This week


What to do with Cui Yu Hu dawned at last on Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone who last night dug deep into her special powers to produce a permanent visa and access to Medicare for the 104 year old.

For weeks reports of Madame Hu’s plight have been playing badly throughout the world. In the Region, which still remembers the White Australia policy, the cruel and clumsy administration of our immigration policy sits at odds with the Prime Minister’s desire to play regional mates. Helping Japan by sending 450 more Australian troops into Iraq was what it was all about, he said, not Bush or Blair. But this week it seems that we might not have been told the real reason for the deployment. Not true that the Japanese forces need Australian miliary protection, being perfectly capable of protecting themselves, they say.

The Australian media’s league of spokespeople for the liberal democratic ideal are sounding more and more like the folk from the Fox News Channel; that is to say, increasingly they are to the ideal as bouncers are to a nightclub or a Rottweiler is to a jewellery store. They long since gave up asking what the ideal concerns and settled for secure employment in the National Guard. Theirs is not to reason why etc. theirs is to pick up the nearest rock and clobber any passing dissident, whatever name the insurgent may travel under “ public service unionist, ABC broadcaster, anti-American, Howard-hater, latte drinker or leftie luvvie. (Wit is not a qualification for this trade.)

Max Gillies as John Howard in

Max Gillies as John Howard in The Big Con

Recently the former editor of the Melbourne Herald and new proprietor of Crikey, gave notice he had joined the league. In the Adelaide Independent Weekly, Eric Beecher declared the unlikely trio of Alan Ramsay, Mungo MacCallum and Robert Manne were Howard-haters. In the same article he lashed at the Age’s Shaun Carney for reporting that the PM now realized his government was ‘scandal proof’, and labeled New Matilda contributors, including Julian Burnside, ‘whingers’ who should get over it and move on.

At New Matilda we are grateful for the publicity, but as Greg Bowyer pointed out (Crikey newsletter, 7 March 2005), ‘New Matilda was set up in response to what John Menadue called the greatest institutional failure of our time: the media’s failure to take its responsibilities seriously’. Because the media had become all too willing to get over it.

The media has moved on from a series of scandals and lies, some of them with fatal and destructive consequences. It has moved on as John Howard has always insisted the country should from anything that might make him or the country face up to mistakes, weaknesses and failures. Time was when being caught out lying was a political hanging offence. So was the appearance of playing favourites with federal electorates – ask Ros Kelly. Not any more.

If the government says it wants to move on and the media complies, pretty soon the public will say it “ and when that gets through to their focus groups, among themselves at least, the Labor Party will say it too. That’s why this week Labor sounded born again, and the leader looked less like a caravel stranded in the dunes and more like a frigate with something familiar to fire at. Kim Beazley at question time went the Treasurer’s mega budget surplus of at least $10 billion and spirits rose as he quoted back to the Parliament the words Howard flung at Labor in 1995 about comparative interest rates. Pity they were misquotes “ but just for a moment there was a hint of change in the wind.

Also in the House of Representatives earlier in the week New Matilda had its first mention (Hansard, pdf page 80 link here) when the Member for Denison, Tasmania commended to the house the articles in the last issue, ‘Honesty Matters: the ethics of daily life’ by Julian Burnside, and Jack Smit’s ‘Talking about Cornelia Rau’. Thankyou.

And some applause for Attorney General Philip Ruddock who announced a number of concessions to his proposed uniform national defamation law which, if the states fall into line, will be law by the beginning of next year (see NM article). The Attorney General has accepted that truth should be an absolute defence as in Victoria and has dropped his proposal that families of the dead could sue for damages (see NM article). We are yet to read the small print and still to be resolved is the existing right of corporations to sue (as they can in NSW). The action launched by Gunns last year in an attempt to silence their critics may be the face of the future if sense doesn’t prevail here also.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.