Thursday, January 30, 2014

Navy abuse 'likely to be untrue': ABC

AN ABC news journalist has admitted asylum-seekers' claims of mistreatment by the Australian navy are "likely to be untrue" a week after the broadcaster claimed it had footage that "appears to back up" the allegations.

In an email to a former senior army officer, who forwarded the correspondence to News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, ABC national reporting team journalist Alison Branley sought off-the-record information from navy personnel.

"I have been tasked with finding some navy personnel who might be willing to speak to us in a background capacity - not on the record," she wrote. "It follows the story our Jakarta guy ran on the asylum-seekers' burns claims.

"My boss feels the allegations are likely to be untrue and we want to get people on board some of the ships up there to background us."

Her boss, national reporting team editor Jo Puccini, told The Australian last night she did not have a response to the revelation. An ABC spokeswoman said last night: "At no stage did the ABC report (the asylum-seekers') allegations as fact, and at no stage did the ABC express an editorial view in support of either the allegations or the denials.

Rather, it has at all times consistently sought information to either support or disprove these allegations. "In a climate where official information about asylum-seekers operations is scarce and hard to come by, the ABC makes no apologies for seeking as much information as it can from as many sources as it can to either verify or disprove the allegations at the centre of the story."

The spokeswoman said the leaked email showed the broadcaster continued to seek the facts.

"Any suggestion that in our reporting we (a) indicated the allegations were true or (b) now believe they are false is incorrect. The point of the email was to encourage navy personnel with any information which could possibly disprove the allegations to come forward," she said. The ABC did not deny the validity of the email.

The report, by ABC Indonesia correspondent George Roberts, featured claims Australian navy personnel beat and burned asylum-seekers during a tow-back operation this month.

It came despite strong assertions from the government and the Australian Defence Force that the claims were unfounded and another television network, Seven, treating the asylum-seekers' claims with much greater scepticism a fortnight earlier.

The report centred on video footage of the asylum-seekers receiving treatment for burned and blistered hands at a medical facility in Kupang, West Timor.

The asylum-seekers claimed the burns were a result of being forced to hold hot engine pipes by navy personnel. They also alleged they were badly beaten by navy personnel before their boat was turned back to Rote Island on New Year's Day.

Indonesian police said they were investigating the claims but later said all information of alleged abuse had come from the asylum-seekers.

"This video and the version of events given by Indonesian police appears (sic) to back up the claims of mistreatment first made by the asylum-seekers when they spoke to the ABC a fortnight ago," Roberts said in a video report.

ABC news director Kate Torney last week defended Roberts and his report, saying the ABC had approached the ADF for comment before publishing "and are still seeking their side of the story".

Editor of The Australian Clive Mathieson said last night: "If the ABC now believes the story is 'untrue', we look forward to seeing the correction."


PM Abbott blasts ABC reporting

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused the ABC of acting against Australia's interests, in a scathing assessment of the national broadcaster.

The ABC has been at the centre of political attention in recent months over its reportage of Australian spying on Indonesia - based on documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden - and of claims asylum seekers may have been abused by navy personnel.

Interviewed on commercial radio on Wednesday, Mr Abbott took aim at the broadcaster's standards.

"It dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone's side but our own and I think it is a problem," the prime minister told Macquarie Radio.

"You would like the national broadcaster to have a rigorous commitment to truth and at least some basic affection for the home team, so to speak."

Referring to the Snowden documents, Mr Abbott said the ABC "seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor".

"The ABC didn't just report what he said, they took the lead in advertising what he said. That was a deep concern," Mr Abbott said.

The ABC should report the news straight and should not "leap to be critical of your own country".

Labor communications spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Abbott had promised the day before the 2013 election that there would be no cuts to the ABC but was now laying the groundwork for cuts.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi last year told a coalition joint party room meeting the government should cut the broadcaster's funding to balance the federal budget.


Abetz defends the "incorrect" Bernardi: what counts are the facts, not if someone is offended"

Eric Abetz, leader of the Government in the Senate, defends Liberal MP Cory Bernardi from the modern shut-uppers - people who demand important debates be shut down simply because they cause “offence”:

I contrast the lack of attention so far paid to Australia’s Secret War - Hal Colebatch’s book, with the affected morale outrage over another recently released book, which I can confirm I have also read cover to cover, word for word, and which I would also commend to you.

It was written by my colleague, Senator Cory Bernardi, and entitled The Conservative Revolution…

What was disappointing was the rank misrepresentation, from either sheer dishonesty or ignorance, by the gaggle of critics, of the inescapable conclusions of peer reviewed research cited in the book.

Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, claimed to be"offended" by Senator Bernardi’s commentary about so-called ‘non-traditional families’.  ‘As a step-father I am offended,’ he said.  The media simply ran the ‘I’m offended’ line.

You know the trip; “I claim victimhood.  I declare that I have taken offence.  So you cannot question me or assail me with undisputed, objective studies"… studies which actually tell us time and time again that the gold standard for the nurturing of children is a married man and woman with their biological children.

Do some such family units fail?  Of course they do.

Do some single mums and dads do a fantastic job?  Of course they do.

Do some blended families work exceptionally well?  Of course they do.

But that does not disprove the undeniable evidence that the gold standard and best practice model is the traditional family!

The thesis of Senator Bernardi’s book is that, as a consequence, public policy should be supportive of the traditional family.

Our would-be Labor Prime Minister claimed to have been offended by the articulation of these facts.

Mr Shorten, thinking that he had a knockout blow, rhetorically asked on what basis Senator Bernardi was suggesting these children are more likely to be criminal?

Well, let me answer Mr Shorten’s rhetorical question with a substantive answer, by reading to you what is in Senator Bernardi’s book, and I quote: 

“we know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; 9 times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.  They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of this.  Can I simply observe that for the sake of our society these things need to be said.”

Oh…. and for the record, can I confirm the quote that I just read was an extract from Senator Bernardi’s book - quoting President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day address of 2008.

I wonder if the would-be Prime Minister Shorten would be as critical of and disrespectful to President Obama as he was towards Senator Bernardi?  I think not…

The fact that this ill-informed and embarrassing criticism came from Bill Shorten was bad enough.  Regrettably some came from within our own Party.

One criticism was that we could supposedly dismiss Senator Bernardi’s thesis and all its evidentiary basis because it was a minority view…

I would invite the Young Liberal Movement and young people more generally not to consider whether Senator Bernardi’s is a minority view or majority view, but whether it is right or wrong

SOURCE  Apparently drawing on Hansard

Censorship by Poetry Editor of Leftist "Little Magazine"

It is a cliche, the way conservatives and so-called progressives are said to regard each other. On the starboard side of political opinion the general view is that the left is simply misguided, many members of its various tribes perhaps capable of better things and deeper thoughts if only someone with time and patience would make an effort to explain it all.

And on the left, where perceptions tend to be rather more simple? Well they just think we’re evil.

Then again, there are also those on the left who might normally be dismissed at a glance but, due to some act of arrogance or idiocy, draw your attention by virtue of sheer, antic inanity. That whine of unctuous self-righteousness, their grasp of higher moralities which they alone may interpret and adjudicate, the tendency to believe that “shut up” amounts to an argument – well, you know the type. Normally, you wouldn’t worry too much about these sorts, as sooner or later most will nod along with some or other epistle in The Age until they are deeply and silently asleep. The 11,381st lecture about the perils of climate change or the joys of gay marriage can have that effect, even on the most ardent.

When such a featherhead is in a position of influence, able to advance or retard reputations and careers at the stroke of a pen, a closer look is warranted, unpleasant though it may be to pore over spite and pettiness in the fetid quarters of their native environment. In this instance the individual is Peter Minter, poetry editor and academic, whose pulpit for proclaiming on the moral worth of lesser mortals is that little-read and much-subsidised quarterly Overland, “the most radical of Australia’s long-standing literary journals.”

