Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘media’ Category

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Pragmatic or Principled?  Australia’s next PM

 Now you might think that picturing Australia’s next PM would be easy. No doubt the zealots in every party contesting the election and a number of people with limited knowledge of what each party represents will do so with ease. The former will find it easy because in a sense whether right or wrong like sheep they will follow the party’s bellwether.

The latter are more problematic. Real bellwethers among them will be few and far between because their flocks are rarely to be found on what is now recognised as politics main paddock, Radio, TV and Newspapers.

In Australia the bellwethers are: Kevin Rudd, Labor leader and PM; Tony Abbott, Liberal/ National Coalition’s Leader; and Christine Milne, Greens Leader. The latter is an exception to the rule of bellwethers being castrated rams. But bellwether or not is there a real leader among them?

Indeed if voters are relying on television to help them decide they could end up even more undecided. At the same time although the official election campaign hasn’t started it is clear that Kevin Rudd is already campaigning. Is this just politics or is it cheating?

In his TV ad he says, among other things, that he will give Australians first class health and education services something he says Tony Abbott won’t. He describes Tony Abbott as the Mr Negative of Australian politics because he opposes everything he (Mr Rudd) proposes.

It is said the age of miracles has not yet passed. That having been said, it would be nothing short of a miracle for a political leader to congratulate their opponent on matters he/she proposed. Indeed, why a new leader if everything they proposed was thought OK?

As to Mr Rudd’s advert, his performance seems less than impressive. While Mr Rudd might see himself as a great performer, the advert lacks sincerity. He also looks like a Billy Bunter with mannerisms that put me in mind of old time advance men in the entertainment field who spruiked a coming show as the greatest show in the world.

I have seen Mr Abbott on TV many times, but not in an election advert. While no Billy Bunter, unfortunately for him, the aggressive image he tends to present, his accusations of Mr Rudd as a politician without principal and his continual rejection of proposals put forward by Mr Rudd, tends, subconsciously, to make some voters endorse the latter’s opinion of him as Mr Negative.  Are they right?

All I will say is that I have always understood that principle underlies policy in a democracy be it in Australia, Britain, U.S., Canada, France, or wherever else democracy is said to exist. Sadly, and too often in politics, pragmatism displaces principle, a situation to which Australia is no exception.

To explain what I mean, let me use same sex marriage as an example of political pragmatism displacing principle.

Until recently Kevin Rudd has been an opponent of same sex marriage as was Prime Minister Julia Gillard. However in the tortuous world of Labor Politics, Julia Gillard had deposed Rudd as Prime Minster although Rudd claimed Julia had his full support as PM.

Suddenly he changed tack on same sex marriage action many people think an attempt to gain support for him to again become Prime Minister action many people think an attempt to gain support for him to again become Prime Minister (or was this an attempt to put himself in the same class as President Obama?).

Ultimately his attempt proved successful although many are of the view that Rudd’s support of same sex marriage was based more on pragmatism than belief.

Abbott, however, despite poor poll ratings, has declared that his opposition to same sex marriage remains though if he changed his mind no doubt some of the antipathy towards him would disappear. However, it has to be said that, I can only add that if you were in an army and had the choice of appointing a leader, out of Abbott and Rudd, who would you pick: Abbott the principled leader or Rudd the pragmatist?

But Christine Milne, Leader of the Greens Party also has a role to play in Government until election time after which her reduced role might be further reduced or disappear altogether. Whether or not you like her policies Mrs Milne displays a very steely determination to stick to them. For her, principle also seems to win over pragmatism. I should add that the Greens are supporters of same sex marriage.

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Truth should be a permanent value in politics


The more I watch politicians on TV, listen to them on radio and read their opinions in newspapers, the more I wonder why so many of them had been elected to parliament.  No doubt by way of assurance they promised to tell voters the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth even though the voters who pay them to represent them in parliament think they do that already.

