Making Headlines: How Chris runs the country after gulping a ‘large Shiraz’

October 20, 2016

Reading the first few chapters of Chris Mitchell’s hastily written memoir Making Headlines, it’s easy to get the impression that the editor-in-chief of The Australian was not only editing what he unselfconsciously describes as the ‘best political paper’ in the country, he was also running the country from NewsCorpse’ Holt Street bunkers in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

It seems that Prime Ministers, Treasurers and leading politicians from both major parties were super keen to get Mitchell’s advice about policy pronouncements, Cabinet appointments and which hand they should use to wipe their arses.

Five of the 12 chapters are devoted to Mitchell’s recollections of his, and The Australian’s, relationships with Prime Ministers. Alongside his character assessments of them, Mitchell recounts numerous instances of invitations to Prime Ministerial digs – the Lodge in Canberra and Kirribilli House in Sydney – and secret and not-so-secret rendezvous with the PM to discuss government policy, Ministerial appointments and political tactics.

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Malcolm in a muddle:Media reform for the big end of town

October 20, 2016

The journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), is concerned that the government’s proposed media regulation reforms will lead to a loss of jobs in the news industry and less choice for media consumers.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 is currently before a Senate committee; but even before it has taken effect, the MEAA says the current rules that are supposed to ensure a variety of news ‘voices’ in the marketplace are not being properly observed.

The MEAA estimates that over 5000 jobs in the media industry have disappeared in less than a decade. According to the union’s submission to the Senate review of the Media Reform legislation, the government’s mooted changes favour existing providers, will entrench the near-monopoly power of existing players, and will see less diversity among news outlets, not more.

For example, last month, the so-called ‘consumer watchdog’ (actually a government lapdog) the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) approved NewsCorpse’ sale of Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper to the Kerry Stokes-owned SevenWest Media.

When the deal is completed next week, it will give Stokes a virtual monopoly over print media in Western Australia, it has created a mood of fear and apprehension among Sunday Times staff.

MEAA’s WA regional director Tiffany Venning says her members are ‘deeply disappointed’ with the decision. There were 37 editorial jobs lost at The West Australian in the lead up to this transaction being approved, and Venning says there is ‘considerable concern’ for the jobs staff at Sunday Times and its online affiliate PerthNow.

It’s no surprise that union members are concerned. The entire printing staff at the Sunday Times are about to lose their jobs. That’s about 100 people, some of whom have been at the paper their entire working lives.

Tiffany Venning told EM that out of the 60 editorial staff at the Sunday Times, ‘less than half’ are likely to have jobs once the merger is complete. Rumours crossing the newsroom floor at the Times are that as few as seven existing editorial staff are likely to make the transition.

In an interview with EM, Ms Venning described this as a ‘bloodbath’ that will see over 100 people unceremoniously dumped onto the already depressed WA job market. However, it is unlikely that either Kerry Stokes or Rupert Murdoch will lose any sleep over adding to the west’s unemployment queues.

The Sunday Times was one of Rupert’s first purchases when he began to expand his empire in the 1960s, but he is hardly the most sentimental billionaire on the planet. He needs to sell the Times to fund the purchase of a cartload of regional newspapers in Queensland.

The ACCC has expressed some ‘concerns’ about the American mogul’s proposed $36.6 million purchase of Australian Regional Newspapers from APN. However, the ACCC’s remit does not include being concerned about the further potential loss of journalism jobs in the Sunshine State; it is only interested in competition in the local news market.

Given that the regulator didn’t allow similar concerns to stop the Sunday Times deal, printers, journalists and sales staff at the 76 newspapers and 60 websites affected by the APN deal should probably start looking for another job.

As I have written previously in Media Sauce, the media owners don’t have to be so worried. For them it is likely to be ‘business as usual’ and it seems that they can carry on with the government’s blessing.

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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.







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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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.

