||Issue No. 317||28 July 2006|
Independent of Facts
Interview: The Month Of Living Dangerously
Unions: Staying Mum
Economics: Precious Metals
Industrial: The Cold 100
History: The Vinegar Hill Mob
Legal: Free Agents
Politics: Under The Influence
International: How Swede It Was
Review: Keating's Men Slam Dance on Howard
The Locker Room
Help is at Hand
Independent of Facts
His government had nothing to do with smearing sacked Australians who stood up against WorkChoices. We know this because, according to Sydney's Daily Telegraph, a "Government spokesman" told us so, "saying the OWS was an independent body".
It was a repeat of Howard's disclaimer on prosecutions against 107 building workers in WA. When they were announced, Howard declined to comment on the grounds that his Building Industry Commission was an "independent body".
Similarly, Honest John wouldn't have anything to do with the annihilation of the ABC as a force in news and current affairs. After all, the board of the ABC is an independent body.
All these independent bodies have in common is that the Prime Minister stacks them and gives them their riding instructions.
They are about as independent as an Australian foreign policy would be if it had been crafted in Texas.
So, the bloke's sneaky, surely it goes with the territory?
To a degree, that's true, but in a healthy democracy the tendency to obscure and deceive is countered by an active, independent media.
And that's Australia's big problem. With the ABC trussed up in a corner, there appears little stomach for challenging power or pricking pomposity.
The Terror's handling of the WorkChoices beat-up was a case in point. Firstly, the story was not given to the person who handles the industrial round and would know the surrounding issues.
The facts, in brief, were these:
- the ACTU, according to polls and commentators, has run an effective campaign against WorkChoices
- an important part of that campaign has been a series of adverts, showcasing real people who have lost their jobs and incomes, claiming they have no redress under the new regime
- in some of these cases - including the highly-publicised Cowra Abattoir dispute, where an employer sacked staff so he could undercut a negotiated contract - the facts were not in dispute
- without instruction from any of the individuals concerned and, in some cases without even speaking to them, the OWS appears to have "investigated" their cases and concluded they had no redress under WorkChoices
- the Tele deduced from this that the sacked workers had "only themselves to blame" and the ads they appeared in were a "fiction"
Arguably, the case raised real issues that should have addressed.
Why had a government agency chosen to investigate critical individuals and prepare dossiers on them?
Why had commentary been included about pre-WorkChoices situations over which the agency had no authority?
Why had it purported to make "findings" when, according to the Act, its powers are limited to investigating and, where necessary, prosecuting?
Unfortunately, the Tele didn't think to raise any of these questions.
You couldn't call it fearless or crusading but, if you were John Howard, you might call it independent.
- Jim Marr
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