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Tag Archives: The Australian

Labor’s “brave” review fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next, he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s, Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent descent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion-dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next, he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three-volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants, not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion-dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief? wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation, the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as day that we’re responsible for the drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.

 

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Shock Jocks, Turnbull And Housetraining . . .

Ok, I am aware that there’s a certain type in the media who relies on saying something shocking in order to create the sort of controversy that gets them noticed. And there are some who’d say anything that someone paid them to say.

They’re the sort who are “housetrained”. Bring out your chequebook and they’ll tell you that black is white.

Sorry, Andrew, that’s just a figure of speech, so don’t get all funny about that court case, and Alan we’ve forgotten all about that Media Watch!

I mean, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt are pillars. They are extraordinary human beings.

How do I know this?

Well, a few days ago, someone was suggesting that Turnbull had a “narcissist personality disorder”. And there were descriptions about what such a thing meant, but to use the Wikipedia defintion, it means that “a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.”

And yet, in spite of Turnbull’s alleged disorder, we’re told today, by Andrew Bolt that he’s been “housetrained”.

That’s Turnbull, not Bolt. Nobody could ever accuse Bolt of being “housetrained”.

Anyway, this Prime Minister – the one with prestige and vanity – has been harnessed by Jones and Bolt.

Yep, Bolt wrote today:

“So, yes, I should feel like Samson after a haircut. But here’s the funny thing. We’ve actually won. Me and Alan. We’ve house-trained Turnbull.”

Now some of you may have a problem with the idea that a Prime Minister could be the pet of two people who’s only claim to representing the people is that they give their opinion and that they don’t listen to anyone else. But, in Bolt’s world, this is what democracy means. He has the right to say whatever he likes and anyone who disagrees should be shut down, shut up or shut off.

After all, as he said when that other Murdoch paper, The Australian, had the temerity to critiicism him, he only has his reputation, so nobody should attack that. Particularly a paper that relies on the tabloids to subsidise it.

Now some may see a problem with the idea that Malcolm Turnbull would “housetrained” by such a person, but I don’t.

That’s because I read Andrew Bolt’s column today. And that means that I know all that I need to know. Because even though Bolt never completed his university degree, he’s somehow been able to become an expert on everything.

Even controlling PM’s with alleged narcissist disorders.

Pity he didn’t do it when Tony and Peta were running things . . .

 

Tony Abbott is Prime Minister of Australia – go figure.

Tony Abbott is Prime Minister of Australia.  It is one of those things that you know is true but remains incomprehensible.  Like the concept of infinity.  It’s hard to get your head around.

In most jobs you need to satisfy key criteria to even get an interview.  To get a managerial position you must have experience and proven expertise.  Along the way your success in meeting key performance indicators will be assessed.

Leaders should be people who inspire others, they should be role models and protectors, they should listen and empower, they should have good people skills and be able to negotiate, they should be trustworthy and able to explain the reasons for their decisions.

Or you can just agree to say climate change is crap, and become the leader of the nation.

But how did Tony even become a contender?

He attended a Catholic boys school where he bemoaned the fact that he was never chosen for the First XV rugby team.  Apparently this was not due to a lack of talent but to selectors who did not recognise Tony’s ability.

Tony then went on to study economics/law at Sydney University (for free) even though he never worked in either field and described economics as a boring “dismal science”.

Tony was active in student politics, eventually becoming an unpopular leader of the Student Representative Council.

“During my term, despite my objections, the SRC, continued to give money to feminist, environmental and anti-nuclear groups. I never managed to have the feminist and homosexuals’ slogans on the SRC walls painted over nor to open the ‘Womens’ Room’ to men, nor to make the SRC more accountable by ending compulsory SRC fees.”

Contacts within the Jesuit network secured a Rhodes scholarship for Tony to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford even though he had campaigned fiercely against the Philosophy and Political Economy courses at Sydney University describing them as a waste of resources and a hotbed of Marxist feminists.

The selectors for the Oxford rugby team also failed to appreciate Tony’s talent, dropping him after one game and suggesting that his ability had been overstated.

When he returned to Australia, Tony entered the seminary to train for the priesthood but quickly became disillusioned with a church who had “lost its way” in his opinion.

“Looking back, it seems that I was seeking a spiritual and human excellence to which the Church is no longer sure she aspires. My feeble attempts to recall her to her duty — as I saw it — betrayed a fathomless disappointment at the collapse of a cherished ideal.

In addition, a “cooperative” style of management ran counter to the Church’s age-old hierarchical structure.

The more they played up lay ministry and ecumenism and played down the unique role of the priest in the one true Church, the more the struggle seemed pointless and the more I wanted to participate in worldly activities which were much more to my taste.

l felt “had” by a seminary that so stressed ”empathy” with sinners and “dialogue” with the Church’s enemies that the priesthood seemed to have lost its point.”

