News Ltd not one to talk about journalism

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Kim Williams: don’t underestimate how outrageous this is” (yesterday). Kim Williams said: “It’s worth understanding what the Privacy Act — and ours is one of the most stringent in the world — does. It prevents the identification of individuals. Without exemption, journalists would simply not be able to operate.” As befits a News Limited statement, this is some way distant from the truth.

The Privacy Act 1988 as amended requires those who are not exempt to comply with a list of principles concerning information about individuals. As it is fairly complex, I suggest reading it, including Part III Division 2. Anyway, as can be seen in the legislation, non-exempt journalists would have to comply with the principles, for example by informing individuals before collecting information about them and ensuring that information is correct. It would not, most of the time prevent decent journalists operating, although it would be very awkward, but it could be devastating for a journalist whose fundamental business is to traduce, smear and lie about people with impunity. So Williams’ concern and News Limited’s stance of unrestrained screaming horror is telling. In any case, the exemption of a media organisation in the act only applies if the media organisation is “publicly committed” to observe adequate published standards about privacy. If that commitment is seen to be worthless in practice, it seems hardly unreasonable to withdraw the exemption.

John Gleeson writes: Kim Williams should at least have the basic common sense to realise the distorted, opinionated stories purveyed as truth at News Limited could possibly have had a bearing on the decision to regulate the media — the disgusting serve that Stephen Conroy got, along with channelling Stalin, and compounded with a non-apology, are the very reason oversight is overdue.  Also, if anyone is unfortunate enough to be vilified by the likes of New Ltd, what redress do they have, if they are not immensely wealthy? The time is well due to level the playing field.  Who knows, we may even see the once-respected Australian drag itself out of the gutter as a consequence.

Good Jesuits, bad Jesuits

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Pope Francis: an authentic moral leader for our times?” (yesterday). As a Protestant and a devotee of pope John XXIII, now I find it interesting that a Jesuit has been elected by his fellows (no women permitted, of course) . A “good” Jesuit, to my mind, is a person who challenges, who asks questions, who, even like Thomas, admits to doubt, but once that doubt is satisfied goes on to become a missionary to far lands. Here we may have someone who could work for reconciliation with all of the various segments of Christianity, separated by time, by dogma, but quite frankly theological pig-headedness.  Would I dare to think of leadership in interfaith rapprochement? How Pope Francis deals with the entrenched Curia is, of course, another matter. Every prime minster in Australia or elsewhere knows how real life the Yes Minister series was. But a “bad” Jesuit — well, may we pray that God saves us from that!

Tasty tickles

Katalin Erdosi writes: Re. “Caro: is the media coverage of Jill Meagher appropriate?” (yesterday). All very serious and worthy of discussion, but am I the only one who was really creeped out by the phrase “tickling, which mimics being eaten”? Crikey, you have completely ruined the fun tickle — all I can think about is being devoured by a sabre-toothed tiger!