Category Archives: Politics

Man’s opinion changes between his early 20s and late 40s

I’m still chuckling about people who think that Joe Hockey having a different opinion now to the one he had almost 30 years ago is a BIG STORY.

When Joe Hockey was a uni student in 1987, he protested about the introduction of a $250 admin fee. Now, 27 years later, he’s part of a government that wants to make uni so expensive that students will be in debt for the rest of their lives. Women will cop the worst of it. (I couldn’t find anything on how the changes will affect Indigenous students, but we already know that the Budget hammers Indigenous people, with over $500 million cut from Indigenous affairs, including $160 million cut from Indigenous health programs, $3.5 million cut from the Torres Strait Regional Authority, $15 million cut from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, $9.5 million cut from Indigenous language support, and that’s before you consider the GP co-payment and disgusting cuts to youth welfare. If you have an education link, please let me know and I’ll update this.)

Yesterday, the online editor at smh.com.au ranked the Hockey story in the top spot. The same story was still in tops (“above the fold”) this morning until 10am-ish, albeit with the date changed to today. I haven’t checked News Ltd sites because frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about their coverage.

Please note that I’m not saying it shouldn’t be reported. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t talk about it. What I am saying is that, as far as journalism goes, it shouldn’t be the most important political story of the day. I saw journos on twitter congratulating each other over what a “good get” it was. Huh? That Hockey’s views about tertiary education were different when he was in student politics three decades ago is hardly a “GOTCHA” moment. Not least because his 1987 opposition to the $250 fee was reported last week (and at the time).

Mind you, I’m questioning why it was considered the most important political story on smh.com.au on a day when a video of some guys not getting caught in a tornado made news around the world, so I shouldn’t be surprised and why the hell am I wasting my time getting shitty about this stuff?

I’m yet to see a decent argument about why this story deserves the coverage it got. One argument is that it’s important because the education changes will affect a lot of people.

Yes, the changes do affect a lot of people, but what has a decades-old change of mind got to do with that? If it had happened in the last 12 months, then sure. But it’s probably closer to two decades ago, since he was president of the NSW Young Libs from 1991-1992, and made noises about changing Commonwealth funding of education in his maiden speech to Parliament in 1996. It’s an interesting side story, but it’s hardly OMG IMPORTANT.

Another argument is that it’s important because it gives his views context, and highlights his decision-making process.

Except it doesn’t do either of those things at all.

What does knowing that he said one thing in 1987 and now believes the opposite actually tell us about his decision-making process? Nothing. It tells us nothing.

What context does it provide to the current education debate?

None.

But, you know, writing 466 words about what is said in an old video is a hellava lot easier than doing the kind of journalism that is actually important and useful. Yay, jernalism.

Get your marching shoes on

On Sunday, I will be marching for my right to control my own body.

We only have a few weeks left. Next month, the NSW Upper House will vote on the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 (No. 2). It gives a foetus (20 weeks or more) the same legal rights as a person.

For background, in 2009 Justine Hampson was driving under the influence of drugs when she hit Brodie Donegan, who was 32 weeks pregnant. The child (Zoe) was stillborn as a result of Donegan’s injuries. Hampson was convicted for causing grievous bodily harm to Donegan, including the loss of her foetus, and jailed for nine months. At the time, Donegan seemed to accept the result, but grief is a funny thing. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but I do know what it’s like to lose a baby sibling, and that grief fills up all the spaces in a room.

It is understandable that Donegan and her husband Nick Ball want their loss acknowledged. But this is a bad law. That Fred Nile drafted the first version in Zoe’s name without even speaking to the family makes me pretty damn sure that their loss is being exploited by people who want to remove women’s rights.

The Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW, Domestic Violence NSW, Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, NSW Bar Association, The Law Society, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Reproductive Choice Australia, and the Women Lawyers Association are all against the bill. They say it’s unnecessary and may harm a woman’s access to an abortion after 24-weeks – usually carried out for quite serious reasons. As Sarah Krasnostein writes, this affects:

Those who are in denial or too traumatised to find out because the pregnancy resulted from rape, from incest. Those too young to know the signs. Those who have a mental illness or an intellectual disability and do not understand that they are pregnant.

But it’s not always a question of not knowing. There are those who know too much. Who must make an excruciating choice after test results diagnosing severe foetal abnormality. For instance, the test for Anencephaly happens at 15-20 weeks. Babies with this neural tube defect are born without a forebrain and the remaining tissue exposed. If not stillborn, they die shortly after.

