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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Lavartus Prodeo carried a good post and entertaining commentary thread about Eric Abetz and his long-running and somewhat bemusing campaign to address the issue of ‘audience balance’ at the ABC program Q&A.

The issue can be traced through the Hansard of the Standing Senate Estimate Committee for Environment, Communications and The Arts in its sittings for ‘Broadband, Communications and The Digital Economy Portfolio’.

In constructing this post I have read the relevant sections of the transcripts for:
26-May-2008 (Hereafter: May 2008)
20 October 2008 (Hereafter Oct)
23 Feb 2009 (Hereafter Feb)
25 May 2009
(Hereafter May 2009)

Mark Scott, Managing Director Of The ABC, represented the ABC at the Committee Meetings

The Coalition And The ABC

The Coalition developed a hatred for the ABC at some point during the leadership of John Howard and viewed it, quite literally, as their enemy.

This drove Howard to try to transform the ABC into an echo chamber for his business-corporate agenda or at least intimidate it into silence as regards to critique. Part of Howard’s strategy for this was to appoint personal friends, ideological fellow travellers and those who hate, fear and despise the ABC (e.g Keith Windshuttle and Janet Albrechtson) to the ABC board. Another part was to harass the ABC via publicly-funded vexatious investigations, forcing the ABC to continually defend itself against allegations of bias. Howard’s most intense attacks on the ABC focused on its critique of Howard’s support for the US propaganda line on the necessity to invade Iraq.

Fear and hatred for the ABC lives on in the Liberal Party and the harassment policy and character assasination live on in within it with Mr. Abetz the designated spear carrier.

Keeper Of The Flame

Abetz has continued the policy of harassment of the ABC via tendentious questioning and orders for supply of detailed yet useless information and statistics through the Standing Senate Estimate Committee for Environment, Communications and The Arts.

In the absence of any substantive issues on which to crticize the ABC, Abetz’s harassment of the ABC has degenerated into a rather comical pursuit of supposed bias into the composition of the audience for the program Q&A. He ends of looking and sounding like a garden-variety street crazy stuffed into a suit and given endless public money to investigate exactly how the Illuminati are using Martian Space Stations to inject Flouridated Gamma Rays into Parliamentary Beef Stroganoff.

What Are Them Damn Commies Up To Now ?

At some stage in 2007 or 2008 Abetz became concerned that the audience of the Q&A audience did not contain enough Coalition supporters.

Why he considers this to be the fault of the ABC is not entirely clear. Registration for audience participation is free to anybody and the producers of Q&A ensure the audience (as well as the Panel) contains a ‘plurality of views’ (Scott) by requesting the prospective audience member to indicate voting intention on the registration form. It is not compulsory to answer the question. (May 2008, pp. 67-69)

Scott explained the intention of the ‘voting intention thus:

‘The aim is not to come up with a precise demographic map of the country but to ensure that the principal relevant viewpoints that exist in the community are represented in that audience, so that is why we do the questioning.’

Abetz requested the audience breakdown figures and, after receiving them felt he has uncovered a noteworthy example of ABC bias, discovering that in one program, the most ALP-audience-heavy, the declared voting intention was 47% ALP, 26% Green and 10% Coalition. The figure for the whole of 2008 was 32% ALP, 24% Coalition, 17% Green. (Oct. p.154).

Focusing on the single ‘worst’ example he could find, rather then the whole year figures, Abetz then asked Scott what he had done to redress the supposed issue of ‘imbalance’ (NB This is the FREAKING audience he’s worried about, not whether the PANEL was stacked or Coalition-friendly viewpoints were or were not given fair hearing). In Abetz’s deluded view the audience composition comprises the litmus test of bias because:

Senator ABETZ—The test surely is that the ABC provide a balanced audience because the chairing, the support, the commentary out of the audience can potentially be off-putting for some people that are part of the panel or, indeed, give those listening at home the impression that this balanced audience is somehow against a particular participant.

Abetz is deluded. A biased audience is as easy to spot as a biased commentator, in fact easier. And the ABC viewing/listening public is likely to be more analytical in these areas than in the audience for commercial television. An ABC viewing public will not be swayed because the audience is rent-a-crowd.

Scott continuously emphasised the PANEL and time given for their VIEWS in all this wacky questioning of Abetz because, sanely, he realises that’s where the litmus test for bias really lies. Abetz can’t find any bias in the Panel, Chair or balance of views expressed so, in order to justify this particular adventure in his pananoid vendetta against the ABC, he rakes over the audience composition. When presented with statistical evidence of an audience comprising a reasonable plurality of views over one year, he ignores it to concentrate on an anomolously low turn-out of his cheer squad in one particular episode.

In fact, Abetz knows that the ABC does not want the Coalition to be under-represented.

Senator ABETZ—Q&A supervising executive producer Peter McEvoy allegedly told The Weekend Australian:
… anyone could register on the program’s website to be chosen to join the audience.
“We want more Liberal supporters and National supporters and Labor supporters—the more
registrants we have the more representative Q&A will be,” McEvoy said.

(May 2008, p. 68)

The ABC Needs To Fix My Problem

I suspect this whole line of inquiry by Abetz is an act, a posture. He’s just shaking around a few shibboleths to keep his constituency outraged and provide the impression he’s doing something useful rather than just quaffing tax-payer funded Port or overindulging in free PacMan in the Shadow Cabinet Lounge.

More curious though is why Abetz thinks its the ABC’s responsibility to go out and motivate Liberals to sign up for the audience. If Abetz wants the cheer squad to turn out, shouldn’t HE be out there telling them there’s a game on ?

Senator ABETZ—Do you agree that there is an over-representation in all or most of your audience from—let’s call it the centre—the Centre Left of Australian politics?

Mr Scott—I have given you the voting intention. I have given you the breakdown.

