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Free Speech in Australia? Forget It

As I've said before, one of the most worrying circumstances in our time is the obvious danger that the entire planet is steadily sliding into a new dark age. Things that used to be obvious - the need to truth and integrity in scientific debate, for example - are not only being forgotten, but the exact opposite (deceit, dirty tricks, falsifying evidence) is now being lauded by scientists, ethicists, journalists, and many others.

In this vein, one of the most dangerous and irresponsible documents ever produced on Australians' taxpayer dollars has appeared. Its purpose seems to be to establish what used to be called a Star Chamber - unelected, unaccountable, secret - to remove from the media anything that said star chamber finds objectionable. And who can say what that might be?

This is the new report, commissioned by the Gillard government, to 'solve' the problem of - well, it isn't exactly clear what the problem was, as I'll show in a minute. But first, Tim Andrews summarises the problem:

Mr. Ray Finkelstein QC, a left-wing former Federal Court Judge with no media experience, at the request of the Gillard Government, issued a 400 page report which calls for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to 'regulate' political speech and - among other things - impose new laws with the power to stop climate change realists from speaking up. 

Its “recommendations” will sicken every single Australian: They actually call for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to censor not just the newspapers and TV, but websites, personal blogs, and even what you say on Twitter!

If that doesn't shock you, you deserve a new dark age. But back to the report. Here's the abbreviated terms of reference:

(a) The effectiveness of the current media codes of practice in Australia, ...

(b) The impact of this technological change on the [traditional media] business model ... and how such activities can be supported, and diversity enhanced, in the changed media environment.

(c) Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to online publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints.

(d) Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public interest.

In other words, it was a catch-all inquiry with vague terms of reference that could be interpreted to mean almost anything. The report fits the terms of reference admirably: 474 turgid pages that ordinary Australians who aren't paid to read the mush will seldom have the resources to grind their way through.

Being one of those Australians working on my own dime, I simply don't have the time resources to read the whole miserable thing, so I made sense of this report by targeted reading using the Table of Contents as a guidepost. My method, perfectly justified by the sheer absurdity of the size of this report which actually waffles on about just about everything starting with "The newly-invented printing press came to England in 1476", is to demand that if this report has anything to say to me, it should say it plainly. Here goes:

What's the problem?

The only references in the ToC that close close to describing any existing problem are some of the subheadings of section 4 "Media Standards": Trust, Bias, Influence/power, Ethics and intrusions on privacy. And under "Reform", four pages on Is there a problem?

Let me focus on Bias, as one of the most worrisome of these problems. The report mainly lists results of opinion polls, and for the only direct reference to bias against a political party, it has to go right back to a 1976 survey to find a bias against the Labor Party. More recent surveys are claimed to report "bias", but the direction is not stated. I wonder why?

Apart from poll results, we are treated to a few anecdotes, and that's about the extent of it. How much did they pay this investigator (out of our pockets)?

Under "Is there a problem?", we are treated to nothing but generalities and vague statements. You want to learn how to write a puff piece that says nothing in erudite wording? I recommend section 11.1 to 11.16. Here's the thing: anyone tossing down drinks at the pub can rant on about things wrong in the media, wrong in government, and so on. Printing it on expensive paper (did I mention we paid for it?) doesn't make it any more reliable.

The real target of the report

The real target is to get anyone and everyone to shut up about the Gillard government's disastrous policies, in particular the tax on the life-giving trace gas, carbon dioxide. Here's the relevant part of the report in full:

4.39 Nonetheless, there is a widely-held public view that, despite industry-developed codes of practice that state this, the reporting of news is not fair, accurate and balanced.

4.40 For instance, the Inquiry heard from Professor Robert Manne who, earlier in 2011, had written an extensive critique of The Australian newspaper in Quarterly Essay entitled ‘Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation’ that examined seven case studies of the newspaper’s coverage of issues.

4.41  One of his case studies concerned coverage of climate change policy and his findings mirrored those of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism. Professor Manne’s research found that articles unfavourable to action on climate change outnumbered favourable articles by a ratio of four to one.

4.42 In his response to Professor Manne’s work, Paul Kelly who is The Australian’s editor-at-large, did not refute Manne’s statistics 23. Instead, he argued that Manne’s position was based on a ‘rejection of debate’ about the science of climate change:

One reason for the public’s backlash making carbon pricing so unpopular was the precise attitude [Manne] took. While pretending to be rational his rejection of debate was really faith-based dogmatism and the Australian public didn’t like being told what to think by patronising experts.

Let's examine this. Re 4.39: not a mention of the fact that it is near impossible to get any fair presentation of climate realism on the ABC, which is following the BBC script that because the science is settled, allowing any mention of disagreement with the alarmist orthodoxy is to be biased!

As for the rest, what does it amount to? Media mentions against the tax are four to one against. That doesn't indicate bias. I am sure media mentions against the flat earth are a 100 to 1 against. The four to one against the tax is the simple understanding, which anyone who isn't deluded can see easily, that it isn't worth driving millions into fuel poverty to lower the planet's temperature by a few thousandths of a degree - and even that is assuming we believe the worst and scariest of the alarmist predictions! Mentions are 4 to 1 against because climate alarmism is a hoax, a dangerous, anti-life, anti-planet hoax that is stuffing the pockets of the elite who push it onto the rest of us.


What more can be said? Well this, for one: What on earth does Finkelstein imagine will ensure that a secret, unaccountable committee will not push its own biases onto the decisions it makes? If it gets it wrong (and you can be dead certain it will, especially as climate alarmism is something "everybody knows and only deniers oppose") who can correct it? Australia, you had better make sure this report is pulped and buried by your democratic vote as soon as you get one, or the future of censored twitters, a censored media and a closed internet will end your freedom for good.

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