Monday, October 01, 2018

Australian Politicians again show “Real Genius”

Viv Forbes

Back in the chaotic dying days of the Whitlam-Cairns-Connor government, Canberra was buzzing with Rex Connor’s grand plans for nationalisation of the mining industry, a national energy grid and gas pipelines linking the NW Shelf to the capital cities, all to be funded by massive foreign loans arranged by a mysterious Pakistani named Khemlani. Malcolm Frazer staged a parliamentary revolt. The economy slumped.

A British observer at that time was asked who was the greater Prime Minister - Harold Wilson or Gough Whitlam. He replied:

“Any fool can bugger up Britain but it takes real genius to bugger up Australia.”

Australian politicians are again showing real genius.

Now, we have incredible tri-partisan plans to cover the continent with a spider-web of transmission lines connecting wind/solar “farms” sending piddling amounts of intermittent power to distant consumers and to expensive battery and hydro backups - all funded by electricity consumers, tax-assisted speculators and foreign debt.

We are the world’s biggest coal exporter but have not built a big coal-fired power station for 11 years. We have massive deposits of uranium but 100% of this energy is either exported, or sterilised by the Giant Rainbow Serpent, or blocked by the Green-anti’s.

Australia suffers recurrent droughts but has not built a major water supply dam for about 40 years, and the average age of our hydro-electric plants is 48 years. And when the floods do come, desperate farmers watch as years of rain water rush past to irrigate distant oceans.

Once, Australia was a world leader in exploration and drilling – it is now a world leader in legalism, red tape and environmental obstructionism.

Once, Canberra and the states encouraged oil and gas exploration with geological mapping and research - now they restrict land and sea access and limit exports.

Once, Australia was a world leader in refining metals and petroleum - now our expensive unreliable electricity and green tape are driving these industries and their jobs overseas.

Once, Australia’s CSIRO was respected for research that supported industry and for doing useful things like controlling rabbits and prickly pear and developing better crops and pastures. Now CSIRO panders to global warming hysteria and promotes the fairy story that carbon taxes and emissions targets can change the world’s climate.

Once, young Australians excelled in maths, science and engineering. Now, they are brain-washed in gender studies, green energy non-science and environmental activism.

Once, Australians were proud of our history, our ancestors and our achievements - now we are supposed to feel guilty and apologise.

Once, Australia had a big coastal fleet carrying passengers and goods and catching fish. Now our roads are clogged with cars and freight and we import seafood.

Once, the opening of a railway or the discovery of oil, coal, nickel or uranium made headlines. Today’s Aussies harass explorers and developers, and queue at the release of the latest IPad.

As Australia’s first people discovered, if today’s Australians lack the will or the knowledge to use our great natural resources, more energetic people will take them off us.


Why I refused to judge the Horne prize over a restrictive rule change

David Marr

I woke up on Saturday morning to strange news in the Australian. The rules of the Horne prize – named after Donald and run by the Saturday Paper – had been changed. I’ve judged the prize a couple of times and was due to again in 2018. But not after what I saw on Saturday.

It’s a good prize: $15,000 for a 3,000-word essay on who we are and how we live in this country. It’s the brainchild of the Saturday Paper’s whizz kid editor, Erik Jensen, and it’s been doing its job well: bringing stories to light, honouring old hands in the writing trade and turning up new talent.

But, without warning the judges, Jensen decided to radically narrow the rules and issued a list of what the Horne prize was “not seeking or accepting” this year: “Essays by non-Indigenous writers about the experiences of First Nations Australians. Essays about the LGBTQI community written by people without direct experience of this community. Any other writing that purports to represent the experiences of those in any minority community of which the writer is not a member.”

I messaged Jensen at once: “I’ve been a big critic of such restrictions. Men can write about women, gays about straights, blacks about whites. You judge, as always, by quality. That’s likely to be higher when there’s direct experience. But you can’t disqualify for lack of it. And if we’re not going to accept whites writing about Indigenous experience, how can we have whites judging Indigenous writing?”

I could have made that list a lot longer: how could I write about political parties, the Catholic church, criminal syndicates or the high court? I’ve been writing about them for decades but never been a member of any of them.

We spoke. I made it clear I wouldn’t be a judge on those terms.

On Saturday Jensen emailed all the judges – me, the novelist Anna Funder, the Indigenous academic Marcia Langton and a representative of the sponsor Aesop – apologising for springing this on us and explaining: “The guidelines attempted to reduce the number of essays we received that offered chauvinistic or condescending accounts of particular groups of Australians, especially First Australians.”

I’ve judged a few prizes in my time. Someone has to do a first triage. You can’t stop writers offering rubbish. Culling is a chore that has to be done.

Langton told me: “I don’t think you should completely rubbish Erik’s attempt to get rid of the rubbish.” She views the new guidelines as: “Probably a mistake because it’s not the done thing. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for what he’s trying to achieve but it crosses the line on censorship and free speech.”

Funder has also declined to judge the prize under the new guidelines which, she told the Australian, would disqualify a lot of her own work: “I can’t really be judging a prize where my qualifications for doing so are ruled out of bounds.”

The new rules are being ditched. Jensen is working on a plan to extend entries for another month and award the $15,000 as it has been in the past: for best writing.


Tear down ABC’s silos of groupthink

Whoever replaces Michelle Guthrie as ABC managing director and editor-in-chief should be capable of acting, and should be willing to act, in both roles. Without this, the ABC will remain — as it has been for decades — an organisation essentially run by staff collectives.

The essential problem with the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster is that nobody runs it, unlike successful commercial media companies. One-time ABC chairman James Spigelman, a consistent defender of the ABC, acknowledged this reality when interviewed by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National’s RN Breakfast last Wednesday.

Spigelman told Kelly: “The trouble with the ABC is about a quarter of the staff think that they can run the show better than anyone. It’s a very special organisation, the ABC. And it’s got a lot of different units within it — some would say silos — and they look after their own sphere, and it’s very hard to make significant changes.”

Some say silos, others say staff collectives, others still say soviets. But it’s the same problem. The various parts of the ABC run themselves; they decide what programs to make, which staff to hire and so on. And the managing director fails to resolve this by acting as an editor-in-chief, which they are entitled and paid to do.

Shortly after Mark Scott was appointed managing director and editor-in-chief in May 2006, he invited himself to address the Sydney Institute. The offer was warmly accepted, especially since this was to be his first major public speech in this role. During his talk on October 16, 2006, Scott acknowledged that “some of the ABC’s harshest public critics … love the ABC”. However, he conceded that the critics had “a sense that the organisation has issues with balance and fairness, particularly through its news and current affairs content”.

Rather than condemn the critics, Scott recognised that the ABC had been “too defensive in the face of such criticism” and he declared that it needed “to address the criticism carefully and comprehensively”. He made clear that he would act in his dual roles as managing director and editor-in-chief. This proved to be a broken promise. Within a short time, Scott dropped the commitment to act as editor-in-chief. During his decade at the ABC, Scott gave numerous interviews to his employees where he dismissed the ABC’s considered critics and maintained that there was no lack of political balance at the organisation.

When Scott left the ABC in April 2016, it was a conservative-free zone. The ABC did not have one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. This is what Guthrie inherited when she became managing director, and this remained the situation when she was dismissed on Monday.

The tendency of the ABC to be defensive — which Scott conceded in 2006 — remains extant today. In recent times leading ABC presenters such as Julia Baird, Ellen Fanning, Richard Glover and Leigh Sales have denied the ABC is a conservative-free zone. But they have not been able to name one conservative in any prominent news and current affairs role.

Former Fairfax Media journalist and editor Tom Burton is not a conservative. Writing in public sector news website The Mandarin on Tuesday, he recounted how former ABC managing directors Geoffrey Whitehead and Jonathan Shier had been “mercilessly torn down” (in 1986 and 2001 respectively) “with the powerful Newscaff (news and current affairs) division of the ABC leading the charge”.

