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Tag Archives: The Daily Telegraph

Pauline rushes to rescue farmers while the coalition falls apart.

“I want to put out a call to these farmers; please don’t give up hope,” Senator Pauline Hanson says shortly before breaking down in tears on her old pal, Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show, Friday last week.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep off microphone. But no longer need you weep alone, Australia. Help is on its way. No. Not Joel Fitzgibbon’s outrageous suggestion of a bipartisan “war cabinet” approach to drought relief. Drought relief is for ScoMo & Co to pork-barrel; grandstand on grief. The government has no drought relief policy. The last thing it wants is Labor to show it up.

ScoMo ridicules Fitzgibbon in Question Time, an institution now entirely corrupted by a government in perpetual campaign. Vitiated by Dorothy Dixers, Labor-bashing and political assassination by quoting News Corps, the nation’s most powerful political party. Monday, ScoMo quotes Troy Bramston of The Australian on Anthony Albanese’s hopeless leadership.

“A Labor frontbencher told me …” is Bramston’s prelude to back-stabbing Albanese. Trump uses ” people tell me…” When no specific authority or evidence is given, the slur may be mere confection or confabulation. But it is also impossible to refute.

“For a guy who wanted to be leader so bad, and couldn’t wait to announce he was running for it less than 24 hours after the election, he does not know what to do with the job.” A Labor frontbencher?

Sure he did, Troy. Sure. Look. It’s uncanny. ScoMo’s cock a hoop with your “scoop”, first up Tuesday.

Labor couldn’t be trusted when it was in power, Mr Speaker, Morrison scoffs. It’s vital to repeat the one big lie of Labor’s hopelessness with money. As experts now, daily, attest to ScoMo and Co’s economic incompetence and the Reserve virtually begs for some serious stimulus measure, it’s especially important to repeat the lie that the GFC didn’t happen here or that we are still paying for Labor’s mess.

As The Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho notes, Mathias Cormann now claims absurdly that Labor’s GFC stimulus drove up interest rates and the value of our dollar.

“If interest rates went up due to the stimulus then that meant it had helped improve demand in the economy, which was the whole point.”

Hang on. Help is on its way. Good news this week. Dairy farmers struggling to squeeze out $3.00 an hour in an industry milked dry as de-regulation, duopolies and globalisation lead to ruinous farm gate prices – while many suffer drought and ScoMo photo-ops – rejoice to learn that Pauline Hanson has their backs.

“Give me an opportunity to keep fighting. I don’t want these farmers to give up.”

The plucky One Nation leader heroically battles on at Jones’ microphone before it’s all too much and she’s led, sobbing inconsolably, off-air. But not before a word from her sponsor. Pauline’s “upset”, Big Al explains to listeners, “for the farmers” and exhausted as she “fights the bureaucrats” in Canberra.

Pauline is tirelessly fighting up hill and down dale to get our honest, hardworking, dairy farmers a fair price for their milk, a long-lost cause she shows no sign of understanding.

Fairness would involve the dismantling of global price-fixing and regulating the Fonterra-Saputo duopoly that dominates our milk-processing. (Canadian giant Saputo, which enjoys a monopoly in British Columbia bought out a troubled Murray Goulburn, our largest milk processor in April 2018.) Murray Goulburn had contracted with Coles to supply one dollar milk to 2023.

None of this matters to Hanson’s quest for self-aggrandisement. But Pauline’s plan will entail having Canberra bureaucrats very much on side. And supermarkets. Not to mention Saputo and Fonterra.

“It’s hard to say this but it makes no fucking sense,” sweet-talking Saputo boss, Lino Saputo Jnr admits freely. “$1.10 still doesn’t make sense when you can buy water at $3 a litre, when you can buy soda pop at $4 a litre, when you can buy Gatorade at $5 a litre.” No? Never heard of a loss leader, Lino?

Yet loss-leading supermarkets are not the only bad guys. More than half Australia’s milk is sold overseas. The same neoliberal ideology that has us paying export prices for our own gas works with milk, too.

Even if the price of milk on the supermarket shelf were to double, the extra profit wouldn’t go to farmers directly as the ACCC found in its 18 month report on the dairy industry last year.

Dollar milk is the scapegoat, regardless. Even those who may be expected to understand how farmers contracts are set by producers play along with this. Yet never in Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie’s howls of outrage (or Drought Minister David Littleproud’s) does either stop to recall that Labor’s policy last election was to set a minimum price dairy farmers can be paid for the milk they produce.

