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Tag Archives: media

Our media is failing us

Our media is failing us. At a moment when one side of politics has abandoned the bases of democracy as an impediment to their grasp on power, we need journalists holding them to account rather than gaslighting the public, normalising the rot.

In the lead-up to the US midterms, national security expert Juliette Kayyem tweeted about the dangers of bad reporting, concluding, “It is 2022. Get it right. Or a new job.”

Kayyem contrasted evasive reporting about “voter fraud” claims with the kind that justly illustrates that such accusations are bogus while reporting that the claim has been made.

We face different political problems in Australia, although the media crises overlap. We too have “savvy style” reporters in the press gallery who share politicians’ cynicism. We too have access journalism (or friendship) that causes a journalist to hesitate to “burn” a source or pal. We have horserace coverage that doesn’t focus on the overview, at a moment when that couldn’t be more important. We have refuge-seeking journalism, particularly at the ABC, that cringes from examining the sordid quality of some political behaviour over the last decade. We have normalcy bias journalism that can’t step back far enough to see how radicalised one side of politics is becoming, still covering “both sides” as though both sides had equal merit. There are many reasons for this crisis, but they remain a cause for self-evaluation by self-respecting journalists.

The particular crisis for Australia lies in the fact that our two primary print media organisations – affiliated with television or radio platforms – are owned by corporate interests headed by figures who clearly see their corporations as political tools. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch barely need detailing on this front. Peter Costello’s NineFax has been more discreet in its political deployment, and it retains some journalists who continue to practice their craft with integrity.

Print media, while an embattled format, is crucial. It is where most of the investigations and in-depth reporting continue to be carried out, providing the meat upon which the electronic media feeds.

The cooperation of Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun and Peter Costello’s The Age with a floundering Victoria Liberal Party in the final weeks before the state election has been a truly shocking display of the state of Australian “conservative” politics and its allied media.

The Age has deployed the leak of IBAC documents to hint at wrongdoings by the government. It is the Australian right in Victoria and federally that has fought so hard to protect the reputation of politicians, but when a strong enemy can be inconvenienced, reputational harm is suddenly desirable. IBAC reports at this stage are still being finalised: those individuals facing adverse findings are being given the chance to challenge aspects, and the findings can still be altered as a result. The purpose of this secrecy is to ensure that reputational harm does not take place until the fairest outcome is achieved. The way to achieve greater transparency is to remove the crippling limitation on public hearings only taking place in “exceptional circumstances.” You can be sure that Liberal Victoria would be crying foul if the positions were reversed.

This was exacerbated by the suspension of The Age‘s ban on “political actor” op/eds for the election period to allow a column condemning the Andrews government’s integrity by Roshena Campbell. She is a Liberal-member councillor, and wife of Murdoch mouthpiece, James.

In the Herald Sun, two appalling gambits have been played. Frontpage “scandals” have been mocked up about the car accident that was settled over a decade ago involving the Andrews family, and about Premier Dan Andrews’s fall in 2021. The latter is particularly loathsome: making hay out of the Premier’s injuries is not newsworthy. This story functions only to allude to the conspiracies that abounded at the time. The constant emphasis on the small size of the steps is intended to provoke a renewed flurry of gossip around the conspiracy that stated the injury was not a fall but the result of sensational fantasies of lurid violence.

The fact that, as Media Watch recounted, the broader media opted to chase these Murdoch non-stories relentlessly is an appalling breach of integrity and professional standards. All 17 questions at the press conference that followed were about the resolved bike event, and the evening news framed the coverage as the Premier’s refusal to answer questions, despite the fact he had given endless dutiful answers about the story at the time.

The Murdoch propaganda battalion has clearly decided that selling Matthew Guy’s opposition is beyond them; the only way to gain traction for a messy Liberal Party is to aim to destroy Dan Andrew’s continuing popularity in the state. Peta Credlin’s tawdry “documentary” about Dan Andrews will have compounded the demonising for the few who watch Sky.

At the same time as the Murdoch media chose those gambits, the Victorian Liberal Party released an advertisement directed to those conspiracy spheres that had spilled violence onto Melbourne’s streets, amongst whom the lubricious gossip had flourished. The party here allied itself overtly with that violence and suspicion of vaccines.

Throughout the worst of the pre-vaccine pandemic, the Murdoch media aimed to make our Victorian lives hellish by compounding the misery. Victoria was constantly under attack, while similar experiences in NSW garnered praise. The difference? The colour of the government. They followed this by insulting Victorians for our continued majority satisfaction with Dan Andrews and what he had worked to achieve with our cooperation. Credlin’s documentary and 17th November column in The Australian described the support as a “cult.”

The same voter-smacking agenda is underway in the American right-wing media in the wake of the midterms where the women who poured out to vote against the stripping of their reproductive autonomy are chastised for being too stupid to vote for the right in their own alleged interests. (This reflects the US’s dominant media consensus that reproductive justice would not be a midterm issue; apparently, women don’t set the news agenda.) This talking point was echoed in a pathetically trollish column for The Australian by the Menzies Research Centre’s Nick Cater. His tantrum might help drive more centre-right voters to Teal candidates.

At a moment when the east coast of Australia is once again covered in water, our neighbour Fiji is asking for the money to move dozens of its villages to safety and COP27 is taking place in Egypt, our media fails us with context-free reporting. Corporate media is barely covering the appalling revelations of the Robodebt Royal Commission. And that corporate media is working hard to grant a shambolic Liberal opposition government in Victoria, no doubt intending to capitalise on their baron’s goals in the aftermath.

We desperately need the Murdoch Royal Commission. We desperately need news media laws that balance the range of news available to Australians. Above all, we desperately need the journalists who work in these organisations to look to themselves, as Juliette Kayyem demanded. If they’ve lost the will to remain public watchdogs, they need to find themselves a new job.

This was first published at Pearls and Irritations

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Accusations in a mirror: US warnings for Australian civil discourse

Extremist rhetoric from the ever-more radical right makes it impossible for their followers to see the facts about the centrist governments in America (and Australia). It prepares the ground for violence.

The New York Times has just released a study into the language used by a group of Republicans it labels “the objectors.” This is the radical posse that most stridently fights the fact that Biden won the election. Together with partisan media, this group of congressmen and women have done incalculable damage to the civic space in America, and may have broken it altogether. We have the same forces at work in Australia, battling to destroy our own democracy. The movement here is nascent, but so was the American version once.

The NYT report maintains a “both sides” faux “balance” throughout the article which makes it ludicrous reading to anyone paying attention. One side continues to play the political game as it evolved, despite decades of Republican efforts to destroy the Democrats’ ability to win at state and federal level. The other side is post-liberalism and post-democracy in its strategies and goals. Democrats who speak of Republican threats to democracy are describing the facts. For the article to leave that distinction to be inferred is cowardly or absurd.

Republicans who speak in extremist terms are, by contrast, deploying the genocidal authoritarian’s rhetorical ploy of “accusations in a mirror.” This term was coined in Rwanda, to describe the way a malign group gains popular support by deceiving its potential followers. The genocidal leader-in-making accuses the target group of planning the atrocities that the mass murderer actually intends to carry out. The target group is planning to massacre our villages, he says. In fact, he is arousing the frightened and enraged people to massacre the target group’s villages.

Republicans have long been riding the tiger of this extremist fringe. They have harnessed its fury and fear, but managed until recent years to keep it out of power. The enraged have now taken over the party, with traditional Republicans driven out of the vocation by constant death-threats if not shame.

The Democrats have been a centre-right political party by Australian standards and are only recently able to be described as centrist. It has a few outliers that are described as radical left for asking for the kinds of lifestyle that Australians have taken for granted. Supporting universal healthcare is hardly an extremist position; it is not that long ago that Australians enjoyed free tertiary education. Until recently, the Democrats have barely protested the decades of “ratfucking” the state Republicans have connived at, and the packing of the crucial Supreme Court (and the rest of the judiciary) that has been taking place. The Democrats have had the majority of the popular vote for the 7 out of the 8 most recent federal elections without the resultant gains. This is because of distortions such as needing to be 11 points ahead in the vote to win control of the House in 2018 for example, because of gerrymandering.

So to have the objectors describe the Democrats as radical is clearly inapt. It is in fact the same kind of gaslighting as Lachlan Murdoch seems to practise when he describes Fox News as “centre right.” (Although it may be that Murdoch genuinely is inculcated enough into the ideology of the radical right as to believe his description.) Murdoch’s assessment is belied by the fact the NYT study states that the objectors link to Fox News items at twice the rate of more traditional Republicans.

Elise Stefanik is the congresswoman who replaced Liz Cheney as the chair of the House Republican Conference, after switching from being a centrist Republican to a Trumpist. Stefanik described the Democrats in a tweet as making “their most aggressive move yet” which she calls a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.” She describes them as “America’s Last Marxists” who are “radically and systematically DESTROYING our country.” These terms and sentiments are echoed endlessly by her contingent and the media outlets that work alongside.

The “permanent election insurrection” evoked is the subject of the Great Replacement conspiracy. In this narrative, the Elites (code for Jewish people, although that is sometimes overt and sometimes elided) are bringing in hordes of non-white and non-Christian immigrants to replace the “native” population, meaning white Christians rather than First Nations of course.

This is rhetoric amplified regularly by Tucker Carlson with the Murdochs apparently acquiescent according to another NYT study. On the Murdoch’s television station, the Jewish element is omitted, but it is clear that the white nationalists and Neo Nazis who celebrate Carlson’s work know the code. This same rhetoric is far more overt on the less “mainstream” Right media outlets. (One, Newsmax, recently found its limit when former CBS journalist Lara Logan described the Replacement as “Satan’s way of taking control of the world” and also asserted that the Elites orchestrating this “dine on the blood of children.”) The constant messaging has created an America where roughly 7 in 10 Republicans believe demographic change is being intentionally orchestrated for political gains.

With the preference of the majority of US voters for live and let live social policies, the Democrats’ resultant support for libertarian social positions has given the radical right the main rhetorical weapon with which to thrash them. Republican politicians and their fellow-travelling media are depicting groups that are not “traditional” as a threat to Americans’ way of life. Not only are the non-white and non-Christian immigrants a danger, but the fact that they, feminists and LGBTQI people have demanded equality is apparently an existential crisis.

