donkey vote in its preference allocation. Their preferences go from Bill Glasson, bottom to top.

Bill Glasson How-to-vote

At least one well-known Queensland Lib thinks independent Travis Windsor is worth a look. Could we stand another independent T. Windsor? Could make for some messy googling. He’s splitting his preferences but in each case The Greens are ahead of Labor or the Coalition.

Travis Windsor How-to-vote

The Greens have Labor ahead of the Coalition but behind five small parties. Anthony Ackroyd is their first choice. That was an easy call, as his party has no other policies to sift through. The Stable Population Party is second. Its policies line up with many of The Greens’ own goals but some commentators have argued that its motives are suspect. Malcolm King is one of them. Last August he argued:

The Stable Population Party (SPP) is using environmental and community groups to ‘green wash’ its anti-immigration message and split the Greens vote at the Federal election.

Next comes the Pirate Party of Australia, which shares lots of policies with The Greens and their other fancied micro-parties. Nothing illegal of course, PPA’s core business is not piracy, but freeing up copyright. However, they could be labeled copycats on many other issues, as could many of the others. It’s good to see so much agreement with marriage equality, climate change trading schemes, and humane treatment of asylum seekers.

Their other two Greens’ preference choices fit that bill. However, The Greens can’t be jumping for joy over the Secular Party’s nuclear stance. Karel Boele is a policy loose cannon for a different reason, as he’s going to follow direction from voters online. Nevertheless, they’re happy to put him ahead of Labor.

The ALP’s Terri Butler has The Greens second on her how-to-vote card, and then just numbers down the ballot paper. Less informal votes that way. There is no potential controversy as could arise if we had One Nation progeny in this field.

Now if you fancy any of the other candidates, please see what you can discover online. If you don’t know to whom Katter’s mob or any of the others are giving the nod, good luck finding out. Their preferences may well decide the result!

The policies of the two main contenders are not canvassed here, as the residents of Griffith are no doubt sick of leaflets, phone calls, SMS, and knocks on their doors. There have been suggestions of unethical and perhaps illegal push-polling and anonymous automated calls.

Train travellers are also well serviced by political candidates, if not necessarily by governments. The Bullet Train Party, which is not directing preferences presumably because Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t running, at least has a trainspotting video.

Given the disillusionment with the major parties (including The Greens) and the complexity of the voting system, it’s no wonder that nearly 6% of ballots cast for the House of Representatives in 2013 were informal. In addition, nearly 7% of enrolled voters did not turnout. The Australian Electoral Commission also estimated that more than one million eligible Australians are ‘missing’ from the electoral roll, approximately 7%. So nearly two in ten did not exercise their right to vote.

So much for compulsion! People are dying around the world for democracy. Some Australians are just lying low.

Presumably, aspiring Members of the House have been visible at the Gabba lately supporting the Brisbane Heat. However, many electors doubtless believe that compulsory, preferential voting is just not cricket.

An Open Letter to Bill Shorten

Dear Bill Shorten,

May I call you Bill?  I feel that after a lifetime of supporting Labor I’m entitled to that modest liberty.

Bill, I’ve just read one of the most shocking things of my adult political life.  I’m overtaken with competing emotions and reactions; I’m simultaneously bemused, disturbed, incredulous and thoroughly gob smacked.  It seems that you and the Labor Party are considering backing away, even if only temporarily, from your commitment to your established carbon pricing agenda.  It seems you’re considering allowing the Abbott Government to “scrap the tax” after all.  Is this true or just media speculation?

Excuse my candour, mate, but assuming it’s true: are you flipping insane?  Has Labor completely lost its capacity to read the electorate and the politics of this issue?  Its record of the last six years gives a certain pause for thought on that score.  I put it to you in the strongest possible terms that this is the worst move you could make with regard to action on climate change – or your political future.  I remind you that over the previous six years you’ve been on the wrong side of the politics on this, but on the right side of the policy.  The political failure is your (Labor’s) fault.  You were politically out-witted by an economic and scientific half-wit.  How does that feel, Bill?  Smarts a bit, I imagine.  Now you want to hand him the shovel with which he can dig an even deeper hole for you?