Doubly unhappy is Bridget McKenzie, the Nationals’ “flash bit of kit” (as Barnaby once described his party’s deputy leader during a late night senate debate). Ms McKenzie cops flak for letting Hanson grand-stand as the cow cockies’ saviour. It’s not just a turf war; everyone knows that hand-wringing over drought or flood or farmers being robbed blind by multinational middlemen is the Nationals’ pitch.

Below the topsoil, the post Barnaby-era party writhes in existential crisis. It lacks leadership, identity and others are muscling in on its patch. Things quickly go bad – with a little help from New England. Friday, the Nationals split with their Coalition partner by leaking a $1.3 bn drought funding policy without approval from Michael McCormack – aka Mick-Mack. Scott Morrison is gob-smacked; blind-sided.

So much for the tremendous authority which pundits confidently predicted Scott Morrison was sure to wield over the Coalition after his miracle win. Or is that all spent in gagging and finger-wagging? The National backbench policy committee, which includes Barnaby Joyce, is the author of the rogue policy.

Such perfidy will not go unpunished – but, that it occurs at all – indicates how weak is ScoMo’s hold on Coalition reins. Are the Nats paying him back for crowding them out of his drought-porn photo-ops? Or did Pauline Hanson’s calling them weak and ineffective” do the trick? The Oz thinks so. The truth hurts.

Extra funding? It’s part of a ten-point plan. This includes setting up committees to oversee who gets their forks into $10m pork barrels, help with boarding school fees and other thought bubbles which will do less to alleviate drought suffering than improve the Nationals’ political identity. Rivals appear, artfully clad in Collins Street bushman’s kit of RM Williams’ moleskins and boots. Topped with spotless Akubra.

Is it identity politics? The Nats argue that their cash-splash will send a message. Or a vibe. It would “appear as an unambiguous package that is clearly labelled Nationals” they claim. Naturally. Nothing shrieks National Party so clearly and plainly as a barrel clearly labelled “pork”. But even a simple lack of ambiguity can come back to bite you in the bum, as the trepid party deputy leader discovers.

Adding to the Nationals’ woes, Bridget McKenzie’s brazen pork-barrelling of grants has rejected 618 applications for community sports facilities. Labor’s sports spokesman Don Farrell cuts to the chase;

“The minister, we now know, rejected advice from her own department, Sport Australia, as to who should get these grants, and she imposed her own favourite grants in their place.”

Above all, despite McKenzie’s promising the ACCC’s recommendation, a dairy industry code of conduct by 2020 – hey – presto -to keep Hanson’s vote, the code will miraculously be available later this year. So far, Hanson seems happy. Early report had her demanding re-regulation of the dairy industry.

Mathias Cormann must be a sweet-talker if Pauline’s being fobbed off with a code of conduct.

How bad are codes? Hopeless -if the PM’s own code for MPs, Morrison’s Statement of Ministerial Standards, tabled last August, is any guide. Gus Taylor just goes ahead and does what he likes. Clearly. Attacking Clover Moore is part of a rational plan?

Oddly, all hell breaks loose. Gus ducks and weaves. Evades all responsibility for the patently false figures in his bizarre letter lecturing Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore on her travel. Tries to claim that the City of Sydney published fake figures on his website. Yep. The old “fake figures made me frame you” defence.

Worse, his PM supports Taylor, a serial offender, yet again, refusing to sanction his Energy Minister. It’s yet another sign of weak leadership and utter lack of integrity.

By his own code of rules, ScoMo should at least sack Taylor from cabinet; report him to the police.

Shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, tells an Adelaide presser Friday,

“Instead of the prime minister actually putting his words into action and putting this into the hands of the New South Wales police, he has shown that there is one rule for one group of Australians – cabinet ministers in the Morrison government – and another rule for everyone else, including the journalists who are currently under threat of prosecution for doing their jobs.”

Gus is helped by The Daily Telegraph, which publishes an article claiming hippy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, Clover Moore is not merely a progressive and independent pain in the establishment’s bum, a theme familiar to Telegraph readers, the Lord Mayor has been “told by the federal government to rein in the hundreds of thousands of dollars her council is spending on international and domestic travel if she is serious about lecturing Australia on climate change”. It’s madly untrue, of course, but well-timed.

Trump-like, Taylor uses what seems to be a forged City of Sydney council document to accuse City of Sydney council of spending “$1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel” for councillors. The real figures are $1,727.77 on international travel and $4,206.32 on domestic travel.