The rise of the overlapping Christian Nationalist (and/or Christian Fascist) movement has shaped the dialogue of the movement. They use literal “devil terms” to demonise the centre and left. The fight is presented as a metaphysical battle between good and evil and there can be no compromise.

Stochastic terrorism inspired by this terror-messaging has killed too many at synagogues, mosques, black churches and in minority neighbourhoods. Women have also been targeted by so-called incel terrorist attacks. The decades of work by the religious right to take over the Republican Party has come to fruition in the shutting down of access to abortion in great swathes of the nation (driven in part by the Great Replacement-provoked efforts to lift the homegrown birthrate). The same Great Replacement fears about fertility are part of the attacks on LGBTQI people that currently issue from the tweets, sermons, laws and violence of the right.

The fact that America has long birthed an armed militia movement on the Right makes it far more dangerous. The many armed veterans of the military and law enforcement arguably pose greater risk than the armed LARPers that expand their threat. The number of far right and activist veterans in Australia remains small but concerning.

The same rhetoric that prevails about Biden’s government is applied to the Albanese government here. Political and media figures lead the “devil terms” and they are echoed around social media. The government is “socialist” or even “communist” and “destroying our way of life.” The centre is described as rabid “left” and the left is depicted as an existential danger to “traditional” Australia. This ludicrous depiction of the centre by Coalition figures, by News Corp, by One Nation and the UAP, radically distorts their base’s thinking.

The same vulnerable groups targeted in the US are targeted here. A Queer event in a Melbourne park was recently intimidated by Neo Nazis as they regularly do in the US. While our radical right is, at this point, less of a threat to life, it is deeply inspired by the rhetoric and strategies of the American version. We must be alert to the future risks.

Australia lacks any substantial contrary media voice to counter the messaging from our largely right-leaning media. America is large enough to sustain a more varied voice to challenge this dystopian consensus.

For that reason, it is particularly dangerous to see the NYT aid the radical right by gaslighting readers, describing “both sides” as using extremist language. One side is actually describing the Republican’s extremism, whereas the other side is deploying the most dangerous of rhetorical tools. People have begun to die in what might come to be defined as the opening salvos of a new, messier civil war.

 

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Government Funding and the Free Press

By Jay Smith

In the domain of politics and state government, the relationship between media and the state needs to be constantly examined. Journalists in the past have served to both promote politicians and government initiatives while investigating and scrutinising politicians and the government of the state. This relationship between the media and politics has changed over the last decade due to new influences in the form of new advertising and communication mediums. In this piece, I am going to discuss the inadequacy of the free press as a result of changes in the information-seeking behaviour in the new forms of advertising and communication mediums. While in the past the media has looked predominantly to the interests of the public by way of funding and creating quality investigative journalism, media organisations have had to increasingly look towards their own interests to maintain their capacity to function. The result has been the incapacity of the press to adapt and to be able to fund itself and sustain quality unbiased investigative journalism. I will be suggesting a new method by which media organisations can attain funding through assisting government initiatives while remaining neutral in terms of government influence over what the funding is used for and its bias towards or against the government. This method, of course, will require close examination and strong restrictions on government overreach that has yet to be put in place. There are a number of restrictions that need to be put in place to sustain a government-funded free press.

When writing of the concept of a free press it is important to define what a free press is, as all press organisations are ultimately governed by either the interest of the audience, editors, journalists, beneficiaries and advertisers or all of the above. Ultimately if a press organisation is not governed by an audience, beneficiaries or advertiser’s freedom, in general, is not about being able to do as one pleases, freedom is about having as few restrictions as possible where one can do as they please while abiding by those few restrictions. Ultimately a free press is unfiltered by a government organisation. A free press cannot operate under the suspicion of having its funding docked if certain information is published or not published. A free press has a right to protect its sources. However, press is always governed by the prerogative and inflection of the journalists and editors.

It is key to a functional society to have a free and unbiased media in regard to government initiatives. Media organisations have influence over public opinion which allows the media to sway elections and influence the popularity of political parties and government initiatives. A free press serves to without bias investigate politicians and government initiatives. Bias within the media in relation to politics and government initiatives serves to ignore and permit corruption within a government. When a media organisations funding is controlled by government organisation it serves to propagate a government’s message. This commonly is referred to as propaganda. The dangers involved with a society that is seduced by propaganda and a government that coverts corruption can easily be illuminated with a quick history lesson on dictatorial governments. Dictatorial governments in the past century have committed some of the worst atrocities against human rights climate change Governments that only need to pay lip service to the democratic process.

In the current decade privately owned and funded, trustable journalism has suffered from funding cuts. The age of trustable free market news organisations have suffered due to budget cuts resulting from the rise of social media that offers a cost-effective and more efficient advertisement medium to market products, services, and initiatives. Mediums such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become more effective in communicating with an audience and building trust and carrying a brand’s message to an audience. Companies whose advertising funds that once went to the media have become aware of the new trend of information-seeking behaviour. Having become aware of this, companies on a large scale have followed suit in their advertising spending habits. Leaving copious gaps in the funding of free press news organisations.

The creation of reliable and trustworthy news has suffered due to its limited profitability. Media organisations have taken to looking to their own interests in order to function and employ journalists. This has resulted in the rise of trends such as dubious news stories that have been given the name ‘fake news’ additionally advertorials in order for news organisation to function and to gain profit. Becoming a mouthpiece to propagate biased and untrustworthy news. With the advent of dwindling paying subscribers, news organisations have had to rely on the use of the advertorial where articles are written and paid for by companies to favourably promote a brand. I for one assume that all news articles freely acquired contain dubious content or advertorial. For one I believe that all journalists need to and deserve to be paid for their work, however, the process by which the journalist acquires funding needs to be examined thoroughly.

A popular method of subsidising income for news media is that of the advertisement separate from the article. This has been proven to be the most effective way of generating income for news organisations. Additionally, it is the most ethically sound method of news production. However, for those that wish to pursue paper-based news mediums of advertising, online advertising through organisations such as Facebook and Google has by far surpassed as a more effective form of advertising, with the possibility to niche partition an audience, monitor feedback and click through rates and cost per action accountability.

Politicians and governing bodies have in the past used the medium of advertising to promote their interests, political party and affiliations. This particularly is used in the run-up to elections when a politician needs to promote themselves or at the time of a referendum. The money used to purchase these services comes directly out of the taxpayer’s pocket charged to the government to foot the bill. While working for news organisations I handled sales of political advertising during peak and off-peak election seasons. The flow of funds from the government to the media directly for the purchase of advertising. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds are spent on political advertising each election cycle.

Government organisations outside of the promotion of politicians and political parties serve to create policies and initiatives that provide products and services to the people they govern. From healthcare to social welfare, social security to disability support, a government must engage its citizens to promote and markets government subsidised products and services. Government funds are spent to market products and services to see that they are used correctly and reach the right people. The question I considered was is there a more ethical way of governments putting copious amounts of money into media while remaining unbiased as to news content. A way for taxpayer’s funds to be spent on media outlets, while aiding governments in promoting their subsidised products and services.

In 2016, while working as part of the media I developed the basis for a model for news journalism to acquire funding through government initiatives while remaining relatively unrestricted as to government interference. While a news organisation can specialise in the production of news, in order to subsidise funding a news organisation can produce niche market supplementary services to raise revenue. This service can be applied to a limitless range of industries each focused around a common interest or clientele. This can take the form of a directory service supported by advertising and relevant important news and information. The supplementary services are completely separate from the news organisation however aid in funding the operation of the news organisation.

While looking for a potentially profitable niche market to advertise within I was able to gain firsthand access to the roll-out and implementation phase of a new government initiative. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) an Australian government department that provides products and services to support the disabled. The department began a new initiative where for the first time the disabled in the country’s history were able to choose from a range of registered private service providers. The department had a registered list of service providers companies whose operations are subsidised by the government. The capacity for choice allowed for a new competitive market to take place amongst government-funded companies.

The funding model which was implemented was for the media to approach government subsidised companies for advertising opportunities, while assisting in the promotion of a government initiative. This allowed for private companies to choose their prospective advertisers. The key component of choice by private organisations un-interfered with by the government allowed for funds to be channelled to a free press organisation from the government which removed the ability for government to influence the media. This allows for the free journalism to operate outside of the restriction of government interference.

The capacity for the client of government faculties to choose their perspective advertising agent under this model would allow for the associated journalists the freedom to operate within the use of government funding without government interference. This un-interfered operation of the free-market choice would provide a press free from the constraints of the interest of the government, an audience, and beneficiaries. The operation of the press under this model would appear superficially as the best possible outcome for news journalism, the alternative relying on philanthropy. However, the beneficiaries of these organisations that fund a press of this nature would have to be paid attention to.

For the funding model to operate without government interference, restrictions on government overreach need to be put in place. These restrictions will help to safeguard free press media organisations and stop funding from being manipulated by the government.

The free choice of government-subsidised businesses under the free market is key to the success of this model. Any government-subsidised companies that advertise through free press organisations need to be allowed to choose their avenue of advertisement without manipulation. Government interference at this level could allow the government to choose the direction of funding, directing funds to a favoured associated press news organisation. Laws need to be created to stop the restriction on choices by the government on government-subsidised organisation in regard to their choice of advertising service.

To further protect the free presses’ capacity to operate without restriction, more than one if not as many as possible separate free press organisations need to be involved in the assistance of advertising in relation to a single government initiative. The revenue raised from the product of advertising if not governed by the free market needs to be shared equally amongst free press news organisations. The capacity for the government to choose which media organisation to channel its subsidised funding through would allow for bias in regard to funding. Alternatively, if one organisation is to undertake the advertising and marketing of one government initiative the government has the capacity to withdraw channelled funding from unfavoured organisations.

Additionally, for a government-subsidised free press to operate transparency is key. Information is needed to be freely available in regard to details of the companies that are receiving government-subsidised funding. If a media organisation is shut out from accessing the details of a government-subsidised company, then the media organisation will be unable to receive the revenue raised through marketing and advertising the government initiative. This would be an ideal way for a government to manipulate funds and exercise bias. Openly available information is key.

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Should the media act more responsibly?

By Dave Chadwick

The public’s hunger for every image and piece of information about terrorist acts and mass murders does not always need to be sated. I question the effort of the media to feed this hunger with endless detailed national coverage when an attack occurs. Do they not realise that this is the exact reaction the awful perpetrators are hoping for, or are they so greedy for ratings they do not care? Would a more restrained approach make society even a few percentage points safer?

