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Gaslighting. When media deny collusion.

10 Feb

 

In this discussion between journalists Malcolm Farr, Alice Workman, Caroline Overington and Fran Kelly yesterday, Farr and Workman take a swipe at those of us who have suggested that there has been collusion between the press gallery and the government to keep the Barnaby Joyce affair under wraps.

(Interesting times, Overington, a Murdoch employee, attacks her colleagues for not reporting on the Joyce affair.)

In fact, there’s nothing like suggesting collusion to invoke scorn and contempt from press gallery and msm journalists, who seem to assume that what one actually means by that term is an overt decision, taken in the middle of the night on burner phones by senior public servants, government MPs and senior media management to not publish or to delay publication of material that could in some way affect their mutual interests.

Such a scenario might well play out from time to time, I have no idea, however, what I mean when I use the term “collusion” is something far more subtle.

Every workplace, every family, every institution, every social media platform, indeed every human interaction is governed by overt rules, agreed upon by the culture and known to everyone. Far more elusive, however, are the unspoken rules, the implicit codes, the behavioural nuances deemed appropriate and inappropriate that you won’t find in policies and procedures guidelines. These are part of the culture of every institution, and all individual interactions. These tacit assumptions exercise an unspoken and unacknowledged control, constrain behaviour, and are arguably are more influential in determining behaviour than are the overt rules.

The press gallery, msm journalists, government employees and MPs are as enslaved by these unspoken cultural requirements as is any other human being. When Guardian journalist Katharine Murphy tweeted about the “convention” in the press gallery that MPs’ private lives are a no go area, she was referring to these unspoken rules.

It is to these undocumented conventions that I refer when suggesting  collusion or conspiracy between the press gallery and the government.

It probably won’t take you very long to identify the unspoken rules in your family that governed your behaviour, and the effects they’ve had on your life for better or for worse. Or in social media interactions, in the workplace, where nobody tells you about these cultural conventions, you have to pick them up, and you can be mightily ostracised if you unknowingly transgress. It isn’t difficult to image the powerful hold unverbalised conventions have over the culture that is parliament and the press gallery. Murphy names but one.

This conspiracy of silence on private lives in Australian politics cannot help but position the “ordinary” citizen as an outsider, marginalised in a democratic process to which we are, in theory if increasingly not in practice, essential. Many of us sense this exclusion and privilege, and many of us describe it, quite legitimately, as conspiracy and collusion.

Perhaps nobody actually said, “do not publish anything on the Joyce affair.” But nobody actually needed to spell it out. It would be known, via that mysterious process characterised as a nod and a wink, and in some instances not even that much would be required, what was to be said about Joyce, and when it was to be said, if it was to be said at all, and by whom. This is a process to which the punters cannot possibly have any access, and it is perfectly reasonable for us to experience that as collusion and conspiracy.

We are then gas-lighted by journalists who deny such a process ever takes place, and that we’re crazed conspiracy theorists living with our mothers, writing paranoid blogs in our grubby dressing gowns.

There are, however, instances in which the subtleties are abandoned and more direct orders issued. AFR journo Phil Coorey published this in December 2017:

Queenslander Keith Pitt, who Mr Joyce does not like, was not only overlooked but dumped from his job as parliamentary secretary for trade,” Coorey wrote.

“The two recently had a bitter argument about Mr Joyce’s infidelity and marriage breakup. Mr Joyce blamed Mr Pitt for spreading the rumours, a claim Mr Pitt denies.

Shortly afterwards these paragraphs disappeared from Coorey’s piece, after both Pitt and Joyce contacted him with denials. Fortunately, Twitter had secured a screen shot of Coorey’s original piece.

 

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The Joyce affair: how the media didn’t know about it for sure until yesterday. No, really.

9 Feb

 

Over the last twenty-four hours since the Daily Telegraph revealed the worst-kept secret of 2017, there’s been a deluge of rather plaintive articles from journalists explaining why they didn’t publish the story of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s extra marital affair with his former staffer who is also pregnant with his child, due in April.

Some have claimed they were respecting his right to privacy. Some have taken the high moral ground and spoken at length about gossip, rumours and lack of evidence. Or, “We asked him and he said no, it’s private.” That’s one of my favourites. Not in the public interest to publish, is another explanation. I addressed this last one here,  in October 2017, prior to the New England by-election in December.

