On NITV again and related issues

I see the Herald has an extract from the upcoming final Boyer Lecture by Marcia Langton, a person who quite often says, rightly or wrongly,  what people don’t really want to hear. I rather admire her.

There is an undercurrent in the reconciliation movement that has gone unnoticed. At public events over the last 20 years, many Aboriginal advocates of reconciliation have addressed themselves not to the settlers who want absolution for their ancestral past, but to young Aboriginal people attracted to the ”Aboriginal sovereignty” slogans. They have tried to deter them from a fatuous political path towards ideas and activities that will improve their lives and sense of self-esteem.

Noel Pearson challenged Michael Mansell and his entourage to develop an ideological consciousness "that goes beyond absolutist, nihilist daydreaming about what should be, but instead become concerned with how we are actually going to go about making things the way they should be".

I have been thrilled by the Redfern Now ABC television series. Produced and directed by Rachel Perkins of Blackfella Films and a magnificent team of indigenous writers, actors and technicians, it speaks to the Aboriginal people who have lived through these turgid political dramas. It depicts the emergence of an Aboriginal middle class with veracity, its members intimately linked to their families living on the Block in Redfern, and the transference of Aboriginal cultural values from the Block to the suburbs. It shows Aboriginal values and social practices at work in dramatic scenes of encounters with the police and the struggles of families to deter youth from criminal activities and with mental illness.

Artists such as Perkins and her exceptional team members have done a far better job than anthropologists and the political ideologues in describing these challenges. With minute attention to the intimate details of Aboriginal life at the Block and the tendrils of familial, social and political connection across geographies, class and history, they have broadcast more truth and sociological sophistication into Australian homes than thousands of papers from the intellectual militias of the "Indigenous Affairs" machine.

Those of us who have raged against the machine and won some few successes know that the challenge lies in large part in capturing the hearts and minds of young people with a message of hope. The elements of that picture of their future that they must imagine for themselves must come from opportunities to enable them to live a good life. This is why Pearson’s welfare reform and education initiatives are so important and effective in transforming the lives of people in Cape York. The inspiration Noel has given to others across the country should not be underestimated. In the face of the rancorous denials from the exclusive club of Pearson haters, the facts keep stacking up.

A younger generation of Aboriginal people are telling stories through literature, the arts, film and music and speaking back to history and oppression without the burden of the culture wars. Redfern Now, The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, Toomelah, directed by Ivan Sen, and Samson and Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton, are just some examples of their outpouring of creative work, thinking and writing. Indigenous filmmakers and television producers have cemented their place in the mainstream winning over audiences and proving their box office success…

That will really get up some noses around the country, but I think she is quite right about “the intellectual militias of the ‘Indigenous Affairs’ machine…” Nor should we overlook, beyond her anger about that issue, the overall positive thrust of what she is saying.

You can judge Ivan Sen’s Toomelah for yourself on Sunday thanks to NITV, and see Marcia Langton feature in First Australians. Burned Bridge, I am ashamed to admit, I had never heard of!

  • 7:30pm First Australians

    This landmark series chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. It explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire, and depicts the true stories of individuals – both black and white. The story begins in 1788 in Sydney with the friendship between an Englishmen, Governor Phillip, and a warrior, Bennelong. Documentary (PG)

  • 8:45pm Burned Bridge

    In the remote Australian town of Brooklyn Waters, NSW, a police officer and a radio producer investigate the horrifying murder of a young Aboriginal girl. Starring Cate Blanchett and Ernie Dingo.

  • 9:40pm Toomelah

    Daniel is a small ten year old boy who dreams of being a gangster. He is kicked out of school and befriends a local gang leader, until a rival arrives back from jail to reclaim his turf.

It is worth it to give those program details as I see The Australian and The Illawarra Mercury haven’t yet registered in the print versions of their TV guides that NITV Channel 34 exists!  The Herald Guide did so from Day One.

Check NITV programming here.

I will, however, watch the NSW Department of Education (that is, PUBLIC education!) rising above all the crap politicians and others fling at it and the funding they fling rather less, in what will clearly be yet again a fabulous Schools Spectacular on ABC1 at 6 pm.

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The Schools Spectacular is a world-class arena production and one of the largest annual events of its calibre anywhere in Australia – and arguably the world. Since 1984 the Schools Spectacular has grown to become more than just a showcase highlighting the talents of the students of New South Wales public schools. It is an iconic cultural event incorporating students from diverse backgrounds and communities from the length and breadth of the state. The Schools Spectacular is a remarkable New South Wales success story and is proudly presented by the NSW Department of Education and Communities.

Images from the 2012 show – see  the Schools Spectacular Gallery page.

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Are your p*bes as radiant, shiny and glorious as mine?

