Freedom’s weak pulse

Editorial comment from The New City:

Australians deserve freedom of expression

Editors’ Comment

In the wake of recent events, anyone who cares about the quality of public debate in Australia must take a stand for freedom of expression. If our shambolic minority government offers one consolation, it‘s that more Australians than ever are seeing their political and media establishment in its true colours. Few are coming away impressed, and many are shocked. They’re learning, above all, how little they count in the scheme of things. Politicians and journalists on the progressive end of the spectrum have shown little but contempt for free-ranging consultation. Overwhelming hostility to the carbon tax, both before and after “Carbon Sunday”, barely matters. Julia Gillard has no choice but to “stay the course”, we’re told. If the public is angry, too bad.

It doesn’t matter that the tax was ruled out days before last year’s election, or that the Climate Commission was stacked with partisans, or that the package was cobbled together by a clique operating behind closed doors, or that essential features of it were leaked in advance to “reliable” journalists, or that the government dodged parliamentary scrutiny, or that the legislation will be rushed through to redeem Gillard’s faltering “shoe leather” campaign, or that her sales pitch boils down to repetition of shonky terms like "carbon pollution". It doesn’t matter because the public doesn’t matter.

Compare the ABC’s shy coverage of disquiet over the carbon tax to its frenetic, around-the-clock obsession with the UK phone hacking scandal. How, as a publicly-funded broadcaster, could the ABC have ignored so many stories of more immediate relevance to settle scores with a rival media organisation? If that wasn’t bad enough, Gillard, Bob Brown and Christine Milne and a bevy of commentators promptly jumped on the bandwagon, calling for an enquiry into privacy laws and “media diversity”, proxies for muzzling News Limited. Among other things, News committed the sin of ventilating criticisms of the climate agenda.

Yet there was hardly a murmur against Milne’s illiberal and authoritarian rant on a recent edition of Q&A. “The Murdoch press has been running a very strong campaign against action on climate change”, she screeched, “and one of the useful things about the hacking scandal in the UK is that it will lead to an inquiry into the media in Australia, we are at least going to see some real discussion … around issues such as the level of ownership and dominance of the Murdoch press in several capital cities in Australia”. The irony of demanding “diversity of ownership” to suppress diversity of opinion is lost on her. Our culture’s democratic pulse is fading by the day.

Read the full text at The New City


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