Monday, August 31, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the lack of monetary compensation for child victims of government "care"

Australian journalism's Leftward bias

This piece by journalist Chris Wallace provides an interesting perspective on the shadow-boxing nature of political reporting and the sorting of truth from lies as well as the sorting of lies from lies, by type.

But what has chiefly stuck in my mind is this admission about how, working for the AFR, Wallace reported “some fantastically inflammatory comments” from Malcolm Turnbull, who was then the spearhead of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM): “Journalists are human. As a fervent republican I didn’t necessarily want the ARM chief blowing himself up with these quotes… On the other hand, as a journalist I thought: Great story!”

Wallace took “the middle road” by later reading the quotes back to Turnbull to give him a chance to assert they really were on the record.

It begs the question though, what if Wallace were in possession of quotes that would have been harmful to a prominent monarchist? Would that person have been given the same opportunity to rethink and possibly recant?

I commend Wallace’s candour. I doubt anyone can truly leave behind their biases when reporting or even subbing. Those biases inevitably inform how we approach and view things, even from a subconscious level. Balance is generally the way western journalists attempt to achieve a measure of objectivity, by making sure competing views get a look in, even if one voice speaks most strongly in the end.

However the one fundamental and overriding bias of journalism, as a profession, that Wallace shows here was when he thought: “Great story!” The hopeful thing is that if at least someone is committed to telling great stories, from whatever angle they may come, it will tend to negate a natural preference for stories that contain only the morals or outcomes they like.

Having said that, a bias towards great stories is still a bias and one that has its own potential pitfalls. Hopefully more on that later.

Update: Two views on bias in Australian journalism. Peter Costello says the ABC as an institution has an inherent leftward list and once an ABC staffer even hissed at him. The other argues that the overall orientation of Aussie media, especially News Ltd, is to the right of centre.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Wheels coming off the Rudd goverrnment

Particularly the very Leftist deputy PM, Julia Gillard

In political terms Gillard went too far on Friday. Her sin was to try to pass off a $1.5 billion blowout in her Pyongyang-inspired Building the Education Revolution program as "a bump in the road".

For the first time in a long time in the period of the Rudd government the media called it for what it was; self-serving spin of the kind that sees the wheels turn furiously while nothing actually happens.

For the first time in a long time the Deputy Prime Minister was nailed when her opposite number, Christopher Pyne, got a hearing from the media he deserved when he said: "If $1.5bn is a bump in the road I'd be frightened to see what a hole in the road looks like."

The $1.5bn blowout was the big thing. Then there was the little thing; they're the ones that always get you in politics. In the same news cycle Pyne discovered that Gillard had quietly altered the regulations covering the Building the Education Revolution program (doesn't that name always conjure massed gymnasts with ribbons in a stadium?) requiring all schools to maintain a grateful sign out the front acknowledging the contribution of the government's stimulus package to their new hall.

Except that the new rules also stipulated that regardless of whether building had finished the signs had to remain in place until the last possible date for a federal election under the constitution, March 11, 2011. Talk about an eye for detail; you miss the fact you're $1.5bn short on the centrepiece program of your portfolio. But you make sure those signs are in place until the very last moment of their effective political life.

All of which prompted Pyne to rebadge Kevin Rudd and Gillard as "Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader".

If by this stage you think it's personal between Pyne and Gillard you'd be right. Ever since Gillard called him as "mincing" and a "poodle" in the parliament, Pyne has been coming after Gillard and he won't stop. But don't be mistaken: it's with a clear-eyed intent. As much as he might want to, he won't let his feelings drive his agenda.

And if, with regard to the poodle remark, you think different standards have been applied to Gillard by the media as part of her positioning to become Australia's first female prime minister, you'd be right too. Imagine, if you will, if Pyne had referred to Gillard as a "brindle bitch". He'd be out of the parliament by now.

Put together, the $1.5bn bump in the road and the schools signs episode brought the Rudd government this week to a point of reckoning. Two-thirds into their first term in government they are beginning to be called to account. Budget blowouts can no longer be blown off. Self-interested slickness as demonstrated by the Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader signs will no longer be missed.

But as with most tipping points there's been a slow build to the balance mark on the fulcrum. Which is why it's not all about Gillard, though she's been in the thick of it: think the $1.4bn blowout in the Computers in Schools program, the trades training centres in every school that turned into one in every 10 schools and this week's humiliating backflip on youth allowances.

The fact is the momentum of failed promise has been gathering across government for some time. While Rudd has so far delivered on the macroeconomics of avoiding a recession - no mean feat - we are yet to grasp the final cost in terms of debt and deficit. Indeed, the political ill winds of interest rate rises are already gathering on the horizon.

But when it comes to individual promises Rudd and his government must be measured by their own words, key among them from the Prime Minister himself at the National Press Club on August 27, 2008, when he said: "When we formed government, I said I had no intention of recycling the absolute cynicism of previous governments: making a swag of pre-election commitments, then reneging on them as non-core promises."

Well, let's get started, shall we? Beginning with FuelWatch and GroceryWatch and that promise to take Japanese whalers to the international courts. Ditto for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide. But let us not sweat the small stuff, such as junking the climate-saving program of pink batts for renters or banning plastic shopping bags.

On to the big things, such as Rudd's declaration to the National Press Club on December 15 last year when he said, in respect to an emissions trading scheme, that "to delay any longer would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and for our environment". Contrast that with his announcement six months later that "the start date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be delayed one year to commence from 1 July, 2011".

