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South Australia

Feb 2, 2010

Michael Atkinson vs. The Advertiser

The war between Mike Rann's government and Rupert Murdoch's Advertiser continues, with some choice words being fired by SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson today.

If democracy is to be a vibrant thing, the relationship between a state government and the daily newspaper in a one-newspaper city should be uncosy. And that’s exactly what it normally is between the governments in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart and, respectively, the Advertiser, West Australian, Courier-Mail and Mercury.

But uncosy is one thing — the war between Mike Rann’s government and Rupert Murdoch’s Advertiser is quite another.

Today the ‘Tiser and its Adelaide Now website are reporting on the South Australian government’s decision, which came into force on January 6, requiring internet bloggers and anyone making a comment on next month’s SA election to publish their real name and postcode when commenting on the poll. According to the Advertiser‘s editorial comment today:

Such a draconian move should come as no surprise. In many ways, it is entirely predictable … The State Government has long made obvious its distaste for those who disagree with its policies in any form and to any degree whatsoever … The big question here is, can legislation be used in this state to restrict free speech and combat the rise of technology? … The people of South Australia who elected these MPs of both persuasions are having their rights eroded in the most undemocratic fashion.

To which the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson — himself a former ‘Tiser sub-editor and journalist for a few years in the 1980s — responded:

The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud … There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else … I am also certain that Advertiser Newspapers and News Limited will punish me personally, viciously for being the attorney-general responsible for this law … You will publish false stories about me, invent things about me to punish me.

These are the rantings and ravings of an unstitched politician whose extreme paranoia presents his own status, as SA’s first law officer, and his government’s status, as a tired administration riddled with controversy, in a terrible light. Less than two months out from an election, he sounds like a man in severe defence mode in need of counselling and possibly medication.

We await the Attorney’s writ for defamation. We have our lunch packed.

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10 thoughts on “Michael Atkinson vs. The Advertiser

  1. Gibbot

    Michael Atkinson can sponge-bath my testicles. This is a law that demands to be broken.

  2. Frank Campbell

    The smaller the arena, the lower the stakes, the more vindictive the wrangling. SA the suburban council…or perhaps campus novel. No wonder SA has barrelfuls of superb murders…

    Someone change Atkinson’s bib for him. The doctor will be here shortly.

  3. SusieQ

    Do I detect the smell of a rotting government?

    Does this silly law apply to those of us not living is Sth Australia?

    Perhaps us non-Sth Australians can send an email to the Attorney-General, minus appropriate identification, complaining about this silly law?

  4. Elan

    You beat me to it! That is the Atkinson comment I was going to c/p!

    Make your own judgment;-look at it! ‘Unstitched politician’? ;-too bloody right!

    His behaviour is increasingly erratic.

    The Libs of course, helped Mikey in his latest endeavour.

    God! we’re stuffed!

  5. daveliberts

    In my experience, there is nothing a lawyer-turned-politician loves more than issuing defamation proceedings. My favourite such tale relates to a mate of mine who was a member of Young Labor a few years back. He was chatting to a fellow member prior to a meeting; the person he was chatting to had been elected to his local council, where he was one of several ALP members elected. The Councillor joked to my mate that he and the other Labor councillors were under the influence of the local Labor MP (also a minister in the state government). My mate repeated this reference in front of the Young Labor meeting, and was getting phone calls within 20 minutes from the MP in question threatening defamation proceedings. Given that my mate was at the time a penniless student, I can’t underline enough how hilarious this was.

    Wow, that was a good job hiding the actual idenity of the folks involved! I make no secret of the fact I’ve done this because I know the MP would read this comment and I’d be in receipt of defamation proceedings myself if I’d even hinted as to his identity. If only politicians could actually get on with the job they’ve been elected to do….

  6. LacqueredStudio

    Less than 2 months you say? Shit, I’d better update my address with the Electoral Commission quick smart.

  7. Dingbat

    Michael Atkinsin is a %#@*

    David Smith
    15 Gregory St
    Parap NT 0820

  8. Tom McLoughlin

    I think he raises a very interesting point about unsourced electoral comment. Up until now I’ve tended to think anonymity is cowardice on the net, excepting genuine whistleblowers.

    In 1970-72 the fascist pro Pinochet press published all kinds of smears against that left wing government due to weak laws. Obviously U loving Rann is no Allende but overall I tend to agree anonymous electoral content smacks of a phoney democracy.

    The Liberts example is irrelevant, one can report a fair bit without naming specifically. It also has the benefit of putting all MPs potentially in the picture which is some sort of justice I guess.

    Sure I am troubled by the closed shop tribal ALP approach to governance in a small state. Balanced against this is the USA style extreme free speech approach which would have no classification system for children etc. The truth is in the middle.

    The overt smear involving the private life of a politician is nothing to be proud of either.

  9. karldoh

    Let’s not forget this censorious wowser called the Deputy Chief Magistrate of the state ‘daft’ and ‘delusional’, was sued, lost, and we the public of South Australia are left with a $40,000 bill.

  10. michael crook

    No pleasing you guys at crikey, when a politician actually makes an accurate comment about the commercial media, he gets castigated.