November 16th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Extinction Rebellion: So, it's goodnight to us and a big welcome to mega-bucks

EDITORIAL A second chance to secure Australia's future

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Early UK election will be another Brexit vote

CANBERRA OBSERVED Struggle is on not to let censorship have the last word

GENDER POLITICS Children are being given drugs that are dangerous even for elite athletes

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Thoroughbreds are literally racing for their lives

POLITICAL COMMENTARY Tony Abbott continues faithful to the broad Liberal church

MILITARY HISTORY Timor-Leste a free nation 20 years after INTERFET

CLIMATE SCIENCE V XR Is a tipping point close or is the emergency contrived?

RENEWABLE ENERGY Whatever happened to the World Solar Challenge?

ASIAN AFFAIRS How long has China's Red Dynasty really got?

HUMOUR Vote 1 for the Troposphere

MUSIC Genre fatigue: Jazz rock arrived with a bang, left with a whisper

CINEMA Terminator: Dark Fate: The heart that makes us human

CINEMA Ride Like a Girl: Celebrating family, faith and fortitude

BOOK REVIEW Quirky look at grand-scale egoism

BOOK REVIEW Clear critique of flaws of globalism

POETRY

LETTERS

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

South Park Calls Out Transgender Takeover of Women's Sports

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Struggle is on not to let censorship have the last word


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, November 16, 2019

Scott Morrison faces decisions on not one but two important freedoms that are under threat in Australia – freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

Both will be a test of Mr Morrison’s prime ministership and will in large part determine his legacy to Australian society.

In terms of the first issue, much has already been written, and it will be intri­guing to see how firm Mr Morrison is in defending Australians’ right to practice their religion – not just in the confines of their homes and chapels and synagogues and other places of worship, but in the public square as well.

This is because radical secularists want to marginalise people of faith, particularly Christians, and prevent them having a say on any matters of public policy.

Mr Morrison is Australia’s first practicing evangelical Christian, and he has a coterie of friends in the Parliament who share his faith. This is a surprising development in Australian society, much of which is virulently anti-Christian, particularly in the universities, the public service and the ABC.

It is also a difficult balancing act, with big business reacting against proposals to allow employees to hold views contrary to their strict policies on gender.

Mr Morrison’s attachment to the importance of a free press is likely to be not as strong, and yet the two issues – freedom of religion and freedom of the press – are actually connected.

Former Prime Minister John Howard used to quote what he believed were the three pillars of Australian democracy: the democratically elected Parliament, an independent judiciary, and a free press.

To his credit, although Mr Howard copped enormous criticism from journalists, he was always respectful of their right to criticise him.

Mr Morrison, on the other hand, is perhaps a more skeptical politician, and has been accused of being dismissive of the media in terms of ignoring questions that he considers to be “inside the Canberra bubble”.

When he was (a highly successful) immigration and border protection minister, Mr Morrison was generally and intentionally uncooperative with journalists seeking information on the asylum seekers and the like.

His operation to keep boats out of the country was based on preventing journalists getting public sympathy for asylum seekers, and he enlisted the bureaucrats in keeping a tight lid on sharing information.

However, the same bureaucrats who assisted Mr Morrison in managing the media during his time as border protection minister are now the cause of an uprising of the media against the Government.

And it is not just the ABC and Fairfax, but News Limited running the campaign against the Government.

Several ABC journalists and one News Limited journalist (Annika Smethurst) have been the subject of raids by the Australian Federal Police allegedly over national security issues, and still face prosecution and perhaps jail for publishing material that bureaucrats say constitute “official secrets”.

All the major news organisations late last month decided as one to print front pages of all national newspapers with the stories purported to be Freedom of Information requests, entirely redacted.

The Right to Know coalition, of which the ABC is also a member, is behind the campaign, calling for the decriminalisation of “public interest” journalism, and greater protection for the media and whistleblowers.

Mr Morrison has so far tried to be balanced in his response to the campaign.

“We’ll always believe in the freedom of the press,” he said. “It’s an important part of our freedoms as a liberal democracy.”

“[But we] also believe in the rule of law and that no one is above it, including me or anyone else, any journalist, or anyone else.”

And therein lies the problem.

Increasingly, governments, egged on by the bureaucracy, make laws that restrict the free press, and more and more things are off limits because of supposed national security concerns.

Often these concerns are just public servants, politicians and others trying to avoid scrutiny.

But journalists themselves do not escape scot-free in terms of censorship, and muffling of voices and blacking-out views.

The ABC has made an art form of keeping all conservative commentators and producers off its programs, as well as restricting mainstream views from its programs.

The Conversation, an online publication largely funded by the universities (and therefore the taxpayer), recently decided to ban any opinion that is deemed to be skeptical in the climate-change debate.

In other words, no debate, at all: The Conversation has become a monologue.

Freedom of the press is indeed a precious freedom of enormous value to society, but journalists and the people who run news organisations have to be more careful not to become censors themselves.




























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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm