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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Whose side is Tony Abbott on?

The biggest manufacturing industry in Australia at the moment, is the LNP manufacturing crisis after fear-fuelled crisis. 

Prime Minister Abbott and his cronies have renewed their attacks on the ABC following a young Muslim man named Zaky Mallah being given airtime (live of all things) during ABC's Q&A program on Monday 22 June 2015.

The self-righteous naying and braying from the conservative government and many of their followers was in relation to Mr Mallah being a 'suspected' terrorist and having been jailed for threatening to kill two ASIO officers.

Criminal? Yes. But he's served his time. Should he be banned from exercising the same freedom of speech rights as everyone else? No.

On the live broadcast, Mallah stated, rather poorly, that the government's actions isolating and targeting Muslims will feed the anger that motivates and possibly radicalises some. For the record, Mallah wasn't justifying radicalisation but trying to explain how some justify to themselves reasons for becoming 'radicalised'. Certainly this is a valid point and worth further discussion if we are going to address and prevent radicalisation.

Abbott labelled the ABC a 'lefty lynch mob' and claimed that 'heads should roll' at the ABC for this 'grave error of judgement' (1). Yet where was the dog-whistling from Abbott et al when The Australian newspaper wrote an entire article about Mallah and his views in 2012 (2). Mallah has received publicity for years in the mainstream media. In a recent tweet, he claimed that he was paid $500 for such an interview in 2003.

The federal LNP government has been attacking the ABC since it won government.

In 2013, the ABC, in conjunction with the Guardian, reported that Australia had been tapping the mobile phones of Indonesia's President, his wife and inner circle (3). In January 2014, the ABC wrote an article that dared to air accusations that Royal Australian Navy personnel had physically abused asylum seekers. The allegations were never proven ... or disproven. The ABC later apologised for the story (4).

At the time, Abbott suggested that the ABC was on everyone else's side except Australia's. He even stated that the media should be 'cheer-leaders for Australia' (5). I wonder how that factors into the negativity that was the hallmark of his leadership of the Opposition which included him publicly and internationally belittling Australia's economy, asylum seeker policies and pretty much everything that the ALP put their hands to when in government. In Opposition, Abbott was no cheerleader for Australia.

Interestingly, Abbott also claimed that the Naval personnel should be given the 'benefit of the doubt' over the abuse allegations. If this is the case, why hasn't the government extend this 'benefit of the doubt' to Zaky Mallah who was acquitted of terrorism charges in a court of law. Suspicion is enough for the government to maintain its self-righteous rage, which is why the proposal to allow the government to revoke citizenship of 'suspected' terrorists is particularly concerning.

The rule of law and the presumption of innocence clearly isn't valued by this government.

The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

Apparently it is unpatriotic and bordering on treason, to suggest that Australian officials could be committing crimes.

ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, stated that the ABC is not a state broadcaster, it is 'not the communications arm of the government' (6). Given the government's inability to handle criticism, perhaps the Prime Minister would rather that the ABC be renamed TASS, after the state-run news outlet and mouthpiece of the Soviet Union. That way he could be assured of the ABC cheer-leading for Australia Abbott-style.

This inability to handle criticism may explain the LNP's unprecedented attack on Gillian Triggs, the President of the Human Rights Commission. Like the ABC, the HRC is an independent body. It is meant to be independent of government interference. Triggs was accused of playing partisan politics over the timing of her revelation of child abuse in Australian run immigration detention centres. The government's response was to call for her resignation. There was no effort to actually stop the abuse of children in the centres. In fact, the government went even further and made it a crime for workers in the detention centres to blow the whistle on abuse. It would seem that playing politics is more important to the government than stopping the abuse of children. When discussing asylum seekers in general, whether it be boat arrivals or alleged government payments to people smugglers, the government clams up and claims these are 'national security matters'.

The government clearly has issues with independent bodies. It clearly has issues with secrets. And it clearly has issues with the truth being revealed ... or exposed.

Remember the data retention legislation and the government's ludicrous claim that if people have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear.

Plenty to hide and plenty to fear.

It would appear that the government itself has plenty to fear given their efforts to hide so much from the public and its vilification of those who bring the government's dirty secrets to light.

The LNP thrives on fear. It's popularity is built on fear and lies. Whenever there is a dip in the polls, the LNP rolls out a scapegoat to scare the population into believing that only the government can ride in like a knight in shining armour to protect us all. John Howard did it regularly and spectacularly starting with the 2001 Tampa crisis which was manufactured to recover significant ground lost to the Labor party in the lead up to the federal election. From there, Howard never looked back.

Abbott uses the same methodology: dog-whistling, fear-mongering, scape-goating.

The biggest manufacturing industry in Australia at the moment, is the LNP manufacturing crisis after fear-fuelled crisis. 

It's not the loyalty of the ABC, Gillian Triggs or whistle-blowers that should be called into question. It's the loyalty of a government that deliberately undermines the values that Australia is built on. Values of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the rule of law and the notion of the fair go.

The essence of democracy is that government must be scrutinised and be answerable to the population. Questioning, critiquing and demanding transparency of government is not an act of sedition, it is not a lack of loyalty, it is not unpatriotic.

Voicing contrary opinions is not treason. Silencing those voices in a democracy is. Silencing and directly attacking dissent is a betrayal of the very foundation of democracy and free society.

Archibald MacLeish, American poet, stated:

Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.

We must not surrender the citadel of free speech, human rights and transparent bureaucracy to any government irrespective of whatever fear and hate campaigns they mount.

Regardless of how many flags the Prime Minister stands in front of to deliver the government's haughty hyperbole, it is his loyalty that needs to be questioned. Any government must be held to account when it consistently and vehemently attacks and demonises members of a specific religion, attacks and demonises workers and unions, attacks and demonises the independence of independent organisations, attacks and demonises the most vulnerable in society and uses fear-mongering to undermine and disregard freedoms that Australians enjoy and value.

Tony Abbott, whose side are you on?


1. ABC, Emma Griffiths, 'Q&A: PM Tony Abbott labels program a 'lefty lynch mob' as ABC admits error in judgement over former terrorism suspect Zaky Mallah's appearance', 23 June 2015, Accessed 28 June 2015.

2. The Australian, Adam Shand, 'Rebel urges Muslims to wage a jihad of peace', 20 September 2012, Accessed 28 June 2015.

3. The Guardian, Daniel Hurst, 'Tony Abbott criticises ABC for working with Guardian Australia on spying story', 1 December 2013, Accessed 28 June 2015.

4. Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Knott, 'ABC head Mark Scott admits mistakes over report claiming navy inflicted asylum seeker burns', 4 February 2014, Accessed 28 June 2015.

5. Sydney Morning Herald, Judith Ireland, 'Tony Abbott blasts national broadcaster: ABC takes 'everyone's side but Australia's', 29 January 2014, Accessed 28 June 2015.

6. The Guardian, Amanda Meade and Daniel Hurst, 'Mark Scott fires back: 'I hope no one wants the ABC to be a state broadcaster' ', 25 June 2015, Accessed 28 June 2015.

Updated 4 July 2015.

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