Australia is suffering from a lack of journalistic integrity with many news outlets bowing down to the Liberal Party's agenda, writes Dechlan Brennan.
AS CHRISTMAS NEARS and with an election just around the corner, there is the faintest whiff of familiarity in the air. The makeup of the Australian Test side isn’t certain going into a home series, Melbourne’s weather oscillates wildly and some sections of the Australian media simply run interference for a Prime Minister and his Coalition Government.
At least in Beijing, the Global Times makes no secret of its government allegiances. In Australia, we just have sections of the media who could be replaced with press releases from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO.)
‘...used an algorithm that just tweeted “[.....] by the Coalition has brilliantly wedged Labor, which has a huge problem” and randomly insert subject headings from ministerial press releases.’
Take for example the article that appeared in The Australian last Monday which centred on the independent held seat of Warringah and whether or not former Premier Gladys Berejiklian would run. The title ‘Scott Morrison keeps prized Warringah seat for Gladys Berejiklian’ was nothing more than an obsequious piece in support of the Liberal Party.
In a long article, there was zero mention of the moral ramifications behind picking a former Premier to run whilst still under investigation for corruption by the New South Wales Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC).
There was a plethora of former legal experts who commented on this disgusting attempt at gaslighting the public in The Guardian.
“For Morrison to dismiss that as being of no significance, is to trash integrity and accountability in the most terrible fashion. [He] had no idea what NSW ICAC legislation says, because it is not a court at all. It’s an investigative body that is precisely the same as a royal commission.”
This expert advice was also backed up with further analysis from former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal, Stephen Charles SC; Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC (who was counsel assisting ICAC in its investigation of Labor MP, Eddie Obeid); and Law Council of Australia President, Dr Jacoba Brasch QC.
The Australian went down a different path. It didn’t discuss any of those moral ramifications, nor the likelihood that having the former Premier stand in an election only months after she stood down from her post could only diminish Australians’ faith in their political system. No, their expert advice came from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who threw his support behind Berejiklian and told the broadsheet, “we sure need more conviction in our politics”. There was no counter to that argument in the article.
‘If Gladys [Berejiklian] ran for Warringah it would be big headache for Labor.
Potential game changer.’
For context, the phrase ‘game changer’ was actually distributed by the PMO to journalists that very day. Repeating the Party line, verbatim, renders Jayes' position somewhat redundant.
In The Australian article, there was also zero discussion around the Prime Minister undermining an independent body investigating corruption. The corruption watchdog has always been an easy target for News Corps particular brand of attack dog journalism — in part due to its sycophantic support of the Coalition.
When days later, in news that surprised no one, Berejiklian admitted she was never running, did The Australian show any form of self-awareness? Hardly.
They instead published a leak from the PMO stating the former NSW Premier wouldn’t run — before Berejiklian even had time to announce it herself. There was no discussion around why this double leak to announce-then-deny had even happened, or why the national broadsheet seemed willing to let all raft of ethical standards be passed over to salivate at her possible election chances. No, the ball just kept on rolling. Back to criticising the ABC and calling someone else “woke”.
When Berejiklian initially stood down, The Australian responded in the only way it knows how — aggressive editorials. In defending the accusation that Berejiklian gave money to her then boyfriend Daryl Maguire’s seat of Wagga Wagga despite advice discouraging it, the 3 November editorial was particularly egregious.
Titled ‘ICAC’s Berejiklian hearings an unedifying show trial’, it went on to opine that:
‘Politicians are elected to decide how to spend taxpayer money to fund programs, build hospitals and rail lines and recital halls to provide for the public — and win elections. If voters don’t approve, voters kick them out.’
Labelling a watchdog investigating corruption as a show trial has all the remnants of a “failed state” mentality about it. One can be sure that if the shoe was on the other foot, Labor would (rightly) be getting hammered. One only needs to see the coverage of the Victorian Independent Broad‑based Anti‑corruption (IBAC) hearings into Labor branch stacking to prove this hypothesis.
This criticism has only emboldened the Prime Minister to lie openly and ignore questions that challenge this point of view. He has called ICAC a “kangaroo court” and labelled Berejiklian’s treatment as unfair.
Morrison hates accountability — this is no secret. Since the start of his political career, he has acted with scant regard for any form of repercussions and any standards he cannot actively control, he rages against. He has consistently lost his temper in Parliament and the truth is an anathema to him. In many ways, he should be a strong media’s dream. He is a constant source of supercilious behaviour, masquerading as an everyman for which journalists can constantly critique.
When some journalists do challenge him however, such as regular columns by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald political correspondent David Crowe, Morrison displays a glass jaw. He reportedly told the Nine masthead that “you are too tough on me” and journalists “smash me every day”. No wonder some journalists display such sycophancy towards the PM. If they don’t, they might be criticised by him.
The media is meant to act as a watchdog for those in power. Politics already has too few checks and balances to ward off corruption in this country, so a fawning media only emboldens this behaviour further. If some in the media aren’t going to do their job as the Fourth Estate, it seems all rather pointless.
Dechlan Brennan is a freelance writer advocating for mental health and welfare reforms in Australia.
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