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John Passant

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June 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Peter Greste and the not so innocent state in both Egypt and Australia

Peter Greste and his two Aljazeera collleagues

It comes as no surprise that the dictatorship in Egypt and its compliant judiciary have found Australian Peter Greste, an Aljazeera journalist, and two of his colleagues guilty of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste got seven years.

In seizing power from the democratically elected President, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, coup leader General (now President) Sisi banned the Brotherhood and any demonstrations and other actions in support of it.

Tens of thousands have been arrested or convicted in absentia. A few months ago hundreds of Brotherhood members were sentenced to death over the killing of a demonstrator (by police). The appeal court recently upheld the sentences.

The conviction of Greste and his colleagues is about suppressing journalists doing there job – reporting. The Sisi dictatorship is about suppressing, among other things, a free media, part of the campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood.

This seems to shows that those who half make revolutions, as the Egyptians did, often dig their own graves.

Before the Australian government gets too carried away about freedom, let’s remember this is the Government, like its recent predecessors, imprisons innocent asylum seekers in offshore and onshore concentration camps. There are currently about 1000 kids behind the razor wire in these hellholes.

The Northern Territory intervention effectively criminalises a race of people and forces them off their land and on to basics cards, which determines what they can and can’t spend their money on.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

The rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners was15 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners at 30 June 2012, an increase in the ratio compared to 2011 (14 times higher). The highest ratio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to non-Indigenous imprisonment rates in Australia was in Western Australia (20 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners). Tasmania had the lowest ratio (four times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners).

This is a systemic denial of justice for Aboriginal peoples. It is the result of the long genocide waged and still being waged against them and the seizure of their lands.

Aboriginal deaths in custody are higher now that before reports and action was taken to stop them

The Australia government outsourced the torture of Mamdouh Habib, ironically by Egyptian state officials and perhaps with Australian agents present.

The Australian government supported the false imprisonment of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay. At least he, like Greste, had a show trial, unlike most of the others still imprisoned there without charge or conviction. It just took a few years for the torturers there to come up with a charge and do a deal with a man driven to desperation to get out.

In Brisbane in 2007 Doctor Mohamed Haneef was held without trial under anti-terrorism laws for 12 days on suspicion of being involved in an attempted terrorist bombing in London. The case fell apart.

Various State governments have criminalised membership of bikie gangs. In Queensland one member remains in jail for six months for having a beer with other members.

Here in Australia the state doesn’t need laws to suppress the media because it isn’t free. The mainstream print media is a battle essentially between Fairfax and News Corp. It is a battle between the two wings of neoliberalism, a split reflected politically in the debates between the Liberals and Labor over the best way forward for free market capitalism.

Strikes are severely limited with draconian penalties for ‘illegal’ strikes. Faced with the threat of jail or fines, building workers are forced to work in unsafe conditions. One building worker about every ten days dies on a building site as a consequence.

Neoliberalism in Australia is demanding more autocratic rule and the gradual erosion of basic rights to ensure the transfer of wealth to capital and the rich from labour continues at an increasing pace.

US imperialism demands sympathetic dictators around the world, and especially in the Middle East, the spigot of global capitalism. The restoration of the dictators in Egypt and the entrenchment of the business and military elites back into economic and political power serves US interests in the region, although the reactionary ISIL forces in Iraq (supported by Saudi Arabia) threaten all the previous imperialist and ruling class networks, alliances and arrangements in the Middle East.

Of course the conviction of Peter Greste is a travesty of justice. So too are Aboriginal deaths in custody, imprisoning innocent asylum seekers and their children in concentration camps, criminalising dissent, fining or jailing workers for ‘illegal’ strikes and imprisoning Aboriginal peoples on their own lands.

The fight for justice in Australia is the fight against the same sort of forces imprisoning Peter Greste in Egypt. Our fight against injustice here is the fight against injustice everywhere. Peter Greste’s struggle is our struggle. The best way for Australians to support Greste is to fight for justice and freedom here in Australia.

Like all posts on this blog comments close after 7 days. To comment or see what others are saying hit the comments link under the heading.



Pingback from Peter Greste and the not so innocent state in both Egypt and Australia | OzHouse
Time June 23, 2014 at 11:11 pm

[…] Jun 23 2014 by admin […]

Comment from paul walter
Time June 24, 2014 at 12:38 am

Once again, you can only mourn that this sort of writing isn’t in the national journals rather than the sort of rubbish put out by Greg Sheridan and co.

I suppose the only thing I could add is that repressive tolerance is indeed the streetcar that conveys us to favela-isation and the Egypt situation, which is what most thinking people suspected was going to happen all along there and may be the longer term fate for Australia.

Comment from John
Time June 24, 2014 at 7:46 am

Thanks Paul.

