A dangerous media assumption


By Barry Tucker                    22 September, 2014

When beheadings are on people’s minds, it might be assumed that is what is meant by a terror incident.

Apparently the news media made this assumption last week when intelligence and police briefings referred to an intercepted phone call related to creating an incident.

A beheading was not mentioned in the phone call. Someone in the news media made that assumption and the rest followed. The bloke who leads the LNP government (famous around the world for his gaffes and bloopers) was happy to use the term because it suited his fear campaign, which many non-Conservatives see as a deflection from his unpopular Budget and low poll ratings.

John Kelly has written more about the news media’s part in this for The Australian Independent Media Network (AIMN), in an article entitled Abuse of process.

News media hammers the Scots


By Barry Tucker                   18 September, 2014

The role of the news media, the printed Press in particular, in reporting, interpreting and commenting on news events and in shaping public opinion are common themes in this blog.

The behaviour of the Press, the MSM generally and even the entertainment media during the six-year term of Australia’s federal Labor government was extraordinary for its anti-government bias.

The build-up to Scotland’s referendum on independence provides another outstanding example of the bias of the commercially-owned news media. The Guardian’s George Monbiot comments.

News media ignores Abbott’s moral failure

By Barry Tucker                    29 August, 2014

The News media should be all over Tony Abbott’s latest expenses rort. The implications of this moral failure are more serious than sending warplanes to Iraq.

The affair was mentioned in newspapers, on TV and radio (I can confirm hearing it on the ABC RN Breakfast show). However, it was merely mentioned and then dropped as an issue.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told ABC’s RN he could not recall Abbott telling his party room colleagues that he staged a visit to the Peter MacCallum cancer clinic in order to claim expenses for attending a fund raiser in Melbourne the previous day. Mr Turnbull told RN: “He did not say that to the party room.”

However, long-time Canberra political journalist Michelle Grattan, in an article in TheConversation today, has confirmed that Abbott had told his party room meeting about the rort. Grattan has a reputation for careful fact checking.

Grattan wrote: “… Abbott said he’d had a Monday night fund raiser in Melbourne that was followed next morning by a visit to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to bring the trip within official entitlements”.

So, the news media mentioned the incident and has now moved on. I think this shows poor news judgment. When you consider the past fuss over MPs rorting their travel entitlements, the treatment handed out to former LNP MP Peter Slipper for accepting roles of Deputy Speaker and Speaker (he was shopped to the Federal Police for a $900 infringement, which normally would be handled quietly under the Minchin Protocol) and the widespread criticism of the government’s harsh 2014 budget, this open admission by Abbott becomes a serious news story.

The situation shows that the rorting continues and the news media is not prepared to hold the rorters to account.

It could be argued that Abbott simply continued his long-standing practice of arranging trips that have a multiple purpose in order to justify claiming an MP’s travel entitlements. In this case it is quite clear that Abbott arranged the visit to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Clinic in order to claim expenses for his visit to Melbourne for the previous day’s Liberal party fund raiser. The visit to the Peter Mac served no other practical purpose. He made an announcement about a $64 million package to enhance security against terrorism on Australian soil and had a Q&A with journalists. That could have been done by press release or by his deputy or another minister.

Abbott’s salary of more than $500,000 a year (plus benefits) is the highest in the western world (former Labor PMs Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd mark II received the same amount). The fact that he constantly tells lies, misleads the public and cheats to defraud the taxpayer tells us all we need to know about his moral values. It needs to be remembered that, as government leader, Abbott has the power to unilaterally commit Australian troops to war.

The federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, provides a similar example of rorting. The cigar smoking millionaire has brought down an extremely harsh budget, one that takes from the unemployed, the ill, the disabled, the homeless, the elderly, parents and students while giving to wealthy individuals and industries. He says his budget is fair. Those who are hard up he calls “leaners”. Those who are well off he calls “lifters”.

Joe Hockey claims an MP’s accommodation expenses of $270 a night for sleeping in a $1.5 million Canberra home owned by family members. That’s $1,350 for five nights in what is virtually his own place. The taxpayer’s are buying this joint for the Hockey family.

Again, Hockey is merely taking advantage of the MPs entitlements as laid down in the rule book. While slamming those less well off as being “leaners”.

There is clearly something wrong here. That is why the news media is wrong to let go of this issue and of these two examples.

Abbott’s admission to the party room (stated in response to criticism for being one hour late for the party room meeting) is a clear statement of deliberate and premeditated fraud. Both Abbott and Hockey should be removed from office as quickly as possible in the best interest of the Parliament and the people.

