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‘’What’s the fuss. A lot of Abbotts take a vow of silence’’

the truth

It is said by Australian political historians that Bob Hawke’s first ministry of 1983 was arguably the finest the country has ever had. It contained men of the calibre of Lionel Bowen, John Button, Paul Keating, Mick Young, Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans. The outer ministry included names such as Kim Beasley, Barry Jones, and Dr. Michael Blewett.

The only thing it lacked was a balanced representation of women. History also shows that the Labor Party has in the past 30 years corrected this. The boys club has not.

The ministry was successful because its leader acknowledged the intellectual capacity of his ministers and their capacity to implement the party’s policy platform. Added to that was Hawke’s ability to listen. He insisted that ministers (much to Keating’s annoyance because it leads to very lengthy cabinet meetings) be given ample time to put forward their case and for an open debate to take place. Ministers were allowed to speak openly and candidly to the media and the public about their respective portfolios.

Tony Abbott who leads the boy’s club in Canberra has decided that governing the country will now become secret men’s business.

Now there are valid reasons why some aspects of Government business should be secret. These include state secrets, intelligence, issues of war and design patents. However, the type now being practiced by Abbott is based on fear. A fear of embarrassments, of disclosure that might affect image or popularity. It takes away the people’s right to know. Instead, it is based on a need to know philosophy that is both insulting and disingenuous.

A friend suggested to me that given the standard of intellect in his cabinet you could hardly blame him for silencing them. You have to keep people like Pyne and Joyce in their places otherwise you would have bushfires breaking out everywhere.

I countered that by saying that when leaders suppress information or silence people from public debate, or you deliberately withhold material from the public then you are serving yourself and not the people. Can you imagine as a minister being told that if you want to make a statement regarding your portfolio you would need to have it cleared by some minder in the Prime Minister’s office? It says three things. One, if you cannot be trusted to convey your message in a way that reflects government policy then you should get another job. Secondly, that you are not on top of your portfolio or thirdly the party thinks you are incompetent and you are being muzzled.

So now we are faced with a government intent on lying by omission. By information drip feed. It is a policy that cannot survive because the truth is not something that you can hide simply because we are not sure how people might react to it.

Of course, a hungry media intent on feeding the 24-hour news service won’t allow it to happen either. This can be seen with their fishing excursions into politician’s expenses. In the absence of news, they will create it. Governments of any persuasion cannot escape scrutiny by silencing people or hiding things.

Eventually, the truth has a miraculous way of justifying its existence.

We do after all have a thing called the Freedom of Information Act. We all have a right to know. We pay their salaries and their bills, so we have a right to know where that money is going, and why.

Take for example Scott Morrison’s decision not to ease restrictions on media access to detention centres. Journalists now have to sign an agreement not to interview asylum seekers. Yes, that’s right. They are not allowed to talk to people. And at the end of any visit, they have to hand to officials for review any recorded content or be in breach of the agreement. Yes, it’s called democracy based on your need to know. Not on your right to know.

The Prime Minister’s trip to Indonesia has been hailed as successful by the Murdoch press, but can anyone tell me just what the government’s Asylum Policies are? It seems to me that there is a set for Indonesia and then there is what they decide to tell us. It seemed to me like Abbott just acts tough at home while capitulating abroad.

Science, of course, is the great provider of truth and the revision of it. It’s in its readiness to update change and review that makes it so compellingly honest. Now we have a conservative government unafraid to show its mistrust for the change that science brings with it. So much so that it has delegated science to the recycle bin of its ideology. We don’t need to know if it’s counterproductive to capitalistic intent.

The public has every right to be suspicious of a government who deliberately withholds information and condones secrecy. Even be contemptuous of it. If Tony Abbott expects to gain the respect of the Australian public, he will not do so by treating us with this disgusting destruction of our right to know.

‘’We will decide what you should know and the manner in which we inform you. Continue to be calm, disinterested, compliant and ill-informed. And by doing so I shall govern at length.’’

37 comments

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  1. DeanyZ1

    Excellent writing, John. However, when you try to reassure us that we have the Freedom of Information Act, you should qualify that with ‘at this point in time’. ‘Trust me, no surprises Abbott’ has a hidden agenda which enough voters bought. ‘Caveat emptor’ applies here.

  2. Stuart Dean

    I’d like to change my profile here – formerly DeanyZ1. And why isn’t there an outrage at the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement? Abbott can sign away Australia’s sovereignty at any moment, and allow big Multinational Corporations to sue Australia if our legislation ‘harms the Brand’.

  3. Vera

    Yes Kay Lee, Peta Credlin is the ‘faceless’ woman of the Lib party indeed. Power behind the man; dubbing herself the ‘Queen of No’.

  4. whatismore

    I hope that you’re right and the “truth will out” but it won’t be coming from the ABC. The Insiders, for example, has become little more than a pubic relations exercise for the government. Guests like Stutchbury, on this morning’s program, praised Abbott’s successful trip to Asia and repeated his phrase we are “open for business”.

