Bleeding the ink from newspapers: How long have we got?

August 29, 2016

I have to say it: “I have a grudging respect for Chris Mitchell, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian.”

Under Mitchell’s leadership from 2002 to 2015 The Australian cemented its place as the go-to source of news and opinion from the centre-right perspective.

Mitchell’s ‘take no prisoners’ editorial style and his willingness to pick fights with anyone to his left (that’s a lot of people) has helped The Australian to survive for many more years than it should have.

Apart from a brief period in the 1980s and 1990s, The Oz has been a loss-making paper for most of its life. As early as 1975 Murdoch complained bitterly about the cost of producing a national daily broadsheet. The printing, transport, newsprint costs and the wages of journalists were all out of control in those days.

It’s not much different today. But, ever optimistic, Chris Mitchell was bravely spinning the line that all is well at The Australian. According to Mitchell’s latest comments, The Oz is still making money on its subsidised sales to hotel guests and airline customers and News Corp is committed to keeping the title alive, even though it appears to be shrinking before our eyes.

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Malcolm v Gough: Who is/was Australia’s worst Prime Minister?

August 12, 2016

It has been a stable myth of Australian politics for nearly half a century, but was the Whitlam government of 1972-1975 the “worst” in Australian history?

I don’t think so and believe we can now safely make the claim that Whitlam’s record of so-called disaster is about to be overshadowed by the ongoing disaster that the Abbott-Turnbull government appears to be.

Perhaps we might even be so bold as to suggest that Turnbull’s legacy will be his ham-fisted attempts to dismantle some of the major reforms of the Whitlam period.

Was Whitlam really “that bad”?

All the aging so-calledsuperstars” of Australian political journalism would agree that Whitlam’s crash or crash through demeanour was at times rash or ill-considered. They would also chime in that Whitlam’s cabinet was the most incompetent of all time. Laurie Oakes, Paul Kelly and several others have written books on the Whitlam government and its dismissal that paint a picture of disaster and ill-considerd policy.

They would point to the Khemlani loans affair, Jim Cairns’ sexual affair with Juni Morosi, the debacle of some economic policies and a general air of chaos, then they would claim that Whitlam and the ALP were out of their depth, not ready to govern and lacking in individual talent or vision. They would argue that Whitlam’s dismissal by the governor-general was justified.

It wasn’t really until Whitlam’s death that the achievements of his government were properly acknowledged and celebrated.

whitlam vincent

Gough Whitlam and Vincent Lingari at the birth of the land rights movement in 1975

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How to vote in the Senate: A sensible guide for sensible people

July 1, 2016

All the pundits have been banging on about how most of us don’t make up our minds about who we’ll vote for in an election until  a few days, or even hours, before we enter the little booth to leave our mark on democracy.

Well, I don’t know about you but I pretty much made up my mind at birth; I could never vote for a Tory and my class loyalty comes first.

And it’s too close to call (maybe), Labor is going to take some seats of the Coalition, a handful of Greens and independents will sit in the lower house and the Senate will be another dog’s breakfast.

So for me the least troublesome option for voting on 2 July is the simple four-word slogan that I have been hashtagging and tweeting for weeks now: #PutTheLiberalsLast.

Don't elect a Fizza #PuttheLiberalsLast

Don’t elect a Fizza

This makes it relatively easy in most lower house seats, if the main enemy is a National, not a Liberal then a simple substitution works seamlessly.

Putting the coalition last is not such a simple matter in the Senate. It’s a smorgasbord of filth with lashings of stupids all desperate for a one issue shot at the title and a comfy spot on the red leather cross benches. If it’s a choice between putting the Liberals last or the anti-vaxxers where do you you go?

How do you make a principled decision on your senate vote when so many dribblejaws are vying for your very last vote.

You could always just follow the ‘How-to-vote’ of your number one choice (socialists, Greens, Labor), but then (as we know) you lose all control over where your preferences get directed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my rights to a bunch of faceless party bureaucrats who do deals with the Devil in order to secure as much red leather acreage as they can. So working from 1 to 100+ in your state Senate ballot takes a bit of thinking, planning, plotting and the ability to count beyond your fingers and toes. My advice, if you read no futher, start with the highest number at the top of the column you want to put last (remember to vote below the line). Work backwards making sure you keep track of every number.

Vote backwards example:

If you want to put the Liberals last in the Senate start numbering their number one candidate with your highest number (in Victoria it’s 116). If there’s nine Lib candidates you would get to 108 at the bottom of the list and you then start on your second column with 107 at the top, etc.