W*ll! Fancy *sking the Pr*me M*nister something like that? The things you can do when you are on F*cebook! Just ask A**m Subwoofer H******, apparently, who inserted that into a Facebook interview done yesterday by Julia Gillard. I have done the redactions lest anyone be o**ended. "McPiss off you red-headed bloody McClown" was another gem of subprime public intelligence — at least until Julia’s minders, who were monitoring what seems to have been a bit of an unfortunate venture into Web 2,  managed to hit the delete button.

A spokesman for the government said: "This is the first federal question-and-answer session by a major political figure in Australia – it is the first of its kind. There was a huge response in terms of questions; there’s been a lot more that have been tabled for future use. There is a tiny minority of offensive comments and they are moderated after being published."

Certainly this and other recent events concerning someone called Jones have been raising all manner of interesting questions about the nature and place of the “new media” vis-a-vis democratic process, free speech, and so on and so forth, issues raised by then screwed over on Qanda last night – one of the most pathetic Qandas in recent memory, with the exception of a wonderful few moments from Nilaja Sun in response to this:

Jessie Huynh asked: Nilaja Sun: What challenges did you face to change your career path from being a teacher to a solo writer and performer? Was the transition from teaching a group and feeding off the students to enhance your abilities in the classroom, to having a barrier between you and your audience, difficult to adapt to?

Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in with characteristic flair:

I should note in this context another misguided Labor proposal to rein in the media – to provide that media acquisitions, currently subject to clear black letter trade practices and cross media ownership rules, to become subject to a public interest test. This is a concept so ambiguous it is readily open to interpretation in a very partisan political way.

Another point of objection I raised was that it was naïve to imagine that a statutory regulator would make newspapers more benign. After all the Sydney radio shock jocks including Mr Jones, are regulated by ACMA and are regularly investigated and occasionally upbraided for one outrage after another without any noticeable improvement in their discourse.

Even if Mr Jones had made his remarks about the Prime Minister’s late father on air, I doubt if ACMA would have found a breach of the code. Mr Jones has frequently urged the Prime Minister be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag and no breach of the code was found.

But in this case the effective response to Mr Jones was not regulation, or less media freedom, but rather the use by thousands of people of the enhanced freedom afforded them by the social media.

Mr Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying saying that “ if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.”

But it is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine. After all Mr Jones has waged more than a few onslaughts against individuals and businesses and encouraged more than a few email campaigns of his own.

As George Megalogenis observed on twitter today – “We all agree, don’t regulate the media. But why do you want to regulate the masses?”[8]

Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them. But if other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?

Is people power the antidote to media bullies?

SMS and instant messages were powerful enough in years past, but the reach and functionality of the smartphone connected to social media networks has enabled opposition political movements even in the most repressive societies to mobilize and challenge and in some cases, ultimately, overthrow the Government.

The impact of these technologies have been particularly profound in China where despite extensive Internet censorship the Government is now no longer in complete control of the means of self expression. Citizens unhappy with local officials can, and frequently do, take their case online. A decade ago they would have had little chance of their concerns being published in a local newspaper.

As Geoff Raby reminded us last week, there would have been no prospect of the excruciatingly embarrassing Bo Xi Lai saga and related leadership struggles being so widely reported and debated within China in a pre-smartphone era.

So have we reached a nirvana for freedom of speech – with everyone a publisher via their smartphone, a platform so compelling that even the greatest newspaper mogul of all time, Rupert Murdoch, has become a tweep!…

(I also enjoyed, as a sometime Classicist, Malcolm Turnbull’s talk to the Classical Association of NSW, though it makes me feel even more like some mouldering old relic to reflect that when Malcolm was studying Latin and Greek at Sydney Grammar I was already teaching at Cronulla High!)

But at least Malcolm Turnbull seems to know how Twitter, Facebook etc work. On Qanda last night Christopher Pyne, who I suspect also knows, came up with a wildly improbable scenario that the nasty comments in Julia’s interview were somehow part of a plot to distract us all from thinking about the (largely nonexistent) effects of the carbon tax on our economy. 