The valued concept of a free and impartial media to act as the ‘Fourth Estate,’ and hold all three branches of government accountable to their representatives has a long history in democratic theory. The importance of a balanced and independent analysis of national and international affairs is put into stark definition by the blatantly deceptive and obfuscating practices that modern politicians employ. Although its Fourth Estate role is a powerful argument against government interference (which doesn’t seem to bother our current government), it is not a licence for the media to publish and post whatever pleases them. It also charges them with the responsibility of publishing in the public interest.

I’m not an historian or expert in media law, but it seems to me that the media has misinterpreted the idea of public interest. Public interest here does not necessarily mean what the public is interested in – but what is in the public’s interest to know.

What is in the Public Interest?

I could write a whole article about media outlets’ preoccupation with selling us news stories that are really not in our interest, such as what happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor (which by the way, I really don’t care), instead of giving us a better understanding of ongoing developments in Ukraine or the South China Sea, but I won’t. I am not really arguing against this (doesn’t mean I like it though), as I realise they have to make a commercial decision about what consumers want and some publications are marketed to a particular type of consumer.

My concern is when the media (and with the advent of online technology, all social media users have the potential to become lay-journalists) publish and share information that is actually against the public interest. Whether through greed or naïveté, media users are unthinking accomplices to the aims of terrorist groups and psychopaths with the incredibly detailed coverage they reward them with. If social media users were more discriminating with what they shared and media outlets were more restrained with their coverage, the payoff these groups and individuals get from their atrocities would be reduced, potentially reducing the likelihood of further atrocities. That sounds like something that would definitely be in the public interest to me.

Only recently, a clearly unwell man acted out his rage in a heinous double murder in Virginia and even went to the trouble of videoing it and posting it to social media. The logical inference of such action is that he wanted to share his actions with the world. How did the media and the rest of the world react? Exactly the way he wanted. Television and print media published articles about every aspect of the attack and his life, while the online community was retweeting and sharing his gruesome posts. News articles even provided screenshots and links to his social media page. I actually saw an article in The Herald Sun that published his final social media posts after describing him as a man who wanted his actions and words to go viral. Nice of them to fulfil his dying wishes. To other unwell, lonely, desperate people, what is the message? The more despicable your actions are, the more attention you will receive.

Now I don’t want to imply any less personal responsibility of the perpetrators of disgusting acts like these, but I do wonder what useful function does the saturation media coverage and vapid online sharing of these types of event serve. Would most attacks still take place? Probably, but would all of them? I’m less sure.

When the first of ISIS’s execution videos was released, like most of us I was saddened for the victim and his loved ones. I was also horrified and angered at those who would perpetuate such an atrocity and deliberately seek to use it as a political strategy. These feelings of impotent rage returned each time I saw it on TV news bulletins and heard the audio on radio or saw people sharing the video on social media. That happened an awful lot. It was difficult to avoid for a few days. If the terrorists wanted to bring their message to people around the world, they succeeded. However they only succeeded because they were allowed to.

The public execution was a propaganda strategy that held no tactical value. If no one watched the videos would there be any reason to make them? I would contend not. So why are people in the west so helpful in actually facilitating and encouraging it? I know Tony Abbott liked to see national security headlines on every paper as often as possible, but was it actually in the public interest? It was no surprise to see a string of similar videos released in the following weeks.

What if …

What if a law was passed making it illegal to broadcast or forward any vision or audio these crimes? Or even without legislation, if the media guidelines changed to dramatically reduce the frequency and detail with which they did cover them. Obviously the exception would be for the files to be passed on to DFAT or the AFP so they could take appropriate actions. A short factual, unsensationalised (I know it’s technically not a word, but its meaning is obvious) report detailing the important facts of the story is all that needs to be made public. The public’s fascination with every aspect of this does not have to be fed, just like six-year old’s love of ice cream doesn’t have to be fed. Is there any other reason people really need to see the video? I would argue it is hardly in the public interest and would suggest it is actually against it.

I realise this idea may draw some unflattering Orwellian comparisons from civil libertarians. But is this really a slippery slope to the government-controlled media of 1984 (I’m not talking about an actual year that is the title of a book for those to young to have realised)? I don’t think so. You can use a slippery slope argument to predict pretty much anything, but that doesn’t mean your prediction is correct (as Eric Abetz and Corey Bernadi have shown). Increased government regulation of the media and individuals’ online activities may ring some alarm bells, although I believe there are similar laws about child pornography and although it is a significantly different issue, I haven’t heard any complaints about such laws.

The other argument people may raise is that such a law would make people even more beholden to the media and would prevent independent verification of the reporting of these types of events. It is true to an extent, but seeing the video or reading a mass murderer’s life story (as reported in the media) doesn’t solve that anyway. I would agree the potential for media agencies to shape national dialogue with their reporting of an event is already unsettling, but social media provides a counterpoint to this already. I can’t see this change adding much to this situation as there is still much that can be reported and shared. The videos of 9/11 and the moon landing have not stopped the conspiracy theorists on either subject because some people will believe what they want to believe no matter what evidence is- that is why there are still anti-vaccers and climate change deniers in the world.

Is that the answer?

I do like the concept of an independent, uncensored media, free from government and shareholder interference, but Australia seemed to give that up some time ago. The reality is that a lot of news reporting and commentary is filtered by existing beliefs and assumptions of the commentators, even this one (astonishing I know). I have outlined how I believe current media practices around the reporting of terrorist attacks and mass murders, as well as the unthinking actions of social media users, may play a part helping the perpetrators achieve their goals. Political attacks mean very little when their message is contained, after all. I know it wouldn’t stop such actions, but would it make them less attractive to desperate individuals? I think so. As much as governments are often wary of over regulating the media for fear of public backlash, I think it would at least be worth thinking about and discussing?

What do you think?

This article was originally published as Real Agents of the Fourth Estate or just greedy Real Estate Agents on Quietblog.

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Calling “Game Over”

Human-induced climate change is real. The risks of inaction are real and mounting.” So Fairfax editorialised in this week’s papers. The gist of the article is that we still have time to mobilise and get our governments and policymakers to take real action on stymieing climate change. It is probably true, as the article claims, that we are witnessing a slowly dawning awareness of the Australian people and by the global economy. But by some measures, this is significantly too little – and way too late.

“Two degrees Celsius.” How many times have you heard the “two degrees” target proposed as the benchmark? Almost every popular media outlet, when writing about climate change (when they’re not claiming it isn’t happening or isn’t worth our attention) includes a statement like “We can still keep warming below two degrees, but we have to start now.” So we talk about carbon budgets. We talk about carbon capture and storage. We argue about the merits of a cap-and-trade system, an incentives system, a carbon tax – as if we still have time to compromise, time to experiment and find the ideal balance between maintaining our treasured social systems and the rescue of the global environment.

The current climate change narrative is based on a series of mistruths and falsities. We are told that we still have time to turn the ship around. The truth is that we do not.

We are told that two degrees is a hard and fast target, beyond which everything turns to disaster and before which we will be okay, if slightly uncomfortable. The truth is that there is no safe limit, that two degrees is not a magic number, and that two degrees is likely already beyond our prevention. The truth is that we have already emitted more than enough carbon to take us to two degrees and well beyond, and we’re showing no signs of slowing.

We are told that even if we go beyond two degrees, the disruption that results will come in the form of hurricanes and bushfires and rising tides. The truth is that while increased frequency and severity of hurricanes and bushfires will be a part of the outcomes of climate change, this is the merest tip of the iceberg. These visible disasters can be constrained and understood as freak occurrences that interrupt the status quo and from which we can recover. Less so is the permanent loss of arable land, the global starvation that may result, and potentially the tipping of our environment into a hellish morass incapable of supporting human life. That we are now seeing reputable sources raising the spectre of near-term human extinction in public narratives is telling of both how far the public discourse has gone ahead of public policy, and of the potential import of the fact that we’ve been so slow to act.

Whilst we have seen that the public and the media are far more accepting of the urgency of action on climate change than any of our leaders are willing to countenance, the public narrative is nevertheless generally years behind the science. Science has been telling us for the better part of a decade that two degrees is both insufficient and unattainable. Meanwhile the news media, and through them the general public, have been absorbed by the question of the reality of climate change, a question that climate researchers put to bed decades ago.

Only in the last few months have we started to see the global narrative start to catch up to reality, which is at the same time optimistic and disheartening. The truth that the media are slowly coming to understand is that two degrees might be possible, but not in the world that we know and live in now. As the media have finally started to catch on that yes, climate change is happening; yes, climate change is deadly serious; and no, we have not acted as quickly and as desperately as required; it begs the question. What is the current state of scientific understanding and how long will it take for the world to catch up to that?

An inevitable outcome?

There are reasons for the lag in public understanding. In years to come the placing of blame might become a hobby, but while attributing responsibility to various groups and individuals is easy, it is also simplistic. The long answer is that our inaction on climate change has been driven by the systems within which we work and live. These systems are well designed to order society and to offer freedom and opportunity to some. They are not effective, however, at providing for philanthropy. Our current systems of democracy and capitalism reward selfishness and self-interest and they pander to our genetic weaknesses. And the unstoppable forces of consumerism encourage and reward immediate gratification not only as a personal pleasure but a social good. The system requires us to buy and consume in order to sustain the order of things. More fundamentally, we need to buy and consume in order to feel good, and we are rewarded by a sense of accomplishment, we are rewarded by social approval and we are rewarded by endorphins. The same psychological tendencies that cause us to become fat and unfit also put barriers in our way to accepting bad news.

Bad news is a climate scientist’s stock in trade. Scientists are conservative by nature – they have to be. Crying wolf leads to a loss of respect and credence, and inevitably to a loss of funding. For a scientist or scientific organisation to decry an oncoming disaster, a high level of proof is required, and this takes time. The rumbling on the tracks isn’t enough: they need to be able to see the oncoming train’s lights before they’re willing to commit.

