Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting freedom backwards

Those who characterise any enquiry into media ownership as an infringement of freedom have it backwards. Complete information and and an absence of monopolies are fundamental conditions of a free market, and of all Western countries, Australia has the closest to a media monopoly, with News Ltd dominating our press. The lack of other voices of comparable reach has a chilling effect on debate and distorts and curtails information.

In this environment, News Ltd’s demonstrated willingness to engage in egregious bias, cosy political relationships, and even regime change, poses a real threat. The 2006 slackening of ownership laws was a mistake and should be reversed.

Hugh Grant rules the world

According to Brendan O’Neill, (“Elite few spearhead the anti-Murdoch campaign over phone-hacking scandal”, The Australian, 17/7 ) there is no hacking scandal and no media monopoly problem; the whole brouhaha is the invention of “cosmopolitan…city centre elites” whose “cliquish crusade” to crush press freedom is motivated by a distaste for page-three girls.

Aside from Hugh Grant, who exactly are these elites who have managed to fool the whole British parliament and Rupert Murdoch himself? More importantly, how does opposition to media monopolies and illegal invasions of privacy threaten freedom of the press?

Real elites have money and power; for example, they own newspapers. O’Neill’s “cultural” elites are straw men and his “crusade” is a fantasy.

Boss off the hook

A media enquiry is unnecessary, says Dennis Shanahan, because a Fleet Street culture is absent in Australia (“Not a time for the PM to bow to Brown”, The Australian, 15/7). But his employer will not get off the hook so easily: there are other serious concerns which this country shares with the U.K. and the U.S.. How much control should one corporation have over a nation’s information? When does the expression of editorial opinion cross the line into bias, distortion and propaganda? Is regime change a legitimate media objective? The big players’ refuse even to acknowledge the validity of these questions. This is proof of their urgency.

All that money wasted on advertising

Frank Furedi (14/7) and Brendan O’Neill (11/7) assure us that the hacking scandal is an invention of “cultural elites” who forced Rupert Murdoch to close his own tabloid because of their distaste for page-three girls.

Besides, says Stephen Brook (14/7), it wasn’t only Murdoch papers wot done it.

Anyway, argues Daniel Finkelstein (14/7), it doesn’t matter who controls the media because they don’t change views, they only reflect them. Gee, all that money wasted on advertising.

This no doubt ongoing series shows The Australian’s touching loyalty to its owner.

It’s bin night

Janet Albrechtsen says carbon pricing will fail because “you have to fundamentally change human behaviour – not just from 500 companies” (“Please explain, Prime Minister”, The Australian, 13/7). She forgets the millions of consumers who will choose the cheaper, low-carbon products those companies will offer to avoid the tax.

She claims the ETS will fail, because the Hartwell Group says so. She forgets that the latter advocates instead the rapid deployment of renewable energy – pretty much the same policies as The Greens’, which Albrechtsen says “were expensive and achieved little”.

But such niceties would not faze her, as she argues that our small effect on global emissions means we should have done nothing anyway. In Albrechtsen’s world, everyone dumps their garbage in the street because each individual contribution is negligible, and no-one does the right thing until they are sure everyone else will. Fortunately, most Australians no longer live there.


With scrutiny of News Limited intensifying, the Melbourne Herald Sun has assured its readers of “transparency” through a new Code of Conduct. The Australian, on the other hand, while condemning the hacking, has not felt the need for any such soul-searching and has remained silent on the subject of its own function within the News empire.

They are entitled to hire whomever they want, but it is not by coincidence that The Australian’s commentariat is predominantly drawn from a very narrow ideological range, featuring many ex-Liberal staffers and high-profile conservatives. Transparency demands an open and ongoing declaration of the political affiliations and objectives of the newspaper’s management, so readers can interpret political coverage accordingly.

If Green Left Weekly can do it, so can The Australian.

There is no queue

The Australian disputes the “bold claim” made in the ABC’s Leaky Boat documentary that “the idea of a queue was a fantasy” (“And still the boats come . . .”, 12/7). Yet the fact remains: there is no queue.

Refugees are selected on criteria such as youth, health and skills, not time spent waiting. For older refugees, or those with children, there is little hope of ever being selected. Even for those with some chance, the wait may run into decades, more than their life expectancy while in the camps.

Recognising these simple facts is central to any strategy aimed at reducing dangerous sea voyages.

Straight dope

Angela Shanahan (“Politicians’ dubious moral compass risks our freedom”, The Australian, 9/7) promotes a number of falsehoods, most insidiously that “[c]hildren will suffer…within a same-sex relationship”. Research consistently shows this is not the case, despite the unsubstantiated assertions of academic Margaret Somerville.

It is also false that “[m]arriage exists…only to protect the children born of the union”. Childless couples, adoptive and step-parents may all marry, as long as they are straight.

Warnings that legal gay marriage will infringe “rights” to criticise and shun homosexuals are risible: the legality of, say, prostitution has no bearing on whether one is allowed to discuss its morality or required to socialise with its practitioners.

Far from being a “contentious” debate which “the Greens are forcing on us”, Australians overwhelmingly support gay marriage. Shanahan is clutching at straws in her attempts to dress up her anti-gay agenda as something more noble.

Tax-funded turkey-shoot

Brad Orgill’s investigation of stimulus programs shows how theories of efficiency through privatisation have in fact resulted in a tax-funded turkey-shoot for private contractors. Will economic “rationalists” now advocate de-privatisation and the re-assertion of public control of public money?