Saturday, 17 March 2012

Abbott's attack on Media Inquiry is par for the course

"Trust me, I'm a politician."
In publishing an attack by Opposition leader Tony Abbott on Ray Finkelstein's recommendations from the Independent Media Inquiry, the Australian is just showing its stripes because this is the man its editors want to see lead the country.

Abbott's piece, which is paywalled, reruns a lot of the stuff we have heard already, placing more of its emphasis on "the current government" than other commentators have done to date. Julia Gillard is, after all, Abbott's main target. The nub of his argument is contained in a single paragraph:
Especially in the hands of the current government, any new watchdog could become a political correctness enforcement agency destined to hound from the media people whose opinions might rattle the average Q&A audience. It's easy to imagine the fate of Andrew Bolt or Alan Jones, for instance, at the hands of such thought police. Their demise, you understand, wouldn't be because the government didn't like them but because they'd persistently breached "standards".
"Demise," Tony? Asking Andrew Bolt - who recently lost a racial vilification case in the Federal Court - or Alan Jones - who is routinely rebuked for breaching requirements for balance and fairness - to register an apology, correction or retraction, seems like a desirable and uncontroversial outcome to result from setting up the News Media Council. Bolt is cosily ensconced within the secure fortress of the Australian's sister paper, the Herald Sun. Would being asked to retract something he had written lead to his demise? Far from it. A demand for a retraction by the NMC would merely cement Bolt more firmly in the affections of the breathing oddities who daily welcome his views. And would asking Alan Jones to make a retraction lead to his demise, firmly implanted as he is within the citadel of 2GB, and within the affections of his doltish listeners?

Abbott goes on:
The current government has an ingrained tendency to bully and intimidate critics. Witness this week's attack on Peter Costello for questioning the government's handling of the chairmanship of the Future Fund; this month's jihad against mining magnates for daring to question the government's investment-sapping mining tax; or last year's assault on mum-and-dad anti-carbon tax protesters in Canberra as the "convoy of no consequence" or the "convoy of incontinence".
Well, you know, Tony, the people with hats shaped like wingnuts may be clever self-parodiers, but online those who, like you, reject the idea of the NMC display similarly looney views on the nature of the media and our apparently hard-won freedoms. There are, indeed, some who lampoon these ghoul-raisers as "dribblejaws". Alan Jones at risk of "demise"? Democracy at risk of erosion?

Asking Abbott to pen a relevant critique of a statutory measure that would likely go against his interests is lazy. True to type, the Australian's editors aim to prolongue the attack as far as possible and Abbott has turned out to be an ideal proponent of the same misguided ideas the newspaper's editors and journalists have been peddling for weeks now. It's just the latest campaign of the war, the most recent front in the battle to turn public sentiment against an eminently reasonable measure that is designed to reduce the power of entrenched corporate interests in Australia's public arena. It is a desirable measure, and we should not be diverted by the self-interested ramblings of random politicians.

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