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<nettime> Deputy Sheriff Australia Report - October 2003
ben moretti on Tue, 28 Oct 2003 15:39:01 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Deputy Sheriff Australia Report - October 2003

# i've been off nettime for a while, and thought 
# an update from oz would be amusing. it seems 
# we've become the deputy sheriff for the 
# usa, and john howard is the man of steel. funny, 
# that is what dzhugashvili changed his name to,
# isn't? btw it really is ridiculous that i only 
# have a handful of media outlets to choose from 
# here to get some sort of 'independence'. ben.

1. Australia's media freedom ranking drops
2. Spinning the Tubes
3. Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our
faltering democracy



Australia's media freedom ranking drops

Australia's reputation for having a free media has
significantly deteriorated, according to world
rankings released by a global monitoring assocation.

Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders),
which campaigns for media freedom, has dropped
Australia's ranking from 12 to 50.

Among the reasons cited are the Federal Government's
refusal to allow access to detention centres and
assaults on journalists.

The federal president of the journalists' union, Chris
Warren, said: "It's important that people understand
that when a journalist is attacked, when the media is
prevented from covering a story, then that means the
Australian people know less.

"That means our democratic rights are undermined," he

Finland was judged as having the greatest media
freedom and Cuba the worst, while Australia fell
behind South Korea and Ghana.



Spinning the Tubes

How Australian intelligence was seized upon on by the
CIA, spun and gilded, then presented to the world as
the best evidence that Saddam Hussein was building
weapons of mass destruction.

As George Bush drops in for talks with friend and ally
John Howard, one subject is unlikely to be on the
agenda: the fact that both leaders told their people
they should go to war to rid Iraq of weapons of mass
destruction... and that, so far, none has been found. 
Both men have rebutted their critics by citing
intelligence - mostly from American and British
sources - that built an alarming picture of Saddam's
weapons capability. 

Until now, Australia has been seen merely as a
recipient of that intelligence, not as a source of it.
But now Four Corners reveals how a "gem" of Australian
information made its way to Washington, where it was
buffed into a powerful argument for going to war in

This program raises fresh questions about how
intelligence was used by key officials as the US-led
coalition of the willing laid the groundwork for war
on Saddam. 

It also begs questions about exactly when officials
and politicians in Australia first learned of serious
doubts about Saddam's weapons program.




Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our
faltering democracy

By Margo Kingston

October 24, 2003 

Police dog bites cop outside Parliament House. Inside,
Bob Brown breaks through a Coalition human shield to
shake the hand of George Bush. The Australian people
see the unprecedented scuffle between OUR politicians
in OUR parliament because CNN defied orders from our
government not to film in our Parliamentary chamber.

It was that sort of day in Canberra, as our shuddering
democracy proved that despite John Howard's best
efforts at total control, it still refuses to
privilege form over substance and still insists on
being heard.

John Howard ensured that George Bush could not see the
protesters when he arrived at the Parliament House
entrance by pushing them way down the hill. They
ensured Bush heard them by banging on the barricades.

John Howard allowed only invited Coalition MPs and
staffers to gather inside the entrance, and they
cheered wildly and waved Australian flags as if George
was a pop star. It jarred, at first: Howard, like
Australians in general, has traditionally had a
conservative notion of appropriate Parliamentary
behaviour towards important invited guests, one of
reserve and polite formality. The spectacle emphasised
how much he seeks to transform our style and substance
by politicising every event for its propaganda
potential in a divided Australia. Scripted cheering
crowds with designated true-blue props inside the
Parliament and doubters of his all-the-way-with GW
Bush policy feel more isolated, supporters more

MPs and Senators never look comfortable together in
the same chamber, but this time the discomfort was
palpable. John Howard invited Senators - the people
whose power he wants to crush and who have twice
censured Howard for invading Iraq and lying about his
reasons - to the House of 'Representatives' to applaud
the man who asked him to do it.