In this piece titled “How Vikki Campion came to work for Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce,” Malcolm Farr gives background to the affair. Bearing in mind that Farr has tweeted that the affair was only a rumour, denied by Joyce, I found this paragraph in his piece startling:

Inside the Joyce office there were other clues and they were quickly picked up by the minister’s highly respected chief of staff Di Hallam.
Ms Hallam took two important steps: She sent Mr Joyce to the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reveal the romance and Ms Campion was moved to the office of then Resources Minister Matt Canavan in late 2016.
“Clearly they thought her presence would be a problem, so she (Ms Hallam) made a decision,” said a source familiar with the situation.

In 2016, the affair was far more than a “rumour.” It was considered so serious that the Prime Minister was advised, and Ms Campion was moved (according to some accounts promoted with a salary increase) to Canavan’s office to get her out of the way.

As Farr acknowledges: … the romance, by its very existence, became part of the delivery of public policy and taxpayer-funded staffing.

In other words, it qualified as a public interest story, and did so from the time Ms Hallam intervened in 2016.

I have no idea, of course, when Mr Farr came upon this information. He could quite possibly have acquired it in the last twenty-four hours. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that nobody in the press gallery knew of the seriousness of these events until the Telegraph decided to publish them.

Well, that is what much of the media is asking you to believe.

Mr Farr’s account of the progress of the affair is detailed. He must have spoken to a lot of people over the last twenty-four hours.

Joyce is Acting Prime Minister when Turnbull is absent. Ms Campion was promoted out of his office not because she earned the new job, but to separate them. The affair continues, is described by Farr as “well-known secret,” advances to the point where it appears, according to Farr, that everyone who comes in contact with the couple realises immediately what’s happening except, sadly, Natalie Joyce, Barnaby’s betrayed wife who made this admirably frank statement about her feelings yesterday.

I don’t know about you, but I find it almost impossible to believe the press gallery did not know of the seriousness of the situation until the last twenty-four hours.

One could almost exclaim at the ineptitude of the press gallery, if they didn’t know anything more than “unpublishable rumours.”

It is of course impossible to ascertain what effect the affair would have had on the New England by-election, had it been revealed in October instead of yesterday. There are conflicting opinions on this: Joyce would have won anyway, some claim, while others suggest that New England voters did not go to the polls in full knowledge of Joyce’s character and circumstances, and might well have considered their options had they not been denied that information.

What matters, I’d suggest, is that they were denied that information, and this matters  lot.

What we do know is that the Turnbull government, with a one-seat majority, was desperate for a win in New England.They needed the seat, and they needed the morale boost. They could not afford to risk a loss.

The hounding by the media of private citizens (remember Andie Fox?) other politicians (Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, Julia Gillard, to name but a few) makes me somewhat leery of high-moral-ground justifications of the hands-off Barnaby policy.

And, if it wasn’t in the public interest to report on Barnaby’s affair before the New England by-election, why is it suddenly in the public interest now?

 

 

 

In Turnbull’s skewed moral universe only “good” survivors get recognition.

16 Dec

 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse hadn’t quite concluded when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Social Security Minister Christian Porter embarked on their malfeasant project of creating two tiers of abuse survivors, 

In their proposed and ill-named redress scheme, (there can be no “redress,” there can only be recognition of awful suffering) a survivor of childhood sexual abuse will receive no “compensation” if he or she has spent five or more years in jail: The bill excludes anyone convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences.

At present in this country it is up to the judiciary to determine the punishment for crimes, not politicians and bureaucrats. Yet if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has done/is doing time for your crime, you will now be further punished by your ineligibility for recognition.

It isn’t enough that survivors have survived criminal sexual assaults, the majority of which attracted no punishment at all for the perpetrators. It isn’t enough that survivors are already punished as our judiciary deems appropriate. Now Turnbull and Porter have decided  to further punish this group of survivors, because they can, and because it might save them a little bit of money they can spend on Peter Dutton’s spin doctors.

Apparently, in the skewed moral universe of Malcolm Turnbull, the damage done by sexual assaults perpetrated upon you when you were a little kid is superseded by your behaviour as an adult.

This is a sickening conflation. Survivors are not being rewarded by “compensation:” it’s a small financial recognition for lives ruined by the failure of authorities to fulfil their basic obligations and responsibilities to children in their care. No adult crime erases the legitimacy of trauma caused by childhood abuse, yet Turnbull’s two-tiered scheme implies that this is the case.

In the LNP world, childhood sexual abuse in itself doesn’t earn you the right to be recognised by your government and the institutions responsible for your suffering. You are only deserving of recognition if you are a good survivor.

It doesn’t matter what happened to you. You still need to behave like the ruling class thinks you should behave. This is what is most important. Not the crimes committed against you. Not the trauma you’ve struggled with your whole life. Not the perpetrators who escape accountability, including those who covered up the crimes against you. No. None of that.

You need to be a nice survivor. You need to behave.

 

Ruddock: The man who called a refugee child “it”

23 Nov

Philip Ruddock

 

In August 2001, 6 year-old Shayan Badraie, an Iranian asylum seeker who arrived by boat in Australia with his family, became seriously ill with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder after spending seventeen months in the Woomera and Villawood  detention centres.

During the time he was detained with his family, Shayan witnessed suicide attempts, and great unrest within the Woomera prison. A letter I received from an asylum seeker described the conditions thus:

I see hundreds of people begging and crying, and I see people dehydrating in the sun. I see people with sewn lips and buried in the ground ’cause that’s what they did. I see people slash up and cut their throats and arms.

Shayan refused to eat, drink, and walk. After his plight was exposed in an ABC TV investigation of Australia’s detention centres, public outrage was focused on the Immigration Minister at that time, Philip Ruddock.

Ruddock claimed Shayan’s illness had nothing to do with his experiences in the detention centres. If the child was ill, Ruddock claimed in an interview with Kerry O’Brien on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report, it was because “it was not a natural child of the mother, it’s a stepchild.”

Ruddock referred to Shayan as “it” throughout the interview.

Philip Ruddock is an enthusiastic stamp collector. As Immigration Minister, he took the stamps from letters he received from people all over the world, requesting asylum, and requesting information about loved ones in Australian detention camps. Letters forwarded to him by Amnesty International, of which organisation he was a member, and whose badge he wore with pride. Amnesty eventually attempted to distance themselves from Ruddock’s inhumane policies by publicly requesting that he not wear their badge, as did his daughter, who was so distressed by her father’s position on indefinite detention, especially of children, that she left the country to work for an aid organisation.

Ruddock’s wife gave him a Chinese cabinet with many drawers, in which to store his stamps. He joked that it was one of the good things about getting so many letters from Amnesty, a growing stash of stamps for him to sort in his retirement.

With what hopes were those stamps bought, what fears, what dreams? Stamps on envelopes containing stories that might break your heart. In a chilling act of appallingly twisted appropriation, Ruddock took the stamps for his hobby, while simultaneously writing into history a narrative that transformed asylum seekers into criminals, terrorists and potential murderers of their own children:

 

Philip Ruddock has just been appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to chair a panel tasked with reviewing religious protections, perceived by the right-wing as threatened after the recent marriage equality YES vote. As John Howard’s Attorney-General in 2004, Ruddock introduced the bill that prevented marriage equality by changing the wording of the Marriage Act to describe the institution as legal between a man and a woman only.

Here is a piece I wrote on Tuesday for Independent Australia on the separation of church and state, increasingly threatened by demands from conservatives for laws that protect their “religious freedoms.” When I wrote the post, I had no idea of Ruddock’s new role.

Australia has been torturing refugees who arrived by boat for seventeen years. Ruddock was an essential part of the early and illegal inhumanity during his time as Immigration Minister.

These people have attempted to invade our sovereign territory, he said of the waterborne asylum seekers. They have jumped the queue of legitimate refugees legally attempting to achieve asylum in this country. They have broken our laws. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media must ask LNP: Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?

21 Nov

 

Refugees on Manus in peaceful protest

Since the days of the Tampa, seventeen years ago,  I’ve heard it said repeatedly that Australians don’t care about what happens to asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here by boat, perfectly legitimately, seeking only sanctuary.

Obviously after seventeen years, during which the treatment of boat arrivals has only gone downhill, I must finally accept that this is true. If enough Australians cared, refugees on Manus Island would not be suffering as they are. If enough Australians cared, Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull would not be conducting what amounts to a state-sanctioned experiment in torture: how long can people live without water, food, medicine, and medical attention in tropical conditions before they become extremely and or chronically ill, or die.

This is the experiment being conducted by our government. Australia is about to find out how long human beings can survive under these conditions. Australia is about to find out what the effects are on human beings of being subjected to these conditions if they don’t die. This is state-sanctioned experimentation on human beings. If you don’t agree, please, do tell me what you call it.

Every journalist should be asking every government MP they interview: Do you intend to allow the men on Manus to die? This is the only question that needs to be asked at this point. And nobody, but nobody, is asking it. The media are, with a couple of exceptions, as complicit in this state-sanctioned human experimentation as are politicians.

I am not particularly personally affected by which major party is in government. I’m not subject to Centrelink robodebt torment, for example. I’m not suffering the indignity of being unable to marry my same-sex partner. I don’t live in the vicinity of a proposed coal mine. I’m not desperately casting about for affordable child care so I can go to work. In terms of my material comfort and safety, either major party will, in general, do. Yet I’ve consistently, for decades, argued and fought for policies that seem to me fair and decent, whilst railing against injustices, not because they directly affect me, but because I’ve believed Australians, human beings, deserve the best and the fairest.

For the first time in my voting life, I understand the impulse to refuse the privilege of voting for any politician. This is not only because I am beyond disgusted over their collective treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Now I’m disgusted at Australians. The Australians I’ve always considered when I cast my vote. The Australians who don’t care what happens to the men on Manus and the families on Nauru. The Australians who enable, either actively or passively, this government’s experimentation on human beings who did nothing more than ask us to help them. That’s all they did. They asked us to help them.

To all the Australians who don’t care, I no longer care about you. I don’t care who governs you. It won’t bother me. It won’t affect my lifestyle. I’m not voting in your best interests anymore. I’m not voting at all.

There are 600 men on Manus Island who are, as I write this, being denied food, water, medication and medical care by your government. They are walking around leaking pus from wounds on their feet and legs. They are vomiting and shitting because the only water they have to drink is from wells they’ve dug, and it’s bad water. Your government destroyed their rainwater supply, and their means to gather rainwater. Your government has forbidden the Lorengau pharmacy to supply them with water purification tablets, and medicine. Your government is refusing to allow doctors from the AMA into the detention centre compound to treat their illnesses. They are perhaps only days away from outbreaks of dysentery and or cholera. They have no toilets. They have no power.

Remember, they have committed no crime. They simply asked us for sanctuary. They simply asked us for help.

And remember that while at the moment only the LNP can take any action to relieve their suffering, it has been inflicted on them by both major parties.

Are you proud to be Australian? I’m not.

 

In which the gas chambers are invoked to distract from dual citizenship. Yes. Really.

5 Nov

 

 

I planned on beginning this piece with: “The latest MP to fall foul of S44 in the current citizenship saga is Minister for Energy, Josh Frydenberg.”

However, two hours ago I heard that Alex Hawke has now come under scrutiny. Life comes at you fast when you’re a citizen blogger trying to keep up.

The possibility of Frydenberg holding dual citizenship was raised by The Australian, who must have it in for him for reasons I won’t attempt to deconstruct at the moment, except to say he’s a mate of Malcolm’s and Murdoch apparently is not.

Frydenberg responded with strong denials, producing an archival document in which his grandfather states that Josh’s mother, Erika, born in the Budapest ghetto and then aged about seven, was stateless when the family arrived in Australia from Hungary.

There are two more archived documents, one of which was written by Australian authorities when the family arrived at the port of Fremantle in 1950. This states the family is Hungarian, and that they travelled from Hungary on a valid passport. These documents can be seen in the first link at the top of this page.

The final document was issued by US authorities when the family was in transit. It describes Erika as a Hungarian transient, apparently the designation given to Jews by the Hungarian government at that time, and is on the left below.

It seems there are many questions surrounding these documents, given the period in which they were issued. However, for the purposes of establishing citizenship, Frydenberg must, like the other MPs, be referred to the High Court, with all the paperwork available to him.

What is remarkable in this case, however, is that Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have sought to make Frydenberg’s citizenship status all about the Holocaust.

If you haven’t seen Turnbull’s morally degenerate, calculatedly over-dramatised efforts to deflect these citizenship concerns by invoking the gas chambers, please do watch this video. It is a lesson in spin, the like of which you are unlikely to see again anytime soon.

Frydenberg threw his mother, and his family under a bus in an abject and shameful attempt to save his job. There was absolutely no need to drag them through this revisitation of highly traumatic events. He simply had to take himself to the High Court like everyone else, and make his case.

Instead, he and Turnbull have run the line that it is highly offensive, and anti semitic, to even question Frydenberg’s eligibility for parliament, because his Jewish family fled Hungary and the threat of death in the gas chambers, and have suffered enough.

It’s astounding that Frydenberg and Turnbull should attempt to manipulate such overwhelming tragedy for profane political purposes. But they have. Why, one could well ask Frydenberg, did you bring your family into this at all, particularly your mother, when all you had to do was present yourself to the Court with your documents?

The other hideous irony to emerge from Turnbull’s video is that many of the points he makes about the treatment of Jews by the Nazis are absolutely applicable to the treatment he is himself inflicting upon refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. As he attempts to destroy the 600 Manus men by denying them food, water, medicine, and the protection Australia owes them, and as he refuses to allow even 150 of them to be resettled in New Zealand, for no reason other than they might actually make a life there, the Chairman of the New Zealand Holocaust Centre drew these parallels:

We keep wondering how much worse Turnbull and the LNP government can get. And every time we wonder, they descend even deeper into a pit of moral and ethical slime.

But surely, you might well protest, using the gas chambers in an effort keep your job and hold onto government is going to take some beating.

But wait. There’s more. Genocide on Manus Island. There’s still that.

Media women name & shame sexual predators. Unless they are politicians.

26 Oct

 

Further allegations have been made against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, including multiple sexual harassment and molestation claims dating back to 2012.

One of the allegations concerns a 17 year-old girl.

On ABC TV’s The Drum yesterday evening, a segment was devoted to the latest alleged high-profile offender, banished by Conde Naste from practising his profession as a fashion photographer after allegations of serial sexual harassment and assault of his model subjects. Katherine Murphy was one of the panelists, and the host was Julia Baird.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch Australian political journalists comment on sexual harassment by powerful men in every workplace other than the Australian parliament. The elephant loomed large in the studio as Baird and Murphy discussed a topic over which journalists have thrown a cone of silence when it concerns Australian politicians.

It’s increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Australian journalists are complicit in, and enable, sexual harassment and worse in the parliamentary workplace.

The situation for alleged victims of Australian politicians’ sexual impropriety is a dire one. At the best of times women (and victims are predominantly women) struggle to be heard and believed when we complain about sexual harassment and assault. It’s been obvious for some time now that the media play a significant role in bringing harassers to everyone’s attention, giving victims a voice, and making it difficult or impossible for perpetrators to continue their behaviour.

Yet none of this support is available to women harassed in the parliamentary workplace, because the media will not investigate, and will not report on sexual crimes and misdemeanours occurring there.

How ironic that there is currently a name and shame campaign under way, led by high-profile journalist Tracey Spicer, against men who harass women employed in the Australian media, while at the same time, media women protect politicians from scrutiny. This selective approach to outing sexual harassers in the workplace damages the credibility of every woman involved in the campaign, particularly those who comment on politics.

This post by J.R. Hennessy on the Press Gallery convention that protects politicians from scrutiny of their “private lives” is excellent, and well worth a read.

I continue to ask the questions: why are politicians given the freedom by journalists to sexually harass and abuse women, a freedom that exists in no other Australian workplace? Why don’t the Press Gallery care about women in the parliamentary workplace?

The idea of protecting perpetrators because they are “entitled to privacy” has kept women and children in violent and abusive situations for centuries. That it continues to hold sway at the heart of our democracy is absolutely shameful, and every political commentator should be absolutely ashamed if they support this long out-dated convention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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