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Journalism

Nov 19, 2013

Blame the media? ABC and Guardian defend spying revelations

The conservative media has wasted no time in declaring that our reputation with Indonesia is damaged, not because Australian spies have been listening in on the Indonesian President's phone, but because media outlets revealed the tapped phone.

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Indonesia spying the Guardian

As soon as the news broke that Australian spy agencies had attempted to tap the phones of the Indonesian President and his wife, the media came in for a bollocking. According to many conservative commentators, the government and our spies were not to blame for infuriating the Indonesians but the media outlets that broke the story: The Guardian and the ABC.

“The media, not Abbott, have now damaged our relationship with Indonesia by revealing news against the national interest about activities that were in the national interest,” News Corp’s Andrew Bolt thundered. “Much of the media seems to be deliberately working against the national interest, and are blaming the damage on the man least responsible for it. Abbott hatred is hurting this country.”

The Australian‘s Chris Kenny argued the ABC and The Guardian had “breached national security for no good end”; Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi claimed the outlets were “unnecessarily antagonising the Indonesians” and had shown a “callous disregard” for the consequences of their stories. Miranda Devine slammed leaker Edward Snowden as a “criminal fugitive” and wondered aloud why The Guardian had “sat on” the documents for months — the implication being the site timed the release of the story to inflict maximum damage on the Coalition government. Former Australian Broadcasting Authority head David Flint called for the government to review the ABC’s overseas broadcasting contract because of the timing of the release.

Expect these arguments to be fleshed out and refined on the opinion pages and airwaves over coming days.

There’s no doubt the revelations have harmed Australia’s relationship with our close neighbour. Last night Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia — the diplomatic equivalent of raising two middle fingers — and announced it was reviewing all co-operation with Australia, including operations to combat people smuggling.

Are the conservative commentators raising legitimate concerns — or just trying to score political points? Does the public interest in revealing how our security agencies operate override the damage to Australia’s national interest? Is this even a question the media should consider before publishing such stories?

Both the ABC and The Guardian gave passionate defences of their reporting this morning. And the conspiracy theories about the timing of the revelations appear to be just that: conspiracy theories.

Alan Sunderland, the ABC’s head of policy, told Crikey: “The ABC believes it is clearly a matter of significant public interest for there to be appropriate disclosure and discussion about the nature and extent of intelligence activities being undertaken by Australian authorities on behalf of the Australian people.

“Like all serious and responsible independent media organisations, the ABC always needs to balance the need to publish and broadcast in the public interest with a range of other considerations, including national security. We carefully considered that balance prior to publication and broadcast, and that included approaching both the government and the relevant national authorities for their response and their perspective. In some cases, this resulted in redactions to the information published and broadcast.

“But the ABC is also required under its editorial policies to ensure that editorial decisions are not improperly influenced by political or other sectional interests. The ABC believes it is not in the public interest to suppress or ignore important and difficult issues on the grounds that they may have repercussions,” he said.

Katharine Viner, The Guardian‘s Australian editor-in-chief and global deputy editor, said: “If you have a free press, it can never be in the public interest for a news organisation to hold back stories on the basis that they might be embarrassing or problematic to the authorities.

“The Snowden revelations have provoked an international debate about the role of surveillance in the modern state and the extent to which it should the subject of democratic and judicial oversight. The scale of unauthorised snooping by the NSA in the US and GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] in the UK has raised fundamental questions of trust regarding bilateral relations between allied nation states, as well as their sovereignty and autonomy. In Australia there is similarly a clear public interest for there to be debate about the kinds of intelligence activities that take place, or have taken place, in the name of the Australian people. A meaningful debate is impossible without reliable information, and a responsible news organisation has a duty to inform the debate, even if that means raising difficult questions.”

Viner argues the paper has behaved responsibly in Australia, as it has in the US and Britain. “We liaised carefully with the relevant government agencies, in order to give them the opportunity to contextualise the document and to express any concerns that were genuinely about threats to national security rather than diplomatic embarrassment,” she said.

Addressing suspicions about the story’s timing, Viner says the Snowden documents are being carefully sifted by the site’s US team and that Guardian Australia only received the relevant Australian documents in recent days. The site then approached the ABC to share expertise and resources (and, no doubt, to give the story greater exposure).

On this issue, the ABC’s Sunderland said: “The Guardian approached the ABC, and both organisations shared information and worked together to jointly report the story. There was close co-operation on the process and on the timing of the publication and broadcast, but each organisation took full responsibility and had full editorial control over the material they each published and broadcast. The ABC published and broadcast its stories within a few days of receiving the material.”

Denis Muller, an expert in media ethics at the University of Melbourne, says the Snowden files pose a “very difficult ethical issue” but that publication is defensible on the grounds that security forces may have been acting unconscionably and that there should be debate about their performance.

It’s not only Australia where the messenger has come under fire over the Snowden revelations. In June a prominent NBC television host accused Glenn Greenwald, the ex-Guardian reporter to whom Snowden initially leaked secret documents, of “aiding and abetting” the whistleblower and suggested he should be charged for a crime. Influential New York Times media columnist David Carr called on the media to show “solidarity” with Greenwald and act as a “countervailing force in favor of openness” against government restrictions on information.

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57 comments

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57 thoughts on “Blame the media? ABC and Guardian defend spying revelations

  1. John John

    Take shot – messenger.

  2. klewso

    Sod our “Right to know anything embarrassing during the tenure of a Conservative government”?

  3. Gavin Moodie

    The damage is being done by the Government failing to do what SBY and other Indonesian leaders asked several days ago: apologise, announce a review and work more closely with Indonesian colleagues in the future.

  4. Jude Silber

    What they do, they do in our name, our we to be blind and not responsible for what we as a notion do. So much for transparency.

  5. Brendan Jones

    My favourite quote is by US Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis: “I have talked to you about the wickedness of people shielding wrongdoers & passing them off (or at least allowing them to pass themselves off) as honest men. … If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.

    In the digital age the reality is if you do it, they’re going to find out about it. Governments still don’t understand this.

  6. SusieQ

    Sounds like the Murdoch press is just a teensy weensy bit jealous!

  7. zut alors

    Governments need to understand the concept that Big Brother’s information inevitably flows in both directions.

    Thankfully, there will always be Assanges, Mannings and Snowdens. Governments can only gag/punish them after the event.

  8. David Hand

    Are the Guardian and the ABC publishing a story to damage Australia’s relations with Indonesia and make it harder for the Abbott government to stop the boats?

    Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!

    Wash your mouth out you naughty right wing commentators! We are championing a free press! Fair and balanced! Unbiased!

    Yeah right.

  9. Harry Rogers

    Agree with the ABC publishing however cant cop the perennial bullshit from media outlets as stated in ABC reply:

    “The ABC is also required under its editorial policies to ensure that editorial decisions are not improperly influenced by political or other sectional interests”

    MR Spin wins no matter which way you go.

  10. zut alors

    According to David Hand the Guardian and the ABC should not report any story which creates waves (!) for the Coalition government as that would demonstrate overt bias.

  11. Gavin Moodie

    Of course zut! That is only fair to follow News Corp which never published, let alone beat up, stories specifically designed to harm the Labor Government.

  12. Brendan Jones

    @SusieQ> Sounds like the Murdoch press is just a teensy weensy bit jealous!

    I don’t think they are jealous. I don’t think they would have covered it anyway: I offered the Murdoch Press and Fairfax embarrassing documentary evidence about the government in the lead-up to Labor’s deeply-flawed whistleblowing laws. It totally took the wind out of the government’s arguments that corrupt politicians are held accountable by parliament, but neither paper would print a word about it. Despite papers taking public stances on certain issues (e.g. climate change), I don’t think either want to make strong enemies out of the government to the possible detriment of their businesses.

    The Commonwealth public service in particular are off-limits; Linton Besser’s SMH articles exposing Commonwealth corruption was gutsy reporting, so I was gobsmacked when the Canberra Times *downplayed* the articles and sided with the government in *OPPOSING A FEDERAL ICAC*!!!! Fairfax then dropped coverage, and the issue was never heard of again.

    A few weeks again myself and Steve Davies were publicly tweeting The Canberra Times over their failure to report systemic corruption in the public service. When I tweeted a CT journalist to ask why he hadn’t run the ‘Sedgwick letter’ (which he already had), he plucked one paragraph out of the middle, avoiding the premise of the letter *ON THE FRONT PAGE* that the Public Service Commissioner knows about systemic corruption but will not act on it. (Google “An Open Letter to the Public Service Commissioner concerning Systemic Corruption”)

    You’re not going to read any of this in the papers.

    @zut alors> Thankfully, there will always be Assanges, Mannings and Snowdens. Governments can only gag/punish them after the event.

    It’s not just the hacktivists; Now anyone who struggled to get a journalist interested in a story can now alert the world with Twitter, in literally seconds. By kissing government ass, the MSM have failed in their 4th estate role, and done themselves out of a job; Lifestyle magazines are not going to save them!

    @zut alors> Governments need to understand the concept that Big Brother’s information inevitably flows in both directions.

    Yes, and I suspect the persecution of Kessing, LaLegale (and the APS’s recent threats against the public criticising public servants) are an attempt to shut everyone up. The Kessing story hasn’t fully played out either; There’s more there.

  13. Paul

    I am a bit confused. I thought that Brandis and co wanted to enable free speech because that was what News Corp in general and Bolte in particular believe in. I seem to remember they also wanted greater transparency in government.
    So I think the best way to resolve this is to have a board announced, Bolte Kenny and Devine are a shoe in for the positions, and everything published in Australia be vetted by them before publication.
    It is only reasonable that champions of free speech control what we are told, how else can we know what to believe.

  14. klewso

    Remember their definition of “public interest (where it doesn’t cross Murdoch’s)”; how quick Limited News were to investigate those murmurs aired on the ABC and SBS, that were circulating around “Children Overboard” – ie three whole days before the election (to steer coverage?); ie two days before touting Howard anyway?
    “The Moonlight State” – a state where they were doing business for years?
    The way they dived in to report on Abbott’s connections to such cock-ups as Ashby/Brough/Pyne; “One Nation”; and his “inadvertent oversights” claiming expenses – just like they do Labor?

  15. Sharkie

    Can everyone stopping picking on Bolt. It must be very hard being an absolutionist when it comes to free speech that involves vilifying minorities, while screaming at the ABC for not self censoring.
    Poor poor Bolt. It takes a very special man not to go completely bonkers when holding diametrically opposite positions at the very same time.

  16. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @Paul:
    Free Speech*

    *Terms and Conditions Apply

  17. Tom Jones

    We have to remember the Operational Matters need to be kept secret.

  18. Brendan Jones

    @Shaniq’ua Shardonn’ay> Free Speech* *Terms and Conditions Apply

    Free Speech is an American concept. Aussies assume they have it, because American’s have it, but we don’t. We have no equivalent of the US 1st Amendment.

    Aussie lawyers aren’t trained to protect Free Speech; They’re trained to stomp on it by threatening defamation. Although Australian Human Rights lawyers have rallied to protect Bikie’s Freedom of Association, they haven’t helped LaLegale over her sacking. The High Court of Australia has progressively narrowed Free Speech to the point you can’t reliably use it.

  19. klewso

    If a well-informed, educated and enlightened populace is the life-blood of a healthy, robust and vibrant democracy, then a Murdocracy is a leukosis.

  20. Newcastlegirl

    Telling the truth is something the Murdoch press, seems to know nothing about. This crazy idea of informing the public with the truth, seem to leave them astounded and confused..Good on the ABC and the Guardian. both are reliable news sources we can trust

  21. Brendan Jones

    @Newcastlegirl/@klewso: Fairfax have some excellent investigative journos in the SMH and Age, though not enough of them. SMH/Age does hold back on some stories embarrassing to the government. SMH/Age editors told me that’s because they’re worried about defamation, but two veteran journos told me that is a B.S. excuse. Consistent with that Whistleblower Mick Skrijel says the media would not have published his (absolutely horrific) story no matter what, and that defamation law provides a convenient excuse for media not to publish (and so avoid a confrontation with the government).