The proposed law has an exemption for medical procedures, but according to Women’s Legal Services NSW, that will be open to interpretation. Keep in mind that abortion in NSW is a crime for women AND doctors, unless the doctor believes the woman’s physical and/or mental health is in serious danger. Faced with this new law, it’s easy to imagine doctors becoming reluctant to perform medical procedures that are legal.

For more info on the legal ramifications, read this excellent piece by law lecturer Hannah Robert:

Once the foetus is defined as a legal person, the law has a direct relationship with it, and the mother’s consent becomes irrelevant. She becomes invisible in the eyes of the law, despite the physical realities of pregnancy meaning that any interaction with the foetus necessarily involves her.

Chilling, isn’t it? As far as the law is concerned, once you get halfway through a pregnancy, you are irrelevant.

This great piece at Hoyden about Town lists some of the potential problems, such as compromising medical care, coercion, and prosecuting pregnant women who don’t follow dietary guidelines.

Make no mistake, this bill is about moving us closer to making it impossible for women to access safe abortion. Women’s Legal Services NSW called the bill “a clear attempt to undermine women’s rights by changing the legal status of a foetus”. Please read that WLS piece, because it deals with the current law, and the emotive and incorrect language of the proposed bill.

In the US, foetal personhood laws are being used to stop women accessing safe abortions and even emergency contraception. Republicans have tried a few times to change the law so that when a man rapes a woman, resulting in pregnancy, that woman is forced to continue the pregnancy and have the baby. They’ve also tried to legalise the murder of doctors who perform abortions. And they are running a war on contraception. Think that won’t happen here? Albury pharmacist Simon Horsfall tells women that if they’re buying the pill so they don’t get pregnant, they should go elsewhere because he doesn’t believe in contraception. He doesn’t sell condoms or the morning-after pill. Melbourne pharmacist Stephen Mulqueeny also refuses to sell the morning-after pill because of his religious beliefs. I have no doubt that there are many more pharmacists who refuse to sell these legal products. (Not that these products are good enough. The majority of abortions in Australia are the result of contraception failure – about sixty per cent of women were using at least one form of contraception at the time.) The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is willing to remove women’s rights in order to do deals with Geoff Shaw, the MP holding the balance of power. Shaw is an evangelical Christian. The first two things he wants to do are to make late-term abortions illegal, and to remove the legal requirement for a doctor who is a conscientious objector to abortion to refer patients to a doctor without an objection. If he gets those two things, you know he won’t stop there. Having religious/conservative politicians who want to control the bodies of every single woman in Australia is one thing, but it’s disgusting that we have so many other male politicians who are willing to trade away women’s rights to do deals on infrastructure and asset sales. And people like Fred Nile and John Madigan are rubbing their hands with glee.

In November, the bill passed in the Lower House 63 to 26. Here is a list of those MPs who voted for and against it. It goes to the Upper House in March. We don’t have a lot of time.

This is why I’ll be at the protest tomorrow. See you at midday at Martin Place.

Update: Restricting our access to safe abortion is not an unintended consequence of this bill, it is THE intended consequence. Zoe’s Law is not an accident.

Update: You can email your MP here. Debate on the Bill in the Legislative Council starts at 10am on Thursday 6th March. MPs who oppose this Bill said it helps if we’re there. See you then.

Write it right

The COAG Reform Council has released a report looking at education, employment, housing, health, disability, and homelessness outcomes by gender: Tracking equity: Comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia (127 page pdf). Basically, it says women are being fucked over in most parts of their lives.

This is how it’s being reported in the Sydney Morning Herald: COAG report: girls ahead at school but women lag in pay stakes:


It is the “baffling contrast” in gender equality in Australia: girls generally outperform boys at school, and are more likely to hold a bachelor degree, but men continue to earn more than women in the workplace and overwhelmingly dominate leadership roles…

…But in the workforce a significant gender pay gap still exists, with women paid about 17.5 per cent, or $266 a week, less than men. The disparity exists even within the same profession in many cases, and once the different average hours worked by men and women are taken into account.

At dailytelegraph.com.au (I don’t know if it’s in the paper): Women paid less than men for same job:

GIRLS outshine boys at school and are more likely to graduate from university – but are still paid less to do the same work as men, a damning new report reveals.

The Council of Australian Governments Reform Council report, shows that young male dentists earn $14,000 more than women in their first job, while male architect graduates earn $9000 more and male lawyers $4300 more…

…”Financial disadvantage starts as soon as women enter the workforce,” the official report says.

“Graduate starting salaries are overall significantly lower for women than men.”

