Australian news, and some related international items

Today’s News Corp cuts represent an enormous threat to Australian democracy ⁠

Dark day for journalism as Murdoch’s global empire sells democracy down the river   
Today’s News Corp cuts represent an enormous threat to Australian democracy ⁠— and a grim reminder of the power of a single family.

Australian news journalism has never seen a day as black as today — and not just because News Corp has closed 12 of its 17 regional daily newspapers, leaving Australia with just 20 remaining.

Today also demonstrates the grotesque power of
one company — and one family — to decimate a large slice of a country’s
news in a single media release.

A company worth $16.3 billion, run from New York, has wielded a knife through large swathes of Australian democracy….. (subscribers only)

May 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Australian media is not doing its job to expose power and corruption

May 26, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The Liberal coalition government killing the ABC by 1000 cuts – but a possible way exists to save it

With luck the ABC can be saved , Crispin Hull, 8 May 20,    This week’s report on ABC funding should alarm Australians.

The death by a thousand cuts of the ABC and the slow strangulation of Medicare have become woven into in Liberal Party’s DNA since John Howard turned Robert Menzies’ broad church of a liberal-conservative Liberal Party into a purely conservative one by shutting out almost everyone left of the nave.

A different liberal-conservative Liberal Party, on the other hand, would have recognised them as essential Australian institutions to be nurtured and supported. After all, the ABC has been around since 1932 and Medicare (in one form or another) since 1973.

The Liberal Party’s desired outright abolition of both has been impossible because of the two institutions’ ingrained popularity. So the onslaught has to be cunningly dressed up as measures to “improve” Medicare and to voice support for the independence of the ABC and promise “no cuts” while ever trying to bully the ABC; sway its board to the right; and to apply cuts to stifle its voice.

This week’s report by the independent think tank Per Capita says that the ABC has lost $783 million in funding since the Coalition came to power in 2013, starting with $245 million in the 2014 Budget, despite Tony Abbott’s promise before the 2013 election that he would not cut the ABC.

More cuts in staff and programming will come before the end of this financial year. They follow seven years of program and staff slashing, critically a 50 per cent cut in the hours of scripted Australian drama.

The Per Capita report concludes that real funding per year since 1985-86 is down 30 per cent or $370 million. Per head of population, the ABC’s funding has been halved in that time. The cuts have come despite the ABC having to provide extra services to keep up with the digital age.

Very likely the Government will cut more as it seeks to claw back from the Covid-19 crisis, even though the ABC – especially the excellent Dr Norman Swan – did so much to inform Australians about the pandemic, as it always does in times of crisis.

What can be done? The ABC itself is down to the bone, though perhaps it could cut out all sport which the commercials to well enough. It is doubtful a Coalition Government would ever increase real funding for the ABC. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Labor makes some suggestions that the Coalition feels obliged to match or that they become reality with a Labor Government (whenever that might be). ……..

funding solution used in Britain, New Zealand, and only Western Australia among the Australian states to fund culture which could help fund the ABC – a lottery. The Federal Government should set up its own national lottery to boost ABC funding……..

The BBC is well-funded and broadcasters throughout the world line up to pay for its product. The result is a lot of soft-power dividend for Britain. Australia, too, would get a lot of benefit from properly funding the ABC, not least a better-informed community.

Silly me. It’s that last bit the Coalition detests more than anything.

May 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) continues attacks on ABC 

Surprise! Surprise! IPA continues attacks on ABC  
Latest news from ABC Friends , Margaret Reynolds, President ABC Friends National, 28 February 2020   
 The Institute of Public Affairs has (IPA) commissioned a survey by global firm Dynata to continue its campaign against the ABC and public broadcasting in Australia.

Yes, this is the same IPA which tries to influence the Liberal Party to privatise the ABC!

Guess the results: less than a third of Australians agreed that the ABC was out of touch with ordinary Australians.

So, all you extraordinary Australians who value the ABC may like to phone, text, write or visit the IPA to record why you value the essential services the ABC provides.

Phone: (03) 9600 4744

Next time the IPA commissions a survey they may like to consider a poll on how many Australians value the IPAs contribution to Australian public policy debate!

