The end of Fairfax

What’s behind the end of Fairfax Media … When will Rupert Murdoch make his play? … Arts Minister Don Harwin caught pink-handed … Women’s prison reform goes backwards … Apartheid laws passed in Israel.

The end of Fairfax

The name Fairfax has been eliminated from Australia’s media landscape. After 177 years as a major player in the country’s history, culture and sociology, Fairfax is no more.

The name has been air-brushed out of history and the remnants of the once grand old lady have been thrown to philistines and money-hungry chancers whose only reading material is share prices and balance sheets.

Fairfax, owners of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, The Australian Financial Review and various other media assets, is no more. It’s been euthanised after a prolonged illness. Are we happy or sad? Shall we “seek closure” and “move forward” and hope for the best? Do we care? My oath we should!

As a result of Fairfax’s elimination, media ownership by the private sector has been strengthened alarmingly. Journalism, as an irritant and rallying point for public debate, has lost one of its time-honoured voices.

The undertakers are a squalid and utterly disreputable bunch. They include:

  • Wholly incompetent Fairfax executives, editors and directors dating back 30 years. They swore they had “a plan”. They didn’t. They told staff, investors and the public they had a “vision”. They didn’t. They lied again;
  • Canberra politicians from all sides, Liberal, National and Labor, who brazenly changed the rules to allow media giants to own newspapers, TV, radio and IT sites in the same city across Australia. These treacherous low lifes betrayed democracy, plurality and free speech by allowing the further monopolisation of media when the public was screaming for accurate, courageous and independent journalism. In response, people didn’t get more, they got less;
  • Corrupt banks, broking houses, accountancy firms, law firms, developers, infrastructure tools, private medicine and private health gougers, those mauled and shamed by the royal commissions into sex crimes and the finance sector and the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Australian Taxation Office and the ACCC – are all celebrating the death knell of Fairfax. Now they can get on with plundering, rorting and scamming without “nosey parkers” from Fairfax asking embarrassing questions;

When CEOs start losing their lucrative jobs, MPs are sentenced to jail while others are hauled before the High Court of Australia (and disqualified from office) and a Catholic Archbishop is facing prison – it’s time to call a HALT! and teach the nosey media a lesson! So it was decided to shut down Fairfax and give it to Nine Entertainment Co.

In the past 24 hours the private mass media (as well as sections of public broadcasting, i.e. the ABC and SBS) have been giving a warm welcome to Nine’s takeover (it’s NOT a merger) and the renaming of Fairfax as Nine. Under current management, Nine can’t run its own business let alone take on publishing newspapers, a business of which it has no knowledge, experience or recognisable interest. In other words, this transaction is a disaster and it will all end in tears. Nine will rip Fairfax apart, asset stripping it, sacking staff and “boning” it.

The narrative being slavishly followed by the mass media is a lie. The spin doctors are saying Fairfax and Nine started talking earlier this year. Bullshit. Secret talks began a year ago when federal MPs agreed to scrap Paul Keating’s cross-media ownership rules and allowed the major players to build across-the-board aggregation of media in major cities. This was a “done deal” last year; Malcolm Turnbull and his Cabinet knew it along with other “insiders” from the Labor Opposition, Nine, Seven, Ten and News Ltd.

I should make clear that I am no fan of the Fairfax media business. Throughout its entire history the company has been the voice of the wealthy, the well-connected and the ruling establishment. Editorially it has been hostile to trade unions, the Labor Party, the left in general and social change.

It has worshipped the English monarchy, the “Mother Country”, Protestant and then Roman Catholic religion, going to war in far off lands where Australia had no enemies, doing the bidding of Washington and London in equal measure, keeping wages down and treating staff like household retainers.

Why, therefore, am I lamenting the passing of the House of Fairfax? What I think of Fairfax is irrelevant. What matters is what millions of readers thought of Fairfax papers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Even though they only looked at the classifieds, the David Jones and Myer adverts, share prices, tides and racing results, Fairfax was a beacon of 19th and 20th century liberal democracy. It covered parliamentary debates, courts and council meetings. It was safe, reliable and dependable. The new owner, Nine, isn’t and never will be.

Where’s Rupert Murdoch?

Nothing changes in the media landscape in Australia or anywhere else in the world without getting the nod from Rupert Murdoch.

Following the demise of Kerry Packer and Sir Warwick Fairfax, 87-year-old Murdoch remains The Gatekeeper.

Rupert Murdoch with sons Lachlan, left and James, right

The Australian front-page banner headline said it all: “THE DAY FAIRFAX DIED” (27 July 2018). Are they cheering or mourning? The ageing upskirter was being his enigmatic self.