Taylor’s dead cat on the table, distracts from Morrison’s stuff-up: his upstaging of the Nationals’ announcement of the breakthrough on the dairy code, Thursday. Experts warn that ScoMo’s holy surplus may now never eventuate. Or if it does it may come smack dab in the middle of a recession. Bad look.

But a line has to be drawn in the sand. News surfaces, Sunday, that Scott Morrison told Craig Kelly, chair of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment committee, not to appear on Q&A with his daft graphs that show that climate change is a hoax. So much for Howard’s broad church Liberal Party.

Gagging Kelly is as much an extension of ScoMo’s naturally despotic leadership style as it is his way of “moderating public perception” to use Michael Koziol’s euphemism for the PM’s hiding an inconvenient truth from voters. ScoMo’s keen to conceal his climate change deniers and cover up the fact that they control the black hole that passes for government policy, a course largely determined by the coal lobby.

Kelly was due to wow ABC audiences with his insights on 16 September. A week prior, the climate denier regaled the multitudes who packed into an Australian Monarchists League function with the amazing news that the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is “floating, not sinking [due to climate change]”, because it was a coral atoll and “a coral atoll actually floats on the ocean”. Seriously.

It’s not clear that Kelly is aware that coral is acutely sensitive to sea-level changes. Or that Tuvalu is sinking. Already two of its nine islands are on the verge of going underwater swallowed by rising sea-levels and erosion. Scientists predict Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in fifty to a hundred years.

Porous, salty, soil is already useless for planting crops while Tuvalu’s water supply is now contaminated by rising seawater leaving Tuvaluans entirely dependent on rainwater. Even the fish are now toxic. Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested microalgaes expelled by bleached coral.

When fish infected with ciguatera toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea. Someone should tell Kelly and his committee but communicating scientific information is heresy in a government devoted entirely to spin.

Clearly, Morrison doesn’t talk to Mick-Mack, his pet name for his deputy Prime Minister. Mick-Mack is also in danger of being drowned by a rising tide of nostalgia for the good old days when Barnaby ruled.

For the Nationals, another backward-looking party firmly rooted in the past, Barnaby can do no wrong.

Yet it’s not what the historical record suggest. It’s never perfect with agrarian socialism or any other cult. Never ends well. Investigative journalist Jommy Tee sums up a topical part of Saint Barnaby’s legacy.

As Minister for Water and Agriculture, Barnaby was responsible in 2017 when the government coughed up $80 million in water buybacks to Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), the company where Angus Taylor had been a director and consultant. Eastern Australian Agriculture, a company founded by Gus Taylor made a two hundred percent profit out of Australian water and cotton farms.

Barnaby offered Clyde, a cotton-growing property to the LNP QLD government in 2006. Queensland approached the federal government only to have the sale knocked back by Malcolm Turnbull, then parliamentary secretary to the PM. The federal government deemed the $20m price tag – for both property and water too high, given the water flow’s unreliability and its high price.

Joyce, Taylor and the current federal coalition government have much to explain. This includes:

“Why in 2017, did Barnaby Joyce, as Minister for Water, engineer the purchase of that same water from Clyde at the exorbitant cost of $40 million to taxpayers?”

Doubtless, refreshed after their five week break, our Coalition MPs will rush back to Canberra to clear up the stench of Watergate. Resignations will be tendered. Heads will roll. On the other hand, if Home Affairs top shiny-bum, Mike Pezzullo has his way, people will be jailed for leaking government information to the media.

But at present, it seems, neither partner in the coalition can even synchronise their diaries. Snap! Morrison holds his PM’s presser Thursday, on 2SM Radio.

ScoMo’s broadcast is heard just as the Nats gather at parliament house to simultaneously announce the good news on the code and cheer on the same pitifully small cash grants of $7000 and $13000 to farmers coming off the totally inadequate Farm Household Allowance (FHA) of up to $600 a fortnight.

Centrelink grants FHA to those who can pass its convoluted and protracted application process. Most applicants give up. Of 26,000 eligible households, only 2000 apply.

But of those 2000 who have persevered against all expectation – all will be overjoyed to receive a pittance extra, provided they don’t want to do anything rash like buy feed or replace a set of tractor tyres. See a dentist. Or pay the rates or the electricity bill.

Yet help is on its way. Professional empathy consultants, Futureye, are out in the field, helping ScoMo & Co win hearts and minds; forge its social licence in the bush. It’s not all photo-ops up dry creek-beds and matching green shirts.

Revealed by senate estimates committee questioning, this week, the ever more marvellous Morrison government approach to forging consensus.

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt asks how Futureye works. Senior Inland Rail project officer Dr Garth Taylor is keen to explain, a rarity in the week’s proceedings where across four committees, ministers and mandarins take hundreds of questions on notice.

“Three key areas come to mind. “One is around empathy, around getting the right tone of voice to deal with landowners along the way … We start with getting the tone of voice right and getting the narrative right, and that leads to empathy. I think that along the way, with the landowners we’ve been dealing with, there has been an appreciation that there has been a more empathic approach taken since the social licence initiative.”

Picking up the $190 million tab to help ScoMo and Co build empathy along the tracks across the backblocks is the Department of Infrastructure’s Train to Nowhere, its Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project, a $10 billion boondoggle which is battling to establish its credentials, let alone goodwill. Even the government’s own hand-picked experts told it, the inland rail would never pay its way. It went ahead anyway.

The week ends with Matt Canavan being sent out on damage control. Canavan talks all over Fran Kelly on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to demonstrate his party’s superior empathy. Instead he gives a virtuoso display of gaslighting; arguing black is white. It’s his Prime Minister’s if not his government’s favourite tactic.

Instead of an utter disaster, a catastrophic rout by its own incompetence, in brief in spite of all the damning evidence, we are to see the week as the Nationals’ finest hour?

Finest hour? The reality is that the Coalition is unravelling as the going gets tough,with bad news on the economy that is ever harder to explain away and no sign that any of its carefully choreographed show of concern for drought victims is yielding any result.

Fighting over who gets credit for what is at best a band-aid solution or a PR stunt is not an edifying end to a parliamentary term. Nor does it augur well for the next.

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Bill Shorten takes climate change seriously, so guess who isn’t happy with him?

‘The frontline of climate change’ was the appealing subject of the email I received from Labor this morning. It read:

We often talk about what effects climate change will have on our economy, or on agricultural land, or how many more natural disasters we’re likely to suffer.

What we talk about less is how climate change is affecting some of our closest neighbours right now. And it’s devastating. The Papua New Guinea and island nations in the pacific are facing real, existential threats from climate change.

Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Richard Marles are visiting these islands this week and talking to people about life at the frontline of climate change.

This is an issue that isn’t going to go away – we’re likely to see and hear a lot more about it as the International Climate Change Conference in Paris approaches at the end of this month. We’ll keep you informed as much as we can.

Now you’d think that’d be a good thing. Here we have a group of politicians and a political party taking climate change seriously and placing it front and centre on the table. And added to that, they are engaging with counties that are most likely to be the first victims of rapid change.

In most countries this concern and their initiative would be applauded. But they might just happen to be countries where the Murdoch media doesn’t have the same influence as it does here. Instead of it being applauded, we see it derided. Andrew Bolt of The Herald Sun led the way:

LABOR leader Bill Shorten will test the honesty of journalists this week when he tours Pacific Islands he claims are drowning.

Will they dare report that most of the islands are in fact growing or stable? Or will they again prove they cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the global warming scare?

Shorten and deputy Tanya Plibersek plan to visit Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

As the gullible Sydney Morning Herald announced: “Labor wants to put climate change at the centre of public debate in the run-up to a major United Nations summit in Paris later this year.

Sister paper The Daily Telegraph could only feature the story as one that will see ‘Bill Shorten . . . fly 16,000km on a private jet . . .’ and mock him with the image above with the caption ‘Labor overboard with private jet tour‘, while all that news.com.au wanted to tell us was that Bill Shorten danced awkwardly while in Kiribati with suggestions that it might give us a good reason to laugh at him.

One would think that the Murdoch media don’t like the idea of someone taking climate change seriously.

Personally, I’ve had it up to my teeth with the Murdoch media. How can any important issue or any non-Coalition politician get a fair run in this country while the Murdoch media has so much power and so many right-wing fanatics spreading the Murdoch gospel?

Malcolm and Scott’s great big new tax on everything

According to the Liberal Party newsletter, aka the Telegraph, the party who never raises taxes, the party who screamed blue murder about the carbon and mining taxes, the party who supposedly saved us $550 a year by ‘axing the tax’, is set to cost us thousands by raising the GST to 15%.

Today’s article seems to be a fishing expedition to see how much they can get away with. The preferred option is an increase to 15% with fresh food remaining exempt. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling estimates the average household would face extra costs of $2915 a year under a 15% GST.

So much for Greg Hunt’s hand wringing over the price of electricity – it’s about to go up by 5% along with everything else but it won’t be the polluters picking up the tab.

