Feb 23, 2019

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts in other media

ABC’s Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website  in case you miss it).

Geraldine talks with Dr James Dorsey, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and Professor Ian Hall from the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University and an Academic Fellow of the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne, about India and Pakistan tensions in Kashmir.

Public health advocate Dr John Cunningham discusses how tobacco sponsorship is making a comeback.

A Foreign Affair discusses:

  • what’s happened this week in British politics;
  • the surprise nomination of the Thai princess as a candidate, albeit briefly, and what this means for the upcoming elections;
  • human rights abuses in Iraq and Syria and what’s happening to the foreign wives of ISIS fighters;
  • what Australia’s stance on Chinese telecommunication company Huawei says about our international standing.

Guests are John McCarthy, a former Australian diplomat, Dara Conduit, an associate research fellow in the Middle East Studies Forum at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation and Nicholas Farrelly, Associate Dean in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Nigerian writer and poet Ben Okri on freedom and UK politics.

The fight to save the World Heritage Site, Shark Bay, from the damages of climate change with Diana Walker, Emeritus Professor at the University of Western Australia and a member of the Shark Bay World Heritage Advisory Committee.

Other commentary

Theatre of the absurd – Senate Estimates Committee

The ABC’s Friday Politics Panel (Katherine Murphy, Shane Wright and Andrew Probyn) provides a political commentary on the corruption revealed during the week in Parliament, particularly the revelations from the Senate Estimates Committee – Helloworld, Paladin, Michaelia Cash’s AWU raid, Angus Taylor’s stonewalling on approval of an offshore wind farm. They remind us that that the week concluded with Attorney-General Christian Porter making 34 partisan appointments  to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Those journalists may see the exposure of scandals as part of the usual business of election campaigns, but Crikey journalist Guy Rundle sees the corruption and cronyism of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government as the breach of implicit limits that had held until recently. “It’s a real pain that has happened to our country” he writes. “There is now something more than anger attached to this government. There’s a sort of disgust around”. His article is paywalled on its original Crikeysite, but it’s re-posted on the MSN website.

Wayne Swan’s valedictory – “I’m honoured to have served here with so many great Australians”

After 1422 sitting days, Wayne Swan is leaving Parliament. “A political career, I think, is worthless if it’s not grounded in the lives of the people that you represent”. His valedictory speech has a theme around Labor’s “light on the hill”, but rather than adopting Morrison’s vituperative style he maintains dignity in his partisan statements. “Sometimes parties can lose a moral right to govern before they lose their numerical majority”.

Farewell to panache – has Julie Bishop been a “liberal” or a “true and faithful servant”

In her departure speech Julie Bishop couldn’t resist the temptation to commence with the usual Coalition partisan drivel, but it becomes more dignified. Annabel Crabb sees it as the speech of a skilled diplomat paying great attention to her choice of words, gestures and symbols, carrying strong messages for those who pushed her aside in the Dutton-Morrison putsch last August. Crabb’s document includes a videoclip of her speech.

Another videoclip mounted by The Guardian  starts near the end of her speech, and reveals that after hugs from some of her colleagues, she didn’t hang around for Morrison’s response. When Morrison said of Bishop “She’s a liberal through and through” what did he mean? Or did he say “She’s a Liberal through and through”? He went on to refer to her as a “good and faithful” servant, implying obedience and subservience rather than the independence of liberalism.

Some commentators talk about the “moderate Liberals”, implying that the party still has some members who may be on the “right” economically but are guided by the Enlightenment values of liberalism. Writing in The Guardian, Greg Jericho says “The moderate Liberal is a myth”. John Howard subjugated them many years ago.

What, then, is liberalism?

On Late Night Live  on Tuesday night Phillip Adams interviewed historian Helena Rosenblatt, of the City University of New York on the question What is a Liberal?. We may believe that the English philosopher John Locke was the first to articulate the concept of liberalism, but she draws attention to ideas underpinning liberalism, going back to ancient Roman concepts  of one’s moral duty as a citizen and a commitment to the common good (covered in her book The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century). She raises the uncomfortable tension between liberalism and democracy, and introduces us to the French origins of liberalism in the work of Germaine de Staël. She also reminds us of the liberal socialist movement and of one of its adherents, the young Winston Churchill. (42 minutes.)

How a minor policy tweak made world news

“Sick joke: Australia’s government stirs up hysteria about illegal immigration” is the headline of The Economist article on Phelps’s bill to ease the medical transfer of asylum-seekers held in Australia’s offshore concentration camps. “The polls suggest they are headed for a drubbing, which is presumably why they are trying to stir up hysteria about boat people again”.  The Economist gives access to the first couple of paragraphs: to read the full article readers have to register (free) or subscribe.

