Australia Post and censorship

Thank you for publishing the story on the anti-war pamphlet. (Has any other media outlet done so – if not, where are their free speech credentials?)

This mirrors the recent House of Lords ruling that TV networks could refuse to show an anti-abortion party’s ‘party political broadcast’ because it showed abortion images.

To correspondents who feigned to defend Aust Post and the other distributor:

* do you truly want a near-monopoly, which is the only means of reaching all Australians, screening political content?

* in a free society the law of ‘offence’ is limited to distasteful attacks on a person’s private sensitivities. How can it be used to censor fair comment on foreign affairs? On aesthetic grounds?

* you say that in a free market a distributor can discriminate against clients on whatever grounds it likes. If so, you must believe that my business should be able to discriminate against you because of your religion, or a unionist refuse to work with a new employee who is not a unionist.

Graeme Orr


Arbitrary censorship

Julian Burnside’s note re the ‘offensive’ poster is not only absolutely correct, but also very important. This trend towards arbitrary censorship to protect those in power and the mingling of political and religious discourse, both offshoots of the contemporary assault on the rule of law and reason as the foundation of public policy, represent major threats to whatever democracy still means in Australia. Besides criticising these tendencies, what else can we do?

Is Australia post subject to the FOI legislation?

  • If so I will donate to a fund to obtain the relevant written documents generated by Australia Post’s consideration of the poster; and I reckon a lot of others would too, among them some very good lawyers who would donate time and expertise.
  • If not, then what about a campaign to embarrass Australia Post into explaining its stand and voluntarily releasing its advice and the grounds on which it rested?

If it turns out that Australia Post is beyond all accountability for such decisions and prefers to thumb its nose at its questioners, then let’s get that clear and widely understood too. Personally, I’ll get a stamp made, the kind you use to add your return address, and it will print ‘Australia Post practices political censorship’ on every piece of mail I send.

Best wishes (and thanks for providing a venue and vehicle for the dissemination of information such as the poster story).

Spring Hill

Graphic images and political suppression

Posting that picture is close to an all time low for Crikey. I’m surprised John Howard didn’t have a little Hitler moustache painted on him as well.

Perhaps you can also post a photo of Saddam with his family, cleverly juxtaposed with snaps of mass Shiite graves, mangled people from the Iran-Iraq and first Gulf wars, starving Iraqi children circa 1991-2003 and topped off with the Kurds he gassed in Fallujah.

You do remember all those people Saddam killed, right?

Tamas Calderwood

How ABC ignors the Outdoor Recreation Party

In Crikey’s report of October 1 section 8: ABC corporate in censorship overdrive

Huh what’s this about the ABC journos objecting to corporate censorship and threatening to write to the SMH and Media Watch if an internal advertisement for an anti Howard rally is censored again?

Let’s have a look at a recent example: I asked the fist question in ANY Australian parliament about the super trawler Veronica. The ABC reported the question and parts of the answer and mentioned everybody else in the article including the Greens but just happened to forget to mention my name!

In the last twelve months since I joined parliament here’s a quick count of the number of stories attached to some other independent MLC members names from the ABC news web site:

Lee Rhiannon – 26 times

Ian Cohen – 7 times

Peter Breen – 14 times (many due to ICAC)

Fred Nile – 11 times (most due to Fed senate run)

Chesterfield-Evans – 6 times

Sylvia Hale – 5 times

Gordon Moyes – 6 times

Jon Jenkins – 0 times

And one of the ABC journos objects to internal censorship! Jeez people give me a break, I realise I have to suffer for the sins of my [political] forbears and prove myself worthy but please don’t complain about a little bit of internal censorship because I really have something to complain about!

Prof Jon Jenkins MLC

Outdoor Recreation Party

Tony Delroy should do his research

Contrary to your report today (1/10/04), Tony Delroy did read the first ten or so of the 26 questions about Labor’s ‘Medicare Gold’ policy sent to him by Liberal Campaign HQ.

Delroy then declared he had not bothered to read, listen to or conduct any research about the policy before launching into a lengthy talk-back session about it.

In a blind-leading-the-blind exercise, Delroy’s callers then raised all manner of doubts and misconceptions about the ‘Medicare Gold’ policy that could and should have been identified and dismissed had the presenter done his homework.

A most unprofessional and consequently biased effort from the ABC – though one which should generate no complaint from Howard’s caretaker Government.

Graham Lapthorne

PP McG – good for your health

I had only just stopped laughing over John Howard’s ‘commitment to Medicare’ when I read Paddy McGuinness’ rant about ‘the predictable media reaction’ to Latham’s launch. Well, you’d know all about predictable Paddy. They say laughter is good for your health. Keep them coming, Crikey. At this rate, I might never need Mark’s Medicare Gold.