To hide the pain, Scott Morrison is talking about income tax cuts.

“When you have the average wage earner in this country about to move into the second-highest tax bracket at $80,000 next year, you’ve got a problem with the incentives in your tax system,” he said.

One wonders why Scott hasn’t considered changing the threshold or would that be too easy.

Thankfully the miners and big banks will continue on their merry way with their superprofits intact while pensioners and single parents pick up the slack on budget repair.

Looks like the joke’s on us.

 

Democracy and diversity: media ownership in Australia

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

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

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

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

Photo sourced from smh.com.au

Photo sourced from smh.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

[6] Op Cit. Media Concentration in Australia

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

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

[9] Australian Bureau of Circulation (2009)

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

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

[12] Ibid

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

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

[15] Op cit. Media concentration in Australia.

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

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

Related articles:

Can ‘The Australian’ stoop any lower?

Where is the outrage when the media lie?

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

The political economy of climate change

I'm by 'I fking love science'

Image by ‘I fcking love science’

Environment writer and academic Nicole Clark looks at how climate change sceptics’ views are promoted in Australian print media, concluding that the content generally reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite.

In the mass media, the political economy perspective is centred around the principal notion that the media is owned and run by elites that seek to mandate the distribution and dissemination of media content, in accordance with their own ideological values. Most notably, those values that reflect a more right wing political sentiment (Herman and Chomsky, 2008). Therefore, political economy is synonymous with the view that corporate news structures own the right to media content and therefore own the right to the message. Under these pretences, corporate news bodies are able to frame content according to the best interest, concerns and needs of the elite (Herman, 2009).

Freedom to act and freedom to promote autonomous views provides news bodies the propensity to perpetuate and distort information of an untruthful nature (Herman, 2009). News bodies therefore, have the power to distort the public perception and promote views that consequently transcend the decision process of modern polity (Gamson et al, 2013). The production of media content, infers the beliefs that dominate state and private activity in society. The way the media is propagated, is central to society (Herman, 2009); therefore, the nature of media content informally legitimises political decision. In brief, the nature of media content holds an influence unlike any other and any information that is distributed from corporate news bodies truthful or not, will always influence a core component of political discourse.

Propaganda is a phenomenon that aims to influence the thinking and attitudes of individuals in a population or society. Propaganda is most consistently linked to events in history that are associated with war and religious freedom (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2011). The ways print media is a propagated and produced can more often than not, intervene with the political economy perspective and take on characteristics that demonstrate agenda setting properties reserved for propaganda delivery (Black, 1977).

Climate change is scientific fact and humans are to blame. Humans must act to reduce carbon emissions. Action requires injecting money into the global economy at all costs- to all financial and economic institutions, to prevent further damage to the earth (IPCC, 2011). In Australian 59% of the print media is owned by News Corp, the remaining 30% represent the independent channels (Bacon, 2011). Print media owned by News Corp include, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. In Australia, an unusually high concentration of sceptics’ views on climate change are routinely observed in print media, such content rivals that of scientific fact and most notably appears to reflect the views for the best interests and concerns of the elite (Bacon, 2011).

Herman and Chomsky, (1988) adhere to the views that the political economy of mass media holds a crucial function that links political economy to the media; where media owned adversaries construct their views in ways which can be attributed to propaganda techniques. This article examines the Australian media and draws parallels to an Australian context, for content that displays a sceptic’s view of climate change. It will examine content from a report published in 2011 entitled: ‘Sceptical Climate’ by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (Bacon, 2011) the report includes a highly detailed analysis, in which the study teased out inconsistencies that were noticeably reflective of the sceptics’ viewpoint of climate change in print media.

Using examples from the report by Bacon (2011), this article will determine whether suspected techniques of propaganda outlined by Herman and Chomsky (1988) are evident in the Australian print media. In order to establish how climate change sceptics’ views are published in the print media, it will draw parallels to sceptics’ views expressed, views of which may be strongly associated with propaganda phenomenon witnessed elsewhere in the world. It will examine the propaganda influence through three filters: ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology; as described by (Herman and Chomsky, 1988).

