Williams' Word

‘SECOND BEST’ LEADERS

To be fair to all Australians we really should have a federal election – and soon.

Australia is a nation of immigrants and we can’t really blame those people who stood for election without realising they had a technical loyalty to some other country. The fall-out continues and there could be more departures in the coming year.

Maybe the first step should be for the parliament to create laws that clear the situation and accept that if a candidate for election states that his loyalty is only to Australia and he rejects any technical affiliation with some other country, surely that statement should be enough.

At the moment an increasing number of our decision makers are only the second best that the voters selected. We really need first choice leaders.

The voters surely would not like the idea of an election but, unless we clear up this dual-loyalty business and have another election, we will have a parliament consisting of far too many ‘second best’ running our country. 

PM REJECTS FEDERAL ICAC – WHY?

Labor Leader Bill Shorten recently asked in parliament if the Government would back Labor’s plan to create a federal form of ICAC. The Prime Minister did not even answer the question but went into one of those embarrassing rants about the Opposition, one of those performances than makes Question Time so embarrassing. He avoided the question.

Why? Why not join in creating a national body to ensure honesty on a federal level, such as NSW has on a state level – unless the Libs have something to hide?

It will make a very firm political platform for Labor in the next election because the obvious message is that there are some things illegal or immoral that some politicians don’t want to be questioned. It makes an obvious political campaign slogan - “Some people don’t want a Federal ICAC – just who are they protecting?” 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF CRUELTY

There seems to have been some sort of delight in the media in naming and shaming some rich and powerful men who apparently offended some women by their actions and sexual suggestions but, maybe, there are some much more dangerous people in our society – the cruel people. And these are not necessarily the physically big and powerful men. Some people would argue that the most damaging people could be school-aged girls.

Sure, most boys suffer a punch or two from bigger and stronger boys but they seem to get over it. Not so the victims of verbal and other sorts of bullying.

In a lifetime in media this old scribe would have interviewing many thousands of people and a surprising number of adult women have mentioned that their lives had been seriously damaged by other girls when they were  of school age. Some talked of persistent ganging-up by one or two girls who led others in a campaign against them. These female bullies tried to isolate particular girls and do their best to hurt them as much as possible, maybe not physically but the damage can be permanent.

This cruelty by girls against other girls could be much more damaging than being embarrassed by predatory men when they became adults.

Maybe the first step would be a survey to assess if cruelty by girls against other girls is common. 

Any solution must revolve around contacts between parents and teachers. Parents have to be encouraged to talk to their children about school and gently try to find out if their child has been bullied – or more particularly assess if their child is, in fact, the bully.

Schools are aware of the problem but they would need input from parents as well, if the bullies are to be stopped.

BEWARE CONTROL OF THE MEDIA

Like everyone else, your ancient scribe gets a bit hot under the collar with some of the information in the media which is designated as ‘news’ but is far from being a fairly balanced report.

Commentators and columns which are marked as ‘opinion pieces’ are different, they are published as one person’s views on certain issues. We might disagree with them but should not disagree with their ability to air those views.

Not so with news. A properly trained journalist should be impartial when he reports the news. The reporter’s task is simply to report the facts, even if the reporter might disagree with them.

Sadly, today, it is impossible to tell if the items described as “news” are facts as reported by an impartial observer or somebody trying to sell us something (such as a political opinion).

But when the Attorney General is said to be considering giving himself the power to prosecute journalists? That is just not on.

We cannot afford to give politicians power over the media, no matter how righteous or important these pollies might want to appear. This has always been the first step in creating a totalitarian state. It always ends in disaster.

That is not to say the media should never be questioned. We have a system of government whereby the politicians make the laws and then stand back and give the courts the power to ensure those laws are followed faithfully. Politicians should not be involved in controlling the news. There is big danger when politicians start controlling what the media reports. Russia and other totalitarian countries are good examples.

We must protect our system which has worked so well in the past, whereby the politicians make laws, with the understanding that those laws comply with our constitution (and this can be questioned by our courts) - but never allow the politicians to gain control over what the media reports. It’s far too dangerous.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.

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