‘Government has become an abstract concept and the general populace rarely makes the link between Government incompetence or malfeasance and themselves, unless they are directly impacted by an event.
Thank you for pointing out the impact of this apalling betrayal of public trust Mr. Pascoe. All of us need to be reminded that the Government is our Government, and that Government employees work for us, the people, not the other way around. We all need to take a more active role, as you have done.’
Minister McKenzie spits in the face of decency, ethics and every decent Australian
Senator Bridget McKenzie showed a complete lack of respect for the public in her handling of sports grants. Photo: The New Daily
This is merely an attempt to humanise the loss, to push through the protective skin of cynicism that has formed about the Australian heart when confronted with another example of political malfeasance.
“They all do it,” we mutter with passing disgust and turn the page.
Come the next election we acquiesce to giving them the chance to do it again. !!!!!!
And it’s not as if Senator McKenzie’s effective theft of money from deserving community sporting organisations was a matter of life or death, or at least not obviously.
It’s not as if she was underfunding rural fire services or failing to acquire an adequate aerial firefighting force or resisting carbon emissions reductions.
But the deputy leader of the National Party, next-in-line to a sometimes-acting Prime Minister, and her hack ministerial advisers did trample people to use your money to keep their snouts and that of their colleagues in the public trough.
There are the obvious people used and abused in the process – the community sports volunteers and Sport Australia staff Senator McKenzie teased and misled with the supposed availability of grants, the people she encouraged to diligently work for a sound cause, the people she lied to and discarded.
Then there are the less obvious souls – the people who were more deserving of government assistancethan those who were targetedfor their votes in marginal seats.
These people represent the opportunity cost of base political bribery – what greater good could have been achieved with the better use of public money, with the ethical, rather than unethical, use of your money?
It’s been a while since I was involved in community sport, quite a while, but it left me with a conviction about the general nobility of the cause.
Taking your turn with the sausages and the BBQ, helping set up and dismantle, coaching, washing the jerseys, sitting through the annual meeting, it’s all good stuff.
And, when done well, it’s brilliant. In particular when young people are encouraged to play in good spirit, to understand and grow to love teamwork, to broaden their experiences and challenge themselves, it can be a very fine thing indeed.
There are the usual claimed health benefits of sport, of course, but there is more than that at stake. Hand on heart, I think over the years I’ve seen lives positively influenced by community sport, young lives maybe moulded a little for the better by the experience of people taking care of each other.
Team sport as we generally know it is not for everyone, for some it is nothing at all or worse, but there are others for whom it has been very important indeed, kids who might not otherwise have been touched by a sense of beneficial community.
Senator McKenzie spat on those people.
She decided they weren’t important, that buying a few votes was more important than honourably discharging her elected duty.
Nothing displays a politician’s treason – putting personal interests before the nation’s best interests – than a willingness to raid the public purse for partisan gain.
Then there are those volunteers who carefully read the grants’ guidelines, who jumped through the hoops and spent the hours, the many hours working up a deserving application. There would have been meetings – meetings! – to agree on what was needed and what might be sought.
The volunteers are generally true believers in their community and sport, in the fellowship and help it provides, in that quaint old idea of “society”.
Senator McKenzie and her hacks toyed with those good people, played with their hopes and betrayed them.
The game was rigged. The ref was corrupt. They never had a chance.
The volunteers preparing those deserving submissions were amateurs playing against seasoned cynical political pros. They weren’t even playing the same game – the volunteers playing community, the political hacks playing pure political self-interest.
And what about the good people at Sport Australia who tried to run an honest contest? If you want your soul destroyed, try being honest in an overwhelmingly corrupt system.
Do your work, put in the hours, maybe find some little community gems that you’d like to think you could help shine, take some pride as a bureaucrat in a good outcome from a professional process – only to have loathsome political advisors in the minister’s office rip up your work and bury those gems.
The erosion of the Australian Public Service by successive governments’ white-anting has reached its peak with the political hacks in ministers’ offices riding roughshod over departments and bodies such as Sport Australia. No care and less responsibility.
There may have been an occasion when the Auditor General has been blunter about the structural corruption of a minister’s office, but I can’t at this moment recall it. Says the ANOA report:
The award of funding reflected the approach documented by the Minister’s Office of focusing on ‘marginal’ electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be ‘targeted’ by the Coalition at the 2019 Election.
There is some irony in the initial impetus for the audit coming from Georgina Downer’s stunt at a bowling club in the family ancestral seat she failed to win.
It was tacky and obviously dodgy at the time for the Liberal candidate – not even an incumbent MP – to be proffering $127,373 of our money in a Liberal-branded mega-cheque, barrel girl style.
As it turned out, the good folk of Mayowere not so easily bought.
I don’t know if the Yankalilla Bowling Club was one of the more deserving applicants for a grant, scoring close to 100 on the Sport Australia system, or one of the rubbish efforts.
It might or might not have been the application that scored just 39 point but was plucked from the Sport Australia bin by Senator McKenzie for purely political purposes.
But her office stealing millions from the most deserving community sports clubs to buy votes has ended up staining the whole process.
The decency deficit
Did your club win a grant in Bridget’s rigged game? Did you deserve it – or are you the recipient of stolen goods? Does the Yankalilla Bowling Club and others like it in marginal seats feel a little bit soiled by association now or doesn’t it care how it came by the taxpayers’ dosh?
And finally, there’s Sport Australia.
Where was the protest? Where was the mass resignation? What does it say about the integrity of the board that it stood by mute while its staff’s honest work was trashed and the Sport Australia name was traduced as a fig leaf for political corruption?
Maybe Sport Australia’s chiefs, like Bridget McKenzie, her staff and her fellow ministers and their staff, are only in it for themselves and are not interested in promoting and protecting best practice with public funds.
We need a real Federal ICAC yesterday. There’s no way this government will allow one.
A very thorough … and long report published in the lead-up to the May 2019 Federal Election … covering much of the damage inflicted byNews Corp otherwise known as ‘Limited News’ that has emerged to be an ‘unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company’.
CAAN has highlighted passages.
Much of this report is focused on where News Corp is at … the issues of racism, Islamophobia … stirring up hatred …
-the demonisation of migrants
IT appears on our reading NEWS CORP is all about distractingAustralians from what is going on …
AND this all plays into the hands of the Liberal Coalition … with Scummo announcing a cutback of 30,000 migrants (which happened 2 years prior)
–a vote catcher for those believing the propaganda
-meanwhile … the Liberal Coalition backdoor migration through Visa Manipulation flourishes
-as thousands of foreign home buyers and workers fly into Australia weekly on temp Visas seeking a ‘Permanent Resident’ Visa!
-2.2 Million Visa holders in Australia of which 1.6 Million Visa workers
-those from China are members of the CCP!
As CHINA advances … and ‘invests/buys’ up Australian property …. residential, agricultural and commercial … from local stores to healthcare, power, mines, and transport
-facilitated by the Coalition policies; the FIRB; no Anti-Money Laundering laws for the Real Estate Gatekeepers
NEW ZEALAND has matured and progressed just as Australia has stalled and regressed it would appear the absence of News Corp media in New Zealand is a factor in all of this!
BILL SHORTEN’S ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN was about what People want and need …
-investments in affordable and social housing
–increased funding to the ABC
–making childcare cheaper
–changes to negative gearing (Search CAAN Website for the benefits of this)
–banning foreign donations and curtailing corporate donations to political parties
–investment in renewable energy
–and the adoption of elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
*NEWS stridently opposes every one of these policies.