  5. Candida van Rood

    Great article..so true. One thing though, I think it was Dr. Neil Blewett. He was a great friend of my father’s. in SA, back in the days you’re speaking of. My father, Peter van Rood, who would be rolling in his grave if he was witnessing what we are currently having to endure with this Coalition government. Scary stuff. Thank you so much for your great articles, a voice of sanity John.

  6. Misst

    Thank you John. I do so hope that the media starts squirming (big time) but they seem to have happily accepted that asylum seekers are none of their business … or ours!

    Stuart Dean …. I hear you loud and clear. TREASON I heard someone say in this respect and I agree! I just signed and sent the letter which is on this site …. http://aftinet.org.au/cms/
    This is what nightmares are made of!!!

  7. Kaye Lee

    John from what I can see it is Peta Credlin calling the shots. As Janet Albrechtsen said “Credlin turned an office ill-prepared for leadership into a highly effective political machine, personally driving policy and political strategy.” She is at every meeting and interview Tony goes to and it appears she doesn’t want anyone wrecking things by speaking without her telling them what they must say and how they must say it.

  8. Stuart Dean

    Thanks Misst, I signed last week. I urge more people to sign and share – not that it will do any good, apparently.

  9. JAQ

    And so it begins… lies and deception- back in the pocket of the Americans. Jesus, when will people wake up? Are Australians so cocooned and spoilt that as long as they have their beer and football they really don’t care?

  10. Liv

    Do you mean a “vow” maybe?

    A vowel of silence would be the silent U in words like “neighbour”.
    🙂

  11. ejdur662

    Stuart Dean….. The MSM should be screaming about the TPP Agreement but their silence is deafening!

  12. Bron

    While I agree with the sentiment of this article I think you should engage a good proof reader to ensure that your grammar and syntax are as good as that of Bob Hawke’s first ministry.

  13. xiaoecho

    I echo Stuart Dean. We have the FOI act but it can be repealed or watered down at any time. John mentions the fact that our Govt will have no respect if they continue down their path. This government couldn’t give two hoots about being respected by the people. What drives them is power – they have set out systematically to disempower Aussies from day 1. They want to subjugate us to ‘the market’. Does a despot crave respect? No, they crave power. ….as for the MSM, well, what is there to say? When will people wake up and realise THEY ARE NOT ON OUR SIDE!

  14. Vicki

    In a conversation at the pub (there for lunch) it was mentioned that in China Facebook is banned. One member of our group made the statement that such a ban could not happen here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Would posters please stop being picky about typos – I’m finding their petty fault finding annoying.

  15. Geoff Of Epping

    “In the absence of news they will create it.”
    This is the single most important point here. that the dimwit Abbott has failed to realise this shows how much he was firmly planted in the “now” while in opposition rather than concentrating on the future when he did become PM.
    Now the bored media are hungry, and the spotlight has shifted. Every word, gesture or movement the government makes will be magnified and dissected. They now are the prey not the hunters.

    My personal belief is that Abbott is simply out of his depth. he was never an “amazing” minister, nor a great performer in any of his various portfolios.Peta “Lady Macbeth” Credlin is the driver of government and rules the PM with an iron fist. She makes his decisions, that much is patently obvious.

  16. VoterBentleigh

    The new Prime Minister claims that he will not face the media unless he has something to say. Here is the leader of 23 million people who claims he has nothing to say about anything at the moment! We can only assume that either he doesn’t want to face scrutiny or he is doing nothing. How long is it going to be before Parliament sits? Democracy’s foundation is in Parliament, yet there is no schedule for the House of Representatives and the Senate to sit for the remainder of this year. Perhaps The PM is following in the footsteps of King Charles I !

  17. Geoff Of Epping

    @JAQ……YES. Unfortunately for us thinkers.

  18. martha

    I am worried, do the public understand when they are lied to.
    People busy working have they noticed abbott is a missing pm, not working now so I don’t hear confersation s in the work place , I am worried that some think its business as usual and nothing has changed.
    This lot seem to be there just for themselves they express no opinions or give confidence in any way.

    For example the American situation at the moment , Wayne Swan would along with Julia would been out there reassuring us they where watching the situation.

    We are retired and very concerned about our supper, and of course the economic disaster that would happen if the America defaults..
    But this lot seem to not care one bit or don’t understand , that’s the impression they give.
    Yesterday I refused to watch the Sydney Harbour parade , from reading twitter and other areas It seemed the day was all about abbott him self his daughters and his royal guest not the Navy, seem being pm is also all about him.

    I just wish I could get a feel as to what the general population are thinking

  19. martha

    can/will the freedom from information, availability disappear, that’s how worried I am about our country.
    we must talk more to people in the work place and else where and not be afraid to do so we where bought up in a generation where one did not discuss politics we must change that each and every one of us.

    o also get annoyed with the grammar police we have enough to worry about

    I am so grateful there are people like the owner of the blog that enables us to speak

  20. melaine

    Martha, I just want to hug you, there are lots of us feeling the same as you. But thankfully we have somewhere to come and share our thoughts with others who through their comments help to raise our spirits and allow us to work at solving the crazy situation we find our selves in.