Here are some things I feel you should seriously consider:

#  Over the last six years you allowed your political opposition, with an overtly skeptical disposition to climate change, to control the narrative of this policy area.  You allowed this opposition to take one of the greatest dangers facing modernity and fudge it, misrepresent it, dilute it, re-characterise it, morph it from a scientifically based human imperative to a petty squabble over economic semantics.  You failed miserably.  I’m sorry, Bill, but there’ no other way to say it.

#  Soon after being deposed as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard expressed her regret at not having taken a more direct and aggressive stance with regard to the aforementioned dynamic.  You recall, in her Guardian piece she said:

… and in a political task that will require bravery, Labor must continue to stand behind the significant policies which are right but are currently outside the national political consensus. Clearly, carbon pricing is the political giant of this class. 

Without doubt, Tony Abbott won this public opinion war and dominated this political conversation. The times suited him. For most Australians the last long drought was perceived to be the result of climate change, and when the drought broke their concerns about climate change receded. The circus in Copenhagen and “climategate” fed scepticism. Then, at the worst time, the structure of the Australian electricity market delivered huge rises to the electricity bills of families. While cost of living pressures were easing in other parts of the family budget, the pain of these big lumpy bills was acute and remembered.

Labor’s failure to embrace Malcolm Turnbull’s bipartisanship when it was on offer, to campaign vigorously and go to an election early on carbon pricing in late 2009 or early 2010, and the twists and turns of Labor policy since have all fuelled this fire of opposition. 

I erred by not contesting the label “tax” for the fixed price period of the emissions trading scheme I introduced. I feared the media would end up playing constant silly word games with me, trying to get me to say the word “tax”. I wanted to be on the substance of the policy, not playing “gotcha”. But I made the wrong choice and, politically, it hurt me terribly. 

Hindsight can give you insights about what went wrong. But only faith, reason and bravery can propel you forward. 

Labor should not in opposition abandon our carbon pricing scheme. Climate change is real. Carbon should be priced. Community concern about carbon pricing did abate after its introduction. Tony Abbott does not have a viable alternative. 

While it will be uncomfortable in the short term to be seen to be denying the mandate of the people, the higher cost would be appearing as, indeed becoming, a party unable to defend its own policy and legislation: a party without belief, fortitude or purpose.

Please take note.  You’ll find a very significant number of Labor supporters are in complete sympathy with the sentiments expressed in that quote.

#  Whilst in Government you allowed a ratbag bunch of guttersnipes to take the momentum and high ground away from you – on this and other issues.  Now, unfathomably, you’re considering handing that back to them, only magnified.  Do you not understand how such a move will be interpreted by much of the electorate?  No?  Well, I’ll tell you – it will be seen as a confession that Labor was wrong and the Coalition was right all along.  The truth of that doesn’t matter, as you well know.  Much of the electorate has an entirely plebian rather than substantive and sophisticated engagement with policy.  Tony Abbott’s campaign proved that beyond question.  The average person on the street will see your action as an admission of fault and failure – on policy and not just politics.  Do you have any idea what that will mean?  Again, if not I’ll tell you – it will mean that the Abbott Government will have the issue all to themselves.  They will have the high ground.  They will lead the political discourse and will posses the enormous political luxury of having the only climate change response out there in the public market place.  That will inevitably lead to their position, their attitude, their policy gaining acceptance with the electorate.  Frogs in heating water, Bill.

Time to toughen up, Bill Shorten (image from the guardian.com)

Time to toughen up, Bill Shorten (image from the guardian.com)

You will not be able to offer any credible opposition to, or criticism of, the entire philosophy of Direct Action if you have tossed aside the alternative.  The criticisms of an Opposition that walked away from its own policy will ring completely hollow and will be effectively and rightly dismissed by the Government.  And should you go into policy hiatus on the issue, which is what is being suggested, it’ll amount to going into a fistfight without hands.   Saying you will “scrutinise” Direct Action is the language of the weasel.  What’s to scrutinise?  You know perfectly well what’s wrong with it – that it cannot achieve anything meaningful and that it’s a total cop-out.  Scrutinise?   What the hell?  That, mate, is tantamount to implying you might come to accept it yourself.