Scientists are not to blame for their reticence. One of the most constant criticisms of the IPCC’s work is not that the work is flawed, but that the resulting reports are universally conservative. They err on the side of caution. IPCC reports contain a range of projections, using a selection of different assumptions and resulting in very different outcomes, but they do not advise on the relative likelihood of being able to meet these curves. The effect is to allow policymakers to treat each projection as equally possible, and when one or more of the scenarios results in a temperature rise under two degrees, the opportunity arises to claim that this is still in reach. Scientists would say that the contents of the reports are reliable as a best-case scenarios, but that’s not how the reports are received in practice. The policy makers who must take IPCC reports into account largely consider them to be worst-case scenarios, and the urgency of the problem is diminished.

Tempting as it may be to do so, politicians also cannot be blamed for their inaction. Politicians are rewarded (in electoral popularity) for populist messages of hope and optimism. Politicians are punished, severely, for being the messenger that tells their people that they will have to make sacrifices (financial, creature comforts, lifestyle changes) for the sake of the public good. Far worse awaits those who attempt to impose these sacrifices. It is entirely reasonable to expect politicians to clutch at any straws offered, be they a possible solution that doesn’t carry electoral cost (e.g. direct action) or a skerrick of doubt about the science. In an environment filled with lobbyists arguing that there will be consequences to climate action, and think tanks and vested interests obscuring the science with manufactured doubt, motivated by a kind of economics that cannot afford to take climate change into account, it takes a special kind of political courage to take a stand. As we saw in the case of the 2013 election, all too often The People will punish such presumption.

We can’t even blame The People. The truth is that our evolution has not equipped us well to handle the kind of challenge that climate change presents. Humans are an immensely adaptable species, and when we cannot adjust our environment to suit our needs, we can adjust our own lifestyle to suit. However, we almost always need to be spurred into action. We evolved from hunter-gatherers who would gorge in the good times, in preparation for the long stretch of privation that would follow. At our core, we’re not prepared to leave the carcass on the ground.

Too little, too late

However it happens, whatever the cause, we are caught by it. Humanity is having a cook-out in a tunnel and we’ve ignored the rumblings underfoot for too long. It’s not until we see the lights of the oncoming train that we even start the engine of our getaway car and there’s no way we’re dodging this express train.

We read that we have, at most ten or fifteen years to turn the ship around. Here’s the thing, though: they told us this ten or fifteen years ago, too. If the problem was that urgent then, if the need for change was so pressing then, how can we still have a decade left to act now? The explanation is that the definition of “action” is changing. Climate scientists, pressured to give an optimistic outcome – to avoid calling “Game Over” – move the goalposts. They adopt increasingly unrealistic assumptions and expectations in their models of climate action. They invent ever more fanciful future technologies – magic bullets, couched in scientific-sounding terminology.

It is finally reaching the point where normal people – journalists, activists, even politicians – are calling them out on it. The likelihood of us being able to meet a trajectory to keep temperature increases below two degrees is presently somewhere between none and laughable. But so long as it is still technically possible to succeed at halting global warming, we keep hearing the “we still have time” message. So let’s have a look at what is actually required to stave off the kind of climate change that runs an even risk of killing every human on the planet.

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/12/two-degrees-will-we-avoid-dangerous-climate-change/ : “In order to get back on track, emissions need to peak and then fall by between 40 and 70 per cent by 2050, the IPCC says, with unabated fossil fuel burning almost entirely phased out by 2100… That would require a never-before seen global effort to be sustained for a generation.”

http://www.vox.com/2015/5/15/8612113/truth-climate-change : “Holding temperature down under 2°C – the widely agreed upon target – would require an utterly unprecedented level of global mobilization and coordination, sustained over decades. There’s no sign of that happening, or reason to think it’s plausible anytime soon.”

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119757/two-degrees-climate-change-no-longer-possible : “To be sure, the IPCC noted, it’s conceivable the world still could stay below that level – but only if governments immediately imposed stringent and internationally uniform carbon limits, and if a host of new low-carbon energy technologies proved able to scale up. Those are massive “ifs,” and though the IPCC wasn’t so impolite as to say so, there’s little to suggest that perfect trajectory will play out.”

In order to achieve the goal, humanity as a species must put aside national partisanship, untrammelled economic growth as a priority, and our current industrial machinery. Advanced economies must immediately and radically decarbonise their economies, at the same time as effectively building first-world economies in less advanced nations who would otherwise strive to catch up to “modern” standards of living via their own industrial revolutions. Humans in the affluent West must accept a curtailing of their profligate lifestyles and their aspirations.

Some have likened the effort required to the mobilization of the West in the early days of World War II, when entire economies were retooled to face an existential threat. But these similes were raised half a decade ago, and the problem has become even more dire since then. We must, as a species, put the good of the planet and the environment ahead of our own short-term interests. This is something that goes against our very nature.

But even our best intentions are not enough. At this point, there is enough carbon in the atmosphere to blow through two degrees and well beyond – potentially setting off the feedback loops and tipping points that bring us to a very final The End. In order to limit temperature rise to two degrees, current models include assumptions about negative carbon emissions – capturing carbon from the atmosphere and putting it into the ground or into trees. This requires either huge swathes of territory to be converted to forests – and only good, arable, important-for-feeding-seven-billion-humans land will do – or the widespread adoption of technology that doesn’t even exist yet.

Is it time yet to call game over?

You can’t get there from here.

There are a number of good reasons to declare “Game Over” on climate change.

Because there is a point beyond which hope becomes denial.

We see an example with Australian farmers in northern Queensland. Devastated by crippling floods in early 2013, it did not take long before large portions of Queensland were back in the Long Dry. By March 2014, the State’s largest ever drought had been declared, following the failure of the “wet season”. Drought is a largely artificial definition, designed primarily to enable governments to provide assistance to affected areas, predicated on the understanding that this is a “natural disaster” and will come to an end. The terminology of “drought”, at core, assumes that there is a normal state of being, and the lack of rain is an exception, an aberration, on par with storms or cyclones.

More than a year later, the rains have failed again and the drought has not broken – it has become worse. All this in advance of a predicted severe El Nino. The signs are not looking good for relief for our beleaguered Queensland farmers any time soon. And still we hear politicians State and Federal talking about drought assistance, of getting the farmers through the hard patch before the rains return.

According to my calculations, most of Queensland has been officially in drought for fifteen of the last twenty-five years. An El Nino can run for up to seven years, so we may be in for a significant period before the end of this cycle. If you’re living under drought conditions for more years than under wet conditions, can it really be called a drought any longer? At what point do we bow to the inevitable and admit that, rather than being a drought, this is the new normal? That climate change has made these areas untenable for ongoing agriculture? That continuing to support farmers with “drought assistance” is a never-ending battle that cannot be won?

Admitting defeat would mean the departure of farmers from these lands and force an alteration to the economy and markets of the State. It could be argued that reclassifying land as non-arable will destroy the lives of farmers trying to eke out a living on it, but it could as well be argued that those lives are destroyed anyway and farmers seeking support are modern-day King Canutes who will eventually have to move anyway.

Sometimes, it makes more sense to just admit defeat, rather than throwing good money after bad.

Because denial makes us focus on the actions that we need to take to win, rather than getting started on the actions required upon losing

As long as electors are told that two degrees is possible if only we find the right balance of punitive and reward policies the longer the policy debate remains mired in detail and technicality. It allows governments to hold out policies like Direct Action as a valid approach to climate change. It allows an ETS to include a variety of loopholes and concessions designed to protect vulnerable industries at the expense of the scheme’s effectiveness. This author has been a critic of the Greens’ approach to Labor’s ETS, scuttling a plan that might have gotten a foot in the door because it wasn’t ideal at the outset. But that was then, and this is now. It is far too late for half-measures. Unfortunately, we will never see full-strength climate policies as long as politicians can still argue that all will be well if we just cut our emissions by “five percent over 2000 levels”.

Because reality

If for no other reason, it might be valid to call an end to the charade of climate change action because it’s a colossal waste of time and money on the basis of a lie. It’s a lie, because none of those arguing loudly that we can still save the world are taking the next step and adding “only if we do what the world has never managed to do before and only if all the cards fall our way”. This is a lie of omission, and those telling it are often not even aware of it because they themselves have not been shown the sheer unlikelihood of what they’re proposing. If we reframe the argument in the appropriate terms, at least we can start talking about things with a sense of truth and reality rather than what we hope might be the case.

Reasons not to declare “Game Over”

Because it might not be

There may still be time – if atmospheric sensitivity is lower than modelled, and if we can invent and distribute carbon capture technology, and if the world radically reverses direction. Under the IPCC’s optimistic models, there is still time. Meeting these optimistic assumptions will be a heroic task, but we won’t get there if we don’t try and we won’t try if we’ve already thrown in the towel. An important first step would be the support of research into carbon capture / atmospheric cleaning technologies that will be absolutely fundamental to any kind of success from here.

Because it’s too important

Declaring “game over” sends the message to those who’d be most harmed by climate change that they aren’t worth saving.” Our mythologies are full of humans in dire circumstances not giving up on hope. If there has ever been a cause around which the world could rally, that has the immediate threat to human survival on a global scale and the fortunes of small groups of people in specific, this is it. To give up on climate action is to give up on a large part of the world, raise the fences around the wagons and wait out the next great Human Extinction. Those most badly affected will be those who contributed to it the least and are least deserving. For the advanced nations to give up while there is still even the ghost of a chance is to add insult to lethal injury.

Because we need the urgency

We need urgency; we need the seriousness. There’s a fine line between panic-inducing immediacy and threat, and inertia-generating fatalism. World War II, in its size and ferocity and its immediacy, was enough to jolt the western world into action. We will see, over the next decade, increasingly dire climate outcomes. At some point, public attitudes and governmental policies will catch up with the exigencies of climate reality. The media and the government may always be a decade behind in understanding the threat, but action taken now on the basis of last decade’s threats will still have a beneficial effect on this decade’s crisis. We don’t know for sure that we can salvage the silverware, but we can be absolutely certain that nothing will survive if we stop fighting for it.

Because game over isn’t necessarily “game over”

We will miss two degrees – but the story doesn’t end there. “Everyone agrees on the general point — risks and damages keep piling up as the world gets hotter. So if the world can’t prevent 2°C of warming, it’s still a good idea to try and avoid 3°C of warming. If we can’t avoid 3°C of warming, it’s still a good idea to avoid 4°C. And so on.” The world doesn’t end at 2 degrees. Tipping points and reinforcing cycles may mean that the world is more fragile than it appears, but every extra degree of warming increases the inhospitability of our future world far more than the degree before it. If we can halt warming at three degrees, it’s still worth doing.

