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Australia’s national daily newspaper The Australian has been wasting scarce journalist resources on a vendetta yet again. The latest victim is media writer Margaret Simons whose 2007 book The Content Makers remains the definitive account of the geography of Australian media (though needs to be updated for the last five years). In recent weeks, The Aus unleashed its attack dogs over claims Simons has somehow caused a breach of practice by her actions in the recent Finkelstein Review into media which was inspired by the serious criminal behaviour of one of The Australian’s sister publications in the UK. There are many ways in which this attack on Simons is risible and they are all brilliantly exposed in Robert Manne’s new Monthly essay.
Manne makes two points about the tactics of the newspaper. Firstly, it doesn’t matter if your allegations are true you just have to make enough of them and some mud will stick. Secondly, it is another shot across the bows of anyone critical of the newspaper with treatment similar to Julie Posetti and Larissa Behrendt (women are the overwhelming targets).
The newspaper fulfils a crucial function in our democracy as one of the few media outlets with a truly national outlook. But the power conferred by being one of the central squares of Australia’s public sphere has gone to the broadsheet’s head. In its efforts to defend itself against critics, it has become warped and has forgotten its purpose: to give Australians a useful national perspective on the important news of the day.
The Australian does not learn from its mistakes. It never admits it is wrong. Under Chris Mitchell in particular (editor in chief since 2003) it has been front and centre in a culture war. The newspaper and its Saturday companion have an armada of columnists who recite the party line in their sleep and trot out the house rules.
There are enough good writers at the paper to provide the news function. They cover politics, business, law and international affairs in detail (with the help of Murdoch sister papers such as the Wall St Journal and The Times). But their editorial and opinion pages are barren wastelands of News groupthink where Greg Sheridan, Chris Kenny, Dennis Shanahan and Christopher Pearson flourish. Even when turning to unorthodox opinion it favour those who unorthodoxy is mostly directed against the left and the greens (Brendan O’Neill, Frank Furedi, Bjorn Lomborg).
As Manne said (and as I know from discussions with News journalists) there are many in the organisation appalled by the blatant and biased political tone set by the editor and his inner team. Manne reckons they should speak up which would be a better way of dealing with issues than any outside body Finkelstein could recommend. There is a precedence when journalists at the Australian went on strike in 1975 in protest as Murdoch’s open support of Malcolm Fraser in the lead up to the election.
But it is unlikely any uprising will come from within. News is one of the last 20th century media empires and most workers there fear for their future. It is not making a graceful transition to the digital age though it remains an extraordinary wealthy company and very powerful in the local market. The Australian, often described as a Murdoch vanity project, is not driving this wealth. But it is influential with its high demographic readership and its access to power. Politicians of both major parties are wary of criticising it though the Greens have dubbed it hate media.
This is unsurprising as much of Mitchell’s vitriol is reserved for the party which his paper has openly called to be destroyed at the ballot box. Why The Australian even feels it has a right to make such a recommendation is a revealing aspect of its DNA. “We know best,” it screams and we will punish anyone who has the temerity to think otherwise. No wonder it cannot deal with the social media sharing tools of 21st century when its views are steeped in 20th century paternalism. It prefers intimidation to trust as a way of maintaining its authority. The Australian is on borrowed time and not just because Murdoch will sooner or later die. Its thrashed brand is a tragedy as much of Chris Mitchell’s making as Rupert’s and one which must not be repeated by whatever colonises its habitat when it is gone.
Ireland is set to vote in its ninth European referendum next week. As they have done in the previous eight, the major two parties are supporting the yes vote. But as in the past, there is no guarantee the ayes will have it. This is because like many of the previous ones the issue on the table is obscure and austere Ireland has long since lost its romance with Europe. Those supporting the treaty have issued dire warnings of a “no” vote.
On October 10, 1931 it was the Western Star’s solemn duty to report sad news. Word had reached Roma from Longreach that Mr Arthur Moore, superintendent of Longreach’s Oil Bore had been killed in an explosion. Known as a careful man who rarely took a drink and who was intimate with the science of boring for oil, his death was a mystery.
From reading Moore’s log books, the coroner deduced he was making a third attempt to shoot the bore and had a consignment of caps newly arrived from Brisbane and a metre-long torpedo with six plugs of gelignite. The mixture exploded prematurely as he tried to place a battery cap. It was likely a faulty explosives timer concocted with a pocket watch brought an end to the life of one of Roma’s great but unheralded oil men.
Arthur Moore was an Englishman, born in Lime Regis, Dorset in 1876. How he spent his early years is not known but he arrived in Australia in 1910 thirsting for adventure in a new land. He entered into the service of the International Boring Company and was posted across Queensland boring artesian water for the state’s growing demands. Aged 40, he signed up in 1916 for the AIF and went off to Europe with the newly formed Australian Flying Corps.
After the war finished he stayed on in England to train in oil development. On his return he came to Queensland’s growing oil capital: Roma. He was placed in charge of the government oil bore on Hospital Hill in 1920 as the first non American to hold this position. Moore released a big flow of oil at QG Number 4 well while removing casing and this was the first oil to be condensed in Roma.
He met local woman Esther “Essie” Nind, the only daughter of two well-known Roma residents. Moore married Essie in 1921 aged 45 (she was 27) and they had one daughter. After visiting America, Moore was convinced there was oil in commercial quantities in Roma. “Prospecting in Queensland,” he said in 1923, “should be carried out on the same type of plant used for drilling artesian water.”
In 1924, the Western Star reported Moore was made manager of the newly formed Queensland Petroleum Limited who secured prospecting permits over Forest Vale and Mitchell Downs. Moore was hired to be superintendent for three years Moore also went to Texas to learn more about drilling and later took charge of drilling operations in New Guinea. Roma’s booming oil business lured him back in 1928 to become manager of Roma Cornwall Dome oil operation until it went bust.
Moore went back to England where he was accepted into the Institute of Petroleum Technologists of London. He would also drill in New Zealand before heading to Longreach. He was remembered as one of the first non Americans to be feted in the field of drilling and someone who kept meticulous notes on all aspects of oil exploration.
Manchester City’s stunning Premier League triumph was achieved in typically Madchester style. As someone wrote in the aftermath, the second half of their final game at home against Queens Park Rangers was a microcosm of their season. Comfortably winning the league, then almost throwing it away before finally snatching it back at the end. It was an astonishing climax to a wild ride and probably just as well they won as the alternative would have been one calamity too far for a side renowned for its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Getup’s latest cause is the detention without trial of a Sri Lankan woman and her two small children. The webpage “No Detention without appeal” says Ranjini and her six and eight year old sons have been detained indefinitely without charges for four days.
(Photo: National Library of Australia)
Today’s Queensland Labor leader Palaszczuk looks to Ryan as the party emerges from the wreckage of their worst ever election loss. She said the Ryan Foundation would show Labor was something beyond a mere brand. Channelling Ryan she said Labor always been “a living, breathing party” focused on equality, fairness and opportunity. “Labor’s policies and principles should always be about people,” she said.
I was at the Roma Show today where I listened to a Rabobank expert talk about the macro state of the world economy. It was a rural show so the focus was on agricultural matters. We heard about the price of soy beans, Western Australian wheat, the link between corn and oil, and why there were smiles on the faces of cattle producers.