#  You have to stand firm.  You must recognise the political failure and naiveté of Kevin Rudd’s hopeless attempt to take some of the political momentum away from the Coalition during the election campaign by indulging in the rhetoric of “dumping the tax”.   No such thing was happening.  You were moving from a static price ETS to a floating price ETS.  You were simply re-scheduling.  You weren’t doing anything with a tax that didn’t actually exist.  You were playing catch-up with the politics and you looked stupid for doing it.

Do you seriously think there will be no social and political impact from years of nothing but the Coalition’s attitude and actions with regard to climate change being the political soup du jour?  Do you seriously think that whatever new strategy you come up with, which will inevitably cost the electorate something, will not be immediately characterised by the Coalition as a “tax”?  Do you really think you can avoid that?  You can’t and you’ll have to deal with it.  It’ll be a hundred times more difficult to cope with the politics of it in the future than if you stand up and deal with it right now.  Do you really want to have to virtually start from scratch on this?  Do you really imagine a decade of inaction on climate change by this country won’t have all sorts of repercussions?  What do you think is going to happen to the Australian mind-set during months and years of the Coalition quietly taking climate change off the political radar?  You want to be faced with having to prosecute a whole new case for real climate change action in that sort of environment?  Really?

Selling an ETS ought to be as politically simple as selling the NDIS was.  It’s about our children and our future.  You need to think about why you couldn’t do it and fix that.  Running away from your failures is a coward’s response dressed up as the pragmatism of politics.  Seriously, Bill, when was the last time the Labor party showed some genuine political courage and statesmanship on something?  No, I can’t remember either.

The rot started when Uncle Kim began to capitulate on asylum seekers and it’s only gotten worse from there.  Polls have replaced ideology in terms of political priority in the minds of far too many in the Labor Party machinery.  Your support base is heartily sick of it.

#  Call Tim Flannery immediately.  Speak to him about making the new Climate Council an official Opposition research and advisory board (or whatever is politically appropriate).   Show the Australian people that the Abbott Coalition cannot simply dump important Government advisory bodies like the Climate Commission and get away with it.   You must send some positive, unapologetic and strong messages on this.  If you do not, you are gifting the Coalition two terms in Government.  That is unacceptable.  It is also utterly avoidable.  Do you actually want to avoid it, Bill?

#  The Australian public deserves, and I suspect, desperately wants you to be the strongest Opposition you can be – right from the start.  Your support base is crying out for it. They are quietly pleading for it.  Well, in some quarters not so quietly.  Surely you understand that this Government has no real mandate for anything.  They went into the election with the most sorry looking policy platform seen in this Nation for decades.  The election was not a referendum on Carbon.  You know that.  Labor lost the election – the Coalition did not win it.  You know that too.  This means this Government is vulnerable.  It has to earn its stripes, its credibility.  It’s imperative that it does not achieve this by default of there being no effective Opposition.  Backing away from a signature policy on climate change is to take a gigantic step in the direction of doing and being nothing.  Find a way to do the politics better.  Be a leader. You don’t have the luxury and this country can’t afford the luxury of the Labor Party sitting back contemplating its navel and its policies.  You had a vision for the future; you had a policy platform – and it was perfectly fine.  For the most part it had broad community support.  You didn’t lose the election because of your policies (and the Coalition sure as hell didn’t win because of theirs); you lost it because you screwed up the politics.  You put a disunified Labor Party on the front page of every newspaper every stinking day.  Seriously, Bill, who the hell was going to vote for that?

Ok, I’ve made my points.  I apologise if I seem rather agitated.  It’s only because I am.   There is no reason whatever for Labor to back away from its climate change agenda and a multitude of reasons for them not to.  Big reasons – the sorts of reasons that are above politics.

