Out of touch and out of their depth (Editorial)


Out of touch and out of their depth

The Daily Telegraph
March 20, 201312:00AM

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FOR anyone who believes in a free press, or indeed even free speech, some of the astonishing revelations from the parliamentary hearings chill the blood.

Is it evidence of gross misconduct by media organisations? No.

Is it evidence of phone hacking or bribery, the overseas crimes for which the government has decided to punish Australian media organisations? No.

It is evidence of something far more disturbing than that: It is evidence that the very people leading this bull in a china shop assault on free journalism are so confused, ignorant, ill-informed and naive that they have in the most literal sense absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

As this newspaper has constantly maintained, the very media inquiry itself was based on a wholly false pretence that was never justified nor explained. It’s foundation was a vague smear that somehow the atrocious practices in the UK were also taking place in Australia. As has been demonstrated time and again this is not only completely untrue but a cheap and nasty slur on all Australian journalists.

Now we discover that the man chosen to head this inquiry is so either thoroughly inexpert or thoroughly uninterested in media matters that he was not even aware the Australian Press Council had already implemented core aspects of his recommendations.

It beggars belief that a man suddenly appointed the nation’s foremost authority on the media should not be aware of such things – the fact he knowingly presented himself to a senate hearing without having even bothered to check on the current status of the Press Council is nothing short of staggering.

Were that not enough, we have also had to bear witness to the shameless leading questions being spoon-fed by the seemingly unreconstructed socialist Senator Doug Cameron to his comrade witnesses while at the same time suffer the wild accusations and conspiracy theories he spouts to his perceived enemies under parliamentary privilege.

While there are many examples of Senator Cameron’s undergraduate gullibility – not least his constant confusion between Australian and UK press outlets – just one is enough to render Senator Cameron’s paranoid delusions in the light they deserve to be seen.

Take the Senator’s charge that former Press Council chair Ken McKinnon had told the Finkelstein inquiry he had been offered a bribe by a newspaper editor to waive complaints. In fact Professor McKinnon has now gone on the record to say the comment was clearly a joke recorded in notes he gave to the inquiry. Indeed, he said, the joke was made to emphasise the regard editors had for the council and how much they disliked adverse findings.

And to quote Professor McKinnon verbatim: “I am completely sure that I made clear to the inquiry that the comment being touted was in the context of the respect accorded to the council; it was a jovial phrase said over lunch.”

But perhaps the darkest irony is that, in the coward’s castle of the Senate, Cameron is immune from the consequences arising from his smears and falsehoods. Out here in the real world the press has no such protection.

And yet he and the one-eyed lynch mob that swallows every cliched accusation without question think we’re the ones whose words need to be controlled. It’s hard to believe that they’re not joking too.

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