    However Fairfax’s Canberra Times is just as bad as the Murdoch Press as the “crazy idea of informing the public with the truth.

  22. David Hand

    No Zut,
    I’m not saying that the guardian and ABC should not publish stories that make waves. It’s just that I’m amazed anyone is surprised to find out that we spy on neighbouring countries. and they spy on us as well. That’s what ASIO is there for.

    The fall out from this story however is that Abbott will find it harder to engage cooperatively with Indonesia to stop the boats and that’s why I think the ABC and the Guardian published the story. This is entirely an Australian political story for internal political objectives.

    Lastly, I don’t know of a single person in the entire ABC news and current affairs division who wants to stop the boats.

  23. Brendan Jones

    @David_Hand: Why does one country spy on another? To gather confidential information to use against that country’s own interests / to promote your own. It’s a hostile act. Doing it to your enemies is one thing, but if you do it to your friends of course you should expect a backlash.

    And if Indonesia isn’t a friend, well that’s out in the open now, isn’t it? 😐 Nice going, spooks! You (or whomever ordered you) turned them into an enemy.

    @David_Hand: You are claiming the Guardian+ABC ran the story to deliberately sabotage Australia’s relationship with Indonesia so that refugee sympathisers in those news organisations could bring the boats to Australia? That’s one hell of a conspiracy theory: Where is your proof of this? Both news orgs have strong investigative journalism credentials, and neither would have a shred of credibility left if your claim was true. Without proof, I seriously doubt it.

  24. klewso

    “Boltstirred” by the tabloid media we now have Abbott’s “Bay of Pig(-headedness)s”?

  25. jeebus

    Utterly ridiculous. The conservative media always rushes to play the victim. I wonder if Bolt thinks the Guardian’s spying revelations were also designed to attack Barack Obama? No, Andrew, you’re so conditioned to view the media through the prism of ideology and partisan hackery that you have forgotten what real journalism looks like!

    Yes, the spying is embarassing, but further unnecessary damage to Australia’s interests is being caused by Abbott’s utterly arrogant crowing about it. If he had taken the leaks seriously and apologised to Indonesia as a proper statesman we could stem the bleeding on this one. Too late, too childish.

    Who will be there to pick up the tatters of Australia’s reputation and respect once these fools are out of office?

  26. Russell

    I think the correct left-ish view (I am taking my cue from the lead story in New Matilda) is that we SHOULD be spying on Indonesia. Basically, the story explains, because they are just beastly. (Worst of all, though not mentioned, they lock up our drug dealers).

    But if we “should,” then surely thats a reason to keep it secret? The free press has blown it. Own gaol, I reckon…

  27. Suzanne Blake

    ABC and Guardian should be ashamed of themselves and ABC should have funding cut 50%, then some of the socialist presenters on massive salaries can take their haircut.

    Government should refuse to be interviewed by ABC and Guardian and should not do press conference with those two with reps there.

    Tony Jones gets $370k ….. socialist agenda with capitalist salary.

    checkout the salaries of Barry Cassidy, Jonathon Holmes, Kerry OBrien, Leigh Sales, Chris Ulmann in the Australian today. Real eye opener

  28. David Hand

    Hey Brendan,

    I’m just an observer, a reader of news outlets who forms an opinion from what I read.

    The evidence of The Guardian’s agenda is-
    a. Its unashamed editorial line in relation to the boats.
    b. Its intense dislike of the Abbott government.
    c. Its sense of moral superiority.
    d. The prime result of the story, which is serious headwinds in Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, making the Abbott government’s policy agenda much harder.

    Of course we spy on our friends. We wouldn’t expect anything less. You’ve been watching too many Hollywood movies mate, where they always helpfully identify who the good guys and bad guys are.

  29. Thteribl

    Are we so overweeningly contemptuous of the Indonesians as to believe that they do not have news sources other than ABC and The Guardian to inform them of the latest revelation from Wikileaks and the Edward Snowdon whistle blow ? To blame the non-Abbnot-adoring media for daring to utter the truth is something infinitely worse than pure cant. The Tory media in Australia is not only losing money spectacularly, it is an irremediably corrupt, cynical propaganda machine bent on anything but this country’s best interests.

