An Open Letter to Journalists at News Ltd

Victoria Rollison is a legend in her own lifetime in Australia’s (and undoubtedly beyond’s) Fifth Estate. We are most grateful to Ms Rollison for permission to republish her work.

Dear News Ltd Journalists,

I’m writing you this letter on behalf of all Australians. That includes everyone who can vote in the upcoming election, as well as those too young to have a say in their own future. I wanted to let you know that your behaviour throughout the election campaign has been appalling. I know you know as well as I do that it’s not the role of a journalist to campaign for a political party. Journalists often justify their bias by saying that opinion pieces can be whatever they want them to be – whether or not they’re biased, unbalanced, untrue, or part of a conspiracy on behalf of your boss to get rid of the NBN, which threatens his business interests. But you’re not just contributing opinion pieces and amateur PhotoShopped front page images, denigrating the target of your smear campaign. You’re also contributing news articles, designed to bring about a certain result, a result you’ve allegedly been instructed to manufacture to help your boss make money. Doesn’t this make you feel dirty? Doesn’t the 17 year old aspiring journalist in you feel even a little bit sad about finding their middle-aged-self behaving in this unethical way? Don’t you care about the impact your work has on the country you live in?

I’m sure many of you justify your blind obedience in the ‘get Rudd’ campaign to the fact that you need a job. You have to do what you’re told so you can keep working as a journalist. I know there’s not many jobs out there for journalists, but this doesn’t justify you doing the wrong thing. There are hundreds of examples throughout history of ‘employees’ doing the wrong thing on behalf of their bosses, and justifying this wrongness by saying they were instructed to do it. That doesn’t make it ok. If Murdoch told you to hit your wife, would you do that too? Where exactly is the line that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what your boss wanted? Is there a line? When you write puff pieces about Tony Abbott, when you do glamorous photo shoots of Tony Abbott’s daughters but don’t actually ask them a question, when you choose not to scrutinise Abbott, and omit news that is damaging to him, when you support Mal Brough’s campaign to destroy Slipper and then ignore the news that you were part of the Ashbygate conspiracy which a Federal Court Judge has revealed, when you cover your front page with blatant propaganda to help Abbott win government, but don’t tell your readers what his real plans are, when you give a candidate a free run and create the misleading impression that the Labor government is unsuccessful, you are failing Australia. Your job is not more important than your responsibility as a journalist. How are you ever going to get another job with this sort of behaviour in your background?

I actually think it’s an absolute outrage that not one of you has resigned in protest during this election campaign. Not one of you has stood up for journalistic integrity and said ‘enough’. Not one of you has said your pay cheque isn’t more important to you than your ethics. And what about all the jobs your readers will lose because of your campaign? You know Tony Abbott has proudly announced that he’ll sack 12,000 public servants. These are people doing important work in our communities. They help people. They support the disadvantaged in society. How is your job more important than their jobs?

No doubt many of you are Liberals yourself, having been hand-picked by your boss to make sure you’re on his side. But even if you think Tony Abbott deserves to win the election, and even if you like his policies and are completely in favour of his plans for this country (assuming you know what these are), don’t you think the Australian people have a right to hear both sides of the story before making up their own minds? Don’t you think it sounds a little bit like Fascism for your boss to decide that he wants an Abbott win, and then for you, his minions, to do his dirty work in the most blatantly dishonourable and immoral media campaign this country has ever seen?

Perhaps you read letters like this, and you are so hardened to the world that you let it roll over you, like water off a duck’s back. But I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside you, there’s a little voice reminding you that you’re doing the wrong thing. If you even have the ability to feel guilty, to feel ashamed, even if it’s just at 3:00am in the morning when you can’t sleep, I hope you feel awful.

It’s also important for you to know that we won’t forget what you’ve done. If your boss gets his way, and you do manage to deliver Australia the most conservative, austerity obsessed, downright mean and selfish government we’ve ever had, it’s very likely most of your readers, especially those in areas like western Sydney who’ve you’ve conned most successfully, will not be very impressed with you. They might ask why on earth Abbott is cutting spending on services they need, like health and education, when they didn’t hear about it before the election. They might be disappointed to hear their work rights are being undermined by the same front bench who came up with Work Choices. And they might be really pissed off when the surplus they’ve been promised is actually a gigantic $30 billion dollar black hole. No doubt you’ll do your best to blame all these woes on Labor, as this is your unthinking knee-jerk reaction to everything. But how long can this work? I know you like your readers dumb, but don’t underestimate how quickly people work out that they’ve been screwed over. I hope your precious job is worth it then. I would have thought your entire industry was in enough trouble without you putting another dozen nails in its coffin through your own arrogance and incompetence.