You are risking my vote on this.  And whilst I can’t speak for others I dare speculate you may be risking quite a few more.  In the most recent Labor Party email blast, National Secretary George Wright – you know him, right? – said,

‘The Labor Party my parents introduced me to was courageous, visionary and striving for equality and opportunity. ‘

Mine too.  Has it gone, Bill?  If not, now would be a really good time to show us.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Rowden

Writing the Narrative, or should that be “Righting the Narrative”?

image

 

“As a result, a story has emerged about Labor that goes like this. Faced with the transformation of its old supporter base, and having failed to build a new one, it has lost belief and self-belief. Machine men predominate. Policy is made only with an eye on the focus groups.

But another story is also true. Through a traumatic period, Labor ministers have focused on producing good policy. They deserve more credit for it than they have got. Their response to the global financial crisis led the world, and they have kept the economy strong since then.”

A Year in My Father’s Business James Button

“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has admitted Labor did not have a mandate for introducing a carbon tax, naming it as a major policy the party “got wrong” during its term in Government.

Asked on Insiders this morning why the Government deserved to be re-elected, he said all governments make mistakes.

ABC NEWS 25th August, 2013

We initially were told that Gillard was the worst Prime Minister since Whitlam, before it was decided that she was the worst PM ever. So, I’m going to throw a couple of questions out here, just for fun.

How much net debt did the Fraser Government inherit from Whitlam?*

Which Australian Government left the highest debt to GDP ratio when leaving office?

The answer to those two questions may surprise you. The answer to the first is “None”#, while the answer to the second is the Fraser Government, with Howard as Treasurer. Howard’s record as a Treasurer is impressive, he remains the only one to get the 10% inflation while unemployment was also 10%. When Howard was PM, rather than use the proceeds of the mining boom to build infracstructure or to invest in our future, he established more middle class welfare like the Baby Bonus or the private health insurance subsidy

Yet, somehow the Liberals have been able to write the narrative that they’ve been good economic managers. Whitlam had to deal with the oil shocks of the 70’s, and Rudd/Gillard had the Global Financial Crisis. And somehow, the Liberal narrative ignores these to suggest that it was thanks to Labor that these things occured. How?

Well, Labor doesn’t exactly help itself. Kevin Rudd’s mea culpa on the Carbon Tax is symptomatic. “We made mistakes, but we’ve learned” seems to be the way Labor approach being voted out of office. Rudd, of course, made that comment while still Prime Minister, so he got in early. Labor reacts like someone who feels the relationship break-up was all their fault. “I know that it’s not you, it’s me. What can I do to get you back?” The Liberals react like someone who should have a restraining order. “I’m going to stand here throwing rocks through your window until you realise you should take me back!”

Labor thinks they get voted out because they’ve made too many mistakes, whereas the Liberals seem to think that it’s the electorate whose made the mistake.

I’d like to see someone from the Labor side of politics say that Whitlam was a far more successful Prime Minister than Malcolm Fraser. He achieved most of his agenda and is probably proud of the way he left Australia. Medicare, for one thing. Hawke and Keating transformed the economy. Rudd and Gillard saw us through the GFC, and established the NDIS. I know there’s more. but it’s Labor who should be selling the narrative of their achievements, not apologising for the bits they got wrong. (When did you ever hear Abbott or Hockey say that the Howard Government was anything less than perfect?)

Howard? His greatest achievement was the Goods and Services Tax – he said so himself. (Although, I think most of us would have said gun control.)

And Fraser? Well, he promoted Howard to the role of Treasurer. Perhaps, there’s something I missed.

* http://www.marketeconomics.com.au/2024-labor-or-liberal-government-debt

#Many dispute this. I read the reasons. It’s a bit like an argument that Isaac Newton didn’t contribute to Science because Gravity hadn’t been invented then, and anyway, the story about the apple tree isn’t real.

Chomsky, Alanis Morisette and Irony.

  • “The political policies that are called conservative these days would appall any genuine conservative, if there were one around to be appalled. For example, the central policy of the Reagan Administration – which was supposed to be conservative – was to build up a powerful state. The state grew in power more under Reagan than in any peacetime period, even if you just measure it by state expenditures. The state intervention in the economy vastly increased. That’s what the Pentagon system is, in fact; it’s the creation of a state-guaranteed market and subsidy system for high-technology production. There was a commitment under the Reagan Administration to protect this more powerful state from the public, which is regarded as the domestic enemy. Take the resort to clandestine operations in foreign policy: that means the creation of a powerful central state immune from public inspection. Or take the increased efforts at censorship and other forms of control. All of these are called “conservatism,” but they’re the very opposite of conservatism. Whatever the term means, it involves a concern for Enlightenment values of individual rights and freedoms against powerful external authorities such as the state, a dominant Church, and so on. That kind of conservatism no one even remembers anymore.”         Noam Chomsky

“It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic…don’t you think
A little too ironic…and, yeah, I really do think…”

Ironic Alanis Morisette*

Noam Chomsky, the well-known social activist, made two very good points in his book, “Manufacturing Consent”.

The first was that newspaper proprietors didn’t need to tell their journalists what to write or the editors what stance to have. They’ve picked the editors , who set the tone. If Piers Akerman or Andrew Bolt was appointed as editor of “The Socialist News”, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some change in tone. The need for day to day intervention is unnecessary.

Image from theaustralian.com.au

Image from theaustralian.com.au

The other point he makes is that, if one wishes to know what’s really going on, the business pages are a good place to start. He suggests that people will accept being lied to in the rest of the paper, but when misinformation might cost them money, they want to know the true state of play.

I have found it interesting over the years to flick between how a story is being reported in the front section of the paper and how it’s being presented in the business section. Try it sometime. True, most of the business pages is about takeovers, floats, changes in directorships and a lot of numbers that have less meaning to your average punter than the mathematics of Quantum Mechanics. (And, just in case anyone who actually understands Quantum Mechanics wants to use up the comments section explaining why I shouldn’t have said that, please just provide a link rather than explaining that once one grasps Planck’s Law, then it’s a simple step to letting Schrodinger’s Cat out of the bag.)

So what’s been the impact of the Carbon Tax? Well, according to the business pages, this “massive tax on everything” which was going to lead to the closing of Whyalla hasn’t quite led to the devastation predicted.

ABOUT half of Australian companies have either seen little impact from the introduction of the carbon tax on their energy costs or are yet to calculate the effects, according to surveys by the Australian Industry Group.

About 49 per cent of businesses in the manufacturing, construction and services sectors reported an immediate increase in prices of at least some of their inputs after the introduction of the carbon price on July 1, the AiGroup report found.

A follow-up survey of 485 businesses in November, however, found that a third of manufacturers and construction firms and as many as one half of service sector respondents ”did not yet have enough information” to gauge the impact of the new tax.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/carbon-economy/business-counting-carbon-tax-20130128-2dgw6.html#ixzz2gnPn2CTr

“While the carbon tax came into force on July 1 its impact is still far from clear. Many companies are taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude, perhaps because it’s very future is still sometimes called into question. But even if the Liberal Party should win the next election, dismantling the tax might well prove too complex and costly. And, in the meantime, failure to accommodate the new environment could put businesses at risk. –

See more at: http://www.aon.com.au/australia/thought-leadership/currency/carbon-tax-impacts-and-outcomes.htm#sthash.fKEyHeF0.dpuf

And finally, a more recent article.

Some wrecking ball that was! Australia’s first year with a carbon tax has ended with inflation so low that it was only the carbon tax that kept inflation from falling out of the Reserve Bank’s target range.

The Bureau of Statistics reports that in the year to June, consumer prices rose 2.4 per cent on the raw data, 2.3 per cent after seasonal adjustment, and 2.2 per cent on the trimmed mean measure, which strips out the biggest price rises and falls to define underlying inflation.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/carbon-tax-inflation-fears-evaporate-20130724-2qj4q.html#ixzz2gtN1GT2F

Removing the Carbon Tax. It was going to be the “first thing” that Abbott did. Strangely, I’m now hearing on the news that he’ll be able to get rid of it after July next year. I seem to remember Kevin Rudd announcing that Labor would bring forward the end date to July 2014#. So the net result of electing Abbott is that the Carbon Tax could be in place for longer. Now, (and pay attention here, Alanis Morisette) that’s ironic!