  30. Brendan Jones

    Hey @David, > I’m just an observer, a reader of news outlets who forms an opinion from what I read.

    It’s still only a theory. Unless it can be backed with evidence, it’s grassy knoll territory. Had this conversation with a certain person recently:

    Them: Minister X has pecuniary interests in project Y!
    Me: Can you prove it?
    Them: No
    Me: ~~–..~–..~..

    > You’ve been watching too many Hollywood movies mate, where they always helpfully identify who the good guys and bad guys are.

    There are good journos and bad ones. News Corp might push a particular political bias, but The Canberra Times cover up corruption. Which do you think is worse?

    BTW I did a paper recently on the relationship between journalists and whistleblowers. The Guardian Australia and the Journalists Union (MEAA) both declined to contribute. I’d love to know why? (Neither would say) Google: “A Whistleblower’s Guide to Journalists – Victims of the DSTO”

    > Of course we spy on our friends. We wouldn’t expect anything less .

    In the good old days you could break into your friends house, rummage through his personal documents and exploit that information to your personal advantage.

    Today the world has changed, and if you do it he’ll find out about it and hate you for it. Technology has changed. People need to change with it.

  31. David Hand

    Thteribl,
    Of course the Indonesians have other sources of information. They spy on us as well, after all. This story is entirely a domestic political story for Australian consumption that is designed to attack the agenda of the Abbott government via damaging our relationship with a near neighbour.

  32. klewso

    Brendan, some parts of Australia don’t have the luxury of access to the hard copy of Fairfax – our choices are the Limited News of Murdoch or Murdoch inoculating/parisitizing interests in the form-guide, sports, real-estate, car sales, social pages, a couple of fair-minded impartial binocular journos (including Oakes – who works for 9) and “weakend-trader” to sell their politics.
    If we didn’t have the likes of ABC/SBS and Crikey with their balancing reality checks, everyone would be running around in ever-diminishing circles, bumping into walls before disappearing up their fundamentals, believing everything Murdoch’s Cyclopedic trolls told us was Right? “Stoning climate change scientists. Burning witches at the stake, using copies of the Quran, before tying them in chaff-bags and dumping them at sea.”

    [“…. Sales is of the Left (because she had the temerity to press Abbott and put him of his rhythm a couple of times – then shares a giggle. She does that with Labor?)”?]

  33. David Hand

    Yes it’s a theory, Brendan. Your “grassy knoll” insult indicates that you have a different opinion. That’s why I read and post on Crikey. It’s got to be pretty boring only talking to people why agree with you – something that goes on among the inner urban elites and the groupthink world of the ABC too much, to Labor’s cost.

    Listening to people who hold alternative views and allowing those views to influence your own is a good way to improve objectivity and insight. Of course too many people who post here can’t rise above general insults but hey even some of those a quite clever.

  34. Brendan Jones

    @David > Your “grassy knoll” insult indicates that you have a different opinion

    No. Definitely wasn’t an insult. Rather, people put out theories without being able to prove them; I can offer all sorts of speculation about what happened on the grassy knoll, but at the end of the day, unless I can prove it then I’ve got nothing. Seymour Hersch once said: “I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

    The point I made to that certain person was that perhaps the reason he couldn’t prove minister had percuniary interests was that he didn’t in fact have any?

    > Listening to people who hold alternative views and allowing those views to influence your own is a good way to improve objectivity and insight.

    I absolutely agree. You learn far more from your critics than you learn from your friends. (And no I’m not trying to be clever there either.)

  35. Harry Rogers

    Perhaps some light is shining through the Crikey blogs with the rational discussion between Hand and Jones.

    Breath of fresh air instead of the “preaching to the converted” symptom that seems to be endemic.

  36. David Hand

    Brendan,
    The “grassy knoll” metaphor is a short cut to describe people who believe in conspiracy theories in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. It comes, topically as it happens as we are 3 days from the 50th anniversary, from the persistent idea that there was another shooter on a grassy knoll when JFK was assassinated. But you know this.