And at abc.net.au – COAG equity report finds Australian women still lag behind men in pay, care more for disabled – it was the same general summary of the findings, with this detail at the end:


The report also found women continue to bear the brunt of caring for Australia’s disabled and that they often pay an economic and psychological price.

The report says women are almost twice as likely as men to be the primary carers for people with a disability.

Nearly 40 per cent of women who are caring for a person with a disability are not in the workforce, with many suffering physical and mental health impacts stemming from their role.

The report also states Indigenous women continue to face a significant homelessness problem.

The rate of homelessness of Indigenous women is more than 15 times higher than it is for non-Indigenous women.

Only the ABC mentioned Indigenous women and women who have caring responsibilities. None of the stories mentioned the fact that Indigenous women have a life expectancy of 72.9 years, compared with 84.2 years for non-Indigenous women. And that women with a disability are less likely than men with a disability to be working, and less likely than men to use disability services.

Now, I understand that a single news story doesn’t do justice to a report like this. It’s possible that these journos have saved some of the other issues for more stories over the next few days. Mind you, that doesn’t seem to happen very often these days. Once the report has been released, it’s old news and will sit on the pile of other reports about “women’s issues” that no one with any power does anything about.

But what if we flipped it to put the focus on the real problem?

What if these stories were about the Australian employers who are discriminating against female employees, in a clear breach of the Sex Discrimination Act? It becomes a different story then, doesn’t it? One that’s not so easily dismissed as a women’s issue, for women to sort out.

What if, rather than just numbers per 10,000, the stories about homelessness focussed on family violence being the main reason women report using homelessness services?

Flipping the stories to focus on the cause and not the outcome will help change the way people think about these issues. We know from decades of research into framing, agenda setting, and priming, that not only does the news media shape what issues people think about, but also how they think about those issues. So as long as journalists keep writing about women being underpaid, instead of employers underpaying women, then people will keep thinking about it as a women’s issue.

We know, from report after report after report, that women are paid less than men. We know, from report after report after report, that carers do not have the support that they need. We know, from report after report after report, that Indigenous women have a much lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous women. We know all this, and yet nothing happens.

Many journos will say the reason they became journalists was to change the world. To write the big, important stories that make a difference. Well, these are those big, important stories. It’s time to write about them in a way that forces action, that changes the way people think. It’s time to write about them in a way that wins you a fucking Walkley.

Fairfax’s fact-checking failure

The editors and journalists at Fairfax just don’t get how to use their fact-checking info.

Ok, so it’s mind-boggling that Fairfax has said, yep, we don’t fact-check the news we publish, so for the election, for a gimmick, we’re going get PolitiFact to do it for us. Apparently that doesn’t bother people like it bothers me. But at least they’re checking things, unlike News Ltd. So there’s that, I suppose.

But they really don’t understand what to do with the information PolitiFact gives them.

Take this story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme to begin July 2015. In the paper it’s on page 8, with the headline “Liberals smooth out the bumps with $6b paid parental leave scheme”. It’s buried deep in the bowels of smh.com.au – I had to google the first sentence of the story to find it. Below the story (in the paper), running across pages 8 and 9, is the fact-check statement from PolitiFact – Working mothers won’t be $21,000 better off under Coalition plan – which labels Tony Abbott’s claims as “mostly false”.

So, you’d expect that information to be mentioned in the story, right?

Right?

BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Of course not.

Instead, we have 476 words from Jacqueline Maley about the scheme, including the claim that women will be $21,000 better off under the Coalition’s parental leave scheme, with no mention that the claim is nonsense. Honestly, what is the point of partnering with Politifact if you don’t put that information in your stories? I don’t understand how any journalist and any editor would think it’s ok to put the news in one section, and the facts over there in a different section. It’s just bizarre.

And, in keeping with the Australian journalism approach to online news, the two damn pieces aren’t even linked on the website. Nope. If you’re reading the fact-check statement, you can’t click to the story that it’s about. If you’re reading the story – if you managed to find it – you can’t click through to the fact-check statement. How can they be so clueless?

It’s a crazy idea, I know, but isn’t the point of fact-checking to put that info inside the story?

Information? Oh, we don’t put that in the news anymore, silly

I didn’t watch the debate last night. I was at the pub with my derby gang after training, which was a much better way to spend an evening.

So, this morning I thought I’d check the MSM for information about the debate. You know, what Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott said, whether they announced any policies, and how their claims stacked up when they were fact checked.

I wanted some news.

Shush, I can hear your laughter from here.

This is the debate coverage across the top of smh.com.au this morning:

Coverage of last night's debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

Coverage of last night’s debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on smh.com.au.

