Australian news, and some related international items

Barry Brook’s poorly informed commentary on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe

The Barry Brook Position in the light of Ergen – Enforced Amnesia or Ignorance ? Nuclear Exhaust, 22 June 18 The Aim of this post is to present the mass media statements of knowledge and opinion given by Prof. Barry Brook.

 Prof. Brook has presented the pro-nuclear environmentalist case for a number of years. I was and remain particularly interested in his public level presentations regarding the nuclear accident at Fukushima Diiachi in March 2011……….

Prof. Brooks, assured as he is by the statements of government and private nuclear experts, vigorously proposes that the risks of a greatly and rapidly expanded nuclear reactor for power sector are far less than the unmitigated risks of sudden climate change.

Both over the history of the “nuclear age” and since the accident a Fukushima Diiachi. It is my view that nuclear authorities have twice justified their actions on the premise that they and their skills and technology were and are needed to “save the planet”.  ….. nuclear experts and authorities have many very many false claims regarding the safety of the human dose response to exposures of radiation in absorbed dose quanta which suit the experts at the time.  ……..

on the basis of medical ethics, nuclear authorities often deliberately conflate medical treatment doses and medical diagnosis doses of radiation exposure with additional doses, whatever they are from case to case, imposed as a result of nuclear industry, military and civilian. ……..
(For example, in March 2011, the Japanese electrical generator company, TEPCO, claimed that the fallout exposure from radionuclides released by the failed Fukushima Diiachi nuclear power plant were harmless because the dose imposed upon civilians in the Prefecture was less than the dose imposed by a chest ray. This statement is a perfect example of a corporation acting completely outside of its brief and authority and in direct contraction of medical ethics. Medicine is only medicine when 1. the patient gives informed consent to the treatment 2. where there is a health benefit which outweighs the risks of the treatment. Power plant executives are not qualified to administer medicine to a gnat, let alone a human being. Much has been made of the alleged “paradox” of the Evacuation zones in Japan, but it is not a paradox at all, as much some nuclear advocates actually mock the evacuations which took place in Japan.) …….

Barry’s views on radiation safety are his views. They are based upon advise he has received. But with sincere respect, Barry is not qualified to give nuclear safety advice. He has no formal qualifications in health physics.  …….. The account Prof. Brook gives of the nuclear accident at Fukushima and it’s consequences is very conventional when compared with other accounts from nuclear industry experts.  ……

June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

The danger of Australia mindlessly aligning with the “Anglosphere”

Australia’s dangerous obsession with the Anglosphere, The Conversation,  Dennis AltmanProfessorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University, 22 June 18 

Over the past three weeks the ABC program Four Corners has presented special reports on American politics, which involved one of our best journalists, Sarah Ferguson, travelling to the US on special assignment. I watched these programs and I enjoyed them. But in part I enjoyed them because they covered ground that is already familiar.

If the same effort had gone into bringing us in-depth special reports from, say, Jakarta or Mumbai they would have been less familiar, but perhaps more interesting. Most important they would not be stories already covered by major English language media to which we have extraordinary access.

As we struggle to make sense of a changing world order, in which the role of the US seems less defined and dependable, our fascination with things American continues to grow. It is one of the ironies of current Australian life that preoccupation with “the Anglosphere”, a favourite phrase of former prime minister Tony Abbott’s, is in practice shared by many who regard themselves as progressive.

What is the Anglosphere? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “the countries of the world in which the English language and cultural values predominate”, clearly referring to Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A surprisingly recent term, it was coined by the science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1995 novel The Diamond Age, and then picked up by a number of conservative commentators.

The Churchillian notion of near-mythical bonds created by the English language and British heritage has always attracted Australian conservatives

……… Despite 50 years of governments talking about Australia as part of Asia, now somewhat rebadged in the concept of the Indo-Pacific, our cultural guardians continue to behave as if nothing has changed. We may be wary of Trump’s America, and a little bemused by the reappearance of Little Britain, but we still look unreflectively to the US and Britain for intellectual guidance……..

Australia is not Britain or the United States, and there is a paradox that we are more and more obsessed with them even as their relative importance in the world, and certainly in our region of the world, declines. …….

Australia has a bipartisan record of sending troops overseas to win the gratitude of our “great and powerful friends”.

With an American president who seems uninterested in traditional alliances and unmoved by appeals to protect democracy or human rights, one might expect the government would be more conscious of the reality that US and Australian interests will not always converge. On the contrary: they seem to be working harder to align us with the United States.

……… culture and foreign policy meet: alarm bells about Chinese influence  ignore the far greater sway of American, to a lesser extent British, influence on our everyday lives. Yes, China is a repressive authoritarian state which is trying to increase its global influence. Yes, we should be cautious about their expansion. But too often we view this through an American prism, rather than making the effort to understand how the shifting power relations are being understood in countries in our region……..

The danger of aligning ourselves with the Anglosphere is that it distorts the complexity of the greater world and aligns us with policies that are neither in our national interest nor that of a more just world. Just as republicans can enjoy the spectacle of a royal wedding without abandoning the idea of an Australian head of state, we need to remind ourselves that Trump is, literally, not our president.


June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Charisma in the nuclear age is a bitch

Charisma in the nuclear age is a bitch. A century ago, the great German sociologist Max Weber showed that modern political authority has two varieties: charismatic and bureaucratic. Charismatic authority is based on personality and is disruptive; bureaucratic authority is based on rules and promises continuity.

Charisma in the nuclear age,  SHARON SQUASSONI  Sharon Squassoni is research professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy, Elliott School of International Affairs, at the George Washington University.

From his speech patterns to his body language, President Donald Trump exudes charisma. Perhaps to the despair of more stalwart democratic leaders, he acts instinctively rather than methodically. His approach to the historic Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was, he told the press, to size up Kim in the first few minutes and ascertain whether a deal was possible.

Continue reading

June 22, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Water wars: A new front in the fight against Adani

GreenLeftWeekly , author Margaret Gleeson  June 21, 2018

‘In April Adani applied to the federal Department of Environment and Energy
to expand a dam by 450% and build a pipeline for its Carmichael coalmine,
without an assessment under national environment laws.

‘The project, North Galilee Water Scheme, involves expanding an existing
2.2 billion-litre dam to 10 billion litres and building associated infrastructure,
including 110 kilometres of pipeline to transport water
from the Suttor River and Burdekin Basin. The aim is to supply at least
12.5 gigalitres of fresh water to the Carmichael coalmine and
other mines in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland. …

‘In its application, Adani said the water trigger applies only to
projects associated with extraction. …

‘“It’s an incredibly narrow reading of the EPBC Act,” said
Australian Conservation Foundation Stop Adani campaigner Christian Slattery.
“Clearly it’s a project connected with coalmining.”

‘“If this interpretation is accepted by the minister it further demonstrates
the weaknesses of the EPBC Act and the need for a new generation of environmental laws.”

Labor’s environment spokesperson Tony Burke said the government should ensure
a thorough and rigorous environmental assessment is conducted:
“Adani cannot evade the scrutiny of the expert independent scientific committee,
and the minister for the environment should not be facilitating an opportunity for Adani
to avoid scientific scrutiny on its use of water.

‘“The more I look at this [Carmichael] project and the way the company has dealt with
different layers of government the more sceptical I have become.”

Lock the Gate Alliance campaign coordinator Carmel Flint said the proposal came
when “most of central Queensland is in drought” and the effects on other water users
and the environment must be considered.

‘“Adani is apparently trying to sneak through approval for a massive water scheme
without a full environmental assessment … in our view that’s an activity
which is absolutely required to go through the water trigger,” she said. …

‘Adani’s claims in the application, in relation to consultation with local Traditional Owners
and its track record on adherence to environmental regulations, are spurious at best. …

‘It makes no mention that its dodgy Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
is subject to legal challenge. …

‘The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists told the Productivity Commission review
that mining exemptions make it difficult to measure the cumulative
impacts of water extraction,
“placing entire groundwater and interconnected surface water systems at risk”. …

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland chief executive Jo Bragg said
the community was not given an opportunity to object to the granting of Adani’s water licence.

‘She said the commission’s findings added to pressure on federal Labor
to revoke Adani’s environmental approvals if it wins power.’

Read more of Margaret‘s comprehensive, well-researched & groundbreaking article,

June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

UK grappling with “unstable” canisters for nuclear waste

Power Technology 21st June 2018 ,NDA to spend billions stabilising plutonium canisters. The National Audit Office (NAO) has released a report detailing the unstable condition of highly dangerous plutonium canisters at the Sellafield nuclear plant, said to be “decaying faster than anticipated”.

The report, titled ‘Progress with reducing risk at Sellafield’ warns that if these canisters were to leak it would prove an “intolerable risk” – a label defined by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as a situation where reducing the risk “becomes the overriding factor”, taking precedence over matters of cost and requiring immediate action.

The NDA has refused to comment on the number of canisters affected, though it has said it is only a “small proportion” of their total number. The UK houses 40% of global civil plutonium, the majority of which is stored at the Sellafield site in Cumbria, itself overseen by the NDA. The substance is a by-product of nuclear fuel reprocessing and the site’s abundant stock has led the NDA to label Sellafield its most hazardous facility.

The new report shows Sellafield, which opened in 2012, to have ‘unsuitable’ containers for storing plutonium. The NAO has proposed the canisters be repackaged through the store retreatment plant (SRP) facility, though until this facility is ready the NDA is recommended to place the more unstable canisters in extra layers of packaging. In response to these measures, the NDA has announced its decision to pledge a further £1bn on these packaging canisters, and £1.5bn on building a new facility to house the plutonium.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste canisters corroded

One in three nuclear waste barrels damaged , DPA/The Local
@thelocalgermany– 10 October 2014    Inspectors in northern Germany have found that a third of barrels containing radioactive waste at a decommissioned nuclear plant are damaged, the Schleswig-Holstein Environment Ministry said on Thursday.

Vattenfall, the energy company which manages the Brunsbüttel site in Schlewswig-Holstein, reported that 102 of the 335 barrels stored in the site’s six underground chambers were corroded, leaking or had loose lids.

Some of the containers are so deformed that they can no longer be moved, as they no longer fit into the robotic gripping arms installed at the site, the inspectors reported…….

So far, Vattenfall has only inspected four of the six chambers using remote cameras.

The chambers themselves are built from concrete and have walls over a metre thick to prevent radiation escaping into the surrounding environment.

The energy company has sent a proposal to the Schlewsig-Holstein Environment Ministry for making the storage facility more secure, including by installing dehumidifiers to slow corrosion, which has yet to be approved by government experts.

“The chambers [at Brunsbüttel] were supposed to be a temporary storage facility,” Vattenfall said in a statement on Thursday. “They weren’t designed to for long-term containment.”

It was originally planned to store the barrels at Brunsbüttel until they were moved to the ‘Konrad’ mine shaft site in Lower Saxony.


June 22, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Blowback Over Japanese Plan to Reuse Tainted Soil From Fukushima — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

June 14, 2018 By Brian Yap Japan’s plan to reuse soil contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident for agriculture is sparking something of its own nuclear reaction. Residents and other critics don’t want any part of it. “Pollutants contained in crops will surely pollute air, water and soil, thereby contaminating food […]

via Blowback Over Japanese Plan to Reuse Tainted Soil From Fukushima — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 22 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ The results from the first experimental agrophotovoltaic program by the Fraunhofer Institute For Solar Energy Systems near Lake Constance in Germany found combining agriculture and farming increased the output of the land by 60% over what it would be if the same land was devoted 100% to farming or 100% to […]

via June 22 Energy News — geoharvey

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tax-payer forks out $20,000 for Kimba children to have nuclear propaganda trip to Lucas Heights


Federal Government pays for schoolkids from country SA to go on a nuclear fact-finding tour, Erin Jones, Regional Reporter, The Advertiser, 21 June 18

AUSTRALIAN taxpayers are forking out nearly $20,000 to send Kimba school students on an all-expenses paid, five-night excursion to Sydney to learn about radioactive waste.

SA Senator Rex Patrick believes the trip is to “schmooze” families ahead of an August 20 ballot to determine whether the town should host a national nuclear waste facility.

The Federal Government will also gauge community support in Hawker, in the Flinders Ranges, with Wallerberdina Station as the other possible location for the low-level waste facility.

This week’s excursion by 16 students to Adelaide for two nights and then on the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), in the southern Sydney suburb of Lucas Heights, follows a fully-funded trip by 17 Quorn students in April.

Senator Patrick said the money being spent by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for the trips highlighted the site-selection process being a “sham”.

“My view is that the department … will do everything and anything to improve community sentiment by schmoozing the locals,” the Centre Alliance politician told The Advertiser.

“This is about understanding what will be in their backyard and I’m sympathetic to that effort, but it crosses a line when you move from informing to schmoozing.”

The government dismissed claims the trip was to influence the ballot outcomes and said each community proposed the excursions to educate students on career opportunities.

National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Taskforce principal adviser Bruce Wilson said the excursions were for children to get “insights” into the types of jobs in the industry.

“The Kimba Economic Working Group saw the success of the (Quorn) excursion and requested something similar for their area,” Mr Wilson said.

Kimba consultative committee independent convener Allan Suter said some 15,000 people visit ANSTO each year and the students had as much of a right to the opportunity as others, “probably more so given the conversation the community is currently in”.

“This is a school excursion that was endorsed by the school and will assist children to understand both nuclear research and types of jobs that would come alongside a radioactive waste management industry,” Mr Suter said.

“Jobs can be pretty hard to come by in our area.

“These kids are aged between 15 and 18, which is a key time you are thinking about your future career.

“Should Kimba have this facility, we want our kids to be in the best position to work towards jobs created by it, or in the flow-on contracts, or in the research the facility enables.”

An itinerary by school principal Anne Moyle said all flights, travel, accommodation and meals, including a dinner cruise, had been paid for by the department.

As well as the excursion, ANSTO staff have visited the schools to talk about nuclear science and its applications.

ANSTO chief nuclear officer Hef Griffiths said: “We are there to answer questions about what it’s like working at a nuclear facility, how safety is assured, the medicine we produce and why, agricultural research and the like.”

A Senate Inquiry into the government’s site-selection process highlighted landowners, traditional owners, community members, neighbours and stakeholders had all visited ANSTO.

The Advertiser last week revealed a private company said it had support for the nuclear repository to be built in Leonora, in Western Australia.

Minister for Resources Matt Canavan said any landowner was free to nominate a site until the final selection was made however, “the government will not be progressing detailed assessment of other nominations until the results of the votes in the two South Australian communities are known”.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Minister Matt Canavan lies on ABC radio, about having “broad community support” for nuclear waste dump sites

Katrina Bohr No Nuclear Waste Dump Anywhere in South Australia, June 20 at 12:20 PM  An interview with Matt Canavan, near the end. His flexible term of broad community support for a nuclear waste facility is quoted in the Australian-‘There is already broad community support for three South Australian properties.’

This is news to those communities. Another example of the flawed process.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Community Benefit Programme – essential (?bribery) part of push for nuclear waste dump for Flinders Ranges

Projects near possible nuclear sites receive funding,   SA sites earmarked as possible nuclear waste facility sites have received $4 million in funding for various community projects Stock Journal 

PROJECTS near Kimba and Wallerberdina Station, which have been earmarked as possible nuclear waste facility sites, will receive $4 million through new National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Community Benefit Programme grants.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said 45 projects had been awarded funding.

“These communities, presently being consulted about hosting a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, were invited to submit applications for projects that will deliver social and economic benefits to their area,” Mr Canavan said……

Two sites in Kimba and one at Wallerberdina Station volunteered to host the facility, and are presently in a detailed community and technical assessment process. The Community Benefit Programme is a key part of the process.” …

June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Exposing the weird pro nuclear propaganda from Michael Shellenberger

Steve Dale  Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 21 June 18

Shellenberger’s latest article is pretty strange and contradicts a lot of things I’ve heard from his local supporters.

Most unusual is that he calls nuclear waste a “blessing” – “But achieving that future will first require that we abandon our ridiculous fears and start seeing nuclear waste as the environmental blessing that it is.”

He also doesn’t want nuclear waste moved – not even from the reactor, let alone the USA. He says “Don’t Move The Waste” and “transporting cans of used nuclear waste would increase the threat to the continued operation of our life-saving nuclear plants.” This sort of contradicts the whole push of the NFCRC.

Shellenberger proposes that money set aside for storing nuclear waste for millennia should be diverted to nuclear plants, he says “It should be used to subsidize the continued operation of economically distressed nuclear plants, and subsidize the building of new ones.”

When a nuclear accident occurs we are usually told it’s because it is an old or aging plant? Well Shellenberger claims “Nuclear plants are functionally immortal. Existing plants can operate for 60, 80, 100 years or longer because everything inside the plant from the control panels to the steam generators and even the reactor vessel itself can be replaced, if needed.”

