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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 4 May 2007
Howard takes Combet invite on 7.30, Combet takes ALP invite, but democracy here still shaky?
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: election Oz 2007

Picture: Greg Combet image on the ACTU website here still, and alot more flattering than the rather nasty image chose by Fairfax today here

Can the Howard government be trusted with our democracy anymore? This practitioner of community media has reason to ponder the question having been menaced and given an almost certainly illegal ban from Sydney University Campus on May 2nd 2007. But more of that below.

This morning minister Joe Hockey was on ABC radio arguing the federal govt backflip on the strict Work Choices policy was after “listening” to the stakeholders and a sign of a “good government” (and see Greg Combet quote in bold below of 2nd May on the 7.30 Report):


PM retreats: safety net for battlers

John Howard JOHN HOWARD will today acknowledge public concern over his industrial relations laws by introducing a "battlers' clause" designed to prevent people on low to middle incomes from being stripped of work conditions for nothing in return.

Others might not be so generous as to the democratic instincts of Hockey’s boss John Howard and his regime, and don't you love the monkey face choice of PM's photo above.


Here is a catalogue from open sources of fairly broad concern in the last week or so which taken together suggest shaky democracy here, and at the least evidencing hunger for change from an oppressive 11 year old government:


1. Malcolm Frazer ex PM as reported in Crikey.com.au May 1st 2007

Fraser: Howard's "evil purpose" 
Malcolm Fraser writes:

This is an extract from a speech former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser gave yesterday at the Australian National University -- read the full text here.

So David Hicks will be home by the end of the year, partially gagged. The gag order which was undermined by information provided to the British Government and subsequently published in his application to become a British citizen and subject to the same treatment as other British citizens formerly held in Guantanamo Bay.

And so this story comes to an end but at what a price. The main story is not David Hicks. The main story is a willingness of two allegedly democratic governments prepared to throw every legal principle out the window and establish a process that we would expect of tyrannical regimes. That our own democracies should be prepared to so abandon the Rule of Law for an expedient and as I believe, evil purpose should greatly disturb all of us. But how many are concerned? Too many are not concerned because they believe that such a derogation of justice can only apply to people who are different, in some indefinable way.

Only the other day I was speaking with somebody who quite plainly believed that Hicks deserved anything that was metered out to him because he was what he was, the Rule of Law did not need to apply. For somebody who has done terrible things, why does he deserve justice? That denies the whole basis of our system, the necessity of a civilised society which cannot exist unless there is an open, predictable justice system that applies equally to every person.

David Hicks at the best was clearly a very foolish young man. He was terribly misguided and may well have done some terrible things. I do not know. But if our Government says he has had his day in court, he made a plea bargain, therefore he deserved what he got, it only emphasises its lack of commitment to the Rule of Law for all people.

If the Government believes it to be expedient, we now know that it is prepared to push the Rule of Law aside. That is a larger issue than the tragedy of David Hicks.

A number of Liberals have spoken out about these and similar issues in relation to asylum seekers or refugees, or people improperly treated in Department of Immigration detention centres. Too many have remained silent. Does silence connote acquiescence, acceptance or fear, being fearful of standing and saying what they know to be right? A Liberal who fails to recognise the central importance of these issues for the maintenance of a fair and just democracy, bears no resemblance to the Liberals of Menzies’ day and to the Party that Menzies founded.


2. Paul Keating ex PM refers to News Ltd journalist attacks on collective bargaining as "fascists" on World Today radio show recently: The World Today - Rudd's IR policy doesn't wind-back my reforms ...

“Now this is what… all of those middle of the road fascists in the News Corporation papers all going on this morning on the front page of The Telegraph and The Australian and the hand-wringing, the conservative columnists in The Sydney Morning Herald… these people would not have the wit to compose an industrial relations policy and for most of Australia's history, for a century of it, of course, we had this industrial relations system, which I abolished.”


3. Crikey.com.au 2nd May 2007 in their opening editorial reports News Ltd admission to Latham they have huge proportion of their staff on AWAs so going the biff on Julia Gillard for strongly defending the democratic principle of collective bargaining:

Dear Sole Subscriber,

The Australian ran another lengthy editorial deriding the ALP's IR policy today. And on its front page it revealed the anonymous mutterings of a single Labor frontbencher about disquiet at Julia Gillard's performance. ''Labor team turns on Gillard'' headlined the Oz, while the Daily Telegraph screamed ''Julia falls flat''.