Who’s really running Australia?

Comment and compilation

By Barry Tucker                    31 May, 2014

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is not a secret organisation, it’s just that no one wants to talk about it.

By no one, I mean our main source of news and current affairs: the mainstream news media (MSM), commercial newspapers, radio and TV and the ABC/SBS.

Now that it’s too late, some bloggers and journalists who have migrated from the MSM to online newspapers and magazines are beginning to reveal more about the IPA.

By too late, I mean the dreaded Mad Monk (Tony Two Face, the IPA Hit Man) is now running the country and steadily implementing the IPA’s policy program.

What has happened since the 7 September, 2013 federal election makes it clear why Abbott did not reveal his policies before the election. His policies are those of the IPA and they are not the kind of thing you would want to talk about in an election campaign.

They are not the kind of thing the MSM advised the voters about prior to, during or since the election campaign. Talks of savage cuts here, there and everywhere were spoken of as necessary to deal with a “Budget Emergency!”

To a large degree, the MSM does not want to talk about the fact that the “Budget Emergency!” is totally false and created in order to justify the savage, ideological, cuts contained in the new government’s first Budget.

Such is the nature of the commercially operated MSM (ABC/SBS excepted), the IPA and the “Liberal”, neoConservative, Libertarian or Tea Party whatevers who are now in charge of our economy and our once-decent society.

The real crisis is structural — how our governments go about taxing things, the archaic structure of taxation policy and the fact that the politicians haven’t got the guts or the will to modernise the entire system. The “Liberals” are working on a taxation White Paper — I’ll make sure I have my seat belt fastened before I read that one.

The job of revealing and discussing the true budgetary position has been largely left to expert commentators in the alternative news media, the Fifth Estate, especially the academically sourced TheConversation.com.

The IPA, formed in 1943, was instrumental in helping launch the Liberal Party of Australia the following year. The IPA is funded by memberships, donations and corporate sponsorships. It is today rightly seen as the policy formation wing of the Liberal party, as stories in this blog, in The Sniper and the items listed below show.

Although the IPA has a public face via the frequent appearances of its spokespersons on ABC programs and websites, the tragedy is that the ABC has only once taken the trouble to make it clear who and what the IPA is and what it represents (in a Media Watch segment).

The latest revelations on the IPA come from former MSM journalist Mike Seccombe, in an article in today’s The Saturday Paper. Seccombe reveals some of the IPA’s other nefarious activities, such as posing as a friendly representative of the environment movement and trucking owner/operators.

On 25 August, 2013 Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age published a lengthy story claiming some of the world’s largest companies have dropped financial support and membership of the IPA. The story said the changed attitude towards the IPA was due to “concern at its vociferous campaign against action on climate change”.

On the same day The Age published a detailed article on the IPA’s development* over the decades and its present position.

At the IPA’s 70th anniversary dinner last year, Abbott told guests he would adopt 10 of the then 75 items on the IPA’s agenda to change the shape of Australian society.

These items were not put before the electorate for its consideration. Instead, voters were promised a number of items that would not be changed. Abbott has since reneged on every single thing he promised not to cut and has so far failed to deliver on some things he promised to do.

Broken promises

Work has started on some of his “roads of the 21st Century” and while the boats have slowed (due to Labor’s policy of denying settlement in Australia) or been turned back (due to the Liberal’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy) they are still coming, but not “arriving”.

On 6 September, 2013 Crikey’s Andrew Crooke surveyed the IPA’s agenda list (which had grown to 100 items) and wrote about what might happen to each item.

Earlier this week, Glen Murray produced a blog on the IPA that is similar to Andrew Crooke’s story, but shows (with links) which of the IPA’s 100 items have been endorsed or enacted by the LNP coalition government.

Murray’s blog makes it clear that the IPA is the policy forming wing of the Liberal party.

It’s way past time for the commercially operated MSM to do the job that’s expected of it and inform its readers, listeners and viewers of who and what the IPA is and who is now really running this country.

It would be helpful if the ABC would describe the IPA as a Right-wing Liberal party policy formation unit and provide a suitably descriptive caption for its other guests on current affairs programs on radio and TV.

More information on people past and present involved in the shadowy world of the IPA is contained in Tim Wilson and the Institute of Public Smokescreens, an article published by Independent Australia.

Update, 31 August, 2014

I have asked the IPA’s policy director, Chris Berg, for his notes or research on IPA item 77: Allow the appointment of Ministers from outside the parliament. I asked only once and I have had no reply.

This federal LNP government, like the LNP state government in Queensland, has adopted the practice of setting up commissions to inform the government on policy alternatives. Commission members tend to be LNP cronies who largely tell the government what it wants to hear. Their reports are described as “reports to the government, not reports of the government”. The practice allows a certain amount of hand-washing when it comes to implementing policy.

A possible source for IPA policy is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC believes in limited government, free markets and federalism. It claims almost 2,000 members and says it is the USA’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.

The USA Centre for Media and Democracy has a website devoted to exposing ALEC.

Another source of IPA policies could be the USA’s right-wing think tank the National Centre for Policy Analysis (NCPA), an organisation that is similar to the IPA.

Here are the results of two Google searches for ALEC and NCPA, if you want to conduct further research: ALEC | NCPA

ALEC and NCPA are just two of a collection of lobbyists that are influencing government policy formation in the USA. These organisations are more organised and more powerful than anything a political party or citizens group can organise. Their founders and members exhibit a “blood-lust” and determination that I have often seen in corporate executives. This may be why they are winning the game. Corporates have a win by any means mentality while ordinary citizens are just too busy coping with life to do much about it.

Two years ago an American web site, Truthout, produced a lengthy article describing several of these US lobbyists and the methods they use. We can see this is beginning to happen in Australia.

The academically based and authored TheConversation.com has produced a series of articles under the general heading Remaking Australia on the eve of the federal LNP government’s first year in office. Not part of that series, but equally relevant, is another TheConversation article: Changing the soul: are conservatives the new radicals?

* The Age article has been archived. I’m trying to get access to it (15/01/2015).


Clive Palmer, a bufoon with a purpose?

Barry Tucker                    21 May, 2014

After playing in the wings, millionaire miner Clive Palmer swaggered into centre stage in 2013 — threatening to win the federal election and become Australia’s next Prime Minister.

He often makes outrageous statements. Our parliamentary system is rotten. So is the news media. It’s hard to determine where he really stands on anything.


Jane Gilmore, editor of on-line magazine The King’s Tribune, recently produced this part profile, part analysis of the man who might determine the fate of the Conservative’s (they’re not Liberals) first Budget.

Follow on Twitter @JaneTribune  @CliveFPalmer

Inside Canberra, looking around, looking out

By Barry Tucker                  6 March, 2014

Tory Shepherd, Political Editor for Adelaide’s The Advertiser, also has gigs on commercial and ABC radio and TV programs, including Insiders. Shepherd spent a year in Canberra then wrote a colour piece on her experiences.

It included this:

There Really Is Such A Thing As Groupthink

“But it’s not what the hard-right blowhards think — that the press wing of Parliament House is a bunch of loony lefties who take their socialism with a mung bean chaser.

“Parliament House is its own mind marinade.

“However, it is still a place of fiercely independent minds — there are clever people and genuinely brilliant people and furious disagreements. It’s just that it’s hard, sometimes, to remember that there is this outside world of people who aren’t journalists, or bureaucrats, or politicians, and easy to end up writing for those inside your bubble, rather than in the real world.

“The groupthink means that politics is always the most important thing, not the people.”

And concludes with this:

Sometimes It’s The Little Things

“Be nice to the people who bring you your spaghetti marinara or pull you your One Fifty Lashes. In my first week alone I learned from various Canberra establishments which MPs tip, which ones are arse grabbers and which ones are loose-lipped gabbers.

“The walls have ears. Look over your shoulder before you talk, check who’s around before you make that call (this loud-mouthed journo still has to learn that lesson).

“And to paraphrase the Sunscreen Song. Accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise, politicians will philander; you, too, will get old. And in Canberra, going to the Durham is never, ever a good idea.”

It’s a humorous article, contains insights, and is a rare attempt to explain the relationship between the players in federal politics and the consumers of political news. You will find Shepherd’s article here.

@ToryShepherdAdelaide/Canberra · theadvertiser.com.au

Budget spin enters Fantasyland

Comment By Barry Tucker                    5 April, 2014

The Budget spin of Australian federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has entered the world of fantasy. It’s a world where fantastic imagination, lies, obfuscation, bull-dust, half-truth and distortion gets mixed in a muddle — all designed to blind-side the voters.

Sometimes it blind-sides the news media. Sometimes some of the news media get sick of the deception, get sick of being played for fools — and let rip.

