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John Passant

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October 2015



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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)



The Canberra Times or The Australian?

I am one of those older gentlemen who has read newspapers every day of my adolescent and adult life.  For many years now it has been part of my morning routine to read the Canberra Times, the Australian Financial Review and The Australian over breakfast.

A few months ago I stopped my subscriptions to the Australian Financial Review and The Australian.  After some debate I kept my subscription to The Canberra Times.  In part this was driven by money. Each costs around $500 a year (give or take $50) to get daily home deliveries and full online access.

In part it was driven by the realisation that the Fin under Michael Stutchbury had become an even more neoliberal competitor with The Australian but with a narrowing base of reporting on world and national events.

The Australian is of course an important part of the Murdoch empire in Australia.  So important in fact that it often runs at a loss.  $20 million or $30 million or even $50 million annually is a small price for Murdoch to buy political influence, not among the population but upon the cloistered ones in parliament.  Most of its writers are right wing or conservatives. Some have little to offer other than to repeat the nonsense they think right wing nut job (RWNJ) readers lap up.  Indeed a few of those who write opinion pieces for The Australian are fully paid up members of RWNJs Inc.

So that left The Canberra Times, part of the Fairfax stable which also produces The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (and the Fin).  There are I think a number of processes going on with the Canberra Times. One is its Fairfaxisation. Many of the articles are now just straight lifts of articles from The Age or the SMH.  The second is a shift to the centre and right in its reporting and opinion pieces.

Its paid readership has dropped 20% in the last period and now during the week sits at around 20,000.  Its 6 or 8 pages of ‘news’ are a pathetic rag tag of irrelevant local and less than gripping national news with a bit of international news.  I find out more about the world from the material my Facebook friends circulate from sources in Australia and across the globe than I do from my local newspaper.

On top of that many of the contributors are at best Bill Shorten ‘lefties’, the sort of ‘iconoclasts’ totally acceptable to capital.

To give you some idea of my concerns, here is a letter I sent to the Canberra Times on Sunday. I suspect they will not publish it.

‘On Thursday a group of ANU students briefly occupied an Immigration Department Office in Braddon protesting against the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and calling for the raped Somali woman to be bought from Nauru to Australia for an abortion.  There was nothing in Friday’s Canberra Times about the event.

‘On the same day about 80 of us protested outside the Russian Embassy against Putin and Assad bombing Syria. Again there was nothing in Friday’s Canberra Times about this significant demonstration in support of the democratic forces in Syria and against the butchers Assad and Putin.

‘Instead the Canberra Times on Saturday ran Gwynne Dyer’s disgusting apologia for Putin and Assad murdering innocent Syrians and the rebels fighting for a democratic Syria. (‘Criticism of Russians in Syria all humbug and hypocrisy’, The Canberra Times Saturday 10 October Opinion page 6.) Presumably it is cheaper to pay Dyer for his pro-Russian, pro-Assad nonsense than to pay a local reporter to cover local affairs, including reporting on those 80 or so of us here in Canberra proclaiming a view that undermines Dyer’s.

‘You have just about lost me, Canberra Times, and, looking at the paid readership figures, it is very clear I am not alone.’

My subscription to the Canberra Times expires in May 2016. The way I feel at the moment I won’t renew it.  Instead I will re-subscribe to The Australian.

Yes, I know some will condemn me for contributing to Murdoch’s revenue.Seriously? There are a whole range of rotten enterprises we support through our purchases.

Some will condemn me because it is so reactionary. Well, some of its contributors are RWNJs. But The Australian is not the Telegraph or the Herald Sun, appealing to the baser elements in Australia and sports mad and conservative working class men and less, sports loving but still conservative women.

Of course it appeals to the baser sections of the middle class and the more reactionary ruling class elements. I am thinking here of the likes of Maurice Newman, former Chairman of the ABC and chair of the board of the Stock Exchange. Until Tony Abbott’s sad and recent overthrow, Newman was Chair of his Business Advisory Council. Newman has managed a number of risible articles in The Australian denying climate change for example.

The point however of reading his and other ravings is not to accept this nonsense but to understand that powerful forces for powerful reasons argue this sort of tosh. Some of the more sensible writers engage with ideas, admittedly with an eye towards Mordor and from a conservative or centre-right position. Again understanding them and their arguments is important both to get some sort of sense of what is happening and why in the world.  They are often a better foil than the opinion writers in the Canberra Times and some of them are more engaging in putting their ideas forward for the left to argue against than some of the left airheads who write for the Canberra Times.

Further, the rise of Turnbull to the prime ministership means The Australian will begin to understand that the best way to sell the economic policies of the RWNJs is to have a smooth middle of the roader in power and the language of some contributors will soften a bit while other ‘softer’ writers will become more prominent.

I have to also declare an interest here. The Canberra Times used to occasionally publish paid articles by me, but no longer dignifies my submissions with a response.  This I think reflects the shift to the centre by the Canberra Times at the very time when around the globe in developed countries there appears to be a search for left wing alternatives to austerity, and the ability of the Greens and Labor Party to hold back any outbreak appears to be weakening.

The Australian always responds to my article submissions.

The Canberra Times used to publish a number of my letters, but now publishes perhaps one in seven submitted. That too I think reflects its shift to the centre.

So as the Canberra Times continues its conversion to conservatism and its cost driven agenda of regurgitation, the time approaches when, if my current mood survives, I will bid it farewell and return to The Australian and the battle against that newspaper’s various opinions and ideas. It at least is a more worthy opponent.

And for revolutionary socialist analysis there is always Solidarity.



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