Because victory ain’t what it used to be

In the end, we may be forced to move the goalposts of what constitutes success. The two degrees scenario is aimed at preserving our current civilization. Restrain global warming to two degrees and we may be able to retain our present way of life, our creature comforts, our technology, and our populations. It may be – it probably is – too late for that: our world will change and our way of life must change to suit the new, hotter world we are creating.

But the end of our current, comfortable civilisation does not have to be the end of the human story. If the worst case scenarios are true, then the game is no longer about salvaging a world for our children: it is about salvaging a world for ANY children. If it is too late for current nation-states to survive, it’s not yet too late for modern life somewhere, somehow. If it becomes too late for capitalism as we know it, it’s not yet too late to preserve some kind of civilisation. If it is too late for us, it is not yet too late for humanity. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but however far beyond the point of no return we may have gone, we know that there is more road yet to travel. In the end, the best reason not to call Game Over – not to just stop trying and learn to love the bomb – is that there may yet be time to salvage some kind of future for some of us.

Just probably not all of us.

 

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Be Alert, Be VERY, VERY Alert! The Person Next You May Have An iPhone.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

“A Man For All Seasons” Robert Bolt

 

* * *

Robert Bolt. Mm, I suspect no relation to Andrew, who does a neat little backflip, with a half-pike just so we don’t notice. When commenting on the recent Q&A, he wrote this:

And that goes to the wider issue: how and why did the ABC get together such a collection of Muslim firebrands savaging Australia? How grossly irresponsible to give viewers the impression that every Muslim in our country was like every Muslim on Q&A – militant, damning of Australia and full of excuses for extremists. How dangerous to give any extremists the idea that their rage against this wicked country was justified.

 

But it was his neat bit of “framing” his audience to see a conspiracy that most impressed me:

Naturally, host Tony Jones has stacked the panel: two Muslim activists (who do most of the talking), plus one MP each from Labor, the Liberals and Greens.

Stacked the panel. Mm, is he suggesting that they were all lefties apart from the one Liberal? Or is he suggesting that because you have two Muslims to three “Aussies”? (yes, I know there’s no need to comment) Or is it the fact that it’s three men to two women? (Four, if you count Jones). Exactly how was the panel stacked? Because there was nobody from the IPA? Or the Australian Defence League? No Christians?

As for the Muslim activists this is from the bio for one:

Anne-Azza Aly

Dr Anne Aly is a research fellow at Curtin University, Perth, with a focus on radicalisation, counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism.

Anne leads the Countering Online Violent Extremism Research (COVER) Program at the university’s Centre for Culture and Technology. Her research focuses on the use of social media by violent extremists and strategies to interrupt online activities, including understanding of the audience and the role of victims and formers in counter narratives to extremism. She has written over 50 publications on topics ranging from Islamic identity to counter narratives and the policy response to violent extremism. Anne is the author of four books including Terrorism and Global Security: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives– Australia’s first text book on terrorism and security.

 

The other

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Randa Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney in 1979. She is a Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage. She grew up in Melbourne and attended a Catholic primary school and Islamic secondary college where she obtained an International Baccalaureate…

During university and her role at the ICV, Randa was a passionate human rights advocate and stood in the 1996 federal election as a member of the Unity Party – Say No To Hanson. Randa has also been deeply interested in inter-faith dialogue and has been a member of various inter-faith networks. She also volunteered with different human rights and migrant resource organisations including the Australian Arabic Council, the Victorian Migrant Resource Centre, the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council, the Palestine human rights campaign and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

 

Say No To Hanson? We can do without activists like that, thank you very much. Send her back where she came from… Sydney, wherever that is!

* * *

Last night a man was shot by police. A policeman is in hospital with serious wounds. These events are tragic and I’m not making light of them. The man is alleged to have made threats against the Prime Minister (who is currently out of the country). Whether these threats involved a knife or a chaff bag is unclear at this stage.

My “chaff bag” comment is not meant to be flippant. It just strikes me as inconsistent that we can dismiss a threat to one prime minister as just being “a figure of speech”, but another will be used by many people as justification for a range of measures. And yes, it’s true that this has resulted in a violent altercation.

Of course, I have sufficient respect for the law not to speculate too much about something that is still being investigated. It’s just the inconsistency that troubles me.

But then there’s a lot of inconsistencies that trouble me. A few days ago, the terrorist threat was raised to high, but we were told that there was no particular threat.

Then we had the raids. Which we were told had been part of an investigation which had been going on for months. And that an attack would have been carried out within days. No imminent threat?

We’re told that the PM and Parliament are a potential target for threats. (Hasn’t this always been the case? If you say no, look up the meaning of “potential” or ask yourself why John Howard wore the bullet proof vest when speaking to good, old responsible Aussie gun owners.)

Tony Abbott tells us a few days later that all that’s needed for an attack is “a knife, an iPhone and a victim”, but he adds:

“Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves and our best response is to insouciantly be fully Australian, to defy the terrorists by going about our normal business,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Abbott went on to tell us that orders to carry out demonstration executions had been sent to the the “small networks” of followers in Australia and other countries.

So, let’s make sure that those “small networks” didn’t miss the orders by broadcasting them on the nightly news. Let’s tell everyone that how easy it is to become a terrorist – all you need is “a knife, an iPhone and a victim” (an iPhone? Did he get paid for product placement? Can’t you be a terrorist with a Samsung?)

Then say that you need to be “fully Australian” (this is code for trust me, I really have renounced my British citizenship) and just say “She’ll be right, mate” and go off to work.

When I added music to a slide show which I posted on the internet a couple of years ago, it was down within minutes. Yet video posted by ISIL stays there and nobody takes it down. Some sort of perverse respect for freedom of speech?

And it concerns me that the Murdoch media can completely ignore hundreds of thousands (world-wide) marching on climate change, but find it worth writing stories about less than a hundred protesting the building of a mosque.

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This Reprehensible Rabble

If anything was patently obvious from the events in Canberra last week, it is that Clive Palmer thinks he is running the country and the media seem to think so too. They are all over him, relegating Tony Abbott to the role of a bit-player. It is also patently obvious that the government’s negotiating skills sit somewhere between pitiable and non-existent.

The repeal of the carbon tax is only the beginning. There are still budget bills to be passed as well as the mining tax and Clive Palmer appears intent on maintaining the chaos. It is conceivable that Tony Abbott will soon be cornered into either giving Palmer everything he asks or calling a double dissolution. At the moment he is vacillating and his weakness on this issue will expose him for what he really is. His pre-election bluff and bluster has dissolved.

Last week’s circus in the senate was inevitable and it will happen again. The closer you get to your enemy, the sharper you need to be. Clive Palmer has been around long enough not to trust anyone and knows since the day Joe Hockey delivered the Budget that the Prime Minister’s word has little or no value.

Palmer probably remembered Abbott’s comments when interviewed by Kerry O Brien a few years back. “The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks,” Abbott said. In that interview Abbott revealed that he sometimes went further than he should when making a promise. I’m sure it was no surprise to Palmer when the wording to the amendment on the bill to repeal the carbon tax wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be.

If the Coalition think for one moment that they can put one over Clive Palmer, they are deluding themselves. But, given Abbott’s penchant for verbal dishonesty they will probably keep trying and in the process, expose themselves for the utterly reprehensible rabble that they are.

That is not to say that Palmer will not acquiesce when it suits him. He is unpredictable and, I suspect, delights in keeping the government, the opposition and the media guessing. But as time passes (and it can’t come too quickly for most of us), the interaction between him and the Prime Minister will further expose Abbott’s difficulty in negotiating to a point where even his most steadfast supporters will have had enough. The government couldn’t even get their amendments right. A double dissolution could see him lose office or at best see his lower house majority whittled down to one or two.

The senate result could be worse with a strong chance that both major parties would lose numbers to the PUP. If for some reason the people go against PUP and vote to restore some sanity the result will likely favour Labor and the Greens. Either way, Abbott is in trouble. Doubtless his party’s electoral engineers are doing their sums and would be weighing up the pros and cons. The advice given to them by outgoing senator Ron Boswell to stand up to Palmer is the right advice but they appear unwilling to take it.

promises

Image by BBC.com

For the electorate, the greater issue here is honesty, or lack of it. The budget exposed the Coalition to be utterly dishonest, something they brought on themselves; an own goal. They can no longer claim the moral high ground. Their claim to have a mandate is, and always was, spurious. There is just too much evidence out there to show that they have treated the electorate as fools. Clive Palmer has realised that as the self-appointed defender of the underdog, his political future has promise. He will not want to betray his image and backtrack on anything he has said to the pensioners and the battlers who have crossed over to his side.

By way of comparison the government is showing signs of cracking under the pressure. Tony Abbott’s speech to the LNP annual state conference in Brisbane on Saturday bordered on the bizarre. “You and we are rescuing our country … it is only us who can rescue our country right now,” he said. Rescue from what? His attack on Bill Shorten was equally weird and suggests he is beginning to lose the plot.

His upbeat display of confidence was in direct contrast to the events in Canberra and the reality of the situation as it unfolded. He referred to the events in the senate as “a lot of colour and movement.” It was chaotic. Under Abbott’s leadership thus far, the Coalition has lost all the support they had at the election and then some. Their only way forward is to replace their leader and try starting again. That is unlikely for now and things are only going to get worse.

 

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Introducing the new “ABC free” AUSTRALIA … now with extra ignorance, selfishness and cruelty

(Or why we need the ABC)

abc

Since the coalition’s Murdoch lead victory in last September’s federal election there has been a palpable shift in our national narrative. The images of a sun burnt country forged by convict sweat and hard working immigrants is fading fast, and in its wake a new story is being fashion.

It is a tale of well intentioned, hard working corporations, (who really just want to keep us all employed), being squeezed by draconian regulations and pushed offshore by rampant, out of control wages. It’s the chronicle of a government being driven into the red, not by cutting taxes for the wealthy and turning a blind eye to the corporate “offshoring” of profits (read “legal” tax evasion), but by those lazy unemployed/disabled bludgers on welfare, and their “anti business” environmentalist buddies. It’s the saga of nation overrun by so called “illegals” intent on subverting our immigration laws for the sole purpose of suckling endlessly on OUR government teat, (Ironically most of whom are coming here LEGALLY as refugees).

