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The liberties of George Brandis by @awelder

In Andrew Elder, Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Journalism, Liberal Party, Media Reform on May 22, 2013 at 7:17 PM
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Tony Abbott and George Brandis before his address on freedom of speech. Picture: Sam Mooy Source: The Australian

By Andrew Elder

May 22, 2014

Margo: After the recent George ‘free speech’ Brandis speech  I asked (begged) @awelder to write me a piece on the civil liberties credentials of the man who would be Attorney General under an Abbott Government. This is Andrew’s first piece for @NoFibs. Thank you.

There is a story of a Queensland shearing team and a cook who was especially sensitive to their rough-and-ready ways. One day the shearers came for their meal break to find the cook refusing to serve them. Someone was sent in to find out the problem: the peacemaker returned to the shearers and asked “All right, which one of you bastards called the cook a bastard?”. After a pause one of the shearers replied: “Never mind that – who called that bastard a cook?”.

When George Brandis calls himself a defender of our liberties, and of media freedoms in particular, why is he taken at face value? What makes you think that if Brandis was confronted with a threat to civil liberties, he’d do anything but cave in and insist it was for our own good?

George Brandis was apparently big on civil liberties as a University of Queensland student, and studied their roots in philosophy and law at Oxford, as a Commonwealth (not a Rhodes, as so often misreported) Scholar. He became a barrister specialising in trade practices law, a field dedicated to defence against unfair market practices – essential freedoms play a role, kind of, but they involve the relationship between government and corporations rather than with or among individuals. Very little of his 15 years as a barrister was spent at the coalface of civil liberties, asserting the rights of clients from low socio-economic background against crusty police and snippy magistrates.

Before becoming a barrister, Brandis co-edited a book on Liberal politics called Liberals face the future. The book followed the defeat of the Fraser government federally, the defeat of longterm Liberal governments in states like Victoria, and the removal of the Liberals from Coalition government in Queensland. Three chapters are co-written by Brandis: ‘Liberal values’, ‘The Liberal Party: towards government’, and ‘Policy choices for Liberals’. All expound liberal philosophy and try to balance it against conservatism and libertarianism, but all shy away from actually showing what liberal policy might look like for Australians of that time.

In 2000 Brandis became a Senator, replacing Warwick Parer, who was one of John Howard’s closest friends. In his maiden speech Brandis quoted from Isaiah Berlin, Shakespeare, J S Mill and Adam Smith, and lumped ‘political correctness’ in with tyrannies. All the big decisions seem to have been taken, and Brandis would have our roles as citizens and legislators to provide the aspic in which they are to be preserved. Liberties are to be inherited and defended, not advanced or reinvented, nor extended to those excluded from the birthright in the past.

Most of Brandis’ parliamentary career has taken place since 2001, when the attacks on the US on 11 September that year ushered in a series of challenges to the execution of civil liberties under law. His thinking on the matter appears to have been piecemeal and working on trade-offs rather than on guiding principles on the execution of justice in 21st century Australia. Brandis claimed the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2005 represented:

a very conscientious attempt within the government to reconcile those two conflicting values: the real—not the imaginary or fanciful—threat of domestic terrorist violence in Australia and the fact that as a liberal democracy we fight with one hand tied behind our backs.

The lesson from the Second World War, and indeed the end of the Cold War, is that social/liberal democracies are more resilient than tyrannies – even those beset, to whatever degree, by political correctness. It is telling that Brandis relies upon the following quote to an extent that would have made the blood of his Joh-era Queensland youth run cold: Read the rest of this entry »

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The art of journalism: satisfying beginners and expert readers

In Journalism, Media, MSM, Sally Baxter on May 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

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By Sally Baxter
May 19, 2013

What makes a journalist? A lot of people – inside and outside the profession – are asking that question. If you think it takes a genius, think again. Good journalists have a representative of their audience in mind who informs every step of their work. My background’s print, so it’s natural for me to refer to a reader. Who’s your reader, a genius or an idiot?

My first Editor was also my dad which means I spent a good deal of my career wondering if I was a journalist at all. I certainly didn’t feel I really was until I was a newspaper reporter, but that was later.

In 1980 I finished high school in Brisbane and went back to Hong Kong to plot my next move.