*Instead, NEWS advocates a suite of highly unpopular policies:
–defunding or privatising the ABC
–privatising public assets
–“wage reform”, tax minimisation, foreign military adventurism
–the building of coal-fired power stations
–meaningless action on climate change
–the obstruction of a fibre-to-the-home NBN
–and the overturning of anti-vilification legislation
*This is near-identical to the policy platform of the Coalition. So far, the real-world implementation of these ideas has been mixed, but the conversational bandwidth they have taken up, considering they have almost no natural constituency beyond vested interests, has had a ruinous effect.*
NEWSCorp: Democracy’s greatest threat
Denialism, nihilism and the Murdoch propaganda machine
*The slim, match-fit form of The Daily Telegraphcolumnist Piers Akerman, resplendent in a blue Tony Abbott T-shirt, and standing next to the former prime minister,was not supposed to be there. Not supposed to be in the photo, that is.
It was Abbott who posted the picture to social media,accidentally revealing his mate on the hustings. A “campaigning columnist” didn’t used to mean someone literally handing out flyers, but that devolution, from advocate to participant, was not really surprising anymore.
Could you call it a breach of journalistic ethics? “A lot of people are lookingat this thinking, this surely crosses a line,” Mark Kenny said on the ABC’s Insiders. But it’s hard to breach journalistic ethics when neither journalism nor ethics are involved, so perhaps the wider media reaction – bemusement – was the right one. As usual, the presence of Akerman was treated as just another regrettable ideological excess of an otherwise normal news organisation.
Except it isn’t a normal news organisation any longer.
At News Corp – in an inversion of journalism’s ideal– the old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line reporting is expendable and surplus to requirements. It is the unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company. It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.
By the standard of his stablemates, Akerman’s doorknocking was unremarkable.He was not, like the associate editor of The Australian, Chris Kenny, a former Coalition chief of staff campaigning for a Liberal candidate who was his own sister, or, like the national affairs editor of The Australian, Simon Benson, advising Abbott over a private dinner that “the only people who give a shit about the kids on Nauru are in Kooyong and Wentworth”.
These kinds of contacts go undeclared, presumably on the principle that if you’re past the paywall, you’ve got the gist already.
*In the lead-up to an election, the ridiculousness of News Corp front pages, especially on the tabloids, is so pervasive and routine it has almost become part of the pageantry.
*The bias, like New Years Eve fireworks, gets bigger every occasion, and this time is ascending into the awesome and spectacular. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who has called the Murdoch media a “cancer on democracy”, documented the front-page tumours on Twitter:
“Bill’s $5k car-bon tax”, “Labor climate plan hits food costs”, “PM warns of Labor’s $380bn tax grab”, “Scomo ready to go: Morrison into poll position”.
*The standout was The Courier-Mail all but devoting its splash to a premature how-to-vote card (except real how-to-vote cards aren’t punctuated by bullet holes, and don’t say “RI$K” next to Labor).
The pantomime staged during this festival centres on an important character type, a kind of fall-guy figure called “the good journalist”, whose role is to work at News, and then hand-wring in private about how awful all this is, as though this unpleasantness has come as a huge shock and they have found themselves trapped at an embarrassing masthead by mistake. You might recognise them from the rejoinder phrase “at least they’ve got some good journalists”, so vital for defusing the discomfort of legitimate (and always insufficient) critiques of media peers.
So far, these players have discharged their role to perfection, with “sources” telling Amanda Meade in Guardian Australia’s “Weekly Beast” columnthat staff at the “Queensland masthead say this week’s effort upset more than a few. Many … were ‘mortified and embarrassed’ by the editor’s none-too-subtle treatment of the budget.” Bravissimo. There is a theoretical particle called a graviton that is supposed to exert the weakest force in the universe, but until its discovery, the “good journalists” of News Corp will have to hold that title.
Other reporters commiserate with them – I have done it myself – treating grown adults as if they are somehow victims of their own chosen employment. It is a folie à deux: you have to pretend that your confidant has become adrift in a rudderless ship of fools (and don’t mention the bad “journalists” towing them in a motorboat), while they have to pretend they are working on the kinks of their troubled conscience, as though they weren’t already smoothed out on payday.
*Occasionally, senior News journalists do voice their dissatisfaction in public. On Murdoch’s Sky News Australia, where the battle for the network’s soul plays out daily before the sun sets and the witching hour begins, the anchor Kieran Gilbert finally snapped, live and on air.
He was trying to do serious political analysis against the interjections of a time-travelling medieval oaf called Paul Murray, who was fulfilling the terms of his employment by repeatedly calling Bill Shorten “disgusting”
(Exhibit A: footage showing Shorten talking to voters).
Gilbert had had enough. “You’re not a big fan of Bill Shorten’s,” he said to Murray. “He could have orchestrated the Second Coming and you probably wouldn’t have been too positive about it. So that’s the starting point, isn’t it?”
Then David Speers broke them up, and balance – which is to say no balance – was restored.
Under normal circumstances – if all that was at stake was another Scott Morrison term, or a two-year-long hysterical episode about vilification law – we could probably leave these petty humiliations to play themselves out.
*Rudd might be right (you won’t see me write that very often), but until recently in Australia, the Murdoch media was a kind of stage-one cancer of democracy, something causing pain and fatigue, but not terminal. Apply light critique, appeal to angels of better nature, repeat for 40 years.
Part of this cycle has been a particular kind of article(or essay, or book) that accumulates and presents the sexist, racist, vituperative and weaponised propaganda of News Corp over time. This is not one of those articles. There are enough of those already, outlining thousands of incidents, and together, they describe only what is going on and not what to do about it.
Their conclusions are usually quite tepid and reliant on either News Corp journalists to create accountability themselves or other journalists to create accountability for them. This was always a hopeful approach. It now looks like a delusional one. The defensiveness, and self-defensiveness, of journalists, always abundant, is brimming.
*Spooked by dire working conditions, pressed into an artificial guild solidarity by the long winter of cutbacks, they are not going to turn on their own, especially when that means jeopardising a job with the biggest employer in town.
Matters are too urgent to leave to this ineffectual opposition. Their professional respect is not even reciprocal – in the United States, the heat arraigned against the media has become so intense that when I was planning to attend a political rally, I was advised to buy some body armour. Anyone who thinks Fox News isn’t partly responsible for that is kidding themselves.
Fear is part of what tempers the criticism, but there is another reason we don’t describe things as they are: it sounds unreal.
*It sounds unreal to say that News Corp is not a media organisation. It sounds outré to say that it is instead a political propaganda entity of a kind perhaps not seen since the 19th century, one that has climbed to its pedestal through regulatory capture, governmental favours and menace, and is now applying its energies to the promotion of white nationalism, even as white nationalists commit scores of murders.
It defends a child rapist and demeans his victims. It degrades and cows the national broadcaster until it threatens its function, and occasionally its existence. It undermines the rule of law. It does everything it can to impinge on climate change action, just as the ramifications of climate change begin to bite.
Who has the better predictive record: climate scientists or boosters of the Iraq War? Now dwell for a moment on News’s relative treatment of each. We are stuck listening to the megaphoned opinions of the wrong people, who have been rewarded rather than penalised for their failure.
*News Corp is not merely biased against Labor and in favour of the Liberals.This underestimates the international nature of the franchise. It is a series of multi-platform metastases that endanger minorities – sexual, racial and religious – all over the world.
Right now, in the US, it is pouring its hatreds onto individuals– with a special emphasis on women, and women of colour in particular – in a manner unchanged by the upsurge of massacre and vigilantism. Its treatment of the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar is an almost carbon copy of the treatment it meted out locally to Yassmin Abdel-Magied. All this has happened with the “good journalists” barely uttering a peep. Any potential friction this would cause with people of colour in the newsrooms is solved by having almost none. Some of those have left, unable to bear the culpability.
Any one of these factors, by themselves, would make an entity like this dangerous. Together, they represent an existential threat to democratic society. If you think this is hypothetical, or hyperbolic, look to the US post-Trump, or the United Kingdom post-Brexit, and realise that this is what these people fought for – and they want it to happen here.
*“It’s mind-blowing to look at the wreckage of UK politics, realize that it’s basically all Rupert Murdoch’s fault, and then look back to the US and realize that’s *also* all Rupert Murdoch’s fault”, the American political analyst Matt Yglesias tweeted in March.
*It’s a simplification – these are complex, multi-factorial events (and it’s also Lachlan Murdoch’s fault) – but it is not a simplification to say that the Murdoch media has ultimately been the decisive factor. The evidence, both quantitative and anecdotal, is very clear.
*The MSNBC host Chris Hayes replied to Yglesias: “Australia ain’t doing so hot either.” He was right, yet at the same time Australia’s political turmoil has a different character to it: more of a depression than a psychosis, a decade in which we have lurched from one dysfunctional government to another.
News Corp hasn’t been entirely responsible, but it must carry a significant share of the blame. If we could borrow from one Labor PM demonised by News, its influence “doesn’t explain everything. It doesn’t explain nothing. It explains some things. And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey.”
Unable to fully implement its own agenda in the political arena, News has instead stymied the reforms of others, in particular making action on climate change impossible.
*This election (MAY 2019) offers an opportunity to repudiate that agenda. News Corp does not have its preferred candidate in the Lodge – that would be Peter Dutton – but it has a close analogue in Scott Morrison.
*The shared strategy of both is, or was, the demonisation of migrants, something that has always appealed to News.
Most recently, the Herald Sun and the Liberal Party made attacks on a Sudanese “crime wave” central to the last Victorian election, very unsuccessfully. But this old favourite became briefly unacceptable in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, and without this centrepiece, the government for a moment looked like a sales force in search of a product, before settling on a battle over taxes.
Yet the danger has not passed, and will not pass if Labor wins. If history is a guide, there will be some post-election months of ingratiating best behaviour, the loss will be laid at the feet of Liberal moderates (who are on their way out of the party anyway), and News will lament that the right was too kind.
At first glance a Shorten prime ministership will look like a moment of progressive ascendency, and a consequent moment of weakness for the Murdoch agenda (Shorten has already broken with tradition by declining an invitation to meet the mogul in person).
But if Dutton or Morrison becomes Opposition leader, and Sky News continues its shape-shifting into Fox News while broadcasting free-to-air on regional network WIN, the components of a reactionary doomsday device are being assembled at the same time.
Progressives must not be fooled by this quiet period. They must not meekly wait their turn. They must not rely on journalists to defend them. They must not simply hope for the best. Instead they must do something very different:apply any legal means necessary to stop the bad actors within News, before it is too late.
*All the limit cases have already been passed. Self-accountability has failed, and so has accountability created by the media class. It is time for accountability to be created by the direct action of civil society itself.
*Any thinking Australian has spent the better part of two decades looking across the Tasman with envy. I spent several months living there in 2017 and, in person, the difference seemed so pronounced it was almost shaming. Since roughly the turn of the millennium, just as Australia has stalled and regressed, New Zealand has matured and progressed.They stayed out of the Iraq War, while we entered it. They came to terms with their colonial history, while we denied ours. They invited refugees, while we made a show of punishing them.
*Friendlier, less belligerent, more cultured, more innovative and somehow more at ease, New Zealand really was, in the shopworn parlance, “punching above its weight”, while Australia settled into being merely punchy, assuming the international role of a small man with a big mouth.
*The absence of News Corp media in New Zealand, surely a factor in all this, felt like fresh air.
When I was in Dunedin, a few suburbs away lived another Australian expat who, it turns out, was drawn by a similar sense of sanctuary. He was plotting to puncture it; he was in New Zealand for the express purpose of planning a massacre. He believed an attack would prove that there are no safe places left anywhere in the world. He was an immigrant plotting to kill other immigrants as a protest against immigration.
New Zealand’s readily available semiautomatic weapons were a drawcard; so too its relative public safety and absence of terrorism, which meant a plethora of soft targets. You will know that this attack was realised, and that it killed 50 people in Christchurch, all of them unarmed, among them many women and children. It was also livestreamed on Facebook and watched by an audience of nearly 200, mainly drawn from the racist message boards of the website 8Chan, where the killer posted regularly. None of these people reported it to authorities, or even to Facebook, for the duration of those 17 minutes of broadcasted killing.
Several of the more horror-seasoned observers to this, veteran correspondents of war zones or genocides, said the video was the worst thing they had ever seen.
It is not the first example of what could be called “massacre as meme” – the Utøya killer described his murder of 77 young people in Norway as “marketing” for his manifesto– but it was the most advanced. The livestreaming was new and so was the soundtrack (the killer blared Serbian pro-genocide songs and British Grenadier marches in his car en route, and then set up a speaker in the mosque).
The live and largely appreciative online audience was also a dystopian innovation. I would recommend not watching the video, but a taste of its soul-destroying quality can be found in the live reactions on 8Chan, now archived: “Piling into the corners like rats is not how you survive this sort of shit. Buncha cowards. So much for the protection of Allah.” Fifty dead, with a comment section cheering on a mass shooting as a form of nihilistic slapstick. What do you say after that?
But you have to say something, and New Zealand, which had this travesty thrust upon it, turned the conversation to resilience, love and inclusion.
“My belief in the humanity of New Zealanders has strengthened,” said the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, afterwards. “I just know we have a lot of work to do to make that universal.” Her response was praised internationally for its poise and compassion. Those who had contributed to a climate of prejudice that turned to violence began to apologise: “I look back at my comments ashamed,” the Christchurch-based radio host Chris Lynch wrote, rescinding an old column about Islam. A 95-year-old veteran called John Sato took four buses to attend a rally against racism at Auckland’s Aotea Square. “I think it’s such a tragedy, and yet it has the other side,” he said on Radio New Zealand. “It has brought people together, no matter what their race or anything. People suddenly realised we’re all one. We care for each other.”
If you knew nothing about Australia, you might think that this process of reflection, accountability and protest would begin here as well, since it is this society that produced and exported the killer, incubated his prejudices, and then subjected its national neighbours to them.
But that naive hope would fundamentally misunderstand where we are and what we are doing. There was no unity in grief – the trans-Tasman contrast became more pronounced than ever. Where New Zealand chose maturity, Australia chose malign idiocy. Everything was permissible, as long as it was irrelevant.
Before the bodies had cooled, the “national discussion” had explored the optics of censure motions, the question of whether or not egging someone was political violence, the ethics of undercover journalism, the hurt feelings of journalists, the hurt feelings of Pauline Hanson, whether or not David Koch should be fired for hurting her feelings (thousands on social media thought so), and the regulation of unrelated media platforms like Twitter. Wasn’t it really about social media? Weren’t the Greens really as extreme as – wait, more extreme than – One Nation? The Murdoch media said so with an almost unified voice. The Greens politician Mehreen Faruqi was really the same as the neo-Nazi senator Fraser Anning, said the minister for home affairs. Both-siderism, long an incurable disease, became a terminal one.
Australian conservatives seemed most concerned that someone might take their racism away. In The Sydney Morning Herald, the former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone wrote a piece headlined “It’s not wrong to worry about immigration in the wake of terror”, as though there was some danger that a multimillion-dollar, multi-channel, multi-title media apparatus dedicated to this worry might be switched off overnight. The prime minister’s office threatened to sue our most prominent Muslim broadcaster. Pauline Hanson was invited onto ABC radio’s flagship Breakfast program to discuss One Nation’s preferences and Australian immigration rates.
Andrew Bolt drew an equivalence between Christchurch and “left-wing terrorism”, by which he meant the time someone threw glitter at him. Chris Kenny drew an equivalence between the fostering of bigotry and someone on the ABC joking about conservatives being murdered: it turned out he had mistaken a discussion about a murder mystery featuring art conservators for a Maoist insurgency. In two sad little articles in The Australian, Judith Sloan and someone called “The Mocker” decided to criticise Jacinda Ardern, as though offended by her dignity.
As one, they repudiated the idea that either the mainstream Australian media, the most openly and pervasively Islamophobic in the English-speaking world, or the country’s wider culture of unfettered racism had anything to do with this Islamophobic Australian murderer. He was instead inspired by the “ancient racisms of Europe and the fanaticism of medieval Christians”, according to a hastily written 300-word article by TheAustralian’s defence and national security editor, Paul Maley. “With Australia’s political class poised for a national bout of cultural self-loathing … it is worth noting there is zero evidence the man paid any attention to anything said or done in this country since 2014.” In fact, it was quickly revealed, the killer had posted many times on Australian far-right Facebook groups as late as 2016, and made a cash donation to an Australian anti-Muslim group, but this cheap attempt at exoneration was never amended or corrected. If there was no culpability, then why lie about it?
Maley’s excuse-making wasn’t an outlier. This hand-washing instinct, the reflexive equation of self-examination with self-loathing, was pervasive and astutely diagnosed by the American feminist Roxane Gay who happened to be in town. It was, she said on NITV, a quality of invincible naivety that made a real conversation about Australian race relations so impossible. “I find Australians to be just in deep denial about the problems of race here. I find them to be not even willing to entertain the possibility that racism exists,” she said. “And it’s challenging, but— actually there’s no but, it’s just challenging, and it’s disheartening, and I think it must be incredibly disheartening to be a person of colour here in Australia.”
It is that faux naivety, when expressed as a form of amnesia, that makes the public discourse in Australia reset with the frequency of a sitcom. “Are racist cartoons racist? Why are they racist? Well, the Press Council doesn’t agree!” is the kind of position that is prosecuted again and again from scratch. So too “Why is Islamophobia wrong?” Even argued in bad faith, “One Nation and the Greens are equally bad” is a belief constructed from such intricate self-delusion that it is difficult to counter from first principles. If it is not self-evident, how can you make it evident? If it is not widely accepted that prejudice is racism, and that racism is bad, or that white nationalism is dangerous whether its consequences extend to murder or not (and they do), what happens next?
You could make a coherent, albeit unconvincing, classical liberal free speech argument that the media doesn’t make anyone do anything, that unpleasant views are better ventilated than suppressed, that responsibility for extremism lies with the extremists themselves. But this is not at all like the mainstay of the arguments offered by News-led Australian conservatives, which rely on a bafflingly selective application of principle.
If a social media giant publishes material that breaches community standards, it should be brought to heel by a regulator. But if a national newspaper does, regulating it is authoritarianism. Section 18C is a grave impediment to free speech, but the more commonly used and repressive defamation legislation is fine. *Racists can express their democratic right at a neo-Nazi rally, but vegan protesters are “domestic terrorists” who need to be shut down.
*These contradictions are much more intelligible when seen for what they are: not tenets of a political philosophy, but aspects of a commercial strategy, a business model.
Alongside the inability of Facebook and Twitter to corral extremist material, it is this commercial strategy that is responsible for the mainstreaming of white nationalist sentiment not just in Australia but also in the US, and to a lesser extent in the UK.
There is still an argument within political science about the degree to which media hate speech directly produces real-life violence (one influential study, by the American science journal PLOS One, chose New Zealand for its experimental conditions, because it had so little native Islamophobia), but it’s irrefutable that it contributes to an atmosphere that fosters violence. The BBC called Christchurch “Australia’s moment of hate speech reckoning”. This was true. But the hate was embraced rather than repudiated: three weeks after the massacre, The Australian was already running the headline: “Whites find their knight in Eric Kaufmann”.
The reference is to a Canadian politics professor, whose 2018 book Whiteshift is a more dilute and studied version of the same “Great Replacement” theory that catalysed the killer. The latter’s manifesto has been described as extreme and incoherent, poorly written, pretentious and verbose, but aside from trolling and extraneous flourishes, it is not really any of those things. At its core it echoes a quite commonplace tenet of Australian conservatism: that Muslims represent an unprecedented threat to the West, particularly in demographic terms.Change the typeface and the byline, and most of it could run in the Australian press any day of the week. It is only the tactics that are deemed unacceptable.
Take this kind of sentiment:
… the second wave of multiculturalism has been an unmitigated disaster for not only Australia and Britain, but also much of Europe. This is the wave of immigrants and refugees who have poured out of the Islamic hell-holes of the Middle East, Africa and Asia over the last few decades, bringing with them a political ideology disguised as a religion that has no interest in integration, but only wishes to leech off the generous welfare and political freedoms of the West.
This comes not from the Christchurch killer’s manifesto, nor from one of Senator Fraser Anning’s Facebook posts, but from an editorial in the Australian edition of The Spectator, edited by Sky’s Outsiders host Rowan Dean. The magazine came complete with a cover praising the archetypal British white nationalist Enoch Powell.
As a case study it has plenty of company: if Sky News’s “after dark” programming is not getting into bed with neo-Nazis and card-carrying Islamophobes, it is at least staying in the same dorm room. Before he was fired as a Sky host, Ross Cameron was a speaker for the anti-Islam Q Society (at the same event, the cartoonist Larry Pickering announced “Let’s be honest, I can’t stand Muslims”, in case there were any doubts about the tenor of the occasion). The “identitarian” Lauren Southern, given extensive and beneficial coverage by both Sky and News platforms while she was in Australia, is a close associate of Martin Sellner, the head of Generation Identity’s Austrian branch. He was raided by police after they discovered the Christchurch killer had made what was described as a “disproportionately high donation” to Sellner’s group. Southern chose former members of the United Patriots Front as her security detail when in town – the Christchurch killer was an enthusiastic poster to their Facebook page. Sky invited neo-Nazi leader Blair Cottrell onto the network – the Christchurch killer had praised him as an “Emperor”. These appearances were not sober cross-examinations: several Sky News presenters took time to pose for selfies with Southern, Cottrell and the now-banned Milo Yiannopoulis backstage.
These are only the most egregious examples. A study by OnePath Network found that, in 2017 alone, News Corp’s Australian newspapers dedicated almost 3000 negative stories to Muslims and Islam, with some prominent columnists writing almost 50 per cent of their pieces about them. Malcolm Roberts, another recipient of the red-carpet treatment on Sky, has a party piece where he compares the contents of the Koran to Mein Kampf. If these sentiments were confined to Sky’s miniscule cable news audience, they might be harmless. Repackaged for social media, repeated in newspapers and broadcast regionally on the free-to-air WIN television network, they are not.
The latter arrangement with Sky, in place since 2018, also creates a spaghetti junction of conflicted interests: WIN is owned by Bruce Gordon, also the largest private shareholder of Nine Entertainment Co. Nine has taken over Fairfax, which owns a large share of Macquarie Media, where Sky presenter Alan Jones broadcasts as well.
At the end of March, Nine announced a new social media policy that directed its journalists to “not use social media to directly attack rival journalists or publications”.News Corp is extremely unlikely to follow suit, which amounts to a unilateral disarmament. The ABC has been so harried by chronic abuse and threats of funding cuts that its criticism is muted as well.
The reach of News Corp’s newspapers may be diminishing, but their voice is so uniform, and their agenda so clear, that it can still set the tone for other media.
*Its influence on the agenda of the Liberal Party, and so the government, is clearer still. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell where Liberal Party talking points begin and News coverage ends, or where each originates. On April 12, the three major Murdoch tabloids, the Herald Sun, TheDaily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail, ran near-identical splashes
*– “PM Warns of Labor’s $380B Tax Grab”, “Tax Time Bomb” and “Tax Bomb” – all in lock step with Scott Morrison’s first major attack on Bill Shorten.
*This style of crude obfuscation and propaganda poisons the political atmosphere far beyond the confines of the electoral campaign.
*In her recent Quarterly Essay, Australia Fair, social researcher Rebecca Huntley discarded the idea that Australian politics is poll-driven.
*It was “bunkum”, she wrote, pointing out the broad popularity of investments in affordable and social housing, increased funding to the ABC, making childcare cheaper, changes to negative gearing, banning foreign donations and curtailing corporate donations to political parties, investment in renewable energy, and the adoption of elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
*News stridently opposes every one of these policies.
*Instead, News advocates a suite of highly unpopular policies: defunding or privatising the ABC, privatising public assets, “wage reform”, tax minimisation, foreign military adventurism, the building of coal-fired power stations, meaningless action on climate change, the obstruction of a fibre-to-the-home NBN, and the overturning of anti-vilification legislation.
*This is near-identical to the policy platform of the Coalition. So far, the real-world implementation of these ideas has been mixed, but the conversational bandwidth they have taken up, considering they have almost no natural constituency beyond vested interests, has had a ruinous effect.*
*This is why News is made so angry and afraid by grassroots activist groups like GetUp and Sleeping Giants.
GetUp collected donations from 64,956 individuals in the last financial year, a democratic base that no organisation on the right, not even the Liberal Party, can match. News has placed its great white hope on a series of failed bodies styled as the “conservative GetUp”, without realising that the community support to furnish such a phenomenon is not there.
The Australian noted that GetUp was turning its attention to the “hard right” of the Liberal Party, targeting Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Nicolle Flint and their ilk. It was, said the paper, “courtesy of GetUp’s multimillion-dollar war chest … a marked shift to US-style negative campaigning tactics geared towards denigrating particular candidates”. That sounds very much like projection.
Sleeping Giants is implementing something similar, aimed at the hard right of News Corp itself. It has already taken huge gouges out of the advertising spending on Fox News in the US and on Sky News Australia, most recently persuading Pizza Hut to drop its advertising locally, simply by pointing out the kind of content to which its ads ran adjacent. Sky host Rita Panahi, in a stung response, described Sleeping Giants protesters as “sad, pathetic totalitarian bullies who want to essentially shut down any speech they don’t agree with”. But it is not censorship, or anything like it. It is a voluntary coalition of like-minded interests that draws its power from persuasion.
It even has the private support of some of the News’s own good journalists who, after all, like all of us, are overdue for liberation.
Alex Turnbull, Malcolm Turnbull’s son, has begun an attempt to “destroy News Corp’s influence in Australian politics”, pushing independent candidates in electorates where News is popular. “Members of LNP can only laze in the hot tub of Murdoch endorsed far right craziness while ignoring their constituents so long as their seats are not at risk,” he tweeted. “Putting their seats in play tends to sober them up.” This kind of criticism, coming from Turnbull’s family as well as Kevin Rudd, is often treated as sour grapes, instead of what it is: the warranted alarm of two former prime ministers, who have seen up close the distortions created by the company. Others say the same in private.
These counter-Murdoch operations are small but growing, with mainly informal links so far. Their enemy is not so irregularly organised. After a decade of lost opportunity over climate change, after Christchurch, after Pell, any benefit of the doubt about News Corp’s intentions and results has disappeared.
“Do you really think Australia would be a better country without News?” a senior reporter asked me recently. Once that might have been debatable. But as the entity is constituted now, my answer is yes – Australia would be a better country without News. Of course it would be. Either it changes, or we do.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this essay incorrectly stated that the WIN television network is owned by Nine. It is owned by Bruce Gordon, Nine Entertainment Co.’s largest private shareholder.
Craig Kelly was slammed by the hosts of Good Morning Britain.Photo: Twitter
AUSTRALIA’s putrid politics … can it be any uglier?
MORE about this MP … so you can see where he is coming from … what’s in it for him ?
–Chinese gas deal: National security concerns could be eased if it invests in local market, argues Liberal MP
Federal LNP MP Craig Kelly DESPITE conceding the national security concerns being raised were well founded has suggested that if Australia sells off our gas pipelines to the Chinese it will enable expansion… BIZARRE!
Of course the Chinese would like to gain control of our gas resources … they have our Ports!
These days Washer’s old environment committee is run by Craig Kelly, a Christian conservative, climate sceptic and coal advocate with no scientific background. The seat Washer used to represent, Moore, is now held by Ian Goodenough, a pillar of Globalheart, a Pentecostal church that has deeply infiltrated the Liberal Party in the west.
–LABOR asks AFP to investigate $350,000 job offer to Craig Kelly preselection Challenger … PART 2
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed on Thursday that Mr Briggs had offered Sutherland Shire councillor Kent Johns a $350,000 job for six months’ work as the Liberals’ federal campaign director in NSW, on the understanding he would withdraw from the contest against Mr Kelly.
Labor senator Don Farrell, the shadow special minister of state, wrote to AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on Friday asking him to investigate the matter “to protect the integrity of our democracy”, arguing the job offer could be considered a bribe. …
Mr Briggs acknowledged Mr Kelly could “bring down the government” if he did not get his way, and that Mr Kelly “holds the power”.
Senior Liberal MP Craig Kelly has come under fire over his climate denial in a trainwreck interview on morning television in the UK.
As deadly fires continue burning across the south and east of Australia, Mr Kelly was fronting Good Morning Britain to defend the Prime Minister and his own comments about climate change, oil and coal.
It comes after Mr Kelly told the BBC on Saturday that fires were a result of “drying” of the environment but that Australian scientists had disproved any link between climate change and drought.
While Scott Morrison has stressed in recent days there is “no dispute” about the impact of global warming, Mr Kelly has doubled down on his comments while under questioning from Good Morning Britain hosts, saying the bushfire crisis was due to a lack of hazard reduction burning.
The backbencher was called a “disgrace” and told to “wake up”.
“To try to make out as some politicians have to hijack this debate, exploit this tragedy and push their ideological barrow, that somehow or another the Australian government could have done something by reducing its carbon emissions that would have reduced these bushfires is just complete nonsense,” Mr Kelly hit back.
“You have the second-highest carbon emission per person on Earth and you are burying your head in the sand … this is a climate emergency.”
Defending the PM’s controversial Hawaii holiday, Mr Kelly said, “The only thing the national leader can actually do on this is basically wait until he gets response from those state premiers asking more resources”.
“Any time one of those state premiers has come forward and said we need something, the Prime Minister has done that – he’s shown leadership.”
Host Piers Morgan hit back, describing Mr Morrison’s disaster response as a “dereliction of his duty as leader of Australia”.
“The truth is, he was absent when the fires were burning. Scott Morrison thought the right response to these fires erupting in Australia was to go lie on the beach in Hawaii,” Morgan said.
Liberal MPs Josh Frydenberg and Gladys Liu will keep their seats after a court dismissed a challenge to their election wins — but a senior party official could still face further action for authorising misleading election signage in their seats.
The court dismissed the applications to declare the victories void but did find the signs were misleading
The court has asked former Liberal Party acting state director Simon Frost to explain why further action should not be taken
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared the case a “smear job”
The Federal Court found the election result was not influenced by the Chinese-language signs, which used similar colours to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and told voters“the correct way to vote” was to put a “1” by the Liberal candidate’s name.
But the court has asked the party’s former state director, Simon Frost, to explain why he should not be referred to the High Court for “the committal of an illegal practice under … the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918”.
“The AEC occupies an independent place and role under the Act of some importance,” the court judgement says.
“Its independence should not be appropriated or undermined by trickery or misleading or deceptive material whereby the AEC is, in effect, impersonated.”
The court found that even though Mr Frost “did not have knowledge of the translation of the final version of the corflute … he had full knowledge of the essence of the misrepresentation that the corflute appeared to be a sign of the AEC“.
*The court, however, found only a “handful” of people were likely to have been influenced to change their votes by the signs, which were posted at 13 polling stations in Mr Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong and 29 polling booths in Ms Liu’s seat of Chisholm.
The case was brought against Ms Liu and Mr Frydenberg, who is the Treasurer, by defeated independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates and Chisholm voter Vanessa Garbett.
Sidelined minister John Sidoti has surrendered his ministerial salary and entitlements indefinitely, but not before earning as much as $17,300 in wages at the higher pay level while awaiting the findings of a corruption probe.
Mr Sidoti stood aside on full pay as Sports and Multiculturalism Minister on September 17 after the Independent Commission Against Corruption launched a preliminary investigation into his property investments.
But after coming under intense criticism for continuing to draw a full ministerial salary, worth $309,621 per year including entitlements, the Liberal MP for Drummoyne voluntarily gave up the extra money in November.
In a brief statement, Mr Sidoti declined to respond to the Herald’s questions,including what prompted him to make the request. He also declined to provide the date on which it was made.
“While the ICAC is conducting a preliminary investigation, I will not be making any comment,” the statement said.
Based on a cutoff date of November 1, Mr Sidoti earned about $17,300 in ministerial pay – including a pro-rata expense allowance – in the intervening 45-day period, despite the fact his portfolio responsibilities were transferred to Skills Minister Geoff Lee on the day he stepped aside.
Shadow treasurer Walt Secord said Mr Sidoti “had to be dragged and shamed” into giving up his ministerial salary, after Labor repeatedly raised the issue.
“The Premier is almost as guilty as John Sidoti as she allowed him to draw a ministerial salary for almost two months – even though he was not carrying out the duties of a minister. That is incredible and simply inexcusable,” Mr Secord said.
Mr Sidoti has previously denied “any allegations of wrongdoing” and has claimed he has “no undeclared conflicts of interest or benefits” in connection with his property portfolio.
The NSW Liberal Party has forfeited a political donation it received from a property developer in 2015 despite the Premier saying “nothing untoward” had occurred.
The NSW Liberal Party has handed back a $1,750 donation from property developer Ming Shang
Political donations from property developers are illegal in NSW
Speaking earlier today, the Premier denied any electoral funding laws were broken
In a revelation that could see donations involving the NSW arm of the Liberal Party come under further scrutiny, Electoral Commission documents reveal the party received a $1,750 donation from property developer Ming Shang in February 2015.
Mr Ming made the contribution after attending a dinner with Drummoyne MP and Sports Minister John Sidoti, at a time when he was NSW Parliamentary Secretary of Planning.
Political donations from property developers are illegal in NSW, along with other industries such as tobacco, liquor and gambling.
On Wednesday afternoon the Liberal Party confirmed to the ABC it had become aware of the “incorrectly received donation” and had been working with the NSW Electoral Commission to forfeit it.
“The NSW Liberal Party takes our obligations under the state electoral funding and disclosure laws very seriously,” a spokesman said.
THE NORTH PARRAMATTA RESIDENTS ACTION GROUP has lobbied for the museum to be built in North Parramatta’s Fleet St heritage precinct instead of the flood-prone riverbank site …
THAT is practical … it’s ‘commonsense’ … why invite problems … and waste funding to have to retrieve contents and the structure of a Powerhouse Museum from a flood prone area?
IS the Agenda of this NSW Coalition Government to remove from the records any references to Our Past? Our Australian Heritage … ?
Having demolished the projects of the 30-year-old Bicentennial project south of Cockle Bay including the monorail, the award-winning Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Sydney Entertainment Centre and IMAX cinema …
Yes, a mere 30 years old! To remove all records of Our Australian History, Culture …
Why? Because this government can … how nasty …
DOES Gladys live in the Willoughby LGA? Artarmon?
NOTE … 0 NEW DWELLINGS FOR ARTARMON …. Even Hunters Hill will have 150 new dwellings; Mosman 300 and Woollahara 300 ‘new homes’
ONLY 260 NEW DWELLINGS PER YEAR ARE PLANNED FOR THE ENTIRE WILLOUGHBY LGA including Chatswood and St Leonards … lobbying by North Shore media/lobby group
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS FOR RYDE LGA!
ALERT! Currently there are less than 1 per cent of Heritage Homes remaining in the RYDE LGA! DESPITE THIS ‘small family developers’ have disrupted Council meetings protesting against the proposed Heritage Listing on the eve of the MEDIUM-DENSITY HOUSING CODE …
PLEASE SHARE: HERITAGE LISTING WILL REDUCE HOUSE PRICES DOES NOT CHECK OUT!
Bulldozers are soon expected to obliterate the state heritage-listed Willow Grove after Premier Gladys Berejiklian reversed her decision to preserve it for the construction of the $767 million Powerhouse Museum.
The North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group (NPRAG) has said multiple sources and leaked government documents show Ms Berejiklian has opted to demolish the 1870s-built
Italianate villa at Phillip St.
St George’s Terrace, on the corner of Wilde Ave and Phillip St, could also be demolished for the museum, which is expected to be completed by December 2022.
NPRAG spokeswoman Suzette Meade said the decision came after the museum’s final six architects had an option to retain the former maternity hospital but were planning to announce its demise soon.
