Category Archives: Rights

Tony Abbott just keeps on playing the same organ

Contributed by Joe Montero

Tony Abbott is a disgrace and as each day passes, he looks even more ridiculous. But it would be a mistake to just laugh at him. What he does has serious consequences.

This is because what he says is used by some very powerful people. They are pulling the strings and using him, an instrument to push a political agenda. If it were not for this, he would be ineffectual.

Abbott might look like a man whose own hurt and ambitions play their part in his eager willingness to be the spoiler against the man he has a score to settle with Malcolm Turnbull. This is undoubtedly part of it. There is also more.

There exists a section of Australian society that is very accustomed to enjoying greater privileges than others have, and a sizable part of it is worried that this is under threat. Its aspirations and fears are bundled in a mixture of a specific view of Anglo and Christian traditions, utmost faith in the market as a regulator of society, small government and opposition to what regarded as a waste of resources on those regarded as good enough to be counted in their society.

It is a well-documented reality, permeating Australian history and alive and well today. Abbott resonates with this section of Australian society.

This is where Abbott has resonance. He speaks for them. This is what gives him his importance.

Nowhere else, is this born to rule mentality better expressed than through News Corporation’s tabloids, television radio stations. They raise Tony Abbott of national and even international significance and at the same time chip away at the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, suggesting that he is not decisive and militant enough to deliver.

There is a major block within the parliament and the Coalition parties,  representing this elite section of Australian society. It is backed and is the political centre of gravity for the creation of a political movement around the Rupert Murdoch view of the world.

One thing the born to rule element has learned over the generations, is that dividing society into hostile blocks is a good way to keep control a fear of others. This is the underlying foundation principle behind the politics of hate that has bubbled up in the last few years.

All this has a lot to do with what Abbott says and why he gets so much attention. He waded in on the side of climate deniers, for example. Now he is putting effort into opposing marriage equality and  there is  the ongoing crusade against Islam.

Putting forward an opinion is one thing. But when it comes to Tony Abbott, there is much more to it.

The bigger picture is that he is playing a role in the process of creating the new political movement of the privileged, drawing closer sections of the Coalition support base, parts of church hierarchies, One Nation allies and a collection of other odd bods, into a crusade to save the world as they know it.

Battle lines where there shouldn’t be battle lines. Focus is on those issues that can most easily be used to set up villains, to be used  as a skeleton, on which to legitimise narrow interests and dupe another part of Australian society into being the unsuspecting foot soldiers of the defence of privilege.

Building division and setting up villains is used to silence critics as well.  Borrowing from Donald Trump, all that is not permissible is branded as fake news. Use of vilification and bullying is legitimised.Proper discussion, based on real facts, van be evaded and attention can be turned away from those who are pulling the strings.

With his most recent elevation, Tony Abbott has been on the international stage,  playing a similar role, helping similar elements in other counties, facing similar fears and sharing a shared view of the world.

Whether Tony Abbott is fully conscious of his role does not matter. He is still doing harm and hurting people, and for this he should be accountable.


Herald Sun slings mud at Yarra City Council

by Joe Montero

The vicious headlining attack on the Yarra City Council in Melbourne, through the pages of Murdoch’s Herald Sun, cannot be justified in any way and one cannot escape the conclusion that there is a sinister purpose behind it.

This is that it is part of the Murdoch empire’s campaign to impose its own version of political correctness, in the guise of countering political correctness. But this attack sees the campaign lifted to a new level.

Led by scribes like Andrew Bolt, Rita Panahi, there is a pretend campaign against rorts. Pretend is the word, because if was genuine, those involving in lining their own pockets, whether in public office or in private enterprise would be the target. This is not happening.

Instead, the target is those considered political enemies and these so-called purveyors of the truth, have no qualms over about deliberate distortion of the facts and peddling outright lies.

For instance, the Yarra council has been pilloried for including bicycles in its fleet. Imagine that! Perhaps our crusaders for decency would prefer that the council should have purchased a fleet of Mercedes than use a cheaper and environmentally friendly alternative?  This would bring them in line with the federal and state government, as well as directors and senior executives of major companies, including News Corp, the owners of the Herald Sun.

