You won’t get if you don’t ask

Stephen Conroy (The Australian, 4/5) assures us there is “no evidence” that Australians have been victims of unethical News Ltd practices; and of course, there won’t be any while he doesn’t bother looking for it. In contrast, U.S. Senate committee chair Jay Rockefeller has urgently written to Lord Justice Leveson to discover if “illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens”. If only Senator Conroy were as concerned with protecting Australian citizens as he is with placating powerful media interests.

News, limited

On May 1,  most of the world’s media outlets ran prominent news stories on the finding of the British parliamentary media enquiry that Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run an international corporation. But there were two notable exceptions: The Australian, which buried the story in the business section under the curious title “House of Commons media committee rejects attack on Murdoch as ‘not fit'” (what, it rejected its own finding?), and Melbourne’s Herald Sun, which hid a couple of desultory paragraphs on page 14, next to a distractingly large funny picture of Sacha Baron-Cohen. Can you guess who owns those newspapers?

Two days later, The Australian’s very sparse coverage of the  inquiry’s findings culminated in the coy “News Corporation accepts hacking report” (3/3), which tells us very little about the report itself but a great deal about the dissenting views of the panel’s Conservative members – not those of the rest, who are, apparently by contrast, “partisan”.

That’s not really news, it’s just News, limited.


In Judith Sloane’s pre-emptive defence against the Howe inquiry into the casualisation of the Australian workforce (“Nothing casual about our diverse workforce”, The Australian, 21/12) she argues that a) there is no casualisation, and b) “many” workers benefit from casualisation. I am reminded of the defence of the bungling burglar who claims “I wasn’t there, and even if I was, I didn’t do it.”

The elephant in the room, apparent from the figures and also to anyone actually engaged in the workforce, is that massive casualisation has occurred in the last decade, and that this is of benefit primarily to employers.

Not that Michael Moore

“No right to secure jobs”
23 Apr 2012

Michael Moore (The Australian, Letters, 23/4), the secretary of the anti-labor think-tank H. R. Nicholls Society which thought Work Choices too soft, argues that there can be no right to job security because it “depends essentially on the efficient performance of each [worker], and of the business itself”.

This is a self-serving misapprehension held by many employers, who overlook the definitive distinction between themselves and their employees: the latter are not co-investors in the business. They have not chosen to undertake entrepreneurial risk, they do not stand to share in the profits and therefore should not be subject to the losses.

Libs against user-pays?

In rejecting the “user-pays” principle in relation to means-testing of aged care, Tony Abbott may seem to have forgotten which party he leads (“People will have to pay more, Abbott says”, The Australian, 21/4). But the Liberals’ record of opposing means tests and defending subsidies for the wealthy makes it clear that their policy of winding back welfare only applies to those who actually need it.

Smile! It’s your lucky day

The Australian’s editorial (“Smile! It’s your lucky day”, (2/2)) is so busy using Gina Rinehart’s sudden interest in media as an excuse to fling insults at its Fairfax rivals that it completely overlooks the elephant: a billionaire wants to buy an entire press segment in order to silence it. Unless their hatred of Fairfax outweighs their professed love of an independent press, her ambitions should appal.

The disappearing Australian

In a move which betrays Rupert Murdoch’s poor understanding of the new media, The Australian has put most of its online content behind a paywall.

Murdoch has done the same thing in Britain with The Times, with the result that The Guardian has now become the most linked-to and linked-from online paper, directly taking public influence – and ad revenue – away from its competitor. On the internet, it’s all about hits.

Paywalls may work for specialist publications which the boss is paying for anyway, like the Financial Times. But for a self-confessed “campaigning” newspaper like The Australian, I predict disaster: most of the tiny market segment which is willing to pay for quality journalism will be looking for a lot more balance than The Australian is offering. This means that its customers will consist mainly of thinking people who already agree with its right-wing stance and have cash to spare to have those views reinforced – which leaves, oh, maybe seventeen people.

As blogger Crispin Hull puts it, “[l]ike The Times in Britain, [The Australian] might fold in on itself in an insular, self-congratulatory way”.

While Murdoch can continue to subsidise his pet project with the income from his other tentacles, the paywall may well have the fortuitous result of reducing The Australian’s unedifying effect on this country’s political health.

I have enjoyed sparring with The Australian, but most certainly will not pay for the privilege of being dissembled to. That’s the end of this series of posts.

Doyle’s army

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle yesterday used police resources to brutally crush the peaceful Occupy Melbourne protest, apparently at the request of a few retailers.

Doyle’s action, like those of the police, was a grossly heavyhanded over-reaction, there for all to see on the internet, and displayed an extraordinary disregard for and ignorance of both public safety and the principles of democracy. It only served to reinforce the protesters’ point that governments too often act in the interests of financial elites instead of the people they are supposed to represent.

I shudder to think what level of violence would have been employed if the protest had had any real prospect of changing the status quo, like, say, in Egypt, where even the army showed greater restraint than the police did yesterday.

We are owed an explanation from the Lord Mayor’s office and from police management as to how this hamfisted strategy came to be employed, especially the discredited “kettling” technique which seems to have violent panic as its sole aim.

The argument that “they’ve made their point” does not wash: as the editorial in today’s Australian (hardly supporters of the Occupy cause) said: “It is not for…Robert Doyle or anyone else to decide when they have had sufficient time to make their point. There is no meter running on freedom of expression.”

Doyle needs to admit his mistake, apologise to those he has harmed, drop all charges (“trespass” in a public space, indeed!), and go back to school to study the fundamentals of Western-style democracy.

Half right

The Australian’s claim (“Protesting against all that keeps us free and wealthy”, 21/10) that the Occupy movement reflects a disengagement from “liberal-democratic market economies” is only half right. Far from being disengaged from democracy, the protesters are practising it, by rejecting the failed free-market experiment they believe has rewarded unelected elites for causing the economic suffering of the rest of the population. The editorial’s stubborn adherence to the minority contrary view is beside the point.

Democracy and unregulated markets are not sides of a coin: there are dictatorships with market economies, and there are socialist democracies. There is no inherent connection between democracy and any particular economic system. If the people choose to regulate their economy for the common good, then that is also democracy.