These new LNP/Murdoch sanctioned mantras are repeated so often, and with such earnest conviction it seems people are finding it pretty damn hard not to buy into it. There are even those in the Labor party who seem quite happy to have joined the chorus.

I hear it everywhere I go, everyday Aussies out there parroting the coalition’s vitriolic hatred for anything even vaguely related to the unions, the unemployed, the environment, asylum seekers, disability pensioners, ABC lefties, foreign aid, etc.

So why all the negative jawboning?

Well, if you read the papers Australia has, up until our recent electoral liberation, been a nation under siege by left wing “special interests”! Because of this evil leftist scourge we have been forced to endure such indignities as the 2nd highest standard of living in the world (after Norway), the planets largest houses, one of the worlds best/most affordable health care systems, quality education, disposable incomes such that we can afford to be the be the worlds leading per capita emitters of of CO2, and the dubious privilege of ranking 69th in our per capita refugee intake (49th in overall terms).

australia__s_contribution_to_the_asylum_seekers_by_wordswithmeaning-d56owrr

When you lay it out like that it’s easy to see why we have all been so unhappy, we have been really suffering! Clearly something had to be done.

But seriously, something has happened to us. If you listen to the rhetoric, it would seem we are no longer a nation that strives for the fair go, but rather one that values our own perceived self interest above all other concerns.

I scratch my head and wonder, how did this happen? When did Australia become a place that embraces the social and political agendas of the most ignorant, selfish and cruel among us?

It wasn’t that long ago that Australian public opinion was DEEPLY CONCERNED with the environmental legacy we are leaving for our children. As recently as last year people seemed happy to talk about the scandal that is corporate tax evasion. There was even a time, in living memory, when refugees that came here by boat were welcomed with a broad smile and a hand up.

So what happened? How did the social and moral imperative get banished from our national narrative? Did it happen by accident, or by design? And if by design, then by who’s hand?

And then there’s the bigger questions. Exactly who’s interests are served by these apparent changes in our attitudes? And is anyone standing against the tide?

The sculpting of public opinion has a long history and there are many tools, such as fear and scapegoating, that have been used to great effect through out the ages. “Group think”, for example is an extraordinarily powerful weapon, (after all who wants to run outside the herd, everyone knows how dangerous that is). The truth however has never been a necessary component when seeking to sway the prevailing sentiments of the masses.

William James, the father of modern Psychology notably once quipped “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will not believe it”. This rather glib observation was most infamously put into practice by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, (a man on whom the power of the press was most certainly not lost), who used the simple “lie, repeat, lie, repeat, lie, repeat” principle to whip up the greatest genocidal frenzy in history.

More recently Goebbel’s philosophical musing “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play” has been turned on it’s head by the irrepressible Rupert Murdoch, our prodigal puppeteer d’jour, who, like some gruesomely wizened “whack a mole” has popped up here again to lead his relentless political cheer squad for which ever side will acquiesce to do his bidding. It would appear that, in spite of his meddling hand being beaten down in UK and much of the USA now being hip to the fact that “FOX NEWS” is an oxymoron, if you hand the old boy a monopoly he’ll show you he’s still got it.

murdoch-puppet_1940215i

One rather startling revelation that came out of the UK’s recent Levinson enquiry into press standards , was was that Murdoch had actively lobbied former UK prime minister John Major to change the Torries policy on the EU, lest he engage in willfully biased coverage in order to “hand the election” to Blair’s New Labor (a party/man seemingly more willing to do his bidding). Major refused to allow Murdoch to dictate policy and was duly slammed by the Murdoch press, who came out swinging hard for Blair.

So in spite of the Torries having had a clear lead in the polls up until Major’s “disagreement” with Murdoch, the Torries, (much like Gillard), found the power of a vindictive, inflammatory press mobilised against them simply too great to overcome. Blair was elected and the rest, as they say, is history.

While the Brits were duly outraged, you would think something so blatantly corrupt as seeking to dictate government policy in return for favourable press would raise a dubious brow from someone back here in Aus; but much like the “March in March” (a mysteriously unnoticed gathering of over 100,000 Australia wide) somehow it failed to be deemed newsworthy enough to make any significant impression on the Australian mainstream media.

So… If a media baron is dictating government policy in return for press support, but no one ever hears about it, is the political process actually being subverted? Probably, (but then who has time to worry about such things when we are all so busy hating and punishing refugees).

no to refugees Nauru Detention Centre

Or… If a crowd gathers in the city and no one is there to report it, did it really gather? Maybe it did in the hearts and minds of those who were there, but for anyone else, or in the archives of history?… Well maybe not.

march in march

We have been told a lot of things recently, (much of it negative), about everything from the unions to environmentalists, from asylum seekers to the NBN. And while it’s easy to put a question mark over anything a politician might say in an effort to popularise their chosen policy agenda; I can not help but wonder if a press core that is practically a monopoly, (and known to actively pursue it’s owners personal agendas), is actually telling us the whole truth, or even any small part of it?

Like many others I can’t quite shake the feeling that we’re being fed a grab bag of skilfully crafted misinformation, half truths and innuendo designed to direct our hostility toward the poor and disenfranchised, or anyone out there pushing for a fairer, more sustainable policy agenda.

According to the official story, Australians are apparently (on average) far richer than we were 10 years ago… but for some rather opaque reason we just don’t feel it.
I can’t help but wonder why that is?

Is it because we feel more entitled than we used to? (If we don’t have a car, a mobile phone, a laptop, an ipad, a kindle, a 50″ TV, Foxtel, Quickflix, a yearly overseas holiday, and at least 3 restaurant meals a week we think we are suffering an intolerable injustice?).

Is it that we are constantly being assaulted by the relentless negativity of a 24 hour news cycle, telling us that our unfettered access to “more stuff” is being threatened by the poor and disenfranchised?

Or maybe it’s that the wealth is only going to the top end of town, and no one else is reaping the benefit?

It’s perfectly understandable that when we are feeling squeezed we like to have someone to blame, but it is worth asking ourselves, is our anger being misplaced?

Here we are, literally seething with contempt for refugees, single mothers, greenies, protesters, students, socialists, the disabled, lefties, intellectuals and the all those former bank and manufacturing workers that have now joined the ranks of the unemployed. Meanwhile the gap between the haves and have nots is at an all time high. Our trusty government is busy reducing taxes for the top end of town, Corporate profits are breaking records left and right, (but strangely corporate tax receipts are not, Google, for example, had revenue of over $1 billion in Australia in 2012, and yet paid only $74k tax). CEO’s wages and share options continue to defy gravity, and our banks, whilst being incredulously profitable, are shipping jobs off shore faster than you can say “transaction fee”, and so it goes…

*(brings to mind a joke I heard recently: A banker, a Daily Telegraph reader and a refugee are out to lunch. The waiter puts down a plate with twelve biscuits on it; the banker takes eleven, nudges the Telegraph reader and says “hey watch it mate, that refugee wants your biscuit”)

Everyone knows trickle down economics is bunk, and yet we keep buying into the myth, lauding the lords and kicking the powerless. The cognitive dissonance simply staggering!

So my question is this…Who’s interests does this new hateful narrative really serve? Murdoch and his buddies in the 1%, or those of us in the mortgage belt?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not wholly blaming Murdoch. We all lobby for our own interests, and why should he be any different. What I am saying however is that a virtual monopoly concentration of Australia’s media in any ones hands is dangerous. We need visible, diverse mainstream media to give a balanced range of views.

We also need some measure of mainstream media presence that is not driven by profit, or dictated to by advertising revenue and share holder values. We need a media that is prepared to objectively challenge the veracity of the story as told to us by Murdoch, (and given the governments proposed changes to section 18c of the racial vilification act this is now more important than ever).

In short, we need our ABC.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’LetitiaMcQuade’ show_count=’yes’]

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Your guide to becoming Andrew Bolt!

Andrew Bolt (image from theage.com.au)

Andrew Bolt (image from theage.com.au)

First, you need to be very, very sure that you’re right. Not right-wing, mind you. Just right. About everything. You know this because, well, you’re always right aren’t you?

The best way to show people that you’re right is to point out that how wrong others are. You can attack them for being nasty and mean-natured and show examples where they have attacked Tony Abbott or John Howard. This just shows how pusillanamous they are. (Throw in a word like that to show your reader that you’re smarter than they are). You can also show how those feral losers support people like Bob Brown and Julia Gillard, who no-one should support because people organise demonstrations with things like “Ditch the Witch” signs. If anyone puts a comment on your blog, pointing out the contradiction here, delete it as offensive, as are all comments that disagree with you.

Similarly, if any other news outlet presents a view different from yours, attack them for their bias. Cite examples where they present a different perspective and use this as proof of their lack of balance.

Next, you actually quote those you are trying to make look ridiculous. But quote selectively. Don’t give the context, or the full quote. And never let them get away with irony or hyperbole, make sure that you reader knows that they meant exactly what they said.

For example, in his recent blog, Andrew Bolt wrote:

‘Every one of them knows what a supporter I have been of the Jewish community, not just in print, yet not one publicly protested when a Jewish QC told a Jewish judge in my case something far more foul than anything I had written – that my thinking resembled that of the Nazis who drew up the Nuremberg race laws. That obscene slur struck me as a legally sanctioned defamation’

Now, the way to quote this would be:

“After, for some reason feeling the need to point out that both his prosecutor and the judge were Jewish, Bolt wrote: ‘my thinking resembled that of the Nazis who drew up the Nuremberg race laws'”

He adds the following Postscript:

‘I have been warned that some people are taking offence at my mentioning the religion of the judge and the barristers for the complainants. One Jewish community leader has even had the hide to wonder in an email to me if I was suggesting a “Jewish conspiracy”.

It should be clear – and would be to those who know me – that the reference is made to suggest just how much an insult was meant by the Nazi reference and how explosive it was in the context of the case.’

After some selective editing, this, of course, becomes:

“Bolt went on to say, ‘I have been warned that some people are taking offence at my mentioning the religion of the judge and the barristers for the complainants…

It should be clear – and would be to those who know me – that the reference is made to suggest just how much an insult was meant’.”

However, it’s not enough to expect your readers to just accept that you’re right. You need to back it up with evidence. Numbers are always good. Just quote some statistics. They don’t need to demonstrate anything, but they look good. For example, you could say that since this morning there have been no boat arrivals, whereas on this date in 2009 thirty seven “asylum seekers” invaded Christmas Island. Call it a drop of 100% and use it as undeniable evidence that Abbott is not a mysognist.