On the Labor side, outspoken Labor larrikin MP Harry
Quick was the only one to wear a white armband. The
two Greens Senators wore a sprig of wattle over a
postcard picture of the two Australian citizens
interned in Guantanamo Bay. The pair, Mr Hicks and Mr
Habib, have been held by the Americans without charge
for nearly two years in gross breach of international
law and in stark contrast to the treatment received by
the American captured in Afghanistan. He received all
the rights guaranteed by the American bill of rights.
John Howard did not protest. Two Senators had the guts
to insist that Australians and Americans had equal

Howard banned members of the public from the public
gallery - a telling symbol of the battering he's
prepared to give to core Australian democratic
traditions - this one the people's right to witness
the proceedings of their elected representatives - to
avoid protests. But there were school children there,
after all. Apparently Howard's office partly reversed
the ban after public outrage and invited a few schools
to send ten children each. 

'Honourable members, honourable Senators, the
President of the United States of America.'

All politicians stood as he entered, in accordance
with the short political tradition of such addresses.
This time, though, more than a few press gallery
members stood too, although this is not the tradition
of the press gallery.

>From then on, the right side of Parliament behaved in
a totally different way to the left. John Howard's
team seemed choreographed, as if they'd been geed up
before a big game. They were not individuals with
individual reactions to what they were hearing, they
were a pack. They bayed 'hear, hear' on cue, clapped
on cue, shouted down the Greens in unison and laughed
loudly at what might or might not have been Bush's
attempt at a joke. Their behaviour was - that's it -
more American than British.

On the left side, Labor remained silent during Bush's
speech. Some looked uncomfortable at times, others
more at ease. They seemed to be actually listening.

Howard praised "the character and the strength and the
leadership of the man we welcome today". "Hear, hear,"
his people roared.

Simon Crean's most elegant and courageous speech as
opposition leader noted that "on occasion, friends
disagree, as we on this side did with you on the war
in Iraq".

"But, such is the strength of our shared values,
interests and principles, those differences can enrich
rather than diminish, strengthen rather than weaken,
our partnership. Our commitment to the Alliance
remains unshakeable, as does our commitment to the War
on Terror, but friends must be honest with each other.
Honesty is, after all, the foundation stone of that
great Australian value - 'mateship'."

Honesty. A big word when you're talking about Iraq. He
concluded with sentiments eminent American opponents
of the war passionately asserted before the invasion
and are fighting hard for now:

"Mr President, the world has changed, but there
remains an essential truth in Prime Minister Curtin's
words 62 years ago - 'Australia still looks to
America'. A truth not just for Australia, but for
democracies everywhere. It is a profound historic
truth, which derives its power - not from the might of
America - but from the democratic promise upon which
America was brought forth, conceived and dedicated 227
years ago: The equal rights of all nations. Respect
for the opinions of all peoples. And the idea that all
men are created equal. These principles, taken
together, form the true and imperishable basis of the
promise of, and the friendship between, our two great
nations. May they never perish from the face of the

George Bush's speech was almost contemptuous in its
tired banality. He treated us as children, he told us
a simplistic fairy story laced with cheap flattery.
Recalling John's visit to George in Texas, he said:
"You might remember that I called him a man of steel.
That's Texan for fair dinkum."

In Australia, fair dinkum means you're for real, that
you're up front and honest. Man of steel doesn't mean
that. Was it meant to be a joke? The Coalition

In times of trouble and danger, Bush said,
"Australians are the first to step forward, to accept
hard duties and to fight bravely until the fighting is
done." Silence to that. First forward, eh? So when did
John Howard really commit to invading Iraq and why did
he lie to us about it? And we effectively skipped Iraq
more than six months ago and the fighting goes on
without us.

Bush praised Australia for fighting alongside America
in Vietnam. Pin prick silence.

After Bush asserted that America had removed "a grave
and gathering danger" from Saddam, Bob Brown stood up.
"I call on you to return our Australians ... and we
will respect you."

Coalition members yelled "sit down, sit down" and a
parliamentary attendant approached to ask him to
leave. Bob Brown stayed in his seat and the attendant
moved away. Howard went bright red and stayed that way
for the rest of the speech. His hand clutched the
lectern in front of him.

