A Chinese base in Vanuatu, or another Fairfax beat up?

April 13, 2018

Should Australia be concerned about a rumoured Chinese military expansion in the Pacific? Or is it yet another distraction from the Government’s domestic problems? Political editor Dr Martin Hirst investigates.

First published on Independent Australia Wednesday 11 April

ON MONDAY this week. the Fairfax papers and websites ran an “exclusive” story with the alarming headline ‘China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications‘ — but is the story accurate? The lead par was an insistent and alarming allegation that China was planning a naval base in Vanuatu,

‘… that could see the rising superpower sail warships on Australia’s doorstep.’

However, in typical fashion – that we’ve come to expect from mainstream journalists covering the “security” round – the next two pars walked back the suggestion and sourced it to “senior security officials” in Canberra. In other words, the reporter, David Wroe, had been given a “drop” a background briefing by an Australian spook, because the Government wanted to float the idea and get a reaction.

‘While no formal proposals have been put to Vanuatu’s government, senior security officials believe Beijing’s plans could culminate in a full military base.’

The tell that this was a planted story is in the lack of detail and the vague sourcing:

‘The prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.’

The Vanuatu Government was quick to issue denials and even labelled the Fairfax reports as “fake news”.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said rumours of discussions with China over a military base were false.

We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country,” Mr Regenvanu told the ABC.

However, David Wroe’s story still had the effect desired by the Australian “security officials” who briefed him. Within hours, PM Turnbull was able to front the media to express Australia’s concern at the – still unproven – rumours.

We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours,” Turnbull bloviated.

This is an interesting position and an even more puzzling definition of “foreign”. The United States operates more than 20 military bases across the Pacific – from Hawaii to Japan and many ports in between – so why isn’t this alarming to our Prime Minister?

And this is what is really ironic and cynical about Turnbull’s concern: there is – as yet – no Chinese military base in Vanuatu, yet the United States operates permanent military bases throughout the Pacific, including in Australia, Japan (21 bases), Guam and South Korea. Read the rest of this entry »


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).

Read the rest of this entry »


Tony Abbott: Is he the “selfie” Prime Minister?

May 31, 2015

Tony Abbott has been Australia’s Prime Minister now for 630 days.

And what did he do to celebrate this Sunday?

He went on a “charity fun run“, just like he’s done for several years.

I am struggling to find evidence that even one of those long 630 days was spent in the service of the country he claims a mandate to lead.

All I have seen of our Dear Leader is a man intent on pandering to his own personal whims and the causes of moribund neoliberalism.

How many times over the past nearly two years has Tony Abbott donned the lycra, or the budgie smugglers, or the running shoes to demonstrate his Putinesque qualities and his hard-man physical prowess?

Has this man got nothing better to do than exercise

Has this man got nothing better to do than exercise

It’s been too many days in my book, and certainly enough to make it look like Abbott is a narcissist who has not really grown out of his teenage years. He still seems to live in the days of student politics, when he could ignore democratic procedures and run a student union like his own personal fiefdom.

In those days Abbott played to his loyal fanboys, the rugger buggers and college thugs. He still thinks this is his main constituency today.

This is now what Abbott is doing the the country. He plays to the fanboys, the racists and the fearful.

Read the rest of this entry »


Australia celebrating today: Liberals mortally wounded; workers finding their voice

February 1, 2015

If you’re a progressive in Australia this has been a good weekend and much more fun than the official “Australia Day” of last week.

The Soceroos beat South Korea 2-1 to win the Asian Cup in soccer.

Soceroos celebrating CanDo Newman's own goal last night.

Soceroos celebrating Campbell Newman’s own goal last night.

But even better, Campbell “Can Do” Newman got smashed in the Queensland state election and the knives are being sharpened in the Liberal caucus to stab Two Punch Tony Abbott in the back, the ribs, stomach and the neck.

In fact, by the end of the week he is likely to have more punctures than a balloon after a fight with a porcupine.

To top it off, the kool-aid slurping columnists on Rupert Murdoch’s Aussie rags are beside themselves with hubris and confusion.

So forget the soccer and the tennis; this weekend has been all about the politics.

After backing Two Punch Tony all the way for the past 16 months the NewsCorpse minions are now falling over each other in an attempt to explain away Abbott’s obvious failings and to shift the blame elsewhere.

Even the rusted-on Liberal editbot Chris Kenny is getting twitchy about Abbott’s chances.

It’s no surprise really because Rupert himself has been Twittering his thoughts to all and sundry; his editors could hardly miss the point:

Read the rest of this entry »


CanDo Newman — a losery winner in the Queensland election?

January 7, 2015

by Dr Mark Hayes

Dr Mark Hayes is a native Queenslander, a journalism academic, and a former researcher, reporter, and producer with the then ABC TV state-based weeknight current affairs programme, The 7.30 Report. He helped report on the Fitzgerald Inquiry and its aftermath, which continues today.

We’re off to the polls on January 31. Calm yourselves. The LNP will win.

After that confident prediction, several really interesting things may occur, interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

Rather than go into all the psephological details, the ABC’s indefatigable Antony Green is on the case.

Dr Hayes predicts an LNP win – let’s hope he’s wrong

The LNP will win because it holds a huge majority of seats in Queensland’s single chamber Parliament and there would have to be a genuinely astonishing state wide swing of almost 12% two party preferred against the Newman Government for Labor to win government in its own right. Then again, the massive swing against the Bligh Government in 2012 was astonishing.

Suprised? So are we

Suprised? So are we

The LNP holds 73 seats in Queensland’s 89 seat Parliament. The ALP holds nine, independents hold three, and Katter’s Australian Party holds three seats.

Just to be clear about this, Newman and the LNP didn’t win massively in 2012 because Queensland voters eagerly endorsed, understood, or were even told what their real agendas and policies were, and remain.

The LNP largely won so comprehensively because they weren’t the tired Bligh Labor Government which had betrayed voters by privatizing some state assets, such as Queensland Rail’s lucrative freight division, after promising voters they would not do so, and Queensland Labor ran an awful election campaign. Campbell Newman capitalized on his high profile as former Brisbane Lord Mayor and the fact he wasn’t Anna Bligh.

Essentially the same reason the largely accidental Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, elected Opposition Leader by one vote and then pursuing a relentlessly corrosive attack strategy, won in September, 2013. He wasn’t Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd and he wasn’t leading the ALP.

What has occurred since is largely backfilling the narratives to argue for ‘mandates’.

Read the rest of this entry »


Where are the journalism jobs in 2010? An initial study

December 1, 2010

Aoraki Polytechnic - Timaru

I’m recently arrived in Timaru for the New Zealand Journalism Education Association (JEANZ) 2010 annual conference.

I’m giving a paper examining the job market for journalists in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK. The bulk of this post is about that [and it’s quite interesting].

The JEANZ agenda looks great and just enough speakers to fill one-and-a-half days. Our host is Peter O’Neill and the Aoraki journalism staff. The theme this year is “What editors want”. I’m sitting in the very pleasant Aspen on King motel and I have a half-smirk / half-grimace on the dial as I ponder this statement.

You see, there is no question-mark, but perhaps there should be. At a similar session at last week’s Australian JEA conference, there was a lively debate between the panel of editorial trainers and the assembled hackademics. I’ve got some notes here somewhere…I’ll dig them out and be right back. Read the rest of this entry »


Journalism education ‘down under’: A tale of two paradigms

September 17, 2009

My article on similarities and differences in journalism education in Australia and New Zealand has been electronically published and is now available online.
The print version will be in Journalism Studies (11)1 published in January 2010. Here’s the published abstract and a link to the online version (I  think you have to pay for access, or go through a library)

AB – Journalism studies is currently undergoing one of the periodic renovations that is characteristic of an active and diverse community of scholars. This paper examines aspects of this renewal debate among journalism scholars by focusing on the situation in Australia and New Zealand. It argues that the debate “Down Under” mirrors global differences on the issues of “theory” and “practice” in journalism education and that an understanding of the key fault lines in this context can provide useful insights into the wider arguments. In Australia and New Zealand a key area of discussion is around attitudes towards the concept of professionalism in the practice, training and scholarship of journalism. These tensions are apparent in both the news media and in the academy. The contradictory positions of those who favour greater industry involvement in curriculum matters, including accreditation of courses, and those who are less sanguine a bout the normative influence of industry on critical scholarship are explored in relation to differing attitudes to professionalism and the political economy of news production. The paper concludes that rather than pegging the debate to an unstable definition of professionalism, journalism educators should instead focus more on journalism scholarship founded on a political economy approach.
UR – http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/02615470903217345
TY – JOUR
JO – Journalism Studies
PB – Routledge
AU – Hirst, Martin
TI – JOURNALISM EDUCATION “DOWN UNDER” — A tale of two paradigms
SN – 1461-670X
PY – 2009 –