But is there more to this than mere ideological outrage in what is becoming a blatant campaign by News Limited's papers to wake their readership from any lingering honeymoon dalliance with Kevin Rudd? Why is it that News Ltd takes so strong a line in favour of WorkChoices and Australian Workplace Agreements? Ideology or simple self-interest?

Mark Latham said it first in his diaries:

Thursday 11 March 2004: “... trekked out Cavan to meet with Lachlan Murdoch and John Hartigan. They wanted a get-to-know you opportunity, so the Evil Empire must think I’m a chance. No harm in turning up to see what they are up to. Paul Kelly was right about this duo: lacklustre and over-rated ... Two main political issues: AWAs and Foxtel. Murdoch’s company has the highest number of AWAs in the country; all their journalists are on individual contracts. Hartigan pressed hard for me to drop our policy dedicated to their abolition, but I told him there was no chance of that.”

According to a News spokesman this morning, half of its journalists are on AWAs, a small portion of the 2500 Australian News employees on individual agreements. To give that some context, there are, according to government figures, just 17,276 AWAs across the entire information, media and telecommunications sector.

News looks set to wage this campaign until the election, and if it does, Kevin Rudd has every reason to fear what The Australian, the Courier-Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Hobart Mercury, etc might yet achieve.

The thing Kevin Rudd has to avoid if he is to win the election is the doubt factor. So, when it comes to sowing small seeds of doubt in the minds of millions of reading voters as to Labor's capacity to manage the economy, the Murdoch headlines could be bullets. “

4.  Greg Combet still until today secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (but see Combet to stand for Labor ) on 2nd May 2007, on 7.30 Report trenchantly defended the "human right" in “democratic societies” to collectively organise in the workplace


GREG COMBET: Well, can I make the obvious point first in answering that. That is within John Howard's power now. If he is concerned about people losing take-home pay and their penalty rates and their public holiday pay and the like, he controls both houses of Parliament. He could fix that now. And in fact if the business community was genuinely concerned about lower-paid employees in the Australian community in particular being disadvantaged, they could lobby for that change now. But they do not.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yeah but - but my question is about Labor policy and a Labor Government.

GREG COMBET: Flexibility for them means the capacity to cut pay.

KERRY O'BRIEN: My question is why would you have a problem with that proposition I've put to you under a Labor government? Doesn't that resolve the problems?

GREG COMBET: Because, well, it resolves one of them and you remember I made two points. The other point is that it's been a feature of democratic societies, certainly throughout the post-war period, it was seen as a very important democratic principle. It's actually an internationally respected human right that where a majority of employees wish to collectively bargain, they should have that entitlement. That should be a right because individual employees do not have the same bargaining power as an international mining company.”





5. Our corporate big media are getting scared of their overlords, witness  the SMH spiking the Wendy Deng profile for Good Weekend as reported here by crikey.com.au


Fairfax kills vast profile of Murdoch's wife , Date: Friday, 20 April 2007 By Jane Nethercote

Here’s one crackerjack cover story you won’t be reading in Good Weekend magazine any time soon – the revealing inside account of the life and times of Wendi Deng [wife of Rupert Murdoch owner of News Ltd on the Fairfax share register]  

That’s because the story, a vast 10,000-word profile that took its writer three months of research across the world, was killed by Good Weekend's editor (or someone above her) two days ago.

Crikey has learned that Good Weekend editor Judith Whelan commissioned Eric Ellis, a highly regarded Australian freelance journalist based in Singapore (who works as Fortune magazine’s South East Asia correspondent) several months ago to write the definitive story of Wendi Deng, the Chinese-born wife of Rupert Murdoch.

Ellis spent three months on the assignment, travelling to London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and to Xuzhou in Jiang Su province where the young Wendi Deng started her eventful life. Crikey understands he talked to dozens of people, including the ex-wife of Deng’s older first husband, Murdoch watchers, current and former executives and Wendi’s school friends and teachers." ......