Murdoch’s chief media commentator Mark Day headlined his piece, “JUST A WHIMPER IN THE END” and quoted a former SMH editor Chris Anderson saying: “It’s a shame, but the good thing is that there is now a much more diverse group able to prop up the print side of the business.”

Who’s he kidding? The “print side of the business” is finished: the new owners will see to that.

Murdoch and his two sons, Lachlan and James, want a part of the Australian media pie. They already own around 70% of the print media in metropolitan capitals and regional cities; they want to increase their share to 90% and create single newspaper monopolies across the country. Then they can set advertising rates as they please and destroy competitors, garner national and local sponsorships, vertically integrate their sales with football, racing, real estate and resorts.

For the time being, Nine will do the dirty work for Murdoch: sell off assets and slash staff. If Nine fails to make a go of it, who will they turn to? And who will offer to pay a bargain basement price for the wreckage? Rupert Murdoch, of course.

Is NSW Arts Minister Harwin honourable?

NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin insists on his official title on all letterheads and media releases – “The Honourable”.

Arts Minister Don Harwin

In fact, one thing that Don Harwin isn’t is “Honourable”, otherwise he would offer his resignation following the release of papers over the calamitous fashion week ball at the Powerhouse Museum and his misleading statements to parliament.

His Liberal colleague, Daryl Maguire, MP for Wagga Wagga, resigned from parliament this week after he was ambushed and exposed at ICAC and Powerhouse Museum director Dolla Merrillees resigned in the wake of scandalous revelations about the fashionista extravaganza.

Maguire, who is rightly suffering the consequences of shocking misconduct with inner-city developers and councillors, has more honour in his big toe than Harwin will ever encounter.

Yet Harwin is clinging to his Cabinet job like a ninja turtle; and the big irony is that “the Hon Don”, a now-disgraced political operator famed for his marginal seat-winning skills 20 years ago, is about to contribute to the destruction of the NSW Liberal-National government because of his dishonourable conduct.

The ball cost taxpayers more than $200,000 and raised a paltry $70,000 for a fashion fund, figures that were initially kept from all-party Upper House MPs.

The Powerhouse ball

The guests flew in first class from as far away as New York, London and Paris and stayed at five-star hotels. Attendees included Australia’s gold medal free loader, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, 62, and her toy boy handbag, athletic bachelorette David Panton, a Melbourne real estate agent.

When he threw Ms Merrillees under a bus this week, Harwin paid tribute to her role at the Powerhouse “for guiding it through what has been a challenging and exciting phase”. Sick bag, please.

I hope she sues for unfair dismissal and I also hope Harwin is sacked as arts minister before he sacks what’s left of the arts in NSW.

Women’s prison reform: going backwards

In 2003, the first all-women’s prison was opened in NSW to great acclaim and resounding applause from prison reform advocates.

The Dillwynia Women’s Correctional Centre in western Sydney housed 260 female offenders in civilised, non-violent conditions where rehabilitation took the place of brutal punishment.

Women were allowed family and conjugal visits; they could give birth in the care of health professionals and keep their babies; they could undertake educational courses to obtain diplomas and degrees; they could keep pets; learn music and how to paint; and take part in musicals and plays.

Today, the NSW Coalition government is winding back all these social reforms. A colossal bill of $3.6 billion has been allocated by Treasury to build more jails, have them privately run and make them mixed inmates i.e. cell blocks for men a stone’s from cell blocks for women. It’s back to the old days …

In the past two weeks, scandals have broken in the tabloid press about female prison officers having sex with male inmates. When male and female inmates shared the same jail (as in the woeful past), the situation was even more dreadful. Prison officers were having sex with female inmates, supplying them with drugs, booze and cigarettes and brutalising them. So were abusive male convicts.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
NSW Minister David Elliott

The lavish plans by NSW Corrective Services Minister David Elliott, a former public relations man and CEO of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), seem not remotely concerned about the depravities which await female inmates in his new 21st century lock-ups.

His Mid North Coast Correctional Centre being built at Kempsey is a case in point. When completed it will be crowded to the gunwales with more than 1,000 prisoners, 300 of them women. It will be the largest incarceration block in Australia, hundreds of miles from Sydney where the majority of inmates will come from.

It is a nightmare waiting to happen.

Israel: Chosen people’s torment

Israeli Zionists have made a historic change in the long-running debate over whether being a Jew is an affirmation of their religion or is a statement of their nationality.

The question has been argued for decades: is being Jewish a statement of religion or nationality?

On July 19, the Israeli Knesset passed the Jewish Nation-State Bill by 62 votes to 55 with two abstentions.