“We’ve been told that this decision has already been made, no doubt to be dropped out as people enter their Christmas breaks in the hope of avoiding scrutiny,’’ Ms Meade said.
“If this is true, it’s a disgrace.
“Clearly, it’s a big concern for the people of Parramatta that our heritage is being disrespected.
“Western Sydney heritage seems to be second rate and I think they should expect quite a kickback from the community.’’
The group has lobbied for the museum to be built in North Parramatta’s Fleet St heritage precinct instead of the flood-prone riverbank site when then premier Mike Baird announced the museum for Parramatta in 2015.
A spokesman for Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government would not respond to any of the Parramatta Advertiser’s questions.
Parramatta state Liberal MP Geoff Lee did not comment on heritage concerns but said he understood the winning design for the museum would be announced shortly.
“I look forward to seeing the final design,’’ he said.
“Parramatta deserves world class arts and cultural institutions and that’s what the NSW Government is delivering.”
A Parramatta Council spokesman said it had previously written to the State Government requesting the heritage significance of Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace was considered in the museum’s development process.
“Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace are important local heritage sites and our community feels strongly about protecting them,’’ the spokesman said.
Last year, the Parramatta Advertiser reported that the government would save $43 million by demolishing Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace.
Willow Grove was used as a maternity hospital and the state-listed St George’s Terrace is considered historically and aesthetically significant as an example of modest Victorian period terraces.
The group is calling on the premier to reverse her decision.
“If Willow Grove was in Willoughby there is no way this would be happening,’’ Ms Meade said.
“This is an appalling start to what was promised as a move towards cultural funding equality;another bonus for developers.”
National Trust of Australia’s Parramatta branch president Cheryl Bates said demolishing Willow Grove would mean Parramatta lost another link to its important historical past.
“The National Trust does not understand how a building considered worthy of a heritage listing, using the accepted criteria for listing, can now simply be disregarded because a new use is considered more appropriate,’’ she said.
Australian Heritage needs protection! Craftsman built …
Heritage home purchased by ‘family’ developer
A Home in Denistone …
OUR MID-CENTURY HOMES TOO!
Robbing Australian families of Mid-Century Homes; their communities, their neighbourhood
WHERE is the respect?
ABSOLUTELY no respect for the Ryde Council Guidelines by those among the Anti-Heritage Policy Supporters
-by registering bogus submissions
-even resorting to violence!
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
THIS – what can only be described as a – ‘MOB’ are not interested or remotely interested in the Heritage of Ryde … in what the Incumbents of Ryde value … our Australian Communities … Urban Bushlands … Neighbourhood Character and HERITAGE!
AMONG the Anti-Heritage Policy Supporters … Gung Zhi, Wei Wei Wang, Guanjing Ruan, Silvestro Lauria, and Pei Cheng and dozens more … what do they value … do they value anything apart from their ‘Own Prosperity’?
WHERE did this deliberate FEAR AND INTIMIDATION CAMPAIGN derive from within our major parties particularly the Liberal Party? Pulling the ‘Race Card’ … to reshape the Australian Society for their own ends … no less …
TO demolish Our Heritage, Our Mid-Century Homes, Our Australian Communities, Our Urban Bushlands and beautiful Vistas to replace with this FUGLY CRAP development! That like their manufactured goods will end up in landfill … in the not too distant future …
WHY … because of GREED … they have been granted the opportunity to greatly enhance their wealth with NSW Planning Law changes to increase density either with high-rise tower precincts or the Medium Density Housing Code of terraces, townhouses, villas, triplex, duplex … with as many as ten terraces on a 600M2 lot!
TO RUN ROUGHSHOD over Australian Communities … with Exempt and Complying Development whereby the neighbours have no say!
VIEW PHOTOS BELOW AND/OR OUR PHOTO ALBUM FOR EXAMPLES OF INFERIOR OVERDEVELOPMENT …
The Weekly Times 4 December 2019
AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE AND MID-CENTURY HOMES
…TO BE DEMOLISHED FOR CHEAP FAST-TRACKED DEVELOPMENT LIKE THESE!
CAAN Photo: Fugly fortress-like townhouse/apartment development Marsfield; out of character with the area
CAAN Photo: December 2019: Ten Townhouses have replaced one cottage and a market garden …
Australian Heritage homes craftsmen built are being demolished for fast-tracked prefab built dwellings; built by foreign workers
WHAT IT MEANS …
10 Xthe load on water and sewerage; waste; and on power; greater Co2 emissions from construction using concrete, glass, steel and ongoing use; and 10 x fuel for vehicles
These developments are not for the Australian community; largely for the overseas buyers seeking an opportunity to launder black money … and to gain a ‘Permanent Resident Visa‘ with Medicare benefits … close to the Mandarin/CCP city of Chatswood … (FIRB ruling 2009; May 2017 Budget Reg. 100% sell-off ‘new homes’ overseas particularly in China)
CAAN Photo: This could be described as the ulitmate IMPOSITION on a mid-century estate in Ryde …. who would buy either duplex?
CAAN Photo: Chinese Greenland Lachlan’s Line, a blight on the horizon for many Kms; Chinese Country Garden in the background; another blight also at North Ryde looming over the village of North Ryde. Can only be described as cheap developments …
‘Opposition deputy leader Richard Marles on Wednesday asked in Parliament what steps Prime Minister Scott Morrison had taken to investigate the reports that Ms Liu had helped the Chinese-owned company secure access to federal politicians, but the question was ruled out of order.‘
AT CAAN we recommend if you have an opportunity … watch QUESTION TIME … to learn just how many questions that seem to be legitimate, well constructed and well founded yet are ‘Ruled Out of Order’! …. It happens …. one after the other … It’s that crook! … But this is what the Australian Parliament has become!
Gladys Liu demanded Liberal Party pay back her $100k donation
Court documents reveal the company’s former Australian chief executive collected $1 million in cash from a heroin trafficker, including $500,000 handed to him in a backpack, which was later seized by Australian police.
Ms Liu started acting for the company in late 2015 to secure political backing for its plans to introduce electric buses in Australia. She says she acted “pro bono” for the company because she was passionate about renewable energy.
In the months before the police operation was launched, Brighsun donated $105,000 to the Liberal Party, according to donation records.
Opposition deputy leader Richard Marles on Wednesday asked in Parliament what steps Prime Minister Scott Morrison had taken to investigate the reports that Ms Liu had helped the Chinese-owned company secure access to federal politicians, but the question was ruled out of order.
ISN’T it well and truly time to put a stop to Gladys Liu MP for Chisholm, Political Donations, lobbying and political interference from representatives with possible, and/or likely connections to the CCP … ?
-to the Developer/Real Estate Lobbyists for the Trojan Horse of the Real Estate Tours and granting of the ‘Permanent Resident Visa’
*Liberal MP Gladys Liu secured access to the federal government for a company endorsed by the Chinese Communist Party and later implicated in a major organised crime probe into $1 million in suspected drug money.
*Brighsun New Energy, the Australian subsidiary of the Chinese-controlled green energy group Brighsun, made a big donation to the Liberal Party to win access to federal politicians in a bid to revive the Australian auto industry by manufacturing electric buses in Victoria.
Its links to a money laundering probe are detailed in court documents uncovered by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
They reveal Brighsun’s former Australian chief executive, Allen Saylav, collected $1 million in cash from a heroin trafficker – including $500,000 handed to him in a backpack at a Melbourne petrol station car park – in April and May 2016.
*Asked about the cash, Mr Saylav said he was following the orders of Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and key financial backer, Zhang Genjiang – a Crown casino high roller who was flying into Melbourne on a private jet to gamble at the time. Mr Saylav said he had no idea the man who gave him the cash in a backpack was a drug trafficker.
*The funds were part of $15 million that Mr Zhang had promised the Melbourne arm of Brighsun, after he partnered with Brighsun co-director Chinese businessman Kejun “Kevin” Huang, around 2014.
The drop-off of suspected dirty cash was intercepted by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission as part of a probe into drug funds and money laundering. The money was seized by Australian police and used in evidence to prosecute a heroin trafficker. Federal police questioned Mr Saylav as part of their investigation but he was never charged.
*In the months before the police operation was launched, Brighsun donated $105,000 to the Liberal Party, donation records show. The corporate group engaged Ms Liu in late 2015 to secure political backing for its plans to introduce electric buses in Australia, according to Mr Saylav and the firm’s current local CEO, Charles Brent. *
*Brighsun New Energy’s former CEO said the firm donated $105,000 to the Liberal Party to gain access to and credibility with politicians.*
*Brighsun’s political activities and its ties to a $1 million cash drop raises questions about Ms Liu’s lobbying and fundraising activities.
According to ASIC records and a press release issued in 2015, Brighsun New Energy is “a joint venture between … Mr Kejun (Kevin) Huang and an investment group … headed by Mr Genjiang Zhang“.
The Chinese parent of Brighsun has been backed by the Chinese Communist Party and the website of Mr Zhang’s investment group states that it works with a “party committee of the Communist Party of China”.
Brighsun’s Chinese factory, established within a government-owned industrial park in Zhejiang, was launched at a local CCP event in 2015, where political leaders praised the company.
*It is not unusual for large Chinese companies to operate with CCP support and an internal party committee, although this creates a possibility that these firms are not purely commercial and may be influenced by Chinese government aims.
*Mr Saylav and Mr Brent both said Ms Liu was engaged by the firm in 2015 to win Australian government support.
However, in an interview with The Age and Herald, Ms Liu claimed she worked “pro-bono” because she was passionate about clean energy projects, and that her “communications director” title was created to lead politicians to believe she held a formal role.
“I recall I helped [Brighsun] talk to ministers because they failed to get any attention from the government. So I said, ‘Oh well, I do know a few people’, so I helped them to invite the minister to come to their launch – Greg Hunt,” she said. “[The communications director title] was to help the minister come. If I [didn’t have a title] at that company, then they wouldn’t talk to me.”
*The company’s current CEO, Charles Brent, said Ms Liu was “absolutely specifically” used by Brighsun to win government support.
“Gladys did a very good job … she was instrumental in helping us get access, like any good lobbyist would, and that was her job.”
“At the time she was doing fundraising for the Liberal Party within the Chinese community,” he said. “[The MPs] were all very, very supportive.”
The Chinese born Liberal MP has a disability and escaped an abusive marriage, but all talk has been about her memberships to Chinese government linked groups.
The $105,000 donation to the Liberal Party was made in early October, 2015. Weeks later, in late October, Mr Hunt, then the federal environment minister, appeared at a press conference with Ms Liu endorsing Brighsun.
Speakers at the event to promote Brighsun’s plans at Victoria’s Government House included state Labor minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Liberal shadow minister David Southwick, both of whom held energy and environment-related portfolios.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said his attendance was not tied to the $105,000 and said Mr Hunt was unaware of Brighsun’s links to the CCP.
Mr Saylav said it was his impression the firm’s Chinese backers made the donation to gain access to and credibility with Australian politicians. He never questioned the source of Brighsun’s money and said Mr Zhang was its main financier, sending money to Australia in “dribs and drabs”. Mr Saylav said he collected the $1 million in cash on the orders of Mr Zhang.
Court records from organised crime cases suggest a probe by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission into the movement of drug funds across the region – which was under way by January 2016 – ultimately led to agents swooping on Mr Saylav’s car after he picked up a backpack stuffed with $500,000 cash.
The cash was handed over on May 3, 2016, by triad drug trafficker Lok Ping Tsui, who served 24 years in an Australian jail after being convicted over a major heroin importation into Australia in 1989. In
the days leading up to that seizure, police tracked another cash drop-off to Mr Saylav from Lok.
Mr Saylav, who was interviewed by police but never charged, said the $1 million police uncovered was part of $3 million that Mr Zhang had already provided Brighsun of his promised $15 million investment.
Mr Saylav said Mr Zhang had directed him to pick up the cash because he “had problems getting it out of China”.
Chinese capital flight laws bans more than $3000 leaving China in a single transaction and some Chinese nationals resort to using money launderers and crime figures to access cash or smuggle money into Australia.
Court transcripts reveal that Mr Saylav gave Lok a $5 note bearing a serial number ending in 460, a code that meant the cash could be handed over. Lok was then secretly filmed by authorities removing a small grey backpack stuffed with cash from the rear of his car and giving it to Mr Saylav. Lok later pleaded guilty to dealing with money reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
Asked where the $105,000 that Brighsun gave to the Liberal Party six months earlier had come from, Mr Saylav said: “I have no idea.” He was the company’s CEO at the time of the donation.
Brighsun’s current CEO Mr Brent said that Mr Huang and Mr Zhang poured “piles” of money into Brighsun before falling out with each other in early 2016. The pair remain directors of Brighsun’s parent company.
Ms Liu said she knew nothing about the police probe or the car park cash: “This is news to me. I have no idea,” she said. The Age and Herald are not suggesting she had any knowledge of any criminal behaviour. Ms Liu also said she had never heard of or met Brighsun’s co-director Mr Zhang, even though he was a major financial backer of the company and attended the company’s launch in Melbourne in 2015, which Ms Liu helped to organise.
A photo taken at the event and released by Brighsun shows Mr Saylav with Mr Huang and Mr Zhang, and news reports of the event say both men were its directors.
Ms Liu said Brighsun made the $105,000 donation to the Liberal Party in October 2015 after its director Mr Huang bid for an auction item, a promised meal with then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. The meal never eventuated. Ms Liu denied advising Mr Huang specifically to bid on the item.
“I was on stage with the auctioneer, with Julie Bishop and with Michael Kroger, so I was there to help with the auctioning and he was sitting at the table and I was doing my job helping the Liberal Party … I was … encouraging people to bid – everyone in the room.”
Mr Huang, who bid for the dinner, also said he did not know the origins of the funds Mr Zhang contributed to Brighsun.
“I just asked for his [Zhang’s] money every month and he would send money. This is our relationship. I’m not clear with his fundraising or his relationship with the [Chinese] government,” Mr Huang said.
Mr Huang said he had bid for the dinner to “connect” with politicians. Mr Zhang could not be contacted for comment.
Mr Brent said the company had visions of becoming a large employer of manufacturing workers in Victoria who would produce world-leading electric buses.
In the lead-up to 2016, Mr Brent said the Victorian government was “very supportive” of Brighsun. The two parties were in negotiations for an electric bus trial but the split between Mr Huang and Mr Zhang derailed plans.
“The wheels fell off between Kevin [Huang] and Zhang, and that was very sad because suddenly the dream of creating the company in Australia was dead,” Mr Brent said.
Mr Zhang gave up on plans to manufacture in Australia, and instead moved operations to China, according to Mr Brent.
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.