May 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australia goes backwards in latest world press freedom index

April 27, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Government’s latest pressure on the ABC is slammed by Paul Keating

‘Ideological contempt’: Keating slams pressure to sell ABC offices, The Age, By Jennifer Duke and Fergus Hunter, March 3, 2020 Former prime minister Paul Keating has slammed the government for encouraging the ABC to canvass a sale of its inner-city offices, saying it shows “ideological contempt” and is an attempt to “fracture” the public broadcaster.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher wrote to ABC managing director David Anderson on Monday recommending the broadcaster consider reviewing its capital city property portfolio, which includes offices in Sydney’s Ultimo and Melbourne’s Southbank. Mr Fletcher did not refer to specific property assets in the letter, but government sources who declined to be identified said the Ultimo office in particular was under-used.

Mr Keating said the pressure on the ABC to explore these sales represented “nothing other than an attempt by the Liberal and National parties to fracture the ABC at its foundations, in settlement of its ideological contempt for the organisation”.

“For the first time in its long history, the Ultimo, Sydney and Southbank, Melbourne premises delivered to the ABC a consolidation of workplaces which facilitated cross-platform and cross-divisional facilitation of a kind that was impossible in the old fragmented locational structure,” he said in a statement.

The ABC is grappling with a funding freeze projected to shave up to $84 million off its annual budget and is set to present a five-year strategic plan for the broadcaster later this month. ……

Mr Anderson said the broadcaster’s costs had risen while it was also confronting the funding freeze. The unprecedented bushfire season saw the ABC’s emergency broadcast requirements surge, adding about $3 million on top of expected spending.

“We estimate that it’s going to cost us an extra $5 million per annum from next financial year where we are going to have to build up our ability to respond [to] this being the new normal,” he said……

March 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics | Leave a comment

Cosy little cocktail party for Liberal and Labor MPs, with coal industry bigwigs

Climate campaigners condemn ‘insidious’ cocktail party for MPs and coal industry
Parliament House event represents an effort to undermine climate action, environmental group 350 Australia says,
Guardian, Christopher Knaus @knauscWed 4 Mar 2020 Environmental campaigners say a cocktail night involving the fossil fuel industry and federal politicians represents an “insidious” lobbying effort to undermine climate action.

The pro-coal Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon hosted a cocktail event at Parliament House to discuss carbon capture and storage with industry leaders on Wednesday night.

An invite seen by the Guardian was sent out by Kelly and Fitzgibbon, who chair the parliamentary friends of resources, together with representatives of Santos and the carbon capture body CO2CRC. The event is described as a “cocktail event to mark the inaugural meeting of the CO2CRC Carbon Capture and Storage Policy Forum”.

That forum features companies such as BHP, Chevron, Coal21, ENI, Exxon, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, JPower, Shell and Woodside.

The invite says the forum aims to “work with governments, industry and other stakeholders” to create “suitable policy settings and a regulatory framework to accelerate the development and deployment of CCS technology in Australia”…..

Environment group 350 Australia says the event shows the need to “crack down on the undue influence of lobby groups on our democracy”.

The 350 Australia chief executive, Lucy Manne, said the event was an “insidious effort by the fossil fuel lobby to undermine action on the climate crisis”.

Manne said carbon capture and storage had proven a “pipe dream of the coal and gas lobby” and diverted millions away from proven renewables…..

“It’s outrageous that instead of working out how to rapidly transition to the renewable energy future the vast majority of Australians and businesses want, our elected representatives will tonight be sipping cocktails with the coal lobby and discussing how to extend the life of dirty coal-burning power stations.”

Such lobbying is generally hidden from the public unless revealed by the media. The Fitzgibbon-Kelly cocktail event was reported in News Corp papers.

It does not appear in any of the transparency measures governing lobbying. Federal ministers are also not required to disclose who they have met with, unlike in states like Queensland and New South Wales. ……

March 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media, politics | Leave a comment

THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper joins in right-wing media reactions and conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus

  • The Australian, a national newspaper part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., published an anti-trans article on February 9 that compared coronavirus to a “global epidemic” of transgender teens. The outlet has a history of anti-trans reporting and spreading misinformation about trans youth.