    My opinion, shared by many commentators, is that the “We spied on Indonesia! shock! horror!” story is fundamentally a local Australian story with a clear political agenda, that every news outlet in the country is now documenting.

    It is not really aimed at supporting the public’s right to know but to reduce the effectiveness of the Abbott government’s relations with Indonesia, something that has clearly happened. The best the Guardian can respond with is “That is not why we did it”, something only rusted on lefties would believe.

  37. klewso

    It still amuses me how the Right gets in such high dudgeon when “the others” use their own m.o. on them – as if it’s some sort of breach of copyright?
    As if “Because they’re always Right, they can be dismissive, patronising and insulting toward those with alternate opinion”, but the Left can’t?

  38. Brendan Jones

    @Harry, I hope so. A wise boss once cautioned me: “Never get emotionally attached to a position; It might turn out you are wrong.” 🙂

    @David, I didn’t mean “grassy knoll” to dismiss the theory as crackpot. I just meant you had to prove it.

    There’s a lot of very weird conspiracy theories that turned out to be true, but we only knew they were true once people came forward with proof. Other whistleblowers came forward with the same allegations of NSA surveillance that Snowden did, but they had no proof so their claims weren’t believed. The difference was that Snowdon had documentary evidence. Hersh on Snowden: “Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn’t touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game.”

    Suspicions and even oral evidence are worthless. Without hard evidence, you won’t convince the courts, (real) journalists or the public (particularly those skeptical of your claims).

    > My opinion, shared by many commentators, is that the “We spied on Indonesia! shock! horror!” story is fundamentally a local Australian story with a clear political agenda, that every news outlet in the country is now documenting. It is not really aimed at supporting the public’s right to know but to reduce the effectiveness of the Abbott government’s relations with Indonesia

    And it could turn out to be true. You just haven’t proved it, that’s all.

  39. Andybob

    David, I understand Snowden’s revelations were well covered in Indonesia, independently of any publication in Australia. The Indonesian domestic agenda saw those reports gain traction.

    This is not the first time and will not be the last time that a government has been discovered acting illegally. And yes, intercepting communications in Indonesia is illegal under Indonesian law. Usually the perpetrator disavows the blown spies, undertakes an enquiry to ensure that all the ‘guilty’ have been bayoneted and promises not to get caught doing it again.

    Abbott has decided to do something else. He wants Indonesia and other friendly nations to understand that, frankly, we will always do this, no matter what we say. We expect that they will also.

    This kind of honesty is perhaps refreshing, but it leaves the Indonesians with a serious loss of face in an election year and invites diplomatic retaliation. I can’t see what is to be gained from it.

  40. David Hand

    Brendan,
    An opinion, by definition does not need to be proven.

  41. David Hand

    Andybob,
    What is to be gained is obvious. For Abbott to apologise to Indonesia for the activity of all previous governments is damaging to his leadership and his government’s programme. They clearly hope this will settle down and normal relations can pick up again.

    I expect the Guardian to continue its campaign to disrupt the government’s efforts in this regard.

    In the name of the public’s “right to know” of course.

  42. Brendan Jones

    @David, Yes, but if I have an opinion “The Sky is green”, just because I believe it doesn’t mean it is true, or that anyone else should accept it is true (without proof).

    BTW opinions can be challenged in court: They must be honest opinions and can’t misrepresent their premises. If someone says “In my opinion Mr X is a crook”, and they can’t prove that he is, Mr. X can sue them for defamation.

  43. David Hand

    Ok, Brendan,
    Your definition of proof applies to issues that can be tested beyond reasonable doubt and I have no argument with you there.

    But we are speculating about the motivations of an editor and publisher regarding their decision to publish a story that is highly damaging to Australia’s relations with Indonesia. In such a world, they will claim a motivation that is self serving whatever their underlying reasons. They’re not going to say “We did it to embarrass Tony Abbott and make his policy work harder” are they, even though that is the exact result achieved. so why shouldn’t rational people form the opinion that embarrassing the government was their motivation?

    Prove to me that the Guardian published this story because of a heartfelt commitment to keep the public informed.