This echoes the spiking by the govt controlled ABC of a highly profitable Alan Jones profile by their in house highly effective, oft sainted, reptile Chris Master after a good year of hard work: ABC confirms Jones book dumped by board. 05/07/2006. ABC News Online



6. The Greens excellent, scary, depressing website Democracy4sale website regarding developer bribes as effective gerrymander of the whole parliamentary basis of our constitution against other minor parties or independent MPs: http://www.democracy4sale.org/


7. The sale of yet another competing newspaper organisation to News Ltd, this time Hannan newspapers (eg Wentworth Courier) as reported in a feature in the latest City Hub newspaper by owner/editor Lawrence Gibbons April 2007, offline: "Two's company: Australia's newspaper duopoly carves up the spoils".



8. The Free Speech policy of the Opposition underlining the need for such, reported by the media union here:

Alliance Welcomes ALP Free Speech Policy


Monday, 30 April 2007

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance commends Labor for policy put forth at its National Conference to bolster and protect freedom of the press. The policy annoucement includes legislation for proper Freedom of Information laws, protection for confidential sources and whistleblowers, and revised sedition laws. “We congratulate the opposition for taking a strong stance on press freedom, and putting the public interest rightfully ahead of unchecked political power,” said Alliance federal secretary Chris Warren. Read the full press release here...


9. The descent of Australia down the league tables in the 2007 Press Freedom Report , again via the MEAA website


Thursday, 26 April 2007

A creeping authoritarianism has been the hallmark of the past 12 months in the Australian press. Government and the courts continue to restrict what journalists can report and where they can go, criminalising the media’s professional obligations and wielding ever-greater unchecked power. A host of prominent Australian journalists and the Alliance reflect on the slow erosion of press freedom in 2006 in Official Spin: Censorship and Control of the Australian Press. Download the full report in pdf format here.



Picture: File room of the East German Stasi, made famous again recently in an acclaimed movie of that miserable organisation called Lives of others reported here BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Seven awards to German Stasi film


10. Ban of a freelance news blogger from Sydney University Campus for simply trying to report a student rally yesterday.


Related background here:

From: SAM editor To: Senator Coonan (Lib, Govt), Senator Allison (Democrat), Senator Nettle (Green), Senator Conroy (ALP), NSW Council for Civil Liberties

CC: Sydney Uni Student Representative Council, Senator Faulkner (ALP, President), Tanya Plibersek (MP Sydney), Media Arts Entertainment Alliance, Australian Services Union

Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2007 9:17 AM

Subject: indefinite ban on news blog service from Sydney Uni campus for reporting student rally May 2nd 07


----- Original Message -----

From: SAM editor

To: Sydney University senate admin and Vice Chancellor’s office

Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 6:52 PM

Subject: abuse of power by 23 year old security officer Davis issuing a vexatious 'termination of licence' to attend USYD campus




Please copy to all members of the Senate


2nd May 2007



Dear Mr Brown/Vice Chancellor,


Re vexatious abuse of power by your security officer Peter Davis


I am a 42 year old public interest lawyer here in Sydney who works in the community media sector and this is a complaint about abuse of power by one of your university security staff in a most undemocratic way today.


This web based news service attached below is doubling in readers ever month, currently at around 12,000 readers after 4 months. My impression is most of the local political community and media keep an eye on it's content as well as the Big Media including the ABC. I'm noticing that this alternative media site often informs the content of their high circulation media.


My feeling is your security officer the big strong 23 year old Peter Davis mentioned in the story below has abused his authority very badly on a personal ego trip.


I can only imagine what he thought he was doing deliberately intimidating and harrassing me and lecturing me on land law about how the campus is "private land" and then driving me off the campus indefinitely on a tissue thin pretext.


There is no doubt in my mind this was deliberate politically motivated harrassment and indeed stalking.


I absolutely reject any grounds for the issuing of 'a termination of licence' to attend the campus to do community reportage of what was essentially a public event. I hardly have any reason to attend the Sydney University campus but even so the legal notice is an affront and an outrageous slur on my professional reputation.


I will have to seriously consider my legal options, and I have in mind to sue the university for this slur. I request you arrange to have the notice cancelled forthwith, otherwise I would have to conclude there is an attempt to improperly ban me from the campus on the odd occasion I may want to visit the climbing gym or attend a function or indeed do paid work or as in this case do community media reportage.


Frankly I find this curb on community media quite obscene and I will be copying this letter to the President of the SRC Angus McFarland with whom I briefly discussed this situation today. I have pointed out to him if he wants to have future rallies or events reported upon I would need the legal right enter the campus. This is an issue of basic norms of free speech and freedom of the media.


It remains quite a puzzle to me why as evidenced in pictures below Mr Davis deliberately focused on me to take my picture. It is true I took a picture of these two staff in uniform because at first I thought they were NSW police in such a similar uniform. And second it was news, although only incidental,  that they were attending the student rally. Yet somehow it brought on this extraordinarily officious and heavy handed treatment.


Where do you stand exactly on democratic reporting of the news? Do you support at the leadership level of the university this apparent vendetta and revenge for doing my community media work? I sincerely hope not for the sake of the university if not the country.


I look forward to your response in due course by return email. I am contactable on tel. 0410 558838. My mailing address is C/- Addison Rd Community Centre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville 2204.


I reserve the right to publish this letter in due course.


Yours truly


Tom McLoughlin, solicitor in NSW



full report with gallery of photos of the rally and march at this link




Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Student public education rally: SAM reporter banned 'indefinitely' from Sydney University campus for reporting event
Topic: independent media


We say as a solicitor here in NSW the notice banning us from Sydney University is some kind of Stasi power game and almost certainly illegal, notwithstanding the campus have a land tenure like Darling Harbour and the Opera House known as “inclosed lands” under a 1901 Act because the notice handed to me was


-         manifestly unreasonable as evidenced by its “indefinite” term  and intent to oppress reportage of a student rally,

-         for an improper purpose of secrecy and censorship of democratic communication implied under our Commonwealth Constitution,

-         issued on the basis of irrelevant factors - revenge for taking a picture of security enforcing a poster ban and intimidating a student seeking their name and address (but stay tuned for invented smears by officious security low on the food chain to protect their backside?),

-         and failure to consider relevant facts (community media work responding to a public invitation is in fact a valid reason to be on the university campus).


I can imagine evidence of other grounds coming to light, like political bias,  especially if I am ever arrested by these goons for doing my community media work on that campus, plead not guilty, and issue a notice for discovery of documents in a court contest: A notice seeking discovery of

- tender documents for security services apparently under consideration at the moment;

- a culture of vexatious legal tactics for secrecy at the university, a tone it seems set from the top judging by this article yesterday in the Big Media:

Academe rewards kept mum  May 3rd 2007 p20, How much does a vice-chancellor earn? In the case of some universities we may never know, writes Matthew Moore.

To quote: "compared with Sydney University, Wollongong is a fresh breath of openness and transparency. At Sydney, the decision refusing access to everything, made by the registrar, William Adams (who certainly put his legal qualifications to use), is a detailed determination drawing heavily on the Fomiatti decision.

The contract appointing Gavin Brown as vice-chancellor in 1996 did not have a confidentiality clause, but Dr Adams says a letter from the then chancellor, Dame Leonie Kramer, was marked "personal and in confidence". This was as good as a confidentiality clause for the purposes of denying access.

After all, Dr Adams said, the information in the contract "has the necessary quality of confidence" and was "imparted in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence". Got that?

What he doesn't say, of course, is why Brown's deal needs to be kept secret when everyone is allowed to know that Macquarie's Steven Schwartz is paid $600,000 with an annual bonus of $100,000 paid if performance indicators (public) are met. All the details are there - Schwartz's relocation costs ($25,000), shipping costs ($25,000), temporary accommodation costs ($15,000) and legal costs ($10,000)."

We notice an echo of the youthful demonstrators rally led by the National Union of Students in this story via the ALP's Tanya Plibersek MP here 3rd May Opposition wants 'independent' youth body. 03/05/2007. ABC News Online

A kindly, very respected, very senior journalist that should remain nameless writes:

Dear Tom, Have you taken this up with the MEAA [Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance]? You should. I reckon they ought to take an interest -- whether or not you're a member -- because this is essentially a freedom-of-the-press issue. Best wishes,

We agree with this common sense suggestion.

Posted by editor at 12:48 PM NZT
Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007 1:38 PM NZT

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