There’s an opinion piece by Peter Hartcher about who won – based on style, rather than substance – and 861 words by Judith Ireland (with AAP) about Kevin Rudd using notes during the debate and whether that makes him a cheater, and a video of the same news story. To put the 861 words about a simple “yes he had notes, no they weren’t allowed” into perspective, this whole post about the coverage on two websites is 476 words.

Hartcher’s piece mentioned that both Rudd and Abbott “ducked the question on building Sydney’s second airport”, so after reading the smh.com.au coverage I know about one question from an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Righty-o then.

At dailytelegraph.com.au, there was one story at the top of the website this morning:

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

How dailytelegraph.com.au started their coverage of the debate.

But it was replaced a short time later by this:

MAKE IT BIGGER - the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

MAKE IT BIGGER – the same dailytelegraph.com.au story a short time later.

I guess they didn’t want smh.com.au to be the only ones shouting CHEATING CHEATERER.

The story is by Patrick Lion and it’s from the News Limited Network so it’ll be the same story on every website: Election debate: Kevin Rudd accused of cheating after using notes during debate. It’s 496 words about the notes, and not a single mention of any of the topics that were discussed. So, after reading the dailytelegraph.com.au coverage I don’t know anything about the questions in an hour-long debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Don’t get me wrong – the notes story is a story. But it’s not the story because it’s not really important. Having notes at a debate has fuck-all to do with helping people to decide which party’s plan for the future is the one they want to support. Because that’s the whole damn point of the debate.

But the notes story is an easy one to write. It’s a lot easier than reporting what Rudd and Abbott said and doing some research into their policy ideas and fact-checking their claims and finding a clever way to include all of this info in the same story so it’s actually useful to your audience.

PS – If you want to know about the content of the debate, abc.com.au has broken it down question by question, and junkee.com’s Jess O’Callaghan explains the debate with gifs in a piece that contains more info than Fairfax and News Ltd combined.

It’s time to get new journalists because these ones are borked

This is the main election story on smh.com.au this afternoon:

Incredibly useful reporting from Tony Wright, the national affairs editor of The Age.

Incredibly useful reporting from Tony Wright, the national affairs editor of The Age.

Yes, that’s right. The national affairs editor of The Age has written 375 words about a four-year-old child in the background of a photo. And the online editor at smh.com.au has decided the story is SO DAMN IMPORTANT that it’s the main image.

You can’t make this shit up.

And it IS shit.

Meaningless, trivial shit that gives their audience exactly ZERO information about the election.

Oh wait, there was one bit that could have been vaguely useful:

Mr Rudd visited the Ryde Uniting Church to talk up his government’s multicultural policies. The church runs regular English classes for the local Korean community, and Mr Rudd was keen to announce that his government would make the Korean language one of the top-five priorities for teaching in Australian schools.

Ok, so what are the other four priorities? And what other multicultural policies was the Prime Minister talking about? DID ANY JOURNALIST THINK TO ASK?

There are three election stories above the fold on smh.com.au this afternoon: the photobomber, a gaffe (discussed below) and 406 words from business reporter Matt O’Sullivan (with mainly AAP copy) about how outrageous it is that Anthony Albanese had a beer with Craig Thomson. Because now you can’t even have a beer with someone you used to work with. Come on, don’t you think there are more important stories to be covering?

Over at dailytelegraph.com.au, there are two election stories above the fold:

Two election stories on dailytelegraph.com.au

Two election stories on dailytelegraph.com.au

One is about how Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott will have a debate on Sunday, which is a very easy story to write – no need for any research or to examine any policy or indeed to ask any questions. Yet despite the story being based on a media release and containing no original reporting and no new quotes, it somehow has three goddamn bylines on it. You’d think that at least one of those journalists would have subbed the damn thing – it’s a mess.

The other story is wire copy from AAP in which Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury is asked to comment on a radio interview he gave. It mainly transcribes the interview. There’s no issue investigation – it doesn’t even go into what they were talking about. Just OMG GAFFE! Smh.com.au is running the same story but unattributed to AAP. I guess you pretend it’s the work of your own journalists when you’re trying to get people to pay for stories that are free everywhere else.

Most people have very little contact with politicians and so they get their political information from the news media. After all, providing information about the world is the central function of the news media. Yes, media organisations are businesses and they need to make money, but providing information to their audience is at the heart of it. So if you’re a journalist and you’re writing stories about the election campaign that contain fuck-all useful information about that campaign, then you seriously need to ask yourself if you’re in the right job. Sure, there’s plenty of room for the funny things that happen during an election campaign, but only if you’re also covering the election issues properly and I don’t see any evidence for that on these major news websites.

In The problem of the media: US communication politics in the 21st century, Robert McChesney writes, “democratic theory posits that society needs journalism to perform three main duties: to act as a rigorous watchdog of the powerful and those who wish to be powerful; to ferret out truth from lies; and to present a wide range of informed positions on key issues” (2004, p. 57). When’s the last time you saw Fairfax or News Ltd do any of those things? Fairfax has even admitted it doesn’t fact-check its stories and has outsourced that basic function to someone else – but just for the election campaign, mind you.

I’ve just realised that I could have saved myself all these words by asking just one question: When’s the last time someone tweeted or emailed a Fairfax/News Ltd story to you saying “wow, great story”?

What the fuck, Australia?

This post discusses domestic violence.

And contains swearing.

Lots of swearing.

In the last few months, the racism and sexism and misogyny and vileness in our society have all come to the surface like a nasty boil:

Australia, this is you right now. If you think this is gross, imagine all the images I looked at to find it. Image: Mental bleach

Australia, this is you right now. If this grosses you out, imagine what I saw while looking for it. Image: Mental bleach

First it was racism, with a 13-year-old girl calling AFL player Adam Goodes an ape, then Eddie McGuire’s King Kong comments. And all those videos of people being arseholes on public transport. And today, more racist dickheads at an NRL game.

Then there’s the menu at Mal Brough’s fundraiser, and Socceroos coach Holger Osieck saying women should shut up in public. His apology was just a clusterfuck of wrong. Someone should tell him, in small words so his little brain can understand, that telling your wife to shut up, and saying “I’m still pretty happy with my wife so everything is fine”, doesn’t actually indicate “a lot of respect for women”. Sort of the opposite, really.

And there’s the bunch of idiots in the armed forces calling themselves the “Jedi Council” (what, are they 13 years old?). And Howard Sattler’s disgraceful questioning of the Prime Minister, and Piers Akerman repeating it all on ABC tv.

And we have News Ltd reporting that a 15-year-old girl has attempted suicide and the geniuses there put the story in the GLOBAL GOSSIP section (I’m not linking to it). She’s a child, they shouldn’t be reporting it in the first place. For fuck’s sake, what the hell is wrong with people?

Then we have the decision by The Mirror to publish a fucking NINE image photo gallery of Charles Saatchi assaulting Nigella Lawson. In Australia, News Ltd and Fairfax both republished the images, thereby furthering her distress. Hopefully I’m not doing the same by writing about the appalling coverage. Dailytelegraph.com.au and News.com.au even went with a cutesy headline calling him “hubbie”. Didn’t ANYONE in those newsrooms say “hey, we’re just hurting her more if we publish the images”? Are their brains just painted onto the inside of their skulls?

This morning 3AW radio host Dee Dee Dunleavy called for a boycott of Nigella Lawson’s products unless she takes a stand against domestic violence. What. The. Actual. Fuck? By the afternoon she’d issued a clarification, saying she wasn’t calling for a boycott. But what else does “If you want us to buy your books and watch your shows on how to run our kitchens, then we need you to make a stand on domestic violence” mean, other than to say we’re not going to buy your stuff unless you do what we want, aka a boycott. And then issuing a clarification instead of an apology, which should have said “I didn’t realise that’s what I was saying but that’s what those words mean and I should never have put pressure on a domestic violence victim to be a public spokesperson and I am so very very sorry for what I said and I apologise to everyone”.

It never ceases to amaze me that people who use words for a living think so little about those words. Another example is the wording of the link to the images in Dunleavy’s post:

Distressing to some people, but not a thought has gone in to how distressing it is for Nigella Lawson.

Dunleavy’s warning misses the point.

Trigger warnings are good. Shame there was a complete lack of thought for how distressing it might be to have the photos republished around the world.

Just because she is famous, doesn’t mean she “owes” us to be a spokesperson. In fact, at the moment we owe her. We owe her because we gawked at the photos. We owe her because all of the reporting is about her and not about Saatchi, just like it always is when Australian journalists report violence against women. We owe her because we’re writing opinion pieces and blog posts about her private hurt – this one included, and I don’t know how can I point at the coverage and yell THIS IS SO FUCKING WRONG without being just as bad as everyone else.

So. What do we do now? I don’t have any solutions but I do have a lot of swearing.

On the positive side, it’s a massive YES THE FUCK WE DO to everyone who says “Australia doesn’t have a racism and sexism problem”. It’s kinda hard to pretend it doesn’t exist now.

But on the negative side, I AM SO ANGRY AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.