Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

Australia invaded Iraq by deceiving Australian people: 43 Australian elders

In Democracy, Iraq War, Margo Kingston on May 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM
An estimated 600,000 Australians participated in Iraq War Protest Marches in  February 2003

An estimated 600,000 Australians participated in Iraq War Protest Marches in February 2003 Pic: Andy Baker

We must return stable, predictable, AND honest government to Australia.‘  Joe Hockey, May 23, National Press Club

By Margo Kingston

May 23, 2013

When I saw Paul Barratt’s tweets today on some momentous Howard government lies, I remembered this letter, which Barratt signed in 2004. The government’s trashing of the elders who signed it triggered the decision of public servant Michael Scrafton to blow the lid on the children overboard lie. Thanks for the memories, Paul. And Joe Hockey, don’t talk about bringing back honest government, please. Your last government’s record does not allow it.

Paul Barratt, AO, former Secretary Dept of Defence and Deputy Secretary Dept of Foeign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)


TIME FOR HONEST, CONSIDERED AND BALANCED FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES: A STATEMENT BY A CONCERNED GROUP OF FORMER SERVICE CHIEFS AND AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATS

Sunday August 8, 2004

We believe that a reelected Howard Government or an elected Latham Government must give priority to truth in Government. This is fundamental to effective parliamentary democracy. Australians must be able to believe they are being told the truth by our leaders, especially in situations as grave as committing our forces to war.

We are concerned that Australia was committed to join the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and the deception of the Australian people.
Saddam’s dictatorial administration has ended, but removing him was not the reason given to the Australian people for going to war. The Prime Minister said in March 2003 that our policy was “ the disarmament of Iraq, not the removal of Saddam Hussein”. He added a few days before the invasion that if Saddam got rid of his weapons of mass destruction he could remain in power.

It is a matter for regret that the action to combat terrorism after 11 September 2001, launched in Afghanistan, and widely supported, was diverted to the widely opposed invasion of Iraq. The outcome has been destructive, especially for Iraq. The international system has been subjected to enormous stress that still continues.

It is of concern to us that the international prestige of the United States and its Presidency has fallen precipitously over the last two years. Because of our Government’s unquestioning support for the Bush Administration’s policy, Australia has also been adversely affected. Terrorist activity, instead of being contained, has increased. Australia has not become safer by invading and occupying Iraq and now has a higher profile as a terrorist target.

We do not wish to see Australia’s alliance with the United States endangered. We understand that it can never be an alliance of complete equals because of the disparity in power, but to suggest that an ally is not free to choose if or when it will go to war is to misread the ANZUS Treaty. Within that context, Australian governments should seek to ensure that it is a genuine partnership and not just a rubber stamp for policies decided in Washington. Australian leaders must produce more carefully balanced policies and present them in more sophisticated ways. These should apply to our alliance with the United States, our engagement with the neighbouring nations of Asia and the South West Pacific, and our role in multilateral diplomacy, especially at the United Nations.

Above all, it is wrong and dangerous for our elected representatives to mislead the Australian people. If we cannot trust the word of our Government, Australia cannot expect it to be trusted by others. Without that trust, the democratic structure of our society will be undermined and with it our standing and influence in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Ethics overboard: How to promote integrity in the moment of choice

In Democracy, Fifth Estate, Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media on May 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Capture_2013_05_19_16_39_51_112

By Margo Kingston
January 14, 2003

MARGO: With all the talk about stronger shield laws for journos, I think we are edging ever closer to needing an answer to the question: What is a journalist? We cannot argue for special protections and exemptions from privacy laws unless we can distinguish ourselves from non-journalists. To me the essential requirement is commitment to a genuinely accountable code of ethics, yet this is still just a dream. I gave this speech to a 2002 corruption prevention conference in Sydney, and reckon my idea is still relevant to the debate. I will run several pieces covering different aspects of the ‘What is a journalist’ question in the hope of genuine discussion on this vexed and increasingly urgent issue given the rise and rise of new media.

Ethics overboard

by Margo Kingston, September 2002

When you think about ethics, by which I mean ‘professional standards of conduct’, your starting point has to be your own.

