Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Howard Government’

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 »

Murdoch’s war: 175 generals on song

In Iraq War, Journalism, Margo Kingston, MSM, News Limited on March 13, 2013 at 4:10 PM
davies_writing_on_the_wall

Artist Martin Davies. Writing on the wall

By Margo Kingston
February 19, 2003

Rupert Murdoch is pro-war, and thinks a lower price for oil after Iraq is conquered will be better than a tax cut. After those comments (see Murdoch: Cheap oil the prize), a reader sent me Their master’s voice by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian, which reports that all 175 Murdoch editors around the world just happen to agree with their boss. It begins:

‘What a guy! You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Some are bellicose baritone soloists who relish the fight. Some prefer a less strident, if more subtle, role in the chorus. But none, whether fortissimo or pianissimo, has dared to croon the anti-war tune. Their master’s voice has never been questioned.’

The reader wrote: ‘It is unrealistic to think that media owners do not influence media content and this article attests to an agenda beyond – and unfortunately more sinister than – objective news reporting (if there is still such a thing these days). You only have to pick up a copy of the Daily Telegraph to know that Murdoch’s papers are pushing for a war. On one hand, it astounds me that Murdoch is so unabashedly blatant about his pro-war stance as it relates to cheaper oil if the coalition of the willing is successful, and yet I find his honesty a breath of fresh air amid the pretences and lies of Bush, Blair, Howard.’

Jack Robertson was so incensed by yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that he penned a Meeja Watch on Murdoch’s war. Sue Stock in Nimbin, NSW recommends medialens for ‘critical reporting on the media’s role on the Iraq situation, particularly in the UK’. Veteran journalist Phillip Knightley’s speech to an Evatt foundation seminar I attended on Sunday on the death of investigative journalism and what to expect of the impending war coverage is at evatt.

After Jack, expat Kerryn Higgs reports on the rallies in New York and Barcelona. To end, Phil Clarke’s choice of Wilfred Owen’s WWI poems, which “might bring home the reality of war which seems to be missing from the debates”.

“Owen was killed in action 1918,and it is frightening to think that his poems are now nearly 100 years old and still so applicable”.

I’ve just published Harry Heidelberg’s column on Chirac’s untimely outbreak of French arrogance, Chirac blows it. Me, I remember a comment by the Herald’s then foreign affairs correspondent in Canberra, David Lague, when I asked if he was boycotting French goods in protest at its nuclear testing in the Pacific. “Think big picture, Margo. France is the only western nation prepared to take on the United States.”

The war is so dominant in people’s minds that the NSW election can’t get off the ground, but we’ll launch the election webpage next week regardless. I’ve just published the fourth article by our planning and development commentator Kevin RozzoliCommunity consultation: A plan of action, and commentator Noel Hadjimichael’s column on questions voters might like to ask before they vote, Labor’s lost years. He begins:

‘Given the informal acknowledgement by both sides of NSW politics that we facing a short three week campaign – during which time the caretaker Carr administration will do its utmost to play by the rules – voters should look back over the past four years and ask themselves three questions:

1. What has Bob Carr done to improve our lifestyle, job prospects or environment since 1999?

2. Who has performed best in their roles as Ministers over this period?

3. What does the next four years offer?’ Read the rest of this entry »

Howard’s blueprint for Abbott to stifle dissent

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, IPA, JWH & NGOs, Margo Kingston on March 12, 2013 at 2:19 PM
Artist Martin Davies.  More works and info on Martin at: www.daviesart.com

Artist Martin Davies.

By Margo Kingston
March 12, 2013

This chapter from Still Not Happy, John! (Pengiun, 2007) is required reading for activists and people in non-government organisations which advocate for change. John Howard’s government systematically sought to stifle democratic dissent with the help of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Believe it or not, the Howard government funded the secretly funded IPA to produce a report saying groups who did not reveal their funding should not get government funding. Pressed to justify this hypocrisy, the IPA promised to disclose its donors but it never did.

As the likelihood of a government led by Howard’s political son grows, I feel citizens need to ask detailed questions of the Coalition on their intentions this time round. None of the dissent stifling measures discussed here were ever revealed prior to election.

I commissioned journalist Paddy Manning (@gpaddymanning) to write this chapter and he did a fine job.



‘Still Not Happy, John!’ is published by Penguin. You can download it as an ebook here:

Still Not Happy, John!