The legislation asserts that “the realisation of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. In revokes the status of Arabic as an official language, leaving only Hebrew as the country’s official language, and allows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expand the annexation of Palestinian lands by the rabid settler movement with an explicit clause calling for “the development of Jewish settlements nationwide as a national priority”.

In a triumphant speech after the vote, Netanyahu boomed: “This is our country. The state of the Jews. Today we etched into the rock of law; this is our country, this is our language, this is our national anthem and this is our flag. Long live the state of Israel.”

With a few changes here and there, it could have been a speech at Nuremburg 80 years ago. But any historical comparison was lost on “Bibi”.

Prime Minister for apartheid, Benjamin Netanyahu

Under the legislation, Israel’s 1.8 million Arabs, whether they are Muslims, Christians or non-believers, don’t count as full citizens. They are officially second-class citizens. In other words, Israel has become – officially and constitutionally – an apartheid state where there is a dominant race (Jews) and a secondary [inferior] race (Arabs).

There is no other way to interpret the legislation and its practical impact.

Before the Israelis defined citizenship on religious grounds, the Afrikaaners did the same thing in South Africa by segregating the indigenous black Africans (kaffirs).

The Boer oligarchy defied the world for 40 years and then collapsed in a heap of self-loathing and contempt.

Particularly in the past 20 years, world public opinion has shifted dramatically. Fed up with Israel’s diplomatic duplicity, broken promises, “crying wolf” and savage aggression against Palestinians and Arab neighbours, Israelis have lost their place on the moral high ground and are now being treated by the same moral code as other people.

Israeli Zionists dismiss the criticism and aggressively greet any criticism with threats, bullying and McCarthyite-style scapegoating. (For example, they say: “By criticising Israel you are being an anti-Semite”. Not true.)

They don’t appear to realise that deploying racial prejudice against fellow citizens only hardens existing paranoia, inflames inter-communal hatreds and violence and leaves Israeli Jews in a state of psychotic disorder in which they suspect everybody and trust nobody. No civilised state can be built on such dysfunctionality.

Meanwhile, Jews living in the diaspora of Europe, the Americas and Australia are responding differently. Many are mortified by the odious conduct of “their” government in Tel Aviv but they resolutely refuse to call the latest legal change “apartheid” or “racist” and publicly condemn it.  Such is the intimidation they face from Zionist zealots but it still isn’t an acceptable excuse.

Perhaps there is a belief that embracing US President Donald Trump and performing a diplomatic pivot with the rulers of Saudi Arabia will provide Israel with a lifeline and the Palestinians can be crushed out of existence.

White Australia tried this tactic against the indigenous Aboriginal people after 1788. More than 200 years later and the first Australians are still fighting for their land and their rights. And with a new generation of leaders they are gaining strength at home and abroad. Palestinians are eminently capable of achieving their goals as well.



  1. Dear Alex
    Yesterday it was seven years since Rob left us.
    Can you imagine the uproar and swearing which would occur. Televisions would not be safe, because of the destruction of one angry senior journo. I would have to move to Tasmania to escape.
    You would agree.
    Regards Gloria

  2. Great call on the demise of Fairfax, Alex. I felt in the last 10 years its brazen bias in favour of our high rates of population growth was motivated by its increasing reliance on real estate advertising. Beyond the editorials saying how great it was that Sydney and Melbourne were growing at 100,000 people a year was also an insidious change in the way stories were reported. The problems of rampant population growth were clear, the congested transport, the congested roads, the over development of once lovely suburbs, the alarming shortage in school classrooms that has developed and the effects on the environment were all reported on. That is the symptoms were reported. The cause, rampant population growth which Fairfax kept on telling everybody how beneficial it was for everyone, was never listed as a cause of these problems. Adding a million people in just ten years in both big cities never rated a mention. Neither did the almost near impossibility of planning and catering for such rapid growth. Indeed, Fairfax kept telling us everything would fine if it was planned for and the infrastructure built. Not so, it was always going to be impossible to cater for this level of growth. Additionally myriad opinion pieces all telling the readership how great our rate of population growth was for everyone. It was indeed good for Fairfax ad revenue from their real estate advertising. One writer recently wrote that the large increase in Melbourne’s population meant “Melbourne was growing up.” She then said “So should we.” In other words, those who opposed a million extra people in ten years were immature. Just one example. On this issue I lost respect for Fairfax. I didn’t spend any money there for a decade save for a brief subscription to the website. Four polls in the last year have all said most Australians believe our population was growing too fast. Never reported on in Fairfax publications, it cant report that as news. its contrary to its commercial priorities and its the commercial priorities over the news values that came to typify the show there.

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