Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘Media Reform’ Category

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

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 »

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 »

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 »

George Brandis, free speech charlatan

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, JWH & NGOs, Margo Kingston, Media Reform on May 8, 2013 at 1:20 PM

MARGO: I am so disgusted with the Brandis free speech interview on @Lateline I don’t trust myself to write about it. It brought back memories of the Howard Government’s relentless assaults on free speech, egregiously denied by Brandis last night, and of his nasty record. So @NoFibs will try to drag truth back on the public record with a Brandis archive. We begin with the transcript of his intellectual dismemberment by Emma Alberici on last night’s Lateline.

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: The Shadow Attorney General George Brandis has tonight delivered a swingeing attack on the Gillard Government for what he calls a war on free speech. In an address to the Sydney Institute, Senator Brandis said the Government’s proposed media reforms were the worst attack on press freedom in Australia in nearly 200 years. He went on to say that under the Labor Government victimhood had become the basis of a new kind of privilege and that showing respect to its special status had become a more important value than the freedom to call that status into question. George Brandis claims that the Coalition has been the only party which has stood steadfastly on the side of freedom. He joined me here in the studio a short time ago. Senator Brandis, welcome to Lateline.


EMMA ALBERICI: You assert in your speech that the Government’s media reforms, which they recently abandoned, represented the most overt interference by an Australian Government with the freedom of the press since 1825. How have you reached that conclusion?

GEORGE BRANDIS: Well, this was the public interest media advocate that Senator Conroy wanted to foist on us, was in fact the first measure, at least in peace time, that had been undertaken in this country which could have had the consequence of a government official telling newspapers and media outlets what they were at liberty to say and what they were not at liberty to say in their media. Now that hasn’t happened before.

EMMA ALBERICI: The legislation didn’t say that.

GEORGE BRANDIS: The public interest media advocate’s determinations could have had that consequence.

EMMA ALBERICI: Do you believe the electronic media in Australia is facing government censorship?

GEORGE BRANDIS: I think that the withdrawal of the media regulation package that Senator Conroy was so wedded to was a great victory for freedom of speech. I’m aware, of course, that there are different issues between newspapers and the electronic media because the electronic media obviously use a public resource in a way that newspapers and magazines don’t. But nevertheless, I think a common philosophical principle strongly in defence of freedom of speech and freedom of the press unites them both.

EMMA ALBERICI: Is there any reason though why broadcast media should be regulated in a way that the press is not?

GEORGE BRANDIS: Well, I’ll – because as I said a moment ago, spectrum is a public resource.

EMMA ALBERICI: But that aside.


EMMA ALBERICI: That aside in principle do you think they should be regulated differently?

GEORGE BRANDIS: I don’t think it’s possible to just say – put that aside because that I think is the principle functional difference between the two.

EMMA ALBERICI: Well social media, for instance, is not regulated at all?

GEORGE BRANDIS: That’s right, but it doesn’t use the same public resources as the electronic media do.

EMMA ALBERICI: Is the Internet not a public resource? Read the rest of this entry »

Nazi Greens an enemy of democracy, government decrees

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, JWH & NGOs, Margo Kingston, Media Reform on May 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM
Rats at the feast. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies.

Rats at the feast. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies.

By Margo Kingston
October 29, 2003
Source: Webdiary

“I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis.” Liberal Senator George Brandis launches a government campaign to destroy the Greens as a political force.

George Brandis is a Queensland Liberal Senator. The Government chose him to conduct the tactics for and lead a front-on Parliamentary attack on the Greens which asserted that the party was an enemy of the State. The speech responds to a Greens’ motion for an inquiry into procedures for joint sittings of Parliament. Senator Brandis’s political biography is at the end of his speech.


28 October, 2003; Senate Hansard

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland) (3.59 p.m.)

I move:

Omit all words after That, substitute the Senate:

(a) condemns the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle during the address to the joint meeting by the President of the United States of America (the Honourable George W Bush) on 23 October 2003, in defying the order of the chair and the proper direction of the Serjeant-at-Arms;

(b) considers the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle to have been grossly inappropriate, discourteous, lacking in good manners and reflecting poorly upon the Parliament and Australia; and

(c) in light of the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle, asks the Procedure Committee to consider what steps should be taken to ensure the proper conduct of joint meetings to welcome foreign heads of state.

Copies of the amendment have been circulated at least to party leaders and have been given to the attendants.

When the people of Australia last Thursday saw the antics and the predetermined sideshow of Senator Brown and Senator Nettle during the course of President Bush’s address, I think most people – I dare say more than 90 per cent of the people of this country – thought that Senator Brown and Senator Nettle were responsible for an insult to the President of the United States and to the American people. Of course they were, but they were guilty of much more than that: they were guilty of a contempt of this parliament.

In the name of free speech, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to deny the freedom of speech of the invited guest of the Australian people – sought to prevent the Australian people hearing what President Bush had to say. In the name of parliamentary democracy, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to suborn parliamentary democracy.

And now they come to this chamber, bleating, awash with crocodile tears and pretending to be the custodians of free speech – pretending to be the custodians of this institution. Their own conduct last Thursday in belittling this institution – in denying the freedom of a foreign head of state to be heard by the Australian people and by the representatives of the Australian people – demonstrates the hypocrisy of their position. Read the rest of this entry »

Media reform on life-support

In ABC, Fifth Estate, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform on April 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM

By Kevin Rennie

April 13, 2013

The near capacity crowd at the Centre for Advanced Journalism’s session The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? belied the conventional wisdom that media reform in Australia is dead (Details and the live blog are here). The venue was the aptly named Elisabeth Murdoch theatre at Melbourne University. But let’s not dwell on her infamous son despite the presence of his large press prints all over the issues discussed.

Media reform panel
The following is a personal reflection on some of the matters raised.

Convergence and concentration: Whither/wither media reform?

Panel members left little doubt that there is no chance for major reforms to legislation or self-regulation in the near future.

Julian Disney, Chair of the Australian Press Council, was the most optimistic. He would like to get his ambitious agenda revitalized: broadening Council membership to all the so-called converging media: print, broadcast and online; establishing community input; enhancing complaints procedures; defining journalistic ethics, standards and codes of practice; gaining the ability to initiate complaints.

On the issue of media concentration there was no consensus. Media Watch presenter, Jonathan Holmes, spelled out the financial reality – no one is going to buy a stand-alone daily newspaper. He hopes that here may be greater diversity in the medium term through the emergence of independent online news sites with real penetration.

There is little or no precedent for this in Australia at this stage. Players such as Crikey, Global Mail and New Matilda resemble feature magazines with no meaningful news gathering capacity. Perhaps he has the soon-to-be-launched Guardian Australia in mind. It will be a different voice but is hardly a truly new player.

Healthy bias?

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the discussion concerned political bias in the mainstream media. The panel consensus, led by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, was that bias is okay so long as we get a broader range of opinions by having more media outlets and owners.

This publisher pluralism depends on the problematic proliferation of real online alternatives mentioned above. However, the old joke still fits: Freedom of the press is owning one. If new online organisations are controlled by the big end of town, the traditional media hegemony will continue, based on the shared worldview of the usual suspects. It may just mean more opportunities for the IPA turks and other think tankers to strut their neo-liberal stuff.

Projecting public interest

Controlling the excesses of partiality, the audience was told, would only come through monitoring instances where bias leads to distortion of facts (lies for instance) or unbalanced coverage (more of jolly old Lord Whatshisname the climate scientist). The Press Council and media monitors like Media Watch are virtually powerless to rein in political bias per se.

Standards that might be applied in this regard include: distinguishing between news and views; checking sources; contacting the key people before publication; fact checking. The kind of vilification that some News Limited papers poured on Senator Stephen Conroy recently seems beyond the reach of any code or regulations. Even the court of public opinion is unlikely to find in favour of politicians or political parties who seem to be regarded as unfair game.

Just as worrying was the lack of redress for individuals who have been treated unfairly by the media. Julian Disney saw it as a real problem but Jonathan Holmes was not as concerned as he believes it rarely happens. Great to hear that people’s privacy is being respected at last. The shameless commercial current affairs shows must have abandoned the foot in the door and the camera at the bathroom window.

Social media campaigns were suggested as one of the few ways to call out the worst cases. It is the hands of the public. Julian offered the prospect of community roundtables and a Press Council community advisory group. Fine in themselves but hardly a knockout blow to gutter journalism.

He believes that netizens will have to provide the teeth and the quality research if the self-regulator is to do its job. Perhaps we should follow his suggestion that concerned citizens coordinate complaints to the Council. Perhaps the Public Interest Advocate will be a citizen appointment. Hands up anyone? Some philanthropist is bound to foot the bill to defend all the libel suits and legal maneuvers to reveal confidential sources. Read the rest of this entry »

The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? Live Blog

In Fifth Estate, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media, Media Reform, Uncategorized on April 10, 2013 at 6:27 PM


Live blogging by Kevin Rennie
The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now?

The Chair of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, will outline future directions, followed by a panel discussion with ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes, Senator Scott Ludlam (Greens) and Moderated by Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, Margaret Simons.

Centre for Advanced Journalism


University of Melbourne

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – 18:30

Australians For Honest Politics Media Reform @NoFibs

MS: #goodjourno hash tag

Who wants to talk about media reform after collapse of govt legislation? Convergence review and Finkelstein inquiry left in cold.

JD: Tragedy that process went astray and opportunity lost. Bill not as fierce as presented. There are major concerns about standards eg opinion v fact. Freedom of expression should provide opportunity for all to express their views for as many as possible not just a few. Chilling effect of intimidation of those wanting to present alternative ideas. Press Council has been distracted and may get back to its reform agenda but less pressure on publishers to embrace reform. How do we deal with increasingly convergent media.

Press Council: Need clear code of conduct and monitoring of standards. Adjudication of complaints not only task. Broader responses to complaints needed. Continue third party complaints and improve. Need power to initiate own inquiries. Improve reporting/accountability of Council.

Diversity in mainstream still major issue. Only hope is online. Develop stronger consumer voice separate from regulator. Encourage convergent media regulator with all platforms together, not just print.

SL: The Greens don’t support govt controlled media regulator. How to deal with enormously powerful corporate media owners? Public interest advocate was the real issue for them not freedom of press. Further legislative reforms dead. Nothing from coalition and progressive govt bullied.

JH: Media concentration problem. Online and ABC no answer to this. Cannot wind back clock. Media regulation won’t help. Anyway who could/would buy newspapers? Single daily couldn’t survive on their own. Issue of bad treatment of individuals not that big, not justification for Finkelstein proposals. JD’s reforms way to go, with some kind of external check on Press Council.

JD: West Australian breakaway for Press Council is unique. Over time privileges that journalists get should be subject to being within some kind of framework. Need to cover online journalism as well.

JH: Is there much disagreement about standards?

JD: there is amongst some editors eg photoshopping images, invasion of privacy, trespassing. Need for realistic, practical standards.

SL: Difference betw journalists and online ameteurs – scale as applied to tweets and blogs versus MSM.

JH: Bias by media conglomerates obsesses online comment but extremely difficult to regulate fairness. Hard for Mediawatch then would be harder for a regulator.

SL: bias only problematic with one one or two players. Need more points of view.

JD: bias should not stop practices such as checking with people before publication. Factual accuracy is a different Q – should be tenable basis for what is written.

JH: Shouldn’t be writing rubbish. Should get more diversity in news online in future.

MS: Consumer activism?

JD: PC holding community roundtables. Community advisory group at national level good idea. People to research and present complaints in considered, effective way.

JH: Social media holding old media to account eg Destroy the Joint with Alan Jones. Facebook campaigns have some effect on how press go about their business. Tap into people’s fury and they join in.

Audience Questions:

Q to MS: Should university become involved with complaints?

MS: No but have educational role.

JD: One-off social media campaigns do little to change standards permanently.

Q: How can laws protect journalist and sources. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Latham’s Webdiary interview

In Journalism, Media, Media Reform, MSM on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 PM
Mark Latham

Mark Latham

September 29, 2005

Source: Webdiary

Margo: Mark, I thought I’d start with a few questions from Webdiarists.

Mark: Yep.

Margo:The first is from Craig Warton and he’s asked, if you could turn back time would you have pursued the path of politics to try and achieve your goals for Australia, or would you, perhaps, chosen another path?

 Mark: Well difficult question in that I never find contemplating the turning back of time to be all that healthy a process; it’s just so futile.

I know it’s futile. I guess the point is –

Well I suppose the best way for me to answer to it is that tonight in Melbourne I’m giving a lecture on the ten reasons why a young idealistic person these days should avoid organised politics. If they want to make a contribution to society, do it at a community level, helping out with charities and local community and welfare organisations to try and help people and generate a more cohesive caring society. So, yeah, if I was born tomorrow or was a young person leaving University tomorrow, I’d think that was a better path.

So you’re really going, okay, the only way to achieve social democracy in Australia is bottom-up. You cannot actually do it by entering a mainstream political party and doing it from the top-down. That’s, is that –

Well I think our major problems in Australia are social, not economic, I mean we’re a prosperous nation with a long, long period of economic growth and you compare that to the horrific increase in family and community breakdown, the rise of mental illnesses, social isolation, whole range of problem our young people face these days. The paradox has been as the economy has grown rapidly, the quality of society has deteriorated just as rapidly and I think it’s more important for people to think about ways in which you can address those social problems than play the political game which inevitably at election time is about economics.

Well, this is a question from me, you say in your Introduction that this book is my exit from all forms of politics, yet reading the Introduction, it seems to me that the only way to achieve social democracy is to engage in politics at some level. So I was just wondering if you really meant ‘organised politics’?

Well organised politics, politics as the Australian people understand it, which is belonging to a political party and running for Parliament.

So you’re trying to, through this book, say to the Australian people there is another form of politics and it’s really important that you get involved at its community level – and then what? I mean how do you bring that together?

Well people already know that, they live in communities and neighbourhoods, but the rise of materialism and I think the voyeuristic culture people are increasingly turning inwards and I argue in the Introduction for people who read the book, that as much as possible people should contribute to their local community and try to rebuild social capital and trust and cohesion.

One of the things that I found most interesting in the Introduction, and Mark that’s all I’ve read because I’ve been running around on my own thing but I’m definitely intending to read the whole thing –

Well the Introduction’s sort of a summary of the themes in the book.  The Diary entries, of course, are contemporary and lively and raw, but the Introduction is a summary of the overall.

You talk in the Intro about the two options for Labor reform, the first being independence from the unions, not possible, you’d split the party; the second being forming a mass political organisation – too difficult. Would you think there’s any chance for a mass political organisation that actually wasn’t part of the major parties, that was, I don’t know, a movement which could take in a lot of Australians who are disillusioned with mainstream politics however they vote? I suppose I’m getting to this thing that you did, that Internet Democracy experiment, and I’m just looking for what – can you imagine possibilities utilising the net as a means for Australians to rescue the system so that they have got a real alternative again, to get the debate moving? Read the rest of this entry »

Can the cross bench deliver citizens accountability from newspapers?

In Margo Kingston, Media Reform on March 27, 2013 at 6:57 PM
Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

By Margo Kingston,
March 27,  2013

What a predicament. All seven cross benchers and the Government are dissatisfied with the standards of newspapers and want citizens to be protected against their abuse of their power. Julian Disney, who heads the Press Council which administers self-regulation, believes there are ‘substantial problems with media standards in Australia’.

Yet nothing will be done.

Let’s quickly address the blame game. The area is highly dangerous for any government, which is why newspapers have escaped any regulation for so long (see the Finkelstein report on the tortured history of journalists‘ fight to get even limited self regulation).

The government has dithered due to splits in cabinet, leaks to Murdoch papers (presumably from Rudd supporters) and fears of retribution by newspapers clearly barracking for the opposition.

So Gillard and Conroy rammed through Cabinet a set of reforms they believed were weak enough to pass muster with the proprietors and sought to blackmail the cross bench into saying yes or getting nothing.

The plan blew up in their faces. Murdoch media led an overblown and vicious campaign against the reforms. The cross bench was unhappy with the detail and the minimalist nature of the blueprint and refused to meet the deadline. Gillard and Conroy said it’s over, let’s move on.

So the government does lose-lose, angering proprietors with no result. The Opposition makes it clear it will not countenance any strengthening of self-regulation, keeping it onside with the Murdoch media. The chance is lost.

The real losers are the people and good journos who need to be empowered by some accountability for bad journos. As Julian Disney said so eloquently at the Senate inquiry, ‘Absolute freedoms attack freedom’.

Newspapers get protection for journalist’s sources and exemption from the Privacy Act with no obligations in return. And evidence to the Senate inquiry showed that News Limited and Seven owner Kerry Stokes believe there is no public interest in what newspapers separate from self-interest.

Disney articulated the public interest – freedom of expression – and gave evidence that the media standards problem was so significant that newspapers actually impeded the free expression of citizens.

This occurred through distortion, suppression of key facts and opinions, factual errors and invasion of privacy. (The worst example of factual error during the media reform debate was when two senior news limited journalists doctored a quote to falsely accuse Senator Conroy of doctoring a quote.) Read the rest of this entry »

Shanahan and Bolt doctor a quote to accuse Conroy of doctoring a quote: Welcome to Murdoch news:

In Margo Kingston, Media Reform on March 21, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Senator Conroy on Insiders

Senator Conroy on Insiders

By Margo Kingston
March 21, 2013

Stephen Conroy said on Insiders


Denis Shanahan 19 March


In his evidence to the Finkelstein Inquiry into media standards, Professor McKinnon… said:

“One editor jovially once remarked that he would rather double his annual contribution than have a complaint upheld.”

Andrew Bolt yesterday


Headline: Labor uses doctored evidence to grab state control of the media

How despicable – and hypocritical. The deceitful Gillard Government itself doctors a quote to justify its attack on the free press…

That word “jovially” was omitted by the Government when it tried to argue it had reasons for demanding state control over the press…

A joke by an editor is presented by Conroy was a serious proposal. And it is done by Conroy omitting a crucial word.

Official Finkelstein inquiry transcript, 16 November 2011, page 48 

McKINNON: However, I have 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?”  It was said over lunch, but the irritation, the consideration about personal reputation drives people more than money in that circumstance.

Thank you to Jacob Stam (@stamja) and Matthew from Canberra for alerting me to this matter.