You can also quote experts. An expert is – by definition – someone who agrees with you. If they’re in the majority, that’s proof enough that they’re right. After all, that’s how democracy works. Any contrary views are “radical” or “whacky”. But, if the expert is in the minority, that’s evidence that they’re thinking for themselves, and not going along with the mob. Even if they’ve only been published in an obscure newspaper in Lithuania, this is proof that that sensible views like this – which coincides with yours – can’t get widespread publication. (And if anyone points out that your column gets widespread publication and, therefore, so do these views, tell them that, typically, the Left is trying to distract from the main argument, or better yet, delete their comment as offensive.)

Emotive language is another useful tool.

People making extreme predictions on climate change are “alarmist”; anyone making less extreme predictions just shows that climate scientists are admitting that they were wrong.

Unions using money to further political interests is a “slush fund”; business groups, on the other hand, have a “war chest” or “fighting fund”.

Any government initiative or tax break is “socialism” or “social engineering” if it doesn’t go to an approved industry; on the other hand, tax breaks on diesel to primary industry encourages capitalism.

Climate scientists joined with the Gillard government to invent as excuse for a “toxic tax”; anyone suggesting collusion between businesses is “paranoid” or “delusional”.

Women can be “hysterical” or “shrill” if they argue against you; should anyone complain about this the “feminazis” and “politically correct” are stifling free speech.

Remember that your aim is not find solutions to complex problems. You already have all the answers – they’re obvious and don’t need to spelled out in any detail.

Your aim is to annoy as many people as you can without upsetting your supporters!

If you can do all this, then you, too, may be able to have a column read by thousands of people every day. So what if future generations read your predictions and laugh. You know, after some of the statements from people in the Abbott Government, anything you’ve written will seem minor by comparison.

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The ABC of Bias, Perspective and Reality

After telling me the way that it was, he concluded with, “Don’t think I’m racist or anything!”

I replied, “Gee, I expect that I am. I’ve grown up in a country that endorses predominantly white Anglo-Saxon attitudes. I don’t see how I can avoid some of that rubbing off on me.”

He looked at me.

“I know that I shouldn’t be, and I try to notice if I’m being racist, but I’ll bet that some the views and values that were around as I growing up affect the way I view things.. Still, the points you were making about the apology to the stolen generation strike me as quite reasonable. LIke the bit about people thinking that they were doing the right thing. So long as a person thinks they’re doing the right thing, there’s no need for an apology. It’s only when people knowingly do the wrong thing that you should apologise. Sort of like speeding because you’re in a hurry and having an accident, no need for an apology because you believed that you were doing the right thing by trying to get home as quickly as possible…”

“What the f*ck are you talking about?” he interrupted.

  • * *

From time to time, some Tony Abbott supporter will post a comment along the lines of me being a Labor-supporting looney, as though being a member of the Labor Party automatically disqualifies you from an opinion.

Pointing out the fact that I’m not a member of the Labor Party and have criticised them in the past doesn’t seem to matter. The next assumption is that I’m a supporter of The Greens.

You see, unless you support the Liberals and Tony Abbott, their logic goes, you must be biased.

Normally, I just laugh such things off or put truly outrageous arguments back. Or just thank them for their intelligent contribution and say how nice it is to hear that people are reading what I write and actually thinking about it – it’s gratifying to know that I’ve changed someone’s mind. Their abuse when they tell me that I haven’t changed their mind and that latte-sipping lefties like me should be taken out and shot enables me to tell them that I’m about to have another Chardonnay – which in case they haven’t heard is making a comeback. Probably thanks to Tony Abbott.

But lately the debate on the ABC has made me truly worry about the state of some people’s mental health.

Let me see if I can give you my perspective. Of course, it will be biased. Everyone is, because everyone has a different perspective. By sharing perspectives, we can work out whether one’s perspective is similar to everyone else’s or radically different. If the latter, why? What experiences have lead one to question the orthodox view? And through this process, we gain greater understanding and greater perspectives.

  • * *

All right, stop the bleeding heart stuff, next you’ll have us all singing “Kumba Ya”.

Why are you complaing about alleged ABC bias, didn’t the Murdoch Press attack the Labor Government ceaselessly?

The Murdoch Press is allowed to criticise the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government because it was truly incompetent – the “worst ever”.

How do we know this?

Well, the Murdoch Press told us.

Isn’t this showing bias?

No, it’s just stating the facts!

Isn’t “worst” an opinion?

Well, the Murdoch Press is privately owned, why shouldn’t it be allowed to express an opinion – are you trying to stifle free speech?

No, but on the ABC last week…

The ABC! It’s left wing bias has to be stopped.

Didn’t you just say that the media should be allowed to express an opinion?

The privately owned media, the ABC is taxpayer funded – it shouldn’t be biased

Yeah, but what’s the evidence of bias?

Their presenters often disagree with the Murdoch view. They never have a right wing perspective, as Josh Frydenberg said on ABC radio last week, backing up the point Piers Akerman made on “The Insiders” a few weeks ago.

Aren’t they a right wing perspective on the ABC?

Yeah, but they’re the exception.

Well, there’s a weekly show on ABC radio where a member of the IPA debates a more left-wing person on the events of the week.

Why couldn’t the IPA person debate without another leftie being there?? And where’s the right wing equivalent of Philip Adams on the ABC?

Philip Adams, the millionaire who writes for The Australian? Is he the most extreme example of the left on the ABC?

That just shows that the Murdoch Press give a variety of views! The ABC needs to sold.

  • * *

Of course, perhaps Howard’s appointments to the ABC were an attempt to ensure that it had no bias. Let’s see, there was his close friend, Donald McDonald, as well as Janet Albrechtsen and the “anti-blackarm- band” campaigner, Keith Windschuttle. Balanced appointments there! And Michael Kroger, ex-president of the Liberal Party.

Now, that should have helped provide some balance, I would have thought. Or was the culture so entrenched that they somehow thought that these people might be showing a bias of their own, rather than realising that – like Murdoch – they had an implicit understanding of the Truth, and any disagreement displayed an entrenched bias and a refusal to recognise the Truth.

 

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 301 total views

Let’s ignore the polls for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image

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

Although, I did read that Malcolm Turnbull was giving the ABC a “lashing”:
Malcolm Turnbull accuses ABC of shocking error of judgment on spy story
Interesting that the Murdoch press who were say scathing about the need for any controls on the freedom of the press, now have no problem with the Communications Minister telling the ABC what they shouldn’t be publishing.

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

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A Liberal Defence

We’re Liberal – With The Truth!

Ok, it’s time for some balance on The AIMN. There have been far too many anti-Government posts and I’m taking it upon myself to defend the actions of Abbott and company.

Let’s start with the clear bias being showed by certain media outlets. The ABC have tried to embarrass the Government by revealing the Powerpoint that suggested that we had been spying on the Indonesian President. It was ABSOLUTELY wrong of them to publish this. Stories about what Australian Intelligence is doing should NEVER EVER be published. Reponsible media outlets have frequently surpressed stories that aren’t in anyone’s interest. How much have you read about the TPP, or the Leveson inquiry? As some have suggested, this borders on treason. The second point with this, of course, is the timing. Clearly, the ABC and The Guardian conspired together to wait until after the election. This story should have been published months ago when Labor was in power.

Of course, the media does have a set against the Liberals. As Andrew Bolt points out in his blog, there have been a number of articles in the Fairfax papers critical of members of the Abbott Government. Headlines like “Hockey blows $3b hole in budget” and “Barnaby Joyce says that rugby league expenses were official business” are clearly designed to create a negative impression on the reader. Nothing Barnaby says should be reported unless it’s first cleared by one of the adults.

(The ABC in particular keeps trotting out shows with ex-Labor ministers, and they even tried to make you see Julia Gillard in an affectionate light, with their program, “At Home With Julia” – a sit-com purporting to show Tim and Julia at home. But will they have something like “Hard Times With The Boys” – a sit-com supposedly showing what a ficticious Abbott is doing at the police training academy? I very much doubt it!)

We promised to stop you having to worry about boat arrivals being the front page of your newspaper every day. I don’t think anyone can accuse us of failing to deliver on that promise. But the media are upset because now they actually have to find other things to write about, but why should the Abbott Government get the blame for that?

Then there was the furore over Hockey’s request to raise the debt ceiling to a mere five hundred billion dollars. The way some of the media reported it, you’d think that debt was a problem in this country. Fortunately, many economists and other experts were quoted as saying that we don’t even need a debt ceiling. Unless, of course, Labor is in power, because they put things on the credit card and we have to pay it off, by borrowing more money, so they should have one, but a much lower one. We’ll only be using the increased borrowings to pay off the debts that Labor will be racking up over the next two or three years.

As for the recent attempts by the press gallery to suggest that the recent statements by Christopher Pyne on education were somehow a broken promise, I find it incredible just how stupid some of the media can be. What Pyne said before the election was that they had a “unity ticket” on Gonski and as we all know, just because you have a ticket, that doesn’t mean you have to go to the show. Some people might give their ticket to someone else. Or sell it. There is no compulsion for you to use your ticket and the Liberals can hardly be blamed if the media is too stupid to recognise that.

As for the statement: “you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”, it’s easy to see that by “your school” what was meant was overall funding and not specifically your particular school. To try and argue that “your school” means “the school you send your kids to” is the sort of tricky word play that we’ve come to expect from Shorten and his mob, and really you shouldn’t be sucked in by it.

Finally, we have the inconsistency on complaints about foreign aid. First the bleeding hearts want us to help out other countries, then they complain when we give Sri Lanka a couple of boats to help save people from ending up in a place like Manus Island or Nauru. Not that there’s anything wrong with these detention centres. In fact, by the time we may even lease them out as holiday detentions once all the boats are stopped.

[polldaddy poll=7600353]

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Double Dissolution Now! Well, no, that’s actually not possible…

At the end of an article on the Governor General’s offer to resign, a journalist wrote that there better not be a Double Dissolution before March, which is when Quentin Bryce is due to finish her term. This struck me as odd. I realise that there are a lot of people who don’t understand the Constitution, or the rules surrounding such things. But this was a political journalist writing for a major newspaper.