All the news that’s fit to suppress

Being named “Person of the Year” by Time and displayed on the magazine’s front cover in December did not protect Filipino journalist Maria Resa from being locked up for “cyber-libel”. Writing in The Conversation, Peter Greste says that governments, and not only the Philippines Government, “are increasingly using the ‘rule of law’ to silence the legitimate work of journalists.

When the ruling party has all the media on its side it doesn’t have to resort to the measures used in Philippines and Egypt. In Australia the Murdoch media has adopted a style in line with North Korea’s Rodung Sinmun; the Fairfax media, particularly the Financial Review, has moved to the right since being taken over by a company chaired by a senior member of the Liberal party; and the ABC is so terrified of upsetting the Government that even when the Senate Estimates Committee exposing government corruption of Venezuelan dimensions, it must find some fault on the other side, no matter how trivial, so it can claim to be “balanced”.

And in the US, where the Murdoch media is just as partisan as it is in Australia, when an academic questions the line taken by a Fox News host, he or she can expect to be called a “moron” and to “go fuck yourself”, as was the experience of Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman. (We had links to Bregman’s appearance at Davos in the February 2 edition of Saturday readings).

But the media landscape is not static, and the Fairfax name will once again be associated with investigative journalism. Private Media – the owners of Crikey– will soon launch an “inquiry journalism” initiative, whose journalists “will dig, probe, uncover, explain, expose, deconstruct, connect the dots, lift the veils”. They describe it as a collaborative arrangement developed by two of their biggest investors – John B Fairfax and Cameron O’Reilly.

Angry mandarins

Although there has been politicisation of the public service, particularly since John Howard amended the Public Service Act in 1999 to require public servants to be more “responsive” to executive government, the possibility of an impending change in government tends to rekindle norms of impartiality and objectivity.

Laura Tingle describes how public servants have been expressing their displeasure at being dragged into the political fray, particularly in relation to the leaking of classified information to The Australian. Tingle takes us through the extraordinary way ASIO’s advice was not only leaked, but also deliberately misinterpreted to frame it in terms of Morrison’s desire to signal to the people smugglers and to the electorate that Labor was laying down the welcome mat for boat arrivals.

Writing in Fairfax media, Jack Waterford warns about the long-term loss of faith in our institutions and therefore threats to national security when governments – almost always governments on the “right” – politicise the work of our security agencies.

Angry Catholics

The Pope’s initiative to bring together bishops from around the world to a meeting on clerical sexual abuse has attracted a great deal of comment. The magazine La Croix presents a straightforward account, quoting Pope Francis’s desire for “concrete and effective measures” against sexual abuse. In the Jesuit magazine America Michael O’Loughlin summarises statements by cardinals from the Philippines and Columbia who describe  the enduring wounds suffered by those who have been abused. Writing in Commonweal, without downplaying the horrors of sexual abuse of children, Paul Moses points out that vulnerable adults also suffer sexual abuse from the clergy. In Australia’s Eureka Street  Tracey Edstein  questions the composition of the Vatican conference. Without making any allegations against the individuals involved, she asks “aren’t they drawn precisely from the groups whose members offended?”.

Undermining the Pope’s agenda are two conservative cardinals who have trotted out the view that homosexuality is the main cause of clerical abuse, as the ABC’s Bridget Brennan reports from the Vatican. In a more reasoned discussion on homosexuality on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report The Vatican Closet Andrew West interviews Massimo Faggioli from Villanova University discussing claims that most priests and bishops who work in the Vatican are gay. In view of the church’s hard-line but hypocritical condemnation of homosexuality, is a fear of blackmail making homosexual clergy reluctant to expose those who harm children?

A relaxed Reserve Bank Governor

In his statement to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe reassured us that the current adjustment in the housing market “is not expected to derail the economy”. Rather it will put housing on a more sustainable footing and allow more people to own their own home. He did express his hope that household incomes would grow — in other words that employers would raise wages.

Don’t go to bed after eating cheese

Fortunately there is more in the media than stories about crony capitalism, media censorship and abuse of children. In his weekly column Side View  Crikey’s Bernard Keane draws our attention to a website of spurious correlations. Eating margarine leads to divorce, Japanese cars encourage their owners to commit kamikaze, and if you eat cheese be very careful with your bedsheets.


Saturday’s Good Reading and Listeningis compiled by Ian McAuley

Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up

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