When I’d left, Bax had a talkback show on Commercial Radio (that’s how small the market was – that was the name of the station) and was filling in the rest of his time with a little computer magazine he’d started.

By the time I returned Computer-Asia had grown enough to warrant all his attention. It was still a tiny operation, running out of a backroom behind the Hong Kong Press Club in Wanchai. There was Bax, John the ad sales guy and Teresa the paste-up artist.

I had pitched up in the middle of the mad rush which happened once a month to get the magazine to bed and Bax dragged me, still jetlagged, the very next day to help out.

I didn’t contribute much I’m sure but it was a great introduction to the swirling excitement of deadlines and the dead calm at the centre, where evey line must be carefully checked first for spelling and punctuation and then again for meaning.

The operation was so small and so tight for cash our final job was to stick the subscriber copies into envelopes as soon as they arrived back from the printer and make sure it was at the front of every newsstand we passed on the way home.

Bax, recognising the value of cheap labour, asked me to stay. But, I told him, I don’t know anything about computers.

“Neither do I,” he said.

“And nor do most of our readers. Our job is to explain it to them.”

Bax told me we were writing for the business people who knew this stuff was important but didn’t have the first idea what it meant.

“Our reader’s probably a middle-aged guy in the middle of a middle-sized company whose boss is either about to invest in computing or has just done so.

“He’s got these weird new people with weird new titles talking a language he can’t understand telling him he’s got to do things differently.

“He doesn’t want to look like an idiot to his boss but he’s not convinced any of this stuff is going to help him do his job better.

“That’s your reader. You get to talk to the experts. Go and ask them the things that guy needs to know.” Read the rest of this entry »

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

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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 »

Bolt no free speech champion, just another rhetor*

In Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, IPA, Journalism, Media on May 11, 2013 at 5:42 PM
Statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, blindfolded by protesting students in Athens. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, blindfolded by protesting students in Athens. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

By Thomas Connelly

May 11,  2013

Margo: I read with incredulity Andrew Bolt’s begging letter to citizens to donate to the IPA’s fund to defend free speech http://support.ipa.org.au/. IPA donors Murdoch and Gina could finance a free speech fund with their spare change. This appeal is about something else, changing the very meaning of free speech to suit the very big, very rich, very powerful end of town.

Shocks come in threes, and this surreal threesome kicked off with Abbott’s ode to Murdoch and his IPA as freedom’s discerning friends and his yes, Sir nod to the IPA’s policy wish list.

The Brandis free speech fantasy kicked off this week with a speech called The Freedom Wars and an @albericie interview.  Brandis, describing Bolt as one of only two Australian journalists prepared to fight for free speech, set the scene for Bolt, Murdoch poster boy, to launch the IPA appeal. It is so cynical, and so arrogant, that it gives donors the chance to win a copy of the Daily Telegraph’s obscene propaganda page one splash during the media reform debate signed by its puppet master.

Free speech is not what Murdoch/Bolt/IPA are about, as the head of the Press Council Julian Disney explained in evidence to the Senate media reform inquiry (to my knowledge no newspaper reported his highly critical comments about their free speech failures).

Or maybe free speech is now what Murdoch, Bolt, the IPA, Brandis and Abbott say it is. Who is strong enough to seriously take them on in the public sphere?

I published my response to Brandis, then I tweeted a plea for writers to respond, and late last night got this tweet from @metaboleus 2.01 am.

Onya, mate. Anyone else care to join him?


Free Speech is obviously a very important (if only implied) right, and no one can seriously argue it. There are limits on free speech; obviously you don’t have the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre when there’s no fire.

A recent limit to free speech, a sensible and timely one in my opinion, is restrictions on using ethnophaulisms in the public arena. I may out of touch, for never in my 50 years have I felt the need to publicly besmirch and mock our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. I have never felt the need to use the N-word in discourse, or to deny the existence of the holocaust.

Alleged political correctness allegedly gone mad barely registers as a threat to free speech compared to the almost complete full spectrum dominance of the major mainstream media companies, a dominance of interlocking companies and subsidiaries that seeps into the pores of society, and once established is as difficult to remove as the acres of lantana covering the Queensland country side.