A guide to right-wing media reactions and conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus, MEDIA MATTERS BY KAYLA GOGARTY & COURTNEY HAGLE  RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM NOOR AL-SIBAIALEX KAPLANNIKKI MCCANN RAMIREZ & MADELINE PELTZ 02/28/20

  • As the lethal outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread around the world and the U.S. government warns that it will almost certainly also spread within the United States, right-wing media outlets and online accounts are spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories which could have deadly consequences.

    The strain of novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China. It swiftly spread and has now been detected in 53 countries, including the United States. So far, the outbreak has led to nearly 3,000 deaths and more than 82,000 cases worldwide, according to The New York Times.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the disease behind the current outbreak as part of “a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.” The CDC adds that “rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.” Earlier patients in the COVID-19 outbreak appeared to have a link to seafood and animal products, but the virus has since been shown to spread person-to-person.

    On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern,” and on January 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the United States.

    As the impact of coronavirus continued to be reported, concerns began to arise that it was driving xenophobic attacks toward people of Asian descent. In New York City, a man assaulted a woman wearing a face mask while calling her a “diseased b****.” On a Los Angeles subway, one man declared that “every disease has ever came from China.” In another incident, a Costco worker in Washington state told an 8-year-old child to “get away” because she believed he may be “from China.” Across the country, there has been an uptick in physical and verbal attacks toward Asian Americans.

    In addition to xenophobic sentiments, conspiracy theories and agenda-driven narratives began to arise on the internet and throughout right-wing media, adding more panic and confusion to an already chaotic situation. These conspiracy theories include claims that the Chinese government created coronavirus at a lab in Wuhan; that the United States is using the virus to attack and undermine China from within; and that coronavirus was previously created and patented by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

    The virus has also triggered anti-Semitic sentiments, medical and scientific disinformation, and fearmongering from the religious right about the end of the world. In the United States, President Donald Trump and his allies in right-wing media have also absurdly argued that Democrats and the media are politicizing coronavirus for their own gain to make him look bad and cause panic in the stock market, which has plunged in reaction to the potential pandemic. Continue reading

March 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

Media coverage of Kimba nuclear waste dump is found wanting

February 15, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, media | Leave a comment

Murdoch media and climate change denial

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate, Critics see a concerted effort to shift blame, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change. NYT  By Damien Cave, Jan. 8, 2020  WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.”
 The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.  And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds.
His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.
It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University.
“It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”
………  a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen.The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so


January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

Murdoch media: The Australian, Herald Sun and Courier Mail downplay bushfire news

The Australian: Murdoch-owned newspaper accused of downplaying bushfires in favour of picnic races  

Herald Sun relegates bushfires to page 4 while Courier Mail brings good news via ‘Onion Oracle’Amanda Meade, Sat 4 Jan 2020 The Australian, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper, has defended itself against criticism it downplayed unprecedented bushfires by failing to put a picture of the disaster on the front page of an edition, even as newspapers across the world featured the harrowing scenes.

Many of the world’s leading mastheads featured pictures of the devastation of the Australian bushfires on page one on Thursday. But the Australian’s first edition ran an upbeat picture story about the New Year’s Day picnic races at Hanging Rock.

Sources at the newspaper said the newsroom was short-staffed over the holidays, however it was noted that resources were found to attack the ABC with gusto over its New Year’s Eve concert.

“Our readers have been fully informed across the nation both online and in paper all week,” editor John Lehmann told Guardian Australia.

The national broadsheet’s lead story on Thursday was about a secret proposal by police to ban alcohol in Indigenous communities in Western Australia – a story deemed more important than the bushfire report, which said eight people were dead and mass evacuations were underway.

There wasn’t a single photo of the catastrophic bushfires until page 4.

Before readers got to that coverage, they were given an exclusive interview with “rebel marine scientist Peter Ridd” who has challenged reef scientists to test whether or not human actions have caused a collapse in the growth rate of corals on the Great Barrier Reef.

The later editions of the paper dropped the racing story and replaced it with photographs of bushfire victims surveying the damage.

The Australian is not the only Murdoch-owned newspaper that has been accused of downplaying the bushfires.

On New Year’s Eve, Melbourne’s the Herald Sun also relegated the bushfires to page 4, even as thousands of Victorians faced a serious bushfire threat.

On the same day, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph blamed the Bureau of Meteorology for inaccurate weather predictions, which may have “lulled residents into a false sense of security about conditions”.

But it was the Courier Mail’s story about the “Onion Oracle” that had some readers wondering what was going on at News Corp.

The Queensland tabloid carried the optimistic news that “Onion Oracle” Halwyn Hermann was predicting rain using an old German tradition. They even compared the Onion Oracle’s predictions to those of the bureau of meteorology.

The Australian has been consistent on one front. Throughout the bushfire season it has kept up its coverage of climate denialism.

Before Christmas, the Australian attempted to smear Greg Mullins and his Emergency Leaders for Climate Action group as “largely a vehicle for Tim Flannery”. Flannery is a leading environmentalist and chief counsellor at the Climate Council.

The former fire and emergency chiefs from multiple states and territories say Australia is unprepared for worsening natural disasters from climate change and governments are putting lives at risk.

The Australian says they are a front for Flannery who is an “alarmist” for urging that coal-fired power stations be shut down.

On New Year’s Eve, the paper led with another “exclusive” report that pushed the line Australia should not speed up its response to global warming.

January 4, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

Pro nuclear nonsense from Geoff Russell – “we’re all toast without nuclear power”

Once again, New Matilda gave nuclear lobbyist Geoff Russell a forum for an attack on a critic of the nuclear industry.  (Steggall’s Chicken On Nuclear Family, While Party Politics Buggers Inquiry, 16 Dec 19.) On this occasion, New Matilda was trashing a very mild nuclear critic, Zali Steggall.

So we’re “all toast” without nuclear power? This is nonsense. Even Geoff Russell knows that to get up and running the thousands of nuclear power plants that would be needed to stall global heating – would take decades. That means that, with the speed of global heating, nuclear power would be too late to make any difference. (And that’s if nuclear power really were effective against climate change – which it isn’t, when you consider the whole carbon emitting nuclear fuel cycle from uranium mining to deep disposal of wastes) Meanwhile, energy efficiency, wind and solar power, are quickly set up, quickly effective, and provide energy fuel that is genuinely zero carbon.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, spinbuster | 1 Comment

Journalists beware! Australia now a surveillance state

November 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Journalism’s future in crisis – the case of Julian Assange

JOHN PILGER: Assange’s case will define the future of free journalism,,13324  By John Pilger | 18 November 2019   John Pilger describes the disturbing scene inside a London courtroom last week when the WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange, appeared at the start of a landmark extradition case that will define the future of free journalism.

THE WORST MOMENT was one of a number of “worst” moments. I have sat in many courtrooms and seen judges abuse their positions. This judge, Vanessa Baraitser – actually she isn’t a judge at all; she’s a magistrate – shocked all of us who were there.

Her face was a progression of sneers and imperious indifference; she addressed Julian Assange with an arrogance that reminded me of a magistrate presiding over apartheid South Africa’s Race Classification Board. When Julian struggled to speak, he couldn’t get words out, even stumbling over his name and date of birth. 

When he spoke truth and when his barrister spoke, Baraister contrived boredom; when the prosecuting barrister spoke, she was attentive. She had nothing to do; it was demonstrably preordained. In the table in front of us were a handful of American officials, whose directions to the prosecutor were carried by his — back and forth this young woman went, delivering instructions.

The Magistrate watched this outrage without a comment. It reminded me of a newsreel of a show trial in Stalin’s Moscow; the difference was that Soviet show trials were broadcast. Here, the state broadcaster, the BBC, blacked it out, as did the other mainstream channels.
Having ignored Julian’s barrister’s factual description of how the CIA had run a Spanish security firm that spied on him in the Ecuadorean embassy, she didn’t yawn, but her disinterest was as expressive. She then denied Julian’s lawyers any more time to prepare their case — even though their client was prevented in prison from receiving legal documents and other tools with which to defend himself.

Her knee in the groin was to announce that the next court hearing would be at remote Woolwich, which adjoins Belmarsh Prison and has few seats for the public. This will ensure isolation and be as close to a secret trial as it’s possible to get. Did this happen in the home of the Magna Carta? Yes, but who knew? 