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1975 – My Third Election (Friday Evening Nostalgia and Raffle)

Today’s Friday evening post is from RNM1953. Though sombre, it is nostalgic – perhaps the music this evening should be from that wonderful era of the early 1970s?

And thank you, RNM1953.

(Credit: News Ltd.)

Where was I in 1975? I was living in what’s called the inner west of Sydney and at the time of the Dismissal had just finished my BA. Dip Ed ( thanks to a scholarship ) and was anticipating work in the NSW Education system in 1976.

Lillee and Thompson were destroying the English in the cricket. The Bee Gees’ Jive Talkin’ had been a number 1 hit. Daylight saving had been in for four years and when in your early 20’s those summer days did seem to last forever.

1975 was my third federal Election after 1972 and 1974.

It was the third time manning polling booths, doorknocking, letter drops, driving around in the local member’s car with the speakers on the roof, erecting posters etc.

But it was different.

For those of us on the ALP side of politics 1972 was a time of passion and enthusiasm. It was a look into the future. There was a feeling of hope.

1974 was more about determination. The Libs were spoiling and there was no way we were going to let them regain their mantle with their born to rule attitude.

1975 was also a time of passion. But it wasn’t accompanied by hope – this time there was a deep anger.

From 1974 onwards, Murdoch turned against Labor. Supposedly because Gough denied him the position of Australian High Commissioner to London.

In those days, the printed media had a far greater reach than today. There were morning and afternoon editions. Television, while not in its infancy, still didn’t have the tabloid format that today’s stations have with their morning shows.

John Laws was probably the only talkback radio host.

(Credit: Student Syndicalist)

On the other hand we had the ABC which was an institution of integrity filled with courageous and pioneering journalists. James Dibble presenting the news, TDT week nights with Bill Peach, Four Corners on a Saturday night. Journalists learnt their craft at the ABC and many were subsequently poached by commercial organisations.

Could you imagine the likes of Uhlmann, Crabbe et al worthy of being poached today?

So the ABC always provided a balance to the screaming headlines of the Murdoch press. We couldn’t say that now, could we?

Through late 1974 and then into 1975 there had been a relentless campaign. Affairs, scandals, strikes by petrol tanker drivers, strikes by electricity generators real ,imagined or what many of us felt, manufactured — all creating an air of instability and all whipped up into a frenzy by the Murdoch press. It sounds familiar.

Throw into the mix the Cold War.

Doug Anthony was a close friend of the CIA station Chief in Australia, Richard Stallings. The US Ambassador to Australia was Marshall Green. At the time the belief was that every country that he’d been appointed to had had a coup. Even if we look at his entry in Wiki today, there’s a reference to him as having been implicated in the dismissal of the Whitlam government. Also there was a belief that the coups in Greece, Chile and Australia all around the same time were connected to the presence of Omega bases. These bases were an integral part of American surveillance of Russian submarines. There had been campaigns in these countries and our own to close those bases.

That was the atmosphere leading up to 1975.

It would take forever to talk in detail about the events surrounding the coup and that’s not the point of this post.

So, if it can be termed this way, what were my highlights of the 1975 campaign?

I’d just finished uni so had time on my hands.

Opposition signs/posters were fair game. In the early hours of the morning newspaper bundles were known to disappear. Many of the journos went on strike and published their own newspaper. We distributed those at railway stations. We heckled at Lib public meetings.

But the three big items for me were firstly a march from Sydney Uni into the city. From memory it ended at Hyde Park but I can’t be sure.

It was an incredible experience. Marchers had stolen the RTA signs from expressways that read STOP. YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY and carried these 10-15 people abreast down the main streets. All the while men were standing in vantage points photographing the marchers. The chant was Shame, Fraser, Shame, and it reverberated around the city buildings. Office workers left their desks and joined in the march. There wasn’t any attempt by police to stop the march and there wasn’t any violence, but I suspect that the police resources wouldn’t have been strong enough to stop the surge anyway.

The traffic lights would turn red but the sea of marchers was like a wave that couldn’t be pushed back.

(Credit: The Age)

The second event was a fundraising barbecue we had at my parents’ house. Local members and some nearby Federal Ministers arrived. It’s impossible to estimate the number of people, but just word of mouth brought maybe 500 to 1000 people to this backyard barbecue. A couple of people found some road barricades and blocked off the street. Another person, and remember these were unscripted, they just did it off their own initiative, redirected traffic, standing in the middle of the road. Others walked up to the local pubs and main street shopping and encouraged anyone who was out and about at 7pm that night to come down to the barbecue.

