Oct 6, 2017

Rundle: Turnbull’s surveillance offensive, Lateline’s demise, all point to a failing public sphere

The public sphere, in this country and others, has been undermined by an unwillingness to defend it, even as the ground shifts beneath it.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


To paraphrase Ferris, illiberal society comes at you pretty fast. What’s most remarkable about the suite of proposed new laws on facial recognition, extended detention, and other measures, is the absence of a concerted pushback. Announced a few days ago, with little proposed consultation, the laws have already disappeared from the front pages of the larger media. Surveillance and authoritarian policing is crossing a tech/state threshold, yet we’re already moving on.

Quite aside from the reasons for this, it’s worth looking at what else happened this week. Yesterday, the ABC announced a major shake-up of its news and current affairs approach, which will have Lateline disappear (among other things), to be “replaced” by investigative units across platforms. And at the beginning of the week, another part of the ABC revealed the absolute financial debauchery of the Adani Carmichael coal mine project — billions and billions of state funds being poured into a crisis-ridden company, which diverts billions to tax havens, and would provide less jobs than would direct investment.

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38 thoughts on “Rundle: Turnbull’s surveillance offensive, Lateline’s demise, all point to a failing public sphere

  1. Owen Richardson

    Facial recognition software would have saved Principal Rooney a lot of grief

  2. leon knight

    Animal Farm?
    C’mon Bill – have a go at stopping this stealthy theft of our freedoms.

  3. ken chapman

    C’mon guy when will you incorporate that freedom requires people to have responsibilities. Since the digital society everyone wants to be free but not responsible so then governments have to put those responsibilities into legislation. Please stop the rant and report the whole story.

    1. Guy Rundle

      we have responsibilities.
      theyre codified in laws
      don’t kill, rape, assault, steal, defraud etc etc
      what other responsibilities are you referring to?

      1. ken chapman

        The biggie for me is don’t undermine the democratically elected government which issue motivated groups do. No matter what political, ideology, elite group they are, we have call them out & stop people hiding behind the word freedom. Freedom isn’t alive when the minority few subvert the majority view.

        1. Matt Hardin

          So issue motivated groups throughout history such as the Freefom Riders, campaigners for womens suffrage, opposers of slavery, campaigners for universal male suffrage, campaigners for workers rights to decent pay hours and safe work places all just need to shut up and wait until those in power decide to change?

          Go read some history, mate. You don’t have the liberties you do because whoever in charge is nice. Each of them was fought for in the teeth of the resistance of the ruling class.

          1. ken chapman

            I have no problems equal rights, women, minorities but I do have a lot of problems when it includes violence or bullying. Organisations like Black September, Red Hand, White Supremacy, Daesh, Pol Pot genocide, current ethnic cleaning is not acceptable. Terrorism in Australia (domestic or foreign inspred) isn’t acceptable. I’ve read a lot of history & tried to help war ravaged countries as part of UN operation so fairly comfort in my views on detestation for violent issue motivated groups

        2. Dog's Breakfast

          So Ken, civil disobedience is out of your field of vision. No Ghandi”s, no Mandela’s, no protests etc, anyone undermine an elected government goes straight to jail. Freedom isn’t alive when the majority subvert the rights of the few.

          And of course, no Getup. That’s so lacking in nuance.

  4. Nudiefish

    We are moving into a post-democratic phase. In 20 years, or so, we might realise that we have surrendered most of our freedoms away. I suspect that most of us won’t, or if we did, won’t care.

    1. Guy Rundle

      post-liberal. democracy is perfectly capable of abolishing freedoms.

    2. Always Carefree

      We surrendered democracy when we kept electing governments that are beholden to neo-liberal economics and sold off everything to corporations who now bleed the citizens dry.

