Horse Riders of the Political Apocalypse – A Poem

The horse riders of political death echo,
Misty canyons of time cannot repel.
This democratic death machine,
As it rattles on.

South to north,
All through the land.
The obvious is seen,
Screaming and sobbing.
Hell fire on roller skates!


Blithering stupidity on a mass scale,
Milton could never do it justice.

Nor I on this misty winters night,
Could have imagined the horse riders,
Of the Political Apocalypse.

Their pink batts, school halls,
That bespectacled grin.

Whose fame and fortune,
Was paid for in part,
By neo-liberal sin.

Grant me reprieve Oh Lord,
The agnostic christian.
The spiritual pagan,
Cannot conceive.
The appalling strangeness,
Of the Horse Riders,
Of the Political Apocalypse. 

Timothy W. Humphries is a poet and Assistant Managing Editor 
at Menzies House

The one’s who flew over the cuckoo’s nest

I truly am amazed by the zany school yard stupidity displayed by the ALP


389063_10150942895539401_218324264_nI truly am amazed by the zany school yard stupidity displayed by the ALP, writes Assistant Managing Editor Tim Humphries

It seems appropriate with the events of the past week to reflect on a classic Jack Nicholson film. The one who flew over the cuckoo's nest perfectly describes the Australian Labor Party.

With the Nielsen polling showing the LNP is unchanged on 56-44, one has to question the semblance of sanity that may or may not exist within the Labor Party at the current time. 

Whilst I welcome the fact that Tony Abbott will be the next Prime Minister of Australia, I'm left troubled by the distinct possibility that the Federal Political result due in September may well mirror the routing that occured in Queensland.

Don't get me wrong dear reader, I love the idea of removing every last vestige of Labor politics from the Australian parliament. However the question remains who will step into the breach left by the blowing tumble weeds of the ALPs departure?

I spoke to a Labor supporter I went to school with a few days ago and admitted at human level I do feel incredibly sorry for honest hard-working Labor supporters who have been shafted by a sociopathic parliamentary party. A party that seems to think that it can fool everyone in the same way the 'Chief' successfully did so in the movie.

 

As the Poll Bludger succintly states:

Julia Gillard is down two on approval to 38% and up two on disapproval to 58%, while Tony Abbott edges towards respectability with approval up a point to 43% and disapproval down two to 53%. Toe-to-toe questions on the Labor leadership have Gillard leading Bob Carr 50-41, Bill Shorten 52-38 and Greg Combet 53-35. Among Labor voters, Rudd leads Gillard 51-48. Joe Hockey leads Wayne Swan as preferred Treasurer 48-40, which compares with 44-44 the last time the question was asked.

What's peculiar about the current political cycle is the high levels of disapproval for both leaders. However what amuses me most is the distinct disregard ALP strategists have in relation to Kevin Rudd. Secret polling revealed this week demonstrates Kevin Rudd's position could have rebounded had he not been knee-capped by the drones in the smoke filled rooms.  

Then you have the inevitable circus of a leadership spill that was but wasn't. Then Simon Crean jumping off the ship and politically detonating himself on the way down. This is the sort of stuff you'd see in a satirical piece of the 'Thick of It' variety.

I truly am amazed by the zany school yard stupidity displayed by the ALP! Who are these people running our country? Do we need Dr. Phil to run a counselling session for Carcas? Not thats not a spelling error! I'm no longer going to refer to Caucus as Caucus, from now on it's Carcas to me!

We are picking dear reader over the carcas of a once great political party that lost touch with reality at every level. It behooves us to remember despite their utter contempt for the Australian people, Judgement Day is coming and they will not be spared!

Timothy W. Humphries is Assistant Managing Editor of Menzies House

Sockpuppet Diaries

Impressions of elections past and present are a mixed bag

Impressions of elections past and present are a mixed bag, writes Tim Humphries.

Labor people remember fondly the 'It's Time' election and Liberal voters fondly remember the 'Dismissal'. I'm tempted to think Mark Latham was correct in reflecting on the 2007 election as the Seinfeld Election 

An interesting aside in this Cirque du Soleil game of politics is the trotting out of 'Infrastructure' as a vote winner. New connection roads and highspeed rail remain the ethereal non-core electoral drug of choice.  

Weirdly enough that particular project is actually progressing! Truth be told I won't believe it until I ride the train from my old digs right into the Brisbane, CBD and see pigs fly out of cannons at the opening ceremony.

To think people talked about that project right back when the horse and cart was still an acceptable mode of transportation. The truth remains there is a disconnect that exists between political meta-narrative and practical reality.