The barbecue itself was planned but the spontaneous reaction of people was truly amazing. We actually raised money but the money was dwarfed by the emotions on display.

The other highlight was Gough speaking at The Domain.

We went in by train and our badge of honour was Shame, Fraser, Shame.

(Credit: RNM1953’s brother)

The carriages were full of people wearing these badges.

The stations were crammed. From memory there wasn’t much humour. There was determination, anger, and a sense of solidarity.

I don’t know how many people were there that day. The Murdoch press said maybe 20,000. I think the Sun newspaper said well over 100,000. The bottom line is that you couldn’t fit any more into that area. The hair still stands up on the back of my neck when I recall those scenes.

(Credit: News Ltd.)

When we manned the booths on election day, we had the biggest turnout of volunteers ever. But it wasn’t enough.

It’s hard to put those memories and feelings into words except to say that nearly 40 years later they are still important.

We are all familiar with the legacies of the Whitlam government and 1975. For me, though, one of the most important things was a failure. Forget for a moment the politics of the time and the political effectiveness of that government. Forget for a moment some of the practicalities.

Rex Connor wanted to borrow $4 billion for the government, as representing the people, to buy all of our natural resources.

He didn’t succeed.

Imagine where we would be today if our nation owned every piece of coal, LPG, oil, iron ore, gold etc. in the ground.

Has anything changed in 40 years?

(Credit: RNM1953’s brother)

Would you …

In today’s SMH, Tim Colebatch writes:

The real disappointment of Abbott’s campaign is that he doesn’t trust us. Economists estimate the funding gap in the Coalition’s promises at $30 billion to $35 billion over the next four years. But Abbott won’t tell us how he will close that gap until the final days, fearing we would be less likely to vote for him if we knew what he plans to do.

How can we trust anyone who won’t tell us how he will make us pay for his promises? Let buyers beware.

And then there’s the latest flurry of brain farts policies released yesterday, including this little gem (apologies for the link):

TONY Abbott will pay people on the dole who are under 30 a cash bonus of up to $6500 if they remain in a job and off welfare for two years, and toughen up the work for the dole scheme in a pitch to cut long-term unemployment.

Mr Abbott will also re-commit to a generous scheme he promised at the 2010 election to give the long-term unemployed cash bonuses if they relocate for work, with those with a family standing to gain up to $9000.

An unemployed person aged between 18 and 30 could do even better under the new rules.

One with a family who chooses to relocate to a regional area could stand to gain $15,500 with all the bonuses Mr Abbott will offer.

Mr Abbott’s relocation promise comes despite the fact Labor has faced problems making its own relocation scheme work.

“These are sensible, targeted measures to help get people off welfare and into work. More the than 140,000 Australians have been unemployed for more than 12 months. If elected, we will take real action to get them into work,” Mr Abbott said yesterday.

Apart from the inevitable – and unanswered – question of how the wannabe government we the taxpayers would pay for it, there are several other unanswered questions. The foremost one – for me – is what happens if WHEN the young long-term unemployed get retrenched through no fault of their own – perhaps because of a downturn in the economy (what? Under a Coalition government? NEVER!) as a result of all those austerity measures the Coalition is just dying to bring in? Or if an employer of any size decides to retrench just because it can? After all, it would save the Coalition government a whole heap of money, and besides, we all know that …

In the same way, a Coalition will purge that naughty entitlement mentality from the nation – except, of course, that won’t apply to the big end of town, women of calibre, etc – because we all know the plebs just blue the moolah on beer, ciggies, and the pokies while the big end of town and women of calibre are entitled er um because they deserve to be entitled …

And the plebs don’t need any tax breaks on their superannuation because they’ll just fritter the money away …

While we are about it, the tax base needs to be broadened, so let’s jack up the GST and reduce that threshold to its ordained position …

because there’s nothing the plebs can do to avoid it, but our tax lawyers and accountants will make damn’ sure we don’t lose.

Apparently:

The opposition will reveal some of its savings this week, with the full costings not expected to be unveiled until the last week of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Fairfax Media has learnt the Coalition has prepared a detailed 30-page dossier of policies that will form a blueprint for its first term, should it win government.

Described by one Liberal Party insider as the work of an internal ”razor gang”, the document has been ready for almost two years, although it keeps getting refined ”endlessly”, largely due to repeated blow-outs in the budget.

”It’s a 30-page policy document,” Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said. ”We have 30 areas of policy and we have done a lot of work on it. All of the spending and cuts would be released before the election.

Sure.

(Not that I have any doubt about the razor gang – and it will be vicious.)

As Tim Colebatch wrote,

Let buyers beware.