This is simple if you keep track of the numbers and don’t rush it.

What about the Uglies and the Numpties?

The Senate race always tends to attract the real crazies of Australian politics and 2016 is no exception.

The Health Australia Party is the Trojan horse for the anti-vaxxers and alternative medicine types, but it has the number one spot on the NSW Senate ballot paper. In Victoria the leading HAP candidate, believes in natural immunisations “homeoprohalaxis”. Their general policies are nothing to write home about either, a boilerplate cut and paste text about “free enterprise” not being held up by “big business, big unions and big paperwork”.

if you’re worried about economic plans and competetent budget management, don’t vote for these folks.

But what do you do when the anti-vaxxers are a “least-worst” option? Well, my advice is start at the bottom with the highest number and work backwards.

I’m going to start by putting all the real hard racist numbnucks right at the bottom. My example is from Victoria, but you can apply the formula and the principles in your own state or territory race.

Victoria: Who to put last is a difficult choice.

So working from the principle of #PuttheLiberalsLast we have a difficult voting choice in the Senate.

Do we literally put the Liberals last or do we preference them above the out and out Fascists like Danny Nalliah’s Rise Up Australia and The Australian Liberty Alliance?

It’s a hard choice, both RUA and ALA are Islamophobes, Homophobes, Misogynists and general all-round bigots. Local variations my arise, for example Pauline Hanson’s One Nation group has again raised its ugly redhead. There are lots of out-and-out racists clamouring for attention this time round, but in Queensland where Hanson herself is a candidate, putting her on the very bottom of your ballot paper might be the strategically sound move.

In Victoria One Nation is perhaps less relevant than RUA and ALA who have been active in several Islamophobic anti-Mosque actions around Melbourne.

We have some high profile Senate hopefuls in Victoria, including the Human Headline. He’s a pompous, arrogant git so is perfect for a spot on the long leather bench, but what does Derryn Hinch stand for? One word: ‘Justice’. If you are into meaningless slogans and like hairy ex-convicts with feral facial hair Hinchy is the one for you.

Personally I’m going to put Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party well ahead of Mr Hinch and the libertarian goon squads. Ricky the poo-chucker has actually been a good senator. He won’t let the coalition sprinkle bulldust in his eyes and he’s grown into the role. He’s also less racist than many of the others and, as far as I know, not an anti-Vaxxer.

Who gets the top vote

If the basic principle is put the most racist candidates in your state last, followed by the coalition, what do you do with your precious top 12 votes?

The choices are really between Labor, the Greens and one or two socialists here and there.

My personal preference is to vote for the most left-wing candidates, in this election that is the team from Socialist Alliance, then for me Green or ALP is up to you. My class instinct says vote Labor, but having Greens in the Senate is not such a bad thing.







Hirst v Deakin Update 19 June: Corrections & Clarifications

June 19, 2016

A busy few days for me ahead of deadline day Wednesday 23 June.

In the next couple of days I will be deciding whether or not to take my case to the Discipline Review Committee (DRC). The DRC is the final internal review process before my sacking for serious misconduct takes effect.

If I choose to appeal the termination will be delayed until the work of the DRC is completed. I will be making an announcement on Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, if you are not familiar with my case, please read the previous posts which are all linked from here. In a nutshell (to make sense of what follows), Deakin University is attempting to sack me for three tweets that it alleges were insulting, threatening and/or offensive.

there’s also some new commentary here from legal blogger, Kate Gallow. (Tx Kate)

Muttonflap also had a few choice words about the Roz Ward case, I rather liked the tone of this post, though republishing it here will no doubt cause coniptions back at HQ.

La Trobe University hit rock bottom last week, suspending academic Roz Ward for deviating from the vapid political fuckspeak that now passes for public discourse in this country. Ward raised the ire of the burghers of Toorak with a passing joke about a Marxist Australian flag. Ever concerned with the opinions of right wing voters, La Trobe suspended Ward immediately and suggested she atone for her un-Australian behaviour by placing some children in a concentration camp or beating a man almost to death with an iron bar.

Let’s be clear….

Academics have the right to say what they like in the private domain, and should be able to speak their minds in the public, even if it makes Murray and Genevieve choke on their All Bran. As a nation we are being herded into an echo-chamber of venal, neutered political speech where public utterances are little more than a duplicate of the Lifestyle section of The Age.