Comment from Kay
Time June 24, 2014 at 9:15 am

“The mainstream print media is a battle essentially between Fairfax and News Corp.” Yes, that is correct, but that’s because that’s what Australians are prepared to pay money for in order to read, and clearly readers appreciate the articles in their newspapers – even articles by the likes of Greg Sheridan. Don’t forget, there are many many other non-Fairfax/News Corp newspapers/publications in the public domain, uncensored, and widely available. Their more limited appeal merely reflects the fact that the ideas expressed in these newspapers simply does not gel with the wider population. Labor tried and failed to bring in some controls on freedom of the press. In comparison with many countries, we do indeed have freedom of the press in this country. You just don’t like its content.

Unfortunately, Egypt is a whole different story!

Comment from Lorikeet
Time June 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm

To my knowledge, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp control at least 80% of their media.

Those of us who have been involved in politics know that candidates from minor parties are completely blocked from the Murdoch Press during election campaigns.

As we know, it costs a great deal of money to run a newspaper. While Rupert has it in buckets, he largely works for the spades.

To my knowledge, he also has an interest in wiping out the ABC, as it is more likely to push Left wing agendas.

If you post a comment on the Courier Mail blog which makes any mention of the ABC at all, the blog moderator deletes it.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time June 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I agree with a lot of what John has posted, particularly in relation to aboriginal people and the criminal justice system. I have been in Queensland courts a number of times in recent years and seen it at first hand.

As much as I don’t like the ALP, I believe that the government under Anna Bligh went some way towards addressing the imbalance on juries. During her term as Premier, a better balance between men, women and persons of non-white ethnicities was achieved, only to be overturned in favour of white men under Campbell Newman.

It is my belief that lots more people will be incarcerated in our jails who don’t deserve to be there e.g. coloured people charged with just about anything, and bikers receiving discriminatory longer sentences than the average citizen for the same crime.

A journalist speaking on the ABC this morning drew certain links between some of the things that are happening in Egypt and some that are happening in Australia.

Anyone who thinks we are still living in a democracy is having a pipe dream.

Comment from Kay
Time June 25, 2014 at 7:11 am


Perhaps you should look at the ABC’s 2013 Fact Check which checked out Kevin Rudd’s statement that “Mr Murdoch is entitled to his own view… he owns 70% of the newspapers in this country.”

Fact Check found this claim to be false. So your claim that “Rupert Murdoch and News Corp control at least 80% of their media.” is definitely incorrect.

News Corp Australia accounts for 33% of the newspaper titles that have sales audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. And News Corp Australia titles account for 59% of the sales of all daily newspapers, with sales of 17.3 million papers a week, making it Australia’s most influential newspaper publisher by a considerable margin. Among capital city and national daily newspapers, which are by far the most influential in setting the news agenda, News Corporation titles accounted for 65% of circulation in 2011. Fairfax Media, the next biggest publisher, controlled just 25%.

Overseas research showed that Australian newspaper circulation was the most concentrated of 26 countries surveyed, and among the most concentrated in the democratic world. This is probably due to the low and widely spread population, making many independent newspapers non-viable due to inadequate sales. I have certainly seen several fail during my time in Qld (as an example).

However, the overall number of newspaper sales is declining. Newspaper sales per 100 Australians were 9.7 in 2011, as compared to 21.9 in 1987 and 13.0 in 2000. It has declined even more since 2011. The major reason for this decline is the migration of news consumption to the internet, where and other News Corp sites face stronger competition from ninemsn, Yahoo!7, Fairfax Media, the ABC, and other sites such as The Conversation, Crikey, On Line Opinion, and Guardian Australia. The online news environment is far more diverse than that for print newspapers.

So, the lesson – read more widely, including on the internet. Most people do these days.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time June 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I read very widely, including internet sites. But the fact remains that Rupert Murdoch owns and influences the lion’s share of print, on-line and television media in Australia.

It is also important to be aware that anyone who owns less than 50% of a business operating in Australia does not have to have his/her name on it.

For example, corporate owned aged care centres which are backed by the Macquarie Investment Group do not have their name on the shingle outside their front doors.

The same applies to businesses owned by Woolworths and Coles.

How do we know whether or not Rupert Murdoch owns far more of the media outlets than we are aware of?

To my knowledge, the Fairfax Press is much more tolerant of the views of political parties other than the duopoly.

Comment from Kay
Time June 26, 2014 at 10:10 am


The list of shareholders in any Australian company is in the public domain. Journalists research this type of info all the time. Coles and Woolworths, for example, are essentially owned by Australian shareholders, including many many ‘mum and dad’ investors. Because of its many shareholders, their shareholding list is far longer and more diverse than the average company. Neither are listed on foreign stock exchanges.

So any journalist could easily work out which companies have News Corp shareholders. And, despite this, the ABC’s Fact Check found the stats I mentioned.

Fairfax press is widely accepted as much more left wing than News Corp.. Your appreciation of either News Corp or Fairfax very much depends upon your political bent. But both newspapers often feature the same journalists in their ‘Opinion Pieces’. Hence, you can read more right wing articles in the SMH, and more left wing articles in The Australian. Both are good Australian newspapers in my view, but The Australian is the only national paper (the SMH is very NSW-focused).

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