In these free speech debates I am always amused to hear the bootless cries to heaven raised when people who hold powerful, privileged positions in society feel they are being restrained in their campaign of peddling misinformation. One these crying groups which make me chuckle is the IPA. I am equally amused to hear old white men such as Andrew Bolt, or Alan Jones, who work for influential media outlets, crying like aggrieved anarchists at the Stalinist regulations the government attempts to use to counteract the more egregious examples of rhetorical abuse.

Bolt is seen as a common sense hero in this one sided windmill tilting. He is romanticised to such an extent that he is seen by some as a martyr to free speech (a martyr who has not spent years in prison, who has not been blacklisted in his profession or denied work, who is free to travel around the country speaking at any time he wants). Thus the IPA’s Chris Berg compares Bolt with Socrates, the ugly, shoeless, poverty stricken, despiser of money and fame stone mason of Ancient Athens.

Socrates was famous for his humility and for his firm belief that he did not have wisdom. He can not be in any honest way be compared to Andrew Bolt. Andrew Bolt mixes with the richest, dresses in the height of fashion, seeks out new ways to make even more money, writes a regular column for the Murdoch press empire and has a weekly television show to broadcast his views. Read the rest of this entry »

Brandis free speech fudge: @MediaActive reviews the @albericie interview

In ABC, Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, Peter Clarke on May 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM


ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

By Peter Clarke

May 11, 2013

Media regulation reform was never going to be easy in Australia. As it turned out, the legislation proposed by the Labor government foundered midst roiling misinformation and hyperbolic claims of draconian state intrusion into media freedoms.

It was also not helped by the ham-fisted presentation, timing and advocacy by the minister responsible for its passage through the parliament, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The irony of a news media reporting with dubious accuracy and fairness on the details of both the Finklestein Independent Media Inquiry and The Convergence Review processes and outcomes was lost on most but not all citizens and informed observers.

Professor Matthew Ricketson of Canberra University, who assisted Finklestein during the Inquiry, vented some of his frustration at the overall quality, orientation and accuracy of the media coverage and analysis around the process and ideas for reform explored by the Finklestein inquiry in an address to the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Ricketson suggested in that speech that the best case study for the need for media reform in Australia was the news media reporting of the Inquiry itself: “What they have done in my view is to under-report a lot of what was presented to the Independent Media Inquiry late last year and to either mis-report the Inquiry’s findings or to ignore large parts of the report altogether”.

Those of us who have followed the Finklestein Inquiry, read the diverse submissions, the final report and the surrounding, often borderline hysterical, media coverage cannot help but have some sympathy for Ricketson’s view even allowing for his immersion in the inquiry process and his detailed contributions to its findings.

Perhaps the overall news media antipathy to the Inquiry itself and its recommendations were encapsulated best by the somewhat arch comments from the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, appearing in person before the Finklestein Inquiry. He asked in effect, “What’s the problem? Why are we here?”

He was not alone in that view. The coverage and advocacy journalism of the News Limited media was strident and tipping into polemical over-kill especially via its CEO Kim Williams. Sober analysis and balanced coverage were but a pipe dream.

In the UK, the equivalent struggle around the Leveson Inquiry’s findings and recommendations continue. There, the hacking scandals at the News of the World and elsewhere drove the sentiment, rhetoric and forensic character of that inquiry. Here in Australia, Finklestein was oriented more towards the transformations of the digital revolution albeit clearly within the ripple effect of the hacking scandals in the UK and Leveson.

Before Finklestein started his hearings, The Convergence Review was already doing its work and had issued an interim report. Finklestein’s eventual findings and recommendations were effectively folded into their processes as the government (at a snail’s pace) forged its legislation aimed at effecting some media regulation reform across a range of pressing issues including the growing anomaly of regulating the printed news media in one (to many deeply unsatisfactory) way compared to the regulation of analogue and digital broadcasting and online digital media.

Now, in the “phony war” phase of the lead up to a federal election in September 2013, the failure of that legislation and the apparent junking of much of the extensive research and analytical work by Finklestein and The Convergence Review are, of course, inevitably part of a campaign of intense political point scoring. Read the rest of this entry »

The Liberal Party’s war on freedoms: My reply to Brandis

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston on May 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM

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By Margo Kingston

May 10, 2013

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.’ – Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech

I used to be quite close to George. We were both small-l liberals, not surprising because we grew up under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and studied law at Queensland University at the same time, a time of the right-to-march protests. For Queenslanders of our era, free speech and political freedoms are fundamental because we’ve lived under a government that didn’t believe in either.

