The Australian front page

Chris Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief of The Australian, writes: Re. “Media briefs” (yesterday, item 18) Margaret Simons’ comparison of The Age’s coverage of an anti-carbon rally in Canberra to that in The Australian really only betrays her bias and lack of editorial skill. The Australian had as its front page picture display an exclusive Newspoll signalling the most dramatic recovery of a politician in the history of the poll. The poll concerned sitting premier Anna Bligh and was published the day after the announcement that Campbell Newman would campaign for the premier’s job from outside the Parliament and quit his job as Lord Mayor of Brisbane to do so. In a national paper that poll was a far more important story in our biggest market than a rally of 3,000 people in Canberra. I might also point out that rally — organised by a radio station — was covered extensively on the six o’clock news that night. We at The Australian try to develop our own exclusive stories and push our agenda forward so that the evening news follows us rather than the reverse.

One rally, two opinions

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Placards not the only thing on display as the denialists gather” (yesterday, item 2) Bernard Keane hit the bullseye with his column. It left the denialists and Abbott apologists gasping and spluttering in the comments. (Who knew there were so many in the Crikey closet?) Oh, it was wonderful!

But really we need to thank Alan Jones. At first, hearing his insulting, disrespectful JuLiar slur, I wanted to slap him hard around the face on behalf of our PM. He and his fellow shock-jocks are an unlanced boil on our democracy. Intolerant, ignorant, recidivist Luddites, biased, rude and utterly convinced they are right and everyone else wrong.

But it led to the No Carbon Tax Rally in Canberra on Wednesday, and the sunlight helped disinfect the disease. The boil is lanced with the pus all squeezed out. All Australians have had the opportunity to judge the ugliness. It doesn’t get much worse. Ignorance, hate and blind prejudice feeding this irrational ugliness.

We have seen similar ugliness in the Tea Party rallies in the US, and worse, lethal violence against moderate politicians. Most of us do not want that here, even as we acknowledge citizens’ right to free speech. But politicians associate with such incivility and ugliness by choice and it was remarkably informative just to see the list of those who attended and those who did not:

Present: Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop, Barnaby Joyce, Sophie Mirabella, Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Pauline Hanson.
Not present: Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull, Greg Hunt, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne.

So even those who play hardball, personally vitriolic politics like Pyne, or those informed on the AGW issue but furiously dancing like a contortionist to retain a shred of credibility despite their current leader’s policy (Greg Hunt on ABC’s Lateline Wednesday night), are politically smart enough to avoid mixing with such people. It is also no accident that Abbott who, alone among the world’s political leaders, met with denialist Viscount Monckton on his visit here last year. And no accident that Alan Jones hosted the batty world conspiracist.

As Keane implied, no one has to guess or second-guess anymore. This was his constituency and to use his own vernacular, this was not just “sh-t happens” rather he was like a pig in sh-t. His natural constituency was on the parliament house lawn. And this is where he has dragged his party. But as I have argued before (in Crikey and here) a two party system is simply inadequate to represent today’s diversity. Abbott should form a breakaway party with his confreres (see list above) and general membership whom he could represent very sincerely, and he would have a powerful PR voice for free on the radio.

Bill Williams writes: This is a really disappointing piece of journalism, especially from someone writing for Crikey. Signed up members of the “right thinking good people’s club” of which Bernard Keane seems so obviously convinced he is a member, seriously underestimate a substantial percentage of people who are against Julia Gillard’s proposed carbon tax and Malcolm Turnbull’s emission trading scheme. Just because the 3000 people who turned up at parliament house to protest the carbon tax were a right wing rabble, doesn’t mean that they are representative of the rest of the 52% of Australians who are against the tax.

Mr Keane, there are many Australians who completely accept the fact that the planet is warming, and with dire consequences for all ecosystems, but who don’t accept the whole neo-liberal or “rationalist” economic model which advocates a market model for driving behaviour change, in this case by tax making power and fuel more expensive in the short term and implementing an emissions trading scheme (which Bob Brown once described as a bonanza for big polluters).  What about getting the Catholic Church to embrace birth control, and tackling the issue of the plague of humans on the planet?

It may be convenient for Bernard Keane to categorise everybody who is against the carbon tax as a naive climate change denier. I wonder if history will judge people like him to be part of an enormous human collective anxiety response to the wolf at the door, something similar to the Y2K. History may judge Keane and his ilk to be “climate change optimists” (just as naive as the deniers) people who believed it was possible for humankind to alter its climate destiny through coordinated human action at a time when the precondition of such action (an effective global government) did not exist.

At one time Australia had a healthy diversity of economic ideologies. Sydney University had the school of political economy. UNE taught a largely interventionist Keynesian style of economic governance. Unfortunately for Australia, there is now virtually universal acceptance of the validity of the neo-liberal economic model and its underpinning assumptions. Surely the global financial crisis caused by the under regulated banking sector of the US, and the need for large scale Keynesian style of bail out would cause thinking journalists to question this model. Unfortunately for Australians this narrow view has resulted in journalists like Keane being unable to critically analyse the narrowness of the self flagellation repsonse implicit in a carbon tax.

Michael Pusey’s (1991) warning about the influence of economic rationalism on narrowing the thinking of Canberra’s bureaucrats is well demonstrated in the essays about climate change penned by Mr Keane. Of course he is not alone: and that’s the problem. Australia’s economists are like sheep. all bleating the same rubbish. I expect to read that kind of conservative economic perspective in the broadsheets, but I expect more critical analysis and less “ABC style” parochialism from Crikey journalists.

I recommend that Mr Keane familiarise himself with the “Behavioural Economics” school of thought, so well taught at the University of Chicago. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel peace prize for proving the irrationalism of human economic behaviour.

White collar crims

Bruce Watson writes: Re. “Hoy … from high roller with a Rolls to a role as a jailbird” (yesterday, item 20) Graeme Hoy’s 13 year sentence is far from being the longest white collar sentence in Australia as claimed. Only those with grey and thinning hair will remember Peter Huxley, the Secretary of the Rural Bank who landed a 20 year stretch in 1970 for gambling away $5m from the Freedom From Hunger account (no mean sum now and a massive amount then). Huxley up until that point had been a regular feature on the social and media scene. He  was caught after 10 years when a new teller at the Martin Place Head Office, not knowing who Huxley was, queried his cashing of a FFH cheque on a Friday, just in time for Royal Randwick the next day, with one thing leading to another and ultimately an appearance before Justice Head.

Standards needing to be maintained when at Long Bay, Huxley apparently had his prison greens remodelled to resemble a suit. Graeme Hoy take note.

Gay marriage

Steve Crilly writes: Re. “A handy guide to Tony’s far right fringe-dwellers” (yesterday, item 3) I’m a little confused that Andrew Crook refers to “the ACT’s attempt to legislate for gay marriage”. The article he linked to is about a Bill that would require an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament to overrule Territory laws, rather than status quo, to wit, executive disallowance. The ACT recognises foreign same-s-x marriages and has a civil union scheme, but to my knowledge it has never tried to legislate for gay marriage, and certainly not recently. Moreover, it probably couldn’t even if the political will existed, because it would be inconsistent with the ‘one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others’ definition in the Commonwealth Marriage Act. If I recall correctly, Crikey has itself denounced the dog whistling that pushed a once-uncontentious bill into a Senate inquiry.

The reason I’m confused is that Andrew Crook knows all of this. Hell, he’s the one who explained it to me in “The Oz’s gay marriage Trojan horse” (March 4, 2011).

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Peter Fray
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