Just after I started work in the big smoke of Sydney many years ago, the Herald chief of staff told me in confidence that the paper was sending a reporter posing as a prospective student into a Sydney high school to report on the youth of today in today’s public education system. The editor was to pretend to be his father when enrolling him, but was too busy to do so. Could I pose as my colleagues aunt?

Weeks later, while the reporter was still at the school, another reporter stumbled upon the project and leaked it, resulting in political condemnation in the parliament and outrage from our readers and my colleagues. Thus I discovered that journalists in the journalists union were bound by a code of ethics.

This was the first time I’d heard of it. I had a duty, personal to me, to tell anyone I was speaking to for a story what my job was, unless the matter was of such compelling public interest that I was duty bound not to. Everyone in my industry believed that this was not a case where the exception applied.

The shock of the incident marked the beginning of my deep interest in journalistic ethics. I thought about my role in relationship to my readers, and my duties to assert my professional ethics to avoid abuse of power by my industry.

I was trained as a lawyer, not a journalist. I knew my ethical duties as a lawyer: My duty was not only to the client but to the court, and I should never knowingly use as evidence material I knew to be false. So I don’t agree with the idea that ethics are instinctive in all cases. Written principles are required, and they need to be vigorously communicated as a matter fundamental to your career.

I believe the principles should be general, not particular, as particularity breeds legalism and the dangerous belief that technical avoidance equals compliance with ethical duty. Every ethical code should include not only the principles to which adherence is required, but the reasons why. For ethics, in the end, is about ourself in relation to other individuals and to our society.

The elites are in relationship with the people, and professional ethics – by accountants, lawyers, engineers, clergymen, architects – are constraints on abuse of power by the elites. A sellout of ethics for money, power, or survival, weakens the stability of the polity itself.

Example

In the early 1990s, a construction company sued an establishment Brisbane law firm for its costs in a prolonged Federal Court civil action. The firm had acted for a developer, since jailed, who instructed it to resist and delay an action for payment of a debt due for building a shopping centre by alleging fraud. There was no evidence for this accusation. The ethical duties of solicitors and barristers forbid them from pleading fraud without supporting evidence.

When the developer went into liquidation, the plaintiff bought its legal files for a pittance and sued the legal firm. The barrister involved was Ian Callinan QC, since appointed a High Court judge.

So, a former leader of the Queensland bar and a partner in Queensland’s best connected law firm were caught red-handed with their pants down.

The Queensland Law Society, a body backed by legislation to police the ethical standards required by solicitors, would not say whether or not it was examining the solicitor’s behaviour. It was confidential. And the society implied that it only acted on a complaint, not of its own motion. End of story. Read the rest of this entry »

The Skull Beneath the Skin

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Freedom of Speech, Ideology, JWH & NGOs, Margo Kingston on May 10, 2013 at 9:48 AM
Created by Peter Nicholson NicholsonCartoons.com.au (http://nicholsoncartoons.com.au/east-timor-and-oil.html)

Created by Peter Nicholson NicholsonCartoons.com.au

By Margo Kingston
10 May 2013

In his Cry, Freedom speech this week, Shadow Attorney General George Brandis said this:

‘But at least the debates about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which we have seen in the past couple of years, have been a sharp reminder to the Liberal Party of its historic mission. For in the freedom wars, there has been only one party which has stood steadfastly on the side of freedom.’

@NoFibs has disproved this claim – indefensible given the Howard Government’s record – in several pieces which detail just some of the relentless assaults on free speech and political freedom by the Howard Government. At all times Brandis was a member of Howard’s team, and a minister in the late years. See our ‘You must remember this, George’ archive.

A new chapter in the 2007 update of my book told the saddest, baddest, meanest story of the Howard Government’s intolerance for free speech which disagreed with it. It’s hard to believe unless you are cognisant of the anti-free speech values of neo-liberalism (see the IPA philosophical rationale in Howard’s blueprint for Abbott to stifle dissent )

In short, the Howard government signed a contract with a small East Timorese NGO to monitor human rights in local prisons. Before the contract, the group joined other local NGOs to sign a statement urging Australia to recognise international dispute settling bodies in the East Timor Sea oil dispute. When Downer was informed, he broke the contract and ordered his department to lie to the group about the reasons.