Today, for example, I watched the replay of yesterday’s Q&A on ABC television, which had two serving politicians, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Health in Kevin Rudd’s alleged new, collegiate and consultative Labor Government and Sophie Mirabella MP, Shadow Minster for Innovation, Industry and Science in the Liberal/National Coalition Opposition, on the panel. .

I’ll be honest. I didn’t manage to watch the whole program but, from the part I did see, I concluded that had viewer voters been polled at the end of the program as to which of the two politicians had answered the questions truthfully, I suspect most would have called it a draw. Now I’m not saying that some of the answers weren’t truthful. No doubt some were, but because they were so convoluted, trying to decide if they were truthful was difficult.

As for the rest of the panel, on the bits I saw, spin doctor Sue Cato having shifted support from Labor to the Liberals on many occasions, now seemed supportive of Kevin Rudd. However, regardless of whether or not she is a spin doctor she will have to work hard to persuade many people who hope his resurrection is but temporary to support him but hope fervently that, after the next election, he will need to be re-interred.

Tom Sampson and Neil Lawrence the other two panelists are in advertising and public relations. In the past both worked on Kevin Rudd’s political campaigns. Indeed it’s possible that one or the other could be involved in Kevin’s next campaign. Mind you I’m doubtful they would try a campaign similar to that when Kevin first became Prime Minister. I can’t imagine a new Kevin 13 campaign if only to prevent bingo callers shouting lucky for some Kevin 13, the unlucky number not having quite the same cachet as the 07 of James Bond.

The only thing I shall say about Tony Jones is that his performance is reminiscent of the 07 Kevin of the past three years.

But today, because truth in politics today seems scarce, I can do no better than end with the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn a man who knew about truth better than most and spelled it out in an address he made at Harvard, Thursday 8th June 1978.

truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings.

Voters around Australia should bear that in mind when voting at the next election!

Comment welcome.

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Is the National Broadcaster still Your ABC ?

It seems to me after forty four years of listening to the ABC for up to date news and opinions about issues facing the community in which I lived, of which 39 years have been spent in Canberra., that the ABC is denying the right of people whose opinion seems to be at odds with some in the ABC, to make their views known. In a sense the ABC seems to have stopped being Your ABC and has become the property of ABC staff making it: ‘Their ABC.’

This comment is made because of what seems to me the ABC’s abuse of its role as the community broadcaster following the Community Forum in Canberra held Monday evening 17 June held in the Playhouse Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre to find out community views on the Australian Climate Commission’s report on global warming and climate change.

On Tuesday 18th June, Sarah Clarke the ABC’s national environment and science correspondent reported the Forum on both ABC radio and television but the only people interviewed were alarmist global warmers with their dire climate change predictions. Alternative views were nowhere to be heard.

I make this comment because this is the pattern the ABC seems to be adopting on the subject of climate change thus it came as no surprise when on Tuesday, Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University Canberra and Member of the Commission was interviewed.

That apart, the ABC’s continued reporting in this manner reminds me of Goebbels who said the best way to get people to adopt your views is by telling them long enough and often enough what they are. This is the best way to describe the ABC’s reporting of global warming and climate change and better described as not so much informing the community but brainwashing the community.

The community at large would not be aware that among the people at odds with the Commission and its members, are scientists, engineers, economists, academics who make or have made their living by using their intelligence to make the world a better place. Yes, they are sceptical of the information the Climate Commission uses to substantiate its views. But aren’t true scientists sceptics? Indeed, over the centuries had there been no sceptics the world today would be in the parlous state predicted by the alarmists.

As parents and grandparents these people are as concerned about the future of the planet as Members of the Commission.  I am one of those parents but not, unfortunately, a grandparent, scientist, engineer or economist. Apart from disabled, the only other appellation I can add to my name apart from an Australian honour, is Australian Tourism Research Institute Fellow Rtd, an industry that would be seriously affected if the alarmist predictions of the Commission and, I must add, the predictions of the Inter – Governmental Panel on Climate change came true.