On health, Rudd and his minister Nicola Roxon stood hand on heart endlessly before the last election promising there'd be no windback of the private health insurance rebate. And there was the promise to begin implementing a federal takeover of the state hospitals system by the middle of this year, now deferred for at least a year.

There was also the $39m five-year program to bring 7750 nurses back into the workforce (541 recruited so far) and the 30,000 people who've dropped out of the government's signature training program, the $2bn Productivity Places program. The trainees had probably already tried the government's botched jobseekers scheme before that.

The point being that sooner or later a government's failure to deliver catches up with it. For Gillard that moment happened last week. And if it's happened for her, smart and savvy as she is, can a number of her colleagues be far behind?


The moronic Queensland government ambulance service again

Young mother angry at 'stupid' grilling during emergency call -- but the QAS are not backing down or apologizing -- even though they cannot provide details to refute her claims. Sounds like she got a Pakistani callcentre operator. I am pretty sure the QAS record all calls so they must know exactly what happened and are just "hanging tough" -- in the light of the big spray of complaints that have recently been made against them. They think a policy of "no admissions" is going to help them ride out the storm caused by their own bureaucratic incompetence

A REDBANK Plains mother said she had to answer a list of "stupid" questions before she could get an ambulance for her newborn baby who was vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. Suzanne Lang said her son, Zavier, only 30 hours old, had his eyes rolling up as she struggled with a 000 dispatcher she could barely understand.

One question was whether her baby was talking or not, she said. After the ambulance arrived, she said she had a harrowing unsecured ride to Ipswich Hospital on a stretcher. Lacking a seat belt, "I literally fell across the ambulance with my baby in my arms", she said.

The emergency occurred about 10pm on August 19, the night after her baby's birth. Mrs Lang said she feared her child's convulsions were a seizure because one of her other children suffers from seizures. Doctors actually determined the cause was an allergic reaction to sterilisation chemicals.

The Queensland Ambulance Service said the ambulance arrived at the home in 10 minutes and dispatchers spent only two minutes on the phone before it was sent. "The QAS will investigate claims relating to restraints used in this case," a spokeswoman said.

The family said it was the second negative experience with the Queensland Ambulance Service in a year. Mrs Lang said she had to drive her partner, Marcus, to the hospital after he injured his back and she gave up waiting on an ambulance after 40 minutes. The hospital reprimanded the couple for driving him because of the potential for greater damage to his vertebrae.

Mrs Lang said some of the dispatcher's questions about her baby's condition were appropriate but others seemed a waste of critical time. She said the dispatcher seemed to become irritated when she couldn't answer whether the baby had a heart condition. "I said, not that I know of. I mean, he's only 30 hours old," she said.

Queensland Ambulance Service defended the way its dispatchers answered 000 calls. It could not provide a list of specific questions asked because more than 30 scripts were used depending on the emergency. However, it said of the 400-600 calls received a day from 000, audits showed 95 per cent were well handled. [And the 5%? Anybody disciplined?]


Public transport outrage

Little girl abandoned on the side of the road over $1.20 bus fare. And governments want to get parents out of their cars??

A 10-YEAR-old girl was left by the side of a busy road in Mt Gravatt last month after she didn't have enough money for the bus, it has been revealed. The girl's mother told The Courier-Mail her daughter was directed to get off the 174 bus on Newnham Rd in late July after her Go Card had insufficient credit and she did not have enough change.

But Brisbane City Council yesterday denied the girl was told to leave, saying she was only told she had insufficient credit on her Go Card. The case breached the strict "no child left behind" policy employed by TransLink and Brisbane City Council, which states that a child cannot be left behind by a bus regardless of whether they have sufficient money for the trip.

The child's mother, who asked not to be named, said she was "horrified" and "disgusted" that her daughter, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was left behind by the bus. "She told me she was still at school and 'the driver told me to get off the bus'," the mother said. "She said: 'My bus card wouldn't work, and I looked in my bag and I didn't have enough change, and then the bus driver just said, 'Get off the bus'."

The girl's mother said she called a TransLink operator, who said the decision to leave her child behind was "up to the driver's discretion". "When I rang the first time the man said to me: 'Well, it is up to the driver's discretion'. "I said you cannot leave a child behind for the sake of $1.20 - along that road, it is a busy road, anyone could have stopped and grabbed her."

The mother later contacted TransLink again and was given an apology for the incident. The case is among four across the southeast that were investigated by TransLink this year, including one at Caboolture and one near Ipswich. A TransLink spokesman said the driver and the call centre operator had been disciplined.

"TransLink's [previously unknown, apparently] policy is that no child will be left at a bus stop under any circumstances and takes matters where a child is left at a bus stop very seriously," the spokesman said.


Australian navy intercepts illegal immigrant boat

The 18th such boat this year -- compared with none or close to none in the final years of the conservative government. The flow started as soon as the Leftist government watered down the laws designed to stop such arrivals

An Australian naval ship on Saturday intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said, the latest in a wave of arrivals that has stoked fears of weak border security.

The boat was stopped near Ashmore Island off Australia's northern coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said in a statement. An initial count showed 55 people on board including three crew. Their nationalities were not known.

Border protection is a hot political issue in Australia. Critics blame a new rise in people-smuggling this year on a softer stance on the issue by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, compared to the conservative government he ousted in 2007.

"The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel," O'Connor said, referring to the latest arrivals.

Australia has a processing center for suspected asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean possession just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

Many of the people-smugglers are thought to be based in Indonesia, although the asylum seekers are generally from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.


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