So let’s look at why this comment was either sensationalism or stupidity. For a double dissolution to occur certain conditions need to be met. The first is that there needs to be a “trigger”.

The conditions stipulated by section 57 of the Constitution are:

  • The trigger bill originated in the House of Representatives.
  • Three months elapsed between the two rejections of the bill by the Senate (“rejection” in this context can extend to the Senate’s failure to pass the bill, or to the Senate passing it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree).
  • The second rejection occurred in the same session as the first, or the subsequent session, but no later.

Now, the first point is that Tony Abbott has been in no hurry to recall Parliament. We don’t have a date but let’s say it’s in November sometime. A Bill has to be introduced, debated AND rejected by the Senate. Generally speaking this is not a quick process. The Senate could use a number of means to slow down the outright rejection of the Bill, such as amending it, and sending it back to the House of Representatives. But for the sake of fairness let’s say that the Bill is rejected by end of November.

Parliament won’t sit again until February, so assuming the Bill is rejected at the end of February – again it needs to be three months after the first rejection, so that’s the earliest before the conditions for Double Dissolution can be met. From this time, even if Tony Abbott picked the shortest possible time to campaign, the election would still be a month later.

So, the END of March is the EARLIEST a double dissolution could be held. There is no way that Bryce will still be there when the election is held. Well, unless you consider the possibility that Abbott will ask her to stay on for a while longer.

Now, let’s just consider the politics of this for a second. It looks possible that Clive and his PUPets will support the end of the Carbon Pollution Tax. (Once they can get people to drop the “Carbon” entirely, Labor have won the Framing battle. See my previous Framing blog, if this doesn’t make sense.) Would Abbott risk reducing his majority just to get the Carbon Tax through a few months earlier? In terms of balancing the Budget, returns from any tax are helpful – particularly a “great big tax on everything” – and when you can collect revenue while blaming the previous government, why would you be in a rush to end it?

For several months, I kept pointing out there was no way that the charges against Craig Thomson would bring down the Gillard Government. He may resign because he just didn’t want the pressure, but there was no way that he’d be charged and convicted before the election, even if one ignored the possibility of him staying in Parliament, pending an appeal. The Courts just don’t work that quickly. Compared to the idea that a double dissolution could be held by March, at least there was some scenario where that was possible.

Newspapers complain that the Internet is dangerous because ordinary people can put out misinformation. Before they can be even remotely be taken seriously, they need to stop presenting gossip and ignorance as news.

 

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 321 total views

An invitation to Tony Abbott

Three months out from the federal election Tony Abbott must be very frustrated. He has only three months to tell us what he will do as Prime Minister but the mainstream media (MSM) cruelly refuse to hand him the microphone. He must be wondering why they’re not interested in asking him those little things about policies, plans, visions. I’m sure he has many. I’m sure he wants to tell us what they are.

If the MSM refuse to show him some courtesy then he has one alternative: the independent media. We would love to accommodate him. We’d love to ask him those questions that the MSM so rudely ignore.

Tony, we’re here to your rescue. Among the social and independent media your policies, plans and visions will reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of news hungry readers. At least those readers will be privileged to hear first hand what to expect from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

So we invite you to speak to us.

I know that political parties keep a very sharp eye on political blog sites so I know that someone in the Coalition will be alerted to this post. Could that person please inform Tony Abbott that we want to speak to him? He could always get in touch with us here at The AIMN and following on from that we can arrange an interview with the independent media groups. It will provide Tony with the best opportunity to proudly announce what he has, to date, been robbed from doing: answering questions.

We, and only we, are interested in revealing Prime Minister Abbott to the electorate prior to the election. And I’m sure that Tony Abbott is desperate for the electorate to know more about him. How can he hope to promote himself through a lazy, uninterested, incompetent mainstream media?

By talking to our keen ears we can hear of – and propagate – the election-winning policies that are currently being stifled by the media. At last he’ll find an audience to hear him out.

Hence, Mr Abbott, we offer this invitation to you to come and talk to us.

Allay the fears of many undecided voters who have not had the opportunity to learn what you stand for, especially given there is a possibility that you might control both houses of Parliament. Some people are petrified at this prospect and the devastation you might create because of your inane personality, your reliance on Catholicism and the simplistic minds of your shadow cabinet. You can dispel those fears, which is something the MSM have not given you the opportunity to do.

Your vision is worthless without public support and yes, we are here to support you.

But let’s cut to the chase. Talk to us, on more than anything, about the Institute of Public Affairs; that free market right wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and closely aligned to the Liberal Party. There are rumours in the electorate that every one of your policies, plans or visions has been generated from the influence this think tank has over your party. And while the MSM are not interested to discuss this issue with you, we are.

In an article by the IPA titled Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia the authors suggest that:

“If he wins government, Abbott faces a clear choice. He could simply overturn one or two symbolic Gillard-era policies like the carbon tax, and govern moderately. He would not offend any interest groups. In doing so, he’d probably secure a couple of terms in office for himself and the Liberal Party. But would this be a successful government? We don’t believe so. The remorseless drift to bigger government and less freedom would not halt, and it would resume with vigour when the Coalition eventually loses office. We hope he grasps the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the political culture and stem the assault on individual liberty.”

It is the essence of that last sentence that particularly grates people and the following list gives people the wrong impression of the havoc you might cause. Here’s your chance to undo it. A chance denied by the MSM.

1. Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.
2. Abolish the Department of Climate Change
3. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
4. Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
5. Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
6. Repeal the renewable energy target
7. Return income taxing powers to the states
8. Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
9. Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
10. Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
11. Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
12. Repeal the National Curriculum
13. Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
14. Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
15. Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
16. Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
17. End local content requirements for Australian television stations
18. Eliminate family tax benefits
19. Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
20. Means-test Medicare
21. End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
22. Introduce voluntary voting
23. End mandatory disclosures on political donations
24. End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
25. End public funding to political parties
26. Remove anti-dumping laws
27. Eliminate media ownership restrictions
28. Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
29. Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
30. Cease subsidising the car industry
31. Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
32. Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books
34. End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
35. Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
36. Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
37. Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
38. Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
39. Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
40. Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
41. Repeal the alcopops tax
42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:

a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

43. Repeal the mining tax
44. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
45. Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
46. Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
47. Cease funding the Australia Network
48. Privatise Australia Post
49. Privatise Medibank
50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
51. Privatise SBS
52. Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
53. Repeal the Fair Work Act
54. Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
55. Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
56. Abolish the Baby Bonus
57. Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
58. Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
59. Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
60. Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
61. Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
62. End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
63. Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
64. End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
65. Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
66. Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
67. Means test tertiary student loans
68. Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
69. Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
70. End all government funded Nanny State advertising
71. Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
72. Privatise the CSIRO
73. Defund Harmony Day
74. Close the Office for Youth
75. Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

Of course, some of those have very little bearing on the electorate. But some have a massive impact. You have been denied the opportunity to discuss these issues with the MSM while we in the independent media have been screaming for you to have a say. So come along and meet with us. Let us be the microphone that blasts your message across Australia. I doubt you’ll never get another chance.

We’d love to chat with you about the above, plus much more. You might even take this as an opportunity to re-affirm that WorkChoices is dead in the water. Put our minds at ease. You can only do this through bypassing the MSM.

My thanks go to John Lord whose article “Public apathy and 75 ideas to make you shudder” inspired this invitation to Tony Abbott.

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Poll woes for Julia Gillard – the solution, possibly the final solution!

Newspoll is suggesting that the Julia Gillard Labor Government is heading for a thumping. It seems hopeless, and there is speculation that it may start a fresh round of leadership speculation.

Ok, I guess I should nail my colours to the mast here and say that I’ve never really been a whole-hearted Julia Gillard supporter. I always thought that her voice was too nasal and that her hairstyle so unlike previous leaders, so I doubted that she’d ever become PM, but she somehow managed to get there, and slowly she’s won me over by her focus on good policy and getting things done, rather than the politics.

But it seems I’m in the minority. So I have to concede that instead of concentrating on silly things like the NBN, which apparently causes asbestos to appear in the street, or disability insurance, she should have been concentrating on keeping our borders safe. While Julia Gillard has been twiddling her thumbs, the Opposition have been working on a deal with Indonesia to stop the boats, and pretty soon they’ll have that in a form where they can let the Indonesians know about it.

I know that the only way that Labor can defuse this boat issue is to come up with a better policy. All right, they did try the Malaysian solution, but the Liberals complained that was inhumane. They did try the Pacific Solution, which the Liberals complained was their policy – until it hasn’t worked. Now the Liberals are suggesting that the only way is to tow back the boats. But I suggest that Labor should go one step further and have a “Sink the Boats” policy – in a totally humane way, of course. We’d only be sinking them to discourage other people from taking that risky voyage in a leaky boat.

Of course, we know that Julia Gillard won’t do this, so the only thing to do is to replace her as leader. Kevin Rudd would be divisive and make it appear as they Labor didn’t know what it was doing. They could offer it to Malcolm Turnbull, but I hear a rumour that he’d have a problem with sinking innocent women and children, so that only leaves one option. They should offer the leadership to Gina Rinehart. (Although Turnbull no longer has a problem with rising sea levels, since he got rolled as Opposition Leader for endorsing an emissions trading scheme!).

I know that it may seem a little strange, but I don’t see anyone else who’d have enough money to counter Rupert’s push to install Tony. And I know some of you would say that she wouldn’t be prepared to stand for the Labor Party, but I’m sure that if they promised to abolish the Mining Tax, the Carbon Tax and slash the minimum wage to $5 a day, she’d consider it. An agreement that they’d re-introduce Work Choices should just about clinch the deal.

Of course, they’ve already got a problem with the Budget not balancing this year, so rather than restricting spending and trying to raise revenue before the election, they could offer tax cuts to all and re-introduce the Baby Bonus retrospectively for anyone who’d ever been a baby.

In an effort to reduce the damage of Craig Thomson, all union officials should be jailed pending investigation. Once they can prove that they’ve never done anything wrong, they can be released, of course, but only after they’ve won the election. (Anyone who confesses to the theft of a pen could be released for time already served, in the hope that it’d encourage others to admit to crimes also).

With these simple steps, Labor may again be a winning chance at the election. And surely, winning the election’s what counts. In forty years, no-one will care that Julia Gillard introduced the NDIS. After all, who remembers that Gough introduced Medicare (Medibank) or that he bought “Blue Poles” for a fraction of its value today. But we all remember who won the 1974 election…

Don’t we?

 

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