Category Archives: media

Australian Democracy: Was It Ever?

Share

Ten Reasons Why (Not Now)

We in western countries, at least the English speaking ones, are going through a clash of cultures. Not the ones that are normally thought of, such as religious versus secular or ‘East’ versus ‘West’, but corporate controlled governments versus the good of the citizens. AUdemocracy2The actions of conservative party governments, and some pseudo-liberal governments as well, are signs of this: participating in wars to keep the public on edge; national security excuses to rip away human rights; turning away starving boat people because they could be a threat to ‘jobs’; starving social services of funds to the most vulnerable of our own citizens in favour of subsidies to the wealthy…to name a few.

On an email discussion list, I posted my disgust with a new step toward government control and cover-up regarding off-shore detention centre staff (concentration camps in Nauru and Manus Island paid for in billions of Australian tax dollars to house asylum seekers and refugees) to keep those staff from exposing possible criminal activities in those centres under threat of jail – yes, criminal sanctions against whistleblowers. This is now law in Australia. If you work directly or indirectly for these contracted agencies, you are essentially gagged. Might upset national security, you know. Here’s the article:

Border Force Act: detention secrecy just got worse

As I said, I posted my disgust about this new law on an email list. One of the members there wrote back a summary of the range of things happening here (and elsewhere I believe) that expose how much we, as in all of us, not the special interests and faceless unaccountable corporations, are being led down a path, one step at a time, mostly unaware, and the complicit involvement of the ‘fourth estate’.

I asked Frank O’Connor if I could post his excellent summative reply here and he agreed. He’s also open to discussion for a wider audience, either in the independent press or possibly the criticised main stream media, should they dare. If you are in a position to  reach a wider audience, please get permission from Frank before reposting. Most of these words are his. But do feel free to let others know in your own personal circles.

Here is the exchange –

Me re Border Protection Staff Gag: (email, 28/05/2015)

Secret oaths, zero ethics, zero professionalism. This is tyranny. The DIBP (Dept of Immigration and Border Protection) ignores court orders (see other story today re Christmas Island denying court ordered lawyer access) and now they have perpetual gags on staff regardless of the circumstances. This is cover-up, folks, pure and simple, not different in principle from the child abuse fiasco w/ the Catholic church. Transparency in government is a complete joke under this government.

Let’s say you’re an IT professional or an accounting professional working in one of these departments. You find graft and corruption, say, like the FIFA arrests. What do you do if the department, police, DPP decide to hide it, which they can? Say nothing?

I am incensed by this. This is not the country I signed up for.

Frank re the Larger Problems: (email, 29/05/2015)

Well, yeah but … we’ll be saved by our media – won’t we? The old Fourth Estate, those guardians of the public weal, won’t desert us. Will they?

Maybe not …

1. In the press (both Fairfax and News Ltd) I see articles on a daily basis from the Fourth Estate, and/or retired politicians and bodies like the IPA condemning us … for condemning politicians, government and our betters on and in various Net forums – and lambasting us for not engaging with those who oppose us politically on a more ‘civilised and constructive’ basis.

2. We are also condemned for having the attention span of budgies on Speed with respect to politics, and told that our source for political information (presumably the media Commentariat) is what we should be listening to rather than the ‘noise’ of the Internet.

And let’s see how weak this attention span actually is at the next election, shall we?

3. The media got really excited recently about the data retention and snooping legislation ONLY when the provisions affected THEIR ability to report and engage with whistleblowers, and THEIR liability for prosecution. Prior to that, when the provisions affecting John Citizen were being implemented, largely without serious debate, the media was ‘lock, stock and two smoking barrels’ behind the government’s anti-terrorism measures and supportive of curbing the rights and privileges of Joe and Josephine public in the interests of ‘public safety’.

4. The Australian media seems to pretty much fall in behind EVERY manufactured crisis that this government (and indeed both the Tweedledum-Tweedledee political parties that we’re all so disillusioned with) seem to invent on a daily basis. A lone crazy gunman kills two people in Sydney, and we’re all gonna be KILLED IN OUR BEDS unless we introduce these measures and restrict our rights and privileges, and send a few hundred troops into Iraq, take on a sectarian war, oppose the sect that hasn’t done anything to us (the Iranians and the Shia) and ally with those who have been exporting terror (the Sunnis. Wahhabists, Salafists, Saudis, Qatar and Emirates etc) because they’re ‘our friends’ and the Shia, who haven’t tried exporting the violence, aren’t.