    I also agree with you and others about the ‘grammar police’… I’m usually pedantic about such things but have finally realised it just personalises the articles and comments and this can only be a good thing.

    Thank you John for another excellent article. Always a delight to read.

  21. Stuart Dean

    John Lord, I left school as soon as I turned 15. I have learned more since then than I ever did at State School. Reading books taught me grammar and spelling, because I was interested. Keep up the good work.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Bron would you care to offer your services as a proof reader for free or perhaps donate the money to pay one? We get to enjoy the articles, insights and conversations for free. The contributors give up their time to write insightful pieces for free. Michael pays for the site without charging you. I often hit enter before I notice my mistakes but surely communication of an idea is the important thing rather than an apostrophe in the wrong place or a misspelt word. John is often typing with grandchildren crawling all over him. I find his articles well expressed and thought provoking on a very broad range of topics.

  23. Michael Taylor

    Thanks Kaye. I try to proof read when I can but I can’t be on hand 24 hours a day.

  24. johnlord2013

    My lack of a formal education always comes back to haunt me. So this then will be my last post. I hope that satisfies those of superior grammatical skills.

  25. Truth Seeker

    John, thanks for another fine piece, 😀 and don’t worry about those that think that grammar is more important than the message, 😉

    I do most of my writing on a 15 inch macbook, and make typos all the time 😯

    Keep up the good work mate, the vast majority enjoy your work, and appreciate your efforts 😎

    Cheers 😀

  26. Michael Taylor

    John, don’t let one or two critics bother you. There are thousands who appreciate your work so focus on them.

    You’d be surprised at the number of mistakes I come up with but I’m lucky that someone here at home catches them early.

  27. Kaye Lee

    John I was a high school maths teacher for many years. Kids felt duty bound to dislike and criticise me because I was their maths teacher and I was tough. It isn’t cool to like maths and I most definitely had expectations for them which I refused to give up on. Copping abuse and having graffiti written about me taught me many things, not least of which was how to take a punch (figuratively) and to persevere.

    You must understand what a wonderful contribution you are making. You inspire me and thousands of other people. You have been lauded by esteemed journalists and politicians. You have given many of us both pleasure and relief through your writing. I have read the story of your childhood – it too was inspiring as well as poignant.

    Please don’t let irrelevant comments deter you. We all make ourselves vulnerable by commenting publicly but what sort of world would it be if we allowed ourselves to be silenced by the critics. Draw breath, think of your purpose and priorities, and always know how much you are appreciated. Thank you for what you share with us.

  28. Alison RM

    John Lord, your lack of formal education is no barrier to your ability to express yourself. I find your articles to be articulate, thought-provoking, and always a pleasure to read. Please continue with your contributions.

  29. Roswell

    I love your work John.

  30. Kaye Lee

    And back to the point of this article…..

    “A fear of embarrassment, of disclosure that might affect image or popularity”. That completely sums up Abbott who is a self-confessed “weathervane”. Mind you, I think the fear of Credlin may outweigh all other fears.

  31. whatismore

    Bron don’t be 2 pedantic. The grammar and syntax are fine. Even MSM online news items have typos and grammatical errors. This is a result of journos being responsible for a range of tasks that were once carried out by a number of staff.

  32. toosmartbyhalf

    Great throwback to a stronger democratic era. The best leaders don’t dictate – they surround themselves with experts more knowledgeable and capable than themselves. Hawke was a master of this. I’d love to see a revival of stronger and more robust political process, either under the ALP or the Coalition, rather than the “top-down” dictatorial nonsense that Howard brought in and that has prevailed since.

    To quote a more enlightened personality, from years gone by: “there go my people… I must follow them, for I am their leader”.

  33. hilderombout

    Dear John, please do not stop writing. I am saying this with tears in my eyes because i love hearing what you have to say. It always inspires me and gives me greater ideas of how i can “beat’ this cretin that now has power over our country. Don’t worry about the spelling maffia. They obviously have nothing else to do in their lives but criticise. It just shows their small mindedness. We need you and your openmindedness, so please keep writing. I bet -smiling to myself now – that you can’t stop writing no matter what. I am counting on that!!! And thank you once again for your fine insights. I am joining the chorus of all who look forward to another few words and spelling mistakes of yours!

  34. Kaye Lee

    Great quote toosmartbyhalf. Another that I feel is appropriate to this discussion…..

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more,
    you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

    John I can only hope that you continue to inspire us and lead us to make ourselves better people and the world a better place.

  35. Jen

    Hey ladies and gents, Kaye and Michael. I’d be happy to proof-read for you if you could use the help? Jen.

  36. diannaart

    Again with the complaint about typos/grammar – what about the message?

    John’s message is not lost, despite complaints issued in a failed attempt to distract.

    A covert, secretive government quite frankly scares me far more than the clear and present blunders by Labor – at least we could see what they were doing. While in opposition, the LNP, learned all too well how the slightest error, real or imagined can be inflated for political purposes. With his team of intellectually vacant ministers, Abbott, knows he must keep a lid on everything, one thing he did manage to master was the promulgating of bullshit.

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