Update on my case with Deakin – Friday 10 June

June 10, 2016

I’m sharing this from Crikey because it’s behind a paywall.

I’m only imitating the always charming Andrew Bolt.

If you have think that the action against me is  just about  a couple of sweary tweets, you only have to follow the Bolt trail to see it’s been political since day one.

I outline this in the post linked below from November 2011.


Story in The Guardian 9 June

Another Marxist down as Deakin sacks Hirst

Crikey media reporter (Melbourne, Friday 10 June)

Journalism academic Martin Hirst is the latest scalp in a culture war targeting left-wing activists through their social media usage, says National Tertiary and Education Union Victorian secretary Colin Long.

“What is also very clear to us is that the Murdoch media, and supporters of the Murdoch press, are engaged in trolling campaigns to try to expose left-wing activists and get them in trouble,” Long told Crikey this morning. “And that’s been the case for Martin.”

Hirst and the NTEU have 10 working days to respond to Deakin University’s preliminary decision, delivered yesterday afternoon, to sack Hirst over three tweets the university says breached its academic code of conduct.

Hirst hasn’t been paid since April 19, when the university suspended him after receiving a complaint about a Twitter exchange between Hirst, News Corp columnist Rita Panahi and Lachlan McDougall, a student at Deakin university …

cirkey screen shot of e 20 march exchange
The Twitter exchange that got Martin Hirst sacked

In a letter sent to fellow News Corp columnist Tim Blair and posted on his blog, Panahi writes: “neither me nor the student complained”.

The identity of the complainant has been kept confidential. After receiving the complaint, the university conducted a review of Hirst’s tweets and raised objections to three: the comment to McDougall asking him if he was “happy to fail commerce”, which the university said was an implied threat (Hirst argued it was a humorous comment on McDougall’s academic ability, but that he he did not know McDougall was a student at Deakin), a picture of a “fuck it” beanie that Hirst wrote he would be wearing after the Easter break as a “subtle hint” to his boss (the university said it was offensive and insulting, Hirst says it was a joke), and a tweet about Andrew Bolt’s small Sky News audience to which Hirst wrote “reassuring, masturbating chimps” (the university said this was offensive and inappropriate — Hirst said it was appropriate to the medium and in his area of expertise).

Hirst’s lively Twitter presence does not identify him as an academic at Deakin University, but he is widely known as such, especially after Andrew Bolt in 2014 drew attention to several of Hirst’s more expletive-laden tweets (Hirst was suspended without pay for three months in the aftermath). The post followed Tim Blair highlighting Hirst’s Marxism — Hirst’s profile picture at the time was of him in front of Karl Marx’s grave. He’s been frequently mentioned on Blair’s blog, usually in relation to his political views. In 2011, Hirst wrote on his blog that he’d been thrown onto “the News Limited radar” after his appearance at the Finklestein inquiry. He says shortly after, a Daily Tele reporter called him and asked him if he was or had ever been a communist.

Hirst is only the latest staffer at a university to face unemployment over his social media usage in Victoria. It follows La Trobe’s Roz Ward, another Marxist, being suspended, then reinstated, after she joked in a private Facebook conversation that Australia’s “racist” flag should be replaced by a “red one”.

Long says the circumstances of the Ward case are not identical with Hirst’s. “But both are … symptomatic of universities being much more concerned with their brands and reputations than with protecting controversial speech.”

Many universities are becoming increasingly “jumpy” about things said by their staff on social media, Long says. “The relative novelty of social media means they haven’t quite worked out how to treat it — and I suspect staff haven’t worked out how to use it.”

“In general we think [Hirst’s sacking is] an overreaction to what has occurred.”

Hirst told Crikey this morning he was “angry and upset” over what had occurred. But he was “very heartened by the response on social media”.


You should also check out this video, Simon Springer @anarchistgeog is slated to speak at Deakin on 29 July. I wonder if he’ll be welcome if the wrong people see this video.