It is unfortunate that the ABC, with its capacity to provide the community at large with information about the differing arguments about global warming and climate change seems to have adopted the paternal position: we know best. The ABC, it seems to me, has to some extent lost its role as broadcaster and source of information for the public. Indeed, at times it is almost indistinguishable from commercial radio and television. Worse, many of its staff exhibit clear signs of supporting the philosophy of a particular party.

A final comment. The ABC should stop being the cathedral of environmentalism from whose pulpit sermons about the effects of global warming and climate change are regularly delivered and return to being ‘Your ABC.’

Comment welcome.

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An old adage has an answer to racism

Common sense is thought a valuable quality and the people who possess it worth their weight in gold. Let me declare immediately that I lay no claim to having common sense which is probably why my value on the gold scale is minus. However, if the behaviour of many Australians surrounding an incident at a recent Australian Rules football match in Melbourne is anything to go by, it seems I am in good company.

The incident in question was a 13 years old girl calling Swans’ player Adam Goodes an “ape’.” When pointed out to Mr Goodes, an Aboriginal, he accused her of being racist. Well in Scotland, and more years ago than I care to remember, I heard players being called ape at football matches by spectators of roughly the same age as the girl. None of the players were Aboriginal; all were indigenous Scots.

I have to say also that during my fairly long life I have been called names I didn’t like but remembering the old adage “sticks and stones many break my bones but names swill never hurt me” and the accompanying common sense advice given me by my parents that people who name call will get their come-uppance one day, I always pay name callers no heed.

Unfortunately by his simple and, I think, un-necessary act, Mr Goodes created interest in a minor matter and in the process unleashed a storm of interest, driven in my view by ill- informed political correctness that might well damage the young lady for years to come and do little to advance the Aboriginal cause. It may even destroy the work of many other people. Nonetheless, with the young girl cast as a racist, many media and some non-media people courting publicity turned a proverbial mole hill into a mountain.

But hey the media said: it’s too good a story to let it pass, though what connection the word ‘ape’ has with racism, I am at a loss to understand. Sadly, it seems that many people subscribe to the Humpty Dumpty view that “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)I.

At the time of the incident, the young girl apologised to Mr Goodes who, to his credit showed common sense and accepted her apology. Collingwood President Mr Eddie McGuire, a well- known media performer also apologised to the player, for which he received praise.

Unfortunately, the story in the media brought out the usual brigade of do-gooders who wanted to have their say about the incident. And because, I am given to understand, Mr McGuire was less than popular with his media peer group the story continued.

He was then pursued relentlessly and put under pressure to such an extent that in his own radio show he  gaffed by commenting that Mr Goodes might be usefully employed in publicity for the soon to be released film, ”King Kong.”

Many voices called for him to be sacked from various positions while some said he should stand down. Of course it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and say he should have known better but do all of us act well under strong pressure?

Fortunately for Mr McGuire,  no doubt in light of his efforts to assist Aboriginal development, colleagues began to see how ridiculous it was that a man who had offered his apologies for something he didn’t do and made a comment under pressure, decided he should retain Presidency of the football club.

Unfortunately for him, he will have to appear before an Australian Football League panel to be punished for his transgressions. I understand that in expiation of his sins he must be educated to know what is politically correct.

However, it seems to me that a lot more would be achieved if all of us used our common sense and heeded the wisdom of the old adage I mentioned earlier.

N.B. I do not know the young girl, or Mr Goodes or Mr McGuire, apart from which, the football I follow is played with a round ball.

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Could lack of a free press lead to totalitarianism ?

I hate saying it but I’ve come to the conclusion that newspapers themselves are partly to blame for their decline in popularity. On the other hand I believe newspapers could increase their popularity if they became less formulaic as they were when freedom of the press meant what it said.