Phil Teece

Medicare Gold and veterans affairs

Latham made only a brief mention of Veterans Health yesterday – but it is an important point that could be followed up. The demographics fit, so bear with me on a brief history lesson.

Veteran’s health care, unlike that of the rest of us, is a Commonwealth issue. During and after World War II, a large medical infrastructure was built to deal with the many wounded soldiers, many chronically affected by the war. Soldiers in later wars – Korea, Vietnam, etc. – got the same treatment: non-means-tested free treatment for war-related injuries in Commonwealth funded hospitals.

Since then, the hospitals and the medical carers have never had such large numbers of young men to deal with. Even during the height of the Vietnam War, there were never as many troops involved as during WWII. Instead these hospitals gradually changed their purpose, as the old soldiers aged.

One thing to keep in mind is that ex-diggers are sacrosanct in Australia, and so are their widows. The standard of proof that an illness is ‘war-related’ has become ever more flexible over the years, partly nudged along by a court judgment that said that the burden of proof lies with the Commonwealth, to prove that an illness is NOT war-related.

One example is lung cancer: any man who can prove he began smoking during the war can probably prove his illness is war-related. Another is deafness: many old folk are hard of hearing, but ex-diggers became deaf because of the sound of gunfire.

Once an ex-digger or a war widow gets a Gold Card, all their health needs, not just those that are war-related, are fully funded by the Commonwealth – and most are now over 75.

The Veterans Hospitals were privatised years ago. In Brisbane, for instance, Greenslopes Hospital was sold to Mayne Health. But Veterans Affairs still pays the bill – generously – for Gold Card holders who are treated there, as well as paying their bills at the local GP, Chemist, Physiotherapist, etc.

Fast forward. These people were born in the 1920s or before. However good their health care, they won’t live many more years – though it’s politically unwise to say so – and there will be far fewer ex-soldiers from later wars to replace them. This leaves a LOT of spare capacity in a number of Commonwealth-funded hospitals, at least one in each capital city, that have developed excellent skills in treating geriatrics.

Labor’s plan for Medicare Gold – note the name – fits neatly into this pre-existing infrastructure.


Fair betting and Betfair

Never have I read so much nonsense written about a subject, by ostensibly sensible people, as the flurry of recent media coverage about betting exchanges like Betfair. The latest was Patrick Smith in The Australian 30 September 2004.

As each disingenuous argument against the licensing of betting exchanges collapses opponents are resorting to the simplest and, incredibly, the least convincing. That it will encourage cheating because it is possible to bet against a horse winning. Anyone, with even a passing interest in punting, will know there has always been a myriad of ways to bet against a horse winning, including taking the field with a bookie or dutching the other chances on the tote. The difference is that, unlike the TAB, betting exchanges allow authorities to trace each individual bet and bettor.

I predict even more fixing scandals will be exposed in racing, not because of betting exchanges, but precisely because they permit this sort of scrutiny.

The real losers in this fight, the TAB betting monopolies and governments, have hoodwinked the racing industry. Any revenue lost from what these organisations deign to return to the various codes would be replaced by the license fees the exchanges are offering. And I note the TAB betting monopolies do not currently pay any fees to most of the sporting codes.

I also think it likely these new revenues from betting exchanges are likely to exceed lost revenue by expansion of the betting market to the globe.

Dean McAskil

Our US “friends”

Great to see now that our American friends are treating us like common criminals by taking mugshots and fingerprinting us when dropping in for a friendly visit. One can only wonder about how we would have been treated had we not been so friendly in joining the coalition of the willing. Now I guess we get to see just who our friends really are. Not good enough John! Or was that Alexander?

Pieter Kriel
South Australia

US Marines to drop in – to Parkes – unannounced!

As part of the Parkes constituency we are outraged at the news brought to us in the local paper (Champion Post, September 8th) that US Marines will arrive in Parkes this weekend (again) for approximately 2 weeks of operations at Parkes airport. The paper advised that complete details of the operation are not yet known but it is expected to be similar to an operation conducted here last year. Australian defence force and US marines are expected to visit Parkes tomorrow and meet with Parkes Shire Council to inform them of the operation. Last year the marines arrived unannounced and literally dropped out of the sky unexpectedly – parachutists.

The paper goes on to say that after last year’s events, Council wrote to the department of defence requesting they be better advised on any future operations at the Parkes airport. With Parkes Shire Council still pretty much in the dark concerning the forthcoming visit it appear the council’s request has fallen on deaf ears.

We wonder how Americans would feel if Australians suddenly parachuted into their airports unannounced! It seems the Australian Department of Defence holds the local residents here in complete contempt. And what of the power of US authorities that they can behave in such a way – and the complicity of the Australian government to allow them to do so – is this an example of the
sort of democracy that ours and the American leaders hold up with such sanctity and self-righteousness?

We look forward to your reply.

Concerned residents
Parkes, NSW