I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place on Wednesday, June 3, the day after vandals smashed windows of the Lindt Café, the scene of the fatal siege last December.
The footpath was crowded with television cameras, photographers, tourists and rubber-neckers. People were taking “selfies” with the café as a backdrop. In their own way, so was the media: reporters holding microphones performed “selfies” to camera. It wasn’t the journalism I was brought up on. I listened as they regurgitated uninformative trivia fed to them by “flaks” from NSW Police media.
All anyone wanted to know was, who broke the windows? Since the Olympic Games in 2000, September 11, 2001, the APEC summit in 2007 and the Occupy Movement in 2011, Martin Place has been fitted with dozens of police CCTV cameras and riot alarms. The vandals would have been filmed and identified in minutes and named almost instantly. Why weren’t they? But no one was asking the hard questions.
It was not until almost 12 hours later that the police arrested a man over the offence – but by then the cops had allowed the story to run amok and scare everyone out of their winter pullovers.
I overheard one loudmouth in Martin Place say to his friends: “The windows were broken last night by IS. You know, the same people who killed the people in the café.”
In point of fact Islamic State was not involved in any way with the siege. It was a “lone wolf” attack conducted by Man Haron Monis, and the truth about his life in Australia and involvement with ASIO is the best kept secret of the whole affair.
Hearing the uninformed and inflammatory comments in the Martin Place crowd adds force to the argument that a memorial should NOT be constructed.
The idea is being pushed by politicians, police and the press: now there’s a toxic mixture of opportunism, cynicism and hypocrisy. The media wants a “shrine” so it can build ratings and readers. Nothing more, nothing less. The old footage will be dragged out, the “survivors” re-interviewed (and paid again), and the “real heroes” (ahem, the police) asked to tell their stories all over again.
The families of the two people killed, barrister Katrina Dawson (shot by the police) and Tori Johnson (shot by Monis), should kibosh the idea of a permanent memorial which will only become a shrine to Islamophobia exploited by reactionaries and a tawdry media.
Sharri Markson is, of all things, media writer for Murdoch’s Australian. Her latest enterprise is putting the boot into ABC host Tony Jones for “bias” on Q&A.
After the Martin Place siege she wrote on the OZ’s front page that barrister Katrina Dawson “had been murdered by a mad gunman in a terrifying siege”.
She added: “The 38-year-old was one of two innocent people murdered by a self-styled Islamic sheik.”
Ms Markson, daughter of celebrity PR agent Max Markson, has never corrected her ignorant claim that Man Haron Monis killed Ms Dawson. Nor do I expect she ever will.
Scots Nats on the march
Working in the UK in the 1960s one of the big political jokes was the Scottish National Party – even after Winnie Ewing won a seat in the House of Commons in 1967.
The SNP was ridiculed by Tories, Labour, Liberals, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the trade unions and the mainstream media. My friends called them “Tartan Tories” and snorted at their shortage of policies.
At last month’s UK general election, the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland, smashing the Tories and Labour into oblivion north of the border. It is now the third largest party in the UK with a majority of 64 MPs in the Scottish Parliament, 400 local councillors and two MPs in the European Parliament.
The SNP expanded by rejecting British social democracy and the false and broken promises of Blairism. It devised alternative policies on health, education, justice, defence, foreign policy, taxation and the environment, and adopted Europeanism.
Scotland’s independence remained its cornerstone, but the SNP elaborated a social and economic platform as well.
Lessons for the Greens
NSW Greens have been navigating this course for 20 years but the national Greens, dominated by Tasmanian environmentalists, have dragged the chain.
With the departure of Bob Brown and Christine Milne, the mainland Greens have taken charge but since the change of leader from Milne to Dr Richard Di Natale there have been some unsettling moments.
A lurch to the right was underlined when Di Natale announced his new chief of staff was Cate Faehrmann, a former Greens MP in the NSW upper house.
Ms Faehrmann is from the party’s Bob Brown clique and she succeeded him as chair of the creepy Sea Shepherd Australia. Both are instinctive coalitionists who believe the party should stay green – save trees and whales – and be little else.
After her years in State Parliament, one political veteran (not from the Greens) told me: “I’ve negotiated with Cate on many, many occasions and I still don’t know what she believes in.”
This is a quality which has attracted Di Natale and Sophie Morris, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.
In the recent edition she warmly welcomed Di Natale’s leadership saying he is “more interested in outcomes than ideology”.
These are almost the same words used recently by NSW Labor leader Luke Foley and they could have dropped from the lips of Kevin Rudd.
Di Natale has already announced he is prepared to dance with Tony Abbott over the fuel tax increase which is due before parliament in October.
Dancing with Abbott is tantamount to dancing with Dr Death.
Di Natali could do to the Greens what Meg Lees did to the Democrats from 1997 to 2001 by backing Howard’s GST and rendering them unelectable ever again.
The Greens will never amount to anything much until they build a comprehensive platform to answer the major social and economic issues facing working and unemployed Australians.
The Green thing has been overwhelmed by events – an alarming increase in the rate of climate change and growing world public awareness. Every sane person is green or greenish. Now’s the time to add some red, black, green and gold.
Headline of the month
UK polling companies made a laughing stock of themselves with preposterous predictions about last month’s General Election. The Scotsman (20 May 2015) was so indignant that it whacked the smarmy polling outfits in an article headlined:
“Trust in pollsters falls, according to new poll”