Any current politicians reading this should take careful note of what I'm about to say. The Australian people love the idea of big vision and big ideas for the long term. However they also like seeing a thing called 'deliverables' that communicates how it impacts them.

Deliverables need to be achieved through a budget that is atleast somewhat stable in its composition. Fitting within this is the neat process of politicians standing to a podium, delivering the orthodoxy of a message and then actually delivering through orthopraxy. Julia Gillard has failed on both fronts.

Bill Clinton said 'campaign in poetry, govern in prose'. The future of Australia will depend on the ability of leaders who can campaign on orthodoxy and deliver through orthopraxy.

What this country needs isn't mealy-mouthed promises and childish game playing around revealing all just before the election. This country needs throaty pronouncements, chest beating, soap box ranting and more importantly a vision that is easily accessible for those making the decision. 

The sort of word picture stuff you see in historical film archives. A time and place when curly Air Force style moustaches were all the rage.

The problem with modern politics is the microcosmic compressed reality of polling data, followed by panic, followed by polling data, followed by unceremonious removal of a leader. If we're honest with ourselves the horse race mentality isn't sustainable.

Hopefully election 2013 instead of delivering sockpuppet tomfoolery will instead deliver serious reform that can be communicated not just as possible, but deliverable. 

Timothy W. Humphries is Assistant Managing Editor of Menzies House. Tim is currently working on developing a television comedy.

Is America Finished?

T humphries

Tim Humphries asks the question clouding the minds of many – what is America's future.

Like all great operas there is a beginning middle and end. Rumblings
about America's operatic decline continue. In recent times it has lingered in
the media echo chamber, even after the Don Giovanni crescendo of 2008.

Though the discourse of the immediate post GFC period has been concerned
with interlocking partisan debates about whether Neo-liberalism
or Keynesian was the right course, the country and the world
continues to flounder.

Just as the traditional trope of Orwellian nightmare is used to describe
descent into a big brother state, so must the 'gibbonian vision' of  'the decline and fall'
be affixed firmly to the American and European economic lapel in the
wake of the great 'GFC'.

'GFC' is a scary word. It sounds like a disease that must be scanned,
poked, prodded and scanned again. I well remember watching the crisis of AIG,
Lehman Brothers and the other Financial Institutions whose subsequent bailout
left the American taxpayer with a dry, antiseptic aftertaste not dissimilar to
hospital grade ammonia.

Whilst Uncle Sam lay prostrate in the hospital bed gasping for air, the
most amazing thought crossed my mind. What comes next?

For Christians the Biblical account of  'Nebuchadnezzar's dream' in Daniel 2 articulates the
broad 'what’s next' progression from Babylon B.C. 605-539 through to Persia
B.C. 539-331, Greece B.C. 331-168, Rome B.C. 168- A.D. 476 and the fractious
Europe that is known as the 'feet of clay'. What then of that grand secular
Empire whose exceptional-ism finds form in the words Pax
Americana?

Suddenly the preponderance of American power is set in stark
contrast to the propagandized visions of her power so eloquently
articulated by popular culture and the academe. The post World War II vision of
 'American Peace' was magnified by
the fall of the Berlin Wall. However from this point on wards the Western
World fell into a deep political sleep that has been broken by the rude
awakening of 2008-9.

In essence the last 10 years of the 20th Century and the first 10 years
of the 21st Century, mark a fundamental demarcation between the old cold
war verities of  'American Peace'
and the opening of an 'Asymmetric Century'.

This is an Asymmetric Century dominated
by hyper-speed technological advance, rapid financial flows and a
first and third world increasingly polarized by the conjunction of
religio-political guerrilla warfare. A guerrilla war
incidentally that finds form in Iraq, Afghanistan and the incubators
of blow-back across the region.

The question remains unanswered, Is America finished? The current US
election cycle has offered up the definitive truth that there is a generational
disconnection within the US electorate.

With a Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial generation faced with the prospect of
having to pay back the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security bills of the
aging Baby Boomer generation, it looks as if the American Dream may finally be
dead!

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney represent different sides of the same coin.
So where is Liberty to be found? Ron Paul is on the outer, the third party
candidate debates did not get the attention they deserved. All the while the
American Foreign policy juggernaut looks to be gearing up for the next military
incursion into Iran!

It's no wonder traditional conservative writers like Mark Steyn have
moved to the Jeremiah style message of we're all 'rooned!' to get the message
out that the country and the world is facing the very real prospect of economic
and political destruction.

