“You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.

But seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there’s
no occasion to.”

— Humbert Wolfe (1886 – 1940)

Federal police raid journalists’ offices & homes. Whistleblowers fiercely prosecuted. Encryption laws, face-recognition technology, widespread plans to spy on citizens. You’d think a third-generation Australian journalist would be appalled at the way things are shaping up for our media and its freedoms.

Well, this one isn’t. Our newspapers & TV stations are in trouble not because of the stuff they’ve written, but because of what they haven’t written. You can’t reasonably expect to do a deal with the devil & then think you have a right to complain about the heat.

Back in the ’60s I recall the vastly talented cartoonist Bruce Petty, then on The Australian, telling a bunch of young cadets what he thought his work involved: “If you have a bad government & a weak Opposition, it seems to me the job of a newspaper is to BE that Opposition.” The rumpled, slow-talking Petty was the first authentic genius I’d ever encountered, though I didn’t realise it at the time, brimming with the arrogance of youth as we all were, but his words ring truer than ever today.

Our media, for the most part, tells the public not what the Government of the day is doing, but what politicians claim they are doing. The two are worlds apart. Our media also tends to work itself into a fine frenzy over non-stories (Labor’s death tax being a prime recent example) while it ignores or glosses over vastly more important issues.

In the past few years several major stories have gone largely uninvestigated , or at best been seriously under-reported, in a disturbing pattern that does our news organisations no credit. Among these:

  • Malcolm Turnbull’s sneaky move which transferred $450 million to a ragtag crew of dodgy bankers & family friends claiming (with no visible reason) to be protecting the Great Barrier Reef;
  • The large-scale and long-term fraud involving water, with names from all parties including Joyce, Taylor, Littleproud, Sinodinos, & Tripodi, ignoring party allegiances to strip the Commonwealth of tens of millions ;
  • Johnnie Howard’s franking credits scam, in which wealthy retirees (conservative voters every one!) receive unneeded cash handouts from a variety of governments too nervous to try to set things right;
  • Clive Palmer & his empire. Nobody seems interested in where his money’s coming from, nor in asking who will eventually pay the $100 million-plus needed to clean up the vast ponds of toxic sludge left behind at his failed nickel mine. If you continue to look the other way as criminals go about their business, sooner or later you’ll be wondering why your house has been burgled. Ladies & gentlemen of the Australian press, you have only yourselves to blame. It’s fatuous in the year 2019 to be complaining about the loss of media freedom. You gave it away willingly decades ago.
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