When the official told to lie, Peter Ellis, protested that this would breach the ethcial duties of public servants, his career was over.

Cry, Freedom.


The Skull Beneath the Skin

On 10 December 2004, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the world’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the horrors of  the  Second World War, Downer announced grants to ten NGOs in the Asia-Pacific. ‘Australia has a proud tradition of protecting and promoting human rights,’ he said. The Timorese NGO Forum Tau Matan would get a grant to ‘monitor and educate community groups and legal officials about prison conditions’.

Accordingly, on 25 January 2005, the senior AusAID diplomat in East Timor, Peter Ellis, made a written offer on Australia’s behalf of $65,830, which became a legally binding contract when Forum Tau Matan signed off on 22 February.

While organising local media coverage to hand over the cheque, Ellis saw the NGO statements on the internet. Acting on the orders he’d received when posted to Dili to note the Howard government’s ‘political sensitivities’ about funding NGOs, he scrupulously referred the statements to AusAID’s head office in Canberra. Downer was advised.

Downer hated NGO criticisms of Australia on the Timor Sea negotiations. In a BBC interview back in May 2004, he had complained of ‘hysterical and emotional and irrational claims’ and ‘a whole lot of emotional claptrap which is being pumped up through sort of left wing NGOs’. He meant Oxfam, which in the same month, on the second anniversary of independence, had released a report noting that ‘the Australian Government is reaping more than $1 million a day from oil fields in a disputed area of the Timor Sea that is twice as close to East Timor as it is to Australia . . . In total, Australia has received nearly ten times as much revenue from Timor Sea oil and gas than it has provided in aid to East Timor since 1999. Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten People

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Margo Kingston on May 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM
Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed parliament during his 2003 visit, which marked a shift in China's attitude to Australia. Picture: AP Source: AP

Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed parliament during his 2003 visit, which marked a shift in China’s attitude to Australia. Picture: AP Source: AP

By Margo Kingston
May 9, 2013

The day after Howard, Abbott and Brandis, among other Liberals, pulverised our freedoms for George Bush, they did it again for Chinese President Hu. This chapter of my book is Part 5 in our series of memory joggers for shadow Attorney General George Brandis, in the hope that he revises his recent speech this week proclaiming his Party a champion of free speech. Senator Brandis has rather oddly chosen not to publish the speech online so it can be freely read by voters, so for now check out the transcript of the @alberichi interview after he delivered it.

In our time, we must decide our own belief.
Either freedom is the privilege of an elite few, or it is the
right and capacity of all humanity
George Bush, address to the Australian Parliament, 23 October 2003

There are fascist tendencies in all countries – a sort of latent
tyranny . . . Suppression of attack, which is based upon suppression
of really free thought, is the instinctive weapon of the vested
interest . . . great groups which feel their power are at once subject
to tremendous temptations to use that power so as to limit the
freedom of others
Robert Menzies, ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’, from


24 October 2003

Speaker Andrew and Senate President Calvert wait at the side entrance of Parliament House to greet President Hu. A white car pulls up but instead of Hu, Chinese Foreign Minis- ter Li Zhaoxing alights to express ‘some concerns’. Andrew, Calvert and the Foreign Minister adjourn to Andrew’s office, where Li says Hu is worried about ‘two Green Sena- tors in the chamber and three guests – “dissidents” he called them – in the gallery, who were likely to interrupt the President’s speech’. Li names Chin Jin.

Andrew assures Li that the Greens’ senators will not get in, and that Chin Jin will not be in the public gallery. ‘The Speaker repeatedly gave them assurances, as best he could, that that was not going to happen. They seemed satisfied with  that.’

(Revealed by Calvert to Senate Estimates on 3 November 2003.)

When the Australian Tibetans arrive at Parliament House Chinese agents point them out to Australian security, who call Andrew. The security officers take them to the enclosed, soundproofed gallery. They cannot follow Hu’s speech because Andrew does not provide translation devices.

Chin Jin is in the office of his host, Greens MP Michael Organ, when Organ is told the fate of the two Tibetan guests. Two officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs escort Chin Jin to the security check area, then into the soundproofed area. Two Chinese officials closely watch the three guests while talking on mobile phones.

Three Parliament House security officers block senators Brown and Nettle from entering the House of Representatives. Senator Brian Harradine boycotts Hu’s speech. John Howard makes no mention of human rights or democracy in his welcome to Hu, but stresses the trade relationship.

Several Liberals refuse to applaud Hu’s speech, including NSW Senator Bill Heffernan, who also pointedly fails to use his translation device during the speech.

After Hu’s speech, NSW Liberal Senator Marise Payne muses over coffee, ‘I have to say something about Tibet.’

At the joint Hu–Howard press conference, Howard states, ‘I can say very confidently that it is a strong relationship built on mutual respect for each other’s traditions.’

That evening Speaker Neil Andrew refuses to tell the Australian people what he’s done, declining to comment when the media calls. The next day the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian break the story of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s intervention.

Read the full chapter below. Read the rest of this entry »

MSM outrage-shaming: What’s it all about?

In Alison Parkes, Democracy, Federal Election, Fifth Estate, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Misogyny on May 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM

By Alison Parkes

May 8, 2013

This piece is written in response to these three articles which have appeared within the past couple of weeks

1)  Hooked on outrage in the Twitter wars  by Jacqueline Maley, 20 April Fairfax

2)  The left takes a turn for the ugly as power slips through Labor’s grasp by Chris Johnson, 28 April Fairfax

3)  Feminist backs Abbott on ‘calibre’ comment  by  Heath Aston and Jonathan Swan, 7 May Fairfax

What these three articles share in common is a criticism of how people, particularly those on the Left, use Twitter to express outrage at comments made by Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, and the politician Dennis Jensen. These three articles use outrage-shaming to mock the reaction of the Left to insensitive and offensive comments from the Right.

Outrage-shaming occurs when people in mainstream media (MSM) use it as a pulpit to shame people on Twitter over their outrage or reactions to a event. Recent articles based on outrage-shaming have targeted the Left, women and the working class, groups that have traditionally been shamed into silence for breaching the polite rules of society.

Too loud, too much, too emotional, too public.

If you don’t like something Tony Abbott said, and take to Twitter to express your opinion, people who disagree with you will dismiss this as inappropriate outrage. This can be also called faux-outrage or confected-outrage by those who think the reaction has gone too far.

Say too much and MSM journalists will write a newspaper column about you. Keep your emotions under control, don’t react, stay quiet, don’t get angry, say nothing – most importantly, do not get outraged. The MSM will decide the narrative and context and the circumstances in which you will be outraged.

This outrage as a means of control is not new. For centuries moral panics have come from the elites – the wealthy, the law, the churches, the men – from the top down, and have covered everything from witches who could wither crops with just a glance and Muslim terrorists to satanic heavy metal or the evils of jazz or rap music, unemployed single mothers on welfare to people in boats. Moral panics have been used to control behaviour, kids and their music, widowed women who owned property, people who prayed to a different God or had no God. Groups are held up as an example of how not to live, to shame those who have transgressed the boundaries, into repenting. Shaming also serves as a warning of what might happen if you, too, think about breaking the rules. The latest moral panic in MSM is ‘The Left are using Twitter to express outrage.

Feminist Eva Cox described the Twitter reaction to Tony Abbott’s “women of calibre” comment, from ordinary users as well as Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek, as “an overreaction“. Sorry Twitter, you may react, just don’t over-react.

Of course you are entitled to free speech, be careful how you use it.

As Maley wrote in  Hooked on outrage in the Twitter wars:

Freedom of speech is one thing, but at a certain point in political debate you have to turn down the volume of the extreme voices at the edge of the debate, so you can have a reasoned one in the middle. You have to filter out the outrage and, even harder, not allow yourself to get outraged by the outrageous. –

So what if people take to their own Twitter accounts to express outrage?

People don’t always tweet expecting their conversations will be evaluated by mainstream journalists for levels of appropriate outrage.

And tweets that on the surface may appear to be an over-reaction aren’t always actually about outrage. Tweets can be used for humour, venting, sharing personal and painful experience and connecting with others. How different is this from the salons and cafes where people meet and talk, the turn of the century French Bohemian cafes or Dorothy Parker of the Algonquin Round Table and her acid-tongue put downs repeated to this day. Or the Pubs, the clubs and backyard barbecues and Sydney University Liberal Club president’s dinners.

