Is Sky News shifting Australian politics to the right? Not yet, but there is cause for alarm



Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Denis Muller, The University of Melbourne

In his submission to the current Senate inquiry into media diversity in Australia, former prime minister Kevin Rudd warns that Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News Australia is following the template laid down by Murdoch’s Fox News in the United States to radicalise Australian politics. In a decade’s time, Rudd argues, we will see its full impact.

Given the destructive effect of Fox News on the functioning of American democracy, Rudd’s is an alarming prediction.

Whether it comes to pass, however, is another matter. Certainly there are several danger signs that it might, but there are also a few factors pointing the other way.




Read more:
Can Fox News survive without Trump in the White House?


There are three big danger signs.

One is the unconstrained peddling of extreme right-wing propaganda, lies, disinformation, crude distortion of fact and baseless assertions that occurs each night on Sky News.

Here is a brief sample: Rowan Dean’s and Alan Jones’s repeated ravings about the “stolen” US election; Peta Credlin’s false claim that Rudd’s petition for a Murdoch royal commission was an exercise in data-harvesting, for which she had to apologise as part of a confidential defamation settlement; Jones’s disinformation about mask-wearing; James Morrow calling the Trump impeachment trial a “sinister plot by Democrats against the American people”.

Former PM Kevin Rudd is calling for a royal commission into the Murdoch media empire.
Glenn Hunt/AAP

The second big danger sign is the way Sky News has been able to extend its reach from a niche pay-TV base to free-to-air television via 30 WIN regional stations across Australia, and then through social media to the world.

After seeing its audience grow in the first half of 2020, Sky’s pay-TV audience ended the year shrinking. But being on free-to-air TV in regional Australia represents an opportunity for growth.

Data on current regional viewing levels are patchy and incomplete. However, prime-time viewing is reported to have grown 36% in 2020, and is claimed to reach 2.9 million unique viewers.

Sky’s non-TV platform is social media. YouTube, owned by Google, is a very important social media outlet for Sky, and that is where the viewer data reported here come from.

Facebook is also an important outlet. When Facebook blacked out Australian news on February 18, there were roughly 260,000 views of Sky’s announcement of its last appearance there.

If Facebook persists in its blackout, it will clearly damage Sky’s online reach.

The patterns of Sky News viewership on YouTube are revealing.

The big picture is that Sky’s Australian stories get tiny audiences, but stories about the United States get vastly bigger ones, suggesting Sky has developed a following in the US.

For instance, an Alan Jones piece, “Trump’s impeachment charge is ‘more Pelosi rubbish’ ” got 130,000 views.

And the right-wing US journalist Megyn Kelly’s piece, “Trump exposed hidden media bias”, got 467,926 views.




Read more:
Courting the chameleon: how the US election reveals Rupert Murdoch’s political colours


Contrast these with Paul Murray’s local story, “Daniel Andrews still playing us v them with quarantine”: about 30,000 views, and Peta Credlin’s “Net zero by 2050 is the ‘economic suicide note for workers’”: about 2000 views.

This tells us Sky is not only playing to a US as well as Australian audience, but is tailoring its programming in ways that have worked for Fox News. At the same time, it is siphoning into Australia the kind of content that has been so divisive in the US.

The growth profile of Fox News shows Murdoch plays a long game.

Fox News started in 1996. Pew Research Center data show it straight-lined near the bottom of the cable ratings in the US for five years, took a jump at about the time of the September 11 attacks, another at the time of the Iraq war in 2003 and thereafter cleared away from its main cable news rivals, CNN and MSNBC.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of Sky News and Fox News, plays a long game.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Until the end of the Trump presidency, Fox News was never headed – then after Trump lost, it took a dive. In January 2021, it suffered its worst ratings in 20 years, coming third behind CNN and MSNBC.

This symbiotic connection between an incumbent government and the Murdoch organisation brings us to the third big danger: the relationship between News Corporation in Australia and the Morrison government.

Morrison is not Trump. Yes, he swaggered around in a baseball cap during the 2019 election campaign and, yes, he talks in slogans and sound bites. However, the danger comes not from Morrison’s political persona but from the relationship he and his government have built with News Corporation.

On one reading, it has become a commercial relationship between the government as client and News Corporation as provider of publicity services for a fee.

The fee has taken the form of two payments to Foxtel, one of A$30 million in 2017 and one of A$10 million in 2020, ostensibly for TV coverage of under-represented women’s sport.

No tender process, no publicly available information about the terms, no way of knowing how this public money is being spent. Then recent technical glitches in the televising of W League matches prompted the Greens to ask the auditor-general to investigate.

Against these dangers are some mitigating factors.

One is that Australia’s compulsory voting system makes it very difficult for anyone to win an election with a primary vote that is not at least near the 40th percentile. A Trump-like “base” of 32% or so will not cut it here.

A second is that the religious right in Australia does not have the political clout it does in the US. Issues that excite the religious right, such as abortion, have been long settled here by the courts. The strong vote for marriage equality was another example of the broadly secular nature of our politics.

A third is that the Australian temperament is not, on the whole, excitable. While this means Australians are often excoriated as apathetic, it also means they are not easily outraged.

A fourth is that Australia’s conservatism is of a largely materialistic kind. Franking credits matter. It is also a conservatism that does not like extremism. Morrison seems at last to have realised that outside their Facebook echo chambers, the likes of Craig Kelly and George Christensen may be liabilities.

This pragmatic outlook among voters may prove to be a psychological bulwark against the firebrand reactionary politics promoted by Fox and Sky.

Having said that, there are plenty of emotion-charged issues that give Sky the opportunity to drive wedges into the Australian body politic: asylum-seekers, Muslims, Aboriginal recognition, African gangs, Asians, white supremacy, the pandemic and above all climate change. Sky is into them all.

If anything concrete is to be done to head off the threat seen by Rudd, it is going to involve public policy concerning media accountability, of which a fit-and-proper-person test for television licensees would be an essential part.

However, every attempt so far to exert meaningful accountability on the Australian media has come to nothing in the face of threats from the big media companies, including News Corporation.

Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull, as prime ministers, were in a position to do something about this. Instead, Rudd developed a friendship with the then editor-in-chief of The Australian, and Turnbull made changes to the media ownership laws that empowered Murdoch even more.

It is futile to hope that the Morrison government, engaged as it is in a highly questionable relationship with News Corporation, will do anything about it. As for Labor leader Anthony Albanese, when asked about a Murdoch royal commission, he reached for the barge pole.

If this form of politics-as-usual persists, then Rudd’s prediction cannot be discounted.

Then the nation would be relying on those qualities of the Australian character already mentioned. The question will be whether it will be enough.


Correction: this article originally stated “In February 2021, it suffered its worst ratings in 20 years…”. The month has been corrected to January.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Liberal right-winger Kevin Andrews defeated in preselection by Afghanistan veteran


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Right-wing Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews – the father of the House of Representatives – has lost preselection to a barrister and former special forces veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Keith Wolahan, 43, defeated Andrews, 65, who held a number of portfolios in the Howard and Abbott governments, by 181 to 111 for the blue ribbon Victorian seat of Menzies, which Andrews has occupied since he won it at a byelection in 1991.

This was the first time in decades that a federal member has lost a preselection ballot in Victoria.

His defeat is a blow for the Liberal conservatives, who campaigned hard to shore him up, and will hearten the local Liberal critics of outspoken NSW right-winger Craig Kelly, who has been a thorn in the government’s side over COVID and a hardliner on climate issues.

Kelly confirmed to The Conversation on Sunday night that he was seeking another term and was “absolutely confident” he would have Scott Morrison’s support and that of “all my colleagues”.

Andrews has been a strongly conservative voice on issues ranging from euthanasia and abortion to climate change, and also a player in leadership battles. His last ministerial post was in the defence portfolio in the Abbott government, a job he lost when Malcolm Turnbull became leader.

In the Howard years Andrews introduced the private member’s bill that quashed the Northern Territory’s euthanasia law.

Andrews had endorsements from Morrison, John Howard and Tony Abbott, as well as from a raft of ministerial colleagues, including the deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg. In his letter of endorsement Morrison wrote that Andrews “provides wise counsel to ministers and colleagues, including myself”.

But the result shows that high profile endorsements don’t always impress locals – the Menzies preselectors responded to the call for renewal at the centre of Wolahan’s campaign. It is an embarrassment particularly for Assistant Treasurer and Victorian conservative faction leader Michael Sukkar.

Wolahan has a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge, as well as degrees from Monash and Melbourne universities. He was an army reserve commando – he did not serve in the regular army.

He said after the result: “Today was a vote by the members for the future”.

Frydenberg said: “Today the Liberal Party in the seat of Menzies has started a new chapter”.

Before the ballot Liberal sources had predicted a close result that could go either way – the size of the margin was a surprise.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Albanese throws a bone to Labor’s Right, but Joel Fitzgibbon remains off the leash



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Anthony Albanese’s sudden change of heart, swapping out Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler in favour of the more conservative Chris Bowen, can be read in two ways.

First, as a shrewd chess move: one that sharpens the economic arguments in favour of green jobs, boxes in Bowen’s Right faction behind existing climate ambition, and perhaps constrains Bowen as a potential leadership aspirant.

Alternatively, critics could view Albanese’s decision as more self-serving — the manoeuvring of an opposition leader desperate to shore up his defences.

The NSW Right’s outspoken convener Joel Fitzgibbon had made unusually public attacks on the Left-aligned Butler. Albanese will have a job of convincing people he has not blinked under pressure, throwing an ally under a bus.

That perception could, in turn, be dangerous. It may even trigger existential discussions on his leadership. Not merely because of the loyalty questions it invites, but because of the policy implications in an area of chronic political miscalculation.

Anthony Albanese, left, and Mark Butler
Mark Butler, right, is a factional ally of Albanese’s.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Judging by his behaviour, Fitzgibbon surrendered his frontbench spot last year to free his arms for the move against Butler, and by proxy, the campaign against Albanese’s leadership.

The Hunter-based MP is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive. He’s made no secret of his antipathy for green-tinged inner-city politics, which he believes has alienated the party’s industrial origins.

Fitzgibbon blames Labor’s obsession with climate change for everything from the 2019 election failure – where it pledged a 45% emissions cut by 2030 – to the party’s dwindling purchase in the outer suburbs and regions.

Albanese’s position, like all opposition leaders, relies on a mixture of support: in his case, a foundation of Left MPs and the crucial backing of key NSW and some Victorian Right figures. Unsurprisingly, these supporters were the main beneficiaries of the reshuffle.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Albanese’s reshuffle sharpens focus on ‘jobs’ but talk about his own job will continue


Deputy leader Richard Marles gets a super-portfolio combining national reconstruction, employment, skills, small business and science. Another Victorian Right figure, Clare O’Neill, gets a frontbench promotion as spokeswoman for senior Australians and aged care services – assisting the relocated Butler in health and ageing.

And Ed Husic, also an influential player in the NSW Right, is elevated to shadow cabinet in industry and innovation.

Taken separately, these moves may be justified. Together, however, they might also hint at Albanese’s vulnerability, given his own Left faction’s minority position.

Joel Fitzgibbon
Joel Fitzgibbon is trenchantly pro-coal and anti-progressive.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The bigger concern for progressives in the short-term will be what these personnel changes amount to in policy terms, if anything.

Does Albanese intend to scale back Labor’s climate ambitions? Fitzgibbon has explicitly called on his party to ditch interim targets entirely, and simply adopt the government’s goal of 26% emissions reduction by 2030.

During the 2019 election, then leader Bill Shorten struggled to quantify the negative impact on economic growth arising from Labor’s proposed 45% cut in emissions.

It was a strategic vulnerability on which Prime Minister Scott Morrison capitalised. He argued relentlessly that Labor’s formula would cost Australian jobs and send household and business electricity prices soaring.




Read more:
Labor’s climate policy is too little, too late. We must run faster to win the race


Albanese’s decision to defer interim targets until closer to the next election had already invited doubts about whether Labor is truly committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Butler’s removal is likely to exacerbate those doubts.

The hold-fire approach leaves Labor’s left flank exposed to the Greens’ claims it is equivocating on climate action, just as the rest of the world finds new resolve.

As Albanese put the final touches on his reshuffle, the Climate Targets Panel of scientists and economists released a chastening report. It showed Australia would need to slash emissions by 50% by 2030, and achieve zero emissions by 2045 (rather than 2050) to be in line with the Paris commitment of keeping global warming inside 2℃.

Freshly installed US president Joe Biden has used a series of executive orders to accelerate US restructuring. He hopes to spur global momentum for climate action, calling on developed economies to rapidly increase their commitments.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden will call for developed economies to act on climate change.
Evan Vucci/AP

Albanese, however, denies any diminution. He maintains that Bowen, a former treasurer, is better placed to reframe climate policy in more starkly economic terms, stressing the opportunities for new green jobs against the risks cited by the Coalition.

This may well be sound. Bowen’s established economic standing could allow a “green jobs of the future” rebranding of Labor’s emissions approach.

That would be a breakthrough, given the widening divide between Labor’s professional and blue-collar constituencies, and claims by Fitzgibbon and others on the party’s Right that it has abandoned regional workers through its green emphasis.

There’s little doubt that, as an experienced minister, Bowen has the skills and the policy depth for the job.

But there’s a judgement question. His role in the 2019 election loss – chief advocate of an unwieldy suite of adventurous tax proposals – was arguably more central to Labor’s shock defeat than any perceived overreach on climate.

Not finished yet, Fitzgibbon has described Butler’s removal as a good start but called for further policy change.

Fitzgibbon’s Right-aligned parliamentary colleagues seemed willing to accept his public undermining of Butler. It will be interesting to see whether they allow the same treatment of Bowen.




Read more:
Biden’s Senate majority doesn’t just super-charge US climate action, it blazes a trail for Australia


The Conversation


Mark Kenny, Professor, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australians don’t have a ‘right’ to travel. Does COVID mean our days of carefree overseas trips are over?



http://www.shutterstock.com

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University

Australia is a nation of enthusiastic travellers, it is one of our defining national characteristics.

At any given time, around a million of us are living and working overseas. In 2019, a record 11.3 million Australian residents went on short-term trips, double the figure of ten years earlier.

But COVID-19 has radically changed our capacity to go and be overseas. Will we ever travel so easily and readily again?

You don’t have the ‘rights’ you probably thought you had

Travel may be of huge importance to Australians, but it is not a right or entitlement.

When you leave Australia, you also take on an element of risk. The federal government has long-warned their help in a crisis will have “limits”. The consular services charter says,

You don’t have a legal right to consular assistance and you shouldn’t assume assistance will be provided.

Australians don’t even have the absolute right to a passport, although in practice, it is rarely denied.

International law provides for the right to freedom of movement – both in and out of Australia. As the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says,

Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own. [This] shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order … public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others … No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

Australia ratified the covenant in 1980, but there is no Commonwealth legislation enshrining the right of freedom of movement.

Even if there was, this doesn’t mean it would override legitimate public health concerns.

Coming home is no longer simple

In March, when the pandemic took off, the Morrison government advised Australians overseas to return home.

But coming back is no longer a simple question of booking a ticket and getting on a flight. For one thing, the global airline industry has collapsed, making available flights scarce.




Read more:
Why airlines that can pivot to ultra-long-haul flights will succeed in the post-coronavirus era


As part of Australia’s COVID response, caps have also now been placed on international arrivals. In July, the number of Australian citizens and residents allowed into the country was then reduced by a third, from about 7,000 to about 4,000 a week, to ease the pressure on the hotel quarantine system. This system will be in place until at least October.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison explained he knew this made it more difficult for people to come home, but the policy was not “surprising or unreasonable”. Rather,

[it will] ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do testing and tracing.

Nightmare logistics

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, more than 371,000 Australians overseas have returned since March.

But more than 18,000 are still stuck overseas, saying they want to come home. Last week, a Senate inquiry heard about 3,000 of this group were “vulnerable” for medical and financial reasons.

There are a growing number of media reports detailing the stories of those stranded overseas. Many are desperate to return for financial and personal reasons.

Man in mask at airport, looking at ticket.
More than 18,000 Australians are still overseas and want to come home.
http://www.shutterstock.com

People have spoken about the complex logistics involved in returning – including lack of available flights, lack of affordable flights – with reports of tickets costing as much as A$20,000 – strict border controls to exit the country they are in, and the cost of quarantining when they get home.

Internal border closures in Australia have added a further level of complexity.

On Friday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the Morrison government was drawing up new plans to evacuate Australians stuck overseas.

It is worth noting that despite people’s understandable frustrations, the Australian government has limited options to help here – and the options they do have are not simple. They can potentially charter flights or cruise ships, but this is not straightforward because it requires agreements from host countries, available planes and ships, and can be hugely expensive.

Leaving Australia is no longer simple, either

Less visible, but very concerning from a rights perspective, is the Australians who are stuck in Australia. A state generally should allow citizens to leave their own country.

There are wide-ranging bans on people leaving Australia during the coronavirus pandemic, with a limited range of exemptions.

There are obviously compelling reasons why people will still want to travel, given Australia’s strong international connections, especially when close relatives are ill or dying overseas.

But again, we don’t actually have a “right” under domestic law to leave Australia – with the federal government able to control our movements under the Biosecurity Determination 2020.




Read more:
Ruby Princess inquiry blames NSW health officials for debacle


Between March 25 and August 16, Australian Border Force received 104,785 travel exemption requests. Of these, 34,379 were granted a discretionary exemption. Some perhaps more discretionary than others – entrepreneur Jost Stollmann was granted an exemption to travel overseas to pick up his new luxury yacht.

The way we think about travel needs to change

Significant Australia’s diplomatic resources have been going into supporting Australians overseas during COVID-19. In July, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported 80% of its staff took part in the response effort.

Secretary Frances Adamson has also noted her department’s approach to COVID-19 had to go “well beyond what’s written in our consular charter”.

Young woman taking a selfie against Russian skyline.
Pre-COVID, there were more than one million Australians living and working overseas.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Given the range of pressing foreign policy issues at the moment, a serious question is how much of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ time and attention should be spent on consular services? What is being lost in other diplomatic efforts trying to get Australians home?

Australians need to grapple with the idea that the government doesn’t have to “get them back” if they travel overseas (even if it wants to). And under Australian law, we don’t have a “right” to leave the country.




Read more:
How COVID-19 could impact travel for years to come


We don’t know how long these COVID changes will last – particularly if efforts to create a vaccine are not successful. So, the way we think of travel and our risk calculations may unfortunately need to change. This might result in the biggest shift in our travel mindset since the 1950s, when international travel opened up to ordinary Australians.

With rising awareness of climate impacts of travel, this may not be a wholly negative development. But a deeper conversation is still required about the right to freedom of movement for Australian citizens.The Conversation

Susan Harris Rimmer, Professor and Director of the Policy Innovation Hub, Griffith Business School, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is protesting during the pandemic an ‘essential’ right that should be protected?



Steven Saphore/AAP

Maria O’Sullivan, Monash University

Protests are increasingly breaking out around the world as people begin to chafe against lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the US, President Donald Trump is fuelling the spread of protest movements nationwide with tweets to “liberate” certain states. This month, car convoy protests were also held here in Australia, as well as in Poland and Brazil.

Hundreds of Brazilians have protested in major cities against the country’s lockdown measures.
Cris Faga/SIPA USA

In Germany, some 300 protesters gathered in a main square in Berlin to protest COVID-19 restrictions, leading to many arrests.




Read more:
Coronavirus versus democracy: 5 countries where emergency powers risk abuse


Protest is one of the most important ways we can express disagreement with government action. However, the ability of people to protest in an emergency situation such as the current pandemic is very unclear.

Can we protest outside if we are in cars, maintaining social distancing, for instance? Is protest considered an “essential” activity?

Protests have broken out in the US from Washington state to North Carolina. Some cities have begun fining people.
Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA

What’s at stake when protests are disallowed?

On April 10, activists staged a car convoy protest in Melbourne to highlight the plight of refugees in detention who face a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 due to overcrowded conditions.

Despite the fact everyone was social distancing in cars, police arrested one man and fined 26 others a total of $43,000 because they were not in public for an allowable reason (for instance, work, exercise, shopping for essentials or caregiving).

The ability to voice dissent is vital for a functioning democracy. It is therefore arguable that people should be able to protest against what they see as government overreach in social restrictions or the enforcement of these rules by police.




Read more:
Pandemic policing needs to be done with the public’s trust, not confusion


This is especially true if one considers the role of protesters in giving voice to those who are marginalised or unable to demonstrate publicly themselves, such as asylum seekers in detention.

These protests are different in that they are not about the restrictions themselves or disagreement with policymakers; rather, they are in response to a legitimate health concern and questions of violations of human rights (the right to health and liberty).

Asylum seekers protesting their continued detention during the pandemic in Brisbane.
Dan Peled/AAP

Is limiting protest against our constitution?

In many democratic countries, COVID-19 restrictions must be balanced with protections enshrined in human rights charters.

Although Australia does not have a human rights charter at the federal level and there is no guaranteed “right to protest”, we do have a concept called the “implied freedom of political communication”.

This implied freedom stems from provisions in our constitution about representative government, and has been quite influential in protecting certain forms of protest. For instance, in 2017, former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown successfully challenged Tasmania’s anti-protest law in the High Court, arguing it targeted the freedom of political expression and was therefore unconstitutional.




Read more:
Bob Brown wins his case, but High Court leaves the door open to laws targeting protesters


To determine if this implied freedom is being curtailed, there are several key points to examine.

  • Does the law impinge on political discussion?

  • Does it serve a legitimate purpose?

  • And is it disproportionate in its impact?

As part of the proportionality question, we can examine whether there is an alternative practical or legislative means of achieving the purpose of the law – in this case, reducing the spread of a virus – that has a less burdensome effect on the implied freedom of political communication.

If we apply these tests to the coronavirus restrictions, it is quite clear they do limit our political expression, but also serve a legitimate purpose (by ensuring the safety and well-being of the community).




Read more:
Why an Australian charter of rights is a matter of national urgency


However, I would argue the requirements imposed by the law are not proportionate. Specifically, I do believe there is way to protect public health while simultaneously allowing a form of protest.

Instead of a wholesale ban on protesting, for instance, the restrictions could be changed to allow protest as a permitted reason to leave home if protesters observe social distancing rules. This could include limiting cars to members from the same household or to a maximum of two people in states where gatherings are severely restricted.

Israelis protesting against government corruption while maintaining social distancing.
Abir Sultan/EPA

Aren’t there other ways to protest?

Online or virtual protests are a possibility. Climate change activist Greta Thunberg has recommended people avoid mass gatherings during the pandemic and instead engage in online campaigns and digital strikes.

However, one of the hallmarks of effective protest is its public, visual impact. And often media coverage of protests is a means of garnering greater public support. This is why taking over city streets or occupying buildings has been a key strategy of protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion.

In this light, online protests are not a substitute for traditional street protests, as they will not necessarily have the same potential to drive change – which is often the whole reason for protesting in the first place.

So, as the pandemic continues, we are likely to see more people protesting on the streets – not fewer. And it is the responsibility of governments to avoid responding with increasingly heavy-handed tactics, such as widespread arrests and fines, as this could inflame public anger even more and further call into question the legality of the restrictions.

During this time, we also need to reflect on the way our legal system operates in Australia to ensure the COVID-19 restrictions do not disproportionately affect the most marginalised in our community. And, ultimately, we need to ask ourselves whether our fundamental human rights protections could be strengthened by a federal charter of human rights.The Conversation

Maria O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Craig Kelly triumphs in the ‘outwit, outplay, outlast’ game of Survivor


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Rebel right wing Liberal Craig Kelly is a paradox – a man who
chronically lacks the numbers but possesses the power to force prime
ministers to protect him.

On Monday, fresh from a G20 where he was less than feted, Scott
Morrison heavied a few moderates on the NSW Liberal executive. A
wobbly cross-factional deal to preserve Kelly held together.

In the process former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s nose was
bloodied. Turnbull had tried to persuade the moderates to veto the
endorsement – which would have pushed Kelly to a preselection ballot he’d have lost.

Turnbull’s foray was counter-productive, for the party and himself.
Moderate backbencher Trent Zimmerman told the ABC that “Malcolm’s intervention made it hard for the executive to do anything other than what they did”.

Though once Morrison’s authority was on the line, the executive could do little but what he wanted.

It was very different from 2016 when Turnbull urged support for Kelly,
writing that he had “a fine reputation for standing up for his local constituents and was unafraid of taking on controversial issues”.

Back then, pressure from Turnbull led Kelly’s opponent Kent Johns to
agree not to stand for the preselection.

Johns kept up his branch numbers and prepared for another tilt. But
lightning struck twice.

In a tweet on Monday that seemed remarkable for its restraint Johns,
who is a NSW Liberal vice-president, said, “While disappointed, I
respect and accept the Party’s decision, and will continue to serve
the Party and proudly campaign for the re-election of the Coalition
Govt”.

Before the last election supporters of Kelly were quoted as warning “a
challenge against him would send the message the party is becoming a
version of the Labor Party.” Kelly’s backers never let up on referring
to Johns’ Labor background.

This year, the times suited Kelly. The right is strong within the
party. And with the Morrison government now dealing with a hung
parliament, the risk that a disendorsed Kelly could defect to the
crossbench, and run as an independent, loomed large.

Morrison asserted on Thursday that the possibility of Kelly going to
the crossbench had “never been the subject of our conversations.”

It didn’t have to be – the threat has hung in the air for months –
although Kelly has been all over the place in his comments.

For example in May the ABC reported Kelly was “understood to have told local members that he will resign from the Coalition and sit as an independent, if the ‘higher powers that be’ do not secure his
nomination’. But he’s now told Sky News he will remain a Liberal no matter what happens.”

Kelly is a favourite of the right wing commentariat.

In 2016 Alan Jones said: “Let me say to Kent Johns and anyone else who’s thinking of standing for the preselection out there and to put a torpedo under this bloke. You’d better pull your head in, Kent Johns. Because I’ll tell you what: if you put your head up, there’ll be a hell of a story that’ll be told about you, Mr Johns.”

On Sunday night Sky’s Paul Murray went through Turnbull’s tweets on the Kelly preselection, branding them “lies”.

Kelly has had a special place on Sky, with so many appearances his
colleagues joke he must have a sleeping bag there.

As chair of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment
committee, a spruiker for coal, and close to Tony Abbott, Kelly ran a
constant and unhelpful commentary on the Turnbull government’s attempt
to get an energy policy together.

He helped kill the NEG (and thus Turnbull’s prime ministership) – he
was one of those threatening to cross the floor if the associated
legislation on emissions went ahead.

Turnbull is correct when he says that overriding a local preselection
contradicts the recent push by the right of the party for a more
democratic structure.

This point isn’t negated by the fact that the preselection panel Kelly
would have faced was a transition one – changes that have been made to
the system are not fully operating yet. It would have been a more
democratic preselection than the executive deciding to have no ballot
at all.

It is reasonable for some Liberal women, and others, to compare
the treatment of Kelly with that of Jane Prentice, a moderate from the
Queensland LNP.

When she lost a preselection in May, there was no special fix, despite
the fact she was an assistant minister. Prentice did not threaten to
go to the crossbench. She’s now quietly on the backbench serving out
her term.

There are multiple messages in the Kelly affair. They are about the
power of the right; the willingness to abandon process (the closeness
to an election is no excuse – the Kelly preselection should have been
held months ago), and the desperation of the Prime Minister.

Postscript: In the Senate on Monday Labor’s Glenn Sterle asked members
of the public observing proceedings, “How many people in the gallery
respect your politicians? Put your hand up if you do.” No hands went
up.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How believers in ‘white genocide’ are spreading their hate-filled message in Australia



File 20181126 149341 dd4hj8.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
An alt-right protestor promoting the idea of ‘white genocide’ at a rally in Washington on the anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville protest.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Kaz Ross, University of Tasmania

This piece is part of a series on race and racism in Australia. The series examines this complex and incendiary topic, and the role it plays in contemporary Australia.


In October, the ABC’s Background Briefing outlined how the NSW Young Nationals Party had been the target of an organised infiltration attempt by members with neo-Nazi or “alt-right” views. Once this infiltration was exposed, 22 members were banned for life and individuals in other extremist groups were barred from becoming future members.

The group’s aim was to influence party policy in the area of immigration, as shown in motions they proposed at the Young Nationals’ annual conference. Controversially, they wanted immigration to be curtailed to only “culturally compatible peoples” and for white South African farmers to be granted refugee status on the basis of racial oppression.

These views have been gaining support in Australia. Senator Fraser Anning and MP Andrew Laming have both spoken publicly about the plight of white South Africans, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton floated (then discounted) the idea of special visa attention for the farmers.




Read more:
Why Australia should be wary of the Proud Boys and their violent, alt-right views


Senator Pauline Hanson’s most recent maiden speech in 2016 also called for an end to multiculturalism and the granting of visas for “incompatible” people, specifically Muslims.

Anning’s defence of Western civilisation on Facebook.
Senator Fraser Anning/Facebook

These views are based – perhaps unknowingly – on a core belief of neo-Nazis: so-called “white genocide”.

The defence of Western civilisation and pride in “white” achievements – on the rise both here and abroad – have become racist dog whistles for this call for action to prevent the “disappearance” of the white race.

This fear of white genocide is also leading to violence. The shooter who killed 11 people in the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack justified his actions by claiming that Jews were committing “genocide” against his people.

So, what is ‘white genocide’?

The recent manifestation of white genocide has its origins in the American neo-Nazi movement. The Turner Diaries, a very influential 1970s novel by William Luther Pierce, posited a dystopian world in which white Americans were oppressed by non-white minorities at the behest of Jewish politicians. A righteous, armed resistance then takes back control of the world after a bloody nuclear war.

Pierce’s work inspired a spate of violent crimes, including the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh in 1995. It also led to the formation of secret groups, including the infamous and ultra-violent white supremacist group The Order. It was an influential member of the Order, David Lane, who coined the white nationalist mantra:

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

White genocide adherents want a return to a so-called traditional way of life defined by the nuclear family and prescribed gender roles. They divide humans into separate races and see multiculturalism and migration as a threat because each race should be contained to their perceived homeland.

Imagined racial homelands posted in the Australia’s Future Exposed Facebook group.
Facebook

The idea of a homeland is important. Following the second world war, American neo-Nazis drew on notions of place and race that took root in Germany in the 19th century and were later adopted under Adolf Hitler as the slogan “blood and soil”.

“Blood and soil” is the cry of the nativist, asserting the belonging of a people to a place to the exclusion of outsiders. The slogan reappeared as one of the chants at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

‘Blood and soil’ was among the many racist chants of protesters in Charlottesville.

For white nationalists, this idea forms the “solution” to the threat of white genocide. Neo-Nazi groups like Identity Evropa advocate for ceasing immigration from “non-compatible” nations and encouraging population growth amongst whites.

The most important goal of white nationalists, however, is the creation of a white “ethno-state”.

This is a state that is presumed to have strong bonds and social cohesion due to shared ethnicity or race, as argued by the evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald. Some adherents go so far as to call for the removal of non-whites from multicultural societies, such as the US and Australia, to so-called ethnic homelands in other parts of the world.




Read more:
Twelve charts on race and racism in Australia


‘White genocide’ fears in Australia

After the US, Australia has the most active white nationalist presence on social media, according to J.M. Berger, a leading researcher on extremism. Over the past 10 years, various white supremacist groups have formed online, such as the self-described neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance.

As documented by the ABC, the ideas of neo-Nazis like Pierce and Lane are also actively being explored in secret online groups in Australia. An influential collection of writings called Siege by the neo-Nazi James Mason was cited as an inspiration for some of those expelled from the NSW Young Nationals, along with the aim of creating an ethno-state.

Another recent manifestation of this white supremacist ideology is the meme “It’s OK to be white.” Worn on a T-shirt by Canadian racist provocateur Lauren Southern during her recent visit to Australia, then raised as a motion in the Senate by Hanson, the slogan aims to portray whites as victims who are not protected by anti-racism legislation or social practices.

It is this belief that whites are being targeted that underpins the resignation letter of the leader of the NSW Young Nationals infiltration attempt. Clifford Jennings claimed that young white Australians face a grim future in which they are at risk of becoming a “harried, persecuted minority” due to an “oppressive multicultural regime” supported by the “treasonous” leaders of the major parties.

This is a clarion call to the believers in white genocide.

Why this theory is flawed and dangerous

Jennings is harking back to the long-abandoned Immigration Restriction Act (1901) and other racially targeted pieces of legislation known colloquially as the White Australia Policy. These privileged certain Europeans in migration programs with the aim of “keeping Australia white”.

But how do Australia’s white supremacists side-step Australia’s 60,000 years of Indigenous history? For the believers in white genocide, the term “genocide” does not refer to the impact of European colonisation on Indigenous peoples because they claim Australia only came into being as a nation with the arrival of white Europeans.

Visiting alt-right speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux have openly denigrated Aboriginal culture. This has supported a belief that there is no place for Aboriginal people in the white ethno-state.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: the White Australia policy


Of course, the idea of whiteness itself in Australia has changed dramatically over time. And despite the claims of DNA testing companies, there is no scientific basis for “race” itself and, therefore, for racial superiority claims.

Are white Australians at risk of becoming a persecuted minority? Hardly.

Regardless, the white genocide theory is based on a flawed premise – that only white people can be authentic Australians (or residents of other perceived “ethno-states”). And in multicultural Australia, the facts tell a different story.The Conversation

Kaz Ross, Lecturer in Asian Studies, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senate president Scott Ryan has called out the right within the
Liberal party and among commentators, declaring that Liberal voters
“don’t want views rammed down their throats”.

In a trenchant critique of federal influences in the rout of the
Victorian Liberals, Ryan, a former vice-president of the state
division, pointed to the swings in seats “that are the cradle of the
Liberal party”.

They were areas that were in federal seats like Goldstein, Higgins,
Menzies and Kooyong, he told the ABC.

These voters were the “real base of the Liberal party. They sent us a
message,” he said. “They don’t want litmus tests for what it means to be a real Liberal”.

Many Liberal voters were fairly conservative in their own lives,
raising kids, working hard, running small businesses, supporting
strong local communities. “But they’re pretty liberal in their
political outlook. They don’t want views rammed down their throat, and
they don’t want to ram their views down other people’s throat.

“And that has historically been the Liberal way. We’re often
conservative in our disposition – I am – but I’m very liberal in my
political outlook”.

He said part of the problem was “tone” – while Victoria was a state
election some of the noise that came out of Canberra “did strongly
influence the scale of the loss, where it happened”.

Ryan said after the loss of Wentworth some had “tried to dismiss those
voters as not part of real Australia … labelling people, dismissing
them – that’s not the Liberal way.

“I want to cast the net wide in the Menzies and Howard tradition [so]
as to give people a reason to be Liberals, not come up with litmus
tests and say if you don’t hold this view on a social issue, or if you
don’t hold this particular view on climate change or renewable energy,
then somehow you’re not a real Liberal.

“This is not the path to electoral success. And I’m sick of being
lectured to by people who aren’t members of the party, by people who
have never stood on polling booths, about what it means to be a real
Liberal”.

Ryan declined to name names, but his reference to the media was
directed at commentators on Sky in the evening and the Sydney shock
jocks.

Liberal voters wanted the government to focus on their issues and “I
think the federal government is doing that,” he said.

Ryan said that the days before Wentworth “were distracted … talking
about what some people call religious freedom”. In Victoria people
weren’t raising anti-discrimination law with him on polling booths.

“What we need to do is say the Liberal party has people with various
views, and all of those views can be accommodated, and internally the
idea of compromise is actually a good thing”.

Too often compromise was seen as a sell out, he said. But John Howard
and Peter Costello had compromised to achieve historic tax reform;
Peter Reith had compromised with the Australian Democrats to get
industrial relations change.

“This idea – and I think this is another thing that a lot of our
voters are tired of – that somehow to compromise to address a problem,
and move on to one of the other plethora of problems governments need
to address – that is not selling out – that is getting the jobs done”.

Tim Wilson, the member for Goldstein, criticised those who were being
ideological about energy policy.

“If anybody thinks that there’s this great public sentiment out there
that people really deep down hate renewables and they’re hugging
something like coal, I say again — get real,” Wilson told Sky.

He said he had sat on polling booths where “every second person either gave you deadly silence, which is a very cold, deadly silence, or there were people mentioning energy, climate, or the deposing of the prime minister”.

Victorian senator Jane Hume wrote in the Australian Financial Review:
“Our quest should always be to raise the standard of living – whether
through economic policies, energy, health or education. If we allow
good policy to be infiltrated by even the perception of an ideological
crusade, Labor will win the messaging war”.

After the Prime Minister met Victorian Liberal federal MPs on Monday
morning Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who is deputy Liberal leader, said
“We had a good, honest discussion about lessons to be learned from the
state campaign. As a group we will continue to be focused on
delivering for our local communities.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM



File 20180824 149481 1yvapr7.png?ixlib=rb 1.1

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After a week of vicious internal party politics, Malcolm Turnbull has been deposed as prime minister and replaced not by Peter Dutton, but Scott Morrison. In today’s party room vote, Morrison, who was supported by Turnbull, defeated Peter Dutton by 45 votes to 40 in the final count. In the first round vote, Dutton had 38 votes, Morrison 36, and Julie Bishop was eliminated with just 11 votes. Turnbull had lost a motion to spill the leadership, 45 votes to 40.

Hard right media commentators have detested Turnbull since he offered bipartisan support to the then Rudd Labor government’s carbon emissions reductions policy. Partly as a result, Turnbull lost the opposition leader’s position to Tony Abbott in December 2009, 42 votes to 41.

In September 2015, Turnbull defeated Abbott, 54 votes to 44, to become PM. This spill occurred due to 30 successive Newspoll losses for the Coalition under Abbott, during which he had often trailed Bill Shorten as better PM. Turnbull was far more popular than Abbott in the polls, and the Coalition initially surged to clear leads over Labor.




Read more:
Turnbull’s increased popularity gives Coalition a clear lead


While most Australians were happy with Turnbull in late 2015, hard-right media commentators were incensed that a moderate had deposed one of their own (Abbott). The front cover of The Spectator Australia edition following Abbott’s ousting tells the story.

The Spectator Australia edition on the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to prime minister.

Since Turnbull became PM, hard-right commentators have campaigned against him. There were two catalysts for his fall. First, at the July 28 Longman byelection, the LNP won less than 30% of the primary vote on a swing of over 9% against, a much worse result than expected by the media.

Second, Turnbull’s support for the National Energy Guarantee infuriated both right-wing MPs and media commentators who saw it as similar to his support for Rudd’s emissions reductions.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Turnbull’s Newspoll ratings slump; Labor leads in Victoria; Longman preferences helped LNP


Turnbull’s downfall did not make electoral sense. The polls below show he was still easily the preferred Liberal leader among all voters and Liberal voters. Unlike Abbott, he always won the better PM measure against Shorten in every poll I can recall. In the few months before the Super Saturday byelections, the Coalition had closed in on Labor, and may have just missed a 50-50 Newspoll.

The incentive for dumping Turnbull was to recover the One Nation vote. As I said in Monday’s article, the Coalition would have been likely to lose its moderate voters had Dutton won.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition slumps to 55-45 deficit in Ipsos, and large swing to federal Labor in Queensland


I believe the main reason for Turnbull’s downfall was the right-wing media’s hatred of him, and its influence on Liberal MPs. Although Turnbull buckled to the right on issues such as climate change, they demanded a real conservative, not someone they thought of as a “leftie”.

Morrison had not been thought of as a leadership contender, with the polling below focused on Turnbull and Dutton. A ReachTEL poll gave Morrison just 9% support for best Liberal leader, and a Morgan SMS poll had him trailing Shorten by 50.5-49.5 as better PM.

Morrison’s first Cabinet position was as Abbott’s hardline immigration minister after the 2013 election. But he broadened his appeal, first as Abbott’s social services minister and then as Turnbull’s treasurer. He is likely to have some appeal to both conservatives and moderates, and he will not be blamed for the internal warfare in the way Dutton was.

Morrison is unlikely to be as bad for the Coalition’s vote as Dutton, but many moderate Liberals liked Turnbull, and it will be difficult for Morrison to attract their votes.

Turnbull has confirmed he will quit parliament soon, forcing a byelection in his seat of Wentworth. Turnbull won Wentworth by 68-32 against Labor in 2016, but he has a large personal vote, and it is an inner metropolitan seat that is unlikely to respond well to a more right-wing Liberal party.

ReachTEL and Morgan polls

A ReachTEL poll for GetUp!, conducted August 20 – the day before the first spill which Turnbull won 48-35 – from a sample of 2,260, gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, in contrast to last week’s Ipsos that had Labor ahead by 55-45. No primary votes for this ReachTEL poll have been provided; it is possible the relatively good result for the Coalition is due to a strong flow of respondent allocated preferences.

As best Liberal leader among all voters, Turnbull had 36%, Abbott and Julie Bishop both had 14% and Dutton 12%. Turnbull had 59% among Liberal voters. Turnbull led Dutton by 62-38 in a forced choice head to head question.

More likely/less likely to support given a hypothetical are not useful questions. For what it is worth, 50% said they would be less likely to vote for the Coalition under Dutton, and 28% more likely. 50% of Liberal voters said they were less likely to vote for the Coalition, while 65% of One Nation voters said they were more likely.

A ReachTEL poll for the CFMEU, conducted August 22 from a sample of 2,430, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent preferences. Primary votes, after a forced choice question for undecided voters, were 36.1% Coalition, 35.0% Labor, 10.8% Greens and 9.0% One Nation.

55.5% said they were less likely to vote Coalition with Dutton and 23% were more likely. 50% of current Liberal voters were less likely to vote Coalition.

Turnbull had 38% as best leader among all voters, Bishop 29%, Abbott 14%, Dutton 10% and Morrison 9%. Turnbull had 55% with Liberal voters, with Abbott second at just 14%.

<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Conversation

A Morgan SMS poll, conducted August 23 from a sample of 2,000, had no voting intentions. Bishop led Shorten 64-36 as better PM, Turnbull led Shorten 54-46, Shorten led Morrison 50.5-49.5 and Shorten led Dutton 62-38. I do not trust Morgan’s SMS polls as they may be prone to opt-in bias.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.