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Issue No. 178 16 May 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Shit Sandwich
It took a few well-chosen comments by the sole Howard Government minister with a grasp on reality - or at least a penchant for a bit of takeaway - to blow Peter Costello’s Federal Budget to pieces.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.

N E W S

 Costello Whacks Women

 Abbott Picks Fight with Nurses

 Simon Slams Big End

 Hands-Off Howard Loses Seamen

 Safety Net Slips Disabled

 Clerks Put Boot In

 Bank Hold-Ups Expose Compo Failings

 Low Paid Dirty on Lawyer

 WIN Tactics a Big Turn Off

 ABC Jobs On Line

 Della’s Dallying Could Cost Miners

 Ministers of Misinformation Scoop Orwells

 Death Squads Strike

 Currawong Cottages Waiting for You

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

Solidarity
The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Postcard
Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

Bosswatch
The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.

L E T T E R S
 Ron The Tool
 In Defence of Tom
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Ministers of Misinformation Scoop Orwells


What do Australia's Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, US Defence Minister Donald Rumsfeld and Iraqi Information Minister "Baghdad Bob" aka Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf all have in common?

All media stars in their own right, the three all took top (dis)honours in this year's Orwell Awards for violations of press freedom. Bob and Don shared honours for the coveted Gold Orwellian international prize announced by the Alliance last week in Sydney. In very different environments, both carried on the traditions that Orwell satirised - Bob with his line on Iraq and his blatant mistruths while Don's analysis and account of current events was every bit as comical but with far more deadly impact. Ironically once awarded a presidential medal of freedom, Rumsfeld was honoured for introducing a system of US Govt-dictated censorship.

Meanwhile, national winner Philip Ruddock and the Department of Immigration was awarded for the manifestation of the policy of preventing scrutiny of the conditions in which men, women and children seeking refugee status are incarcerated. All recipients of these salubrious awards have been inspirations to each other in the course of their respective careers. Well done!

About Our Winners

In keeping with the spirit of G. Orwell, the judges agreed on Phillip Ruddock as the worthy recipient of the national prize.

Although it's true that his department deserves a lot of the credit for the restrictions under which the media operate, but under the Westminster system Phillip Ruddock is entitled to be recognised for his and their hard work.

While Ruddock is accessible to the media, what he spouts tirelessly is the party line.

He is the manifestation of the policy of preventing scrutiny of the conditions in which men, women and children seeking refugee status are incarcerated. At the same time he casts the policy as one of "protecting" these "illegal entrants", "illegal immigrants", and now we're really sure what to call them because according the latest directive from Ruddock's office they are .... Well, what are they?

As Media Watch reported recently, Ruddock has had his department send a stern letter to the news editors and producers of Australia, to

encourage media outlets not to use the label "refugee" or even "asylum seeker" in relation to the people on the two boats...from Vietnam until it is clearly established that these descriptions are appropriate... there is no reason to assume automatically that because people are in a boat in regional waters, reportedly heading for Australia, that they are refugees or in fact even seeking asylum here.

Jenny Hoskin, Public Affairs, DIMIA, 24 April 2003

Always Ruddock bats away the interrogatories with calm detachment,

explaining that these inhumanities are in the interests of the detainees and the nation (not to mention the vote harvesting potential for the government).

What could be more Orwellian?

And while the Senate Privileges Committee should be highly commended, the judges felt they didn't deserve the gong because they're not trying hard enough: they're only considering making receiving a leak a strict liability offence.

Internationally, in the traditions of Oceania and Eurasia, the judges decided to give the award jointly to Baghdad Bob and Donald Rumsfeld as honourable recipients of the inaugural Gold Orwellian award.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf is a character straight out of "Nineteen

Eighty Four" and its slogan strewn regime. His exposition of the

exact opposite of reality was a joy to behold. On top of that as

"Information" Minister his disinformation was just about unbeatable

and then there was his rigid enforcement of the Ba'ath Party line in

the Iraqi media.

As for Donald Rumsfeld, his analysis and account of current events was every bit as comical as Baghdad Bob's...but with far more deadly impact. The Iraqi seemed to have learnt his skills from the Master. Both of them had a fine understanding of one liners and the relative safety of only addressing media pools - bald lies can be asserted and broadcast before their truthfulness can be challenged. Rumsfeld gets a further leg up for the targeting and murder of Al Jazeera journalists

Our National Shortlisted Finalists Were:

Immigration Minister, Phillip Ruddock

For presiding over a federal government department and public affairs sector that has continually put up walls to the media by placing restrictions on interviewing asylum seekers, blockading access and filming of detention centers and, in the case of ABC reporter Natalie Larkins, arresting a journalist for "trespassing" outside the Woomera Detention Centre in 2002.

In her own words, Larkins said of the experience of Woomera:"It's ironic that international journalists have been given quicker and less restrictive access to prisoners at Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba".

The Federal Attorney General, Daryl Williams

For his enduring ability to avoid even-handedness with the media. This included the Government's anti-terrorism legislation, which was blocked by the Senate, that significantly beefed up ASIO's powers and incriminated journalists in the process if caught protecting their sources. Then their was also the attempt to amend the criminal code which would make revealing leaked documents a crime.

The Senate Privileges Committee

For attempting to give itself the ability to fine, jail or otherwise penalise journalists and the media for doing their jobs when it foreshadowed its intention to examine whether leaked documents should constitute contempt.

Peter Reith, former Federal Defence Minister

For his release of photos purporting to prove refugees threw their children overboard and his lies and misuse of the media during the Children Overboard issue in the lead-up to the Federal Election.

Qld person or persons unknown

For abiding by the "shooting the messenger" ethos when they fired upon journalist Hedley Thomas' home.

Our International Shortlisted Finalists Were:

Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe

For his dedication to muzzling the media in Zimbabwe by attacks on journalists and being behind legislation designed to give the government greater control over who can work as a journalist in the African nation.

The government's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act means the media can be imprisoned for publishing ``falsehoods''.

Twelve journalists have been charged under the act since it came into force last year. Despite the Guardian's reporter Andrew Meldrum being found not guilty of this at his trial, he was deported the very next day anyway.

Mugabe's media laws also allows for a two-year jail term for working as a journalist without accreditation and so all Mugabe has to do is withdraw accreditation from foreign journalists he doesn't like and they either leave the country or face jail.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, "Baghdad Bob", Iraq's Minister for

Information

If George Orwell was writing today, he wouldn't need to invent newspeak. He'd have Baghdad Bab to do that for him in his determined campaign of misinformation in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary during the Iraq war. A few of his newspeak gems:

-- "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

-- "I blame Al-Jazeera - they are marketing for the Americans!"

-- "They're coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks."

-- "We have them surrounded in their tanks"

-- "I have detailed information about the situation...which completely proves that what they allege are illusions ... They lie every day."

-- "Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness, as he is a man of great honour and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes

and hearts."

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense

Holder of the presidential medal of freedom, Don has been honoured for introducing something new to journalism: government sponsored self-censorship. Who else showed such commitment that he was able to take a break from invading Iraq to personally telephone major broadcasting companies to encourage them not to broadcast images of American POWs? This followed his earlier exercise in government sponsored self-censorship in encouraging media corporations not to broadcast images or comments of bin Laden.

All journalists would have felt that much safer by his deep contrition

Given that he showed such enthusiasm to accept responsibility whenever things went wrong in Iraq, it is only fair that he also be credited with the censorship achievements of the US Army who:

Caused collateral damage to Reuters cameramen in Baghdad in the Palestine Meridien hotel, by shelling them with (friendly) tank fire, then trying to argue they shot first. With their cameras.

And showed their respect for global media by bombing the Al Jazeera press offices. Twice.

Of course, their spokesperson demonstrated their deep understanding of their obligations to protect journalists with their comments after the initial deaths: "Reporters who get between coalition and Iraqi forces put themselves at extreme risk.''

Rumsfeld also oversaw the incredibly useful briefings throughout the war.

Who can forget the red line around Baghdad which, once crossed, would lead to the use of chemical weapons? Apparently, the red line is now in hiding in Syria.

Or the briefing that the bodies of the American POWs shown on television had been found. Twice. Then, of course, they were found alive.

NBC

It's irritating when those pesky journalists won't swallow self-censorship line. Luckily, plucky corporations like NBC are there to step in. They've been nominated for sacking correspondent Peter Arnett for saying what everyone thought but, apparently, weren't allowed to say.

Not content with one warning shot, NBC is now reviewing the comments by another NBC News correspondent Ashleigh Banfield in which she criticised the network's coverage of the war in Iraq. In a statement, NBC News rushed to defend her right to speak freely.....no, that's wrong....actually they said: "We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her."

Fidel Castro

With close to half a century of fighting press freedom, it is difficult to see what Fidel Castro could have done to top all his achievements. But the chutzpah of locking up 28 journalists in March when attention was fixed half a world away shows that all the newcomers still have a lot to learn from the old masters.

Nominations were accepted from members of Australia's media and the Media Alliance. Final judging was undertaken by past Gold Walkley winners

Kate McClymont, Richard Ackland and Mark Davis.

Stay tuned over the next year to see what violators have in store for us and make your vote count in 2004!


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