Of his time at St Patrick’s seminary, vice-rector Fr Bill Wright wrote of Tony that many found him “just too formidable to talk to unless to agree; overbearing and opiniated”.

“Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

Tony had been writing the occasional article for the Catholic Weekly and, when he left the seminary, he began writing for the Packer-owned Bulletin where, interestingly, he instigated strike action over the sacking of photographers.

“When I was at the Bulletin, ACP management one day, quite unilaterally, decided to sack the entire photographic department ….we were all shocked, stunned, dismayed, appalled, flabbergasted – when management just came in and said they were sacking the photographic department. So we immediately had a stop work meeting. There were various appropriately angry speeches made and I moved the resolution to go on strike, which was carried, as far as I can recall, unanimously, and we went on strike for a couple of days.”

Tony only lasted about a year before he was writing to wealthy contacts looking for a job.  Through the Jesuit network, he got one managing a concrete plant and very quickly found himself causing a total shutdown through his inept handling of employees.

In a 2001 interview with Workers Online Tony explained what happened.  Interestingly, some time between me quoting the article in August and now, it has been removed.  I guess we now know what all those people employed to trawl social media are being paid to do – erase history.  It is happening to an increasing number of links but it is too late, the information is out there.

“I got to the plant in the morning, marched up and down the line of trucks like a Prussian army officer, telling owner-drivers who had been in the industry for longer than I had been alive, that that truck was too dirty, and that truck was filthy, and that truck had a leaking valve and had to be fixed.

Naturally enough, this wasn’t very popular, and I had been there a couple of months, and a phone call came through one morning from the quarry manager, saying that there was going to be a strike starting at midday.”

Tony then took it upon himself to take delivery and run the conveyer belt on his own.

“A phone call came through at 5.30 the next morning from the senior plant operator saying: “Did you turn the conveyor belt on yesterday?”. I said “Yeh”. He says “Right – nothing moves – this plant’s black – like to see you get yourself out of this little fix Sonny Boy!”

I thought that there’s really only one thing to do, and that’s to beg. So I got over there and I said to the senior plant operator. I said: “Stan I’m sorry. I’m new in this industry. I appreciate that I’ve been a bit of a so-and-so, but you’ve made your point and I will try to be different.”

He said to me: “It’s out of my hands. It’s in the hands of the union organiser.” So I said, who’s the union organiser and what’s his number? I rang him and I sort of begged and pleaded.  I said, well, look why don’t we put the old final warning. That if I ever do this again, I’ll be run out of the industry. And there was silence on the end of the phone, and after about ten seconds he said: “I’m putting you on a final warning mate, if this ever happens again you will be run out of the industry.”

Abbott soon quit the job as it wasn’t paying enough money and accepted a position with The Australian as a journalist. When they went on strike over pay and conditions, Tony was by now campaigning on the side of management, arguing in front of six to seven hundred people at the lower Trades Hall in Sussex Street that they shouldn’t go on strike.  His speech did not meet with a particularly warm reception and the strikes went ahead.

He continued writing at The Australian until John Howard recommended him for a position as the then Federal Liberal leader John Hewson’s press secretary.  Tony was responsible for the infamous line in a Hewson speech saying you could tell the rental houses in a street.

Is it any wonder that Hockey thinks that “poor people don’t drive” and Pyne thinks that “women don’t take expensive degrees”?

In 1994 Tony was gifted the safe Liberal seat of Warringah in a by-election and has been skating ever since.

He has changed his mind on innumerable things, lied and contradicted himself countless times, and then denied lying, even changing his words and removing online links.

He is a man whose convictions are dictated to him by polls and focus groups in marginal seats and by marketing teams.  Peta Credlin has increasingly centralized control failing to learn the Rudd lesson.

Tony learns his script but does not bother reading actual reports, relying on others to just tell him what to say.  His Star Chamber silence dissent, pay hacks to produce reports saying what they want to hear, refuse to release any that may be critical or negative, while arrogantly and blatantly rewarding their political donors.

Tony is not a leader by any stretch of the imagination.

It is not the Labor Party who is stopping this from being a decent government.

Darren Lockyer, the Pope, Tony Abbott and a school boy were all on the same plane when the engine failed and started to plummet towards the Earth.

They all realised that there was four of them and only three parachutes.

Darren Lockyer got up and said, “I am a sporting superstar and must live so that I can please my fans and continue my career to beat the Kiwis and the Poms in the tri-nations series.”

So he grabbed a parachute and jumped out of the plane.

Then Tony Abbott got up and said, “I am the smartest Prime Minister Australia has ever had and I need to live to continue to govern the nation.”

So he grabbed a parachute and jumped out of the plane.

Then the Pope said to the school boy, “I am old and have lived my life so you should take the last parachute instead of me.”

The school boy replied, “No, it’s okay, the worlds smartest Prime Minister took my school bag so there’s one for each of us!”

Abbott is Murdoch’s dream come true

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

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

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

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

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

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

He then gives a backhanded compliment to him:

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

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

To top off this childish spray he says:

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

What a puerile effort!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Abbott Praetorian Guard at The Australian

Image courtesy of video.news.com.au

Image courtesy of video.news.com.au

The Abbott Pretorian Guard at The Australian – and all other Murdoch newspapers – have closed ranks around their man in The Lodge. A man under siege from all sides.

He accrues baggage every single time he opens his mouth. The outrage on social media is palpable.

The Australian likes to conveniently disregard Twitter as being “Left biased”.

The same can’t be said for Facebook with its much larger user base.

Facebook is also lighting up with fury over the regressive agenda of the Coalition.

The nation wide community organised rally movement March in March has been gathering momentum almost entirely on Facebook.

People are unimpressed and they are angry about Abbott’s vision of helping the big end of town at the expense of the social safety that everyday Australians rely on.

The Australian way of life is being severely damaged and in record time.

I am absolutely hostile towards Tony Abbott and all he stands for. I have made that clear time and time again. I wear it as a badge of honour. We deserve better than the sorry lot we have in charge now.

The Murdoch media is busily trying to spin Abbott’s horrendous showing at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s made worse by the fact he is currently the President of the G20.

Unfortunately, the man whose turn it was in The Weekend Australian to plead Abbott’s case, Dennis Shanahan, isn’t so clear about his motives and objectives when writing his opinion pieces.

He spurns Labor every time he mentions them no matter what the issue. He praises the Coalition at every opportunity. Just the way Murdoch likes it.

It would not surprise me if he, along with Paul Kelly and Henry Ergas, is in regular contact with Murdoch about what to write and how to write.

They are Rupert’s de facto voices in The Australian.

I would say Rupert writes them himself but I have seen his writing and I wrote better in my first semester of journalism school.

Dennis at least can string his words together.

I also assume Dennis talks to Abbott frequently. Mr Abbott only talks regularly to those in the media who are friendly towards his warped agenda.

This would easily explain why he relishes talking to 2GB and other divisive, biased and deceptive shock jocks who pander to the lowest common denominator.

Abbott, along with his ministers, is not as keen to appear on Lateline, 7:30, ABC or Q&A.

How many days since his last appearance on Q&A again?

This can mostly be put down to the overly controlling Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, the wife of the Liberal Party head Brian Lougnanne.

This woman has more power than the hapless and effectively irrelevant Deputy PM Warren Truss of the disregarded National Party.

Credlin is the woman to blame for several ministers in hiding, most prominently the disgraceful Scott Morrison.

Truth, facts, scrutiny and accountability scare this government witless. Disregard any election commitment in this regard.

Shanahan’s characteristically fawning piece is hard to take seriously.

A quick look at the latest polls suggests all is not “beer and skittles” for the Abbott Government, as Dennis tries to suggest.

Dennis seems to laugh at the concept of Abbott being presented as “old-fashioned, unthinking, ‘innumerate’, and uninterested when it comes to economics”.

A quick Google search of Tony Abbott or a visit to YouTube would suggest Dennis either hasn’t done his research on this man, believes in his agenda or is utterly clueless and blind to reality. Maybe all of them.

Tony Abbott is the most conservative – and pathetic leader – Australia has had since the early 70s under the hopeless and out of touch Billy McMahon.

That’s right, Billy McMahon. The same Prime Minister who was so abysmal Murdoch refused to support him during the 1972 federal election.

Nobody with any sense can dispute Abbott’s conservatism.

His notorious history at Sydney University is enough to suggest he is completely out of step, destructive, negative and aggressive.

He happily and cunningly walks the path of negative fear politics and brings out the worst in people.

Typical divisive Tory politics.

This might be expected in university but at the highest level it disgraces the good name of our country.

Some Young Liberals have followed his lead. Nasty trolls with no policy clue whatsoever and a backward view of the world.

Dennis says how happy “senior business people” were with him and his speech.

He says foreign business leaders were all saying they wished they “could have one of him”.

They want him? They can have him!

Tony Abbott is the leader that the business community wanted desperately and helped elect.

Why wouldn’t they be happy?

While business falls over itself to take advantage of Abbott’s selfish business orientated agenda the attacks on ordinary Australians and nasty surprises keep piling up.

Do you get this from Dennis?

No, of course not.

He’s too busy praising the agenda of “smaller government”, “less red and green tape”, and Abbott’s belief “government doesn’t always know best”.

Abbott’s attacks on Medicare, social security, the disabled, the environmental movement, education, the LGBTI community and health, among many others haven’t gone unnoticed by those who matter. The voters.