Senator ABETZ—Does that tell you something about the balance or imbalance?

Mr Scott—No, we are working assiduously to try to ensure that there is a full range of
viewpoints that are evidenced in our audience. This is the first time this has been tried on
Australian television.

Senator ABETZ—Yes, and I am asking you how you are trying to make it better [UTMW – by drumming up more Liberals to sit in the audience].

(Oct. p.156)

What the ABC did was go and ask Liberal MPs for ideas where they should recruit studio members from and were given various suggestions, then in addition to that they wrote to a whole bunch of organisations. Abetz asked for the list and after receiving it began an even more intensively tendentious line of attack – that some of the organisations were not guaranteed to be hotbeds of Coalition support and that when the organisations were contacted by the ABC they were not explicitly told that the ABC was seeking Coalition supporters for the audience. (Feb. 2009, pp. 55-57).

Scott informed Abetz that the breakdown for the first episode of 2009 was ALP 29%, Coalition 36%, Greens 10%. Abetz purred his delight ‘It just goes to show that these questions at estimates do bear results’.

In the May 2009 Senate Commitee, much the same ground was gone over. With Abetz making a meal of the point that in a written answer to Abetz, Scott had said ‘the following organisations were written to to recruit more Coalition supporters for the Q&A audience’ but that the actual emails to those organisations had not explicitly stated that their purpose was to attract more Coalition supporters to the audience of Q&A. (May 2009 pp. 50-52)

Of course, Abetz himself knows that the groups that the ABC wrote to were perfectly sensible choices as Coalition-friendly groups, though the ABC did not confine itself totally to Coalition majority organisations.

Senator Abetz – Suffice it to say, whatever you have done seems to have worked, given the latest figures, and I am pleased about that. Allow me to finish that bracket of questions with a tick.

(Feb. p. 57)

So is tax-payers money spent.

By the way, the groups that Abetz felt may not be sufficiently Coalition-friendly enough were Sydney University Politics Society, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Brown Wright Stein, business groups including the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. He was only completely happy with the University Of New South Wales Liberal Club, and as Mark Scott mischevously pointed out, the Facebook Group ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Liberal…

All In Favour Of Mindless Screaming Say AARRGHH.

Unfortunately for we tax-payers, who are footing the bill for Abetz’s mission to ensure that the composition of the Q&A audience reflects as near as possible the results of the last Federal election, Eric is wasting our money. The fruits of Abetz’s labour will be a degredation in the quality of Q&A.

Access to the Q&A audience is open to any interested party. Those who attended of their own spontaneous volition were obviously attuned with the vision of Q&A to provide stimulating discussion over a range of issues with questions drawn from interested members of the public in attendance. The audience would self-evidently be politically and socially motivated persons interested in putting, hearing and debating alternative points of view.

Abetz, on the other hand, sees Q&A as a microcosm of parliamentary Question Time an exercise in political point-scoring, Dorothy Dixers, spin, evasion, macho chest-beating, insults, immature screaming and finger-pointing. Recall Abetz’s rationale for insisting that ‘audience balance’ was the key to successful debate:

The test surely is that the ABC provide a balanced audience because the chairing, the support, the commentary out of the audience can potentially be off-putting for some people that are part of the panel or, indeed, give those listening at home the impression that this balanced audience is somehow against a particular participant

For Abetz, the winner of the debate is determined by which cheer-squad makes the most noise, not which point of view was best argued.

Abetz obviously wants and expects his cheer squad to provide mindless noise because the viewing audience, in his opinion, will be persuaded that the noisy team is the best team. Eric, that’s Question Time, not Q&A. You have been so long in Parliament you have forgotten what a real debate actually is.

I have noticed that the latter 2008 and 2009 audiences have gone in a lot more for cheering and ‘spontaneous’ acts of applause. I would guess this is a result, on the Coalition side of being under instructions from Eric.

Colonizing Neptune

Why does the Coalition hate, fear and despise the ABC so much? Noam Chomsky said:
Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune

The Coalition unashamedly represents business-corporate-commercial interests. Commercial interests dominates the media ownership. Hence, in general, commercial media editorialises for the same constituency as the Coalition. This leaves the ABC as the only source of critique of the business-corporate tsunami. Because it is the only real voice of critique it sounds like it is being broadcast from Neptune. So weird, so different, so crazy, so hostile! It’s against us (or sounds like it might be). It needs to be silenced or become normal like Channel 7,9 and 10, which is to say yet another mouthpiece for big money and the powerful, like all the rest.

Abetz is trying to colonize Neptune. To turn it into Planet ASX200. Just like home.

The Other Kind Of Balance

The ‘balance’ that Abetz is trying to achieve on the ABC is reminiscent of the ‘balance’ that Town Councils of the American Deep South sought to achieve when critique of their racist town laws was bought to their meetings. They hired their own rent-a-crowd, the Ku Klux Klan to provide balanced commentary and even out the numbers. As former Ku Klux Klan member CP Ellis relates:

We began to make some inroads with the city councilmen and county commissioners. They began to call us friend. Call us at night on the telephone: “C. P., glad you came to that meeting last night.” They didn’t want integration either, but they did it secretively, in order to get elected. They couldn’t stand up openly and say it, but they were glad somebody was sayin it. We visited some of the city leaders in their homes and talked to em privately. It wasn’t long before councilmen would call me up: “The Blacks are comin up tonight and makin outrageous demands. How about some of you people showin up and have a little balance?

We’d load up our cars and we’d fill up half the council chambers, and the Blacks the other half.

I do not suggest that Abetz supports the aims, views or practices of the KKK, but I do suggest that Abetz is not so much interested in ‘balance’ but in maintaing business-corporate dominance of the Australian polity. The ABC represents the ‘Blacks making outrageous demands’ here merely critiquing the pradigms and assumption of the Coalition political agenda. Abetz wants that critique stilled, or at least minimized.

Hence Abetz forces the ABC, under the noble-sounding banner of ‘balance’, to recruit, on his behalf a Coalition rent-a-crowd who have previously shown no interest in the free debate of Q&A. Their role is to make more noise than the opposition. CP Ellis’s councilmen would approve of that.

Abetz Abandons The Free Market

It is of some amusement that Abetz implicitly abandons ‘free-market’ principles when it suits his purposes and here, in the matter of Q&A audience composition insists on quotas to deliver equity. Though it is not in fact clear the market really failed as the 2008 figures as 32% ALP, 24% Coalition with a large proportion undeclared may be within the margin of error for the 2007 election result.

Where Thought-Control Dictatorships Have Got It Right

Abetz is not, in fact, interested in a balanced spectrum of ideas being presented to the public. He only pretends to be. This is easily determined by the fact that Abetz never questions the content or coverage of bulletins emenating from commercial media as being biased. He never would. In the main they are unchallenging to the Coalition’s agenda. Abetz is ONLY concerned about what the ABC does, justifying this by the noting that only the ABC is publicly-funded and has a special obligation to impartiality. By this paper-thin device Abetz can ignore any and all bias except that he would like to believe is sourced from the ABC.

As Abetz further knows, the concept of impartiality can be abused to provide a cloak for propaganda. It is in this very way that the Coalition attacked the ABC mercilessly over the Iraq War, insisting that any time the ABC questioned the US-approved terms to describe the war, intelligence justifications for the war or desciptions of Saddam’s regime, then this constituted bias on the part of the ABC. The assumption is, of course, that the US Government and Military themselves used impartial and unbiased terms to describe their activities and those of Iraq, an assumption so naive it could not possibly be believed by any mature analyst.

This nauseating misuse of the concept of impartiality is rigorously defended by Abetz, who insists that the ABC always use the term ‘war on terror’ with a straight face to denote the true objective of the US War In Iraq and must never use the term ‘so-called war on terror’

From the October 2008 Senate Estimate Committee Hansard, p. 154:

Senator ABETZ—[…] To start off with, did the ABC have a view about using the phrase ‘so-called war on terror’?
Mr Scott—Let me check that.
Senator ABETZ—Because I thought it had been agreed that that term, prefaced with ‘socalled’,
would not be used.
Mr Scott—Do you have an example that has come to your attention?
Senator ABETZ—Yes, I do—the 8 am news on Radio National this morning.

So it would seem that Abetz holds a debased view of impartiality, holding it to mean ‘uncritical regurgitation of Government/Military sourced information’. The editors of Pravda would have no trouble concurring, no matter any thought-control dictatorship you would care to name.

To Sum Up

Abetz harassment of the ABC over the Q&A audience is the continuation of the Coalition vendetta against the ABC. This particular arm of it will result in the degeneration of the quality of political debate on Q&A as it becomes a microcosm of Parliamentary Question Time as a result of the debased notions of ‘debate’ and ‘balance’ held by Senator Abetz.

Abetz’s harassment of the ABC is also hypocritical as he does not require exacting balance of any other broadcaster except the ABC, and his capaign against Q&A represents an opportunistic departure from Coalition market-based philosophy predicated solely on the perception that the Coalition is losing something by being underrepresented in the Q&A audience.

Indeed it is not even clear that the Colition was truly underrepresented based on figures presented by Mark Scott, and even so, the objectives of Q&A being free, fair debate do not require a political microcosm of the Australian electorate to be present.

Amusingly, some of Senator Abetz’s conceptions in regard to impartiality are features of thought-control dictatorships.

Part of Senator Abetz’s strategy of dealing with the ABC is to waste its time and money in order to intimidate it into minimizing or silencing its critique of Coalition policies. He does this, ironically, using tax-payer money which therefore constitutes a double waste.

Senator Abetz’s interactions with the ABC are partisan, self-interested and pathetic. His attitude toward the ABC are precisely those he ascribed to Senator Conroy of the ALP below, (with appropriate reversals of Liberal Party for ALP)

Senator ABETZ—It shows an immature attitude to the public broadcaster, Minister, and, if that is the sort of attitude that you will be showing in your involvement with the ABC, it confirms our worst fears as to how the ALP treats the ABC—as its own plaything.

(Oct., p.155)

The Final Irony

The final irony of all this is that the ABC is far and away the best quality media outlet in Australia. It is the broadcaster of choice for any Australian truly interested in quality current affairs and political analysis. Why Abetz should be attacking the ABC instead of supporting it, only his perverse partisan instincts can justify.

Even the king of all ABC haters, John Howard himself, agrees that the ABC is ‘serious’ i.e. quality media. He directly said so to Kerry O’Brien in his final 7:30 Report interview before the 2007 Federal Election.

KERRY O’BRIEN: I must have interviewed you about 70 or 80 times as Prime Minister. It’s an odd feeling, I must say, to contemplate the possibility that this could be our last, but if this turns out to be the case, thank you sincerely for making yourself available as often as you have even in some of the tougher moments.

JOHN HOWARD: Well I believe in the accountability of public figures in the serious media and even though…

Abetz and the Coalition would be happier if the ABC transformed itself into Channel 10 and reserved its news bulletin for updates on Hollywood gossip. Its objective is the same as that Howard insisted upon as a precondition for his participation in the ABC’s documentary The Howard Years: “No analysis, no commentary”.

While Abetz and the Coalition continue their harassment of the ABC they prove themselves unworthy of forming government in a democracy.

Dog Whistle Of The Century

Dog Whistle Of The Century

The Daily Telegraph has brilliantly employed juxaposition of text and image on its front cover 29-May-2009 to Dog Whistle to the fear and paranoia of Muslims and Islam felt by many of the ‘Howard Battlers’ or ‘working families’ of Sydney.

The cover is completely filled with a picture of one of Skaf brothers (notorious young Lebanese Muslim rapists) being visited by his parents in jail. Skaf and his mother occupy most of the shot. Skaf has his arm and hand extended towards his mother palm-up and is holding something indistinguishable. The text reads (to paraphrase) ‘How did the evil Skaf brothers get a mobile phone in jail ?’

The answer, supplied by the highly suggestive picture is that his mother smuggled it in under her Islamic garb in which she is dressed. Here’s the story from the on-line edition.

Islamophobic fear, for which female Islamic attire is a lightning rod, is thus aroused by the implication that a MUSLIM RAPIST has received COVERT SUPPORT from an ISLAMIC woman DECEITFULLY using HIJAB to CONCEAL CONTRABAND.

The sub-texts:
– They can’t be trusted.
– They are not repentant.
– SHE COULD HAVE A BOMB just as easily as a phone.

The sales strategy of the Daily Telegraph is to reflect, reinforce and justify prejudice (and supply the racing form guide). The May 29 issue is a surpassing example.

Whatever Skaf’s crimes I find it entirely understandable that his mother should wish to be able to speak to him and, notwithstanding the repulsive nature of Skaf’s crimes, it is understandable he wishes to speak with her. But its jail. He can’t have a mobile phone.

The Daily Telegraph does not explore this human angle on the story, but instead bashes on relentlessly in its supporting article about Law And Order issues, content to let its cover Dog Whistle the rest.

Which it does brilliantly for the coffers of the Telegraph, for the xenophobia of its readership and to the general poisoning of the mass culture.

Since I am too much of a scab to pay WordPress for the use of their blogging site, I am restricted to the functionality of their free version, which does not include polls.

So I’m implementing this as a Thread instead.

Poll: What’s Your Favourite Guid ?

A. 8d3de6d8-df22-4e10-8a19-b30aa044265f
B. 22845c1f-0fe0-46dd-a71d-4f47da37bade
C. 1a1ccc5d-50af-4c80-9d9b-e5b89b620264
D. Other (please specify)


Leave a comment with a vote for your favourite Guid. Please also leave a short note explaining why you like that Guid so much.

More Guid Fun

Check out this page! I’m still quivering!

Reds Under The Bed, Femmos Under The Fridge

Miranda Devine makes a puzzling – borderline crazy – analysis of the recent Matthew Johns/Cronulla Sharks scandal in her article “Natural Men Scolded Into Timidity” which appeared in WA Today, 21-May-2009.

Johns was alleged to be the ringleader (Johns denies being the ringleader but admits being involved) in a gross humiliation perpetrated by him and his football club colleagues on a New Zealand woman in 2002.

Devine ascribes the outrage which followed revelation of this horrific event and the calls for retribution against Johns and his team-mates as being the product of Feminism and the Feminist movement.

She says:

The initial criticism of Johns was warranted […] But since then, Johns has been crucified, with demands he name his teammates, sponsors threatening to pull out of rugby league, a school principal banning NRL players from visiting classes and mothers stopping their sons playing the game.

You always know when zealotry creeps into a story there is another agenda at work – and that is that the Johns case is a beachhead in the war against masculinity, waged by […]the women’s studies movement.

Feminists v. NRL

In Devine’s conception, the women’s movement is responsible for the outrage directed against Johns et. al. and has an agenda to destroy Rubgy League since League is a place where men and boys can behave in unambiguously masculine fashion, this being anathema to Feminists who wish to

produce an androgynous utopia.

in which authentic masculinity and feminity are to be suppressed and replaced by non-gender identities and hence Feminists have the objective of

Killing off rugby league

The Awesome Power Of Feminist Androgynists

Devine’s attribution of such agenda-setting power to the minority viewpoint of Feminists seeking androgynous utopia (surely even a fringe within Feminism) is Howardesque in its gigantic view of the political power of selected elite minorities.

Howard famously identified Aboriginals, Feminists and Left-Wing Intellectuals as representing an near-irresistible tide of political power which had captured Australian society and thinking in order to promote their selfish, sectional interests against the ‘mainstream’.

In Devine’s view then, corporate sponsors, school principals and mothers are the foot soldiers of the Feminist Androgyny Movement, screaming the slogans of their ideological masters who remote-control their brains from command centres in Darlinghurst and Ultimo.

It’s plain weird.

Return To Sanity

In my view the general repulsion of a broad spectrum of society including the corporate sector, middle-class mums, male commercial media identities and famous famous Rugby League persons themselves reflects a sane rejection of vicious and sick behaviours exhibted by the Cronulla Sharks in 2002, Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004 and what Roy Masters (see comments by Bob Ellis here) admits has been common-place in League for years or decades.

Those vicious and sick behaviours include intimidating younger women into ‘consent’ when outnumbering them by twelve to one, self-abusing en masse while watching team mates perform such ‘consensual’ acts, rubbing themselves (more than one player simultaneously) over the face of the woman while other acts are in progress and queueing-up to join in and sneaking into the room to do so without the knowledge of the woman.

The Zealot’s Own Zealotry

It seems to me that Devine is missing the point in an almost unbelievable manner on this topic. In fact, it seems to me that Devine is a victim of the syndrome that she herself identifies:

You always know when zealotry creeps into a story there is another agenda at work

Devine’s agenda is the evil of Feminism possibly in conjunction with the moral laxity of certain young ladies which are topics to which Devine continually returns. Her zealotry has caused her to rather crazily ascribe outrage over this issue to the agency of the Feminist Movement and miss the central and obvious reason for the public outcry, which is consent and violence toward women.

Don’t Waste A Good Crisis

In my view, media commentators such as Miranda Devine and Steve Price of 2UE, who are fans of Rugby League, are missing a golden opportunity to save the game they love. League now has the opportunity to eradicate the culture of disrespect toward women which is producing the sick behaviours causing public disgust.

By confronting the problem squarely, by admitting responsibility and complicity, the clubs, players and NRL can establish a complete no-tolerance policy toward (group) intimidation of women into ‘consent’. They can clean themselves up, then get on with playing the game they love.

Hiding the problem and blaming Feminist Androgynists, the women involved or any other agency will only allow this game-threatening behaviour to linger and fester. Devine and Price should get smart and admit the problem.

Otherwise, left to its sick culture, NRL can expect to be held in contempt forever.

Its their choice.

Other Blogs

The Michael Duffy Files deconstructs Devine’s article into an entertaining series of self-contradictions.

Errr.. that’s about it.

The Coalition just can’t help itself, and why should it ? A good dogwhistle to the heaving sea of xenophobic paranoia lodged in this nation’s 45-75 yrs demographic and mostly glued to Sydney talkback radio throughout electorally crucial slabs of Sydney’s metropolitan area is still worth a seat or five.

That’s why Joe Hockey and Sharman Stone (Shadow minister for Immigration and Citizenship) have both nonchalantly dropped the aside in recent times that yellow scum China will end up holding a fair share of Australia’s debt over the next decade.

First was Ms. Stone, staining an otherwise classy performance on ABC’s Q&A of May 7th ‘Taxes, Torture and The Taliban’ by observing that we’re accumulating debt at a rate of a couple of billion dollars a week, all borrowed mostly from China. From the transcript:

SHARMAN STONE: … we’ve got a long way to go and we’re accumulating debt at a rate of a couple of billion dollars a week, all borrowed mostly from China; borrowed for the future generation to have to pay back. Now, you can’t generate jobs…

TONY JONES: Is it bad to borrow from China, by the way, the way you said that – I’m just wondering?

SHARMAN STONE: I beg your pardon?

TONY JONES: Is it particularly bad to borrow from China?


GREG SHERIDAN: It’s bad for China.

SHARMAN STONE: It’s bad for a government to borrow money to throw into individual’s pockets at $900 [rabbits on dodging Jones’ question.]

This was followed up by Joe Hockey on the following week’s Q&A, ‘Budget Special From Canberra’, in which Hockey foreshadowed Coaltion plans for a publicly-accessible register of government borrowings.

JOE HOCKEY: …we’re going to move an amendment in the senate at the first available opportunity, to make sure there is a proper disclosure about who we are borrowing from because we’re borrowing on a scale that we’ve never done before…

Jones immediately identified the Dog Whistle…

TONY JONES: What is it you’re worried about, though? Are you worried that we’re borrowing from China? Are you worried we’re borrowing from the Middle East?

Hockey confirmed he’s up for a bit of Yellow Peril scaremongering:

JOE HOCKEY: Well, China…

TONY JONES: Which countries are you actually worried about?

JOE HOCKEY: I think it’s important to know where we are borrowing from because ultimately you take the government of China. If the government of China is now the biggest single lender to the Australian government, the Australian people should know it.

The Return Of FrankenHoward

I find it disturbing that the Coaliton is still willing to fan the flames of Xenophobia in this country.

Having been though the extremely distasteful Howard years in which Hanson’s xenphobia was not criticised until her votes returned to the Coalition, One Nation supporters were mollycoddled and wooed, in which the existence and experiences of the Stolen Generation was denied and Aboriginal entitlements portrayed as a fraudulent and bogus ‘industry’, in which the provocations to racially-motivated thuggery of Alan Jones were defended and the thugs themselves sympathized with and in which refugees fleeing war and persecution were portayed as villanous, deceitful dole-bludgers, it is incredible that the Coalition still wishes to plumb these skanky depths.

It is as if the undead Howard-Coalition cadaver of 2007 has risen again, unable to lie still through the sheer intensity of xenophobic poison Howard injected into it over the period of his leadership.

I suspect this is one of the reasons that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch says that Howard has destroyed the Liberal Party. Here’s what she told The Age

I’m very critical of John Howard. He wrecked the party and himself. He just couldn’t let go and I think he believed he could win, but he was completely out of touch. I blame Janette. I think she’s very ambitious.”

I agree with Dame Murdoch. Observing Howard’s Prime Ministership was like watching a man lose his soul in public while enjoying the experience.

Other Legacies Of Howard

Howard purged his party of actual liberals and even conservatives insisting instead on turning the Liberal Party into the political arm of Business-Corporate interests typified by the forces that created the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and attempting to de-legitimize any other viewpoint from the Australian polity.

Electoral support for this horrible vision was gained by pork-barelling the Middle Class and inflaming xenophobic paranoia in the blue-collars and pensioners. Along the way he vandalised the economy by introducing a severe structural deficit into the budget by the aforementioned middle-class welfare and tax cuts. Howard’s budgets and welfare could only be sustained by a permanent commodities boom. Now the hard times are here, the Labor party will once again have to do the work of economic (this time fiscal) reform that Howard could not stomach for the simple interests of getting and maintaining power.

Stumbling Onto A Strategy

The Coalition’s current Yellow Peril dogwhistle appears to have come about from justified concerns about Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Helen Liu who is a roving functionary for the Chinese government.

This thread, More On The Yellow Peril, at Lavartus Prodeo contains that story and the comments make for useful supplementary reading including a suggestion that the Australian right are merely following the American right in smearing China since it constitutes a rival to US Economic/Military hegemony.

Breathing Foul Air

It is disturbing and offensive that the Liberals cannot discipline themselves to refrain from feeding at the trough of xenophobia. It only poisons them and us.

Through The Looking Glass
Out of curiosity and since they are electorally influential to the point of being Kingmakers, I decided to listen to what the Shock Jocks were saying about the Budget and what their listeners thought, so I tuned into Steve Price 2UE on Wed 13th May from 10:45 to midday.

It was an entertaining 75 minutes in a gut-wrenchingly disgusting kind of way.

How To Miss The Point

The Four Corners report on NRL player behaviour ‘Code Of Silence’ .
Price’s take on this story was staggering. Ignoring the central issue of the Four Corners report which was the NRL footy culture of intimidating women into non-consensual sex, Price chose as the major issue of concern the effect of the Four Corners report on the career of Matthew Johns.

Moreover, it appeared to me that Price was insinuating that the girl assualted by Johns’ teammates got what she deserved. i.e. non-consensual sexual assault by four Rugby League players while eight others looked on, enjoying the humiliation and degredation poured out on the victim.

Price had a couple of interviews and several listener calls on the issue while I was listening. The first interview was with Channel 9’s Ken Sutcliffe who talked mostly about whether or not Johns would lose his job at Channel 9.

The second interview occurred at approx. 11:20 and contained some very noxious insinuations that the girl deserved it.

Price was happy to let these comments pass without challenge. The interviewee appeared to be known to Price, I didn’t catch his name but I’m pretty sure it was ‘entertainment reporter’ Peter Ford, because he was expressing outrage that Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson had described ‘our’ (i.e. Price and his) comments on the Johns incident as being ‘predatory’, which comments occur in the interview ‘Something Disturbing In The Code’ between Peter Ford and 2UE’s John Stanley of 12th May, currently on 2UE’s Home Page

Here’s what I wrote to Price:

The interview you just did approx. 11:20 Wed 13th May on the Johns group sex story was ludicrously biased.

Yes, the girl should not have gone to their room since she had a boyfriend. Yes, she must have expected and even perhaps consented to sex with the two players.

The reason why she is traumatised and which you and your interviewer did not mention was that she did not consent to sex with the additional four players nor to the six additional others who came in just to watch.

Your failure and that of your interviewee to recognise or even mention the non-consensual nature of the sex with the four players and the presence of the eight others watching (in this interview at least) may be why your interviews on the subject can be construed as encouraging sexual predation.

Price responded:

Barra – I spent 3 hours yesterday talking about this case and mentioned more than once the awful nature of that girl’s experience. What you were listening to at 11.30 was a talkback caller not an interview…not sure what your problem is SP

Awful But Not Undeserved

The girl’s experience was indeed awful.
But Price did not say it was undeserved, at least while I was listening.

My problem is that at no time today did Price say that the sex acts perpetrated after the initial two were non-consensual.

The focus of Price’s comments and those of his interviewees, not challenged by Price were:

1) Matthew Johns is being unfairly treated in that only he is being punished, not any of the other 11 also involved (A red herring – only Johns has a media career to lose. Of the others only one other is still in football. Furthermore, the victim identified Johns as having a leading role in the assault.)
2) The girl made a mistake and was morally deficient in going with Johns and the other player, especially since she had a boyfriend (A reasonable point)
3) The girl must have expected and consented to have sex with at least one of the players that she accompanied to the hotel room.(A reasonable point)
4) The incident wasn’t considered wrong enough to punish in 2002. (A reasonable point)
5) The girl wants to wreck the lives of the players involved. (Inferring she is mentally unstable and hence that her account of the Johns group incident is unrealiable)
6) Girls go nutty around sports stars. (Inferring she deserved or asked for the treatment he received)

The problem is what Price left out:

1) The girl did not consent to four players having sex with her while eight others were in the room.
2) Nor did she consent to the ‘watching’ players standing around her bed performing acts of self-abuse o rubbing their pensises on her face (which happened) while a string of others sexually penetrated her.
3) Even if she consented to one or two that does not permit the additional four or the eight watching.
4) The girl had her eyes closed while the assaults were taking place just wishing it would finish.
5) The assault lasted two hours and only finished when the players relesed her. She was intimidated nto submission by the physical strength and number of the players.

It is true that Price made or permitted the following comments that could be construed as sympathetic to the girl:

a) He ‘feels sorry’ for her because she is suicidal
b) She ‘didn’t go in with all them guys’
c) He permitted without challenge a comment from Sutcliffe that what Johns did was ‘morally wrong’
d) She ‘shouldn’t have felt frightened’. i.e. the fact she was frightened pointed to something amiss in the encounter.

But the overall effect of Price’s comments and interviews *today* was to insinuate that she deserved it.

Price did not say he feels sorry for her because she was sexually abused by twelve men, just sorry for its effect on her.

Making Martyrs Of The Perpetrators

Price said something like ‘What I find very disturbing about the case is that she wants to wreck the lives of those involved.’This to me is an inference she is mentally unstable and hence unreliable in her accounts of the abuse. The vengeful intention of the girl in giving her story is at best a sub-plot. Price uses it to switch outrage from the players’ actions to the girl’s actions.

Price’s assertions that he is sorry for the girl are limited to her current medical/psychological condition e.g. that she is suicidal. This neatly bypasses the central ethical issue involved which is that what happened to her was not consensual.

Steve Price today was far more interested in sub-plots than the main event. Those sub-plots have the intention of minimizing or excusing the non-consensual acts perpetrated on her. The non-consensual acts are the central issue and what deserves most attention. The sub-plots of course merit discussion but not at the expense of excusing non-consensual gang bangs.

Just saying ‘a caller said it’ (in fact it was Peter Ford, a reporter and Price regular on ‘entertainment’) does not excuse Price’s responsibility as a broadcaster to bring the full picture, or any propensity to use his interviewees as stalking horses for personal views especially on grevious issues such as non-consensual gang bangs.

Blind To The Issue

The following day, Price revisited the issue this time saying ‘let’s examine the wider effect of this report on NRL’. Interviewing Ken Sutcliffe again, this time in company with Sydney Morning Herald reporter Jacqueline Magnay, Price asked Sutcliffe what the main issue of concern in the Four Corners report was. Sutcliffe answered and Price agreed that it was ‘Group Sex’. Magnay said ‘Sorry, I disagree. The issue is consent and violence toward women.’. Price and Sutcliffe were silent. It would appear the thought had never occurred to them.

It would seem that Price is prejudicially blind to issues of violence toward women or ‘consent’ gained through intimidation at least where this interesects Rugby League. Price loves Rugby League and sees the Four Corners report as constituting a threat to the game which may cripple its popularity. Behind this, violence to women is nearly irrelevant.

Ostrich Time
Price’s initial ‘editorial’ on the issue, with which he opened his Monday morning program described the Four Corners report as ‘cobbled together’ from ‘two reports over seven years’, strongly inferring that incidents such as the Cronulla Sharks Christchurch encounter are isolated and that the Four Corners report was a witchhunt and not justified. Price therefore denies and ignores what any impartial observer of Rugby League knows (and as Magnay stated) that intimidation and trapping of women into non-consensual gang bangs is an entrenched part of the depraved culture of NRL footballers and has been for a long time.

If Price was smart he would welcome these revelations as an opportunity to clean up the game and flush out this repulsive behaviour. He would prefer, however, to stick his hands in the sand, to cast aspersions on the victims and Four Corners, make martyrs of the perpetrators deny the truth and in so doing maintain NRL as a haven for those who sexually assault women.

Price Spruiking The Interests Of Private Medical Insurance

Also in that 75 minutes, Price conducted an interview with Michael Armitage, Chief Executive, Australian Health Insurance Association.

Armitage and Price carried on like two sides of the same mouth in this interview being highly critical of Swan/Rudd for reducing the scope of the Private Medical Insurance rebate.

Price and Armitage dwelt on the fact that this action breaks an election promise.
They stressed many times it affects EVERYONE because
a) Private Health Cover premiums will rise as a result of people dropping out of health funds
b) The ‘beleaguered (Price)’ Public Health System will be additionally burdened

They dwelt on those likely to drop out
a) Young people earning approx. 80k
b) Older people as they have lower incomes

In my opinion Price concentrated on the elderly here as it takes the shine off their pension increases, the most unambiguous ‘winner’ item in the Budget.

Both Armitage and Price said, accurately, the additional cost to those losing the full rebate is 42%, not 30%.

On its own this interview was mostly just a dig at Swan/Rudd. What followed made it’s partisan nature clearer

Later in his show Price interviewed Steve James from CommSec on the sharemarket reaction to the Budget. James reported a generally positive reaction from Business with a particular leap in the fortunes of the HealthCare Sector.

You see, the Budget increased the overall funding for Medicare (which Price did not mention when interviewing Armitage) and so companies like Ramsay Health etc. can expect to be more profitable.

Needless to say Price did not express surprise or even comment that Swan’s supposed horror attack on health was construed as good news for the HealthCare sector by the sharemarket. That was in direct contradiction to his lovefest with Michael Armitage, a kick-Rudd-in-the-guts duet which Price said ‘cut through the spin’ of the Rudd government.

So Swan/Rudd have compensated the Public Sector for an expected additional burden resulting from drop-out from private health funds as a result of decreasing the rebate on private health insurance. There will not be an additional unfunded burden as Price implied.

In fact the 2009-2010 Healthcare budget contains a record $64 billion healthcare agreement with the states and territories – to provide record levels of funding for public hospitals and reduce pressure on emergency departments and includes specific new spending of more than $1 bn on Cancer treatment. I could go on.

Why Price should be giving Armitage’s Australian Health Insurance Association free kicks on his program is a matter of speculation. Probably it’s just a convenient vehicle for a partisan attack on Swan and Rudd.

Update 14th May:

Listening to Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget In Reply speech it was striking that Price/Armitage’s objections to Rudd/Swan’s means test of the Private Health Care rebate were identical.

Quite plainly the Libs have leaked this part of Turnbull’s speech to Armitage/Price to warm up the electorate to the Libs argument.

Price is utterly partisan. He is willing servant of the Liberal Party. Any political comment of his should be regarded as being written and authorised M. Turnbull Parliament House, Canberra.

Here is Turnbull verbatim:

Australians know that and that is why in the lead up to the last election the Prime Minister was asked time and time again whether he would change the private health insurance rebate.

Again and again he and his shadow health minister said they would not.

Never was an election promise given more emphatically and then broken so brazenly.

Every Australian knows that the cost of public health is growing as are the waiting lists for public hospitals.

Every Australian knows that as our population ages the need for more self reliance in the provision of health services becomes greater.

This broken promise will be a direct hit on the family budget of at least 1.7 million Australians and indirectly will result in higher premiums for all Australians – including those on very low incomes.

And it is just the beginning – the thin edge of the wedge.

And as private health insurance costs go up, more pressure is put on public hospitals.

Fellow Job-Seekers:

Here’s what I was asked in a second-stage interview for a C#.NET Intermediate-level contract position for a major software company:

1) What is an Anonymous Method and when would you use it ?
[I didn’t know, but mentioned in-line delegates and got points for knowing about those. I said we used it for very simple routines that did not justify a whole method for itself, so can save a few lines of code. They said ‘that’s fair enough’.
2) What is a nullable type ? Are they useful in method signatures ?
[I said not to use them in method sigs as the consumer will be confused as to whether or not to pass a value or not. Better to have an overloaded method for the null case. Interviewer said this was a good answer.
3) What is the difference between String and StringBuilder ?
4) Since strings are immutable, what is the implication for security e.g Passwords ?
[No idea]
5) A user does not have permissions to access a file? How can you give them those permissions
through .NET ?
[I speculated that CASPOL might do it, then said to use anonymous authetication and set permissions on the folder to the anonymous user. They said no, has to be an authenticated user. I said I would just use Windows and give them permission, then said I don’t know how .NET would do it. They said ‘Trick Question. It actually can’t be done in .NET.]
6) What is Reflection and what’s a use for it ?
7) What does this block of code in LINQ do ?
[It was a simple block that grouped an array of numbers according to the Modulus of 5 (i.e. n % 5) then printed out each group and the numbers in that group.
8) In LINQ what does var signify ?
[My answer: an anonymous type]
9) What is an AsyncCallbackDelegate and when do you use it ?
10) Explain protected, internal, public, private.
11) SQL: What is a clustered index ?
12) SQL: What is a primary key ?
13) SQL: What kind of collection does ADO.NET return from a SELECT statement?
[Ans: Dataset]
14) NUNIT: What class- and method-decoration attributes are available to you and what do they do ?
[I talked about TextFixture, Test, TearDown and SetUp and local Teardown and SetUp]
15) Given this block of code find all the errors and comment on coding style.
[It was a fairly simple FileStream example – unfortunately FileStreams are not my strongest point.]
16) POWERSHELL: What differentiates Powershell from other scripting shells e.g JScript ?
[It returns and processes .NET objects, not text]
17) POWERSHELL: Why is it an advanatge that it doesn’t process text ?
[Text is tedious to Pipe because you have to extract the pieces of information you require by position and length. .NET objects can be processed directly by each chain in the Pipe.]
18) POWERSHELL: What is get-member ? Which .NET technique is it analagous to ?
19) POWERSHELL: What is where-object ?
20) POWERSHELL: What is format-table ?
21) POWERSHELL: What is get-wmiobject ?
22) What is a WebService? How does it work ?
[Exposure of services to heterogenous systems. SOAP over HTTP]
23) What is WSDL ?
24) What is UDDI ?
25) What is the method GetHashCode in relation to object equivalence? What is it used for ?
[Didn’t know this one]
26) What’s the difference beween a.Equals(b) and a == b ?

And So ?
I got most of them and for my reward was required to sit an IKM Knowledge Test. Which I did at Moderate level and got 83 which is 87th percentile all thanks to Google.

So now its up to the reference checks…wish me luck.

There’s a great article on Paul Kelly, the wonderful Australian singer-songwriter in the Free section of “The Monthly” website, Thoughts in the Middle of a Career.

The author is none other than Robert Forster, co-founder of the Go-Betweens.

Reviewing Paul Kelly’s “Songs from the South”, here’s what Forster says about Kelly’s voice:

None of these songs would be as good or as pleasurable if Kelly wasn’t the singer he is. It is – and you sense his often unenthusiastic self-appraisals are to blame – his most overlooked talent. His singing can be so in sync with a song’s action and character that you forget to notice its quality… His voice – sly and warm, laconic and sometimes frail – may be the closest thing we have to a national one.

You know, when I first saw the article I misread that last sentence as “His voice – sly and warm, laconic and sometimes frail – may be the closest thing we have to a national tone.

I agree with Forster, but like my misreading better. 🙂

I’ve only seen Kelly twice in concert: once at the big theatre on Market St., in Sydney and once at a free concert at The Rocks. Both times I have enjoyed Kelly’s unpretentiousness and his respect for his band, making sure they get their fair recognition.

At the Market St gig someone called out “What’s the score in the cricket?” (There was an Ashes tour in progress in England at the time). Kelly welcomed the chance for some audience interaction, and got the house lights turned up so he could have a look at us!

I love his music. Just one example will do for now. On “Leaps And Bounds” there is a refrain “I remember”. During the song he lapses into spoken word and says simply “I remember. I remember everything.” In my opinion remembering is a sign of integrity. It’s the cheats and deceivers who always “can’t remember”.

A songwriter with the integrity to remember and to admit when he stuffs up. Just one of the reasons why Paul Kelly’s music will endure. Hey, is Kelly an official ‘Living National Treasure’? He should be.

[Pause to consult]

Good Grief, Cheryl Kernot is. Am I hallucinating?

Just had a phone interview for a C# Contract position. It was for a major global software company and the client’s objective was merely to screen candidates for a possible second interview face-to-face.

Here is what I was asked:

1) What is IDisposable and what would you use it for ?
2) How do you ensure Thread synchronization ?
3) What are the Sort methods available to you in Generic collections ?
4) Give an example of some C# Attributes ?
5) What is Platform.Invoke used for ?
6) What is Reflection ?
7) How would you implement a Custom Event and its handler ?

Here Are My Answers

1) IDisposable is implemented when you want to provide a deterministic means of freeing resources. Normally you leave this to the Framework Garbage Collector, but sometimes you have resource-intensive classes where you want to explicitly Dispose of resources, so… [Them: That’s OK you’ve got a handle on this]

2) Thread synchronization. Hmmm. Haven’t done many threads, but you want to make sure that variables are not modified haphazardly, so you take out a lock on an arbitrary object and then perform all your processing within that lock. [Them: OK]

3) Sort methods available to you in Generic collections ? Ermmm. Isn’t there ArrayList.Sort ? What else…[Them: That’s OK, We just want quick answers]

4) An Attribute can be applied to say whether a class can be Serialized or not, to provide security e.g. to determine whether or not a method can access the File System…[Them: That’s fine]

5) Platform.Invoke. [Blank] Sorry that one escapes me. [Them: Its for calling unmanaged code. Me: Oh yeah]

6) Reflection is for inspection the meta-data of Assemblies and classes at run-time. Essentially you do this if you need to discover something at run-time that you didn’t know at compile-time…[Them: Cool. You’ve got an understanding of that]

7) Writing a CustomEvent and its handler. OK. Let me start with EventArgs. I would declare a Custom EventArgs class, then a Delegate which would take those Args as a parameter and name that delegate. Then… [Them: Fine. You’ve got a grip on that.]

And then they said “You got a broad range of knowledge of C#.”
I was chuffed.

So now I’m hopeful for a second interview. 🙂