Much of the decline is said to have been caused by Twitter, Facebook and online blogs. As to whether or not that is true seems to me to fall into the category that any excuse is better than none. Twitter and Facebook et al, allegedly are social news sites and though many people will disagree with me, I think them anti-social. In fact, I think Twitter and Facebook are sloganeering sites that are boons to the advertising industry. Any news you get on them shorthand inform.

Unfortunately, many newspapers editors also seem to be turning to these sites in search of news while more and more of their journalists seem to be writing in the required Twitter and Facebook style. While true that some remarks can be covered by 140 words – including spaces – I venture to suggest that while adequate enough for gossip I doubt 140 words adequate enough to give full depth of a story.

That apart, one would think Twitter and Facebook were new phenomena. Not so! Gossip has always been fashionable. But where once upon a time the places where gossip was retailed such as over a garden fences, cups of tea in the kitchen or, dare I say it, over a pint in the pub and thereafter repeated to the ears of whosoever was available to listen has been replaced by Twitter and Facebook. No doubt too, you’ve heard of African message drums. In a sense they were a form of internet although the stories they sent were not gossip.

And the story’s the thing although every story teller tells his/her story in a different way because they see it in a different light. What they consider the most important parts of the story will be seen by others as the least important and what some will see as the start of the story some will see as the end.

That said it is important to add that not all stories follow the mathematical principle that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Indeed for some story tellers the distance between start and finish is not a straight line but a series of diversions that add substance that add colour to the story and make it more interesting.

Once upon a time, but no longer, newspapers allowed such diversions. Today, unfortunately, stories that do not adhere to the straight line practice are unlikely to appear in newspapers. The result: newspapers seem to have lost their individuality. Having said that said, it is little wonder some blog sites are being written by journalists tired of having to toe a particular line.

Of the blogs on most of these websites the most interesting are written by people unaligned to a political party, religious organisation, union, military personnel et al, who do not write by rote but speak freely in hope of making the community more aware than at present of the limitations put on them by people in power.

The danger of journalism by rote whether online or in newspapers is that a particular online opinion site, newspaper, or group of newspapers, could wield undue influence and prevent communities from being exposed to new ideas. When communities end up as homogeneous, history shows how easy it is for them to become totalitarian. Let’s not take the chance of it happening here.

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Is the news you get fair dinkum?

I’m fed up with the media, particularly TV, representing the doings of celebrities and their gossip as news. But TV is not the only ones who get my goat on this issue, so does the print media, websites, and for all I know, Twitter and Facebook. With reference to TV, it is the time wasted showing so called celebrities and social gossips dressed up to the nines or in some case dressed down to zero, talking as if their conversation so important it affects peoples’ lives. It does: it depresses them

Not that I have a problem with celebrities and social gossips appearing on TV but Chief Executives of TV companies should know by this time that what they have to say should be shown on an appropriate infotainment channel, not on the news..

Moving on to radio: can anyone can tell me why radio a very influential news medium, give celebrities and gossips so much air time? If you’ve got the answer, let me know. Of the three forms of media, print media at least, makes great attempts to publish celebrity gossip in specialist magazines or particular sections of newspapers.

No doubt there’s a demand for “news” of celebrities and gossip but real news stories should not have to compete with it.

Celebrities and gossips aside what I find annoying is reading news stories in the paper on Wednesday morning that had been received as a media release on Tuesday and by the time the paper had been published on Wednesday had also been ball over the internet. Annoyingly too, these stories are published as if the journalist had been to the news scene. There is another problem: before the release is published it can often be edited to suit the bias of the person editing.

Unfortunately, published news has become the victim of economics. The art of news gathering has succumbed to managers whose appetite for profit is voracious and for whom press releases become substitutes for journalist. While journalists might not like it, those with a mortgage to pay and children to feed and clothe, tend to keep quiet.

The effect of this, particularly in the print media, is serious. The press release regime and implied threat of job loss, curbs freedom of speech, which is why, some journalists, in their efforts to keep freedom of the press alive and escape the Sword of Damocles hanging over their head, use pseudonyms to write truthful blogs on the net.