True, the council also has a fleet of cars and other vehicles. Here too it is important to note that vehicles are necessary to carry out the council’s functions and whether the size of the fleet is excessive or not depends on how this matches up with the need. But why let this inconvenient fact get in the way of a good mud slinging story? Our scribes can paint a much darker picture by simply ignoring it.

One cannot help but observe that the lynch mob at the Herald Sun express a view that some should be treated less equally than others.

There is the claim that those working for the council are paid too much and that executive salaries are over the top. There may be some argument here, but how do executive salaries at Yarra compare to the equivalent at the Herald Sun? While at it, how much are the likes of Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi paid?

They also go on about the disgrace of providing more jobs, when some other councils have gone the other way. One thing that is not mentioned is that the Yarra Council has a reputation for being a particularly active council and does a lot more to consult with residents than is normal practice. It puts in that little bit extra to build a community.

This is one reason that it maintains the three town halls that have come by though past amalgamations. They provide meeting space in a municipality where it is in short supply and the demand high. Many local community groups and activities depend on the spaces provided by the council. These spaces contribute to building connections between diverse groups.  Preservation of the buildings  maintains  important apart of local history.

Expenditure comparisons are made with a couple of other councils, completely disregarding that such comparisons are not fair, because different municipalities have different needs and therefore their expenditure cannot be compared in such a simple manner.

The attack of the Yarra City Council is inextricably linked to a decision made to not observe Australia Day on 26 January, because this date is offensive to the original Australians who view it as the marking of their dispossession from the land. If we are a caring society, surely, we should refrain from activity that is offensive to a section of our community. This does not make one un-Australian. On the contrary. It shows genuine appreciation in being part of our diverse community.

Supporting moving observance of Australia Day to another date is not divisive, but unifying, unlike the Turnbull government’s decision to deny Yarra City carrying out citizenship ceremonies. But this is a government keen to find a diversion or two from its own troubles.

Here is the crux of the matter. Rupert Murdoch is keen to give support to his political tools and he rewards certain people very well to peddle his wishes. Not that this reflects respect and support for Malcolm Turnbull. It does not, because the Murdoch agenda is more in line with Donald Trump, with its divisiveness and politics of hate. But for the present at least, this agenda is seen to be best pushed through the ranks of the Coalition.

The icing on the cake is a dodgy Herald Sun poll of 100 residents. Firstly, it is far too small a sample to draw a reliable conclusion. But our crusaders against fake news (or is it alternative facts), don’t care. The question asked was: “Do you agree with Yarra Council’s decision to scrap Australia Day”. This is blatantly dishonest, because no such decision was made. The question is biased and the sample is far from random. This breaks every rule of polling. Despite this, it is peddled as proof that the residents are on their side by a 60 to 40 margin.

The point is, the local community is not on the Herald Sun’s side.  This unity was reflected in  councilors agreement on the vote on Australia Day issue and this includes those connected to the Liberal Party.

A likely outcome of all this will be that the standing of the Yarra Council will rise, instead of fall. After all, there are worse fates that to be attacked by the Murdoch stable. After all if these people attack you, it suggests you must be doing something right.


Be the first to comment on “Herald Sun slings mud at Yarra City Council”

Leave a comment

Logged in as Joe. Log out?

Press freedom is under attack and in Australia too

This article, which was first published in the latest issue of The Walkley Magazine, is from a journalist and member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

When this t-shirt re-appeared at a Trump rally last November, there were reports that it had been quickly withdrawn from sale. Not so. For just $29 plus shipping it can still be yours via a San Francisco-based online design outlet.

It seems like it’s been open season on journalists for years. More than 3000 of us have been slain in targeted killings and cross-fire incidents since 1990; 93 killed just last year. 

Indeed, Australian law enforcement agencies have demonstrated they are not prepared to vigorously investigate crimes against our colleagues.

Nine Australian journalists have been murdered in the past 42 years and still not a single killer has been brought to justice.

Now it seems it is open season on journalism itself. Scrutinising the powerful, reporting the truth and informing our communities – these are all being mocked and assaulted by those who seek to deceive for their own ends.

Journalism is being criminalised. The act of reporting in the public interest can lead to imprisonment. We know that’s the case in Turkey, in Egypt, in China… Add Australia to the list.