Of course you are entitled to free speech, just not so outrageously public. Read the rest of this entry »

A day in the life of Our House under siege

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Margo Kingston on May 8, 2013 at 9:57 PM
Bush and Howard during visit to Australia. Credit. ABC

Bush and Howard during visit to Australia. Credit. ABC

By Margo Kingston
May 8, 2013

Margo: In this chapter from my book, I detail the unprecedented mauling of press, parliamentary and citizen’s freedom in Parliament by Howard when George Bush came to Canberra in 2003. Brandis was in the thick of it, and made no protest. My contemporaneous report of the events is Parliament meets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy

Political systems have much more frequently been overthrown by their own corruption and decay than by external forces
Robert Menzies, ‘The Sickness of Democracy’, from The Forgotten People radio broadcasts, 1942

The anti-democratic hustle

On 8 October 2003 John Howard’s government lied to the Australian people to obtain their Parliament’s consent to hold a special joint sitting for President George W. Bush. Manager of business Tony Abbott told the people’s House:

‘The government has decided to deal with the visit of President Bush in precisely the same way that the Keating Government dealt with the visit of President Bush Senior on 2 January 1992. As well as the formal Parliamentary proceedings, there will obviously be an opportunity for all members of this Parliament to mix with President Bush, and very possibly to meet him.’

Senior ministers would hold talks with the President, Abbott said, adding, ‘Of course, there will be similar opportunities for the Leader of the Opposition and senior shadow ministers. This Parliament spends a lot of time dealing with what might be described as politics as usual, but it is important to put politics as usual aside for this day.’

The 1992 speech by Bush Senior was the first time any foreign head of state had addressed our Parliament. There is nothing in the Constitution to allow it and no precise rules in place. But his visit had gone well. Australians had generally supported our participation in the UN-endorsed coalition to drive Iraq from Kuwait, and the man who’d masterminded it arrived as a largely uncontroversial figure. ‘Politics as usual’ was put aside by making Bush Senior’s stay a state visit. He was welcomed at Kingsford Smith Air- port on his arrival in Australia by the Governor-General, Bill Hayden, with Prime Minister Keating in attendance; there was a state dinner hosted by the Governor-General at Government House, a non-partisan parliamentary dinner hosted by Keating, and meetings with government, Opposition and even farm lobby leaders. The President mixed equally with all our representatives after his speech to show his respect for the honour we, their electors, had extended to him; and he treated our media congenially and with even- handedness throughout.

Australian Prime Minister: Thank you for coming. And just before I invite the President to say a few words, just to outline, first of all, the structure of the press conference so we can operate smoothly . . . I hope we’ll be able to take a roughly even amount from both the Australian and visiting press . . .

American President: My [opening] remarks, Mr Prime Minister, will be very brief. And I simply want to, once again, thank you, thank all of our official hosts, and thank the people of Australia for the warmth of the reception on this visit . . . And I’ll be glad to take my share of the questions.

At that joint press conference Australian journalists asked Bush Senior about half of the twenty-two questions he fielded. Presumably when Abbott told Parliament that this next Bush visit would proceed in ‘precisely the same way’ both our press gallery and elected representatives felt reassured.

The anti-democratic sting

Contrary to Abbott’s pledge, the government already knew that, unlike the visit by his dad, the visit by Bush Junior would NOT be a state visit, but a partisan ‘working’ one, as a guest NOT of the governor-general, our head of state, but of John Howard. The President would NOT ‘very possibly . . . meet’ our parliamentarians, or even ‘obviously . . . mix’ with them. He would NOT ‘of course’ meet senior shadow ministers. He would NOT hold a press conference.

The government knew all this weeks before Abbott misled Parliament to obtain our consent. Read the rest of this entry »

Community Cabinet: Policy sounding without the press gallery fury, froth and bubble

In Democracy, Federal Election on April 20, 2013 at 8:01 PM

By Kevin Rennie
April 20, 2013
Source:  Labor View from Bayside

There were quite a few surprises at Julia Gillard’s Community Cabinet on 17 April 2013, hosted by Norwood Secondary College in Melbourne’s eastern suburb of Ringwood.