Thanks Mutton Flap, I like your style.

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All I can say is thanks Tim

June 15, 2016

This blog is a modest little endeavour. It has been neglected for some time. The reasons for that are many and frankly, none of your business.

However, occasionally it has a spike in popularity.

Take for example the time I posted about Amy Winehouse.

It was because of a link to this pic of Amy

moral parallel

That was back in the day when I had more time and more spirit to deal with the lighter side of this blog, which has always been about the enjoyment of martinis and music.

My best ever was in October 2013 for a post called We can no longer take these ‘journalists’ seriously.

It is interesting to follow the careers of the people now.

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Deakin v Hirst update 13 June: Double standards anyone?

June 13, 2016

[Recap: On 9 June 2016 I was notified I am facing the sack from my university for a series of tweets that it alleges were offensive and/or insulting and/or threatening and/or a potential threat to the reputation of the university. This action was taken under the Code of Conduct and I have been charged with serious misconduct.]

My political ally and friend of 30 years @JohnPassant has written a great piece on bis blog En Passant dealing with my case.

We stand with Martin Hirst

In it he draws the necessary parallels between my case and that of my Socialist Alternative comrade Roz Ward the La robe University academic briefly suspended after she was viciously attacked for weeks-on-end in the Murdoch press over her involvement in the vital and important Safe Schools Coalition.

As happened with me in 2014 when I was trolled by Murdoch-dazed numpties and dribblejaws, instead of defending Roz, La Trobe chose to charge her with serious misconduct for “bringing the university into disrepute”.

John makes an excellent point about this:

It appears that the University has reacted, again, to not just publicity but a campaign from the most right wing mainstream media organisation in Australia, the Murdoch media. This has implications for all left wing academics. It means that if Murdoch hacks (what more appropriate word to describe the sort of institutional journalism that hacks the phone of a dead girl or lies about the Hillsborough tragedy?) trawl through the personal public accounts (or even blogs) of left wing academics and find some offensive comments those academics can be sacked under the McCarthyite moniker of offensive, or disrespectful,  or threatening, or even the catch all of ‘having the potential to damage the reputation of the University’.

John is right the idea that the  potential to cause damage to the reputation of an institution is hardly grounds for dismissal. In Roz’ case and in mine, we caused no damage with our comments which were not in any way connected with our employers.

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Hirst v Deakin: Update 12 June

June 12, 2016
The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, (JERAA) has issued the following statement. I think it relates to my case, but I’m not sure. I am a member of the Association.

Journalism academics and social media

The issue of journalism academics’ use of social media to discuss issues, institutions and individuals has attracted media attention recently.

The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) supports freedom of expression and opinion that complies with limitations concerning defamation, sub judice, discrimination, incitement to violence, and similar matters.

As the professional association for journalism academics, JERAA also supports adherence to the principles espoused in the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

In cases where universities and other academic institutions need to investigate complaints about comments made by academics, we urge management to follow proper processes and complete investigations in an impartial, transparent and timely manner.

