The Australian and the election:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Possum: the great unhinging begins” (yesterday, item 2). The utterly justified criticisms of the Murdoch media have focussed on The Australian, but mention should be made of its dopier but much larger-circulating tabloid counterparts. The Herald Sun in particular worked hard to keep Muslim panic and “the boats” front-and-centre, and like the same paper’s mafia-assisting vendetta against Commissioner Simon Overland, some stories were almost laughable in their desperation.

I remember one recent gem, it followed by a day or two the one about how our Navy was “stretched to breaking point” by a few unarmed wooden fishing boats. This little journalistic turd focused on how a 1940s-built weatherboard building on some godforsaken army base was going to be “handed over” to detained asylum seekers as a recreation room. The angle was that said shack was named after a Victoria Cross winner — so it was presented as Labor spitting in the face of a VC winner by allowing dirty reffos to run riot in the building.

Anyone who read the Herald Sun would have seen the origin of the agenda “delivered” by Gillard in her first 48 hours as PM. Along with dumping the idiotic sound bites and gutlessness, the ALP has to learn that News Limited is not a beast to be dealt with by flattery or appeasement and strong changes to media laws, to allow online datacasting for instance, and maintaining free-to-air sport, are the best way to avoid Australia being infected with a US-style lunar right.

In my various minimum-wage jobs I know a few people who read the Herald Sun for its football commentary and unrivalled tit-and-arse content.  They purport to disagree with its ultra-conservative politics, but it fulfils Rupert’s agenda by preventing such individuals from obtaining real information and thus skewing their world view anyway.

Barry Donovan  writes: I agree with Possum Comitatus that there may well be “one rolling frenzied campaign after another (against the Gillard Coalition Government) where each new contrived outrage will assume a greater mania than the last”.

The dreaded rush to fill the 24/7 news cycle — the biggest curse of good modern day media — the anger by conservative party supporters at being pipped at the post, and the annoyance of News Ltd, at failing in their anti-Gillard campaign, will ensure that the hyper critical commentaries continue. But I was surprised that Bernard Keane apparently joined this bunch yesterday by claiming that Julia Gillard is now “a diminished figure, one humbled by a disastrous campaign that nearly lost Labor office”.

By any objective assessment Julia Gillard was hamstrung from the outset by a Federal ALP campaign committee which placed her in a tightly restricted role that completely diminished her ability to display the so-called “real Julia” from day one. Julia Gillard has the ability to develop as an outstanding Australian Prime Minister in her own right.

I just hope that Bernard Keane — who surprisingly wrongly tipped an Abbott Government on Tuesday morning — gives her that opportunity.

Chris Johnson writes: Great read Possum! And now this new enlightened era of political administration has arrived it’s surely time for Gillard, the Coalition and the Independents to ensure their vital messages aren’t mangled by an increasingly incompetent and partial media.

A fragile two-party system super-glued by a couple of independents will now live or die by our mainstream media that has increasingly ditched such standards as accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.

Why roll out policies and issues aimed at social and economic advancement when there’s no guarantee they’ll be reported accurately?

If we’re going to set improved benchmarks in political governance it’s time to hitch the media to the same ethical wagon.

Paul Howorth writes: Possum, you write with a passive voice… “It” will happen, “they” will do “It”, conservative bitterness will happen to “us”… My goodness man, have you not witnessed?

Is there no one in the media/commentariat prepared to accept that just maybe this really is the beginning of the end of the national hobby of cynically signing up to a choice of one of two muggers with the same identikit profile? Actually, there’s a third mugger, and one I’d stay off the streets to avoid, and that is the mainstream media.

Yes Possum, if the media fails to do its job (again) it will actively assist to make “it” happen … if all the media will do is describe and not challenge the nonsense for what it is, then yes Possum, the “worst” will surely rise and overtake the country with its manipulation, deceit and destruction. I think that the media barracks for that narrative because it’s the safest one to blog without exercising any courage to challenge.

Au contraire O Possum, it may well be an ugly transition but I wager that an era of courageous independency is on its way — that’s a narrative too y’know and a constructive one at that, polls or no polls/pollies or no pollies…

Martyn Smith writes: There were some excellent articles that mentioned the quality or otherwise of sections of our media yesterday. Amongst them: “Possum: the great unhinging begins“, “Come in Spinner: who does the minority government really challenge?“, “Then and now: how the dailies told you to vote vs. today’s front pages” and, last but not least, tucked away in “Media Briefs“: “Murdoch’s mole to squeal on phone tapping“.