Cabinet members held one-on-one interviews before a public forum that lasted over an hour. The government school is in the Federal seat of Deakin held by Labor’s Mike Symons. Deakin only needs a swing of 2.41% to change hands but Mike certainly is not conceding anything.

First surprise was that the protesters outside came from only one interest group: the Animal Justice party had mustered over 100 supporters. There were no climate sceptics, no refugee advocates, no University students highlighting funding cuts, no representatives of the monied classes protesting class warfare. This was despite the school being well served by public transport and freeways.

Secondly, the usual suspects did not appear to be inside the event either. Registration was open to all-comers, taking three days to fill apparently. Questions were taken at random. If they were rigged then the PM’s slip, in nominating a woman incorrectly as a man, belied that notion.

Someone was handing out the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia newspaper. It is a very reality-challenged organisation – see footnote*** for a taste of their parallel universe.

Somewhat unexpected was the very warm and loud reception Julia Gillard received from the standing-room only crowd. At times it felt more like one of Gough Whitlam’s public meetings, with plenty of true believers in attendance. In addition, the government’s DisabilityCare program seemed to have attracted a significant number of the participants.

The level of civility was also surprising given the depths of public abuse and denigration our political discord has reached recently. Exchanges were good-humoured and without interjections. Great to see that democracy can flourish without descending to some parody of a survivor reality TV program. No testosterone, and no belittling!

In fact, there was very little spin. Don’t take my partisan word for it. Watch the video. It isn’t very entertaining unless you’re a political junkie. (I met one of those at Ringwood station afterwards, a young man complete with suit, who was bitterly disappointed that he had not managed to have his photo taken with Julia. I had to settle for a brief encounter with our outstanding Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.)

Issues raised by the participants included: climate change, legal aid, same sex marriage, the Royal Commission into child abuse in religious institutions, gay rights in aged care facilities, school education funding, industrial relations, pensioners.

One question that brought agreement from much of the audience was a non-policy one: “The Labor Party has been making a difference for the whole of Australia. Why on earth doesn’t the general public know?”. Might sound like a Dorothy-Dixer but it wasn’t: “Labor’s promotion and publicity is absolutely woeful.”

The Community cabinet was sound rather than sensational. Julia Gillard certainly hasn’t given up and her focus was on what distinguishes her government from Abbott’s austere opposition: good policy. Substance over noise!

[*** From the CECA’s The New Citizen: “Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have openly, repeatedly proclaimed their intent to kill some six billion human beings, in order to consolidate permanent, worldwide British imperial rule.” Won’t waste your time by including a web link.]

@Barnaby_Joyce states the case for Labor’s media merger ‘public interest test’: How will the Nats vote?

In Democracy, Fairfax, Freedom of Speech, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM, News Limited on March 17, 2013 at 5:05 PM
Barnaby Joyce Picture: Kym Smith

Barnaby Joyce: We need YOU to talk to your local MP. Picture: Kym Smith

By Margo Kingston
March 17, 2013

The National Party has long opposed further media domination by Rupert Murdoch, as detailed in the two media policy chapters in my book. It fought against John Howard’s weakening of media concentration laws to facilitate Murdoch expansion, and Barnaby Joyce actually crossed the floor in 2006 to vote for his amendment to limit the damage of Howard’s legislation. Guess what he wanted – a public interest test for big media mergers! And that is what the ALP has proposed.

So, now that Labor wants to pass a modest roll-back of Howard’s laws to allow the Media Advocate to stop very, very big media – ie Murdoch – gobbling up even more players if it is not in the public interest, where do the Nats stand?

Apparently the MSM hasn’t bothered to look into the Coalition’s opposition to the two contentious Labor bills – media diversity and tougher self-regulation. Does no-one in the press gallery have a memory? (By the way, there used to be Liberals who cared about media diversity too, but they are long dis-endorsed or silenced; you can read about them in my book too).

So, to encourage the Gallery to do some work, here is a media release and a speech in 2006 by Barnaby explaining the reasons for his stand. Perhaps someone in the Press Gallery – anyone – might care to seek his opinion now?

Cross media ownership may threaten democratic process

Nationals Senator for Queensland, Senator Barnaby Joyce has stated “Though not the highest profile issue, the proposed changes to media ownership laws are probably one of the most important. Decisions made now will have ramifications for the future concentration of media and the roll out of new technology.

“The Queensland Nationals have long recognised the issue and their concerns were reflected in the unanimous resolution, at State Conference, to protect local journalism and stop the overcentralisation of views which can only be to the detriment of democratic process. The Nationals have pursued this purpose since State Conference and, with work conducted by Nationals’ Senators, have pursued these concerns through the recent Senate Inquiry.

“A major concern with cross media remains the over centralisation of the media market and the lack of capacity of the ACCC to have effective oversight of media mergers and their effect on the democratic process of our nation. The ACCC has no powers to be, nor was it set up to be the arbiter and protector of a diversity of public opinion.

“I share the view of the Productivity Commission, noted in its report on broadcasting, that the introduction of a public interest test, with particular emphasis on diversity of political and public opinion, in relation to media mergers or acquisitions, must be a central feature of any media reforms.

“Working through the processes of the Senate and with the Minister, the Nationals will do their very best to come up with the best mechanism to protect diversity in light of the intention of the Minister to achieve passage of this Bill.” Senator Joyce said.

 

An explanation of 2 issues, cross media ownership and the merger and acquisitions process

Here is a brief explanation of a complex agenda which is currently in train in Canberra. This is an explanation of two issues, cross media ownership and the mergers and acquisitions process, as laid out in the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (no.1). This is a discussion on how they are linked. Read the rest of this entry »

Last chance to rein in Murdoch

In Democracy, Fifth Estate, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM on March 16, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Created by George Bludger @GeorgeBludger via http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgebludger

Created by @GeorgeBludger via http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgebludger

By Margo Kingston
March 16, 2013

Here’s a history lesson on the long road to media dominance by Rupert Murdoch, aided by both big parties, via two chapters in my book. The Liberals said yes to Murdoch under Howard, and will keep saying yes. They are partners, or rather, Abbott is Murdoch’s puppet.

I also tell the story of how I lobbied minor parties to stop Murdoch’s law in the Senate in 2003, and describe Fairfax journalists’ long struggle to preserve our values of fearless independent journalism.

Murdoch papers’ incendiary reaction to Conroy’s reforms – led by Murdoch’s top executive in Australia Kim Williams – means Murdoch’s empire has something to lose. Two things, actually – less chance of even further dominating Australia’s MSM, and more chance of its journalism being just a little bit accountable to the ethics of journalism.

There is no chance the media reforms, weak as they are, will pass without strong action by citizens. Wilkie, Oakshott, Katter, Windsor and Thomson need to be convinced to negotiate with Labor to agree to a reform package they can sign up to and vote for quickly. They must understand that Labor has been crazy-brave to put up even this minimalist reform package, and that Labor must get this done quickly or bleed to death from Murdoch media’s relentless attacks.

Over to you. Apart from anything else, your NBN needs you.

UPDATE MARCH 17: Here are the key extracts from Conroy’s Insiders interview today:

Fixing Howard’s gift to Murdoch to become even more dominant

In 2007 the Howard government weakened our cross media laws that were introduced by Paul Keating. And we said from that day we would be campaigning to introduce a public interest test because we didn’t believe leaving the door open for further concentrations of media in this country were healthy.

I mean around the world: in the US, the top two newspaper groups cover about 14 per cent. Even in Canada, a country more akin to ourselves in terms of geography, 54 per cent coverage from the top two. In Australia it is 86 per cent coverage. We’ve already got one of the most concentrated media sectors in the world and we don’t believe it should be allowed to be shrunk any further.

Why self-regulation needs to be strengthened

I’ve been entertained by the claim that this is a solution looking for a problem. Well let me read you some quotes from evidence given publicly to the Finkelstein Inquiry. It may come as a surprise to you, Barrie, they didn’t get a lot of coverage in the mainstream media.

Let me read to you Professor Ken McKinnon who was a former chair of the Australian Press Council. He said: “I had an editor say to me if you promise not to uphold any complaints from my paper we will double our subscription, is that a deal?”

