Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is that all there is?

I know that I give The West a lot of robust scrutiny, but I do regularly (at least a few times a year ;} ) read reasonable or even interesting stories in it. Over my coffee today, I read an interview with a writer. He had commenced his professional life as a scriptwriter - of some note, but not much merit in my opinion - although that's neither here nor there because you can't compare artists, it'd be like comparing apples to oranges. You can like one more than the other, but you cannot deny they're both the same thing.

Hat tip to this particular fellow, because whatever criticisms I could level at him, I was touched by something he said - and most of the journos I've known all my life danced to the same rhythm - this particular author described becoming absorbed by the story - not ensconced, absorbed, completely, so as to find himself a few months into the writing process surrounded up to his knees, in discarded scrap paper notes. Screwed up and pitched with some ferocity at the floor, no doubt. At least in my case, my screwed-up notes reach the far corners of my room, somewhere remotely in the direction of the waste paper basket.

A male friend lamented to (at) me this evening that I had not traversed far from my early days as a musician - the 16-hour days, punctuated solely by the trips to the vending machine, cigarettes, coffee and the colour of the sky outside the practise room windows. 'Is that all there is?' he pondered. I know that he won't ever be able to understand, when I say 'Thank Christ, yes!'

Writers are quite solitary creatures. The silent gaps in our conversations (that tend to make some feel slightly awkward) are just a bit longer than other peoples'. Say...a week, if we're lucky.

Now, bear with me here - you see, it's in those silent gaps that it is possible to think, to compile our mental data, to create a conscious stream of thought and to find words to wrap around those ideas. I've got to say that this can pose one heck of a challenge when you're surrounded by kids, and, let it be known that it doesn't really matter what age they are, because the joyous chatter of children never really changes volume over the decades. But writing would never be the same without them.

Over the years I've found the dead silence of the wee, small hours very liberating, while others watch on aghast. Doing morning exercises while others are winding down for the day with an afternoon coffee, can make you seem a little inaccessible. 

As a muso, I had a fabulous teacher who had a very adaptable term for classical musicians - they were called 'straights' - they played strictly the dots. Down the track I came across a similar term, but in a different genre, 'squareheads' - people who play within the lines. These days, I look back and I consider the mindsets that those terms embody and it occurs to me that straights and squareheads celebrate structure. Writers celebrate structures, too - they're just a little more bendy.

So to my friend from another world, to explain, you can know millions of other people, and feel a deep sense of warmth and belonging to a community or communities. You might converse on social media etc. etc., but for a writer, there is a certain recognition when you come across another writer, and they can be almost any kind of writer, but there is a connection that's like you have bumped into another creativity refugee, who happens to speak your obscure dialect. Peoples' differences make your world a far more interesting place - don't just respect that, embrace it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Brandis' masterplan to repeal race hate prohibition and the Racial Discrimination Act [1975]

Within the current debate about the Commonwealth Attorney General repealing or amending sections of the Racial Discrimination Act, one aspect strikes me as a bit anomalous.

Can I really be the only person contemplating this elephant in Mr Brandis' room?

The public is well aware that in the post-911 political climate, & more so since the revelations of CIA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, the State and Federal governments have been ignoring our civil rights. In fact, they've colluded in surreptitious, late night parliamentary discussions, the unbalanced bipartisan justifications for eroding our civil rights - even constitutionally protected ones and also those agreed upon and upheld under international legal principles and treaties.

The Commonwealth Attorney General has done a complete 180 degree turn and now, wants to protect Australians' rights, specifically, the right to make and publish racist comment. As demonstrated in the findings of the 'Bolt Case', the govt is citing as its inspiration for encouraging greater racism in the media, this protection extends to comment that it is not only clearly misguided, but is also completely erroneously researched.

Among the worthy, myriad, mainstay Australian rudimentary rights to strive to protect, in my view, it is an unusual choice, on his part. But, next time I am contemplating & op-ed-ing about the 99% of our parliamentarians' heritage and appearances, I am sure Mr Brandis will feel very comforted knowing he legislated for those views to be legalized. Deep down, I am sure that those 99% of his peers will thank him that they can now be described in the press more, or even less, accurately.

I don't see the government lining up to protect my right to privacy, or my right to information. My right to express myself is pretty kaput in view of media ownership laws and my right to be free to associate, may well be under threat, as an independent journalist who manages sources equally and balances smaller independent sources against leviathan govt and corporate counterparts. So, why on Earth is my right to be racist so utterly vital to the Commonwealth Attorney General that the Racial Discrimination Act 'hate speech' protections need to be repealed? It's funny that he feels so strongly that I should have a right to object to his colour or his religion - uncharacteristically obliging of him. Must've been a slow day - "hmmn, this'll liven the house up..."

The Australian government, and colonial govt before it, openly enacted political policies that perpetrated racial persecution. I think they should be able to recall that fairly vividly as they only apologized for their past racist barbarism just in 2008Despite the implementation of the RDA[1975], the racist hangover is still visible in the inequitable political and social policies that relate to minorities, particularly Aboriginal nations.

Under such govt policies as those that fuelled the Stolen Generations and 'Forgotten Australians', Aboriginal children, dark skinned children, children of mixed heritage, the disabled and those who were from poor homes, were abducted, most were physically & emotionally abused, many were sexually assaulted; they were often tortured, and all, by non-indigenous government workers.

In view of this wicked history of blatant racial oppression and persecution, Australia would seem to have a fairly strong mandate to prioritize fundamental racial equality in law, over and above, any concerns regarding the free speech of 'shock jocks' and their pop media print and web equivalents.

It is also important to note that Australia does not have a constitutional right of free speech. For the colonial government ruling over Australia - England's penal colony, free speech simply was not in the best interests of the State. So today, Australia has merely an implied right of free speech that has  been interpreted into law from legal precedent. Australia's own govt declared Indigenous people 'flora and fauna' to avoid legal obligations under British colonial law, but once that issue was sent to referendum in 1967, the Australian public rebuked the government's racism and Aboriginal people were acknowledged as equals under the law. Despite this, inequality is still legislated and drafted into govt policy where it relates to Aboriginal people. This can be no more clearly seen than in the NT, where over 95% of ATSI prisoners are hearing impaired.

Since the proposed repeal of 18c and then, the amendment of RDA[1975] s.18c, d & e, many prominent people have spoken out against changes to the Act. And, this week I received a very unusual and verbose response from the Cth Attorney General specifically addressing the Jewish community - terrible as it is, race hate speech in Australia is certainly not limited to anti-Semitism and Brandis' excessive and almost apologetic explanations for the proposals are a bit rich, considering Australia's bleak history of govt race crimes and genocide against Aboriginals, and its discrimination and victimization of Muslims enacted through the 'justice' system and post-911 legislation. As Gawenda states, "This is not a Jewish issue..." It almost seems every word from the minister is divisive, wrongfooted and set to undermine community cohesion.

Pop-media darling, Warren Mundine,  has also weighed in on the debate, as did Langton - thankfully. But it is at times like these, that the real limitations on free expression really come to the fore. There are few avenues for most minority and multicultural voices to express their views in Australia's mainstream media monopolies. That racial bias is a hangover from the govt's use of the news media to disseminate racist propaganda during the eras of the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians.

Today I read this submission to the AG regarding the proposed amendments.
##NB - If you send me your submissions I will be happy to publish them here.

Laws that strike at the heart of multiculturalism, and promote racial hatred instead of criminalizing it,  will reduce our unique and unparalleled quality of life, and impinge on essential Australian democratic values. As a nation, and at such a tumultuous period in history, we simply cannot afford to indulge such public demonstrations of racism and ignorance.

##Update - this today from Rachel Ball

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Local stuff

So the 'extraordinary case of Matt Smith' throws a new light on today's revelations on the cover of The Weekend West regarding lost forensic evidence. It is amazing how the WA Police Service never ceases to find ways of avoiding effective internal scrutiny.

In other news from WA's mainstream monopoly...Corrective Services are considering opening a vets wing in WA jails, not because there are a lot of ex-military personnel who are criminally inclined, but rather because of the need for peer support to more directly address psychological trauma & a lack of opportunity that contributes to offending behaviour.

Over the last few decades there have been several former SAS troops convicted of high profile crimes in WA (one wrongfully - Peter Mickelberg), and others accused of heinous crimes (for which they were not convicted), but it stands to reason with the military's return from overseas service that there will be an increasing demand for appropriate services to support psychologically injured personnel. It's a bit sad that C.S (as was the case with the hearing & ear health assessments) will ultimately become responsible for catching those who are slipping through the gap in support services in the community.

Corrective Services has long been viewed by politicians as not sexy enough to warrant appropriate funding for effective programs, and the implementation of the scheme - if it comes to fruition - may constitute a significant breakthrough in governmental funding approaches to corrections. With ex-military officers currently acting as CS Minister, DG of CS and Opposition Leader, there aren't too many pollies opposing the proposal and probably not that many who would be game to, just quietly. (just kidding fellas...)

The effects of post-trauma, physical and sexual abuse and bastardization of young cadets that has been documented in Aussie military history, has hit the news in a big way over the last couple years and has subsequently been under investigation. While the public can expect little official disclosure of inherent problems beyond the obscene public antics of the very creepily named 'Jedi Knights', and the shameful 'Skype Scandal', it's presumable that via these inquiries ADFA will seek to strategize out any anti-social behaviours and mismanagement.

More tragic still, was the re-victimization of one former 'sex scandal' victim, by a former army officer turned AFP recruit. It is laudable that the officer was eventually caught out by the AFP, charged and criminally convicted. The nature of bastardization is summed up well by that officer when he said that he, himself, thought it was a stupid idea to forward the victim's evidence (which effected her further army victimization). Even though officers might think it is a bad idea, as the sick culture stands at present, they are compelled to participate in offences by their own misguided codes that twist and devalue military loyalty.

Last month Australian Jack Reacher, Ben Wadham, highlighted the possible impact of underlying social and cultural problems in the military, by examining the military experience of the Hoddle Street murderer, Julian Knight.

## Just by the way, Soldier On (link in Blogroll in the sidebar) have begun yoga classes at the Canberra HQ at 12:30 on Fridays, and the organizers said they plan to roll out classes nationwide this year, to control and prevent PTSD symptoms.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Experts - Indigenous affairs - whose the cool crew, whose not allowed to talk, who decides and why?

I know that a lot of readers who visit this blog are interested in the issues surrounding Aboriginality and human rights - so this clip of Noongar academic and activist, Robert Eggington, will be of interest, as he is one of Australia's foremost speakers on these vital matters.
Interestingly, Mr Eggington, who is a very esteemed expert, raises the issue of censorship, favouritism and conflicts of interest among the WA news outlets, the content of which, generally, can be quite dominated by the state's mining interests. As a bit of background - WA produces about a third of the country's GDP and that hinges mostly on mining.
Incredibly, in WA, (only) one media company owns over 95% of the print media outlets and a television station as well.This renders that particular company's editorial choices about who can express themselves and who cannot be heard or seen, a pervasive, state-wide media industry standard.Indigenous voices are barely heard in the Australian mainstream media, unless it's after a football match, or rubber stamping the opinions of non-indigenous business magnates. Islamic voices, too, rarely feature unless the story strictly relates to a matter of race or religion.

The censorship Robert Eggington alleges, is an undemocratic media process that can be easily overcome through journalists and editors giving all people equal rights & opportunity to express themselves, irrespective of race or religion.

Blogger is having a few formatting probs, will edit that out as soon as blogger rights it. :}}

FoI, Public interest disclosures (whistleblowing), damage control, govt spinners & Edward Snowden

Have I ever mentioned how much I love reading Open & Shut?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

So many 'bikie' answers, though the 'bikie' questions are MIA - hmmph, unsettling...

I may be a bit elusive over the next few weeks. Apologies. I will get back to the parallel of the Guantanamo evaluation to Australian detention conditions, soon. 

I read this this morning and thought it might be of interest to some of the readers of this blog. This is a very interesting op-ed from Terry Goldsworthy regarding the recent and really quite unique Qld bikie laws. From my past writing regarding the 'anti-association' laws, which by word of explanation for  overseas readers - have deceptively been branded 'bikie' laws, I can see that there are quite a few of you who are avid readers on this topic. 

'Preventative detention', sometimes referred to by much cleverer people than me, as 'pre-emption', is a fascinating erosion of the basic tenets of democracy and the separation of powers (between politics and the judiciary), which Australian life and core values are built upon. The presumption that people are equal before the law, in addition to, the right to a fair trial in which the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, are international legal obligations that Australia's government has long identified as synonymous with its own legal principles. 

Tragically and frighteningly, these principles have been abandoned by the various state governments, in the pursuit of 'anti-association' legislation that might possibly stand testing in a High Court of Australia challenge. So far, all these concerning Orwellian legislative measures have failed to meet up to those essential democratic standards in the Commonwealth of Australia's High Court. 

Mr Goldsworthy is far more knowledgeable about these issues than I am, of course, and the piece is a very educational update on the current state of some of the most extremist and undemocratic legislation to have ever passed through an Australian parliament. Any erosion of democratic values is deeply concerning considering Australia's dark past of racist policy wielded against refugees, migrants, CALD and ATSI people in past eras. 

But, for the purposes of this post, at the heart of the stifling of a much needed accurate description of the problems with these types of laws, is - unsurprisingly and once again - the spin (propaganda) that is being utilized to deliver all information to the public regarding such legislation in mainstream news. 

For example, Western Australia's proposed 'anti-association' legislation - incredibly - did not even mention the alleged justification for the radical right-wing legislation, 'bikies', not even once. Why not? Why didn't any WA journos ask that question? Similarly, the bill that passed through parliament with bipartisan support, the Criminal Organisation Control Bill - did not mention any criminal organisations. How come? This too, did not feature in the disseminated info/news about the Bill.

Worryingly, this possible undemocratic slip-up in the drafting of the laws, subsequently renders any small group eligible to incur an order, regardless of the purpose for their meeting. They merely need to have two participants, attendees or members, with two past criminal convictions that can be honestly or selectively interpreted (judged by individuals on a case-by-case basis) as having comprised a serious offence. 

Drink driving is quite serious - don't you think? How many people from your local church, RSL, bowls/darts club or reading group have had drink driving or mobile phone-traffic offences? Hmmn -I can see it now, "can you step out of your car please madam...?"...definitely an organized crime group there... 

The Racial Discrimination Act is currently under review and, in the past, has been suspended to warrant military action against one particular disadvantaged, pacifist minority.

AND, despite being marketed as relating to the mysterious bogeyman 'bikie' crime, (which remains a white elephant - unestablished - and, at best, abjectly pales in comparison to domestic violence murder figures of women and children) the bill had provisions to put control orders on youths. In interviews WA 'bikie' spokespersons told me children are strictly prohibited from becoming members of motorcycle clubs. So, if the laws are aimed at bikies - why are there provisions aimed at children at all? 

Evidence readily discoverable in the WA parliamentary Hansard suggests (during question time), that this child removal provision pertained to isolating children from a parent who is the focus of an anti-association order - but isn't that just the same in function as the notorious Stolen Generation policy? 

The State's odious contention during one recent WA Stolen Generation Supreme Court challenge put forward that it was 'protection' that was at the root of the racist assimilation policy, which saw Indigenous children taken from their family homes to be raised by government officials (the racism inherent in that childhood removal policy, featured in the National Apology in 2008). For some reason, again, strangely,  in the mainstream news there were no questions asked by journos about the removal policy facing children of people targeted by an 'anti-association' control order, whoever they might be. 

Ominously, the day the COC Bill (2011) was announced,  in the state's ONLY daily newspaper, a whole-page op-ed by the Police Commissioner branded Aboriginal boys as Public Enemy no.1. What extraordinary timing?! Statistics lawyers presented to me showed that the information in the very controversial op-ed was incorrect, and that the figure was not escalating, but had remained static for a decade. 

I don't believe that any retraction ever appeared in the newspaper from media management or the police, and no WA MSM journos followed up on that controversial op-ed by double-checking his figures - but why not? 

It's one thing for media industry recruitment to lack diversity, but shouldn't all journalists be concerned about a clear and obvious erosion of the Fourth Estate, in its role to complement the effectiveness of our democracy? Shouldn't journalists have an interest in consulting all sources, and balancing govt comment? Curiouser and curiouser. ( NB## - long clip below - 10 minutes, don't click on it if you don't want it to load.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Liberate your lumpiness

The absence of the Letters to the Editor section in the quarterly, The Walkley Magazine, makes it seem like my union may not want to know what my response is to their commentary pieces (op-eds). So after observing this over several consecutive quarters, I will write some feedback here. Who knows, they may even be so fabulously enthused by my considerations that they make space for a Letters section in the March edition...okay, maybe not...

