Monday, October 21, 2019

News blackout over press freedom

Newspapers across the country carry heavily redacted front pages today, as part of a campaign to protest against laws restricting freedom of the press. The initiative, which includes an advertising campaign as well as news articles, opinion pieces, and editorials ($) across major news outlets, highlighted dozens of pieces of legislation ($) which have made it harder to report on issues of public interest. The campaign advocates for six reforms to protect media freedoms, including the right to challenge warrants issued for police raids on journalists ($), and stronger protections for public sector whistleblowers. The rival media outlets joining forces for the campaign include the ABC, The Guardian, Nine, News Corp Australia, Prime Media, Seven West Media, Sky News, SBS, Ten, and the WIN Network. On Sunday Labor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese called on the Morrison government to rule out prosecutions of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and ABC journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, who were targeted by police raids in June. “People should not be charged for doing their job," he said. Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said he would be “seriously disinclined” to sign off on the criminal prosecution of public interest journalism, but qualified that he could not give any guarantees.

Police officer promotes guns: Queensland police have given formal permission for a senior police officer to run pro-gun social media channels and a blog that reviews weapons and sometimes criticises firearms laws, reports Guardian Australia. Senior constable Corrie Dixon claims to have made income from content subscriptions and merchandise from the Ozzie Reviews blog. Dixon also reposts far-right political positions, including a video posted after the Christchurch massacre in which he complained about the “really crazy leftwing attitude [of] having freedom taken away piece by piece”. 

Water shortages threaten regional growth: Critical water shortages in country towns are threatening to undo efforts to encourage people to move from the congested state capitals of Sydney and Melbourne to regional areas, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Regional economist Terry Rawnsley said the water crisis could discourage Sydney residents from moving to country towns, and force regional residents to move to the bigger cities. The news comes as reports emerge that the Coalition government in New South Wales ignored years of warnings from Infrastructure NSW to prepare for the risk of droughts and longer-term climate change.

Australian soldier involved in protest shootings: The Department of Defence has admitted an Australian soldier was among troops firing upon a protest in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of five civilians and the wounding of six more, as revealed by the ABC. “Coalition soldiers, including an Australian, engaged the protesters in self-defence,” the spokesperson said. 

Cheika steps down: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will not seek a new contract next year, after Australia’s 40-16 loss to England in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final. In a press conference announcing the decision he said he had “no relationship” with the Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne. England will next play New Zealand, which thrashed Ireland. On Sunday night South Africa defeated host nation Japan, to qualify for a semi-final against Wales, which defeated France.

A classroom full of dollars
The boom in international education has seen students become commodities. It has also changed the way universities operate - chasing rankings and casualising teaching staffs.

 
 

“Thousands of robo-debt notices were issued by accident to Centrelink recipients after an error saw the program’s automated algorithm restart in April this year, according to leaked correspondence obtained in part by The Saturday Paper. The incident is revealed in an email sent to the Department of Human Services (DHS) compliance workforce. It outlines how ‘a number of debts’ were issued after the algorithm ‘came off pause in error’.”

 

“Back in July, Morrison told the yearly conference of Pastor Brian Houston’s Hillsong Church that the nation needs more prayer, humility of leadership and to see ‘what He [God] sees and to move towards that’. He led his fellow Pentecostals in prayer for rain to break the drought. Three months later those prayers haven’t been answered, and Morrison is increasingly worried the politics of the drought are going badly for the government.”

 

“It was not a typical pre-match conversation but, then, few players prepare like Sarah Klau. The Australian defender’s routine includes multiple tests of her blood glucose levels and, on Super Netball semi-final day, the readings were unusually high ... Klau – who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February – confided in her friend and circle partner Maddy Turner. Nothing she’d tried was working. What should she do?”

 
 

“Now neighbours of the Caboolture abattoir are beginning to speak out about the horrific sounds that have been heard coming from the slaughterhouse at night. Residents say it is under the cover of darkness that the truckloads of seemingly distressed horses arrive at the abattoir to be killed. ‘It's frantic ... they're scared ... they could probably be walked off a truck into a paddock anywhere else, but here they're not being walked off,’ Naomi Rizniak says. She says she hears staff swearing and yelling at the animals. ‘They're about to be killed. Isn't that bad enough? Can't they be given a bit of dignity?’”

 
 

“Bookmaker Matt Tripp, the chief executive of BetEasy, predicted the financial damage would be felt in coming weeks, as people disgusted by the callous treatment of retired horses lost their appetite for punting on the races. ‘It is very hard to acquire customers when our best product is on the nose,’’ he told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. ‘This two-week block is where we up the ante on advertising, we up the ante on generosity and promotional offers. It is hard to get them in the door when the whole world now knows that this part of racing has been handled so poorly. It is a real blow for us.”

 
 

“‘Perth Festival will transform a section of Canning Highway into a rolling stage for local, national and international acts during its Highway To Hell closing event, paying homage to AC/DC’s original frontman Bon Scott. On March 1, 2020 - 40 years since Scott was laid to rest at Fremantle Cemetery - the southern stretch of highway from Raffles Hotel to the Old Fremantle Traffic Bridge will be closed to make way for the bands to perform Acca Dacca songs from the back of moving trucks. The strip of highway is said to have inspired Scott’s 1979 hit Highway to Hell.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.