Ownership

  • Print media ownership in Australia is concentrated and News Corp owns 56% of the print media (Bacon, 2011). Ownership ranks very highly among those who reflect the liberal or right wing political stance (Gantzkow and Shapiro, 2010). This is not only reflective of the political economy principles described above but Boykoff, (2008) notes; this is synonymous with a content analysis of print media that was distributed from news corporations in the UK in 2008. Corporations, which were also owned by News Corp. Herman and Chomsky (2008), state, high concentrations of media ownership, tend to exhibit characteristics that represent propaganda tactics. This therefore, also confirms, (that) media ownership is a strong template for analysing content with suspected propaganda substance.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate Change Rebel Fights back – The Daily Telegraph, (2010); “I am writing to offer personal briefings on why “global warming” is a non-problem to you and other party leaders during my visit. You say I am one of “those who argue that any multilateral action is by definition evil”. On the contrary: my first question is whether any action at all is required, to which the objective economic and scientific answer is – no”– an example of interconnections with elite actors and the need to maximise profits and denial of climate change, to push an agenda for no-action which is in the best interests of elites.

News sourcing

  • Journalistic professionalism in the Australian print media influences public policy. Whether journalists in the media exclude some sources in favour of others, or they simply forego the inclusion of other any sources at all, they are likely to display one dimensional characteristics (Bacon, 2011). Such characteristics were also found in the Gulf of Persia, (Nohrstedt, et al 2000). Herman (2009) states, such characteristics also demonstrate a strong tendency towards propaganda tactics commonly attributed to instances where media is both owned and run by the elites; rendering it synonymous with the political economy of mass media perspective.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate change not caused by humans: academia – The Sydney Morning Herald, (2007); “In these circumstances it is incredible that some leaders of scientific societies and academies have tried to use their authority to demand acceptance of the IPCC report.”– example of using the role of experts and intellectuals in an opinion piece from a one dimensional perspective of a journalist to construct a sceptic’s view of climate change.

Convergence in the dominant ideology

  • Reinforcement of views and ideas, using the anti-factor; that are in the best interest of the elites positions and interests is also a phenomenon that is displayed in the Australian media. High paid journalist Andrew Bolt, also an elite and climate change sceptic, published more opinion pieces on carbon pricing in Australia than any other (Bacon, 2011). Antilla, (2005) also notes the framing of climate change sceptics’ views to be a theme in the USA and demonstrates, that it was also a predominant notion that was shown in the US media over and over again. Good (2008) through extensive content analysis- discovered that, reinforcing elite views was a prominent theme and also attributes these characteristics to reflect tactics that show distinct similarities towards propaganda.

Print media example

  • Title: With Climate scientists like this no wonder we doubt – The Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt (2014); “It’s farce like that which helps explain why the CSIRO reported last week only 47 per cent of Australians buy its spin that the climate is changing and we’re to blame”. An example of how elite journalist Andrew Bolt, is reinforcing a sceptic’s opinion of climate change toward existing sceptics and those individuals who have not yet formed an opinion on the matter to invoke fear and the anti-factor, implying a government institution is the enemy-in order to push an elite agenda.

Conclusion

In Australia, by the virtue of autonomy, print media in Australia has been allowed to produce false information on false pretences to formally and informally describe scientific consensus on climate change that is neither true nor conclusive. The absolute truth of climate change has been masked. Through the wrongful disclosure of media sectors, the facts of scientifically diagnosed climate change, are wilfully and wrongfully promoted from a sceptic’s viewpoint.

Since print media, is owned by elites, it is clear climate change action is not in their best interest. In high concentrations in print media, content reflects the opinions and interests of the elites and hence the truth is subject to improper representations that inherently reflect propaganda techniques. Most of the sceptics’ viewpoint on climate change were sourced from Australia’s most powerful media body, News Corp. The techniques of propaganda present in content evidently coincide with media ownership and propaganda filtration from media ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology.

Most, or all content, reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite which exist in conjunction with media owned adversaries, who spread their own message, of un-truthful claims, and henceforth are clear signs of propaganda initiatives. These messages are constructed in the context that is congruently linked to the political economy perspective and reveals a sceptic’s view of climate change in the media is therefore, right wing slanted; un-moderated and freely distributed at will for the purpose of influencing political discourse.

References

Andrew Bolt, The Herald Sun (2014) http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_with_climate_scientists_like_this_no_wonder_we_doubt/

Antilla, L. (2005). Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change. Global environmental change, 15(4), 338-352.

Bacon, W. (2011). A SCEPTICAL CLIMATE Media coverage of climate change in Australia 2011.

Black, J. (1977). Another perspective on mass media propaganda. General Semantics Bulletin, 44(45), 92-104.

Boykoff, M. T. (2008). The cultural politics of climate change discourse in UK tabloids. Political geography, 27(5), 549-569.