*Alanis Morisette may be partly to blame, but there seem to be a number of people who just don’t understand what irony means. Nearly everything she describes in her song is just bad luck, 

#Yes, I do know that Labor planned to have an Emission Trading Scheme, after that date, but Abbott plans to have a “direct action” scheme, so both have a plan to reduce emissions. It’s just that Labor’s is a sensible, market based policy, whereas the Liberals are planning an inefficient, socialistic “tax us, then subsidise” program. And yes, Alanis, that’s irony, too.

P.S. The Image of  Treasury milking the taxpayer 59, comes from the Liberal booklet on Labor waste, which listed 60 things where Labor was “throwing your money away”. I hope that the outrageous waste of supplying Treasury officials with milk has been stopped. That $110,000 a year will go a long way toward putting the budget back in the black.

Australia’s media problem (and how we can fix it)

Kick this mob out

A guest post by Chris Were.

Editor’s note: After reading this post you may easily form the opinion that The AIMN is promoting the efforts of a ‘rival’ site. This isn’t so. In the independent media there are no rival sites as long as we maintain our focus of providing a more balanced forum than the main stream media. We are, after all, supporting the same cause. I now hand you over to Chris:

Why did the Murdoch media have such influence over the recent Australian election and what can we do about it?

The real winner in the Australian election wasn’t Tony Abbott, but the American citizen that no one voted for — Rupert Murdoch. With headlines such as “Kick this mob out” overlaying a picture of Kevin Rudd, the Murdoch press presented a very one-sided election coverage that was as much anti-Rudd as it was pro-Abbott. Regardless of Murdoch supporting Abbott or Rudd, such biased political coverage is disturbing at best and at it’s worst, very destructive to a democratic country.

In Australia, 11 of 12 capital city daily papers are owned by either Murdoch or Fairfax, providing a monopoly over the public discourse on important issues.

We are living a modern age of blogging and social media, with access to incredible amounts of information, and yet it is the mainstream media that still sets the national political agenda.

This is wrong.

One of the greatest challenges in our modern era is to ensure the majority are well informed on the important issues of the day — which is not the case with the current media monopolies controlling the public conversation.

There is a wealth of great content being generated on websites such as the The Conversation, Australian Independent Media Network, New Matilda, Independent Australia, Macrobusiness, Delimiter through to bloggers such as The Failed Estate, Grog’s Gamut etc. However, despite these websites providing thoughtful, critical analysis and discussion, they don’t reach a mainstream audience.

In the last five years social media has exploded, with more than 2m Australians on Twitter and more than 10m on Facebook. While this has been a great enabler of discussion, it has replaced the water cooler or dinner table discussion rather than helped set the national discourse. The majority of political discussion on these mediums are still dictated by the narratives in the mainstream media.

An article published in the mainstream media will reach the largest cross section of our community. From the local plumber through to the lawyer across the road or the priest in the parish around the corner. When you run into the local plumber, it is quite likely they are familiar with the narrative of the local paper, enabling you to have a shared information base to discuss the issues of the day.

When visiting www.news.com.au, you are presented with celebrity gossip and the latest sporting headlines along with a dash of politics. Readers will naturally be more interested in some topics than others, but this aggregated news source ensures it is read by the whole community, not a minority.

The content of Australia’s new media websites need to be packaged in a simple, easy to access format and cover a wide variety of topics. This will allow the content to reach a broader cross section of the community and ideally, given a large enough audience, set the narrative on important issues.

Sure, those who are tech savvy enough can curate their own personalised news from Twitter, Facebook or even RSS, but those people (myself included) are the minority. There are numerous new media websites that produce excellent content across each category (sport, finance, gossip, politics etc.), but the audience has to actively seek out those sources.

Where is the simple alternative that show cases the best non-mainstream content in Australia?

It’s time this content was all in one place.

It’s time for us, the people, to claim ownership of the narrative.

It’s time the front page was determined by the readers.

And of course, it’s essential that those putting in the time, effort and research to write quality content are adequately paid for their work.

These are some of the goals of Newsflock. It won’t happen over night, but I’m determined it will happen. If you want to help or are a publisher who is interested in participating, get in touch via @newsflock on twitter or the Newsflock Facebook page.

This article was first published on Newsflock October 1,2013.

– Chris Were

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