Abbott refuses to engage in the international efforts to mitigate climate change and declined to be involved in the CHOGM climate change fund.

Let’s not forget that this government failed to send Environment Minister Greg Hunt to a key climate change conference recently and irritated many nations with their obstructionist attitude to measures to address climate change.

His government earned Australia the “Colossal Fossil” Award for being the most retrograde nation at the conference.

Makes so many of us so proud.

Dennis obviously agrees government should “get out of the way” of business and let them make their money in peace as Abbott suggests.

I ask Dennis to wind his mind back to 2008. The world economy was in compete free fall.

Why? Deregulation and inept oversight of unfettered capitalism in the United States.

Tony Abbott actually criticised Australia’s action to halt the impacts of the GFC on Australia. That would have had many eyes in the room rolling.

A true economic innumerate and a man who himself has said he has no interest in economics.

Not to mention his continued, impertinent and quite frankly childish efforts to drag domestic politics onto the global stage despite being against all accepted protocols.

I sometimes wonder why I read and support the News Corp Australia monstrosity.

I have to remind myself it’s to call out the completely biased drivel of “journalists” like Dennis Shanahan.

A man who passes off free advertising for the Coalition Government as well thought out and impartial analysis.

Pull the other one Dennis.

You may be a writer but you are not a journalist and your analysis – in written form or video – is truly hopeless.

In closing I share my one and only interaction with the man of the hour:

Dennis,

I can’t for the life of me understand what goes through your head.

Everything is geared around Labor being bad and or doing bad.

Labor drops in the polls. Bad.

Labor rises in the polls. Still bad.

What universe are you in?

You expect Labor to go from 42% to 51%?

It is just blatant inability to try and pretend there is some ounce of balance at The Australian.

You just end up looking like a political hack and damn right fool.

His response:

As a disappointed and frustrated Labor supporter your anger is understandable.

But your baseless allegations of bias are unacceptable.

You clearly can’t read or accept polling figures which Labor MPs understand and for which they don’t stupidly blame me.

You are clearly loyal to Labor but your loyalty blinds you to reality and your ignorance, both of polling and manners, makes it necessary for me to block you along with a lot of cranks and nut jobs as Julia Gillard would say.

I’m always happy to have sensible political discussion with readers but your abusive comments put you outside that realm.

Rest assured the PM’s office does know how to have a sensible conversation about the polls and note that I wasn’t fomenting leadership destabilisation.

You’re blocked.

Dennis is more than happy to cast the first stone but when the same level of analysis is turned back on him he has a propensity to become indignant.

A typical Tory trait in my experience.

This article has also been published on Independent Australia under the title Shanahan’s unimpressive drivel about Abbott’s Davos debacle.

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

Climate change questions and answers

Anyone who has read Andrew Bolt, The Australian, or listened to any shock jocks such as Alan Jones recently would have been overwhelmed with the number of rabid claims that climate change is a hoax, a left-wing conspiracy theory, or that any change stopped over a decade ago. Sadly, this is the view held by our mainstream media and even more sadly, our new government. Neither seem interested in the facts.

Just over a week ago the the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) published Questions and Answers: climate change where they addressed some of the common questions raised about the changing climate and the science involved in studying it.

The media ignored it. The government ignored it. And as a result, you probably don’t know about it. After all, it was nothing more than a collection of facts: facts that contradicted what the media and government would want us to believe.

Below, I have reproduced a condensed version of the CSIRO’s discussion:

What is climate change? (natural & human-induced)

Human-induced climate change, represents a raft of new challenges for this generation and those to come, through increases in extreme weather events and other changes, such as sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

Climate change will be superimposed on natural climate variability, leading to a change in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme events.

Climate risk profiles will be altered and adaptation will be necessary to manage these new risks. Adaptation includes new management practices, engineering solutions, improved technologies and behavioural change.

How has climate changed in the past?

In Australia, surface temperatures on the land have been recorded at many sites since the mid to late 19th century.

By 1910, Australia had a reliable network of thermometers and the data they produced have been extensively analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists at CSIRO, Australian universities and international research institutions.

This reveals that since 1910, Australia’s annual-average daily maximum temperatures have increased by 0.75°C and the overnight minima by more than 1.1°C.

Since the 1950s, each decade has been warmer than the one before. We’ve also experienced an increase in record hot days and a decrease in record cold days across the country.

Why do sea levels change?

Average global sea levels have been rising consistently since 1880 (the earliest available robust estimates) largely in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the consequent changes in the global climate.

There are two main processes behind long-term sea-level rises, which are a direct result of a warming climate.

Firstly, as the ocean has warmed the total volume of the ocean has increased through thermal expansion of water.

Secondly, water has been added to the oceans as a result of melting glaciers and ice sheets.

Sea levels began to rise in the 19th century and the rate of sea-level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the average rate during the previous two millennia.

Global-average sea levels are currently (between 1993 and 2010) rising at around 3.2mm per year, faster than during the 20th century as a whole.

How else are the oceans changing?

The heat content of the world’s oceans has increased during recent decades and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total heat accumulated by the land, air and ocean since the 1970s.

This warming increases the volume of ocean waters and is a major contribution to sea-level rise. Ocean warming is continuing, especially in the top several hundred metres of the ocean.

Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region were very warm during 2010 and 2011, with temperatures in 2010 being the warmest on record. Sea surface temperatures averaged over the decades since 1900 have increased for every decade.

How is the composition of the atmosphere changing?

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2011 was 391 parts per million (ppm) – much higher than the natural range of 170 to 300 ppm during the past 800 000 years.

Global CO2 emissions are mostly from fossil fuels (more than 85 per cent), land use change, mainly associated with tropical deforestation (less than 10 per cent), and cement production and other industrial processes (about 4 per cent).

Energy generation continues to climb and is dominated by fossil fuels – suggesting emissions will grow for some time yet.

How is climate likely to change in the future?

With greenhouse gas emissions continuing to increase, we expect the warming trend of the past century to accelerate throughout this century. We also expect changes to rainfall patterns and to the frequency of extreme weather events like cyclones and droughts.

Average temperatures across Australia are projected to rise by 0.4 to 1.8°C by 2030, compared with the climate of 1990. By 2070, warming is projected to be 1.0 to 2.5°C for a low emissions scenario, and 2.2 to 5.0°C for a high emissions scenario.

Australians will experience this warming through an increase in the number of hot days and warm nights and a decrease in cool days and cold nights.

Climate models show that there may be less rainfall in southern areas of Australia during winter and in southern and eastern areas during spring. Wet years are likely to become less frequent and dry years and droughts more frequent.

Climate models suggest that rainfall near the equator will increase globally, but it’s not clear how rainfall may change in northern Australia.

Australia will also experience climate-related changes to extreme weather events. In most areas of the country, intense rainfall events will become more extreme.

Fire-weather risk is also likely to increase and fire seasons will be longer. And although it is likely that there will be fewer tropical cyclones in the Australian region, the proportion of intense cyclones may increase.

What is extreme weather and how is it changing?

The natural climate variability that underlies all extreme weather events is now influenced and altered by the effect of human-induced warming of the climate system.

Future climate change impacts will be experienced mostly through extreme events rather than gradual changes in mean temperature or rainfall.

Heatwaves, floods, fires and southern Australian droughts are expected to become more intense and more frequent. Frosts, snow and cyclones are expected to occur less often.

Extreme events and natural disasters place a huge burden on individuals, communities, industry and the government and have an enormous impact on Australia’s economy, social fabric and environment.

What are the impacts of climate change?

Australia is expected to experience an increase in extremely high temperatures, extreme fire weather, extreme rainfall events, tropical cyclone intensity, extreme sea levels, and droughts in southern areas.

A decrease in the frequency of extremely cold temperatures is expected, along with fewer tropical cyclones.

These changes will pose significant challenges for disaster risk management, water and food security, ecosystems, forestry, buildings, transport, energy, health and tourism.

For example, many animal and plant species may decline or become extinct, water resources are expected to decline in southern Australia, agricultural zones are likely to shift, coastal erosion and inundation is expected to occur more often, energy demand is likely to increase, snow cover will decline and heat-related deaths may rise.

Is the science settled?

In climate change science, robust findings include:

  • clear evidence for global warming and sea level rise over the past century
  • changes observed in many physical and biological systems are consistent with warming
  • due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, ocean acidity has increased
  • most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases
  • global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades, leading to further climate change
  • due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions were to be reduced sufficiently for atmospheric concentrations to stabilise
  • increased frequencies and intensities of some extreme weather events are very likely
  • systems and sectors at greatest risk are ecosystems, low-lying coasts, water resources in some regions, tropical agriculture, and health in areas with low adaptive capacity
  • the regions at greatest risk are the Arctic, Africa, small islands and Asian and African mega-deltas. Within other regions (even regions with high incomes) some people, areas and activities can be particularly at risk
  • unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt
  • many impacts can be reduced, delayed or avoided by mitigation (net emission reductions). Mitigation efforts and investments over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower greenhouse gas stabilisation levels.

It is incredible that this information has been unreported and I would assume, largely ignored. Instead, we will continue to be inundated with claims that rabid claims that “climate change is a hoax, a left-wing conspiracy theory, or that any change stopped over a decade ago”.

It is an act of gross negligence that our media fails to accurately report the reality of climate change. It is also an act of gross negligence that our new government fails to embrace the challenges.

Someone has well and truly lost the plot

That fine custodian of moral virtue, Piers Ackerman, is mostly known for his frothing-at-the-mouth appearances on ABC Insiders most Sunday mornings and as a journalist for The Australian and a couple of other magnificent Murdoch journals. The Australian, we are reminded, is the masthead of Murdoch’s media empire in our country. It espouses to be the pinnacle of decency in the Australian media landscape. I found this summary of its wonderfulness:

The Australian is this country’s leading news brand. The editorial values focus on leading and shaping public opinion on the issues that affect Australia, its residents and the Australian business environment. Led by a team of highly credible and experienced journalists, editorial themes cover economic, political and social issues.

Unparalleled national and international news and business sections are supplemented by indepth business to business sections such as; Australian IT (the largest newspaper IT section in the world), Higher Education, Media, Aviation, Thoroughbreds. As well, lifestyle, arts and sports sections balance the read for our independent thinking and influential readership.

The Australian brand is globally recognised as a leader in media innovation. The brand has evolved into a multi-platform offering for both its consumers and its advertisers by taking full advantage of the many techonologies available in the marketplace. From a refreshed, smart broadsheet layout to full gloss executive lifestyle magazines. From an up-to-date by the minute guide to news around the world via The Australian website to the fully interactive iPad application, online and iPad editions are refreshed throughout the day.

The Australian newspaper is published Monday to Friday.

A word from our Editor-in-Chief

The Australian was born in July 1964 as a bold venture in national journalism, vowing to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”.

Today, it retains that sense of adventure, covering the affairs of an island continent, with reporters across the country and foreign bureaus throughout the region and around the world. It is read by Australians from Broome to Burnie to Cooktown, and is published at six print sites around the country.

As the national broadsheet, our core areas are federal politics, international affairs, business, sport, the arts, technology and education. To do our job, we must stand above other sources of news and information.

We strive to be first with the big national stories. We aim for factual reporting and penetrating analysis. We seek to take our readers beyond the “spin” of the political, business and sport press release machinery.

Chris Mitchell

Keep this piece of propaganda in the back of your mind: to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”.

Two newspapers in The Australian’s stable are The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, where Piers Ackerman is given the freedom to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”. They promote Piers as being:

. . . one of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph’s best-read columnists since 1993. One of the nation’s most respected journalists he has worked in New York, London, Washington and Los Angeles.

Well someone has well and truly lost the plot.

Here is Ackerman’s latest piece from The Australian, “Piers Akerman hits back at his critics following the ABC Insiders program“. I have highlighted those sections that do not to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”.

The chattering classes whipped themselves into a lather Sunday afternoon claiming that I raised questions about First Bloke Tim Mathieson’s sexuality on the ABC Insiders program that morning.

Rubbish. The ABC’s producers had conservative Perth shock jock Howard Sattler’s repugnant interview with Prime Minister Julia Gillard listed as an item for Insider host Barrie Cassidy’s discussion to open up the question of whether she had been exposed to sexism during her career.

Do the sneering Left and the Twitterati really believe that it is possible to discuss the Sattler interview without touching on its subject matter?

What seems to have enraged the Left-wing blogosphere is that I said the Parliamentary press gallery had been asking the same sort of questions when Gillard and Mathieson’s relationship first came to light as Sattler had raised last week.

That seems to have infuriated my fellow panellists, former Fairfax journalist Lenore Taylor, now writing for some Leftwing online site and my News Limited colleague Malcolm Farr, who with Cassidy denied ever hearing such a thing.

I have never made any suggestions Mathieson’s sexuality. I don’t deal in tawdry topics.

Mathieson is in fact a very good friend with one of my long-standing mates and over the past several years we have been scheduled to meet for a weekend lunch, with or without his Significant Other, but diary conflicts have prevented such a felicitous engagement.

Yet there is no greater rumour mill in the nation than the federal press gallery – which in recent weeks has been relentlessly asking (I shan’t say what because I don’t engage in rumour mongering).

As I said the Sattler interview was unacceptable, that should have signalled my view clearly.

Quite frankly, I can’t understand why the Left gets itself so wound up about sexuality and gender issues when it publicly preaches these matters are irrelevant.

That’s my position and always has been. What people do in private is up to them.

What angers me more than the phony outrage of the aged feminists and class-and-gender war warriors is that the Sattler interview was deemed worthy of comment when there are so many more pressing national issues.

Not least the fact that the Australian navy and customs ships are too busy ferrying illegal people smuggler boats to Christmas Island to pick up the drowned bodies of those who were unsuccessful in making Labor’s lethal voyage.

Or the fact that the Prince-in-waiting Kevin Rudd is equally to blame for Labor’s blow-out Budgets, waste and failed policies as Gillard, the woman most ALP MPs hope he rolls.

Outrage from the Left – don’t make me laugh. Campbell Newman and his immediate family were subjected to a barrage of falsehoods concocted by Labor during the recent election and some of those who endorsed the rubbish have now found refuge in the Prime Minister’s office, just as the phony race riot of Australia Day 2012 was concocted there.

As I said at the end of the show, addressing Gillard (who wasn’t watching), I intended no offense.

I meant it. Just as I now say I will never be intimidated by the baying of Labor’s politically correct lickspittles who were ever so silent when this government was trying to muzzle the news media during its current term.

I repeat, I don’t draw up Insiders’ agenda, the ABC did because a conservative shock jock had made a fool of himself and been sacked.

They ignored the offensive nature of the charge in their attempt to further gore their quarry.

Many of you will find nothing wrong with that. He is simply sharing his opinions, even though they don’t provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”. I think, more than anything, he’s letting us know that he doesn’t like the Left or any class or group likely to fall into the Left category.

But he doesn’t leave it alone. His article was reproduced on The Telegraph under ‘Sexuality rubbish a tawdry affair’ where readers were offered the opportunity to debate the article with Piers himself. There one can see first hand that Ackerman has no intention of providing “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”. I produce some examples below:

In response to:

Piers,
I believe your wife is a female…correct?  Well, does that make her a lesbian?  THINK !!….that’s if your narrow-minded, blinkered, one-eyed, right-wing extremist attitudes allow you to.

Ackerman wrote:

THIS must be the stupidest comment ever submitted, Chris. This is the sort of logic that brought the destruction of border protection, the installation of pink batts, the Budget surplus we never had and Gonski, you must be channeling the brains trust of the ALP.

I agree with Ackerman that it was a stupid comment, but don’t you just love how he turns it into some Labor bashing?

Someone wrote:

Did you ask Tony why his sister is gay? Did you ask Alan Jones whether he is gay? Are you gay? Never seen you with a woman and has never been discussed. Don’t care what you do or Alan Jones and rest of you so called commentators. When did journalists become commentators? Your a journalist. Come out to the country sometime and look at real people with real issues. and yes there are gays in the country maybe you will fit in. Wasn’t that personal maybe that’s what the PM thought?

Ackerman, quick to blame the Lefties responded with:

Being a homosexual or a heterosexual has never been a big deal with me, Bathurst, but it seems to excite the Lefties no end. I have always been interested in the issues the ABC would prefer not to deal with – such as Labor’s failure.

Ackerman, so far, hasn’t answered many comments but when he does the majority of them are used as a vehicle to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”, which in his opinion is to demean anyone on the Left that breathes. Here are more of his rants:

And as for your pathetic smear, go and get your shilling from the ALP, they run the only smear operation I am aware of.

Interesting, Andrea. The first woman in parliament was elected by conservatives. The first female office bearer was conservative. Elected and appointed on merit. People aren’t afraid of women. They don’t like Quota Queens though and they distrust Labor losers like Gillard, Kirner, Bligh and Lawrence. With good cause.

Carol – if Anne Summers is not an aged feminist, I am a carrot. I would have thought that applying age as a descriptor might have excused her peculiarly bilious form of feminism. If you suggest not, I guess mit is just pure nastiness on her part.

Mark, why wouldn’t everyone feel entitled to feel superior to those on the Left when the evidence of the Left’s disastrous policies and philosophies is abundantly evident.

So The Australian vows to provide “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”. Yet they put Piers Ackerman to work on the farm. Goodness me, someone has well and truly lost the plot then.

 

The march of opinion

In this recent piece in The Australian Laurie Oakes laments the decline of traditional journalism as it faces the rise of independent journalism. The article leads off with:

Press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes has warned how new media technologies are challenging political journalists with “implications for the health of our political system”.

He is rueful that what he calls fact-based journalism is now confronted by what he calls the march of opinion. It is interesting that he blames new media technologies and fresh opinions as the threat to traditional journalism. I would blame the decline in mainstream media standards, which I will return to later.

The Oakes story was repeated a few days later in the National Times of The Age where he continued his lament:

I want to be optimistic about the future of political journalism and the press gallery, if for no other reason than that its past shows that it really matters. But I have to say I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be.

For 111 years Australia’s federal politicians and members of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery have been matching wits. The politicians have used every trick they know to try to control what the journalists report and how they report it. Gallery members have used every trick they know to get behind the spin and try to dig out things the politicians want to keep hidden.

But in an internet era that is fragmenting the media as we’ve known it, and making new communications technology easily and cheaply available to anyone, the press gallery’s role seems set to decline, which obviously has implications for the health of our political system.

If one looks at this opinion, the implication is that by making communications technology available to anyone will, as a natural consequence result in a decline in standards. The involvement of these “anyones” has previously been lamented by professional journalists. Is it that only those directly employed by a major newspaper or who gets behind a microphone, or in front of a television camera has a valid opinion? Is an anyone aka a nobody, aka an ordinary citizen not permitted to voice an opinion; not have an opinion worthy of note?