Julian’s case is often compared with Dreyfus, but historically it’s far more important. No one doubts – not his enemies at The New York Times, not the Murdoch press in Australia – that if he is extradited to the United States and the inevitable Supermax, journalism will be incarcerated, too.

Who will then dare to expose anything of importance, let alone the high crimes of the West? Who will dare publish ‘Collateral Murder’? Who will dare tell the public that democracy, such as it is, has been subverted by a corporate authoritarianism from which fascism draws its strength?

Once there were spaces, gaps, boltholes, in mainstream journalism in which mavericks, who are the best journalists, could work. These are long closed now. The hope is the samizdat on the internet, where fine disobedient journalism is still practised.

The greater hope is that a judge or even judges in Britain’s court of appeal, the High Court, will rediscover justice and set him free. In the meantime, it’s our responsibility to fight in ways we know but which now require more than a modicum of Julian Assange’s courage.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Australia’s media fights for freedom of press – BUT NOT FOR JULIAN ASSANGE

Mainstream Media Fights for Own Freedom, But Not for Assange’s, Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 02/11/2019 BY PAUL GREGOIRE Major Australian mainstream media outlets joined forces a fortnight ago to launched the Right to Know campaign. It aims to see public interest journalism decriminalised, and safeguards for whistleblowers enhanced.This unprecedented display of unity has seen The Guardian, the ABC, Nine, News Corp, SBS and the MEAA join forces in calling on the government to enact reforms. And this is rather significant, considering some of these organisations have been much criticised for towing the party line.

The Right to Know has six demands: exceptions so journalists can’t be prosecuted under national security laws, freedom of information reform, defamation law reform, a narrowing of the information classified as secret, protections for whistleblowers and the right to contest warrants.

Of course, the campaign was sparked by the June AFP press raids, which saw agents rifle through the house of a News Corp journalist, as well as the offices of the national broadcaster, in what was understood by many to be a warning to the media and whistleblowers to keep quiet.

However, a glaring campaign omission is the case of an Australian publisher who’s currently being remanded in the UK over charges that apply in the US, which relate precisely to public interest journalism. Yet, the Australian media has all but forgotten their colleague, Julian Assange.

Silenced by association

“The Right to Know campaign drives to the heart of the matter more than many journalists realise,” remarked Ian Rose, a member of the Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition.

“While on the one hand, they’re right to finally be calling out the creeping incursions and restrictions into media freedoms,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “On the other, they don’t have the inner fortitude to stand up for Assange.”

According to Rose, there are two reasons that the Australian media has abandoned the Walkley award-winning journalist. One is that he’s “an egalitarian”, which “frightens the hell out of the ruling class”, as most of the work of WikiLeaks has been all about exposing their lies.

The second reason behind the silence is that the “oligarchs” are the “journalists’ paymasters”. And for this reason – which is underscored by the justifiable fear of losing their lives – journalists have refrained from “calling these people out”.

An excuse for silencing

Attorney general Christian Porter spoke out against the Right to Know campaign, claiming that by providing the media with the right to contest warrants could hinder criminal investigations. And he also asserted that the campaign demands could lead to national security threats.

As an example of how the media could become such a threat, Porter pointed to Assange having published leaked classified documents on WikiLeaks. The top lawmaker further set out that while this act of publication was widely condemned, the local industry still awarded Assange a Walkley……..

Neglecting an ally

And as for what the Australian media should be doing about one of its own locked away in isolation in circumstances that undermine the rule of law, Mr Rose says that it “ought to get over its jealousy and unite to support Assange”.

Indeed, the Right to Know campaign should embrace Assange’s cause, as it’s the quintessential example of the concerted crackdown on journalists that’s currently taking place across the western world. And there’s a clear correlation between his silencing and the local AFP raids.

“The way Assange is being treated is the way journalists are starting to be treated, and the way all of society will be treated if we don’t collectively call for a stop to the new dictatorial world order,” Rose warned.

And as an example of how this silencing of dissent is spreading beyond the media, Rose pointed to the recent assault on nonviolent climate activists, which has seen the application of ongoing arrests,  draconian bail conditions,  intimidatory procedures and the passing of restrictive laws……..

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment