Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fairfax spite

Fake but accurate.  I have read the Sydney Morning Herald just about every day since Abbott was elected and I have yet to see there favourable mention of anything Abbott has done.  The SMH has been relentlessly shrill and negative about him

Treasurer Joe Hockey could not allow "scurrilous and false allegations about corruption" reported by Fairfax Media to remain unchallenged, his lawyers have told the opening of a defamation trial.

Mr Hockey says Fairfax Media defamed him in a series of articles in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times about his relationship with a Liberal Party fundraising body the North Sydney Forum, published on May 5, 2014.

His barrister, Bruce McClintock, SC, told the Federal Court Mr Hockey's case is that Fairfax Media editors were motivated to publish "extraordinarily serious allegations" that they "knew were false" because they had to publish a correction to an earlier article about Mr Hockey.

"It was an act of petty spite," Mr McClintock said. In that article, published on March 21, 2014, the papers said Mr Hockey repaid money to Australian Water Holdings, a company that has been the subject of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

In fact it was the North Sydney Forum that repaid the money. The papers ran an apology the following day. Subsequent emails and text messages between Fairfax Media editors and political reporters show the decision to publish the "Treasurer for Sale" series of articles was a "calculated plan" written to "exact revenge", Mr McClintock said.

In a series of text messages, Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir told The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden that he was angry at being contacted at 2.15am by Mr Hockey's staff.  "They have a f---ing hide," he said. "I feel pissed off they called me so early."

Holden replied: "The simplest approach is to dig into NSF… in that story you can run Hockey's claim he knew nothing … beyond that, f--- him.  "Amazing they freeze us out and then think they have the relationship that allows them to call in the middle of the night."

Goodsir said: "Are we not better to have a red hot go at the issue next week, and really go for it … after the day we've had, I ain't going to run this – but am more than keen to develop a North Sydney Forum plan for next week."

He instructed Herald state political editor Sean Nicholls to dig into the North Sydney Forum.

On March 27, Goodsir wrote: "F---ing Brilliant … given what Andrew and I endured last week with Hockey, I want to have this nailed to the cross in more ways than one … keep digging Sean… I have long dreamed (well, only since last Friday), of a headline that screams: Sloppy Joe! I think we are not far off, but perhaps even more serious than that."

Mr Hockey claims that, as a result of the articles, he has been "greatly injured, shunned and avoided and his reputation has been and will be bought into disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt".

He says Fairfax Media's "over sensational, extravagant and unfair presentation" of the articles indicated an "intent to injure" him.

Mr McClintock told the court that Mr Hockey had called Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood over the March 21 article.

He said Mr Hywood replied: "Be thankful you are getting what you are [an apology]." Mr McClintock said Mr Hywood warned Mr Hockey to "be careful" that if the matter went to court "you are not another Craig Thomson".

He said it appeared the publication of the articles was timed to be just before Mr Hockey handed down his first budget and that they remain online despite there not being a contention by Fairfax Media that what was published is true.

Mr McClintock said the placard (poster) and headline "Treasurer for Sale" clearly accused Mr Hockey of corruption.  "There is no innocent explanation for those words," he said.  "Could there be a more serious allegation made against the Treasurer of Australia?"

Mr McClintock said that, when Mr Hockey first saw the articles, he was "angry and upset". The treasurer spoke to many people that day, and most said their reaction to the article was that it was accusing him of corruption.

Mr McClintock said a tweet by former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser was an example of the way the publication was interpreted by readers. Mr Fraser's tweet said in part: "Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access. Using Ministerial office for fund raising corrupt." It contained a link to the original story.

Mr McClintock said Australians expected their elected representatives to have broad shoulders. "In the rough and tumble of political life, harsh things are going to be said, even false things," Mr McClintock said.  "There are some things, however, no politician could allow to pass unchallenged."

Mr McClintock said his client's reputation was "spotless" and there could be no more serious allegation than a claim a person was corrupt.

He is claiming damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs, although the amount of damages is not specified.

Fairfax Media says it had no intention of implying that Mr Hockey was prepared to accept bribes and that Goodsir did not equate the headline "Treasurer for Sale" with corruption.


Australia rates a zero as Big Solar booms around the world

Well-done, Australia!

Figures released on Friday by utility solar analysts Wiki-Solar.org show that global capacity of utility-scale PV generating capacity at the end of 2014 reached 35.9GW.

The data shows that new plant commissioned during the year totalled 14.2 GW, almost doubling the record of 7.4 GW set the previous year – and equal to the entire installed capacity up to the end of 2012.

Worldwide utility-scale photovoltaic power generation is now fairly evenly split between the three leading continents; Asia, Europe and North America. 2014 is the first year when Africa and South America started to show meaningful contributions.

But where is Australia? Every continent increased its volume compared to 2013 – except Australia, which rates zeros on new annual capacity and cumulative operating capacity. (Actually, on cumulative capacity it would rate at 30MW – the Royalla and Greenough River solar plants – but that is 0.03GW, and Wiki-Solar only goes one decimal point).

