Let’s leave it to Kevin

What a week of predictions, ponderous opinions, shrill warnings and learned views we have had from Australia’s media about the Stern Hu affair.  Let’s chronicle them, and in the interest of reasonable brevity, let’s confine ourselves mainly to what has appeared in The Australian, which has taken up this issue with great gusto.

Readers have been bombarded with a variety of descriptions, predictions and opinions about the Hu affair and the reactions of the Government to it.  The following is a selection of media statements in no particular order, and with no attempt to connect them logically.  Scan them quickly to get a feel for the views columnists have been expressing all week. [more]

·         A shouted insult direct from Beijing.
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An arrow shot into the heart of Australia's most vital trading relationship.
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A ripping open of the usual diplomatic cover of a polite and mutually beneficial political and economic relationship between the two countries.
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A full-blown, fast-moving crisis.
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The Australian Government has been treated with contempt on this issue.
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A diabolical challenge for both Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith.
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[Rudd] now faces an enormous challenge.
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Very damaging for China's reputation.
·        
Kevin Rudd now has a China problem, and it is largely one of his own making.
·        
China is in the wrong.
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This appears to be an unprovoked and unreasonable act that has the potential to open a significant diplomatic and trade rift between China and Australia.
·        
The harvest of Rudd's mismanagement of the China relationship.
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[Rudd sent] ambiguous signals on the Chinalco deal.
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A classic case of overreach and then apparent over-correction.
·        
Beijing is entitled to expect that we say what we mean, and will act accordingly: consistently, coherently, and with maximum transparency.
·        
Now is the time for just such a conversation [with Chinese heads of state].
·        
The ever elusive free trade agreement between China and Australia not only seems more remote than ever. It appears ludicrous.
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It also shows that China is absolutely not prepared to give any leeway to Rio Tinto and, by extension, to Canberra.
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Hu's former employee described Hu as an ‘outstanding individual’ and an Australian trade hero... what had happened to him was ‘a disgrace’.
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It's worth remembering that Chinese state-owned enterprises do not operate in the same way as our private corporations.
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There has been no private consultation with Canberra, no consular access was allowed for five days. This is incredibly provocative.
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It's certainly going to make it almost impossible for the Rudd government to manage without doing permanent damage to the relationship.
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In diplomatic terms this has already gone beyond Hu himself, and has become a substantive issue between the two countries and by implication between the leaders of the two countries, Kevin Rudd and Hu Jintao.
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Rudd came to his prime ministership replete with diplomatic background and Mandarin tongue, holding out the promise that handling the China relationship would be his major foreign policy strength. It now threatens to become a manifest weakness.
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Rudd is fond of telling us of his phone conversations with heads of state. Now is the time for just such a conversation, if not for the sake of the bilateral relationship, at least for the sake of Stern Hu.
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I think it would be quite wrong and inadvisable for Kevin Rudd to take Malcolm Turnbull's advice and contact the President of China direct at this stage.
·        
The first objective of course is to try and release the Australian businessman, but equally important is the need to maintain good relations with China.  That won't be easy. That's why the Government is playing this issue so far low key.
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Beijing is flexing its muscles and the Prime Minister will be forced into concessions.
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The signs are that Australia is about to be taught another lesson in realpolitik.
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Rudd at some point will probably need to make concessions to China for Hu's cause.
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The arrest was an internal signal of a move ‘to a more conservative, state-focused and security-conscious expression of power’ because Beijing has been taking it easy on the whole state security thing until now.
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Beijing ramps up the humiliation.
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If Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu is not released from a Chinese prison soon, the pressure on Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Kevin Rudd to intervene directly with their counterparts will become irresistible.
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Intervention will probably be ineffective, and that would be even more humiliating.
·        
PM's harsh tone may misfire.
·        
The Rudd government is in an awful predicament over this, with no simple or quick exit available.
·        
Kevin Rudd's decision to publicly up the ante in his reaction to the Chinese detentions of Rio Tinto executives is curious as well as extremely risky.
·        
The Prime Minister's words were his most critical so far, and will reverberate loudly in Beijing. To what purpose is far less clear.
·        
The rhetoric is more likely to further irritate the Chinese than it is to persuade them to change course over the imprisonment of Stern Hu.

