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Bob Brown’s misjudged attack on the Murdoch ‘hate media’

Greens leader Bob Brown has attacked the News Ltd ‘hate media’. AAP

Greens leader Senator Bob Brown recently described attacks on his party by The Australian as being the work of a News Ltd “hate media”.

News outlets owned by the Murdoch empire are renowned in the USA and UK for their pro-Conservative partisan editorial stance.

Brown’s views drew a range of comments and - predictably - a robust defence from The Australian and other News Ltd owned newspapers.

Is the Australian Murdoch media becoming more visceral in an American sense, as we see with the likes of Fox News?

I wouldn’t put them in the same category as the American media. I don’t think their language or their views are as extreme. But I don’t think there is any doubt at all that they are clearly biased in favour of the Coalition and biased generally in favour of that peculiar brand of materialistic reactionary politics which passes for conservatism in Australia.

It is not so much conservatism in the Burkean tradition, it is a materialistic conservatism. They have been consistent about that tradition for a long time. I don’t know that it is getting more strident.

They were pretty strident in their support for the Howard government particularly when the Howard government began to go bad. Some of the coverage of the decline of the Howard government was comical in its denial of what was happening. But I don’t think it is getting any worse.

Is Brown being overly sensitive?

No, I don’t think he is being overly sensitive at all. We’d all be done a great favour in the Australian polity if our politicians kept the three rules when they deal with the media. First, tell the truth or at least avoid telling untruths. Second, minimise secrecy as much as you can and thirdly, when the media get it wrong, or you feel you have been given a bad deal, say so boldly.

I think where Brown went wrong was in two ways. Firstly, in denying that he had written in 2007 that we have to kick the coal habit. That was an answer to a question from Chris Uhlmann at the ABC and it was on record that he had in a comment piece in The Australian. That was just silly.

His second mistake was to launch an ad hominem attack on the Murdoch press by referring to it as the “hate media”. That is silly. That leaves you open to a counter-attack of the same low quality and it doesn’t advance the public debate.

If he was able to say that the Murdoch press in his opinion are biased against climate change [in these various particulars] and that it is, as he did say, a serious disservice to the Australian public, then that is sound criticism, it is good criticism.

It is about time that politicians, in a sense, take back the night from the media. I have just finished reading Lindsay Tanner’s book which is fascinating, but fundamentally flawed because it says it is mainly the media’s fault that we have such a low level of public debate.

That can’t conceivably be true because finally, it is the politicians who occupy positions of formal institutional power, who have control of the information. So ultimately, it is for the politicians to manage us better than they do and they are appalling in their gutlessness in the face of the media.

The media has, as Michelle Grattan has said in this debate, a glass jaw. They prance about and flex their muscles but really in a stoush, if you were telling the truth and you were prepared to marshal your facts and marshal your arguments properly, politicians have no need to be as frightened of the media as they are.

It is part of their responsibility in public life to be bold with the media, but in a sensible way, not in the silly off the cuff way that Bob Brown has been. The media do bear a substantial part of the responsibility for the low quality of public debate but they are by no means the originators of this, which is Lindsay Tanner’s thesis.

It is in the hands of the politicians to start setting them right. I applaud Brown for taking them on but I just think he has done it stupidly.

Does Australian media have a tradition of respect to politicians were now betraying?

We live in a pretty robust culture. We speak our minds in Australia and I think within that culture, we treat our politicians with reasonable respect. We are no ruder to the politicians than we are to one another I think.

Is the treatment Brown is receiving from The Australian comparable to the way the progressive media handled Pauline Hanson?

No. I can’t remember with much detail the treatment of Pauline Hanson by the progressive media except that they were against her. I think the worst treatment that was dished out to Pauline Hanson was given by the Sunday Telegraph which is part of the so-called Murdoch hate media when they published photographs purported to be of her but not of her in sexually compromising positions.

Now that is as bad a piece of treatment of any individual, much less and politician, in living memory in Australia. That was dished out to her not by the progressive media but by the Murdoch media.

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