As singer, songwriter, poet and sometime-Quadrant contributor Joe Dolce noted on our website over the weekend, Minter informed him in writing and on the record that his verse would no longer be published in Overland, which just by the way of background was blessed with $399,000 in Australia Council grants between 2010 and 2013. The reason: his association with Quadrant. Dolce, who admits to voting Labor last September, was taken aback by Minter’s zeal in appointing himself Australian poetry’s blacklister-in-chief and, as the policy of exclusion sank in, by the thought that the policy might be at odds with the Australia Council’s goals, standards and procedures. He would seem to be right about that, going by the organisation’s mission statement in regard to literary journals:

“The Literature Panel aims are to encourage the writing and reading of Australian literature, to open up opportunities for our writers to earn from their creative work, and to keep the avenues of debate, discussion, analysis and criticism open.”

Nowhere does the Australia Council state or hint that it is acceptable to bar writers who do not happen to hate and detest the same people as the magazine’s editors. Legal minds might also have opinions on whether or not such a threat constitutes a secondary boycott.

Students of the left and its conceits will need no prompting to guess at Minter’s defence of his edict. Writing on the Facebook page of  theatre critic, “best-selling author” and friend Alison Croggon, herself  a recipient of $40,000 in 2013 from the Australia Council’s Literature Board, chaired by Twitter buddy and fellow traveller on the writers’ festival circuit Sophie Cunningham,  Minter in his prolix style laid out a case that might be summed up thus: Quadrant and Nazis, same thing really.

But don’t take our word for it. In his contributions to an entertaining, if increasingly unhinged, debate, Minter stands revealed in his own words. Note the snide jabs at Quadrant’s poetry editor Les Murray in this talk-to-the-hand response to Dolce:

Peter Minter – ” Joe, let me end with a very simple (perhaps brutal) analogy. I hope this goes to the heart of the debate raised about whether poems should be judged on merit, or whether they should be judged also on their political context. Let’s imagine we are in Germany in the 1930s. We are writing what we think are good poems, free of any overt political substance, and we decide to send them to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” for publication, because the poetry editor loves poetry and everyone thinks he is going to win the Nobel Prize and so they all suck up to him in order to gain the satisfaction of feeling that they are being ordained by the holy poet. The Big Poet publishes the poems and everyone feels nice. Nevertheless, and this is the crux, history will shine its irrevocable truth upon the poets who submitted their poems to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” and they will be forever stained by the association.

Have you heard of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger? Heidegger’s philosophy is certainly wonderful and extremely influential and should be considered “on its merits” in the same way people argue that poetry should simply be judged “on its merits”. And yet, Heidegger joined the Nazi party and his reputation, and the reputation of his philosophy, is forever stained by the association.

So you can say whatever you like about how wonderful it is to be published by Les Murray (those of us who know also know that this is not what it seems!!) the fact remains that those who choose to publish in Quadrant will be forever stained by the association (or by being published in Overland, depending on your perspective). You need to get over the adrenaline rush of seeing your name in print, and start thinking about where you want to see your name in print, and what it means.

This is not about limiting freedom of expression. We are in a free society and anyone can start any kind of magazine they like and publish what they want. What this is about is editorial responsibility and making ethical decisions about how and where you chose to publish.

No more correspondence will be entered into. Bye! “

There is undoubtedly compelling evidence of original thought in Minter’s  academic work, but the dog-eared equivalence he preaches between Hitler’s followers and Quadrant’s contributors suggests one would need to wade through it with a keen eye to be sure. By contrast, only an open ear is needed to absorb the pointed inquiries made by then-Opposition spokesman on the arts, Senator Eric Abetz, at an Estimates hearing about funding allocations .

As Abetz observed, it is either a remarkable coincidence that left-wing literary journals keep scoring bags of Australia Council cash while, year by year, Quadrant sees its stipend shrink. Or maybe, as the Senator intimated, the fix is in.

After this latest episode, perhaps someone in Tony Abbott’s government might like to weigh in on a taxpayer-supported literary magazine brazenly refusing to publish the work of those it identifies, to quote Minter’s pontification, as those “who choose to publish in Quadrant [and are] forever stained by the association.”

After that, who knows? Perhaps a full, sweeping review of arts funding, who doles it out and how, and why do some seem more blessed by the Australia Council’s largesse than others.


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