Not that radio and TV escape this situation entirely. In most cases the same media releases sent to the print media are also sent to the electronic media, at which time and depending on their personal preferences, programme producers edit the release carefully to reflect that preference.

Australia is now entering a period in time when Freedom of the Press will be important for all Australian voters. A federal election is being held on 14 September and at the moment, according to newspapers opinion polls, the current Labor Government is on a hiding to nothing from the other parties contesting the election. .

Thus it is important that newspaper reports accurately present the stories that all parties think important for voters. Will they get them? I think I’ll wait and see. Equally important: will radio and TV stations also tell the truth?

Of one thing you can be sure: if the media don’t play fair, the bloggers, professional and otherwise, will use their blogs to give them the rounds of the houses, an appropriate phrase as voters only want honest people entering the Houses of Parliament

Comment welcome.
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Shameless politicians make shameless governments

On odd occasions over the years while writing about politicians, I’ve had messages from correspondents who in no uncertain terms, too rude to be printed, said the world would be a better place had some politicians never been born. When I replied to their messages it would have been easy to say ‘and so say all of us’ instead of which I pointed out that they had been responsible for electing the politicians they wish had not been born.

However, the events in Australia’s Federal Parliament last Thursday has given me cause to think these correspondents could be right when the behaviour and language of our political representatives put wilful children to shame. Indeed it can only be described as shameless!

The most shameless behaviour came from Members of the Labor Government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Deputy Wayne Swan, plus some, but thankfully not all, Cabinet Ministers. And if only to demonstrate their depth of shamelessness they wrapped themselves in the flags of patriotism and care for the ‘working class’ to cover it up. Unfortunately for them, their later behaviour not only confirmed their shamelessness it also showed they cared more for themselves than either country or the working class.

It was this behaviour, grist to the mill of an aficionado of politics that removed any thought I had of stopping writing about writing about politicians. It also confirmed that to keep democracy alive, free speech is the medium that will ensure its survival and its development.

To avoid repetition of the news reports that saturated the media about the event, let me give a brief reprise. The event was an attempted coup against the Prime Minister by MPs and Senators with integrity, who said they couldn’t stomach the goings on of the Government and thought the behaviour of the Prime Minister and some Members of Cabinet, had brought the Government into disrepute. To resolve the matter they wanted the Prime Minister to stand down so that the Prime Minister she had dethroned in a previous coup could be returned to office.

Unfortunately their hopes went awry when the PM called a quick meeting of the Labor Caucus to vote on the proposition. Unfortunately, the number of caucus s who supported the coup fell just short of the number required for success. The result of this failure was an announcement that caucus had unanimously endorsed Prime Minister Gillard and Deputy Wayne Swan in their positions. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing how many, if any, caucus Members, did not offer support.

But if the statement is true, the endorsement not only displays the shallowness of the Government as a whole it also shows the majority of Australians that caucus had endorsed a Prime Minister they thought dishonest and lacking integrity who lusted for power.

And if only to show the accuracy of the perception by the majority of Australians, the PM quickly accepted the resignation of Ministers and Senior Officers of the Government. Had they not resigned it is almost certain she would have sacked them.

With an election due in September and the Government daily sinking in the polls, many gutless members of caucus who had endorsed the PM and Deputy PM, tried to protect themselves and also help avoid the PM’s revenge by taking to the media and issuing press releases designed to make them look guiltless and as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. This makes them not only shameless but witless.

They also compounded their gutlessness by trying to bolster their image and ingratiate themselves with voters as proud Australians by again spouting patriotism and their care for the working class. In any case with the Labor Party having discarded democracy and egalitarianism already, the working class is no longer one of its interests.

And now for a final question: when last Thursday’s events and only a few of the Government’s litany of horror policies for example, the carbon tax, Building the Education Revolution, trying to hogtie the media and the solar panel program during which people were killed are taken in conjunction, what does this augur for Labor’s chance of being re-elected to Government in September?

Comments welcome



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