We have the current head, Julian Disney, he said: “The possibility of reduced funding remains a significant concern fuelled on occasion by the comments of publishers who dislike adverse adjudications or other council decisions. And the Council’s almost total reliance on funding from publishers, and especially from a few major publishers, is widely criticised as a crucial detraction from its real and apparent independence.”

And just finally, if I could, one more, another head chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Dennis Pearce: “Indeed we had one period where The Australian newspaper did not like an adjudication we made and they withdrew from the council for a period of months”. And Mr Finkelstein asked: “Was that a direct consequence of the particular adjudication?” And he said: “It was indeed. They said our adjudication was wrong and they were not going to publish it, and they didn’t”.

So, people who want to argue … Read the rest of this entry »

Media reform laws address abuses of long-fought for freedoms

In Democracy, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, News Limited on March 15, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Aivev1L

By Matt da Silva (@mattdasilva)
March 15th, 2013
Source:Happy Antipodean

In a useful run-down on his blog, journalism law academic Mark Pearson outlines some objections to the government’s proposed media reform legislation. It is a little brief and although it starts out promisingly, political concerns quickly rush to the fore. Here’s his first objection, near the top:

Here we have a piece of legislation proposing a statutory mechanism for the supervision of industry-based self-regulation of print and online news media.

That, dear readers, is ‘regulation’.

Fair enough, and we’ll get to my reaction to this point later.

But for people interested in understanding the implications of the proposed laws in terms of the Privacy Act, Pearson’s blog post is very useful. There has been no explanation like his from the ABC, Fairfax or News Ltd. Kim Williams, the News Ltd CEO, appeared on Sky News, but he simply echoed the uninformative tropes that were spun on the media reform issue by the Daily Terror and the Australian. These kinds of rants merely use the public’s ignorance as a bludgeon with which to punish the government.

Pearson, on the other hand, goes through the detail of what could happen if the laws got through Parliament, and how they could materially affect publishers of news. He informs us, which is one of the things that journalists who go to school to study the profession are told is a key component of their craft. Please read his blog post if you have time – you will not regret it.

Pearson then looks back to what he says is the ‘politics that has cruelled this whole media regulation review over the past 18 months’.

What he’s referring to are reactions from politicians to the hacking scandal that engulfed the media in the UK, the repercussions of which continue to play out. As part of the debacle, News Corp’sNews of the World newspaper was shut down in July 2011.There was also Bob Brown’s famous “hate media” spray in May 2011 that took place in front of a group of reporters at Parliament House.

In essence, Pearson is saying that dissatisfaction among politicians on the Left combined with universal horror at what had happened in the UK motivated them to launch the Finkelstein Inquiry, which began in mid-September 2011 and reported to the government in February 2012. Between February 2012 and March 2013 the communications minister, Stephen Conroy, was also looking at the Convergence Review, which was about media ownership rules.

Or he wasn’t, I don’t know. It seems like a long time to make us wait. Waiting ensures that the original emotions associated with the issues drift away from popular consciousness and it dulls the debate, opening it up to exploitation by interested parties.

What a lot of people have completely forgotten about is Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay on News Ltd’s Australian, which came out in September 2011. Titled Bad News, it made points that are extremely germane to how the current debate is panning out. But it’s old history, you might say. No, it’s not. Just listen to what Manne says, keeping in mind Bob Brown’s expressions of unhappiness.

It is an unusually ideological paper, committed to advancing the causes of neoliberalism in economics and neoconservatism in the sphere of foreign policy. Its style and tone are unlike that of any other newspaper in the nation’s history. The Australian is ruthless in pursuit of those who oppose its worldview – market fundamentalism, minimal action on climate change, the federal Intervention in indigenous affairs, uncritical support for the American alliance and for Israel, opposition to what it calls political correctness and moral relativism.

Note that Manne was still working on the essay when Brown made his position plain in May 2011, but it’s no coincidence that they both sing from the same score. I wrote about Manne’s essay when it came out.  And I also wrote about the reaction from News Ltd a week later. That reaction mirrors in its tone and general character the reaction we’ve seen in the past few days of News Ltd newspapers to Conroy’s proposed media reform laws. Read the rest of this entry »