Australia’s parliament passed section 35P of the ASIO Act with bipartisan support, allowing for imprisonment for five or 10 years for a journalist reporting on a “special intelligence operation” – but because SIOs are secret, a journalist wouldn’t necessarily know if an operation was an SIO.

After MEAA and others spoke out, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Roger Gyles (who later quit his post 14 months into a two-year term), made a modest recommendation since enacted: a defence of prior publication. But there has been no change to the penalties. Any journalist “recklessly” publishing a legitimate news story could still face lengthy jail time.

So being first with breaking news can get you up to 10 years in the slammer. How’s that for a “chilling effect” on journalism?

Now Attorney-General Brandis is considering extending Gyles’ recommendation to Australian Federal Police “controlled operations”. So will journalists face jail for being first to reveal a botched AFP investigation?

Section 79 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act provides jail terms of six months to seven years for “receiving” a leaked official document (“any sketch, plan, photograph, model, cipher, note, document, article or information”). Multiple AFP raids about NBN leaks are not unknown.

Meanwhile, in February ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis hinted that the first Journalist Information Warrants to be issued under the new metadata retention laws (an odd own goal: disclosure of the existence of a warrant is punishable with two years’ jail). These warrants allow 21 government agencies to trawl through two years’ worth of journalists’ and media organisations’ telecommunications data in order to discover our sources. It’s all done without our knowledge, so we’ll never know how many contacts and news stories have been compromised.

Are we now being spied on because of our journalism?

The government still refuses to reveal what goes on at sea under the military veneer of “Operation Sovereign Borders” or what takes places in asylum-seeker detention centres. While health professionals were exempted in October, other “entrusted persons” face two years’ jail for revealing the truth.

While there are some whistleblower protections available in the public sector through the flawed Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, Fairfax Media’s reports show that private sector whistleblowers are routinely harassed, threatened and punished in revenge for having exposed corporate fraud, illegality, dishonesty and threats to public health and safety. Journalists must stand up to protect our sources, who risk so much in order for the truth to be told. MEAA has made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry.

Defamation laws continue to be used to harass, intimidate, muzzle and punish journalists and media outlets. The uniform defamation regime is used to assuage the hurt feelings of the rich and powerful, who don’t have to prove their reputations have been harmed in order to win massive payouts.

The ongoing failure of lawmakers in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory to introduce shield laws allows plaintiffs to subpoena a journalist to compel them to cough up the identity of a confidential source. If the journalist maintains their ethical obligation to always protect the source’s identity, they risk a fine, imprisonment or both, plus a criminal conviction for contempt of court.

If the outrageous use of suppression orders is any guide, the courts aren’t of a mind to do the fourth estate any favours. In Victoria, an average of two suppression orders are issued every working day. Fortunately, Victoria is reviewing its Open Courts Act 2013, which has failed miserably to rein in judges who suppress information on spurious grounds for periods of up to five years (MEAA’s submission to the review notes that judges regularly fail to meet the requirements of the Act).

The public’s right to know is mocked and blocked.

With fake news on everyone’s lips, it’s worth remembering the Pizzagate incident when a man entered a restaurant in Washington DC with an assault rifle because he wanted to “self-investigate” fake news websites’ claims that a paedophile ring was being run from its basement by Bill and Hillary Clinton. The allegation was false. The three shots he fired were real. The gunman later said: “The intel on this wasn’t 100 per cent.”

So this is where we are now. The public’s right to know is mocked and blocked. Governments either enable attacks on press freedom or initiate them. Some 259 journalists were imprisoned last year. Our colleagues are killed for doing their job and, in death, are denied justice. Legitimate news organisations are described as purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people. Armed vigilantes “self-investigate” by packing an assault rifle.

Liberal defenders of free speech curiously silent over banning of Bassem Tamimi

This article by Jeff Sparrow  and published by The Guardian Australia (10 April 2017) makes a very good point about the double standard of politicians who cry out against section 18C of the Racial Discrimination act as an attack on free speech, while at the same time being eager to deny this right to someone they don’t like. This case involves a Palestinian leader, denied entry into Australia to talk about the situation his people are facing.

Continue reading Liberal defenders of free speech curiously silent over banning of Bassem Tamimi