      It’s no wonder the citizens no longer care. We’ve all been turned into cattle for slaughter to feed the rich

  5. 124C4U

    I dunow.
    Lately a sort of worrying set of thoughts has been bubbling in the remaining sludge of my brain. I need someone smart like Guy to put it into perspective for me.
    One, the breakdown of political, Ethnic and regional groups and countries in to smaller entities. Is this a developing divide and rule?
    The breakdown of groups within Countries onto smaller groups e.g white Americans into “Caucasian Cocoons”, then Hispanics, Blacks, etc.etc. May the strongest group win?
    The bolstering up of surveillance, security forces and “law and order’ Forces. Keep the top at the top?
    There are more similar concerns, But.
    Then throw in The billionaires investing in rockets and space. Lifeboats to somewhere safe?
    Better than remote properties or a Pacific Island
    . The Pollies are up there with them, nearly all the Cold War Pollie funk holes are now known, and the blasted Peasants could get in.
    Now throw in the possibility of a nuke war and uninhabitable planet. The rich and elite can hold out behind their defenses and fnally bunk off to Mars.
    Or perhaps the Scientists have convinced those at the top that Climate change is going to wipe out Earth. What to do?
    Easy carry on as normal, pacify the masses with BS, bread and Circuses. Use the security forces to put down any concern amongst the Lesser Social orders, the last thing wanted is a premature knowledge and mass panic with breakdown of Law n Order.
    When it all gets too rough head for that nice city on Mars that Mr. Musk and various Govt agencies have built.

    1. Draco Houston

      Mars sucks, some German game devs had this figured out in the 90s, the rich should escape to deep sea stations leaving everyone else to die on the surface.

      Seriously though, I think you’re being too kind to the powers that be, I would not assume such a level of cooperation and planning from our political class for starters.

    2. Paul H

      I thought I was the only one having that exact same nightmare mix.

  6. zut alors

    The political/societal tide in Oz is deeply depressing. We are the frog simmering in the pot, not fully cooked yet… but poaching apace.

  7. graybul

    One thing I appreciate about your articles Guy, is your targeting, linking and timing of current issues. “To paraphrase Ferris, illiberal society comes at you pretty fast.” . . . . . and that is indeed a challenge not to be ignored or avoided. Most of us can measure, react to large threats. But only the brave acknowledge or link apparently inconsequential, less obvious threats. Adani is one thing; but loss of a half dozen journos with decade upon decade of experience mostly bypasses the conscious. Political leaderships whittling away freedoms another . . . .

  8. Jackol

    Thanks for this article Guy, it articulates much of the despair that I feel at the way our world and our institutions are going.

    I’m just weary of all of these assaults on our institutions to the point that I can’t summon the strength to protest. “What’s the point?” is the sentiment when all – and I do mean all – the political and social currents seem to be dragging us in terrible and irrational directions.

    Lateline is a significant loss. Diverting resources to ‘investigative journalism’ looks to me to be a sad joke – you can investigate all you like, but if you don’t have a solid venue and the time to lay out the case and engage in thoughtful debate and exploration of the topic, which Lateline at its best was perfect for – then your ‘investigative journalism’ output just ends up being a 5 second grab on a news bulletin, or a headline competing with the clickbait for attention on your website.

    Stoicism beckons.

    1. Robert Beverley

      “What’s the point?”

      “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.” Chris Hedges

      Sadly, this is the answer to your question. The fight must be enough. The win is a bonus.

  9. MJM

    I fully agree Guy. The public sphere is disappearing fast. I cannot imagine what it will be like when Four Corners has been guthried out of existence but fear that it will be in my lifetime. Every day I read the Media Files section here and it is almost always topped by programs I never watch and would not feel deprived of if they did disappear.

    In contrast, I never miss Four Corners and am amazed by how little attention some of its programs attract from other media. For example, the theft of masses amounts of water purchased by public money to increase river flows should have resulted in criminal charges being laid. But three months on it seems to have faded from public discussion. This week it’s Adani and no doubt that too will soon be in the past.

    There are days on end I despair. What Australia has become is more than enough to make this old woman weep.

  10. Always Carefree

    The capitalist right wanted cheap imported labour to keep wages low. The left supported it in the name of diversity. And they got it in spades. That rapid change in the diversity of the ethnic makeup of the population has brought a massive loss of social cohesion.
    Average voters know neither side of politics is on their side and then couple with this sort of threat they no longer care about their privacy:

    The left wanted social change. Well you’ve got it. That’s the thing with change. It rarely goes the way you think it will. So learn to live with it.

    1. Draco Houston

      What a confused post. The Average Voter doesn’t trust the government but in addition to that, coupled with it, they (who?) see news like that and no longer distrust the government?

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