Watchdog can muzzle government critics

In The Australian Monday 5 March 2012:

“Should the News Media Council recommended by the Finkelstein media inquiry be established, it will have no difficulty finding penalties: for severe offences, 100 pages of the inquiry’s report; for recidivism, another 100; and for the truly heinous, the entire document, committed to memory. Like capital punishment, that should ensure recalcitrants never do it again. “

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
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27 Responses to Watchdog can muzzle government critics

  1. rodney

    If 100 catallaxians (citing qualifications real or immaginary) write to the SMH complaining about an item, will the Herald be obliged to print all of them?
    When Catallaxy moves to the Cayman Islands does Sinclair have to go too?

  2. johno

    One upside of the proposed Media Star Chamber is that (if the government decides to subject its own media arm to it), it will improve the complains procedure with the ABC and SBS.

    We could then ensure that every biased and unprofessional reporting by the State run media is brought to Star Chamber’s attention. Should keep all concerned very busy.

  3. Token

    …it will improve the complains procedure with the ABC and SBS.

    I think the idea is admirable, just do not believe it will work out that way. As you suggest, the deck will be stacked with as many Labor hacks as (Un)Fair Work Australia).

    We can see a template on how the Left will use this organisation for pogroms against anyone who thinks differently.

    Look at the form of Holmes and see how he uses Media Watch to watch Blair, Bolt & Jones on his religion – AGW.

    Recently he put out a call to arms to Shut Up! to get the existing press council to close down discussion on AGW.

    This is the system Pinki Finki is putting in place in action.

  4. Alexander

    Johno, the Star Chamber will be stacked. The complaints procedure will be as effective as the ABC one is at present, and unless your complaint is “This article has an evil Murdochian slant to it”, you can be sure it’ll be filed in the shredder.

    This is the entire point of the plan; it’s not to weed out bias, its to weed out bias the government doesn’t approve of.

  5. Sinclair Davidson

    I’m at an unknown, undisclosed location already.

  6. Gosh, John Quiggin is not pulling any punches:

    To start with, it’s clear that the central problem motivating the inquiry in the first place is that most Australian daily newspapers are owned by News Corporation, which routinely prints lies, uses its power to demand, and receive, politically favorable treatment and, at an international level, engages in systemic corruption including fraud, bribery of public officials, blackmail, and much more, not to mention the routine criminality of illegal spying on its targets.

  7. m0nty

    Really, another OP on this? I guess seven wasn’t enough, we needed an eighth.

  8. Token

    …Australian daily newspapers are owned by News Corporation, which routinely prints lies…

    I don’t work for Newscorp, but unless Quiggin can produce evidence for this, I suspect this will cost him a lot of money.

  9. JamesK

    Steve:

    Gosh, John Quiggin is not pulling any punches

    Reality:

    Gosh, John Quiggin is flogging commonsense with a wet lettuce again

  10. Chistery

    obsessive attempts to influence government policy by day-after-day repetition of issues

    But what happens when the Liberal Party is back in power? Does Finko intend to punish Fairfax or was this just a Labor/News Ltd thing? Either he hasn’t thought this through or perhaps he’d just apply the standard Fair Work Aust. timeline to such complaints.

  11. brc

    John Quiggin is an embarassment to his institution. If he stuck at using his talent to further proper discussions instead of joining in the ritual murdoch-bashing everyone would be better off, including Quiggin himself.

    There is no justification for saying that a newspaper “which routinely prints lies, uses its power to demand, and receive, politically favorable treatment and, at an international level, engages in systemic corruption including fraud, bribery of public officials, blackmail, and much more, not to mention the routine criminality of illegal spying on its targets.”

    Of course all newspapers probably do all of those things in tiny doses. But imagining your foes plotting from the inside of a hollowed out volcano that has sharks with laser beams attached just makes you look silly. It’s this type of jumping at shadows that makes people like Peter Gleick destroy his reputation and his cause by shadow boxing imaginary conspiracies.

    I mean, if News Limited is so all-powerful, why does it continually allow critics to snipe at it every day? Why not crush them like bugs? For an organisation that supposedly rolls out corruption and systemic bribes, it’s pretty useless at it on the available evidence.

  12. kingsley

    I think the danger here is this is stage 1. A case will be brought forward to this tribunal and then of course the only remedy will be an apology/correction.

    The Left will then immediately starting screaming the regulator is a “toothless tiger” and it needs punitive powers.
    The first set of fines might be limited to a few thousand for an individual and say $50K for a corporation to make it politically palatable and the critics will be answered with “it’s only $5K for an individual and $50K for Corproations like News Corp – a drop in the ocean”.
    Then in the third wave of “reforms” that will be greatly increased again on the back of “toothless tiger” claims.
    Incrementally they will get what they want unless it is stopped dead now.

  13. Gab

    Enforcement of Determinations.
    11.77 It is necessary, if the News Media Council is not to be a ‘toothless tiger’19
    19 The Press Council in Britain has been referred to as ‘a tame bulldog with rubber teeth’ (Henry Mayer, The Press In Australia (Lansdowne Press, 1964) 245). , to have a means of enforcing its decisions. There should be a legal requirement that if a regulated media outlet refuses to comply with a News Media Council determination the News Media Council or the complainant should have the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order compelling compliance. Any failure to comply with the court order should be a contempt of court and punishable in the usual way. This will be both a deterrent to breaching standards and, in the event of a complaint being made, will act as an incentive for media outlets to resolve the complaint through discussion.

    And there be no appeals (11.78)

    Resistance is futile.

  14. mareeS

    “Resistance is futile.”

    But that’s where the plan stops for these people, Gab. What comes after the end of resistance? What’s the point of power once resistance has been quashed?

    Power is a finite thing, as the ALP has recently discovered. What lies beyond? More power? More money for the insiders? More long lunches, more international conferences, more pats on the back from like-minded people? Or do they simply not have a clue, as it seems.

    It would be so boring and yet painful to be Vladimir Putin, for example, who owns everything he ever wished for, has more billions of roubles and dollars than practically anyone on the planet, commands armed forces that could destroy the planet,has world leaders bowing down before him, and yet he’s a laughingstock because he’s a vain nitwit who always needs to watch his back, and has no idea of what he wants in the future except more power.

    That’s the ALP in a nutshell.

  15. JC

    I continue to say and will continue saying that the Right should embrace the Finkelstein Truth Court. It could eventually be doing God’s work on earth.

  16. Token

    @9:50am I noted how Media Watch acts:

    Look at the form of Holmes and see how he uses Media Watch to watch Blair, Bolt & Jones on his religion – AGW.

    Recently he put out a call to arms to Shut Up! to get the existing press council to close down discussion on AGW.

    12:47pm Bolta highlights Media Watch at works by referenceing the experience of Jennifer Marohasy

    At a point in the discussion Media Watch switches from asking “neutral” queries to making statements.

    Media Watch: Obviously this would be in the interests of irrigators and water-rights entrepreneurs upstream.

    Jennifer Marohasy: You’ve made a statement. I am not sure what the question is or that I have the necessary expertise to respond. Except to perhaps comment that it is in the interests of all Australians for the Murray River’s estuary to be restored and for the Lower Lakes to be allowed to fill with seawater when the next drought impacts the Murray Darling basin.

    Media Watch: Have you received support from other organisations (other than your university and the normal grant-giving academic bodies), such as the IPA or the Heartland Institute?

    Jennifer Marohasy: I have never been paid by the Heartland Institute. I worked for the IPA as a salaried employee on contract from 2003 until 2009. During this time I attended a conference on climate change organized by the Heartland Institute…

    BTW: IPA _owns_ lefties.

  17. brc

    While we’re on the idea of creeping fines, had a chat with a barman on Saturday night, after a staff member couldn’t serve me alcohol because she was underage and hand’t completed the ‘RSA’ which is responsible service of alcohol. Sounds fair enough until you find out that an ‘RSA’ costs $50 and lasts one year. So there’s a nice little earner for some bureaucracy = $50 pa x every bartender in the state.

    He also told me the fine for eating a packet of chips in the smoking area is larger than the fine for serving alcohol to an underage person.

    Those demonic smokers and their chip-eating habits. We need to fine them into submission, now!

    The world has gone mad, and yet, as has been noted, resistance is futile. Who is putting their hand up to stop it? Which politician is promising to roll back all ridiculous legislation and licensing systems? None. They’re all at it.

  18. Peter Patton

    The Watchdog will be as useless as pockets in underpants. They are 40 years behind the times, technology, and polity. Such an organization is useless is the presence of the Streisand effect, for example.

  19. .

    I hope so.

    If this deal ever has anything to do with me, I’ll just ignore it.

    If they want to crucify me, I’ll wear a bloody crown of thorns.

  20. Winston SMITH

    But will Quiggin get sued for his defamatory comments? I don’t think so.
    Will the Liberal Party wind back any of this nanny state crap?

    Guts in politics on the right, is as scarce as rocking horse shit.

  21. One upside of the proposed Media Star Chamber is that (if the government decides to subject its own media arm to it), it will improve the complains procedure with the ABC and SBS.

    You have underestimated government media to a very large extent. Think every single department has a website which may get more than 40 hits per day. This is not counting misleading election campaigning which is common.

  22. Peter Patton

    Winston

    Nah, he has a solid defence. 1970s amnesia.

  23. val majkus

    Token; I agree the media watch focus on Jennifer Marohasy is an example of bias

    I don’t recall Flannery, Garnaut, the CSIRO or BOM being asked to answer questions

    And why not; Jennifer answered the questions very well; how well would Flannery, Garnaut, and the others do

    for an example of the trumpeting by the media and BOM of ‘record Perth heatwaves’ see http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/

    Will media watch now send questions to BOM; if not; why not?

  24. Gab

    Will media watch now send questions to BOM; if not; why not?

    What? Question the “science”? Don’t be absurd. Questioning incurs an automatic social penalty of being labelled a “sceptic”. Questioning is not allowed in climate “science”. One must simply close one’s eyes, smell the incense and believe.

  25. Johno

    Val. Collect the evidence, build the case and hit the send button as soon as the government sets up the Star Chamber.

    Also, sent it to your friends so they can lodge a complaint as well. It is important that the Star Chamber gets flooded with as many examples of the government’s media companies bias as early as possible.

  26. val majkus

    Gab and Johno – very good advice;

  27. Like the ideas.

    Can also read every policy statement of Labor or Greens and if they ever contradict them such as “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” whithout changing the policy on there website, complain that whichever media outlet reports it that they are being biased and reporting lies. Either the policy which will be covered also as a website is a lie or the spoken word is.

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