UPDATE: Regarding jurisdictional issues, the following extremely concerning paragraph stands out:
11.69 Another aspect of jurisdiction concerns how the News Media Council will exercise its power over all internet publishers. Foreign publishers who have no connection with Australia will be beyond its reach. However, if an internet news publisher has more than a tenuous connection with Australia then carefully drawn legislation would enable the News Media Council to exercise jurisdiction over it.
“More than a tenuous connection” with Australia? Wow. This is really scary stuff.
Reposting from Menzies House email from Timothy Andrews:
Late yesterday afternoon, I read something that sent chills down my spine.
Mr. Ray Finkelstein QC, a left-wing former Federal Court Judge with no media experience, at the request of the Gillard Government, issued a 400 page report which calls for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to ‘regulate’ political speech and – among other things – impose new laws with the power to stop climate change realists from speaking up.
Its “recommendations” will sicken every single Australian: They actually call for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to censor not just the newspapers and TV, but websites, personal blogs, and even what you say on Twitter!
This is a proposal that would seem right at home in North Korea or Zibmabwe. I never thought – as dark as things seemed- we could stoop this low here in Australia.
It is clear from the report, in particular paragraphs 4.31-4.42, that silencing climate realists is a major reason for these regulations: it is unashamedly explicit in this (and even uses the dirty trick of using polls from – wait for it – 1966 as evidence the media is pro-climate skeptic, and that – wait for it – only the ABC is unbiased!)
The size and scope of the proposed Super-Regulator is breathtaking. They will have the power to impose a “code of ethics”, force you to print views you don’t agree with as part of a ‘right of reply’, take you to court, and even make you take pieces down! Even personal blogs that get only 40 hits a day will be covered! To make matters worse, the SuperRegulator “would not have to give reasons for its decisions” and the decisions “would not be subject to appeal.” Even climate change websites in other countries like Watt’s Up With That will be covered by this!
We need to speak out now – while we are still allowed.
This is why I just created www.FreeSpeechAustralia.com so we can work together to help stop this nightmare from becoming a reality. .
It includes an online petition, which I STRONGLY urge you all to sign and to pass onto all your family and friends, as well as an “Action Centre” detailing what other activities you can take, a resource toolkit, and links to a Facebook page and Twitter account.
It certainly looks like we should be very concerned by this move. Commenter Baldrick kindly pointed me to some key sections of the report, namely this on bias:
4.25 To deal with the difficulties of identifying and measuring bias the polls reported here attempted to measure bias as diversions from fairness and diversity of opinion, on a scale presenting bias as a polar opposite to ‘balance’. On this basis:
- bias is much more commonly perceived to exist in the conduct of newspapers than in television or radio
- the ABC is perceived to be the least biased media organisation in Australia, and
- there is perception of persistent bias against the Labor Party particularly in pollsconducted in the earlier years of the period covered by this analysis.
If ABC is perceived as balanced, then the report’s authors must be more deluded than we could possibly give them credit for. Balanced if you’re a lefty ex-judge, I guess? It also reports favourably on criticism of News Ltd’s tabloids on climate change issues:
4.33 One of the conclusions reached in the report was this:
The two biggest News Ltd tabloids—the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph—have been so biased in their coverage that it is fair to say they ‘campaigned’ against the policy rather than covered it.
Furthermore, and in a clear indication that the report is horribly skewed, it cites Robert Manne, a well known alarmist and sympathiser towards the climate consensus when discussing the coverage of climate issues in the media:
4.40 For instance, the Inquiry heard from Professor Robert Manne who, earlier in 2011, had written an extensive critique of The Australian newspaper in Quarterly Essay entitled ‘Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation’ that examined seven case studies of the newspaper’s coverage of issues.4.41 One of his case studies concerned coverage of climate change policy and his findings mirrored those of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism. Professor Manne’s research found that articles unfavourable to action on climate change outnumbered favourable articles by a ratio of four to one.4.42 In his response to Professor Manne’s work, Paul Kelly who is The Australian’s editor-‐at-‐large, did not refute Manne’s statistics. Instead, he argued that Manne’s position was based on a ‘rejection of debate’ about the science of climate change:
One reason for the public’s backlash making carbon pricing so unpopular was the precise attitude [Manne] took. While pretending to be rational his rejection of debate was really faith-‐based dogmatism and the Australian public didn’t like being told what to think by patronising experts.
All this will amount to little short of censorship of views which criticise the Government, and it will apply to blogs as well. I highly recommend getting behind the Menzies House campaign if you wish to see free speech remain as a fundamental right in Australia.
I haven’t yet had a chance to read it in full, and I won’t be doing so in the near future, but there are jurisdictional issues here which I would be very interested to understand further. Despite what is said above, the Australian government cannot legislate regulations to take effect over media organisations outside Australian jurisdiction, without bipartisan agreements between those other states. I do not foresee this happening – for example in the US, the First Amendment prohibits any law infringing on the freedom of speech or the press.
I therefore would have thought that overseas organisations, or blogs hosted overseas, cannot be subject to domestic Australian legislation. Further information required to determine its precise effect.
The report is online here.