George is a Menzies scholar, and I asked him why Sir Robert, a true believer in democratic values, had banned the Communist Party. I learned that he had tried very, very hard not to.

We fell out when he signed a stat dec denying he had called Howard a ‘lying rodent‘. I was shocked because I knew he had called him a liar and a rodent. Still am.

In retirement I eschewed anger, and was surprised how deeply angry I became while watching his free speech interview on Lateline. Luckily I’ve also learned not to write in anger, so I spent the week publishing extracts from my book which detail some of the relentless attacks on free speech and political freedom which were a hallmark of the Howard Government. That’s what the book is about, really, and that’s why, after voting Liberal in 1996, I became a Howard-hater.

How could George forget? I mean, he was one of those who fought Howard’s attempt to trample our freedoms in his anti-terror laws! How could he forget?

I think he has to forget because he has ditched his core values to survive in a Party which has slowly and surely eliminated the moderate, Menzies branch of the broad church. He has had to prove he’s not one of those limp-wristed small-l liberals any more.

The other reason for personal anger was his assertion that Bolt and Albrechtsen were the only journos who supported free speech. I have written about and campaigned for free speech all my working life, beginning with Labor’s attempt in the early 1990s to ban political advertising during elections. I have also opposed racial vilification laws on free speech grounds, and campaigned to maintain media diversity to protect free speech. It is true that many journalists, including me, support media reform  for reasons eloquently stated by Press Council chief Julian Disney (see here  and here).  We support reform because we believe in free speech, and the Brandis smear against journalists who want reform made me feel sick.

So, having sorted out the reasons for my personal anger, I planned to write a considered response to George today. This morning, before the bombshell news that Bolt and the IPA were asking Australians to donate to an IPA free speech fund, Google revealed that I had already done so.

My reply is a 2004 speech to the Sydney Institute, the same organisation which hosted George’s ‘freedom wars’ speech.

George, I am still a small l liberal. I guess you had to black out your party’s horrific free speech and political freedom record under Howard so you can sleep at night in your new skin. Good luck with that.


Not Happy, John! Reflections of a Webdiarist

By Margo Kingston
August 11, 2004

The day after Mark Latham was elected ALP leader by a whisker, I had a coffee with a Liberal MP stunned by his ladder-of-opportunity victory speech. “We’re in trouble,” he said. “Latham has updated Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’.” Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Journalism, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on May 9, 2013 at 6:22 PM
Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser

Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser


ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

Margo: Well here it is, the Brandis speech on free speech he calls the Freedom Wars. It is not online, so Barry Tucker rang the Brandis office and obtained a copy. Thank you @btckr. I have a feeling I’ll want to write a response soon – my boiling anger at his @Lateline interview on the speech has just about subsided enough to safely have a go. (UPDATE: My reply to Brandis.)

Thursday 21 March – the last sitting day before Parliament rose for the Easter recess – will long be remembered as one of those days of frenzy and madness which infrequently, but memorably, punctuate the pages of our political history. It was, of course, the day of the famous leadership challenge that wasn’t. We will long remember Simon Crean’s stupendous press conference, as much as we remember the confused hours and bizarre outcome which it called forth. The political shenanigans of that day masked an event which was, in its way, even more consequential: the announcement earlier that morning by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, that the Government would not proceed with its attempt to create a statutory office of Public Interest Media Advocate – the most overt interference by an Australian government with the freedom of the press since Governor Darling’s (also unsuccessful) attempt to licence newspapers in the colony of New South Wales in 1825.

Just 24 hours earlier, the Attorney-General, Mr Mark Dreyfus, had announced that the Government was also abandoning another of its ill-conceived assaults on political freedom, the bizarrely titled Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which famously – or perhaps I should say infamously – proposed to make actionable the expression of political opinions on the ground that they might be insulting or offensive to other citizens – and, for good measure, proposed to test that requirement by the subjective standard and with a reverse onus of proof.

That same morning, as Mr Dreyfus was announcing the government’s backdown on the Anti-Discrimination Bill, Mr Crean gave a little-noticed speech in the House of Representatives – although he did not know it at the time, his last Parliamentary speech as Arts Minister – introducing the Australia Council Bill. This Bill, currently before the Parliament, is the product of an extensive review of Australia’s principal arts funding body, whose operations have hitherto been governed by a Whitlam-era statue, the Australia Council Act of 1975. Although Mr Crean told the House that “the core principles of the Council … enshrined in the [1975] Act … are … retained by this bill”, there is one core principle which has disappeared entirely.[1] S. 5 of the existing Act defines the functions of the Australia Council as being to formulate and carry out policies designed, inter alia, “to uphold and promote the right of persons to freedom in the practice of the arts”. However, when one inspects the comparable clause of the new Bill, one discovers that the protection of artistic freedom has mysteriously disappeared from among the Australia Council’s core functions: a development not missed by the arts community themselves. 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 »

Brandis: Enemy of free speech, friend of false speech, on children overboard

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Margo Kingston on May 8, 2013 at 3:03 PM
Sly defensive. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

Sly defensive. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

By Margo Kingston
Wednesday, 1 September, 2004
Source: Webdiary

The intense strain on the two people in Senate Committee room 2S1 today was palpable. The two had by very difficult choice propped up the credibility of a cowardly and bullying Prime Minister for nearly three years. Yet Howard’s point man on children overboard – George Brandis, whose own credibility has been questioned this week – put the boot into the truth-teller, Mike Scrafton.

Yesterday’s resumed children overboard inquiry produced the most dramatic, and painful, human drama I have seen in Parliament or on the stage.

Consider this:

Mike Scrafton has turned his life upside down to have his very belated say. His account of how he came to the decision, and the never-before-heard perspective of an ethical public servant, can be read in The catharsis of Mike Scrafton.

There’s never been commercial sponsorship for a whistleblower. He’s lost his very precious anonymity and privacy. He knew his life would be trawled over by the man whose image he threatened, and that anything would be used – completely out of context if necessary – to destroy his reputation to save John Howard’s.

Scrafton, after correcting the record, signed a statutory declaration swearing on oath that he was telling the truth, took the most credible lie detector test available, and submitted himself to scrutiny by the people of Australia through the resumed Senate children overboard inquiry. He knew that would mean brutal cross examination by Howard’s de facto barrister George Brandis, the most brilliant legal mind in the Parliament.

Queensland Senator Brandis had yesterday been accused by a former senior Liberal Party official in that state, by statutory declaration, of calling Howard a “lying rodent” over the children overboard scandal, and of complaining that “we’ve got to go off and cover his arse again on this”.

Last night, Brandis countered the accusations with his own statutory declaration denying that he had said these or similar words on the occasion alleged or at all, either in public or private. The significance of signing a statutory declaration is that you swear an oath that what you are saying is true. If it is not, then criminal charges can be brought against you. You are putting your personal integrity on the line.

Brandis submitted his oath in the knowledge that many people in Parliament House and beyond know that he does call Howard “the rodent” in private. Under pressure, he made partial admissions to @MikeSeccombe.

Brandis deliberately sought to destroy Scrafton’s reputation through the use of untested, unsworn assertions of fact based on ‘evidence’ he insisted be kept confidential and the source for which he refused to reveal. He also refused to take the stand to be questioned as a witness.

And who was that source? The Prime Minister. And who backed his version? The four Howard political staffers who signed statements backing Howard’s denial of Scrafton’s claim, but all of whom followed the PM’s lead in NOT signing statutory declarations and all of whom refused to appear before the committee. Their motivations are, quite simply, blindingly obvious.

Thus, to get cheap headlines designed to destroy the reputation of the man in the dock – on behalf of the man who refused to subject himself to the same scrutiny yet triumphantly beamed on national TV tonight that Brandis must be telling the truth because he WAS prepared to sign a statutory declaration – Brandis stooped to the level of feigning shock that he might not be believed, that:

1. Howard was in the Lodge at all times on the night when Scrafton testified that he told him there was no truth in the children overboard claims;

2. There were only eight phones at the Lodge; two landlines, Mr and Mrs Howard’s mobiles, and the four mobiles of the Howard ‘team’; Read the rest of this entry »