One need to look no further than Letters to the Editor for example, and especially those in the Murdoch press, or attempt to have an opinion published on a Murdoch blog for it to become obvious that not just anyone and especially those with a contra opinion, is permitted to voice that opinion.

Oakes’ suggestion is that the internet era is set to cause a decline in journalism by fragmenting the media and as a consequence has obvious implications “for the health of our political system”. The logic of this argument escapes me.

I would suggest that the decline is more likely due to what he refers to as fact-based journalism being dead and buried, right under his nose. The march of opinion will of course be the driving force of the independent media but they will be marching alongside the Press Gallery who replaced fact-based journalism with biased opinion, seemingly, when Howard lost government in 2007.

Ad astra at The Politic Sword in his fine article “The Canberra Press Gallery stumbles – yet again” succinctly summed up the Press Gallery with the astuteness that Laurie Oakes is oblivious to:

Journalists hate being wrong, being wrong-footed. Political journalists regard themselves as the insiders, privy to the labyrinthine goings-on in the corridors of power. They yearn for the scoop, one that places them a cut above their colleagues. Being out of the loop is anathema to them. They foster contacts, their ‘sources’, from whom they suck whispers, or speculation, or information, which sometimes turns out to be misinformation, accidentally purveyed or deliberately so by Machiavellian operators. Although at times it must be hard for them to know what to believe, that does not seem to inhibit most of them from rushing into print with their ‘exclusives’, so long as it makes for a good story, and trumps their fellow journalists in the process.

Ad astra discusses many instances where the Press Gallery have failed to apply the fact-based journalism that Oakes proudly boasts is the hallmark of the gallery. And more recently we can add Ashbygate – or the absence of it in the media – to the list. In an earlier piece “The Canberra Press Gallery will decide who governs this country” Ad astra also recognises the dismantling of and replacement of fact-based journalism with the marching opinion that apparently only the new media is guilty of:

Blatant political bias: This is the most contentious framework ‘bias’ of all. It is one that I wrestled with defining specifically because I could not decide, as I have never spoken to any of the protagonists about it, how fully invested politically are some journalists in defining the stories they write based upon their own political prejudices? It is probably fair to say that some are guilty of this bias. Yet others may only be playing to the audience that the proprietor instructs them to write for.

Today’s article by Gay Alcorn in the National Times kicks the stuffing out of Oakes’ blind faith.

Federal Parliament resumes in a fortnight. Are you looking forward to it? Can’t wait to tune in for question time? Hanging out for an election this year?

As a journalist for more than 20 years, and an editor for seven, I’m surprised at how much I’m dreading it. Already, press gallery journalists have pronounced that politics will be more bitter, more personal, more toxic this year and that – groan – the election will be about “trust and character”.

Well, what if it wasn’t? Specifically, what if the media decided it wasn’t going to be? The 2010 election – “Real Julia”, a gate-crashing Mark Latham, Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats!” – was pilloried by politicians and journalists as the most woeful in memory. Journalists complained about the politicians, but this time the rise of online commentary meant that feedback about our own performance was out of our control.

Two weeks into the campaign, blogger Greg Jericho was listening to Abbott announce the Liberals’ disability education policy. As he recounts in his book, The Rise of the Fifth Estate, as a father of a daughter with Down syndrome, he – and presumably others affected by disability – was interested and, “like a naive fool”, waited for questions. But reporters asked nothing at all about the policy, instead grilling Abbott on whether he believed Latham when he accused Kevin Rudd of leaking to Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes.

A frustrated Jericho blogged that news directors should “bring home your journalists” because they were wasting money and delivering little. He still thinks that if you weigh up who was most at fault for that campaign – the politicians or the media – “a greater level of blame should be directed towards the media”.

It might surprise Jericho to know that many in the established media, where most Australians still get their political news, agree with him. We limped to the end exhausted and chastened. Why didn’t those journos ask about policy? Because their head offices weren’t much interested. Because the assumption is that policies – apart from a few the parties want to talk about – are dull compared with personalities. And because once it starts, a campaign has one big narrative: who’s going to win? The polls are the story, and how they go week to week dictates whether the leaders are judged harshly or kindly.

At last, a journalist who recognises that something is clearly wrong with the traditional media.

As I earlier wrote, those of the new media believe they are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists, or in Oakes’ case, the rise of which is lamented. New, independent media advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias – referred to above by Ad astra – by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

The new media also encourages readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by the mainstream media (MSM), particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda. Further, through independent media, people have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media; the blogosphere, for example, is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Independent media has exploded, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices, but because the MSM has created an arena for them to enter. If the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be any citizen journalists, or for that matter, the dozens of independent media sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the mainstream media empires.

Welcome to the march of opinion. Only now might it be laced with fact.

 

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