Quite a collection in one edition and there have been many others over time. Not only do we deserve better than what we are getting, it’s imperative for the health of our society that we do get a better outcome.

I believe in  a free press. Free to tell the truth and inform and sometimes to be abusive, but I don’t believe the press has the right to tap phones or engage in criminal activities and especially it has no right to lie. No one should have this right and that applies to the press along with the rest of us. It appears that a certain well known and very powerful organisation is alleged to be doing just this. It has conspired with others to undermine our democratic processes.

Surely it is time for “good men and true” to co- operate to at least curb this out of control monster. Even better it should be broken up and destroyed.

The Geelong Ablettiser, err, Advertiser:

Steele Tallon, Editor of the Geelong Advertiser, writes: Re. “Media briefs: SMH our best paper (but Fairfax revenue bleeds) … trashing the masthead for Gaz … 3D no-go …” (27 August, item 20). Thanks for your piece on the Ablettiser. I’m not sure if you saw a copy of the paper from the day (you would have struggled, seeing it sold out by 11am) but the “Ablettiser” component was actually a four-page wrap. The paper proper, including a conventional front page and the 170-year-old masthead, were safely tucked inside the wrap. So fear not, the last thing we would do is “trash the masthead”.

The “Ablettiser” was simply a backhander at ourselves and a bit of fun that our readers were grown up enough to take in the right spirit. As I said, we registered a sellout at 29,584 sales – an increase of 2333 on the same Friday last year (nearly 9%), and up 2816 on the previous Friday.

Due to demand, we ran an “Ablettiser Reloaded” as a liftout last Thursday and estimates show we sold 24,650 copies — up 1,227 on the same Thursday last year, and up 1500 on the previous Thursday.

A good result, you would agree, and great to get the paper into as many hands as possible at a time when newspapers in general are doing it tough.

Election titbits:

Marion Barker writes: Re. “And now, let the wild rumpus start” (yesterday, item 1). There was rage and ridicule directed at the length of Oakeshott’s announcement speech yesterday by various journalists but does this represent a growing shallowness of analysis?

Waiting on tenterhooks to hear “Labor” or “Coalition”/”Julia” or “Tony” is exactly missing Oakeshott’s point … i.e. we need to pay more attention to getting the processes right, we need to be more reflective, we need to do more analysis and stop this shallow partisan politics! (Besides which it was obvious what Oakeshott would say as soon as Windsor said Labor — they were hardly going to announce a 75:75 outcome as their first effort at stability and continuity. If you want to look at it numerically.)

Far preferable to open our minds to what Oakeshott was actually SAYING in that longer than usual explanation for a historic moment. Yes it did take them a long time to decide — 17 days — but complex issues demand some time. Yes it did take Oakeshott a long time to announce the decision — 17 minutes — but complex decisions demand some explanation.

The fact that Oakeshott couldn’t rely on the journalists to continue concentrating after the verdict is unfortunate. The fact that the journalist’s didn’t concentrate even before the verdict is more unfortunate.  Seems to me that if the new age in politics is going to require politicians to think outside the box and avoid the meaningless sound grabs then our journalists and commentators are going to have to do the same.

Bob Cole writes: I have no difficulty with the position we find ourselves in politically. None! The Australian voter collectively have given us all the message: Treat us with contempt politicians and we will deal harshly with you.

So the real lesson to be learnt is that we want representation for the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of the parties and the supporters of those parties. Good governance is about the welfare of the people and in the end the welfare of the people will lead to the benefit of the overall the nation. Mr Oakeshott would have had significantly more power and influence if he had remained independent and made Labor appoint a speaker and therefore would truly have had the casting vote in all matters.

What is important is that our politicians wake up grasp the moment and represent the voters of their electorates. That opportunity is there now and will remain, for the foreseeable future,  provided that will  is exercised for the benefit of electors and not the vested interests be they industry, Labor groups or any others. The considerations that Oakeshott is currently considering be they ministerial or speakership is simply Oakeshott falling for the 3 card trick and failing his stated objectives.

Tell Labor and liberal and Greens let us consider your best efforts and then we will make a decision. Best for the country and best for the individual, not vested interests.

H S Mackenzie writes: Once again a commentator, Beryce Nelson (yesterday, comments), talks about the “unfair dismissal of Kevin Rudd”. I see that Tony Abbott is standing for re-election as leader of the Liberal Party. Isn’t it illegitimate and unfair that the Liberal Party could purport to elect Tony Abbott as leader.

Hasn’t he already been elected leader of the opposition by the Australian People. For the Liberal Party to take it upon itself to elect him is just as bad as the Labor party taking it upon itself to elect Julia Gillard as its leader in place of Kevin Rudd.

John Shailer writes: I wonder how voters in urban and outer-urban electorates feel about $10,000,000,000 earmarked to them for health, education, and broadband, being redirected by Julia Gillard to rural and regional electorates nominated by Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor?

Stephanie Rice:

Dave Lennon writes: Re. “Tumbling Rice: out of sight, out of sponsor’s mind, out of the Jag” (yesterday, item 21). The journalists that have been reporting on the Stephanie Rice tweet and especially the one that found it in the first place  and decided it was a story worth following .. did they all really spend three years at university getting degrees in journalism?

And presumably being taught how the pathetic and mean tall poppy syndrome works in Australia. Money well spent I say!

Joe Hockey:

Adam Rope writes: Re. “The Media Monitors’ Top 20” (yesterday, item 20). I’m not sure if the errors occurred in house, or from the original source, but I feel fairly sure of the following:- Joe Hockey, despite impersonating Shrek on KAK, is not a member of The Greens. Adam Bandt is not yet a Premier, of anything, no matter what The Greens in Melbourne think. Anna Bligh is a Premier, of BobKat’s great state of Queensland, but apparently she still is an elected reprehensive of the Labor Party, not the Liberals. Or the independents. Otherwise keep up the good work. (It’s amazing what parts of Crikey you read stuck on a quiet night shift…)


Katherine Stuart, in Stockholm, Sweden, writes: Re. “Iceland-Australia relations freeze over WikiLeaks s-x case” (yesterday, item 7). I get really p-ssed off when people don’t do their research. And even more so when it comes to making sweeping assumptions about cultural differences and legal differences based on what appears to be little more than hearsay. Luke Miller’s article does both, as does the quote from Guy Rundle’s article.

There is no such thing as a “s-exuellt ofredande” law in Sweden in the sense that it is referred to in this article (and get your spelling right too). S-exuellt ofredande refers in Swedish law (to be exact, in Chapter 6 Section 10 of Sweden’s Penal Code — unfortunately not a particular accurate translation of the original, but the only one online — see the Swedish version for comparison) to the sexual molestation of children. It is not, as appears to be the case in this article, some kind of blanket term that “covers (r-pe and assault) and more, grouping stalking and harassment with generic ‘ar-ehole behaviour in the bedroom’ that falls well short of coercion”.

It might sound cute to imply that Australian law on r-pe and s-xual assault is more “binary” (since we just love to dichotomise in this country for some reason), but it really is a load of cr-p. Which both Luke Miller and Guy Rundle might have realised had they done their homework.

Climate change:

Tony Kevin writes:  Re. “Climate change policy set to steam up Canberra” (yesterday, item 3). Thanks, Giles Parkinson. This new parliament-based climate committee will be the crucial policy mechanism for progress in climate change policy. Bob Brown and Christine Milne understand this well.

The committee must of course be made up of people who recognise the truth of the climate science, if you like based on the risk minimisation principle as advocated by Tony Windsor (though I believe the science is already well and truly in that there is over 90% probability of disruptive climate change by 2060,  if the world continues to burn carbon  at the present rate),  and who accept the urgent need to begin some form of national carbon pricing in Australia.

After that, the policy questions will be many: carbon tax or carbon trading? What level of 2020 and 2050 emissions reduction targets? What role if any for direct government planning and funding of renewables energy plant and supporting expanded energy grid lines? I addressed such questions in my strongly researched but somewhat overlooked book ‘Crunch Time (Scribe, September 2009) which remains a sound unbiased citizen primer on the politics of the climate change policy challenge in Australia.

I am pleased to volunteer my services on the committee of experts,  my credentials being this book. Lobbyists and special interest pleaders will exert pressures to get onto this committee: and the climate movement will be as ever irresolute, divided and I fear ineffectual. The committee needs clearheaded and articulate policy people of competence, vision, integrity and general knowledge of the issues.

Ross Garnaut would be an excellent chairman, now that he has seen what happened in practice to his initially preferred carbon trading system in 2008-2009 under pressure of lobbyists. He would now have an open mind on the alternative of a simple carbon tax that would be less open to the corrupting power of special interests.