by Scott Balson, Sunday 26th September 1999 - in the public interest
Special note to certain reporters at The Courier-Mail - I will continue with this line exposing your bias and slanted reporting.
I am known to be controversial about my comments about the media so I will not disappoint today.
What I intend to demonstrate is the fact that people reporting the "news" whether they be in the print or television media are nothing more than intellectual prostitutes.
Before demonstrating some classic examples of media-prostitution and manipulation of the truth let me explain how this has been allowed to happen.
Through media concentration we now have a morally reprehensible structure of censorship in the media. The editors are handpicked by Packer and Murdoch. They follow the family-line without question. Their chiefs-of-staff, lower down the line, select articles that meet the policy and directions set by the editors.
Any breaks with the pre-ordained format results in instant dismissal.
Importantly the reporters who write articles or report on the television news know that this is happening but have been prepared to compromise their ethical standards to get a paypacket and to seek promotion at any cost.
Through concentration of the media and the close tie-up of the media empires with the mainstream parties we now have what I call the "soft shoe shuffle".
This takes place shortly after election time. Media advisers from the losing side of government are employed, the next day, at papers like The Courier-Mail. In their new "employment" they became reporters - hardly unbiased one would feel. During this time they do their damnedest to get positive stories about their party run in the paper.
Dennis Atkins, now a senior editor at The Courier-Mail, was Wayne Goss' media adviser and has played a major role in ensuring that the shredding of the Heiner documents by the Goss government - also known as "Shreddergate" has been effectively censored.
I will be using a case study related to Shreddergate as one of my examples of the unethical behaviour of the Murdoch media.
When there is a change of government at a state or federal level there is a massive changing of the guard at all effected newspapers with reporters returning to their role as media advisers and visa-versa.
This incredibly compromising situation will never be reported on by the press because this is how the system works and they are above reproach. Premier Peter Beattie last year rewarded the ex-Courier Mail reporters now working on his staff with a 30% salary increase.
Now that I have got that off my chest let us look at how this ludicrous position effects what you read, see and hear as "news".
I referred to Shreddergate earlier and the manner in which The Courier-Mail has covered up the whole story. One of the key players in the cover up is a contributing editor David Solomon (seen right) who often writes "legal-type" or "Parliament-related" articles in the "Perspectives" section of the Courier-Mail.
David Solomon is a man who carries a great deal of influence in Queensland and has some quite extraordinary contacts at all levels of government. He was on Gough Whitlam's staff between 1972 and 1975. To the reader of the Courier-Mail he is just another reporter - but consider these facts.
On the 4th March this year the Premier of Queensland Peter Beattie openly lied to Parliament when he claimed that there had been no less than ten enquiries into the shredding of the Heiner documents.
Through this lie he was able to narrowly defeat a motion calling for a separate inquiry into the shredding to be established. He said that another inquiry so soon after the Forde Inquiry into the abuse of children in remand centres was a waste of tax payers money. The Forde Inquiry's terms of references were carefully chosen to exclude the shredding.
Five of the ten inquiries nominated by Beattie in his figure were farcical.
Firstly, evidence from the CJC quotes Assistant Police Commissioner Graham Williams that the police had not investigated the shredding when Mr Beattie claimed otherwise;
Secondly and thirdly, evidence showing that Mr Beattie in citing findings of two Senate Privilege Committee was citing totally irrelevant findings;
Fourthly, showing that Connolly/Ryan Inquiry never made any findings of no criminality or official misconduct when Mr Beattie suggested otherwise. This inquiry was rather strangely terminated by the Coalition government when things were getting rather interesting and evidence of possible criminal charges against the Goss government being investigated were muted.
Fifth, the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC). At the time EARC allegedly "investigated allegations relating to Shreddergate" Courier-Mail reporter David Solomon was Chairman of EARC.
Solomon is also a member of the Australian Study of Parliament Group so his close association with sitting Members of Parliament should not be underestimated.
In an unsolicited letter written by Brian Hunter a member of EARC to Mr Eric Thorne on the 19th April 1999, which has been tabled in Parliament by Alan Grice, Hunter makes the following extraordinary claim with respect to the Beattie statement.
I confirm my telephone advice that EARC had no power to enquire into cases. This was the role of the CJC.
EARC was aware of the shredding by the Goss ministry. Some of us were shocked by what we read in the press but let me say categorically that EARC never investigated this matter. If you want absolute proof you have only to go to our report on the "Review of Archives Legislation" (report 92/93 of June 1992). If we had investigated it, this is the report where it would show. It's not there.
On Thursday 10 June 1999 Premier Peter Beattie used his numbers in a most extraordinary manner to defeat one of the most serious allegations that can be brought against any Member of Parliament, let alone a Premier of Queensland: That he deliberately provided false and misleading statement to Parliament to cover up serious impropriety within his Government. The motion was defeated on party lines 42-43 with Labor gaining the support of Independent MLA Peter Wellington to get over the line.
The motion put by National Party MLA Alan Grice together with a series of documents tabled to support it comprehensively proved Beattie had lied. The motion nor its implications were never reported on by The Courier-Mail.
Grice was a last resort option for the whistleblower Kevin Lindeberg after the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, Ray Hollis, sat on and did nothing with the Lindeberg contempt complaint against Premier Beattie for 60 days. Only after repeated requests from Lindeberg did Hollis reply that he would not consider any matter of privilege/contempt being brought to his attention by anyone other than a Member of Parliament. This is where Alan Grice came in.
So what you have is the Speaker of the House and the Premier of Queensland implicated in an extraordinary parliamentary cover-up.
Welcome to the accountable government of Peter Beattie.
A week after Peter Beattie's lie to Parliament, on the 11th March, One Nation MP Jack Paff claimed that ex-staffer Geoffrey Moss had not written maiden speeches for some One Nation MPs - as claimed in the Courier-Mail.
A trivial issue in comparison to that involving the Premier one would feel.
But no, Paff was the central figure in a report by the Parliamentary Members Ethics Committee which ruled,
"Based on the evidence before the committee, the only logical finding is that on the balance of possibilities Mr Paff, in his report of explanation or dissenting report to the House tabled on March 11, 1999, deliberately misled the House."
The ethics committee called for Paff to be suspended from Parliament for three weeks, be publicly admonished by the Speaker Ray Hollis and be required to apologise. Their report includes the following statement:
"The committee would like to emphasise that deliberately misleading the house is a very serious contempt.
"If the assembly cannot rely on members' statements in the House, the whole system of responsible democracy is at risk.
"To deliberately mislead the House is akin to perjury in a judicial proceeding."
Just over a week ago, on Friday the 17th September 1999 Paff's expulsion became reality when the Coalition joined the Labor party in supporting the directives set out by the Parliamentary Members Ethics Committee. The direct involvement of the Premier and the Speaker in the debate at this time highlights the incredible hypocrisy underwriting our "democratic" government and the manner in which the Murdoch media cover it.
The Speaker, Ray Hollis, the man who had earlier breached the Parliament's Standing Orders by refusing to table the Lindeberg document on Shreddergate said, "Your conduct, which has been publicly exposed, lowers not only yourself, but the House in the public esteem.
"If other members acted as you did, it would be impossible to rely upon any statements made in the House and the system of responsible government that we are privileged enough to enjoy in this state would break down."
To compound the hypocrisy the Premier, Peter Beattie, gave Paff some fatherly advice when he said in Parliament,
"One of the things that you have to accept in public life is that you've made a mistake, then you have to face up to the mistake. Sometimes that requires an apology.
"The community is prepared to accept leaders that aren't perfect, we're all human at the end of the day, but you've got to accept that you've made a mistake.
"It's ironic in the extreme that One Nation should be the party that rips up the book and behaves inappropriately."
While factually reporting the events and comments that took place in Parliament The Courier-Mail never remarked about the blatant hypocrisy demonstrated by the Premier Peter Beattie or the Speaker, Ray Hollis.
For individuals like David Solomon, The Courier-Mail contributing editor not to know and understand the full background to the Beattie/Hollis cover-up in Parliament is implausible.
The Courier-Mail is party to this. While this is just one example of the manner in which politics has taken over reporting one has to consider the overriding hand of the master - Rupert Murdoch.
On the 20th September, last Monday, One Nation Parliamentary leader Bill Feldman released the following statement which demonstrated that the charge against Paff was trumped up. The Courier-Mail ignored it.
The unpublished statement reads,
One Nation Parliamentary leader Bill Feldman said today, he was appalled by the way in which his colleague Jack Paff was "railroaded".
"The preamble to the motion by Shaun Nelson was proven to be untrue", said Mr Feldman. "Therefore, there was no basis on which to progress his referral of Mr Paff to the Privileges Committee".
Mr Nelson's claim in Parliament, that he "knew of certain other" (speeches which had been written for other MLAs by Mr Moss) was proved to be untrue, when nine present and former One Nation MLAs advised, in letters to the committee, that Mr Moss had not written their speeches.
"Mr Nelson, himself confirmed the untruth of his statement in a subsequent letter to the Committee, in which he advised that he did not have direct evidence of Mr Moss'employment or duty statement, or any concrete knowledge of Mr Moss writing speeches for other MLAs", said Mr Feldman.
"The assumptions by the committee on the three key issues of their findings are transparently flawed", said Mr Feldman. "The finding is absolutely without foundation, and is nothing more than a successful attempt to "get Jack Paff" .
