News Ltd’s conservative tabloid columnists Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman continue to march to the same tune, wearing the same boots and slavishly following the same line.

Bolt’s spray against Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws, on the grounds that they inhibit free speech, was of reasonable interest to Herald Sun readers last Friday. The laws are pretty ordinary and Bolt spelt out the case quite well.

Lo and behold, Piers Akerman regaled The Sunday Telegraph’s readers with this column on exactly the same topic two days later. Being in lock-step over things like border security and Schapelle Corby is one thing, but for Akerman to bore his NSW readers with a column on the laws in another state takes the dancing duo’s channelling to a new level.

We all know how hard it can be to come up with an idea for a column, but surely Akerman could have done better than to just look at Bolt’s web page and fire away. Sure, he related them to NSW, but with Bob Carr ruling out any similar legislation, it didn’t warrant a separate column.

And on 22 June Bolt ran this piece attacking Fairfax’s man in Iraq, Paul McGeough. Yes, there they go again – Piers Akerman took a similar line the following day (although it isn’t available online).

Crikey readers have claimed in the past that a staffer in John Howard’s office is dedicated to feeding Bolt and Akerman. The Murdoch attack dogs happily use anonymous government sources attacking McGeough and we all know the most famous example of that strategy backfiring. This is what Andrew Bolt wrote during the 2001 federal election campaign:

So keen to find evil-doers
The strange thing about the “debate” over our treatment of asylum seekers is that so many “good” people are so keen to think we’re monsters. Earlier this week, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said Iraqi boat people had thrown their children overboard when HMAS Adelaide tried to turn their boat back to Indonesia. He said our sailors had to jump into the sea to rescue some 14 children and adults.

Only a fool could think Ruddock would make this up, given the incident was witnessed by dozens of sailors and officers. Yet by this morning the Greens and the Australian Democrats were muttering doubts about the truth of the story. Refugee advocate Marion Le told Jon Faine on ABC radio 774 she’d had “doubts from the beginning” and called for a “full inquiry into what exactly did go on and whether or not these claims were true.’

Then Faine demanded Ruddock provide “independent corroboration” for his claim, stating: “We can’t any longer simply say, well, someone told me that might be what happened.”

Elsewhere in this paper you can see the photographs of the incident which I got from the Defence Department simply by asking for them. Proof positive. Add this scare campaign to those about our “concentration camps,” our racism and so on.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey