The shocking truth


Last week the shocking news broke that 19 SAS soldiers were being charged in relation to 39 murders committed during their tours of Afghanistan. Some of the details were horrific. The cold-blooded nature of the killings struck at you. This was more than murder, it was perversity.

There were the usual platitudes amid the outrage. Many, probably quite rightly, pointed out that these were bad eggs, and that the majority of Australian troops served honourably. Some, very predictably, call it un-Australian, as if that absolves the rest of us of any responsibility.

I’d like to think it un-Australian much in the same way as I thought ball-tampering was un-Australian, but I think there was more justification before.

Going all the way back to the Boer War, Australian soldiers have had a reputation for being ruthless. In the WW1 particularly, they were often guilty of not taking prisoners. It was the flip-side of the dash and aggression they showed in attack. But then, it was in the heat of battle mostly, and they were not the only troops to do it. Not to excuse it, but it’s been happening since ancient times.

This is different. Some of those they murdered may well have been Taliban sympathisers, but all were civilians. In the cases I’m aware of, the murders were all committed coldly, the battle done and dusted. There are stories of Afghan civilians murdered by the newbies in the squad to blood them. More often, it was a cavalier after-thought – it was easier to put a bullet in someone than take them in as a prisoner. And then there were the teenage boys who had their throats casually cut on the off-chance that they might report to the Taliban.

To read of these things is to observe a deep disconnect between the world they inhabited, and ours. These are the very elite of troops, superbly trained and highly proficient in the arts of war. They’re different from you and me because their job is perilous, but I don’t think that excuses a different morality.

Some, in muted defence of the accused, said the problem was that they are sent on tour after tour of duty. They’re exposed to the harrowing and raw nature of the battle zone for years on end. I can imagine how the nature of their mission makes the effects more insidious – dealing with shadowy, unseen, fleeting opponents, rather than an enemy army in the field. They become cynical, they become jaded, they become burnt-out, and the values they grew up with supplanted with a kill or be killed mentality.

There is no excuse for what they have done, but perhaps there are reasons we can begin to understand. The blame for this is much greater than the men accused.

It’s strange to think that all of this could’ve gone on without anyone in authority knowing about. I find that hard to believe, and in either case, it represents a failure. They should know and be accountable. And if they knew and did nothing, then they are equally at fault. Military command, who have expressed dismay at these happenings, have also been very careful to draw the line and decline responsibility.

The fault goes all the way to our politicians. This was a political war from the start, and much of it conducted for the optics. It’s a cynical and ugly battle that has gone on for over 15 years. Our government sent them off again and again so as to be seen as a good ally, and for the privilege of claiming to the electorate that we stood for good.

All the while, they were bleeding our combatants dry. And, very cynically, betraying the principals they sought to espouse.

I understand there’s much bitterness in the military community about how our government has treated the Afghan allies our troops have served beside. Promised the opportunity to immigrate to Australia, they’ve been denied instead and left to the mercies of the Taliban and punished because of it.

This whole story reads like a moral inversion. Terrible things have been done. In some cases, it may be as simple as that. I can’t help but feel though that this is a manifestation of a deeper and more complex betrayal.

The murdered civilians were betrayed by the men who were sent to protect them. But those men, perhaps, were betrayed by their commanders, and by a political leadership that cared not one whit for their welfare. This is the result.

First things, first


I feel like I know all I need to know about the US election now, and US elections in general, after following the coverage very keenly over the last few days.

As it stands, there’s no winner declared, but it looks very likely that Biden will win. Yippee. There were a lot of nervous commentators on Wednesday as early results favoured Trump, but I have to say, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as last time. It could be that that disaster conditioned me, but there seemed a clear difference between last time and this.

Last time there felt a wave of early results that became insurmountable pretty early, never mind that some states weren’t called until days later. The vibe was all Trump.

This time it felt a bit like the last hurrah. A few nervous titters and then back on track knowing – unlike last time – that the great bulk of postal votes would favour Biden. And that’s been the case.

I expect within a few hours the election will be called for the Democrats, not that that’s the end of it.

Not surprisingly, Trump has already spread discord and dissent at the course of the election. He cast doubt on the process the very first night while claiming a false victory. He made accusations of corruption and threatened legal action. His numbnut supporters, der, then followed suit.

There’s almost a comical element to watching these vapid bogans protest at the injustice of the election, alternately demanding that the counting is stopped, or started, according to the state and whatever suits them.

In fact, it’s very ugly. In effect, they’re protesting against democracy, which is what it’s come down to. They rally and cry; they threaten and demand. They lay siege to the counting stations, some of them wearing automatic weapons. These are people who have lost the thread on civilised democracy.

That’s the danger in the weeks and months ahead that they’ll continue to rally and protest and refuse to accept the result, and ultimately, that it might lead to acts of civil disobedience and violence. I think everyone is concerned with that, but that’s the America that Trump has made manifest.

There’s much I find shocking. I don’t know a single Australian who doesn’t think that Trump is a ratbag at the very least, and a menace to the world society. There are Trump supporters in Australia, no doubt, but they’re way at the extremes. And yet, I look at polls and see that most White Americans favour him, and that white males predominantly support him.

If this true, then there’s a significant divide between minstream Australia and America, and maybe that’s the difference between living there and not, but maybe it goes deeper. (I suspect the Australian government, in comparison, is in Trump’s camp).

I think the risk goes beyond the immediate future for America. No matter that Biden looks like becoming president, it’s hardly been the resounding rejection of Trump that many hoped for. I will be a divided society for years to come, and it may take a generation to heal. Part of that is mending the damage done to the very concept of democracy, which will take education and leadership.

But, let’s be positive. The journey back has to start somewhere and is impossible while that corrupt clown is still in office.

Donuts


We got the news yesterday we’ve been waiting for for so long. As of tonight, at midnight, retail re-opens and cafes, bars and restaurants begin to accept customers again. It’s not a full-blown opening, but it’s a big start on the way back.

I think for most Victorians it was an emotional moment. The premier, as he announced it, appeared moved by the occasion. You could understand. For about 110 days straight he’s fronted the media to provide updates, bad and good, and through most of that has been assailed by an obstreperous media and a federal government that has betrayed its constituency and undermined the community effort. This was a relief for all of us, but for him, it must seem a vindication of sorts and a reward for holding the line so steadfastly.

It was like all this time we held our breath, through thick and thin, denying ourselves and staying true to the restrictions, until yesterday we let out a collective breath when the news came through.

This is a great achievement. For two days running now, we’ve had zero new cases. A couple of months back it was over 700 daily, the same rate as other countries. They’ve gone through the roof since with new cases in the multiple tens of thousands daily, and we’ve gone the other way – donuts.

There’s a lot to be thankful for and much reason to be proud. Gratitude to each other is not out of place. But – and here’s the thing – it’s tinged with some bitterness. It seems a common sentiment.

Many individual Australians across the country have offered their support and strength through our journey, but it’s been absent from the federal government and a large swathe of the media. Then there are the ratbags doing the wrong thing and the snipers happy to take potshots along the way while the rest of us do the hard yards.

Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand what it feels like when you’re doing your best to get by from one day to the next while others, on the sideline, cast aspersions and seek distraction. And those who use it for political advantage are the very worst. It’s a sense of being undermined and disregarded.

That will linger for a while, and there are some I’ll never trust now. I’ve never felt more Victorian, and I think the community has strengthened having endured this. The cunts can please themselves.

We have a way to go, but it looks like we’re heading back towards a semblance of normality by Christmas.

Hang in there


I get that this lockdown has been pretty tough, and getting tougher every day. And I appreciate that all of us are struggling with it to some extent, but some pretty badly. And I share the impatience of most people. But…

There’s no shortage of talking points around this. We’re bombarded every day by conflicting, hostile narratives and click-bait headlines, most of which make everything feel worse (the media’s reputation has taken a pummeling).

I have genuine sympathy for the premier and the medical professionals behind him who’ve mapped out the course out of this because they’re in an impossible situation. There are so many different opinions even among experts, let alone the self-styled ‘experts’ in the media and online that there’s no right answer for them. No matter what they say or do, there will be someone critical of it. In cases like that, it’s best to stick to your guns and hold the line. That’s what they’ve been doing.

I wish we were coming out of this quicker, and with more certainty, but the intermittent flare-ups along the way worry me. They’re proof of how quickly this thing can get out of control. In the wash-up, it seems very sensible to me that we err on the side of caution. An extra week or two now is better than further months in lockdown if we don’t get it right.

That’s a very sensible, level-headed take on the situation. I understand when others aren’t so level-headed. The media is very unhelpful – really, their motivation seems not to enlighten but to inflame. And many are directly affected by lockdown. If I were the owner of a small business or in hospitality, I’d be chafing too. And then there is common folk just doing it hard.

I read a lot of comments like that on social media. It feels quite foreign to me. I know we live in times when to share is second nature, but there’s so much I read I wouldn’t dream of sharing publicly. I don’t know if that says more about me or others.

It may also seem a strange comment from a man writing on his publicly accessed blog. I’ve been pretty candid here for many years and have made a point of not holding back when it comes to the uncomfortable stuff. My defence is that I write this anonymously, though in this day and age it’s probably not that hard to find out my true identity. More fundamentally, I write this for myself, and it’s a fundamental part of my mental health because by writing I will often lance the boil, and as I lay down these words I find an understanding lacking before. It’s therapy.

I guess the point is, I don’t write for clicks or likes. If you read this or not is a matter of indifference. I’m not rapt up in how you respond or what your reaction is. I’m insulated from that, whereas that seems the very essence of so much social media these days: not just look at me, but see me. And acknowledge it.

I’m sure there have been theses written on the topic, but I suspect the difference is generational. I grew up without any social media, and in a time where computers were new-fangled and the internet unimagined. I was never conditioned to be so transparent with every feeling and event in my life.

I often feel uncomfortable reading the intimate news of strangers. I can understand people being more open on something like Facebook when the audience is hand-picked friends and acquaintances. Still, it’s puzzling on a site like Twitter to read of every raw and intimate detail of a strangers life and mentality. Mostly, I don’t want to know about it.

That stands by way of caveat when I say that I don’t want to act the victim. Terrible things are happening, but I refuse to be cowed by them because this is my life. It will be what you make it to be. I’ll deal with the facts of it, but I won’t pander to the base elements of the situation, nor give in to hysteria or self-pity. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh – these are my decisions.

How others feel, or choose to feel, is their business, and they have my support. I just don’t need to read about every woeful detail of it. I may be wrong, but I think we have a duty to each other to stay strong. And we’ve done that mainly – just a little more, just a little longer.

When ignorance fails


Bit of a bombshell yesterday in the ICAC (anti-corruption) hearing in NSW when the NSW premier was called to the stand and revealed that she’d been in a lengthy relationship with a former parliamentarian accused of dodgy dealings.

Naturally, it caused an uproar. Most were flabbergasted by the news. A good many said that she must resign (but with different motivations), while others claimed that her personal life shouldn’t come into it.

I don’t really want to comment on the rights and wrongs of it. It’s the human interest angle that fascinates me. Generally, I’m of the view that the personal lives of our politicians have no bearing unless there’s evidence of criminal or corrupt behaviour, or if it risks the integrity of the office. Everyone’s entitled to a life of their own, and if they choose to engage in behaviours a bit different to the rest of us, it’s nobody’s business but their own.

For me, morality barely comes into it, though I might form an opinion on someone if something saucy is exposed. Having an affair with another man’s wife or if you’re into threesomes, or even if you get a blow job from an intern in the Oval Office, should make little material difference to your ability to do the job.

Gladys is ‘guilty’ of none of those. She’s a single woman who found companionship with a fellow parliamentarian. I’m sympathetic towards her. While others rail at her foolishness or accuse her of corruption, I see a person subject to the same very human whims and desires as most of us.

It’s very simple for people to look at everything through a political prism. In that way, everything becomes good or evil, and there are hard lines – and rules – that separate one from the other. That’s why you see a lot of grandstanding and people getting on their high horse, because the landscape has become so toxic, and because, for many, this represents opportunity. Some will rail against this in one person but excuse in another.

There are more sensible commentators, thankfully. They are independent-minded and clear of the muck. A lot of them are sympathetic but declare that Gladys should probably go because she’s perceived to have turned a blind eye to the dishonesty of her partner.

I doubt very much Gladys is corrupt. I think she has limitations as a leader, but I’m not sure that integrity or dishonesty are among those. Her faults, in this case, were human. If she chose to overlook his faults, she did so as a woman, not the premier of the state. She has a heart too, and hopes and fears and the need for comfort and the desire for love. Unfortunately, this may be one of those occasions where the premier can’t be separated from the woman.

Whether she survives this or not, I think her leadership has been fatally wounded. In politics, perception so often becomes a reality. In this case, the truth is that she was intimate with a man shown to be corrupt, and who tried to use her to further his own cause. I truly believe she wanted nothing to do with it, but she did nothing to stop it. Ignorance is not always bliss.

The butler did it


On Friday afternoon I took a break from work to sit down and watch Dan Andrews testify at the Hotels Quarantine inquiry. I sat there for over two hours watching, fascinated by the process in general, and by the slow reveal of information.

It’s pretty basic. You could even call the process ‘dry’. The assisting counsel asked a series of reasonably simple questions, each building on what has come from before. She was polite and friendly. Her probing was gentle, hinting at times, nudging at others, seeking the basic facts of the matter before teasing out an interpretation from the premier, and occasionally a statement.

Throughout he was as we have come to expect from him – calm, deliberate, never flustered, and seemingly in command of the situation. Occasionally there’d be a glimpse of humour, just as in his press conferences. As ever, he was well mannered and courteous.

I found myself drawn into the narrative as the pieces fell into place and some kind of sense began to emerge. Throughout the inquiry to that point, most witnesses had denied knowledge or obfuscated their evidence. A thread was disseminated that there was shared responsibility, and therefore shared accountability, for the hotel quarantine operation.

It wasn’t a pretty picture and one was left to wonder what the truth was. Like most, my take on the inquiry was second-hand, from news grabs and commentary. That is often misleading and subject to manipulation, however, many before the inquiry seemed to condemn themselves with their lack of candour. It wasn’t a good look and led me to wonder at what the truth was. No-one put their hand up, no-one claimed ownership, and without exception, everyone said they didn’t know who had decided to use private security guards. Either the structure was so bad that everyone thought that someone else was doing the job, or those who were responsible didn’t want to admit to it.

We know now, as far as the premier is concerned, that it was the DHHS who should have been controlling the operation, and that their minister, Jenny Mikakos, was responsible. You’d think Andrews would know as that would have been his departments’ decision. The result of that is Mikakos resigned on Saturday, quite appropriately, but not before insinuating that it wasn’t her fault.

I like Mikakos. I think she’s one of a number of very talented ministers the Victorian government had in their ranks – more of them women than men. I think she’s a very decent human being and no-one disputes that she is hard-working and passionate. It’s sad that it comes to this. As she alludes to, I’m sure she’s been badly let down by her department. It seems that not everything was communicated to her as it should’ve been and that the model – basically outsourcing expertise (a neo-lib scourge on politics generally these days) left the department short of expertise and muddied the lines of communication. I think a re-structure is required generally, and other heads should roll (including the department secretary, Kym Peake). I doubt any of that will happen until the report is out in a couple of weeks, but even so, Mikakos has to take responsibility for her department.

(Donna, who works in the Victorian public service and who is well connected, was telling me all sorts of horror stories. She’s unsurprised by some of the bungling, for the reasons given above – because of outsourcing, and because some bureaucrats have been elevated beyond their competence and enjoyed untoward power).

I have no doubt that there were decisions made without proper consultation. Reading between the lines, the Emergency Commissioner appeared to go off on his own tangent at times, and it seems the answer to the timeless question regarding who decided to use private security guards is that it was Crisp, but pushed into it by the police commissioner of the time, Graham Ashton (who suddenly resigned soon after).

That may appease some, but I really don’t think that was ever the big issue for mine. The bigger problem was how the situation was managed when problems emerged from the program – and it seems likely that was lost in bureaucratic red-tape and incompetence.

The report comes out in a fortnight. I expect it will claim unclear lines of responsibility/communication, failures of key staff and processes in the public service, and – potentially – unilateral decision making outside of the process. Mikakos is gone, I hope and expect others will go also, and I hope from this it becomes clear the public service model in use all around Australia, of public/private partnership, is failing us badly. Reform is needed, but it really needs to be across the board and extend to the federal level, where it’s even worse.

I would hope this would be the end of all the backbiting and controversy as I’m thoroughly sick of it – as are most Victorians I reckon. We’ll see what the report has to say, but I suspect Andrews has come out of this well by staying the course. And that’s after the federal government and the Murdoch media throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at him.

At the end of the day, the good news story is that as of this morning the daily infection rate was down to five cases. We’re well on our way out of this, and there’s much to be grateful for and proud of. We’re doing this.

Grumpy bastard


Was having a laugh with a friend from Sydney last night discussing the absurdity of the conflict over koalas in their state parliament. Look it up if you’re interested, it doesn’t bear repeating here.

Then our conversation turned to the latest story about our PM getting emotional on tabloid radio describing the privations of a woman who couldn’t get into Queensland to farewell her dying father. It’s an unfortunate story, but there are hundreds of unfortunate stories right now. Morrison said he was afraid that Australia might be losing its humanity through this pandemic, which is very rich coming from a man who’s never shown any sign of humanity himself. This is the man who denied asylum seekers the right to attend family funerals and, even now, has locked up a young family on Christmas Island for over a year. The man is a rank hypocrite and self-promoter.

As my friend said, it can’t be doing much for my blood pressure. He knows that I’m more affected than most by the dire behaviour of our politicians and media. It’s funny, most of my life I’ve been pretty sanguine about everyday events. Most people consider me unflappable and calm. Even as a teenager I was called phlegmatic. It’s only very few who see the other side of that.

While there have been occasions when I’ve been disgusted or disappointed, up to recently there wasn’t really an ‘other side’. I wonder now if it’s existence now is because I’m getting older, or if it reflects the deteriorating and deplorable state of current affairs? Probably both. In terms of my blood pressure, they’re a perfect match.

I’ve said it before – there’s so much I can stomach any more.

The petty bickering, the negativity, the rank politicking and infectious stupidity – not to mention, the spread of fake news – has been bad for my mental health. If I engage with it I end up with a knot in my stomach and my blood pressure likely going through the roof. It’s the fact that it has become this, without any brake or impediment to it, that infuriates me so. I’m sick to the soul about it because it goes against everything I believe in.

My routine over many years upon waking is to check out the morning news – on the radio initially, then online. I’m a news junkie, always have been. I switched on the radio this morning to be greeted by another sensationalist and utterly dumb headline, and with a groan, I switched it off. Much like the other news services, I’m now avoiding the radio news as well.

How has it come to this – a news junkie avoiding the news? Because, with few exceptions, there’s no rigour to it, no examination. It’s just a ritualised rehash of whatever somebody has said or claimed. The standard of journalism has plummeted so far that it appears few journalists are capable, or willing, to analyse the ‘news’ presented to them. Because of this, reams of arrant nonsense are reported as true. And because most of society only really skim the headlines, the nonsense becomes accepted fact.

I can’t deal with it anymore, though much of that is due to the lockdown we’re in. So much destructive and unnecessary commentary is dangerous to the collective mentality. It’s hard dealing with it but much harder having this rubbish piled on top.

All I want is for our politicians and media to act responsibly, and for us as a society to question what’s fed to us as a matter of routine and habit. Ask questions of what you read and hear and make up your own mind.

We’re getting further from that every day, and I don’t see it changing. I am, I suppose, becoming a curmudgeon. I may have to accept that and be much more selective with where I get my news.

The next stage


I’ve just spent the last hour plus watching the daily Victorian government COVID-19 briefing. I think most of Melbourne did the same thing. This was the big press conference announcing the plan out of Stage 4 restrictions and every one of us was hanging out for it.

Expectations had been dampened over the last few days, and I think the general belief was that the current restrictions might continue a while longer. That was true as it turned out, though with important modifications. Stage 4 restrictions were extended by two weeks, until the end of September, but the curfew has been put back an hour, exercise times doubled and, most relevant to me, a bubble was announced allowing for people living alone to have a nominated visitor to their home.

The plan after that is for a gradual easing, dependent on how the infection numbers go, but it’s pretty comprehensive.

I felt a bit emotional watching it. I’m fully supportive of the science that goes into making these decisions, and though we’re not out of it, it felt like a prisoner being told he would be paroled in a couple of months. Just have to see it through until then.

That’s much easier said than done, but I think the great majority of Victorians understand the decision-making and will abide by the conditions of it. The ratbags and the odd politician make a lot of noise, but it’s amazing how many of us are willing to knuckle down and do the right thing by each other. Throughout this period, where Victoria has been the outlier, and sometime pariah, that the isolation has bonded us closer together. There’s recognition that we really are in this together, and for us to get out of it means that we all must do our bit. It makes me proud in a small way – we can be better, and here’s the proof of it.

While restrictions will continue, it will get easier from here if infections continue to fall. It will be easier a week from today than it is now, even if only in a small way. A fortnight after that it will get easier again, and so on, through the stages towards what they call a COVID-normal stage – late November.

I want to make mention of something many thousands have commented on: how impressive Dan Andrews is. As you will know, I tend to be cynical of modern politics and politicians. In general, I think they’re a rum lot. And, as a character, I’m not much given to unvarnished admiration. Among other things, my ego rarely allows for it.

I’m all in for Dan Andrews, though. His press conferences are a master class. Despite every provocation, he remains calm and measured. His command of detail is flawless. He never flounders, never backtracks, and never buys into the politics. He is a communicator par excellence, and his unflustered authority acts as a balm – it’s no wonder he has such support. I don’t think I’ve come across as Australian politician so impressive since Paul Keating. He cops a lot of flak from the edges, and of course, from the Murdoch press, but he is the leader we need at such a time – and far in advance of any other in Australia, and certainly Morrison, who epitomises mediocrity.

There’s a push for him to go federal at some stage. I have a gut feeling that won’t happen, but I think it’s a sign of how nervous he makes the federal government in how hard they attack him. Morrison has released his lieutenants to go hard at him, and the government is actively briefing journalists against him. I think it might backfire.

In Victoria, we don’t have much time for party politicking right now. We’re living it, we know what has to be done, and much of the rhetoric against Andrews comes off as trivial and irresponsible. It makes his attackers look bad. I think there’s a lot of admiration for Andrews across the country, and some of the attacks by Federal on State governments lately will steel resolve.

All that’s for the future, if at all, what’s important now is getting through this. I reckon 95% of Victorians would agree.

Without fear or favour


I don’t really want to comment on things like this, but sometimes I just can’t bite my tongue.

Yesterday, there were two government press conferences. One was for about 15 minutes, the other for ninety. One is occasional, the other is daily, as it has been for months. In one, the government refuses to answer questions they don’t like and turn on the reporter; in the other, every question is answered, and the press conference doesn’t end until the items have finished. One was a federal press conference, Morrison accompanied by Dutton, and the other was the Victorian government, with Dan Andrews responding.

Yesterday afternoon, there was a storm across social media as punters turned on the reporters asking questions at the Victorian press conference. They were accused of being rude and disrespectful, of interrupting the premier’s response, of banging on about the same questions again and again, seeking the gotcha moment. Some abuse was personal, and doubtless, much of it was informed by partisan beliefs – but not all.

In response to this tirade of criticism, journos rose up to rebut the fairness of the opprobrium, and decry the instances of personal abuse. They pointed out that it’s their job to ask tough questions and to hold the government to account.

In principle, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think there’s any place for personal abuse, whether you’re a journo or not. And certainly, it was welcome news to hear that they knew that their job was to keep the bastards honest. In reality, I felt disdainful and maybe a little bit disgusted. It seemed terribly precious as well as being tone-deaf. And not a little hypocritical.

This isn’t a golden age of journalism. It seems odd to write that in the week that Jonathan Swan has been lauded worldwide in his takedown of Trump in a personal interview. It was undoubtedly a masterclass, but perhaps it rings louder because that sort of performance is such an outlier these days? There are good journalists these days, but many fewer than there were even twenty years ago and, for the most part, the style is much different.

I doubt it’s escaped many how ironic it is journalists complaining about personal abuse when so many – and so many particularly the Murdoch media – takedown members of the public so routinely, and without compunction. Smears and innuendo are part and parcel of so much of modern journalism. I think this plays into the mentality of the time – quick grabs, controversial takes, tabloid headlines, clickbait and a general preference for the shallow over the deep.

For someone who’s been around long enough to know that it used to be different, it’s very sad. But many of these journalists parlay that as their business – to turn around and complain when it’s turned back on them verges on the absurd.

There is a deeper issue here, which so many of the critics yesterday attempted to make.

In Melbourne, you have a leader that answers every question posed to him respectfully, and who is subjected to journalistic bad manners and media intrigues and who is routinely criticised.

In Canberra, you have a PM who is selective in when he holds a press conference, and who has a history of being rude and obstructive and refusing to engage with the question or the reporter – and he gets away with it!

Andrews answered hard questions yesterday and took responsibility. Compare it to Morrison at the time of the bushfires when he was questioned, responding with the excuse “I don’t hold a hose, mate”. Witness how often he refuses outright to answer a question with an “I reject the premise of the question.” End of story – and he gets away with that as well. Yesterday he refused to answer questions from one journo, while Dutton turned on a journo asking a question he didn’t like.

This is the problem. We can all see how these leaders are held to a different standard of response. Andrews might be better served if he adopted the same tactics as the PM. The PM bullies the press gallery, and they’re too cowed to speak out. Andrews is reasonable, and so they show their claws. It’s pathetic.

There’s no argument in journo’s asking tough questions – but don’t pick and choose when you do it, and to who. Don’t wave that as your excuse when so often you fail to live up to that standard. Wake up! We see it!

The underlying issue here is media bias. Almost every media outlet these days is to the right of centre, even The Age. It’s particularly political when it comes to the News Corp newspapers – the Herald Sun here in Melbourne, and The Australian nationally, as well as the various regional issues. News value is weak, it’s all about creating clicks, controversy, and relentlessly driving an anti-Labor agenda. What that means is that they’ll amplify issues on the left and suppress the same problems on the right – so they go hammer and tongs against someone like Andrews, and play nice with Morrison.

In service of this, the government will brief their mates in the media against the Labor parties – such as yesterday, for example, when a false story was fed to The Australian about projected infections in Victoria. It’s rubbish, but it has the desired effect.

This is what we’re dealing with in Australia – and in the UK too, and to a degree in the US also. It’s insidious and undermines democracy. Abusing journalists is small time in comparison to this, and might actually be a wake-up call.

More need to wake-up.

NB. It’s telling also that journalists rose one and all yesterday in outrage against their accusers, but failed to fire a shot when one of their own – Emma Albericie – was treated so deplorably during the week by the ABC and The Australian. But, that’s right, she’s accused of being a lefty.

 

I’ll stand by Dan


I’m generally of the view that there’s no point in arguing with idiots. That eliminates a lot of social interaction for me, though I note that many diverge from that policy. Each to their own. One of the defining features of our times is that every moron has a platform now and – in my observation – the more moronic the intelligence, the more likely they are to shout it from the rooftops. Very democratic and not in the least enlightening. Like I said, I try and give them a wide berth.

Not everyone’s an idiot. There’s a lot of smart people around, and even online. They have views worth listening to, even when you disagree – that’s another area where I diverge from the rank and file. I like differing perspectives because they make me think and question. I may adjust my own opinion as a result, or respond with a considered and polite rebuttal. I’m happy to engage with them because it’s an exercise in free speech and I may learn something. I realise I’m very old school in this regard when for so many these days disagreement signifies stupidity and very often evil. There’s no grey area.

I’ve been engaging in civilised debate for the last month or so with someone I know and think is a smart fella. Moreover, he debates because he has a genuine concern about the subject at hand. In the past, we’ve found each other in accord on most things, and it’s only recently that we’ve come to opposing views about Dan Andrews and the virus gripping Melbourne.

This has become a very contentious talking point these days. He’s blamed by many for the emergence of the second wave. That anger is stoked by the news corp press, who take every opportunity to beat up anything negative of Labor and suppress anything negative of the LNP. Equally, there are many passionate Victorians, and even those outside the state, who are supportive of Andrews.

Now, he recognises that the media is bias, but has become very hostile towards Andrews. I take a different perspective, but, in any case, I ask him what does he want to happen? And who is there to step in? I urge calm, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it’ll all come out of the wash, right now let’s concentrate on getting things right now. It’s a civil debate, and we admitted what a pity it was we couldn’t do it over a bottle of red.

But then, someone else joins in, one of those dickheads not worth responding to, who called Andrews an arsewipe and anyone – such as me – who supports him. That killed the debate there and then.

I think my friend has become a little fixated, possibly because he can’t understand why so many people are in favour of Andrews. I think he’s misread the situation and is missing the subtleties, which can happen when you get so het up. I started to tell him why so many people were supportive – but then I thought, why bother? But here it is, for posterity.

Why does Andrews maintain such support?

  1. For many Victorians, and even Australians – he has vocal support Australia-wide – he embodies many of the qualities we want in a leader but have been deprived of for so long. He’s a smart, demonstratively decent human being to start with. He’s a great communicator, calm and very patient. As premier of the state, he’s driven a bold and successful agenda, and become known as someone who gets things done. He’s of a progressive bent, and of strong character. And not even his most bitter enemies could decry his work ethic. Through the bushfire crisis and this he’s seemingly turned up every day to do his bit. He’s the leader we want to believe in, and that earns him a lot of Brownie points.
  2. While the media has been responsible for inflaming tensions and demonising him, the more discerning members of the community recognise it for what it is: a political hatchet job driven by Murdoch and his minions. On top of that, in Victoria, the Liberal opposition is pretty feral. Whereas in the rest of the country the opposition parties have been generally supportive in a time of crisis, the Libs here have sought to disrupt, and have been very destructive of the status quo. For a lot of us, we’re over all that. There may come a reckoning one day, but today’s not the day – there are more important things to get done. I think that’s a general feeling the community (the Libs have shot themselves in the foot). Andrews gets some sympathy in the face of that.
  3. Many of the same people wonder why treatment isn’t partial. When the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney and let off dozens of infected passengers then anti-government rhetoric was subdued because it was a Liberal government responsible – depending who you talk to, either Dutton or the NSW government. Sad as it is, the media drives much of the narrative and it infects the community – no news that. Up there they buried it; down here they amplified it. This is about fairness.
  4. I think there’s general admiration for his stoic refusal to keep going. I think many believe he has a genuine concern for their welfare – he’s on their side. That’s a rare feeling these days. While some hate him, he engenders trust in many others. And the question becomes pertinent: if not him leading us, then who? There is no-one.
  5. Most of the drama is related to returned travellers and mishandled quarantine, for which they blame Andrews. A lot of the reports are sensationalist, and I don’t there’s a clear idea of what happened except, it seems, the security guards misbehaved. There’s a lot of complexity about this, and there’s an inquiry in progress to get to the bottom of it. Many say that Andrews should’ve resigned over this – my response is per point 3 &4, and to suggest that we wait until the inquiry is concluded before we rush to judgement.
  6. Much of the criticism Andrews draws about this is why he engaged security firms rather than the ADF. This is a nonsense complaint that only makes any sense after the fact. Victoria was not the only state to use security guards, but the only state that suffered from it. Surely, the security firms were engaged in good faith to perform duties that they’re specialist at and which they’re being paid to do? Only later does it become evident that the firms had marginal competence and breached the terms of their contract. That was not something any reasonable person would anticipate – bearing in mind that the Federal government uses private security firms to manage refugees – so there’s a strong precedent.
  7. I think everyone accepts that there will be missteps and misjudgements in an emerging calamity such as this. They’re inclined to forgive to a degree, though we’re now looking at 100+ deaths and climbing out of the second wave. That may be re-evaluated in the fullness of time.

Much of that aligns with my thinking. The only caveat I have is that if the inquiry finds that government ministers were culpable (most likely because they failed to react appropriately or oversee the operation effectively), then heads should roll.

I don’t think it is the time to be changing much and in fact, I think much of the commentary has been destructive to public confidence and unity. It’s led to confusion and empowered malcontents to do as they please. I think there are a lot of others who should be in the sights. However, down the track, when the facts are known, justice – whatever it is – must be seen to be done.