Gamson, W. A., Croteau, D., Hoynes, W., & Sasson, T. (1992). Media images and the social construction of reality. Annual review of sociology, 18(1), 373-393.

Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from US daily newspapers. Econometrica, 78(1), 35-71.

Good, J. E. (2008). The framing of climate change in Canadian, American, and international newspapers: A media propaganda model analysis. Canadian Journal of Communication, 33(2), 233.

Herman, E. S. (2009). The propaganda model after 20 years: Interview with Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 6(2), 12-22.

HERMAN, E. Y. C., & Chomsky, N. N. 1988 Manufacturing consent: the political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon.

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (Eds.). (2011). Propaganda & persuasion. Sage.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nohrstedt, S. A., Kaitatzi-Whitlock, S., Ottosen, R., & Riegert, K. (2000). From the Persian Gulf to Kosovo—War journalism and propaganda. European Journal of Communication, 15(3), 383-404.

Abbott loves Murdoch: a reminder

Within hours of my post “Murdoch hates Rudd: a reminder”, where I predicted that the Murdoch media would turn even more feral towards the Government as the election nears, this front page from the Daily Telegraph is splashed across the internet:

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

Is this typical of the Murdoch media?

Tony Abbott was quick to kick it along:

For his part, Opposition Leader Abbott, speaking just minutes later, pointed to our “robust and diverse media culture” and said some would be in his corner, some wouldn’t, and one had to “take the rough with the smooth.”

Was he smirking at the time, I wonder? After all, we all know who’s in his corner. Someone he loves deeply, apparently. Thanks to AIMN reader Kaye Lee, here’s a reminder of how deep that love is:

TONY ABBOTT’S ADDRESS TO THE IPA APRIL 5 2013

“John Howard has said that Rupert Murdoch has been by far Australia’s most influential international businessman; but I would like to go a little further. Along with Sir John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF which saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and Lord Florey a one-time provost of my old Oxford College, the co-inventor of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world through the 45 million newspapers that News Corp sells each week and the one billion subscribers to News-linked programming.

Rupert Murdoch has sometimes changed his political allegiance but he’s never changed his fundamental principles. At least since the mid-70’s, those have been greater personal responsibility, smaller government, fewer regulations and support for open societies that don’t build walls against the world.

For our guest of honour, as for anyone deeply steeped in reporting, experience trumps theory and facts trump speculation. His publications have borne his ideals but never his fingerprints. They’ve been skeptical, stoical, curious, adventurous, opinionated yet broad minded. He’s influenced them, but he’s never dictated to them – as I happily discovered myself in 1989 while writing editorials in favour of the pilots who were trying to ground the airline that he then half owned. As a transgression, this turned out to be far less serious than spelling his late great mother, Dame Elisabeth’s name with a ‘z’ rather than with an ‘s’!

Rupert Murdoch is a corporate citizen of many countries, but above all else, he’s one of us. Most especially, tonight, he’s a long-serving director of the IPA, as was his distinguished and celebrated father, Sir Keith.”

Political brown-nosing of the highest order, don’t you think?

 

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.

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Making up the news

We all know just how manipulative, dishonest, sensationalist, gutless, unfair and unbalanced the media is in this country. And it seems at time as though they are simply making up the news.

The Daily Telegraph’s Gemma Jones has been very successful in coming up with some blistering political scoops over the last couple of days that fit that description. She may have a history of such successes, but of this I don’t know as I’ve only noticed her contribution to our political discourse over the past say or so. Given that she is employed by the Murdoch media empire would suggest that she’s a master of political journalism. From what I’ve seen in my rare adventures into reading anything produced by the Murdoch zoo it portrays itself as nothing but a provider of gossip.

The three pieces that Gemma Jones has written, or co-written, over the space of a mere 24 hours confirm my opinions of the rubbish that the Murdoch media specialise in. Stories are fabricated or blown up out of proportion to make them appear as though they are the scoop of the year. These stories may very well be based on facts, and most readers might actually assume that to be the case given the sensationalist and convincing nature of the content.

I would argue that the content, in most cases, is fabricated as are the sources and statements that the articles are built around.

Take this big scoop about the old media favourite: a Rudd challenge to Julia Gillard in the article ‘Ides of March: PM, Rudd set for battle’. The story leads off with:

A final showdown between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd could come within weeks, as tensions in the Labor caucus rose yesterday over the leaking of a letter critical of the former PM.

