My union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, has denounced
the Abbott Government’s National Security Legislation Amendment Bill No 1 as “an outrageous attack on press freedom in Australia”.
It was passed with the full support of the Labor Opposition led by Bill Shorten. Only Greens MPs objected.
MEAA federal secretary Chris Warren condemned the anti-democratic legislation saying: “The Bill criminalises legitimate journalist reporting of matters in the public interest. It imposes ludicrous penalties of up to 10 years’ jail on journalists. The Bill muzzles the media from doing its job.”
Two “offences” are especially vicious:
1. Journalists who identify an ASIO officer face 10 years’ jail;
2. Journalists who report an abuse of ASIO powers or illegal operations face 10 years’ jail.
Reading Warren’s excellent statement, the general public might be deluded into thinking that the mainstream media is straining at the lash to investigate the secret services, ASIO and ASIS, and expose their bungling incompetence. Not so.
In editorial offices across Australia there are only a tiny handful of journalists who ever dare to investigate the spooks. And they receive no encouragement and little support from their editors – and certainly none at all from their proprietors.
Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside has pointed out that under the new laws reports of killings by ASIO or its contractors would be illegal and the reporter could go to jail for 10 years – four years longer than Australian-born Peter Greste of Al Jazeera who is in the slammer in Cairo on trumped-up “security” charges.
Abbott, a former Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch hireling, condemned the Cairo court’s sentence on Greste but only weeks later introduced Egyptian-style laws in Australia.
“Peter Greste would have been reporting the Muslim Brotherhood, not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, because that’s what Australian journalists do,” he said.
Not any more, if Abbott has his way.
Murdoch’s flagship publication, The Australian, has backed the new laws with a defining editorial. Rupert’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was a fierce press censor during World War Two: like father, like son.
If other mainstream media editors had any guts at all, they would appoint national security reporters to track the legal violations, operational blunders and extravagant incompetence of ASIO and ASIS.
You won’t be surprised to learn that ABC and Fairfax editors have already joined Murdoch’s evil empire and fallen into line. So has Bill Shorten, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, Anthony Albanese and the entire Parliamentary Labor Party.
If you hear a Canberra Liberal, National or Labor politician talking about “press freedom” you don’t have to apologise for asking them if they can spare a sick bag.
Occasional Scientologist and fulltime billionaire boofhead James Packer is reportedly trying to buy the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
I hope the Redfern-based premiership winners tell him to bugger off back to his security compound in Bellevue Hill.
Packer and his odious gang are working on a strategy: they want the Sydney Roosters to swallow Souths to create a major commercial asset for their various businesses, principally casinos, media, lucrative TV rights and sports betting.
Drongo in the House
The federal seat of Herbert, centred on my old home city of Townsville in North Queensland, is held by Liberal MP, Ewen Jones, a former auctioneer.
To describe him as thick as two planks would be a serious libel on the timber industry.
The Abbott Government is under siege for its Budget plan to leave unemployed people under 30 with no dole – i.e. nothing to live on – for six months.
When the dreaded Jones was asked for his view of the measure he described it as “perfectly reasonable”.
“Is it better to have someone earning or learning?” he asked. “Or is it better to say to them, look, there’s your dole, go home, eat Cheezels, get on the Xbox.”
When he was first elected to Federal Parliament in 2010, Jones delivered an embarrassingly pious speech in which he pledged that “no one will be left behind while I have the ability to help”. (House of Representatives, 18 October 2010)
“Mr Speaker, I stand here ready to do the right thing by my electorate, my city, my region, my state and my country. I am here for my people and my community, and I promise that no one will be left behind.”
Since then he’s left behind his beliefs: now he’s kicking out-of-work young people.
Late news from Canberra is that Abbott has decided to abandon the measure, but it’s no thanks to Jones. Surely it’s time he returned to his job as an auctioneer?
I have been reminded that Verse 2 of the Australian National Anthem reads thus:
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
How do these words fit alongside Tony Abbott’s mantra of “Stop the Boats”?
It would be risky asking all schoolchildren to sing the second verse at morning assembly: it’s probably in breach of the Mad Monk’s anti-terror legislation.
Into the bunker
Recession is deepening in Europe, the US economy is on life support provided by war production and quantitative easing (printing dollar bills), China continues to slow down, Japan’s stimulus has failed, India is dysfunctional (no change there), the Middle East is on fire, West Africa is stricken with ebola, sanctions against Russia aren’t helping to resolve the Ukraine crisis and Australia is being misgoverned by an unstable crowd of dogmatic reactionaries.
This is a fair dinkum global political crisis. Inevitably, it will give way to a global economic crisis as well. I suspect it will be even deeper than the GFC of 2008-9.
For this reason, I’ve moved my meagre superannuation and allocated pension accounts out of equities and placed them in cash funds.
With interest rates at a record low, it may seem like panic or over-reaction, but I would rather have my savings sitting in my industry fund cash account than see them go up in smoke in a share market crash.