1. Robodebt extortion racket finally conceded as “unlawful”
The word should be ‘criminal’. Scotty from Marketing has clever wordsmiths who have invented the euphemism “not sufficient under law”. Christian Porter was suggesting on Insiders today that the scheme was basically normal, just didn’t quite scrub up under the law. Nothing to see here.
There were a few little problems with the scheme.
- The underlying mathematics were so bad that an average child completing compulsory education could have spotted the problem.
- When the demand was made people were held as guilty unless they could prove innocence.
- Unless people paid on demand, the debt was handed over to debt collectors.
Prof terry Carney from Sydney Law School put the mathematics this way:
- “It was a really primary school mathematical error in assuming that because Bradman had an average of 99.94 that every time he went out to bat he made 99.94 runs,” Professor Carney said.
Many of the victims of this criminal racket were vulnerable people unable to defend themselves. Real damage was done. Some committed suicide.
On 200 occasions in a row when the targets took the claims to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal the Commonwealth folded and paid the claim – a certain sign they knew they had no legal case.
Jacqueline Phillips, acting CEO of Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is eloquent in Robodebt was a flagrant abuse of government power. It should never have seen the light of day.
Katharine Murphy last September relates how Bill Shorten rustled up the class action in Robodebt class action: Shorten unveils ‘David and Goliath’ legal battle into Centrelink scheme.
Murphy also tells how Shorten last November asked the simple question in parliament, Who is responsible for this mess? in The robodebt horror was all about boosting the budget. That’s the brutal truth.
Bill Shorten tells Patricia Karvelas last Friday that he is still asking the same question without reply. He says that an announcement came through last Monday that there would be a court hearing in the case on 20 July. Ministers were facing the real prospect of being dragged before the court.
Shorten has done well on this one. The matter has not ended, because the case is seeking damages for the harm done.
The Government made the announcement via Stuart Robert announced the government’s action to a dog and cat on the Gold Coast on Friday afternoon 15 minutes after our fearless PM had just explained how he was going to reorganise the way federation works. If anyone asks him about Robodebt, I’m betting he will say nothing.
Meticulous in their cynicism.
2. Alan Jones is mortal
He hasn’t been put in a chaff bag and dumped in the sea, but he’s finally finished at 2GB.
If you scroll to the end, advertisers had drifted back after he said Gillard’s father “died of shame”. However, after his comments on NZ PM Jacinda Adern they stayed away. After the exodus of 110 brands Nine Entertainment promised changes. They didn’t work, and:
- Appalled by the slur on Ardern, a Facebook group called Mad Fucking Witches, and activist group Sleeping Giants on Twitter, hammered Jones’s advertisers through emails and on social media every time they spent money placing an ad on his breakfast show.
- The companies which pulled out late last year include RSL Art Unions, Bing Lee, Snooze, Bunnings, Volkswagen, Koala Mattresses, Anytime Fitness, Total Tools, AVEO, Lowes, Chemist Warehouse, Red Cross, OMG Mattresses, Hyundai, Sleeping Duck and Scali.
The station, now under the control of Nine Entertainment, was losing so much money they chose to pay out Jones’s contract to the tune of $4m rather than have him hang around.
Nine newspapers have reported the show lost as much as 50% of its revenue from the commercial backlash.
If Jones’s rhetoric was poison to the advertisers who pulled out of 2GB it didn’t seem to bother the celebrities who turned up to praise him on the way out.
You’d expect Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott, Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham to praise him, but Roger Federer, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman?
- Others included Dame Edna, Elizabeth Hurley, Rod Stewart, Michael Buble, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John and Delta Goodrem.
Actually he was a late entrant to radio. He emanated, of course, from Queensland, grew up on a dairy farm near Oakey. When he was on staff at Brisbane Grammar Jones coached Drew Hutton in athletics (Greens political aspirant and Lock the Gate founder, where they linked again in opposition to coal seam gas).
He was Australian rugby union coach in the time of Mark Ella, Peter FitzSimons and Nick Farr-Jones. Won 23 of 30 tests, including a grand slam in the UK.
There’s more from Don Woolford at The voice heard from Struggle Street to Kirribilli House. Jones always picked favourites and was divisive. He was essentially sacked from King’s College, Sydney after moving there. His career meandered until he got involved in rugby, from whence he jumped to radio. His stellar ratings put him on $4 million a year, plus there was cash for comment.
Quietly, he helped a lot of people, and channeled money into charities, all of which earned him an Order of Australia in 2004 for his service to the media, sports administration and charity work.
Woolford says Jones has been called a bully, a bigot, a misogynist and worse. No-one sits on the fence about Alan Jones.
Margaret Simons in Alan Jones: end for the shock-jock whose views on women, race and climate pandered to his tiny audience suggests his influence was over-rated, his audience was small, even in Sydney:
- A study by the Australia Institute in 2006 found that Jones listeners were older, more conservative, more authoritarian and more fearful than most Australians.
His real contribution was to pioneer “vengeful campaigning” which has been taken up with enthusiasm by others in the media.
News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst will not be charged over stories she published that relied on classified intelligence documents, police have announced, prompting the Attorney-General to label the length of the investigation “frustrating”.
- The AFP says “no one will be prosecuted” over the leaking of documents to Ms Smethurst
- Police say after reviewing material seized during raids on her home, they have decided not to lay charges
- Attorney-General Christian Porter says he is “frustrated” by the time it has taken to finalise the case
What Porter has to do is to change the law, not just sigh pathetically. Smethurst only got off on a technicality. Meanwhile two ABC reporters wait to see whether they will be charged over their reporting on war crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan.
News Corp have taken a cleaver to their suburban and regional newspapers.
Of the 112 printed newspapers shut down by News Corp this week, 76 will survive as digital-only publications but the devil is in the detail.
Suburban and regional papers won’t have standalone websites and will sit behind a paywall.
- The company also declined to confirm how many people were made redundant by the restructure this week but Weekly Beast understands there are at least 150 journalists, photographers and designers affected and the number is 500 overall when you include all the managers, advertising, circulation, payroll and administration staff.
But the toll may he higher. The executive editor of News Corp digital, Bryce Johns, told the ABC up to half of regional journalists at the company would lose their jobs.
News Corp say they will still have 300 regional reporters, so perhaps the carnage is 300 to go.
I think about 30 per cent of older folk don’t have a computer. By contrast younger people tend to only watch screens.
5. Journalism in crisis
All this is part of a larger story where heritage mastheads are under threat as advertising moves to digital platforms and the space is invaded by foreign social media giants. Indeed, Margaret Simons wrote a book in 2012 Journalism at the crossroads. Last year in Consumer watchdog: journalism is in crisis and only more public funding can help she reviewed an ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry.
Would you believe, the ACCC takes the view that journalism is a public good, and important for democracy. Citizens need to know from reliable sources what is happening around them.
Already then the number of journalists employed in print and online businesses had dropped by 20 per cent from 2014 to 2018:
- More than 100 local and regional newspapers have closed over the past ten years, and as a result, 21 local government areas have no coverage by local newspapers. Swathes of suburban and regional Australia are now news deserts. The digital news business models reward those who provide international and national news. Local news falls through the cracks.
In other words, it’s now probably easier to find out what US President Donald Trump did last night than it is to find out what’s happening at your local school, why a local property development has been approved or what the story is behind that column of smoke on the horizon.
At the time there was an:
existing under-subscribed and politically tainted Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package, which was established as a sop to then Senator Nick Xenophon in return for voting through the last round of media ownership deregulation.
That scheme didn’t work – partly because the eligibility criteria were designed to exclude certain publishers. Publishers like Guardian Australia.
When the News Corp carnage was raised with
Scotty from Marketing Scott Morrison, PM of our ailing country the other day, he palmed it off as just another regrettable incident of jobs lost, in the belief that if you repeat “jobs and growth” on short rotation, that will magically happen, and the market will look after what succeeds and what doesn’t.
6. Now for something completely ridiculous
- The City of Melbourne will not be issuing controversial commentator Clementine Ford with a $2800 writing grant.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp revealed on Friday night that Ford, who has come under fierce criticism over a tweet in which she wrote the coronavirus “wasn’t killing men fast enough”, had cancelled her application.
Then we have Joe Hildebrand: Why Clementine Ford shouldn’t be cancelled with the fable of the scorpion and the frog, where the scorpion promised not to sting the frog, but does so because that is simply what it does by nature, so both die:
- The same might be said of Clementine Ford, a firebrand feminist who seems programmed to self-destruct at every opportunity – usually in an attempt to destroy someone else in the process.