She gives the story some ‘weight’ by introducing a host of people that could have easily been fabricated, as so might be their alleged statements. Yet they litter almost every paragraph. The paragraphs are below, where I have highlighted the ‘fictitious’ people.

Supporters of Mr Rudd yesterday accused the Gillard supporters of circulating a damaging letter from a member of the public to the media and among the caucus . . .

Claiming it was in retaliation for Mr Rudd’s public attacks over the failed mining tax, several Rudd backers claimed there was now a push within his ranks to “finish the thing before the end of March”.

Mr Rudd has been privately counselled by some of his key backers to pull back from his public campaign for fear it could spark another showdown before they are ready.

And a source close to the PM said Ms Gillard would not rise to the bait and had no intention of goading the former PM while she still had the numbers behind her.

But many in Parliament believe another challenge to Ms Gillard’s leadership is being hatched.

MPs have been seen openly coming and going from Mr Rudd’s office this week.

One Rudd supporter yesterday admitted that the issue was coming to a head but wanted to give the appearance that “nothing was going on”. “There is nothing happening, no counting, nothing going on,” they said. (“They said”? I thought there was only one supporter).

“But it would be fair to say though that a lot of MPs are becoming increasingly despondent about their prospects after the disasters of the past few weeks.”

Another MP, who supports Mr Rudd, said: “Every day is a blow, every day there is something that dents the confidence of members in the leadership . . . “.

An MP who backed Mr Rudd in the leadership ballot last year said caucus members were “shaking their heads” over the $126 million return on the mining tax and reports yesterday that a $4 billion hole could be left in the Budget when the carbon tax moves to an ETS if the price plunges, as predicted.

Just about every paragraph in the first half of the story is built around what an un-named person insists upon. They could be anybody. Perhaps even Piers Akerman’s distinguished eye surgeon. Names are introduced at the end of the article, by which time readers would be the ones “shaking their heads”.

But what I find most interesting is that this article suspiciously appears to be based around something the Opposition’s Julie Bishop had said the day before:

”Beware the Ides of March.” The next meeting of the Labor caucus falls on the week of March 15, she said. Who would be the Prime Minister’s Brutus? Exeunt and end scene.

How convienient. Someone has given Ms Jones a little spur from which to build a story. And in keeping with the Murdoch agenda it was used as an attack against the Government. Kevin Rudd might very well be planning a challenge. I don’t know. But I do know that Ms Jones’ article fails to convince me that it’s a true story. And I find it odd that when Kevin Rudd does come out and publicly state that he’s not interested in a challenge that it appears in news.com without an author referenced. What’s the matter? Can’t Murdoch find any journalists prepared to but their name to a story that might have some truth about it?

Twelve hours later an article from Ms Jones again makes the front page; an article about taxpayers paying for NBN coffee. Jones didn’t make up many names, just the story. On the front page of news.com we read that:

Aussies are frothing at the mouth over news NBN is spending over $164,000 on fancy beans and coffee machines.

You can read her article here, titled Libs foaming over NBN coffee perk. Have a read of the article and tell if you see where it says that Aussies are frothing at the mouth or whether the Libs are foaming over the coffee machines.

Actually, don’t bother, as they aren’t there. It’s just another one of those pathetic headlining bullshit stories that have become the trademark of the Murdoch media. Expect it to get worse as the election nears.

Jones was at it again within 24 hours with this stunner: By-election threat to test PM’s leadership. I ventured in to read the story. As with her recent article about a Rudd challenge it is filled with speculation and un-named sources, which I have highlighted:

The former federal attorney-general is likely to win a job with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to argue the resignation would be too close to the September 14 election date for a by-election to be necessary, further fuelling speculation the poll decision was simply a strategy to defend that position.

While the minority government would still have the numbers in parliament to retain power, losing another MP – even without a by-election – would cause a “psychological injury” – as one Labor MP described it.

State government sources have confirmed a decision on Mr McClelland’s job application is as little as one month to two months away. He is understood to be prepared to jump out of parliament immediately to take on the role.

A spokesman for Ms Gillard denied yesterday she had any knowledge of Mr McClelland’s decision when she announced the election date – a day after Mr McClelland announced he was retiring from politics at the next election.

The only piece of remote credibility in those paragraphs is the “spokesman for Ms Gillard”. Ms Jones, should that source not put an end to the speculation you have led us to believe are facts?

Like I noted above, expect it to get worse as the election nears. Much, much worse.

Journalists in our fair country claim we need a better government. I would argue that we need a better media. But I don’t expect that Ms Jones and her employer will bother to lead the way.

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