At the moment the union is running a campaign about surveillance over-reach - a very worthy (and long overdue) cause. Interestingly, most news outlets' buildings feature CCTV prominently, both inside and outside of their workplaces, and it's pretty much everywhere their reporters report from. That has been the case for many years without these veritable bloodhound news presenters questioning where all that data goes/went. Previously, a non-issue, more appropriately relegated-to their minds, to the geek in the corner cubicle wearing the tin hat who writes the IT section. It seems now, geek is chic. Incidentally, eavesdropping from inside the news pack (unavoidable at times), I can tell you that very few of their conversations between takes are worth repeating (and presumably, not worth surveilling) - 'how does my hair look', 'where are we getting lunch', 'how long till we finish', 'I can't recall if I fed my pet rock today' (etc etc ad naus)...

(this image has featured everywhere, don't know who did the drawing, if you do, email me)

In this issue there are several, lengthy op-eds on the topic of surveillance over-reach from excellent writers, and interestingly evident were the politics of their positions within their own authoritarian institutions (that their media organizations represent). No disclosures about that or self-examination of the bits they left out. Masters has written a whole book about bits being left out, so that seems reasonable enough especially for an op-ed. However, leaving in the "lumpy bits" provides a safeguard from authoritarian hype or self-censorship that usurps the independence, and individual brilliance of a journalist.

My favourites in that mag are always the cartoonists, (btw I dearly miss The Daily Flute) and am in awe of these artists' ability to say so much, often wielding NO words at all.

Though I really enjoyed all of those comment pieces, I was flabbergasted at John Safran's Lumpy Thruthiness (The Walkley Magazine, Issue 78, p.9) - like he reached into my life and my computer and grabbed onto all the lumpy bits - plenty of them. It was a piece about his deviation into true-crime or non-fiction writing for his latest book. Safran admits an early career game changer after he felt an inner conflict when a producer dubbed into a doco on an abattoir, extra mooing noises to make it sound more dramatic. I'm sure it must have sent him spiralling into comedic rather than 'serious'journalism documentary production. His case study in this article is a journo who gets exposed for similar dubious editing practices, called Dais(e)y...hmmn... I'm sensing a theme...

In the process of researching and writing Murder in Mississippi, "I spent ages trying to omit these inconvenient bits and still make the story work..." (that's the lumpy truths he's talking about there).

In my genre of writing, nothing is cool - almost invariably human rights doesn't get mainstream commissions, and by and large it doesn't get commissioned in the said quarterly either - it's all lumpy truth. Anything that doesn't fit the stereotypical good guys-bad guys pop-media news formula, or slickly-spun, glossy and twaddle-ish authoritarian hype = lumpy truth. As a freelancer, I've been contending with my own industry-determined lumpiness for several years.

Safran mentions being stiffed over a statement by the (local) Attorney General - released (gifted more likely) to a local journo a couple days after he'd made his media enquiry to the office. If Safran had have been writing news (if he were a freelancer), this practice would have caused him to be "gazumped". This means that because someone beat him to the story he would have lost his (story) run, and it would have rendered the story virtually unsaleable to any other news outlets - a very nasty strategy that has in the past been aided and abetted by unethical (and perhaps unlawful) police/govt surveillance of journalists.

The surreptitious, usually unmentionable favourites game played by most Attorney Generals' flak catchers, which undermines independent reporting? It's just more lumpy truthiness. This is one of the pearls from the PR game bag of tricks levelled by govt spinners towards freelance journos very frequently in Australia.

This dirty flak tactic was actually exposed about a decade ago in these two pieces by Phil Dickie - whose indignant, angry and fiercely independent news reporting helped prompt and inform the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption in Qld. Lumpy truth in that one, for sure - other reporters were exposed before, during and after for complicity in covering up police and govt corruption. It had become a pervasive culture of self-censorship and probably flak fatigue. Fitzgerald, along with a few other govt corruption  inquiries since, recommended greater controls over govt spin doctors' activities and budgets.

Amid swelling redundancies in the MSM in Australia, a word of advice for any new-ish freelancers who find themselves in this situation and who haven't bumped up against these mercenary PR constraints before - don't be deterred, "lumpy truth" has its own organic appeal for readers who like the whole truth. Essentially, this is the reason that people are turning away from the old media institutions, and in doing so, democratizing news, by seeking out more independent media outlets.

The clip below is from Rashamon (1950), a movie that studies the multiplicity or subjectivity of truth. The whole movie is available on You Tube but the clip below is just a few minutes.