What a hotchpotch.   What a self-opinionated contradictory mishmatch.

Yet by Wednesday evening, after Rudd’s TV statement on the Hu case, the ABC reported that already Beijing was listening, and its China correspondent Stephen McDonnell was reporting: Well, interestingly today, the spokesperson for the Commerce Ministry, Yao Jian, was asked a little bit about this case and especially if this is going to harm Australia-China trade negotiations and trade relations. And he's insisted that the relationship between China and Australia is already too strong to be harmed.” 

Yesterday Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the Peoples' University in Beijing said he was not worried by Kevin Rudd's warning about ties.  He said the case is not payback for Rio's rejection of a deal with state-owned Chinalco.

Moreover, top US trade official, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, raised the arrest of the Australian Stern Hu and his colleagues with the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.  Locke said the issue is of great concern to US investors and multinational companies around the world.

Today Fairfax outlets are headlining a story that Chinese authorities have told Australia to ‘butt out’.  Of course those words have not been used; what was reported by The Age in a piece by John Garnaut and Michelle Grattan China tells Australia to butt out  was “China has dismissed Australian concerns about detained Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu as ‘noise’ and warned Canberra not to interfere in its affairs.  The stinging rebuke comes a day after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reminded ‘our Chinese friends’ that the world was watching their handling of the Hu case.  ‘I've noticed that in Australia recently some people have been making noise about this case,’ said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang at a press conference. ‘This is an interference in China's judicial sovereignty.’

Big deal – in this not exactly what the Chinese would be expected to say? This is part and parcel of the exchanges that occur on such occasions.   And that’s exactly what Kim Beasley said today on the ABC’s The World Today.  Rudd is not asking for Hu’s release, or asserting that he is innocent, or seeking to interfere in China’s judicial processes; he is simply asking for transparency in China’s dealing with the matter and an expeditious conclusion to it, and letting China know the world is watching with concern and interest.

So at least as of today, it does not look as if the sky is falling in, or that the horrendous consequences and predictions of The Australian’s intrepid journalists are about to take place.  Of course things might change; this is a complex case.

But why do we as consumers of Australia’s media have to endure such ill-informed offerings?  Why do we have to suffer the audacious writing of Glenn Milne, and the overconfident and contradictory journalism of Jennifer Hewett?  This is what Richard Farmer had to say in Crikey about the Hewett article on Thursday morning: "What a difference a day or two makes. On Monday in The Australian they were urging Kevin Rudd, in quite a hysterical fashion, to start talking tough to the Chinese Government on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. This morning the paper's national affairs correspondent Jennifer Hewett is cautioning that the moderate words Mr Rudd did utter on the subject yesterday ‘will make it even harder for any possible resolution to be quietly negotiated through diplomatic channels’."

Of course we can refrain from reading these journalists.  But knowing that others are consuming their ideas, it’s important that those of us interested in federal politics read what they are feeding to the masses.  Wouldn’t it be better if the journalism was of high quality, with the capacity to establish the known facts accurately, to transmit them truthfully, to formulate opinion logically, to separate fact from opinion and to avoid bias, so that what they write is informative, enlightening and entertaining?  We bloggers can do our small bit by critically appraising media offerings, and feeding this back via our favourite blog sites.

This week’s offerings about the Hu case have been so awful that some awards are necessary.  Three are on offer for which visitors are invited to nominate journalists:

The Pure Poison Award (with acknowledgement to a Crikey blog site of that name) is awarded to the journalist who displayed the most political poison, intellectual dishonesty and bias. 

The Award for Self-Opinionated Journalism is awarded to the journalist who expressed the most brazen opinion not supported by evidence. 

The Gravitas Award is for the journalist who most ponderously or pompously expressed opinions.  This award is for senior journalists who have established a reputation for learned judgements.

So what have we learned this week through the Hu affair, a week where journalists have offered the PM and his ministers an abundance of gratuitous advice and opinion? 

First, don’t place too much trust in journalists for accurate reporting and well-reasoned opinion and comment.

Next, try to glean information from many sources, including the online non-print media and reliable blog sites. 

Finally, show cautious trust in those who have the responsibility for governing this country.  They must have some talent, some experience, some inside information, some judgement, some vision, some wisdom, and some intent to improve the lot of this country’s citizens. 

Kevin Rudd and his ministers seem to have played this crisis in a level headed, measured and rational way, and are now emerging as well in control of the issue despite all the media hype and Coalition frenzy.  All the urgings of opposition members, all the admonitions of the commentariat, all the dire predictions, all the acerbic and in some instances poisonous comments, have so far been shown to be superficial, pretentious, provocative, singularly unhelpful, and in many instances plain wrong.

So let’s leave it to Kevin.

Your comments and nominations for the journalists’ awards will be welcome.

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Bilko

17/07/2009Lib HQ Memo to OO 'we need to implement the Houdini plan. Masterly Misdirection, forget the GFC, forget the economic upturn, forget lower than expected unemployment figures compared with how the rest of the world is going, forget national infrastructure activity etc, we can't rely on the Ashes to help us out, JWH is on location and almost ignored over there. So Ute gate failed the debt truck is off road somewhere, but Hu has Hugh potential, we cannot lose, if Rudd is meek its a gotcha if he is strong he endangers the recovery another gotcha and if he lets diplomacy takes it course he is abandoning a fellow Australian. PS don’t refer to Wicks, the AWB affair or any past Coalition govn lapses they were all down to JWH who is almost ignored here also and has already accepted blame in a Nov speech way back. We have no intention of letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Onward to victory where is the whitout I need to corrct something there start again memo to…..

Monica

17/07/2009I've had a bit of a think, about who to nominate for the awards. It would probably be easier to think of someone who deserved an award for making some sense. If anything, I think the MSM and Lib. central are becoming even more hysterical. I reckon if a significant tsunami had eventuated from the earthquake in New Zealand, Rudd would be to blame for some aspect of it. If there are Australians affected by the bombings in Jakarta, Rudd and the government will be blamed for something connected with it. Even if Australians aren't affected, there'll be something....anything, like, embassy staff aren't properly protected, could have been there, blah, blah. I think we need an award for hysterical reporting, to be awarded daily.

fred

17/07/2009I agree Monica. The problem with coming up with nominations for these awards would be having to read the usual suspects potentially winning guff on a regular basis. And I have no desire to inflict such on myself. When I heard about the Djakarta bombings I wondered how the MSM will work a blame Rudd angle into the 'narrative'. We'll see. So sorry Ad but I won't be coming up with any nominations although if I see an article [I check out links to such around the place] that [almost] passes muster I may nominate one for the "Not Quite as Bad as the Rest" Award.

Cavitation

18/07/2009While, like Monica, I think that the Australian media and commentators do not seem to have acquitted themselves especially well over the Stern Hu affair, one bright spot is the lack of xenophobia and racism being exhibited. Stern Hu is an Australian citizen, but in the past, would probably been described as an Australian passport holder, since he apparently has lived in Australia for less than a year, although it seems that his wife has spent a bit more time here. But he was raised in China, and has spent most of his life working there, and so his knowledge of and identification with Australia is probably minimal. This reflects well on Australia's commentariat who have enthusiastically championed Mr Hu as an Aussie who needs our support. No doubt this attitude will rub off on the refugee claimants in various detention centres spotted around the country, who have risked their lives to get here, and who, once they spend a year or so here, should also now gain the privilege of "Aussiehood". But you can also understand the attitude of Chinese officials if they are somewhat skeptical of the interest shown by various Australians in a person who they see as immersed in Chinese society, and apart from owning an Australian passport, is virtually indistinguishable from the handful of other Riotinto colleagues arrested at the same time as Mr Hu, who seem to be escaping the same level of interest from Australians.

Ad astra reply

18/07/2009Bilko, Your cynicism about the media is not misplaced. There seems to be a concerted push to get something on Rudd, to pull him down from the dizzy heights he’s attained. We can’t have a PM who’s a high flyer, a tall poppy; he needs to be brought down to earth, and have his nose rubbed in it. So we see most of the commentariat competing to see who can ping him first and best. It’s a contest to determine who’s the most hairy-chested. Monica. fred, Cavitation, You’re right – to make an award one has to read the rubbish that’s been written about the Hu affair. I use the word ‘rubbish’ because little of it seems to be based on the known facts, of which there are few; on a working understanding of Chinese culture, behaviour and commercial conduct; and how Westerners might best handle trade negotiations. Much of the writing seems to have begun with the intention of shafting Rudd, no matter what he did. Nobody knows any better than Rudd how to handle this matter, but you’d never get that impression from their writing, so much of which ends up being self-opinionated, ill-considered, sarcastic, in places offensive, and almost always derogatory of Rudd. As Bilko says, they look for a ‘gotcha’ no matter what twist the story takes. I believe you’re right Cavitation when you say that the Chinese see Hu as Chinese-born, not as an Australian citizen. My guess is that the Australian public see him much the same way. He’s certainly no Schapelle Corby, about whom there was a phone meltdown in John Howard’s office when she was imprisoned. It will be interesting to follow this matter to its conclusion, by which time the public will have forgotten what these guys have written. So with the benefit of hindsight they will pontificate on what should have been done as if that was as plain as a pikestaff. An award for sensible writing folks? A great idea, but there are few contenders.

Monica

18/07/2009Ad Astra, as an example of innuendo masquerading as reporting (?), today's piece on Tony Burke and his quoting of remarkable things, such as holistic medicine had quite wide support in Australia, and if you were going to import herbal medicines such as are used in Chinese medicine, you need to declare it, linked to (shudder) an Australian Chinese business woman, in the O.O., is a standout. If it had been a Chinese Australian business woman, that would be totally different, of course. Is the O.O. being run by zombies, I ask myself? Only the brain dead could think this stuff worth the ink and paper, let alone the pay.

Ad astra reply

19/07/2009Monica, I couldn't find the Tony Burke Story in the OO. Do you have the link?

Bilko

19/07/2009aa here is the link http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25799160-601,00.html Abbot is rabbiting on about pro choice my response on LP blog "At last a policy from the Libs, the first step in their climb back to power, next will be the reintroduction of nationl service, followed by the reintroduction of the death penalty. That takes care of crime in the streets and what to do with the miscreants. I can see it the return of the golden age um pinch me I am sleepwalking i hope."

Ad astra reply

19/07/2009Thanks Bilko. That Burke article is archetypical of many now appearing in [i]The Australian[/i] – convoluted, confusing, hinting at inappropriate behaviour of a minister without actually saying what the offence is. It raises suspicion by innuendo and by association, but leaves itself able to say that it made no accusations. I agree with Monica that it is the shabbiest form of journalism, such as one might expect from rabble-rousing tabloids. That the OO continues along this line suggests that putting Rudd down is more important to it contemporaneously than good journalism. No doubt this piece will provide fodder for the Coalition to attack Burke and Rudd in QT when parliament resumes, in lieu of questions related to what really counts – the GFC, the CPRS, the economy, and so on. Tony Abbott’s book will be interesting to read and to ascertain to what conservative policies he is reverting. This will add fuel to the debate about Liberal leadership and the shadow ministry, not that Abbott will get within a bull’s roar of leadership, but he certainly wants a more senior post. His book will heighten the tension between the conservative and liberal elements of the Liberals, and make it even harder for Turnbull to set a policy framework to take to the next election.

Ad astra reply

19/07/2009If any of you is looking for balanced articles to counter the imbalance in the OO, [i]The Weekend Australian Financial Review[/i] has [i]China’s Iron Hand[/i] by Stephen Wyatt of Shanghai, [i]Rudd’s uncomfortable choices[/i] by John Kerin and [i]Dealing with China the proper way[/i] by Brian Toohey.

Ebenezer

19/07/2009I can name the journo's to each award without even having to read their spurious crap. (The Pure Poison Award) Glenn Milne. (The Award for Self-Opinionated Journalism) Pies Akerman. (The Gravitas Award) Michelle Grattan. Pies was a complete joke as always on insiders this morning, even Fran looked unbiased while Malcolm Farr just laughed at him. That show will never be serious viewing until they punt Pies and the Bolter.

Monica

19/07/2009Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, Ad Astra, but see Bilko posted the link to the article. It's all getting weirdly predictable, IMO. Name the journo and topic and you could write the column for them, with the persistent sub text at the OO of Rudd bashing, if at all possible.

Ad astra reply

19/07/2009Eb, Thanks for your nominations – you’re started the ball rolling. Piers was at his vitriolic worst on [i]Insiders[/i] this morning. He had not one good word to say for Rudd; every comment was poisonous and uttered with venom. Barrie Cassidy and his co-panelists pulled him up several times. I’ve twice emailed Cassidy asking why he continues to use Akerman (and Bolt) as they are so consistently biased, and twice the reply has been ‘to give balance’. As Akerman is incapable of making balanced comments, I wonder if he’s there as a ‘tabloid’ redneck to amuse rather than inform. Monica, I wonder is this anti-Rudd campaign being masterminded, or is it the old groupthink operating at [i]The Australian[/i]? I notice that Fairfax papers are much better balanced in reporting the Hu affair.

Bilko

19/07/2009AA the 'Dirt unit" is working overtime as always, do you think they are on time and a half

Bushfire Bill

20/07/2009If Cassidy was in favour of balance he'd have a raving Leftie, complete with corduoroys, a well-thumbed copy of [i]Das Kapital[/i], wearing a "Kevin 07" T-shirt babbling on in restaurant Mandarin on his show. That there are no journalists who fit that description is my point exactly. Pies is in a league of his own, there is no-one to balance him, unless Cassidy is referring to balance between relatively snarky but on the whole relatively sane critics of the government (those on the couch) and the Ratbag Right Wingnuts who deliver their blog posts IN MOSTLY CAPITAL LETTERS at the [i]Daily Telegraph[/i] web site (those in the chair). Cassidy's point of "balance" seems to be between the right of centre and Attila The Hun.

janice

20/07/2009Sorry Ad astra, there are too many contenders for the Pure Poison and the Self-opinionated Journalism Awards, but in the light of Glen Milne's latest effort, I am giving him the Pure Poison Award. I think I would give Paul Kelly the Gravitas Award. No doubt you will have noticed that my comment made it this morning in response to Glen Milne's latest effort to wound our PM.

Ad astra reply

20/07/2009BB, Twice I emailed Barrie Cassidy, in April and in June, asking was [i]Insiders[/i] becoming tabloid, and complaining about lack of balance in his panel selection. On each occasion I received a prompt and courteous reply from Audience and Consumer Affairs. The first was: [quote]"The aim of the Insiders panel discussion is to canvas a range of ideas and allow the panellists to challenge and debate each other. Panellists are chosen to reflect a diverse range of views and to generate a lively discussion. "Most of the Insiders panellists hold a range of views on political matters and the ABC is satisfied that a balanced range of perspectives are provided and that its audience is perfectly capable of considering these views and drawing their own conclusions. This approach is in keeping with the provisions of the ABC Code of Practice. http://abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm "Please be assured that your comments have been duly noted."[/quote] The second email asked the same question; the reply, among other things, included: [quote]"Please be assured that your comments have been conveyed to the program. "As stated in my previous email, the Insiders panel discussion is to canvas a range of ideas and allow the panellists to challenge and debate each other. Panellists are chosen to reflect a diverse range of views and to generate a lively discussion. "Most of the Insiders panellists hold a range of views on political matters and the ABC is satisfied that a balanced range of perspectives are provided and that its audience is perfectly capable of considering these views and drawing their own conclusions. "Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback."[/quote] So it appears that Audience and Consumer Affairs have some boilerplate to respond to pesky people who complain about lack of balance. Despite their reassurances about balance, nothing changes - Akerman and Bolt continue to be used. My conclusion is that either there is some contractual arrangement that obliges [i]Insiders[/i] to use these guys, or it is really turning tabloid, substituting entertainment for serious political discourse. But as you say, why not use some rabid lefties for 'balance'?

Ad astra reply

20/07/2009janice, I read with pleasure your pointed reply to Milne. I congratulate you on having the stomach to respond to yet another poisonous piece by him. He is an extraordinary journalist - he combines venomous comments about Rudd with a level of arrogance and self-opinionation that is unequalled, even among columnists for [i]The Australian[/i]. The response below yours by Mike Moore of Hervey Bay expressed similar sentiments: [quote]"Gosh, the Federal Government is lucky to have Mr Milne doing all its thinking for it. I don't know why the government doesn't do the right thing, retire, and let Mr Milne become our Beloved Leader. I am in awe of someone who knows so much about so many issues.[/quote]

Bushfire Bill

20/07/2009"But as you say, why not use some rabid lefties for 'balance'? " That's the only way balance could be achieved, with the result being that the show would be even more embarrassing to watch than it is now with its "balance" between cynicism from the Right and untrammeled poison from the Rabid Right. Akerman does not make one single comnebt (and has not ever) that has anything good, or even mildly appreciative to say about Rudd and his government. He hardly bothers to argue his points. He just makes assertions, as predictable as clockwork, that tell us why Rudd is a dud, a phoney, a spin master, hypocritical etc. etc. He has nothing to contribute, he is so predictable. Milne, on the other hand, at least [i]tries[/i] (or seems to try) to argue a case, no matter how convoluted and illogical its framewrok. He is equally as predictable as Akerman, but at least brings a semblance of rationality to his remarks. Today's political commentariat needs to be seen as being across every subject, whether it be diplomacy, education, parliamentary rules and regulations, workplace regulations or indigenous affairs. This last subject - indigenous affairs - was particularly highlighted when the Intervention first became the Subject Of The Day. Until then you could be forgiven for thinking that noe of the commentariat had the slightest interest in the field of policy. Within two days their hearts were bleeding so much you could be forgiven for expecting them to have been wearing "We Are All Aborigines Now" T-shirts with red, yellow and black as the dominating colors. In other words: instant pundits on everything. This is clearly not the case. They blame Rudd for being a slave to the 24-hour News cycle, but it is [i]their[/i] news cycle. One of them on Insiders the other day was claiming Rudd should not take a holiday while Stern Hu was in jail. In effect he was saying that the job of the Prime Minister is to be on-call 24/7 to deal with "crises" he (and his colleagues) manufacture themselves, and if Rudd is not permanently on-call then this shows he is all the things they have been saying he is. That there are hundreds of other Australian citizens in jail around the world does not seem to have excited equal interest in their narrowly focused minds. Really... what [i]does[/i] Milne know about international relations, aborigines and the rest of it? Precious little, I'd venture. Ditto for Akerman, the Instant Expert on Everything who always seems to magically come down with a devastating condemnation of Rudd. I understand "partisan" or "rusted on" but these guys are gob-smacking in their bias and Cassidy's show does nothing to balance them out. Why have Akerman on if pretty much all they do is laugh at him? If this is the ABC's idea of balancing points of view then it is a very cock-eyed one at that (and yes, I received the same letter whenever I've written to the ABC with any criticism of their simplistic view of what constitutes "balance")

Ebenezer

20/07/2009[quote]I received the same letter whenever I've written to the ABC with any criticism of their simplistic view of what constitutes "balance"[/quote] ABC simplistic view is 5 Min's Good Lib + 5 Min's Bad ALP = 10 Min's of Balance. Or ABC = Joke.

Hardy

23/07/2009Agree with you that Ad astra reply that was great.