"This has been a perversion of the parliamentary process, and an indictment against the members of all three major parties who have been involved in this contrived result. But they should not be complacent, because the people of Queensland are watching. The people of Queensland will see this as the bully boys ganging up to bash the one party that threatens their cosy little arrangement, and promises to deliver power back to the people. We in One Nation will keep on getting up, dusting ourselves off, and getting on with the job, Half a million Queenslanders are counting on us, and let me tell you, we will not let them down", said a disgusted Mr Feldman
It is quite clear that the Murdoch and Packer press curry favour with the Laboral factions (ie the Coalition and Labor parties). It is also quite clear that deals are being done in the backrooms to see what favours can be granted in exchange for favourable coverage at that most critical of times - when the elections come up.
To challenge the ethics of the mainstream press is to take a tiger by the tail. I sometimes wonder why I have done it but always return to the starting point in which I realise that morally it was the right thing to do.
My involvement in this invidious role came about by accident. I had established my own on-line daily paper and started covering issues when the Hanson phenomenon loomed on the political scene.
I was quite fascinated by the manner in which the media went after her like a pack of depraved animals looking for a feed.
Her stand on issues replicated mine and thus I started reporting on her and her party - covering the history from the launch on the 11th April 1997.
I now have an incredibly comprehensive history of the party on-line. One fact that it ably demonstrates is the manner in which the mainstream media, headed by The Courier-Mail in Queensland, have distorted the truth, concentrated on anything negative and totally thrown away the rule book on ethics in their mad desire to get rid of Hanson and her One Nation party.
The command to do this came from no lesser an identity than Lachlan Murdoch who was reported as telling his editors to "Kill the cow".
As a result of my work on the Internet I wrote a book based on three years of research. I invited 30 reporters to the Sydney launch of "Murder by Media, Death of Democracy in Australia". They were supplied with advance copies of the book. Not one attended. A single reporter appeared who took no part but who, I later found out, had been sent to dob in any of his mates who might have dared attend. This unsavoury character who refused to leave his card or give his name disappeared as soon as I had finished my launch speech. No questions were asked.
Three weeks after the launch the book was banned by Dymocks. The command coming from no lesser a person than Chairman John Forsyth who contacted his distribution lady personally and demanded its withdrawal. The book had been selling well at Dymocks up to that time. I was later informed that Forsyth, worth about $200 million according to BRW, had had a call from Kerry Packer.
In a fax received from the Managing Director of Dymocks, Keith Perkin, he writes,
"I note your comment that the book cannot be the subject of legal threats because 'it is based on fact and what reporters have written over the last three years'. Even if that is in fact the case, we have been advised that truth alone is not a defence to defamation actions in Australia..".
and the following, not to subtle, warning:
"To remove any possible doubt in your mind, I wish to stress that Dymocks does not exercise any censorship role in the books which it sells, nor is it influenced in any way by political considerations in determining which titles it will stock. The sole ground of its decision in this case is the possibility that the book may be defamatory. In view of the comment made on the back cover of your book relating to printers, I put you on notice that any statement which you make which suggests that Dymocks' decision resulted in any way from an attempt to censor your book and the views expressed in it from being circulated, will result in the commencement of legal proceedings against you without notice."
My political views have apparently had a bearing on their decision to withdraw the book, as the letter states, '... in view of the close involvement which you have with One Nation Party, you are not a disinterested observer of the matters which are referred to in the book'.
"As this letter provides you with the reasons for our decision, we require that the present references to Dymocks and its stores be removed from your web site, and that any further reference to Dymocks be limited to a statement as follows:"Dymocks has resolved to withdraw the book from sale because of a concern that it may be defamatory."
I have never compromised my integrity by abiding by the instruction of the Dymocks hierarchy. I simply added a scan of their fax and the responses of a great many people to my on-line web site publicising the book.
At no time before the withdrawal was I given the opportunity to address or respond to Dymocks' concerns.
The singling out of "Murder by Media" for this special "treatment" reflects the disturbing trend of institutionalised and selective censorship in Australia through the concentration of the media in too few hands. The fact that truth is no defence in a defamation action might well be true, but then one would think that to retain credibility one would expect the book chain to review hundreds of others titles on its shelves.
My understanding is that it has not.
In fact Dymocks stocks books which cover a range of subjects from controversial religious cults, paedophilia, pornography, radical left-wing political theories to obscure and unsocial political philosophies including the violent views of IRA leader Jerry Adams.
What the decision does expose is the quite astounding fact that in a "democratic" country where "freedom of speech" is so highly valued two sets of rules apply. The Packer/Murdoch press have open slather in defaming people day after day without question - but when extracts from their published newspaper articles or interviews are carried in a book to support an argument or point that they are a serious threat to our democracy this can then be subject to a defamation action...
This "threat" was officially behind the "forced" withdrawal of "Murder by Media" from the national book chain Dymocks.
Since this time I have had many reports and feedback from people trying to buy the book at Dymocks stores. They have been told as recently as June 1999 that the book was withdrawn "because of legal action that has been taken". A member of staff of the Darling Harbour branch of Dymocks in Sydney told me personally in April 1999 that there was "a problem with the book" and that "legal action had been taken against the publishers" and "that was why the book had been withdrawn from Dymocks".
Of course all these comments are blatantly untrue and prejudicial against the book's credibility. As author and distributor and my company as publisher have to date received no writs or legal threats against the book or its contents.
But don't dare call it censorship in Australia.
While all this was going on a particularly nasty, Melbourne based, mob known as the Australia-Israel Review were working on a response to my statements about Mark Leibler who runs this publication which named 2,000 One Nation members.
In the book I referred to the naming of the men and women and providing the suburbs in which they lived as reminiscent of Nazi-style tactics of intimidation.
The subsequent article in the Australia/Isael Review fraudulently claimed through an article by Jeremy Jones the National Vice-president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry states, "Balson himself described Australian Jewry as an 'elite racist community', whatever that is meant to mean, Israel as 'the world's most racist state', and referred recently to George Soros as 'a Jewish parasite'. He has referred to Jews as Nazis and claimed Israel survives because of 'well-placed Jews in the US'.
As editor of the daily 'newspaper', Balson has directed readers to bizarre anti-Semitic material websites which have included direct promotions of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and 'acting on' their blue-print for world domination, with another containing an appeal for the English to 'rise up against the filthy rotten zionist infested British Establishment'.
Perhaps the main charges which @notd's contributors level at Jews is undue influence over the media, and it 'is the media' which Scott Balson targets in his first venture into the world of ink and paper, 'Murder by Media, Death of Democracy in Australia'.
Within days of the article's publication, The Courier-Mail took up Jeremy Jones' cause under a headline "Web of Hate" accompanied by a large graphic showing a burning cross protruding from the screen of a computer monitor. The article included the following statement:
"Almost everyday, I come across another offensive web site and a fair proportion of these are Australian," Jones says. He says of great concern are groups which are not as overt in their leanings and which try to establish links with mainstream sites to bolster their credibility.
He is concerned about a web site which gears the features of a news group and describes itself as an Internet newspaper called Australian National News of the Day. It is published by One Nation's web master, Scott Balson, and often contains overt as well as ambiguous anti-Jewish material.
"Every so often, Balson will refer readers to a specific document and some of the documents recently have included one from the World Church of the Creator which is one of the most violent white supremacist groups in the United States," Jones says. "Having a link to such a site or promoting a site is only one step away from saying these things himself."
The fact that I had not been contacted to make a comment on Jones' claims were totally lost on the Courier-Mail. A right of reply, edited by the paper before publication, only appeared several days later after the direct intervention by the Australian Press Council. The letter confirmed among other things that I had never heard of the World Church of the Creator until it had been raised in the article.
The Courier-Mail now used this article as a hook to label me as anti-Semitic as can be demonstrated by this extract from an editorial headed "Open season declared on the net" which appeared on 16th April 1999:
The Owen case is not the first instance of a disturbing misuse of the Net to come to light in Queensland. One Nation's self-styled Webmaster Scott Balson has taken to using this wondrous new medium to disseminate material which is blatantly anti-Semitic. In any other forum, his unsubstantiated and outrageous charges of Zionist conspiracies would have placed him at risk of prosecution, yet to date the authorities appear to be at a loss as to how to deal with such deeply offensive material when it appears on the Internet.
This is not to suggest nutty beliefs should be policed off the Net.
Freedom of speech remains one of the most fundamental and precious rights of all Australians. Yet the laws which prohibit incitement, defamation and vilification on the grounds of race and gender are not and should not be suspended the moment one logs onto the Net.
But freedom of speech seemed to be last on their list when The Courier-Mail became the primary complainant to the Police Prosecutor, David Bullock, resulting in my arrest for allegedly naming the Labor MP charged on 48 child-sex charges on the Internet.
I cannot comment any more on this particular issue as my day in court is on 6th October just ten days from now. My new book "Enemy of the State" will be released after the court case and cover the issues that I have raised and others here in far greater detail.
Believe me, the joke is that we are told that we have an open democracy in Australia. We do not.
PM does not stand for Prime Minister it stands for Packer/Murdoch - they rule the lucky country through their domination of our media.
The only way we can bring back a democracy and allow our reporters to report ethically is by taking the mainstream media away from these greed-based, self-centered families. The mainstream media should be nationalised in lieu of years of tax avoidance by the Packer and Murdoch families. The empires should then be broken into smaller independent papers with a strict ceiling on media ownership ensuring that ethics and balance once again return to our news.
This has got to be the number one priority of Independents in Federal Parliament when they soon hold the balance of power.