22/08/2012 - 10:40

Leftists show true colours with press push

22/08/2012 - 10:40


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A free press is a cornerstone of all true democracies, which is why the proposed News Media Council is a backward step.

A free press is a cornerstone of all true democracies, which is why the proposed News Media Council is a backward step.

MY long-time friend, the late associate professor of politics Patrick O’Brien, regularly warned that, in every social democratic party there’s a Leninist Party in potentia.

If we forego the Latin, this means leftist parties invariably harbour individuals who yearn for more powerful governments and extended controls over ever-expanding areas of economic life and civil society.

Unfortunately, Australia’s Labor Party bears this indelible imprint, as indeed does its legislative anti-business partner, the Greens.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was convenor of the Melbourne-based Socialist Forum.

This entity had more than 100 members, including about 40 former communists, 60 or so leftist Laborites, plus several journalists, and probably an ASIO agent, since the Soviet Union still hadn’t imploded.

Last February, I visited Melbourne University library’s special collections section where the Socialist Forum’s records are archived.

These documents describe Socialist Forum discussion that focused upon ways of transforming Australia’s economy and society in leftward directions.

All the aging chestnuts were interminably canvassed: boosting taxation, especially for the mining sector; boosting taxes on higher earners; more government monopolising; increased welfare, and larger public sectors.

Reading Socialist Forum conference and other agendas reminded me of what onetime Western Australian senator and Hawke government finance minister, Peter Walsh, said at a 1980s WA Labor Party conference.

Rising on its last day he said he’d been present from day one and had counted its adopted motions – over 100 of them – with nearly all calling for greater public spending.

No motion, he stressed, urged cutting outlays or scrapping outdated programs.

One wonders how Mr Walsh would have fitted, if at all, in a Gillard cabinet.

When considering the Greens, we find they now have two identifiable wings. The first I’ll call the ‘tree huggers, the other the ‘industrials’, who have shrewdly cultivated links with several left-controlled unions.

The recent emergence of the industrials has understandably worried Labor’s leadership, since it could mean union affiliation funds will bypass Labor. 

And it’s the recent emergence of the industrials among the Greens that largely sparked last month’s public imbroglio between Labor and Greens luminaries.

Two key industrials are NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, and Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt, a onetime Murdoch University student Left Alliance leader and Marxist theorist of sorts who was later briefly an ALP member.

Senator Rhiannon is daughter of Bill and Freda Brown (1977-78 Lenin Peace Prize winner), both Communist Party of Australia and later of the pro-Soviet Socialist Party luminaries from the 1930s into the 1990s.

Mr Bandt, according to a campus contemporary, scoffed at any students who’d embraced tree hugging tendencies, calling them ‘bourgeoisie party’ members, not purist socialists, like he considered himself.

This, of course, never stopped him joining the Greens in a bid to launch his political career.

It’s important to note that leftists intensely dislike criticism of the various tenets of their socialistic faith.

So it wasn’t long after Ms Gillard and retired Greens leader Bob Brown signed their 2010 co-operation pact that Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy began criticising the Murdoch press.

Senator Brown promptly followed, dubbing it the “hate media” because it was canvassing and analysing Labor’s ongoing costly policy failures.

No-one, therefore, was surprised when an inquiry into Australia’s media, headed by onetime Federal Court judge, Ray Finkelstein QC, was announced last September.

As soon as its report was released in February, Senator Conroy said it would be acted upon.

Mr Finkelstein recommended creation of a News Media Council (NMC), to be headed by a judge or senior lawyer and 20 part-time members.

These NMC members will be selected by an appointments committee of three academics, who themselves will be appointed by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, and the Commonwealth Ombudsman and Solicitor-General.

In other words, an all-government salaried group adjudicates on the so-called “hate” and other media since it and those three academics are, in one way or another, dependent on the public purse.

So snug and so cosy.

Mr Finkelstein’s report also recommend that anyone publishing more than 3,000 copies of print per issue, or news internet sites with a minimum of 15,000 hits annually, comes under the NMC oversight.

That’s central government control of news reporting and political commentary, the very thing free societies don’t have.

Last week, The Australian newspaper reported: “There are about 1,600 staff employed by federal government departments and agencies in media, communications, marketing and public affairs roles.

“A further 60 media advisers are dedicated to federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

“The total number of public affairs staff in government is more than five times the estimated 300 journalists, including reporters, photographers, camera crew and support staff, in the Canberra press gallery.”

The annual cost for all this – a cool $150 million.

All 1,660 are paid to produce bright gloss on government policies and programs, not to be analytically critical and tell things in a ‘warts and all’ manner, which is what voters require if they’re to be fully informed.

This naturally reminds me of George Orwell’s insightful and incisive remark: ‘‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’’ 

Since March, I’ve reminded friends of Patrick O’Brien’s prescience, now that the Gillard-led Labor-Greens alliance is set to create big-brother controls over Australia’s entire print and electronic media.

Equally scandalous is the fact that leftists Australia-wide have remained silent on this crucial human rights issue.

Objections came only from individuals and organisations leftists love calling right-wing, like the Institute for Public Affairs or editor of Quadrant Magazine, Keith Windschuttle, to name two.

“While ever I am editor, Quadrant would not recognise the News Media Council’s authority, we would not observe its restrictions, and we would not obey its instructions, whatever the price,” Mr Windschuttle said.

“We hope other publishers will take a similar stand.”

Whatever the price. Admirably stated Mr Windschuttle.

But there’s propitious news since one leftist group has finally broken rank and spoken-out.

On August 6, the leftist-leaning group GetUp belatedly condemned Labor’s proposed media controls. 

GetUp director Sam Mclean said it also opposed internet regulation.

“The proposals that are on the table are not something we would support,” he said.

 “We believe in freedom of the press, and the model of regulation that has been put forward seems to us to cut across that important freedom.

“Governments shouldn’t be choosing who gets to pick and choose who gets to have a voice and who doesn’t.”

“If people don’t like what is being written, they can stop buying it or find another way to get their message out.

“In an age of online news and media, there are myriad sources of news, and readers will be the arbiters.”

Paddy O’Brien would agree.


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