Ad astra reply

24/07/2009In [i]Crikey[/i] today Clive Hamilton, in an article [i]Stern Hu and the unpleasant truth about Rio Tinto[/i] http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/07/24/stern-hu-and-the-unpleasant-truth-about-rio-tinto/, gives us insight into Rio Tinto's past record: [quote]"The arrest and imprisonment of Stern Hu has been construed in Australia as a conflict between a big company honestly going about its business in a tricky environment and a bullying government with no respect for the rule of law. Whatever the facts surrounding Hu’s role in negotiating iron ore contracts, Rio Tinto is a company renowned for playing hard-ball in its commercial operations around the world. The mining behemoth is no model of business propriety. One of the ironies of Rio’s battle with the Chinese Government is that the company has a long history of forming cosy relationships with dictatorial regimes, beginning with General Franco in 1937, whose forces were welcomed by the company when they drove republicans out of the Rio Tinto (Red River) mining area in Andalusia (from which the company took its name). "Since the mining region was occupied by General Franco’s forces, there have been no further labour problems", the company’s chief Sir Auckland Geddes told shareholders. "Miners found guilty of troublemaking are court-martialled and shot." "In the modern era Rio Tinto -- now the fourth largest mining company in the world -- has worked closely with the apartheid regime in South Africa, General Pinochet in Chile and General Suharto in Indonesia. Last year the Government of Norway decided to divest itself of around $1 billion of shares in Rio, citing concern over severe environmental damages from its Grasberg mine in West Papua, the world’s biggest gold mine, part-owned by Rio and Freeport McMoRan. Accusing the company of 'grossly unethical conduct', the Norwegian Finance Minister declared that 'Rio Tinto is directly involved, through its participation in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, in the severe environmental damage caused by that mining operation.' "In 2005 the New York Times published a damning investigation of the Grasberg mine. It exposed a network of corrupt relationships with local military and government officials in violation of US law, noting that for many years Freeport, presumably with Rio’s knowledge and blessing, assiduously courted Suharto and his cronies, including paying for their children’s education and cutting them in on lucrative deals. "And in a practice that may have a bearing on the Hu case, Freeport, "working hand in hand with Indonesian military intelligence officers", established a covert program to spy on its environmental critics by intercepting their e-mails. Company lawyers had advised that intercepting other people’s emails was not illegal "outside the United States". Rio Tinto has also been found by Indonesia’s official National Human Rights Commission to have committed "egregious violations" of human rights at its PT Kelian gold mine operation in Kalimantan. "A report in 2000 found that Indonesian military and company security personnel 'forcibly evicted traditional miners, burned down villages, and arrested and detained protestors since the mine opened in 1992'. Abuses included s-xual assaults, theft of land and destruction of property of local inhabitants, all by people employed by Rio’s PT Kelian. "In Australia, these sorts of tactics are not acceptable, but that has not stopped Rio playing hard-ball whenever its commercial interests are at stake. Rio Tinto is one of the handful of big companies behind the self-described greenhouse mafia of industry lobbyists that has been so effective first at blocking and then at watering down all attempts to limit Australia’s carbon emissions. They have used every dirty trick this side of the law. And of course Rio Tinto was at the forefront of the campaign to prevent Indigenous Australians securing land rights in 1997-98. In 2005 the company was chastised by traditional owners in the Pilbara for refusing to negotiate over native title. Stern Hu is collateral damage in a battle between a ruthless mega-corporation and a despotic government. He may be a diligent executive doing an honest job, but he is also a pawn in a power struggle, a company man squeezed as the tectonic plates of history come together. "Having opened China to capitalism, the Communist Party government is discovering just how powerful are the corporations that control the world’s resources, and it does not like what it has found. Perhaps the members of the Central Committee should take a refresher course in Marxism. They might recall the following lines from Marx and Engels on the power of capital: 'The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst.' "Come to think of it, if there is a copy of The Communist Manifesto in the drawer beside his prison bed, Stern Hu might want to reflect on the meaning of this passage too."[/quote]
How many oranges do I have if I have 3 oranges and take ONE away?