Just like Giovanni, America hasn't repented of her sins and may
well be cast into the fiery pit of hell. I often wonder what staunch
leftist intellectuals like Gore Vidal would say if he jumped out of the grave
to survey the latest attempts to save the American and the World Economy? I told
you so wouldn't be enough.

Ronald Reagan, though not the libertarians’ ideal candidate, did say
something particularly pertinent. He said, “Freedom is never more than one
generation away from extinction”. Has America reached that point in time where
she is past the point of no return?

What hope is there if the human spirit cannot rise to any occasion?
Where have the individualists gone in the age of the nanny state? If the
current election cycle is any guide, will freedom find its voice for a new
generation? With only days left in the current election cycle only time will
tell.

Timothy W. Humphries is an occasional contributor to Menzies House and
is based in Brisbane, Queensland Australia.

‘Dark Night Rising’

T humphries

Timothy W.
Humphries worries about our future democracy: 'The time for inaction is over. Whatever happens in the coming months and years, don't let pandering politicians dictate to you what your freedom should mean.'

Australia is a 'liberal
democracy'
. A simple statement permeated with history, economics, and
change.

Much in this great South Land is to be admired. The last
great social tumult that looked like it would result in sustained social
disorder was the Vietnam War
protests of the 1960s and 1970s.

Both sides of that debate had their point of view about
America's adventure into South East Asia and voted accordingly.

It's true to say there was violence during this period and
it did influence the national conversation to both positive and negative ends.
The end result and freedom that allowed that debate is due to the fact that
Australia is a 'liberal democracy'.

Where the Vietnam debate was about war and the future of
democracy, the recent “Mohammed
Movie”
story and its global reactions, strike at the heart of a
cultural and political mindset that seeks to eliminate 'liberal democracy'
rather than sustain it.

Wrapped up in the coming Q&A style debate about the
recent Sydney riots is the question of Australia's direct involvement with
America in Afghanistan,
Iraq
and the wider Middle East.

If our reason for going in has been achieved, (i.e. Bin Laden's
death
), why are we still there?

History categorically states that American
foreign policy
which backs, arms, funds and trains militants ultimately
backfires, leaving the taxpayer with the bill. This policy sustained over a
long period of time has led to successes, but mostly failures.

Reality dictates that renewed more potent forms of cell
group militancy
are the ultimate result forcing future occupations
down the road.

When are we going to recognise the slippery nature of trying
to announce, “mission accomplished” when the dark night is only just beginning.

Regardless of your perspective, the road ahead without true
Liberty is bleak indeed. The dark night I describe isn't just about the recent global
riots
, it also points to the encroachment of civil tyranny
that would seek to dictate how we live our lives.

The time for inaction is over. Whatever happens in the
coming months and years, don't let pandering politicians dictate to you what
your freedom should mean.

Don't let any of this colour your judgement on what you know
to be right, especially when it concerns those who would seek to usurp and
pervert the idea of 'liberal democracy'.

Freedom, prosperity and peace on this dark night demand a
clear mind, humble heart and reiteration of the belief that living in peace and
harmony requires respect for the institutions for which that place stands. If
our extremist opponents can learn that lesson, maybe there will be a glorious
dawn after the dark night.

Timothy W. Humphries is a graduate journalism student who
writes from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He can be found on twitter at
@mothyspace

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The Al Capone Budget

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Tim Humphries compares the 2012 budget to a Bugs Bunny Racketeering Clip:

My earliest memory of political satire was watching Bugs Bunny's Racketeer Rabbit (1946). This cartoon first catalyzed my fascination and thinking on animation and the pop culture metaphors that can be used to describe Politics and Society in its current 'Nanny Statist' form.

Racketeer Rabbit if analysed syntactically, taking into account mise en scene and specific cultural references draws very specifically on the 'Al Capone Prohibition' era.

The parallels between Wayne Swan's recent tax and spend budget and this Looney Tunes take is too amusing to pass up.

KPMG projects in its Economic and Fiscal analysis a return to $1.5 Billion dollars of surplus by 2012-13 at about 0.1 percent of GDP. KPMG's report goes onto express these figures in percentages stating the deficit to be 3.0 percent of GDP.

If Wayne Swan is the Al Capone figure then the Australian people must be Bugs Bunny. The Australian people are noble creatures, who much like the cartoon just want to be left alone by the antics of the mobsters in the floor above!

Go with me on this. All of a sudden Swannie and his trigger happy sidekicks decide to spray bullets across their business opponents, hitting them with the hot lead of new "Carbon and Mining Taxes". Along with the much vaunted 1 cent business tax cut which was abandoned cynically for the current slice of class warfarism.

Despite all the shenangans, the trend line for unemployment remains relatively stable. However the iratic nature of this Al Capone Budget, diverts attention from the rob Peter to Pay Paul mentality putting real pain off until after that very important show down due sometime next year.

In all honesty, with a bit of luck, some real tax cuts and a more flexible industrial relations system, Australia could potentially have an unemployment figure with a "4" in front of it. As an aspirational entreprenuer I strongly hope we move in this direction.

On Personal Tax, Wayne 'Capone' Swan has been particularly disappointing. Raising the marginal tax thresholds to over $18,000 dollars will only trap the young in a cycle of low paying jobs to pay off student debts they can't actually pay!

This treadmill is silly and must stop discouraging people from drive, enterprise and ambition. The other massive slug is the increase in taxation on superannuation which rises from 15 cents in the dollar to 30 cents from July 1.

Then there's the big 'racket' in rumoured changes that would ramp up taxes on smokers, drinkers and even reports about taxing pork! If true, using the racketeer monopoly of government to bump some smokes, grog and a few legs of ham off the proverbial economic truck to slice and dice their economic picture, isn't just appallingly unhealthy, it also looks desperate!

Despite all the mean and nasty things the gangsters are doing to everyday Australians, I would point you toward the morning rays that seem to be poking through the clouds over at Poll Bludger.

If the  58-42 Coalition vote holds up, maybe Wayne 'Capone' Swan will go 'insane' just like the Boss of the cartoon and escape before the people get to him first.

What amused me most about my recent foray into the golden classics of Warner Brothers, was the overriding idea that Bugs Bunny always outsmarted his foes in the end. If the parallel between the Australian people and Bugs Bunny holds, “That’s all Folks” for the ALP can’t be far off.

Timothy W. Humphries is a contributor to Menzies House and the Australian Libertarian Society ‘Thoughts on Freedom Blog’ and writes from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 

 

 

A New Athiesm

Tim-HumphriesTim Humphries considers new atheism:

 Much has been written over the years about Atheism and its constant opposition to Christianity and more specifically all forms of religion. Indeed the historical iconography of Atheism is dominated by the larger than life character of Charles Darwin. A quick search of Darwin's complete works  reveals a treasure trove of information including descriptions of geological phenomena, notes from the 'Beagle' voyage and other well constructed pieces that formed the conceptual underpinnings of Origin of Species and thus Natural Selection.

As a scientific and intellectual achievement Darwin stands unmatched in his voluminous exposition of a view of the natural world that challenges all thinking individuals to consider the ultimate question "what is the meaning of life?".

This repudiation of religion and the social, cultural and political forces of enlightenment which must be superseded by Atheistic reason, is a division that remains to this day. The compelling monograph's, manuscripts and discussion papers all point to the idea of a world and universe that operates within particular natural laws that cannot be escaped.

From the spectacularly heretical achievements of Galileo right down to the beginnings of the modern age, the idea of science and reason as inextricably connected courses through history, politics and tellingly through the philosophical and intellectual battles of religion, redefining every age.

What I find extraordinary is the fact that Atheism itself often proports to have most if not "all the answers" on the universe, origins and every other question through observable science. Whilst there is partial validity to the scientific elements, the fact remains there is much in this world and the wider universe that remains unexplained.

For instance if the moon as demonstrated by its proximity to earth has received several meteor strikes in the billion or so years to our time, why hasn't the earth been destroyed ten times over by a similar meteor strike?

How if the big bang theory is true can it be that the earth and the surrounding solar system were able to form from such a high level of energy and explode out and land in precisely the right position to sustain life? How can the arguments about chaos and random action from big bang or other sources of origin be explained in the light of the vast infinity of space?

Further without drawing God into the equation, how can infinity be explained at all? It is true that the vastness of infinity, string theory and parallel universes raise the specter of visionary science fiction television going boldly where no man has gone before. The truth remains that much is unexplainable.

Remarkably the 20th Century produced the era of Dawkins and Hitchens. I would argue that these two luminaries of the Atheist tradition formed and cemented a dogmatism within Atheism that blunts its influence to this day.

The recent emergence of internet based Atheist Stefan Molenuex and British intellectual Alain De Botton represent a seismic shift in what I call the 'Atheists Playbook'. Both men represent what can be described as soft and cuddly atheism that seeks to ameliorate the 'us and them' ideological battles. Though they do demonstrate strong views on the key issues, it must be noted that the "I'm right, you're wrong" approach of Dawkins and Hitchens is shifting to "we can agree, disagree and agree to disagree" on a whole range of issues, without degenerating into an ideologically charged argument over who is right and who is wrong.

