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.

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.

Election 2016: Opinion polls, swings, roundabouts and statistics

May 31, 2016

This is not good news [The Australian paywalled] for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull government is facing the prospect of losing 10 seats in NSW, six in Queensland and three in Western Australia, with a significant slump in support in the key election battlegrounds.

The Australian headlined a six per cent swing against the government according to its own Newspoll data on 30 May.

I wrote this piece the day before [Sunday 29 May], without seeing the Newspoll data. Then in Monday’s Fairfax papers we also saw confirmation that the coalition is in trouble. James Massola wrote that the LNP is likely to lose at least a dozen seats and maybe even more.

Political strategists for both major parties believe the Coalition is on track to lose about 12 seats at the July 2 poll, slashing Malcolm Turnbull’s buffer in the Parliament but returning his government with a reduced second-term majority.

 Seems like I might be on the money with my prediction of a Shorten ALP government after the election.
But the numbers depend almost entirely on who’s doing the counting.
Labor thinks 11 seats in Queensland are in play, but to others the margins in some seem insurmountable.
For example it would take an almost unachievable 6.7 per cent swing to unseat Immigration Minister (and part-time potato model) Peter Dutton in Dickson. But some plucky voters have a strategy to help make it happen on polling day.
Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

The key thing is that local factors will influence the national swing and an average swing of around 4 per cent may not be enough to unseat Turnbull if it does not occur in the right electorates (those that the ALP needs to win back and has a realistic chance of winning).

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Can Labor win? It ain’t gonna be easy, but it ain’t impossible either

May 29, 2016

For the last few days I’ve been allowing myself to think that Bill Shorten can actually beat the Fizza on July 2nd.

I know it’s going to be tough. The odds are not necessarily in Bill’s favour and we cannot underplay the significance of an all out News Corpse attack on Labor over the next few weeks. We saw how successful this was in 2010 and 2013 and Murdoch’s hacks will pull out all stops to see Shorten defeated.

However, despite the obstacles, we could actually have a Labor government in the second half of 2016.

Share your opinion at the end of this post in the EM polldaddy poll of polls.

The math is not impossible, but it might take a few miracles.

The Fizza hits the streets

The Fizza hits the streets

In a way perhaps I’m just channeling the late Bob Ellis. He predicted a Shorten victory way back in December last year. At the time I was wishing, but not hopeful, but now I am convinced Turnbull cannot win on 2 July.

A few handfuls of votes is all it takes

To be honest, the prospect of beating Malcolm and his fizzas comes down to a few handfuls of votes in some key swing seats. Labor has to take back 17 seats and this requires a swing of around 4 per cent or a bit more. It’s not impossible for this to happen.

NSW Seats 2013 % swing to coalition Change required in two party preferred vote
Banks 3.28 2000 votes
Barton 7.1 500 votes
Dobell 5.75 700 votes
Eden-Monaro 4.85 500 votes
Lindsay 4.11 3000 votes
Page 6.71 2500 votes
Reid 3.53 500 votes
Robertson 4.0 3500 votes
Victoria Seats
Corangamite 4.22 4000 votes
Deakin 3.78 2600 votes
La Trobe 5.67 4000 votes
QLD seats
Capricorn 4.45 1600 votes
Petrie 3.04 500 votes
SA seats
Hindmarsh 7.97 2000 votes
Tasmania seats
Bass 10.78 3000 votes
Braddon 10.4 1500 votes
Lyons 13.51 800 votes

When you break it down like this even a seat like Lyons in Tasmania is winnable for Labor if around 800 electors change their vote from the coalition to Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

Lyons is an interesting example because according to the ABC’s swingometer, a swing of just 1.4 per cent to Labor would mean they win this seat. At 1.4 per cent Labor would also win Capricornia and Petrie in Queensland.

A swing of just 1.7 per cent would also give Labor the seat of Solomon in the Northern Territory. A swing of just 1.9 per cent means that Labor also gains Hindmarsh in South Australia.

A gain of 2.7 per cent in Braddon would give Labor its second Tasmanian seat. Only 2.8 per cent and the NSW seat of Banks returns to Labor.

Take the swing to an even three per cent and Labor wins nine seats including the bellwether of Eden-Monaro in NSW. Add just 0.3 per cent to that and the seats of Robertson and Page (NSW) and Deakin (Victoria) return to Labor. At 3.4 per cent Labor gains Macarthur and Reid in NSW.

Macarthur would be the first seat to change hands in 2016 that was not held by Labor before the last election. In other words, it would be a loss for Turnbull, not a seat regained by the ALP. Significantly, a uniform swing of 3.4 per cent to Labor would result in a nearly hung Parliament.

Labor would have 71 seats, the coalition 75 and four would be in the hands of independents. It is at this point that the 2016 election becomes very interesting.

A swing of 3.7 per cent would give Labor its second steal from the Coalition, delivering Bonner (Qld). It is worth noting that this would require about 4000 people to switch their votes from 2013.

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