May 202011

The waves of discontent with Bob Brown’s outspoken outburst against News Ltd, in particular The Australian, roll on.

Other journos are wanting to join the ‘Bag Brown’ wagon train, Chris Uhlmann among those, took Brown to task I thought rather confrontingly on 730, an interview deliberately designed to ruffle the feathers of the Greens leader. Whether it did or not, is somewhat irrelevant, given that Uhlmann himself agreed that Brown wasn’t disturbed, but it was hardly a question and answer session. Then there’s Dennis Shanahan in today’s Oz going all out to paint Brown as a wily and arrogant politician, simply because he deigns to challenge the self-righteousness of the Murdoch press. Yes indeed, Brown is a wily politician, but hardly an arrogant human being. Certainly not in the vein of the Murdoch media collective whose job it seems to be, in their own partisan fashion, to tell everyone else what their job ought to be.

Brown’s contempt was misplaced, as the story was on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald. His mistaken naming of The Australian, which he describes as the "hate media", was typical of his campaign to deride scrutiny of a carbon tax or Greens policies in The Australian. It is an old politician’s trick to isolate and diminish a critic through misrepresentation. Brown has frequently declared that The Australian treated the electorate with disdain by calling for another election last year after the hung parliament, which has become folk lore. The Australian has never called for a new election and Brown’s reference is to a comment I wrote in which I made the point that the three rural independents’ use of the threat of forcing a new election to extract even more from either side meant: "It’s getting to the stage where Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and the nation would actually be better off if we just went back to the polls." As he exchanged barbs at a press conference with press gallery journalists yesterday from Fairfax, Channel 10 and the Murdoch press, Brown started to feel the real heat of having to answer real questions when you are part of real decision-making.

Wriggle & squirm, Dennis, the bottom line being that your Freudian slip is showing through. Indeed, I’ve never seen Bob Brown exchange barbs with anyone. State an open opinion and be prepared to back it, most certainly, but not to lower himself to the level of those who despise him openly. Interestingly, Shanahan also makes reference to Uhlmann’s interview, alluding to an apparent inability of the Greens leader to answer ‘real questions’. I’d go so far as to say it’s just a tad difficult to answer a ‘real question’ when the querent adopts a Gatling gun approach, as opposed to the single barrel 12-gauge round. Uhlmann wasn’t intending to ask ‘real questions’ in my view. His intent in that interview was to unsettle in the classic Kerry O’Brien manner, except that O’Brien & Uhlmann are generations apart in years & skill. It didn’t work in any event. Shanahan’s bleat piece is simply disingenuous from the perspective that while The Australian through its individual journalistic channels might not have called for an early election in so many words, it has done so via editorial direction encouraged right-wing conservative commentators from outside the media to write op-ed pieces calling for precisely that.  This is but one recent example. As the link displays, The Australian is also quite partial to granting column space to practically anyone from The Institute for Public Affairs. If you don’t believe me, do a search on The Australian’s Opinion & Blog pages. IPA representatives appears more often than any other contributor.

It’s this lack of balance and over-whelming weighting towards opinion, commentary and ‘blogs’ fostering conservative and far right wing expression to which Brown refers, and rightly so. Even the most casual reader of any Murdoch News Ltd outlet will very quickly realise that the lean to the right is well pronounced. It’s also well understood that Rupert Murdoch himself is a hard right-wing conservative, expressed in the US through the risible Fox News network. In this country, the News Ltd stable has long since become a paler representation, still obviously conservative in orientation. I think we can be somewhat grateful that the over-riding Australian ethos of destroying tall poppies would most certainly put paid to such idiocy in this country. As it is, The Australian, it’s editor in chief and most of the journalistic stable are considered laughing stock among the centre and left in Australian society.

There is only one valid rationale for the hatred Senator Bob Brown and his Greens engender among their ideological anti-theses, and each of Shanahan and Uhlmann state it quite clearly. Brown is an accomplished politician. He knows very well how the game is played, understands the lie of the land and reads the political wind with extraordinary precision. His party, despite what poll watchers might like to believe, is now a force to be reckoned with. The whinging and bleating, especially from the conservative end of the spectrum, is derived from a belief in that sector of not actually ever needing to have to address the Greens as a political force, but realising that the numbers are there despite that. In the past, both Labor & conservative parties have treated the Greens as an illusion. Close one’s mind to the fact that they exist at all, and suddenly, they don’t matter. Well now, under the new paradigm, they do matter, and then some. Previously hurling shit at them salved any political angst. These days, Brown and his acolytes can quite legitimately pick up that shit & hurl it back and it’s this which conservatism in particular just can’t handle. Upstarts, these Greens. How dare they challenge the born-to-rule party of Menzies?!! Well, they are challenging.

It’s well and good for the media to claim that Green policies weren’t seriously challenged in the past, but that doesn’t mean they also don’t have the right of reply when the challenge comes. Let us see the Greens in a genuine policy debate. Not a shouting match or a rapid-fire contest to see who can interrupt the other more often. Ask the questions, then challenge the answers, after the answers have been given, not before the interlocutor has his first three words out of his mouth. I believe the media in general has been very dishonest in this regard towards the Greens. They can no longer be ignored and this is something which needs to be learned, and quickly, if the media in it’s proper role as Fourth Estate, is to fulfil that role, as it should.

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