“Even Europe returned to growth, after declines in 2012 and 2013,” said Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe.

“Performance at the national level is however more variable. Europe’s resurgence – after the 2012 policy changes in the traditional powerhouse of Germany – has been fuelled mainly by a buoyant British market.”

Wiki-Solar predicts that the UK will this month leapfrog India, and maybe even Germany, to become the world’s third or fourth largest market; driven by a flood of projects racing to beat legislative changes. The country then risks following other European markets into a period of stagnation.

Meanwhile Germany is trialling a new approach to utility-scale solar, which may see growth re-starting in coming years.

“Only the US, China and India can claim consistent longer-term growth”, says Wolfe; though he believes that the drivers in countries like Chile, Japan and Canada look relatively stable.

“I am hoping they too will become sustainable markets for the industry.”


BBC defends all-white cast for Australian history series

The first fleet was British (though there were a couple of black convicts) so picturing them as white is accurate.  They did of course have some contact with Aborigines but on only a very small scale

A new seven-part BBC drama series about the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney has drawn big TV audiences in the UK, despite the surprising decision not to include any indigenous cast members.

Banished, filmed partly in Sydney and starring David Wenham as Governor Arthur Phillip, won its timeslot on Thursday with 3.4 million viewers on BBC Two.

However, the series, which is plainly aimed at an English audience, will not screen here until a date yet to be decided in June.

Co-producer Jimmy McGovern has defended the decision to omit indigenous people from the series.

"It is difficult to exaggerate how important is it to get the portrayal of indigenous Australians right," he said. "In recent years I have been fortunate enough to work with a group of aboriginal people as story editor on Redfern Now, a contemporary urban drama.

"The time-frame in Banished is very short – something just over two weeks – and there is not sufficient time to develop and do justice to indigenous characters. Hopefully if there's another series there would be time to collaborate and get any representation right."

Banished, which also stars Russell Tovey (Being Human), MyAnna Buring (Ripper Street) and Ryan Corr (Wolf Creek 2), was filmed on location at Manly Dam and in Sydney's Royal National Park, with the interiors shot in Manchester.

Described as being "loosely inspired" by the events of 1788, Wenham said he was initially cautious about issues of historical accuracy in the series.

"I was concerned about it at first but having reading the script I'm actually surprised how much of it that is supposedly fiction in the script did in fact exist," he says. "Some of those characters that I thought were fictional did exist. "It's not taking huge liberties at all."

Co-producer Sita Williams also insisted that Banished has no pretensions to strict historical accuracy.  "This is our 1788," she says, "...it isn't a historical drama, this is a drama inspired by the arrival of the first fleet in 1788."

So far, the series has received only mixed reviews from British critics


'Britain's white jihadi' a teen from Australia

A westerner pictured alongside Islamic State group fighters and dubbed by media as "Britain's white jihadi" is in fact a teenager from Australia who converted to Islam, a report said Monday.

A picture of the meek-looking youth, holding a rifle and sitting in between two jihadists with a black IS flag in the background, emerged on Twitter in late December.

At the time the militant group, which has run rampant through swathes of Iraq and Syria, hailed his recruitment as "a major coup" with the British media dubbing him "Britain's white jihadi".

Doubts about the authenticity of the picture subsequently emerged after a blogger claimed he had fabricated the image to hoax the British press.

But Australia's Fairfax Media said the photograph had now been positively identified by friends of the teenager and members of two mosques in Melbourne.

It identified him as a former high-achieving 18-year-old student called Jake, declining to reveal his full name at the request of a family member.

He was described as a maths whiz who attended the Craigieburn Secondary College in Melbourne but dropped out in the middle of last year after converting to Islam and buying a one-way ticket to Istanbul en route to Iraq and Syria.

His identification came after Australia stopped two teenage brothers at Sydney airport believed to be heading to the Middle East to fight, amid growing concern in Western countries over young people joining jihadist groups.

That case followed three British schoolgirls leaving their London homes to join IS in Syria in February.

"He used to come here when we had a big lecture," Abu Zaid, a committee member of the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo, told Fairfax Media of Jake.

"He was a very quiet guy, he stuck to himself. We weren't close to him. I didn't see any of the people (getting) close to him."

The newspaper said the youth now goes by the Islamic names Abdur Raheem or Abu Abdullah.

It said that two months after his disappearance, he contacted his family to tell them he was in Iraq training for a "martyrdom mission" with a suicide vest.

He later called again to say he was "too scared to do it and he prefers being a soldier" and was planning to travel to Syria.

Around 140 Australians have travelled to fight with IS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, with another 150 supporting them at home, the government has said.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison said the case showed indoctrination was happening in unexpected places.

"It's very hard to make assumptions on who's going to fall prey to the death cult," he said of IS, adding that the government needed "every available tool to stop people joining the fight overseas".


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