This bit of our laughingly named ‘Foreign Policy’ and ‘War on Terror’ is the one I really find amusing – especially how the Commentariat fall right in behind it. ‘Let’s kill all the people who aren’t doing anything to us, to support those who are.’ Makes perfect sense.

And the other solutions? The bottom is falling out of the government’s revenue … so the solution is to target expenses of the young, the weak, the poor and the sick. To nail education, health and social welfare … but provide handouts the rich and middle class.. Yeah, that’s gonna fix things right up.

5. The media fell in uncritically behind the last Budget, despite the fact that it pretty much included all the ‘unfairness’ of the previous Budget (yes folks – pretty much none of those provisions were rescinded by this Budget), didn’t address any of the economic structural problems (the collapse in revenue, destruction of manufacturing, cyclically low resource prices, ageing of the country, and various Sacred Cow handouts – like negative gearing, superannuation concessions, capital gains concessions and the like – and was largely comprised of handouts (read ‘pork barreling’) for voting segments important to politicians for the next election.

On the upside, the occasional article is now appearing which demonstrates an awareness of the Budget cop-out – but why it passed without comment for a couple of weeks is a ‘mystery’, isn’t it? Are our journalists incompetent … or complicit?

6. Little numbers like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will adversely affect all Australian consumers, taxpayers and the ability of any future governments of this country to actually govern, seem to be passing without comment. They are asking questions in the US (about why intellectual property and copyrights are so central to what is ostensibly just a trade treaty, and who benefits from same, and how IP and copyright is being extended by stealth with same etc etc), but not here in Oz. The American press is doing its job … but the Australian press (and obviously our politicians) don’t seem to give a damn. If everything’s OK for the multinationals and the Big End of Town, it’s OK by our media. (Of course, 70% of Australia’s media is owned by the biggest ‘tax risk’ multinational content provider and media empire in the world … but that has nothing to do with the coverage of little numbers like the TPP. Does it?)

7. The government is allowed to get away with egregious breaches of human rights, UN treaties, environmental obligations, and as Jan has pointed out, the rights and privileges of its own citizens, without comment – or, if there is any comment something that appears on Page 10 or later. The media simply doesn’t give a damn.

8. And those same multinationals and the Big End of Town are the ones who are benefiting. On tax evasion. On provision of services to the government. On provision of product to the government. On handouts, rebates, grants and other dipping at the public pot – for hundreds of billions of dollars.

For example … Pfizer sells billions of dollars worth of drugs to the Australian government, does what it can to get all its products listed on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), and pays effectively nothing in tax on its sales – so we’re effectively robbed from both ends of the equation. But there’s no suggestion that we should shut off the funds flow at one end or the other. I mean, that just wouldn’t do … would it. We’re here to be milked for as much as we possibly can be.

9. The Mining Council seeks to shut down conservation groups, and remove their tax exempt status, and this government falls in behind them like a shot. But there’s no suggestion that the Mining Council, the IPA and like bodies which are also very politically active should lose their tax exempt status. And no suggestion in the media that this should happen.

10. Pretty much every policy now proposed by the government and opposition is about the here-and-now. There’s very little investment in our young, our future and the like, and what there is tends to be for ‘user pays’ initiatives. And PR rather than policy seems to be the go. There’s a dishonesty in government funding, especially of funding for initiatives that have blatantly ideological bases (Lomborg, RET, subsidies to polluters, etc). Science, peer reviewed data and studies, and objectivity are out – politics, PR and money rule.

I suppose my point is that politicians will seek to get away with anything they can get away with … and that those who are expected to restrain this base impulse (the Judiciary, an independent Executive, the Fourth Estate, various so-called professions, etc.) have abrogated their responsibility for same, been politicised in their own right to an inordinate extent, and are no longer fulfilling their purpose.

It’s no wonder we are all so disillusioned, cynical and jaded. It’s no wonder we’re turning to alternative information sources and the Internet.

I still hold out some hope … the proportion of us voting for alternatives to the mainstream – Tweedledum and Tweedledee – has risen for 5% or so to 25% in the last election – and I expect to see it increase again in the next election. I’d like to see Gen Y and its successors registering to vote, and becoming the electoral force they should be – hopefully they’re not totally disengaged … but there are signs that the electorate is becoming intolerant of political abuse, corruption and self-interest. That they are rejecting big party politics, pork barreling and the electoral roundabout that is basically getting us nowhere and indeed compromising our general living standards, rights and privileges – whilst reinforcing the position of the few.

Frank O’Connor
francisoconnor3@bigpond.com
(published here with his permission)