Thursday, July 02, 2015

Sydney Morning Herald judged by its weasel words

I read the SMH most days but from the day of his election until now I have yet to see a good word about Abbott from the SMH.  They are obsessional Leftists -- JR

THE DESIRE for revenge is an understandable, if often unattractive, human trait. As Fairfax have now discovered, it can also be an expensive one.

Yesterday the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age lost a long-running defamation battle with Treasurer Joe Hockey, who sued following a front-page headline and associated tweets that labelled him a “Treasurer for sale”.

As the court heard, Fairfax’s hostility towards the Treasurer followed an earlier mistake by The Sydney Morning Herald which led to a grudging apology. Rather than being angry at his own staff, Herald editor Darren Goodsir was more ­inclined to be angry with Hockey.

In a text message to Melbourne Age editor in chief Andrew Holden, Goodsir offered this very revealing sentiment: “I have long dreamt (well actually since last Friday) of a headline that screams: Sloppy Joe! I think we are not far off but perhaps even more serious than that.”

As it happens, a “Sloppy Joe” headline may have saved Fairfax $200,000 in defamation payments to the Treasurer. Instead, the Herald went with a more aggressive line, obviously prompted by an equally revealing text message from Holden to Goodsir: “F. k him.”

It is possible that Hockey’s enemies, both inside and outside of parliament, will try to frame this outcome as an example of the government’s alleged opposition to free speech.

It is nothing of the kind. Fairfax was and remains free to publish any words it chooses. But it remains the case that Fairfax is also responsible for those words, and that Hockey maintains the right to take legal ­action when he is wronged.

This is particularly so when words are used out of a misguided sense of retribution. Hockey’s lawyer Bruce McClintock was convincing last year when he pointed out “there was a big measure of payback ­because the Herald had been forced to apologise to Mr Hockey”.

Now Fairfax has been forced to do a lot more than merely apologise. The publisher should consider the motivation behind its attacks on the government, and especially on individual members of that government.


That Leftist double standard again

Attorney-General George Brandis was widely ridiculed after he made these comments in the Senate in May, 2014: “People do have a right to be bigots, you know. People have the right to say things that other people would find insulting, offensive or bigoted.”

Many of Brandis’s critics were from the ABC, where the Attorney-General is something of a hate ­figure.

So it was a surprise on Monday night to hear so many people on the ABC’s Q & A program using Brandis’s exact argument to defend the show’s decision to grant several minutes of airtime last week to ­Islamic extremist Zaky Mallah.

Host Tony Jones kicked off the homage to Brandis with these opening remarks: “The ABC’s editorial standards tell us to present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded, nor disproportionately represented.”

Guest Anne Aly, a research fellow at Perth’s Curtin University, readily agreed. “We deserve to have these issues brought to our attention,” she said.

A video question from viewer Michael Daley followed Aly’s theme: “The High Court has held that there is an implied freedom of political communication. Therefore, while I disagree with the comments made by Zaky Mallah last week, we have an obligation to honour his right say them.”

And guest Lawrence Krauss, one of those relatively obscure American academics who so frequently appear on Q & A, joined in. The ­director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University said that some of Mallah’s views were “despicable”, but in our society “we have to be willing to have discussions about despicable views”.

In other words, people have the right to say things that other people would find insulting, offensive or bigoted. George Brandis should consider himself deeply honoured by the ABC’s belated agreement.


The crooked BOM again

Vanishing hot days of December 1931 — and BOM monthly averages hotter than every single day that month

Lance Pidgeon has drawn my attention to the mysteriously detailed weather maps of the Australian BOM, with their mass of contradictions. The intricate squiggles of air temperature profiles suggests an awesome array of data — especially remarkable in places like “Cook”, which is a railway station with a population of four. Eucla, the megopolis in the map, has a population of 368. The shared border in the map (right) is 674km long top to bottom.

Thankfully, after 80 years of modern technology, the weather at Eucla and in the Great Victorian Desert is much more bearable than anyone would have expected. The BOM ACORN data set works better than airconditioning. In places near Eucla, where old newspapers record 43C, the BOM tells us the highest maximum that month was “under 27C”. Far to the north of there, the highest maximum stayed under 36C, but the average for that same whole month was above 36C. Go figure. It’s a new kind of maths… [or maybe the miracle of reverse cycle a/c?]

There are a half million square kilometers in this map here and almost no thermometers, but plenty of lizards. It is so empty that every railway station and even a single house will earn a “dot” and a label. The point where WA meets SA and the NT is so remote that more people have been to the South Pole. Despite that, the BOM can draw maps of daily air temperature variation separating sand dunes and salt lakes where no man probably walked in a whole year.  Marvelous what computers and assumptions can do.

Jokes aside. The state of the BOM database is not so funny.


Dole crackdown comes into effect

WELFARE recipients will face a federal government crackdown from Wednesday in a bid to bolster the budget.

THE government is increasing the fraud detection activities of the department that manages Centrelink from July 1. It expects to recoup about $1.7 billion from thousands of welfare cheats who have already been identified for lying about their incomes.

Jobseekers who don't show up for appointments with their employment service provider will also have their dole payment docked.

Unemployed people who have their benefits halted after failing to turn up will no longer be able to obtain full back pay if they reschedule a meeting and attend a new appointment.  They must have a good reason for not attending the meeting or cancel ahead of time.

There's also new criteria for people who use Centrelink payments to rent TVs, fridges and other household items.  They'll no longer be able to lease goods under an indefinite or short-term contract of less than four months.

Meanwhile, parents earning more than $100,000 will be cut off from the Family Tax Benefit Part B payment, the threshold for which has been reduced from $150,000.

But there's good news for others.  Thousands of young NSW residents with disability will get the national disability insurance scheme three years early.

The scheme is being rolled out in full for people under 18 years of age from the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Penrith regions.  They'll start receiving individualised care plans from Wednesday.

Hundreds of people with a disability will mark the occasion with an information session for families and the disability community in Penrith.


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