  44. John Taylor

    Hey Suzanne Blake @27 -I looked over there per your usual attention diverting drivel and nothing to see. Are you suggesting people ought not be paid a salary that the market will bear? Compared to the muppets at the commercial stations clearly they are worse off. The story is in the public interest – and would be if the LNP were in opposition and Limited News were blowing the whistle based on your one eyed view of the world.

  45. Sharkie

    wow. Bolt and Co scream “blue murder” at the ABC and Guardian because they have published something that creates diplomatic problems between Australia and Indonesia. And yet, they have no concerns at all with the Murdoch media opening up their forums, and publishing the most anti-Indonesian dribble I’ve seen in a long time.
    15 years ago, anti-Indonesian sentiment in Australia (mainly from left leaning people and church groups) was based on human rights abuses, corruption and ruthless dictators.
    Today, anti-Indonesian sentiment is rampant amongst the idiot conservative mob. And it’s based on the fact that the Indonesian government dared to get upset about us wire tapping their phones and the moronic belief that Indonesian authorities could stop refugee boats leaving the 17,000 island nation.
    Welcome to Australia, where the shock jocks frame the debate, and the morons determine who wins government.

  46. Suzanne Blake

    @John Taylor

    Actually you are wrong

    Barry Cassidy – 1 hr on air a week –

    MediaWatch – 15 mins a week

    Tony Jones – a few hours a week

    estrapolate that and compare to non taxpayer funded media.

    I realise they need prep time, but so do the non taxpayer funded media people as well.

    A shock jock may get $2m a year, but they comrades at the ABC get the equivalent of $11m a yera, for on air hours

  47. Raimund Karsten

    Because they’re a newspaper and it’s their job to report the news?

    As you say, you’d have to ask them for their personal motivations. But they did report the news and that’s what I expect a (real) paper to without fear or favour. So long as they do that, their personal motivations are irrelevant. If on the other hand they were sitting on embarrassing stories about people they liked, that would be another matter:

    Guardian Australia did ignore a story I submitted to them that would have embarrassed Julia Gillard. Shortly afterwards they appointed her a columnist. But papers ignore most news tips they’re sent, so that could have just been a coincidence. I wouldn’t make a call without far stronger evidence, and the Guardian has embarrassed right and left governments overseas.

    > Prove to me that the Guardian published this story because of a heartfelt commitment to keep the public informed.

    I can’t, but you have an argument with no hard evidence; It’s your job to prove it; Not mine to disprove it. Otherwise I’d be looking for traces of martians on the grassy knoll, when I didn’t think there were ever any there in the first place.

    > Your definition of proof applies to issues that can be tested beyond reasonable doubt and I have no argument with you there.

    Cool (and fun chatting, seriously).

    As for News Ltd leaking the ABC salaries, yes, I think it was in the public interest, but I wonder how News Ltd would feel if someone leaked their salaries?

  48. Harry Rogers

    The Guardian has rightly been publishing the NSA revelations etc on spying.

    Bernard Keane has, for the past two years, been highlighting the outright shonkiness and complete disregard for citizen privacy both under Labor and Liberal governments and the Australian MSM and THE PUBLIC have taken no interest in this matter.

    Now when there is domestic political mileage, all of a sudden the public now blurt out totally PR managed arguments about Indonesia and Australia.

    Where was and where are the public when Keane has raised much more serious and damaging issues about our own domestic gradual erosion of rights. My memory tells me it was only Xenophon and Brandt that even tried to raise matters which Attorneys General of both Labor and Liberal didn’t even have the courtesy to respond!

  49. bushby jane

    I am a bit nervous that this is the beginning of the Murdoch media pressing for the privatization or curbing of the ABC, noting the comments of Queensland MP McDonald the other day.

  50. David Hand

    Sharkie,
    Please get over the fact that the Coalition was elected by a landslide. Calling voters morons betrays the elitist inner-urban paradigm that has made the left unelectable.

    Whatever you think about anti-Indonesian sentiment on the right, it is the actions of the lefties at the Guardian that have caused President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (love that name!) to suspend cooperation with Australia on asylum seekers, most likely leading to a lift in the trade and more deaths while the crooks make money out of human misery.

    Hey what’s a few more boat people deaths if we can stop Tony Abbott?

  51. jeebus

    @David, are you ignorant of the fact that these leaks started with the revelations about American spying despite them having a “left” government, or do you just choose to ignore that considering it doesn’t fit your conservative victim mindset?

    Needless to say, Australia’s involvement in the program was bound to come out in the mix, and Abbott should have been preparing a response just in case. He took a foreign policy crisis and made it worse with his amateur hour antics, and now his cheer squad is running around pointing fingers at everyone else.

    Abbott needs to learn how to take responsibility.

  52. David Hand

    Hey Jeebus,
    The Australian spying occurred under a “Left” government as well. All governments spy.

    What this article is about is the wisdom of the guardian and ABC publishing the story. Abbott needs to take responsibility? How about the Guardian needing to take responsibility?

    When cooperation in the Indonesian search and rescue zone breaks down and another boat sinks with loss of life, I’m not expecting the Guardian to acknowledge its contribution to the disaster. I expect raging lefties to pile into Tony Abbott within this publication and blame him.

    Abbott will be taking advice from public servants at the highest level over this. There are precedents. Spies get jailed all the time. A grovelling apology from Australia is lusted after by the left and inner urban elites but I’d be surprised to see it happen.

    Though intelligence agencies will overstep the mark, we expect them to keep us safe and predict threats to our security. To think otherwise is the product of watching too many spy movies.

  53. jeebus

    @David,

    All I hear from you is blame blame blame the media. The Guardian blew the lid off all of America’s spying, too, and how many countries have broken off ties with them?

    None so far! Why is that? Could it be that President Obama handled the spying leaks in a mature way and apologised, rather than Tony Abbott’s style of bleating to everyone with an ear that it was perfectly justified and there was nothing to apologise for?

    Abbott’s childish arrogance is the main cause of this diplomatic crisis. Stop blaming the media when the Prime Minister is the guy in charge. Take some responsibility for a change!

    By the way, it really makes me wonder how so many conservatives love to use the term ‘urban elite’ as some kind of insult, as if a working class Joe’s views are somehow more authentic and genuine. So disrespectful. Next time you visit a doctor or lawyer, listen to their advice then tell them they’re just an inner urban elite and you know better. Let’s see how you fare after that.

  54. David Hand

    No jeebus,
    All you hear from me is blame blame blame the Guardian.

    Working class views are as genuine as urban elites. The point I’m making about urban elites is that they have captured the policy agenda of the left and so have become unelectable because there aren’t enough of them to count at the ballot box. More like a telephone box.

    For example, a left wing publication that reflected the views of working class people would want to stop the boats and would not broadcast to the world that Australia spies on its neighbours.

  55. jeebus

    @David, wow, there you go again playing the victim and thinking the media is out to get you. And by the way, the spying on foreign governments may be making the biggest commotion around the world, but it is not the big story in all this.

    If the Guardian was not around, we would be in the dark about the endemic spying by our governments on every aspect of OUR lives. Every conversation, every email, every transaction you ever make will be stored in a database, waiting to be used against you in the future. But who cares, right? The biggest issue is the boats, the boats!

  56. Tom Jones

    There is no doubt that this is news as it has occupied front pages for a week – even the Murdoch press has had to report it although they did try and deflect the story by focussing outrage on the ABC instead.
    However the real news came from the mishandling of the story byte Abbott government with their advisers doing things like insulting Indonesian Ministers,by Abbott engaging in domestic stunts rather than diplomacy and by a wilful disregard for the personal insult to the President of our neighbouring country. It has occupied the front pages in Indonesia and other countries as well and not in a good way.
    Blaming the messenger is ridiculous from those who say they want a free press but only want it to suit their own ends.

  57. pedr davis

    The conservative media?

    Sure, they might have been whining, but it’s the leftist media that really sought to tar Abbott with this.

    Pity it completely blew up in their ugly faces then. Delicious .. Abbattman wasn’t even the opposition leader at the time.

    DH is right, the left will have others pay ANY price to rule, even though it has shown itself incapable and STILL does not acknowledge that.

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