And I’ve heard local nuclear lobbyists claim new “waste eating” reactors are just around the corner, less than 10 years away, but Shellenberger says – “Sometime between 2050 and 2100, new nuclear plants — like the kind being developed by Bill Gates — will likely be able to use the so-called “waste” as fuel.”

I wonder what Shellenberger’s local supporters would think of this article? If Shellenberger gets his way, millennia lasting nuclear waste will be stored in half-inch thin, welded casks (see picture below) for centuries – by which time it would be too fragile to move.

The Forbes article is “Stop Letting Your Ridiculous Fears Of Nuclear Waste Kill The Planet”

June 22, 2018 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

Support for climate action is rising in Australia: but are politicians listening?

Lowy Institute Poll shows Australians’ support for climate action at its highest level in a decade , The Conversation    Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland, 

The annual Lowy Institute Poll on Australian attitudes to the world and global issues for 2018 has been released. Among a series of interesting findings, one thing is clear: support for climate action and renewable energy continue to grow.

In response to the survey’s questions on climate and energy, 59% of respondents agreed with the statement: “climate change is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.”

This represents an increase of 5 percentage points from 2017, and a consistent increase in support for this statement over the past six years. It suggests that support for climate action in Australia is bouncing back towards its high point of 68% in the first set of Lowy Polls in 2006.

What’s more, while the federal government doggedly pursues a “technology-neutral” energy policy, Australians don’t seem to be buying it. Public support for a large-scale energy transition in Australia is even more emphatic than support for climate action.

According to the Lowy poll, which involved a nationally representative sample of 1,200 adults, 84% of Australians support the statement that “the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable”.

This is a staggering verdict, one that casts a shadow over Australia’s rising greenhouse emissions and the looming Commonwealth-state negotiations over the National Energy Guarantee.

Both figures suggest that most Australians are genuinely concerned about climate change, a finding consistent with the ever-growing scientific consensus.

The big question is: will Australia’s political leaders respond to this support for climate action and energy transition by putting legitimate policy in place?

It’s political

Two key impediments present themselves here, both political.

The first is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s own party……..

In May, a Senate inquiry into the national security implications of climate change concluded that it represents a clear and present danger to Australian security. The Lowy poll suggests that the public endorses this sentiment – Australians ranked climate change as a more pressing threat than cyber attacks, foreign interference, or the rise of China.

Read more: Senate report: climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia’s security

While some Australian politicians are steadfast in their support for coal, despite the questionable economics, mainstream financial institutions and even energy companies like AGL are shifting away from fossil fuels. Far from economic considerations preventing climate action, as they seemed to in the 1990s, the economy might just be starting to drive that action.

The climate message, in short, seems to be reaching the Australian people. But will it get to those we’ve elected to represent us?


June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australian Medical Association urges fixing the uranium-polluted water supplies to remote communities

Filtering out heavy metals years away, despite high uranium detected in water, ABC News , By Bridget BrennanIsabella Higgins and Stephanie Zillman, -20 June 18

The Northern Territory Government has downplayed concern following the ABC’s revelation that drinking water has been high in uranium in three Aboriginal communities for a decade — even as the Power and Water Corporation said a plan to filter heavy metals was still years away.

Key points:

  • Earlier this week ABC revealed at least three Central Australian communities have uranium levels in drinking water that exceed health guidelines
  • The NT Health Minister has now responded, saying the NT Health Department and Power and Water were working together on the issue
  • But medical professionals said the situation was “unacceptable”

The response came as the Australian Medical Association urged the water supplies be fixed, with Aboriginal health organisations describing the situation as “unacceptable”.

On Tuesday, ABC’s 7.30 revealed the central desert communities of Laramba, Wilora and Willowra supplied bore water with elevated levels of uranium.

Data from the Power and Water Corporation showed Laramba’s water supply contained uranium at higher than 0.04 milligrams per litre (mg/L).

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines outline those levels should not exceed 0.017 mg/L — and the corporation agreed that several communities are drinking water above the national guidelines.

Yet the Power and Water Corporation said a plan to filter out elevated levels of heavy metals like uranium from drinking water in some Central Australian communities is still years away……….

Doctors said fixing the supply should be a priority.

“Contaminants which do make the drinking water unsafe to drink above the guidelines as stipulated, should be treated as a health priority,” AMA president Dr Tony Bartone said.

“All governments — of either jurisdiction — need to ensure that all Australians have access to potable drinking water.”

Dr Bartone said the AMA wanted safe drinking water levels to be part of the Closing the Gap targets, which are currently undergoing a review after 10 years of limited progress.

“Access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite for good health,” he said.

“You can’t really set aspirational targets for health without really pinning the strategy to the building blocks around good health — the social determinants of health.”

John Paterson, chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, said an independent review was needed “as soon as possible”.

“Governments need to respond to this, we need the experts out there to explain how much contamination is in the water and what solutions have been provided,” he said.

Rod Little, co-chair of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said he was shocked to hear of uranium levels not meeting health guidelines in Aboriginal communities.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, uranium | Leave a comment

Liberal Coalition attacks on the ABC will rebound against them

James Cogan’s speech at Sydney rally to free Julian Assange

Constant attacks on the ABC will come back to haunt the Coalition government The Conversation    Denis Muller Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne, 

In January 1931, as the newly elected United Australia Party government of Joseph Lyons was contemplating the establishment of a national broadcasting service, the prime minister received a deputation of prominent Melburnians, including a barrister and member of the Victorian parliament, Robert Gordon Menzies.

They urged that the new broadcasting service “be organised on an independent basis and that cultural potentialities of the Broadcast Service be considered a matter of primary importance”. The broadcast service came to be named the Australian Broadcasting Commission and went to air for the first time on July 1 1932.

It is a measure of how far today’s Liberal Party has drifted away from the values and ideals of its founder, Menzies, that last Saturday its federal council should have resoundingly adopted a motion that the ABC should be privatised.

One of the proponents of the motion was Mitchell Collier, the federal vice-president of the Young Liberals. He said there was no economic case to keep the broadcaster in public hands.

No economic case. Where the ABC is concerned, that is a false premise on which to proceed. The ABC was explicitly not established for economic purposes or in pursuit of an economic ideology. It was established for social, educational and cultural purposes.

It was also established on an explicitly non-commercial basis: it takes no advertising. Why? Because it was believed advertising would weaken its independence. The policymakers of the 1930s had seen only too clearly how beholden the newspaper proprietors of the day had become to commercial imperatives: the demands of advertisers and the pressure to increase circulation, even at the cost of editorial quality and integrity.

The newspapers of the day had also become mouthpieces for sectional interests. In Melbourne, The Argus stood for the interests of the mercantile classes and conservative political causes; The Age for a kind of Protestant liberalism and social justice. It supported the miners at Eureka.

The bipartisan political vision for the ABC was that it should not be vulnerable to sectional interests or commercial pressures, but should exist to serve the public interest in the widest sense.

The first paragraph of its charter captures the essence of these expectations:………

A motion to privatise the ABC, no matter how vigorously repudiated by the government, is political poison, especially in regional, rural and remote Australia.

These voters have watched as the Abbott-Turnbull administrations have cut the ABC’s funding by $338 million since 2014. They have watched as the ABC has been used – in Guthrie’s words yesterday – as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests

Guthrie was too diplomatic to nail the government or the Murdoch press. But the overt hostility to the ABC shown by the government over the past four years may now reap a political harvest.

That hostility has been demonstrated not only by the funding cuts but by sustained carping criticisms, vexatious complaints and political stunts exemplified by the current competitive neutrality inquiry.

It would be more accurately called the editorial neutering inquiry. Its focus is clearly on the ABC news service, as its own issues paper makes clear. That is the part of the ABC most detested by the government and the politician for whom the government is a cat’s paw in this, Pauline Hanson.

Each Tuesday, I engage in a pro-bono 25-minute segment on media issues with the presenter of ABC Radio Statewide Drive, Nicole Chvastek. The program is broadcast across regional Victoria and southern New South Wales, covering the National seats of Riverina, Mallee, Murray and Gippsland, and the Liberal seats of Farrer, Wannon, McMillan, Corangamite and McEwen.

Yesterday the talkback calls ran hot on this one issue: privatisation of the ABC. Yes, the ABC needed scrutiny; yes, the ABC was a bunch of lefties. But: where would we be without it?

Just after 5pm, the Nationals served up their deputy leader, the Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie, to answer talkback calls on this issue. It was like something from the Colosseum.


June 22, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics | Leave a comment