This is a uniquely post-modernist phenomenon that must inevitably force the political and religious world to take note. Alain De Botton's latest book Religion for Atheists highlights this trend towards co-opting the moral and supernatural claims of religion towards secular aims. De Botton has seen an opportunity to trace the intellectual schema of religious ethics that informs judo-christian and other societies and has moved to attempt an insertion of this ethical framework into secular atheism. It is summed up best by his coy question "even if religion isn't true, can't we enjoy the best bits?".

The gauntlet has been thrown down. If secular atheism is seeing potential in a softer less pointed approach, replacing it with a a form of indirect plagiarism, surely the religious world of the West and East must also take up the cudgels to coyly and more strongly plagiarize the reason based elements of atheism to explain religious faith. The opportunity is there. I'd like to establish a Christian Materialist School of thought to raise the bar on faith and reason and its complementarity. Either way the battle between Religion and New Atheism has reached a new level.

Tim Humphries writes from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and can be contacted at mothyspace@gmail.com

 

Political Leprosy

Tim-HumphriesTim Humphries examines the legal framework surrounding free speech, defamation, and a bill of rights:

You've heard the mantra over and over again. "climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our generation". As the political year nudges to its close, I've come to realize that political discourse in Australia has reached a level something akin to "political leprosy". It was a disease well known for spreading with remorseless cruelty. In the case of climate change and recently mooted media reforms the disease within our democracy has spread even further.

As the wild-wild mining tax went through, I watched Twiggy Forrest as he tried to hold back the tide. I pictured him as a safari suit wearing Doctor Livingstone trying to understand the bromide's of the Canberra natives, who with the help of the Greens made leprosy a public good!

What does it say about us as a country that senior representatives of the happy clapper AGW set are able to festoon the airwaves with pusillanimous rubbish, essentially imputing that their policy outcome on climate change and media reform will improve things for all.

At one level it does say that we are democratic. However what remains, is their blatant attempt to leverage changes in media for base political purposes that shut out competing voices. This remains a puzzling and unsurprising paradox.

On the media reform front, the analysis that follows will reveal implications that flow from defamation law in the convergent media landscape. I will address these implications through an analysis of a Bill of Rights, canvassing competing arguments. I will then address the issue of privacy in the private and public sphere, before moving to analyse legal cases and opinions relational to the aforementioned.

I will conclude by arguing that the proposed addition of new legislative instruments (I.e. Bill of Rights) will chill the effectiveness of the media, scaring them off from executing their Fourth Estate duties for fear of experiencing the weight of 'defamation law' and the inevitable gulag of bureaucratic registration that has been flagged by some involved in the inquiry.

(Chaskalson 2009) addresses the evolving relationship between the law and media at the anniversary of the The Fitzgerald Commission. As a watershed moment. He states that it: "caused the first major reforms in local government in more than forty years".

The interesting thing about the (Chaskalson 2009) analysis is the fact that he uses the speech to articulate a belief in an enforceable Bill of Rights that would aim to provide checks and balances.

The Bill of Rights debate is interesting in the convergent media context because it can be split into the: positivist 'Enhance Democracy' and  negativist 'Centralized Power' arguments.

The negativist argument states that an enshrined Bill of Rights would politicize the courts in a way that would force further interpretive demands on its legal decisions thus shifting the role of the media in relation to the public interest.

(Lipinski & Buchanan & Britz 2002) address the 'public interest' issue as it relates to the relatively recent introduction of convergent online technologies. The injury of defamatory matter is often caused anonymously driving the legal debate over whether speech should be regulated in both the private and public sphere.

The common law history of the US, UK and Australia though similar does vary markedly. What is interesting is the fact that anonymity is key in online forms of defamation. Addressing primae facie public interests in this space is next to impossible when dealing with anonymous speech. The moral, ethical and legal elements are universally recognizable and interpreted within the context of the reflexive moral constructions that serve to reassess legal assignment of liability in an age when platforms have converged dramatically. (Lipinski & Buchanan & Britz 2002) also raise the live questions of where liability attaches? Should the online space be regulated? Can legal jurisdictions address cross boundry issues? Is an International Legal Framework required and does it serve the private and public interest? (Lipinski & Buchanan & Britz 2002:143).

The balance between questions of public interest and defamation hinge on the issue of individual privacy. Key to this is “individual rights of control”. Development of a cogent ethical and legal framework though important can be minor when constrasted to an age of lightspeed 'information processing' that has saturated society, heightening the vulnerabilities of individual privacy (Regan 2011:497-499).

Further (Stadler 2011) addresses automomy and privacy from the perspective of the western “liberal conception of politics and civil society”. Debate about ethical privacy in competing 'social, political and collective spheres' is a complicated process. Taking this into account I would argue that the balance of public interest, defamation law and privacy in the media is dominated by individual users (Stalder 2011: 508-512). What remains is the vital question of pre-existing legal case law.

Lange's Case (Lange v. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520 (8 July 1997)) addressed the question of free speech in the case of former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange who sued for what he asserted was defamatory imputations in the ABC 4 Corners program. The ABC's primary defense was the “freedom to communicate on government matters” as confirmed by the Theophanous' case (1994). Theophanous v. The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd (1994) 182 CLR 104. The great takeaway from this legal opinion is the fact that journalist's inquiries must set a standard of “reasonableness” that establishes honest opinion, fair comment, public interest and bases itself on appropriate material (Pearson & Polden 2011:232-237).  

Further Carleton's Case (Carleton v. ABC [2002] ACTSC 127 (18 December 2002) & Carleton v. ABC [2003] ACTSC 28 (2 May 2003) asserts that “The Media Watch Program contained imputations of 'plagiarism' and 'lazy journalism' but not of theft of materials from the other programs or deceit or dishonesty … Higgins upheld the defense of fair comment when all other defenses failed … Higgins took the unusual step of calling for reform of defamation law because he viewed the availability of the defense as unfair … (2002: at 308): I have found that the accusations levelled by the defendants at the plaintiffs to be untrue. Yet I am obliged to deny them damages … as the defendants' freedom of speech, protected by fair comment, allows them to have published their opinions, however wrongheaded and prejudiced.(Pearson & Polden 2011:238).

Pearson & Polden go further to address the central contention of Carleton's Case that states defamatory plagiarism though unethical and dishonest was based on “reasonably provable” material. Justice Higgins (2003: at 34) went onto find that: “their refusal to make an unqualified apology reasonable … given that it did not offer immunity from suit in any event and would have        required the abandonment of an honestly held belief”. This confirms the requirement for all journalist's to “get legal advice on official apologies” (Pearson & Polden 2011:239).      

 

The implications of unified federal defamation law, set against the reality of the Suing iamkelly_78, Dow Jones v Gutnick, Cush & Boland v Dillon and the Eatock v Bolt cases are clear examples of case law addressing the issue of convergent media (Ecob 2007).

Dow Jones v Gutnick established online forms of defamation are committed in the jurisdiction the material is downloaded (Rolph 2010).

Cush & Boland v Dillon  established an example of upholding the privilege defence in the instance of alleged defamation. Further the Eatock v Bolt ruling demonstrates convergent forms of defamation in media discourse (Kelly 2011).   

The implications of defamation law as it relates to media hinges on the arguments of (Dare 2004) who posits an extensive analysis of “competing rights”.

The aforementioned implications lead to debates about proposed additions of ethical and/or legal instruments to enshrine off-line/online rights. I argue that such instruments abridge the liberty of individuals and institutions and chill the effectiveness of democratic discourse through all forms of journalism. 

I concur with (Bernal 2011) and (Gibson 2011) who assert the right of individuals to control their information, encouraging “a right to delete” that balances reputation against, rights and freedom of speech.

However on the Bill of Rights question as it relates to the ongoing media inquiry, I remain sceptical that it will in any way enhance or improve the current legal and journalistic culture that is currently under the microscope.

Pushing ahead with such measures essentially amounts to instituting legislative powers that concentrates power in the hands of the current political potentates to the detriment of the wider community (Brin 1998:12-13).

In conclusion, I strongly disagree with the idea of adding further media based legal burdens to any form of journalism. It would wantonly load them with liability that would ossify the reporting process.

I believe that the media in Australia is currently performing its 'watchdog role' well on both sides of the ideological divide. The future performance of aforesaid 4th Estate role will be dependent on the "motive of publication", "news emphasis", “sense of responsibility", and "presentation" of the publication (Conley 2006:39).

If the culture of 'political leprosy' continues to encroach into the media landscape, I believe the reflex action of "intellectual stalinism" cannot be too far away. Hopefully these moves will be resisted with renewed vigour in the new year.

Tim Humphries is a graduate journalism student and writes from Brisbane, Queensland Australia.