Burton added that, to this day, it was this “journo group that drives much of the culture of the national media group that is the ABC”. In other words, journalists — not management — run the ABC. And the like-minded appoint similar like-minded to key news and current affairs positions.

As Burton puts it, “previous ABC MD and former Fairfax editor Mark Scott came from this (journo) world and understood its brother and sisterhood”. Which helps explain why Scott soon dropped his intention to act as ABC editor-in-chief in addition to his role as managing director. It was all too hard.

Guthrie did not have the background to act as editor-in-chief. Moreover, as with Shier, she came to the job after many years working outside Australia. In short, Guthrie did not know — or even know of — most of the journo groups that set the organisation’s culture.

Spigelman was appointed by the Gillard Labor government as ABC chairman following his disappointment at not being made High Court chief justice. He was not a very active chairman.

Justin Milne gave his first interview as ABC chairman to The Australian’s Darren Davidson in March last year. Milne is from that subset of the business community that does not exhibit much political or historical knowledge. Milne told Davidson: “I don’t come to the job thinking I need to fix the perceived bias in the ABC because I don’t know that there really is bias.”

Milne ran the familiar Friends of the ABC line that the public broadcaster was criticised by both Labor and Coalition governments. He had in mind the criticism of the ABC by Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating along with Coalition prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott. What Milne overlooked was that all four had a similar complaint: namely they were criticised by the ABC from the Left.

For a while Malcolm Turnbull received favourable coverage by the ABC. However, after the 2016 election he became increasingly critical of the errors and unprofessionalism of some ABC presenters, producers and editors. Initially his attitude was that journalists as a group were on the Left and the public broadcaster reflected this reality. But his criticism of the ABC increased the longer he remained in office.

Guthrie essentially was appointed by Spigelman and Milne was appointed by Turnbull. Now both positions are vacant. This provides a rare opportunity for the board, under its new chairman, to appoint a managing director who has the knowledge and the courage to act as editor-in-chief and knock down the journo silos in the taxpayer-funded conservative-free-zone.


Another angry and ungracious Leftist

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has found herself in a bitter online feud with a Labor MP after sending the woman a handwritten letter as a kind gesture. 

Ms Berejiklian sent the letter to Jenny Aitchison, the member for Maitland, after learning the mother-of-two had both of her breasts removed and reconstructed in July after learning she had a cancer gene. 'I was so sorry to learn of your serious health issue…I hope you are recovering well and our thoughts are with you and your family during this time,' the letter read.

But Ms Aitchison took issue with the message, firing back a scathing letter of her own critiquing the government's approach to health and use of state funds.

Her lengthy response was then uploaded in full on Facebook, accusing Ms Berejiklian of 'wasting billions of dollars on stadiums'.

In her response, Ms Aitchison thanked Ms Berejiklian for her letter but accused Ms Berejiklian of prioritising stadiums over women's health.

'‪I want @GladysB to know first hand what it's like to be a woman in regional NSW struggling with cancer or other 'serious health issues'...Fix our health system...stop wasting billions of dollars on stadiums!' she wrote in a Facebook post.

'When I was diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene, I had a risk reducing bilateral saplingo oopherectomy and hysterectomy to reduce my breast cancer risk by half and to reduce ovarian cancer risk by 97%,' the letter read. 'Free MRIs once a year, interspersed with annual mammograms and ultrasounds (or when a lump seem to show) delayed my breast cancer.'

She was also unable to take the preventable medication due to menopause.

'I couldn't find a surgeon in the Hunter who could do my surgery and had to wait six months for a private specialist in Sydney,' the Member for Maitland wrote.

'After surgery I had complications where I spent 52 hours in St Vincent's Public Hospital emergency department without being fed for 18 hours. The staff were amazing and overworked but there were no beds in either private or public wards.'

She then went on to explain why she was detailing all this information to the Premier, stressing she knew 'first hand what it's like to be a woman in regional New South Wales struggling with cancer and other 'serious health issues'.'

'I didn't want ask for or want special treatment because I'm a member of Parliament. 'I want you to fix our health system. Fund more screening for all women and education campaigns, and stop wasting billions of dollars on stadiums!'


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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