This is a story about such an occasion. Some mistakes were made along the way.

Let’s begin with this meme, circulated on Twitter on Thursday, April 3, 2014. hockey con job It’s WRONG! Well, half wrong. The reference to “Treasury Analysis” is wrong.

Treasurer Hockey issued a “Briefing Note”. His note was supposedly based on Treasury modelling. The online news magazine Crikey.com pointed out how some news media portrayed the briefing note as a “Treasury Analysis”.

Crikey said the briefing was written by Hockey’s media adviser, former The Australian Financial Review journalist Gemma Daley.

When I followed a link accompanying the meme above I found the Crikey story. It was written by Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer.

They went ballistic over Hockey’s references to Treasury numbers and forecast revenues and expenditures:

“… Joe Hockey is treating us as complete idiots.”

“Hockey would like us to see him as a budgetary innocent who has found himself in the middle of a fiscal minefield planted by Labor.”

“And if Hockey seriously expects us to believe his latest argument, he must have nothing but contempt for us.”

The two journalists then proceeded to pull the Treasurer’s Briefing Note to pieces.

He may not have written it but, as the issuing Minister, Hockey’s responsible for it.

This is not the way Canberra-based journalists normally deal with material issued by government ministers. The ministers know that and no doubt they count on it.

What Hockey is doing is softening up the public, mainly low income taxpayers, for a tough May Budget and he’s trying to blame spending by the previous Labor government for that.

Basic Liberal party ideology is to sell public assets, slash welfare and enrich the middle to upper class and big business — their key supporters. Late this week, on the eve of the re-run West Australian election of Senators, Hockey had the gall to tell the public his Budget was NOT ideological. He chose the friendly Andrew Bolt’s radio show to sell the line that his tough Budget was necessary to provide for future sustainability.

Hockey’s Briefing Note was not widely reported on, as far as I can tell. It came on the heels of a meeting with State Premiers during which Hockey hammered out his demands that they sell public assets to pay for the projects that the “Infrastructure Minister” government leader Tony Abbott wants to take credit for. He offered a sweetener of 15% of something as an inducement.

So public assets will be sold to build infrastructure (the “roads of the 21st Century” that Abbott has promised as his monument), plus 15% from Treasury (taxpayer’s cash) and no doubt the roads will be public/private ventures that will have tolls. All very nice for Abbott’s corporate mates, but it does little for cities that are crying out for more mass transit and light rail.

One journalist who ignored Hockey’s briefing was The Guardian online’s Political Editor Lenore Taylor. Taylor told me if she reported on every pre-Budget positioning she would not have time for anything else.

Others were easily sucked in, like the ABC’s The World Today presenter Eleanor Hall and Canberra correspondent Alexandra Kirk, under the website headline: The full story … Hockey and Labor positioning ahead of budget ‘hard decisions’. Hilarious!

Hockey: As we approach the Budget, more and more evidence emerges of what was left behind by our predecessors.

Kirk: Mr Hockey’s used the Treasury modelling to argue that without a change in policy direction, spending is projected to outstrip revenue in every year for the next decade, meaning the Budget would be in deficit for a 16-year stretch.

Hockey: Sixteen years. Sixteen years of deficits without a recession, without any significant downturn, is the legacy of Labor. And unless we take immediate remedial action in the Budget, then Australia will never have a surplus. The fact is we have to address this and address this fast.

Kirk then spoke to Labor’s Treasury spokesperson, Andrew Leigh, who said the Budget position was to a large extent of Joe Hockey’s own making.

Leigh: Joe Hockey should not be allowed to try and fool the Australian people into the state of the books when he took over. That was clearly set down under the Charter of Budget Honesty and the pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook. And it clearly said, Budget back in surplus in 2016-17.

Then came economist Chris Richardson, of Deloitte Access. He said there was a Budget problem that needs to be fixed, but it doesn’t need to be fixed tomorrow.

There’s more from all parties in the ABC interview.

Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, reported on the Briefing Note on April 1. Unfortunately that story is behind the paywall.

The URL in the Google search result says the story is “premium content”. Ha!

It’s based on a Briefing Note that Hockey was pushing into journalists’ hands. The story must contain some terribly perceptive and erudite comments from a Murdoch propaganda hack.

Much kudos goes to the two Crikey journalists who had the decency, the integrity, the knowledge and the insight to treat Hockey’s Briefing Note with the contempt it deserves.