The Eyes Wide Shut Budget

Tim Humphries As Tony Abbott stepped to the political plate this evening, there was one line that has been playing on my mind. Budget 2011 has been 'the eyes wide shut budget'.

The truth of this is demonstrated by the inherent assumption built into the budget papers that Australia will continue to ride the rising economic boom in China and the broader Asian region.

There is real optimism to be found in more trade with Asia across both the energy and services sector, however I think more caution needs to be applied.

The Chinese boom can just as quickly turn into a Chinese cold as the history of boom bust cycles has demonstrated.

Wyatt Roy's question to Treasurer Swan though poignant and factually correct is essentially a moot point because deep down we all know Labor won't deliver a surplus anyway. Big tick for Wyatt, rhetorically it was brilliant!

This is so because the Labor Party are culturally and intellectually incapable of achieving such an outcome.

On the bi-partisan front the new initiatives on Mental Health demonstrate that Government is finally willing to look seriously at the issue and give it the recognition and support that it so desperately needs.

I believe it is a good start and private charities and foundations should look carefully at the model put forward and try to emulate this in the private sphere to take pressure off the public purse into the future.

Brushing through the overview of the key talking points the following was particularly relevant for me:

Building Australia's Future Workforce

•$558 million to deliver tailored, quality training places through the National Workforce Development Fund

•Ambitious reform of vocational education and training, with $1.75 billion on offer to partner with the states and territories

•Measures to boost participation, by rewarding work, providing new opportunities through training, education and services, and introducing new requirements for some groups

Infrastructure

•$36 billion in investment in roads, rail and ports, including $1 billion in funding for the duplication of the Pacific Highway

•Removing tax impediments to infrastructure investment [1]

If Australia really wants to see an epic 'pipeline' of investment and job creation to use the Treasurer's own description, we need to fundamentally re-assess the Industrial Relations system to the point where flexibility returns back into the mix in an attempt to ameliorate the negative impacts of increased union disruption in the Australian workplace.

We need to push for an Industrial framework that does not dampen creativity and innovation and move to couple this with a less cumbersome regulatory regime so that small and medium businesses are not left picking up the tab in taxes for this current Government's fiddling with the budget figures.

The Australian has branded this in its budget coverage as 'class warfare'. The truth of this is born out by the negative impacts of the “carbon tax”, “mining tax” and ancillary flood levy and welfare related changes. [2]

WA Premier Colin Barnett also marked the budget down as “deceptive”. I think this assertion has merit because many of the other initiatives were essentially re-badged programs some of which were left overs from the Rudd period. [3]

When Wayne Swan says he understands there will be a political pain coming from this budget he isn't wrong.

Attacking single mum's and other low wage workers is a recipe for political disaster. Despite all this, the soft sounding words of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” is the only thing the Treasurer and Prime Minister seem to be capable of saying when faced with electoral discontent.

Crikey put it best when they referred to it as the 'budget that’s so tough 'Chuck Norris checks under the bed for it'. Tony Abbott is tougher and if he checks under the bed, he may not find anything at all!

Having said all this If I were Julia Gillard I'd be more worried about Tony Abbott's reply and the potential for a growth in public 'perception' around the idea that Wayne Swan is a credible leader on economic matters.

As the political cycle marches on, I want to conclude by reiterating, this really is an “eyes wide shut budget!”

Tim Humphries is a graduate journalism student and writes from Brisbane, Queensland Australia.

Reference List

1. 2010–11 Commonwealth Budget – Budget at a Glance. 2011. 2010–11 Commonwealth Budget – Budget at a Glance. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.budget.gov.au/2011-12/content/at_a_glance/html/at_a_glance.htm. [Accessed 11 May 2011].

2. Budget welfare cuts branded 'class war' | The Australian. 2011. Budget welfare cuts branded 'class war' | The Australian. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/thats-not-a-knife-wayne-swan-as-budget-cuts-middle-class-welfare-but-increases-jobs/story-fn8gf1nz-1226053971008. [Accessed 11 May 2011].

3. Swan's budget mean and deceptive: Barnett. 2011. Swan's budget mean and deceptive: Barnett. [ONLINE] Available at: http://finance.ninemsn.com.au/newsbusiness/federalbudget/8247592/swans-budget-mean-and-deceptive-barnett. [Accessed 11 May 2011].

4. Job, jobs, jobs the values of the Labor budget – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2011. Job, jobs, jobs the values of the Labor budget – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2556872.html. [Accessed 11 May 2011].

5. Federal budget: big-ticket items seamlessly mesh with smaller tax and welfare policie | Crikey. 2011. Federal budget: big-ticket items seamlessly mesh with smaller tax and welfare policie | Crikey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/05/11/possum-a-budget-so-tough-chuck-norris-checks-under-the-bed-for-it/. [Accessed 11 May 2011].

Islamic Culture Wars and Immigration

Tim-HumphriesLiberty, democracy and freedom will prevail, writes Tim Humphries.

In response to the recent Daily Mail article regarding Anjem Choudary and his call for Muslims to 'rise up', I must say I feel very uncomfortable about this.

It's almost as if he is a Muslim version of Pauline Hanson, perpetuating a reactionary Muslim agenda of hate. This is bad politics. If history has taught us anything it has explicitly extolled the virtue of pluralism on both religious, cultural and economic freedom. It doesn't mean however that you have to like everything all the time.

The recent uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere across the Arab world are indicative of a broader push of a younger generation who see their future tied to a wider involvement and shaping of a Liberal Democratic system of government. A Democratic system that is based on these same ideas of rights, responsibilities and the rule of law that came about through the English conception of Democracy and Common Law.

The breakout push for Democracy is also a wider front in what I would describe as an "Islamic Culture War" that is on-going in that region and elsewhere between those that embrace the notion of Liberal Democracy, Free Press and Cultural Freedom, against the hardline view that espouses a vision of an Islamic state tied to strict religious adherence. 

If anything the philosophical foundations of the recent uprisings point directly to George W Bush's agenda on Democracy in the Arab world. Whilst I was never directly enamored with W myself, I have to say the connecting thread between his views on the War on Terror and the wider philosophical and practical push for Democracy, seem at least recently to be verging on the prescient. Whether it goes further remains to be seen.

Which brings me in this discussion of the Islamic Culture Wars to the issue of Immigration in Australia. It has always puzzled me, the contradictory nature of Immigration in this country. As population growth continues to put upward pressure on Infrastructure, the imperative is to manage something that seems every day to be getting worse.

On one side of the coin you could temporarily slow population growth to allow private sector infrastructure investment to catch up. On the other side of the coin, it would seem the open door policy seems to be the only classical liberal way to drive forward in the quest for creating new opportunity for all Australians. The contradictions continue to roll on.

As was well articulated by by John Izzard in Quadrant on February 20, 2011:

On the February 14 this year The Australian reported that in the 2009/2010 financial year 5,209 illegal immigrants had arrived who had paid a people-smuggler for their journey from Indonesia towards somewhere in Australia. The paper reported, quoting the Department of Immigration, that people-smugglers were paid “in exchange for permanent residency in Australia”. These payments to people-smugglers were made in either cash or jewelery and ranged from $10,000 to $15,000 per person in many cases.

Where Asian Immigration was once the issue that most dogged the minds of Australians in the late 19th and into the 20th Century, the new version of this revolves around 'Muslim Immigration'. Choudary and other groups who consistently spur on the idea of rising up against Western Democracy are explicitly misplaced in their articulations and by doing so fuel mistrust that redirects efforts aimed at harmonization. The need here is for illegal arrivals to be dealt with humanely but with a clear understanding that breaching Australia's sovereignty is not going to be tolerated.

Tony Abbott's 'Stop the Boats', whilst successful as a slogan, must be developed into a sophisticated and cogent policy that demonstrates 'real credentials' that the Coalition can reclaim on National Security.

Australia remains a juicy destination for people that come legally and illegally and for good reason. We are after all the grand Island settlement that brought with us a British inheritance that remains relevant and enriching for all who come to our shores.

The linked nature of these issues has a long way to run and will be an ongoing project of generational change. I am confident however that Liberty, Democracy and Freedom will prevail. If recent events in the Arab world are anything to go by, there is reason for real hope.

Tim Humphries is a graduate journalism student and writes from Brisbane, Queensland Australia.

Reference List

1. Izzard, J 2011, Open borders, Quadrant Magazine, accessed 25 Feburary 2011, <http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/qed/2011/02/cash-for-residency>.

2. Anjem Choudary to lead white house protest calling for Muslims to rise up 2011, accessed 27 February 2011, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1358792/Anjem-Choudary-lead-White-House-protest-calling-Muslims-rise-up.html>.

3. Anjem Choudary to lead white house protest calling for Muslims to rise up 2011, accessed 28 February 2011, <http://www.menzieshouse.com.au/2011/02/anjem-choudary-to-lead-white-house-protest-calling-for-muslims-to-rise-up-mail-online.html>.