When Bush said that "Australia is leading the way to
peace in South-East Asia", Brown interjected "We are
not a sheriff".

When Greens Senator Kerry Nettle rose to protest the
'free trade' agreement Bush and Howard are negotiating
in secret, the Coalition shouted her down. But when
Bush responded that "I love free speech" the Coalition
broke into wild applause. Many Labor pollies clapped
too. Brown opened his arms and said with a smile: "We
do too."

George Bush said that "a code of free people" united
our nations, which "embraces the things that are
right, and condemns the things that are wrong".

"We call evil by its name, and stand for the freedom
that leads to peace."

The Coalition machine stood as one and clapped
continuously for several minutes until Bush shook
hands with pollies and left the Chamber. Most Labor
MPs stood and briefly applauded. About 13 remained
seated, mostly women.

As Bush headed to the exit, Coalition MPs formed a
human shield to stop the Greens approaching their man.
Western Australian Ross Lightfoot used his elbows, as
he and others held her back like police holding back
the protesters outside. At the same time, Labor MP
Tanya Plibersek strode to the other side of the
chamber to Condaleeza Rice, shook her hand and handed
her a book of speeches Labor MPs made in Parliament
opposing the war before Howard said yes to George
Bush. They smiled and shook hands.

After Bush left health minister Tony Abbott demanded
that Brown and Nettle be suspended from Parliament.
Speaker Neil Andrew asked those in favour to say aye.
The Coalition roared "YES". Those against say no.
Several muted Labor voices said no. Bob Brown called
for a vote, as required when there is dissent on the
voices. But Mr Andrew pretended not to have heard him
and ordered the suspension, which means Brown and
Nettle are banned from attending the Chinese leader's
speech to Parliament today. Labor was relieved - it
feared some of its members would defend the right of
the representatives of a significant number of
Australians to have their say while all others stayed

Brown argued later that he was given no choice but to
interject on behalf of those two Australians Howard
had abandoned, since Bush refused to do the usual and
mix with MPs over tea and scones after receiving the
rare honour of addressing a joint sitting of the
Australian Parliament. Parliament knocked back Brown's
request to make a speech.

The Green's protest and the unprecedented physical
violence in our Parliament meant Labor didn't make the
TV news last night. In a way, it was a relief -
absence stymied the political cartoon Howard hoped
he'd drawn for the TV news - Coalition united behind
our hero George, Labor divided.

If he'd had his way, Australians would not have seen
either Brown or Nettle rise in their places to address
the president, either in a photo or on film. In one of
many firsts of this occasion, he banned press
photographers from the gallery reserved for the media.
He decreed that the government's official
photographers, Auspic, would take that position,
behind Bush, looking out to Brown and Nettle. The
arrangement was that Auspic would supply pictures to
all media. The government later banned Auspic from
distributing their pictures to anyone.

The government never lets film cameras into any
gallery in the chamber. Instead its official film
makers body ASVO shoots vision according to strict
rules which ban it filming 'disorderly behaviour' by
MPs so the public not in the public gallery don't see
the truth. It rejected requests from the American
media to make an exception for them. CNN defied the
ruling, on the nod from White House Security - which,
it seems, took over our parliament for the day - and
got the footage which shows a parliamentary attendant
manhandling a Senator.

And so it came to be that Australia's media had to beg
the American media for footage of the Brown/Nettle
interventions in the Australian Parliament. The
technical format used by the Americans is different to
ours, so our media had to film off the US monitors.
That's why the vision you saw on TV last night was
grainy and jumpy. You also saw a parliamentary
attendant grab Senator Kerry Nettle's shirt in an
attempt to drag her away from George Bush courtesy of
CNN footage shot in defiance of John Howard.

After question time, Simon Crean and George Bush had a
meeting in the Cabinet room. Under the agreed, written
arrangements for media, a Network Ten camera crew, on
behalf of all Australian media, was designated to film
Bush entering the meeting. The government insisted,
however, that no media photographer could shoot
footage. Only its official photographers, Auspic,
would be present, and it would distribute pictures to
all the media. Control, you see. You see the image
John Howard wants you to see.

