September 23rd 2000

  Buy Issue 2592

Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Singapore’s changing direction

Editorial: Free trade: it’s time to fight back

National Affairs: East Timor: Whitlam was the culprit

Agriculture: Deregulation cuts a swathe through dairy industry

Law: Why Coalition will keep UN Committees at arms length

Eyewitness Report: S11 protests win few friends

Globalism: Australia out in the cold as three economic blocs form

South Australia: Hindmarsh Island bridge saga continues

Canberra Observed: ALP heads back to the future

National Affairs: Manufacturers, farmers: a natural alliance

Straws in the Wind

New Zealand: From basket case to “case study” ... and back to basket case

The Media

Books: 'PAPUA NEW GUINEA: People Politics and History since 1975', by Sean Dorney

Books: Pioneer police: 'Sand and Stone', by Kevin Moran


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The Media

by John Styles

News Weekly, September 23, 2000
Lifelong need for balance

The ABC would come in for less criticism and Australians would be better served by the national broadcaster if its announcers and reporters were to treat both sides of politics fairly and even-handedly.

It’s all about that little thing called “balance” — something that appeared to be missing when Radio National (September 8) examined “Lifelong Learning”.

Radio National’s political correspondent, Fran Kelly, interviewed Professor Bob Friar, visiting chair of the Blair Government’s Lifelong Learning Council and in Australia for Adult Learners’ Week.

After a short intro, Fran Kelly told Professor Friar: “We’re currently talking about transforming Australia into the ‘Knowledge Nation’ — or at least that’s what the Opposition here is talking about — and the Government says it is striving for educational excellence. Are they different emphasis [sic] from what’s going on in Britain?”

“They are exactly the same kind of emphases,” Professor Friar replied, describing a few British initiatives.

Fran Kelly tried again: “At the moment, the political Opposition here says it wants to make Australia a ‘Knowledge Nation’, as I said. The Opposition Leader’s talking about lifelong learning. Have you taken a look at the moves that Labor is making and what’s your assessment of them?”

Professor Friar did not seem to understand (or chose not to) that what Ms Kelly seemed to be seeking quite specifically was an assessment of Kim Beazley’s policy agenda. Instead, the professor acknowledged Australia’s “big lead” in distance education and community learning which, he said, should be “celebrated”.

Ms Kelly tried parroting a proposition quoted in a Kim Beazley “Knowledge Nation” speech: “What’s your view of what’s happening in Australia right now and do you think Australia risks being left behind if we don’t catch up to where many of the other industrialised countries are now heading?”

It wasn’t just Australia, he said, “I think [it’s] all of us”. The professor spoke of the need for leadership on the issue. “You need a very senior ministerial lead. Someone who can lead from the front, by example, and with absolute commitment,” he said. Learning has to become normal “for every business, every family, every individual, every community,” Professor Friar added.

Fran Kelly then put an idea of Labor backbencher Mark Latham to the visiting academic.

The major reference points for Fran Kelly’s interview, apart from finding out what was happening in Britain, were based in the ALP’s policies. Only once did she refer specifically to the Government’s policies — the brief reference to “educational excellence” quoted earlier.

Nowhere, for example, did Fran Kelly refer to the fact that, in March 1998, federal Education Minister, David Kemp, had made a keynote speech at a UNESCO conference in Melbourne entitled “Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century”.

In that speech, Mr Kemp outlined major objectives of the Howard Government in this vital area of education and learning. Why did Ms Kelly ignore it? After all, wasn’t it evidence of the “strong ministerial lead” the visiting British expert said we needed? And the Howard Government is, well, the Government. Why defer to an Opposition agenda that ultimately may be rejected by the electorate?

Trashing a 145-year tradition

Those journalists at the Melbourne Age, so contemptuous of traditional values, recently trashed a tradition of their own — or, rather, of all those who have gone before them. Their strike, which resulted in the non-appearance of the newspaper on September 2, broke a 145-year tradition of continuous publication.

“We are all here deeply disappointed that last Saturday’s Age didn’t get distributed,” editor Michael Gawenda said on ABC radio. “It was the first time in 145 years that the paper hasn’t gone out. We could brag before, we could boast before that we had continuous publication for 145 years. We can no longer say that. So that’s a great pity.”

Michael Gawenda may have felt sad, but he should not have been surprised that the “me” generation at The Age would put self-interest before things like loyalty or obligation to the people who buy the paper.

US expert on UN coverage

A visiting American academic blew the whistle on some of the coverage by the Australian media of the Howard Government’s policy to reduce cooperation with United Nations human rights committees until those bodies are suitably reformed — and was published in the Media section of The Australian (September 7-13).

Jeremy Rabkin, Professor of Government at Cornell University, was in Australia giving a series of lectures on the UN and global governance as a guest of the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Most commentary in the Australian media simply took for granted that the UN is doing highly valuable work in this area and then criticised the Howard Government for weakening the UN machinery in this field,” he wrote.

Professor Rabkin cited specific examples in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald which reported [predictably] critical opinions of the Howard Government by UN officials, without seeking the views of other governments. He noted, for instance, that the papers largely ignored the fact that the US, for example, has also failed to ratify some UN conventions.

He disputed the view expressed by some in the media that the Howard Government’s new policy would mean repressive regimes would be able more freely to ignore UN criticism. “Could they really get any more free to ignore the UN than they already were?” Professor Rabkin asked.

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