I also received the following email from a former student. S/he doesn’t want to be identified and I totally understand her/his paranoia.  In the age of Big Brother our bosses and enemies have us under constant surveillance. I have nothing to lose now because Deakin is determined to get rid of me. IMHO I’m being managed out via a process of vicious slurs on my character. I am being defamed, prosecuted, convicted and executed in a Kangaroo Court where there is no transparency to keep the bastards honest.
I will have more to say on this soon, there is more to this story than three stupid tweets.
The author of this letter to me has not contacted me for perhaps 12 years or more, but did so out of the blue when s/he heard about my case. These unsolicited opinions are worth considering, because they are pretty accurate.
Gday again Martin,
Hope you’re enjoying as good a day as is possible in the circumstances, with or without some caffeinated or alcoholic refreshments!
Here are a few thoughts on an appeal from someone who is not a lawyer! I think it entirely unreasonable that you were dismissed over comparatively trivial exclamations and even if you want to leave Deakin, I think you should have the option of resigning (with package!).
Hopefully Deakin conflated the issues so that they do not need to be addressed separately as it’s better to aim at one target than 3 or 4.
When an institution (more so than an individual) seeks to use its power to dismiss an employee (and likely permanently damage future career prospects given the ubiquity of internet news stories), I would see it as a denial of natural justice that you were not (as I understand it) told who your accuser was, the specifics of their accusation and the date of the accusation. On this point alone, it seems to me, Deakin’s procedure was not legitimate.
To my mind, this links directly to a freedom of political communication as implied in the Constitution in that any condition less than this (ie. the naming of an accuser in an exchange with a journalist during an election campaign), starts to seed a political atmosphere in which anonymous accusations can be hurled with impunity and without accountability, as occurred during the Cultural Revolution. On this, I would think that any Workplace Conditions would be voided if they were found to be not in accord with the Constitution of Australia and implied readings of it.
Were you invited to personally present a defense at a formal hearing (with legal representation) as anything less might leave an outsider (ie. the taxpayer who largely funds Deakin) with an impression that the method of investigation and deliberation was truncated, expedited, compromised, tainted, unprofessional, inept or prejudiced.
Free speech must include the vulgar (as distinct from the offensive or discriminatory) and Australian political life has a long history of such examples, even by Prime Ministers such as Keating and also Hawke and Rudd, at times too. As institutions, it is surely part of the implied role of universities to promote all aspects of free speech (including the tolerance of vulgarities) and act as a leader in democratic societies for it.
While your tweets were published, it appears that the ones referring to the Sky News were reactive (not proactive), very short, general in nature and not specifically addressed to any one person. More broadly, if the ratings figures you quote are correct, then the total audience of your tweets who may have been offended would amount to 0.0009% (Sky’s audience share of the total population) of your 2,100 followers (I note your replies were not hashtagged for a wider audience).
So, perhaps it is reasonable to say that 2-3 people of your total followers who subscribe to Sky (and were on Twitter when you tweeted) were actually offended? This is not a big audience (!) and I wonder if Deakin took this into account? Deakin is also obliged to consider your case at the date of the formal complaint only and so I would think that any reputational damage that Deakin may perceive is largely the result of their own publicity of this matter (did they release a media release?).
For me, their reputational damage has come with this decision as I, for one, now have no interest whatsoever in applying for a PhD in journalism there, if supervisors may be dismissed for such minor indiscretions and given that such action is likely to discourage potential supervisors into assisting me with a completely open heart.
[EM editorialising: an interesting point, my PhD students at Deakin were removed from my care two days after I was stood down, they were told (without consultation) that they had to accept new supervision arrangements. Both have been in touch with me (against terms of my suspension to contact them) and they are upset. Neither is happy with the new arrangements and feel they’ve been pressured into accepting unsatisfactory arrangements.]
On this, if the specifics of the allegation against you are not conveyed to you then how can you be sure anyone at all complained about an earlier tweet showing your beanie? If they did not, then have Deakin found you guilty of an offense where no formal complaint was made? I also question Deakin’s apparent inclusion of an historic incident in their deliberations for the same reason.
As for the student studying commerce, is there any way you could have known this student was enrolled at Deakin? (was this students enrollment actually confirmed in writing to you?). Do all lecturers have access to enrolment details for all students in all faculties? If not, this student could be from anywhere in the world and on twitter, given the high prevalence of false identities, it’s not unreasonable to assume that he/she may not even be a student at all.
[EM editorialising, McDougall is a Deakin student from what we can tell. I have confirmed with Deakin that he did not complain, but Deakin will not tell me who complained, how the complaint was received and how it was handled internally. It appears that the complaint was escalated to serious misconduct without any reference to me being able to address it as a ‘complaint’. The bona fides of the complainant have not been released to me.
Rita Panahi (Herald Sun calumnist) denies it was her, but then she did tweet this.]
RP perhaps I should complain
I think your reply (and not a proactive tweet) was understandable to the extent that the student was clearing questioning your professional capacities and when I first saw this tweet, I read your reply to be a droll rejoinder that the student would fail because they were intimating they had a closed mind and didn’t want to ever take on board the thoughts of someone with a PhD qualification.
It also defies reasonable belief that you were threatening the academic progress of the student as he/she stated they were from another faculty (and, on the balance of probabilities, I would presume from another university – is it in their profile, even today?) and I find it inconceivable that any person at any university (but especially someone outside the Commerce faculty) could influence colleagues or the Dean of Commerce to illegally mark down the final results of a specific student (and especially when that academic did not have any enrolment supervision over that student). While your tweet here may have been intemperate and unbecoming (on a worst interpretation), I think it a very harsh overreaction that it should form part of the reason for your dismissal. This seems especially the case as it is open to various interpretations.
OK, that’s perhaps enough of the unsolicited, unqualified ramblings but I hope they assist the thought process.