But the White House press minders waved away Network
Ten. A male White House staffer informed Daniel
Bolger, the contractor Mr Howard hired to handle the
Australian press's access to Mr Bush, that there was
to be 'No press". A female White House Official
repeated " No press" before ordering the White House
Press corp to follow her down the corridor.

A member of the Network Ten camera crew asked Mr
Bolger's assistant, a man standing at the Cabinet room
entrance awaiting Mr Bush's arrival, why media access
had suddenly been cancelled.

"The President's saying he doesn't want anyone, so
..." Asked whether the order came directly from the
President, he said: "That, I don't know." He then
realised the camera was filming the exchange, amended
his answer to "No" and waved his hand over the camera
lense to block vision.

Bush emerged from the meeting to greet a White House
press corp given the nod to film and take pictures.
Noone bothered to tell the Australian media Bush rules
had changed.

It got worse. As agreed, Auspic delivered the photos
it had shot as the designated pool photographer to the
Sydney Morning Herald's Andrew Meares. After we'd
transmitted the photos to Sydney but before we'd given
them to other media, he received a call from Auspic
advising that the Prime Minister's office had
instructed Auspic not to distribute photos to the
media. That meant no pictures of Bush with Crean could
be seen by the Australian people. After lots of calls
from lots of people, Crean's people asked Auspic to
give Crean the photos in accordance with his rights as
a member of parliament. Crean's office distributed the
photos, as did, eventually, Auspic.

These are a couple of the many extraordinary
machinations of John Howard, the Prime Minister who
asserts the right to decide what you see of your
political process.

It gets even worse. Yesterday morning and throughout
most of the day John Howard's office refused to
release the guest list for his barbecue for Bush. He
didn't want you to know which Australians were allowed
to meet the President. Nearly half of Australia's
citizens voted for Labor in 2001 in preference to the
Coalition. Not one Labor MP or Senator - not one - was
invited to that barbecue. Alan Jones got a guernsey.

The United States' democracy, for all its faults,
releases such basic information as official guest
lists as a matter of course. The Australian media had
to fight all day on a very busy day to get it. It was
finally faxed through late last night, too late for
most deadlines.

Tony Abbott, asked why he would not disclose the
donors to his 'Honest Politics trust, said: "There are
some things the public has no particular right to
know." Try every thing John Howard can get away with.
Unlike America, we have no bill of rights guaranteeing
citizens free speech and other civil rights
fundamental to a democracy. Under John Howard, we get
no rights unless we fight for them.

Maybe that explains the story which, as a press
gallery journo for 12 years, most shocked me
yesterday. John Howard cares so little about what's
left of our free media or what a free media is for in
a functioning democracy that he contracted out the
responsibility of liaising with the White House on
what access Australian journalists would have to the
President to a small-time freelance PR man called
Daniel Bolger. Bolger had no power or authority and
agreed to whatever the White House said. That way John
could say, "Oh well, that's the way it has to be" when
the result was little or no access by our media to
anything. It also meant the American media got
privileges denied to Australian journalists in OUR
country, such as the ban on Australian journalists or
photographers attending the barbecue, leaving
Australians to read what American journos with an
American perspective had to say about it.

When The Herald's Mark Riley broke that story this
week, public outrage again forced Howard to intervene,
and he wrangled permission from Bush's people to allow
one Australian journo and one Australian photographer
to be present. We asked both men to write down the
names of everyone they saw there and recognised, since
at that stage Howard was STILL refusing to release the
guest list.

So next time you scorn the performance of the
Australian press gallery, remember that in Howard's
Australia a lot of their time is spent pleading for
basic rights the Australian people didn't know they'd
lost. Yes, the Australian press gallery is in the
midst of a crisis of credibility. But so is
Australia's democracy.

This story was found at:

ben moretti

http://personals.yahoo.com.au - Yahoo! Personals
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