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m going to hear from the rest of the panel. Christopher Pyne, you jumped in there.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, just on the blog…
TONY JONES: Are you suggesting that the staff had some role in this?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I don’t know, Tony, but I do think it is peculiar that since her staff are moderating the Facebook discussion, they allowed trolls to breakthrough…
KATE ELLIS: Does anybody here know how Facebook actually works?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yeah, we do but…
KATE ELLIS: Like people post on a wall and you delete it if you don’t agree with it. People post first and then you delete it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, why didn’t her staff moderate those remarks off instantaneously. Why did they live them on there and them make a big political story out of it?
KATE ELLIS: Well, they did. Once they were put up, they were removed.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I just think it’s passing strange that if her staff were moderating this apparent first in national politics, that they allowed these very unpleasant statements to be put up on the Facebook rather than, as soon as they appeared, removing them instantaneously, which didn’t happen. So I think that’s peculiar…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Can I just say that some of the things you’ve said are complete assertions that have been utterly denied by Tony Abbott and you stated them as facts. That’s the first thing. Secondly, the Tony Abbott I know is a person who has absolute regard for strong women and surrounds himself with them. His wife, Margie, his chief of staff Peta Credlin. He loves and respects his three daughters and his two sisters. To suggest that Tony Abbott is a misogynist is part of a smear campaign designed to stop him becoming Prime Minister and let me say this: it is a distraction from the issues like cost of living pressures, job insecurity, the economy, and Labor wants us to have that distraction. They want the Australian public to talk about everything other than the economy, job insecurity, cost of living and the carbon tax and unfortunately that question falls for that Labor Party campaign. To Margie Abbott came out on Friday, because she was thoroughly sick of people telling bald faced lies about her husband. Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, unfortunately Kate Ellis, others have been responsible for this, what’s been dubbed the handbag hit squad. It is an outrage what people have said about Tony Abbott and it is as offensive to suggest he hates his wife, his three daughters and his two sisters…
GEORGINA FREEMAN: I didn’t say he hates his wife.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: …as the things Alan Jones said about Julia Gillard’s father…

Piers Akerman was decidely strange, as Matthew da Silva notes today.

But such debates are part of the culture wars in Australia, as we saw later the same day when Piers Akerman appeared on the ABC’s Q and A. The same kind of issues popped up, and the same fundamental lack of understanding about how social media works. We had Akerman sagely pointing a trembling finger at "The Twitter", and comparing a Facebook page (which he knows nothing about) to a blog (he once moderated one in a professional capacity). And there was the same propensity for the blokes – Akerman, the Liberals’ Christopher Pyne, and ex-Labor MP Lindsay Tanner – to talk over the top of the women. Host Tony Jones was forced to step in on a number of occasions in order to ensure Labor MP Kate Ellis had enough air to reasonably present her opinion on the panel…

Matthew’s main topic in that post is this interview on 2GB:

It’s a long interview and worth listening to. A number of topics were covered, including Alan Jones’ propensity to inciting violence, and his track record in this vein during the lead-up to the December 2005 Cronulla riots. Smith tried valiantly to play down Jones’ role in that affair but this sort of nimble footwork by a 2GB shock jock would merely have further angered those who participated in the social media campaign against Alan Jones. Like the 45-minute "apology" Jones gave after being caught out saying John Gillard "died of shame", Smith’s performance yesterday with regard to the Cronulla riots merely indicates that 2GB radio announcers do not believe that Jones did anything wrong all those years ago. It is difficult to see how progress can be made on the count of public civility if 2GB still harbours resentment over something that was officially sanctioned, and for which Jones received a public rebuke from the media authority. How can the two sides agree on the nature of appropriate conduct in the media if there is disagreement on such basic things?

There is so much around the traps on all this now as the issues raised are rather greater than the bloody Parrot. You can go from Gerard Henderson on the one hand – why do I keep thinking the word “anal”? – to Jenna Price on the other.  Or Michelle Grattan:

…there is a fine line — between firms responding to public opinion, and being intimidated by a campaign targeted at them, especially when it bombards them individually. A number of those remaining — before Macquarie Radio stopped all advertising on the program — were small enterprises. Their vulnerability to damage from a tough campaign is proportionately greater than that of larger companies.

By giving ordinary people a voice, social media is empowering voters and consumers. This is obviously a good thing, whether it is to enables them to have more political say or get better service from companies.

But the medium also has potential to bring out the worst as well as the best.

While Jones’ enemies, especially on the left, are glad to see him get his comeuppance, they should also remember that in other circumstances some of his nastier allies on the right could also mobilise support to hunt their targets…

Yesterday, even though I had not signed any petitions about Jones as I explained before, I did "like" Destroy the Joint because I did "like" what I saw there.

the grand prince of bogans .....

And now, just for fun:

Reminders

This morning here in West Wollongong I noted how glorious was the Illawarra Flame behind an abandoned house I pass every day going to and from the Yum Yum Cafe.

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And then I came home having read Paul Sheehan’s rather remarkable column about Alan Jones being “bullied”. Loon Pond deals with that and has this lovely picture…

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That just asks for a caption and Loon Pond supplies one. What would your suggestion be?

Yesterday I showed quite clearly that even though I am in his “demographic” I really think Alan Jones is deep down a total ass. But I have not supported the petition against him either. So make what you will of that. Meanwhile here is a far more decent man, and an event I saw as it happened on ABC News 24 last night, noting on Facebook:

I just watched the Community Cabinet Q and A from Launceston, Tasmania, on ABC News 24 and am hoping a transcript comes in due course as it was a reminder that Julia Gillard can be far more impressive than we give her credit for in the present climate. It also was a reminder that aside from all the bullshit of the news cycle things really are being worked on. And at around 7.35 was a statement from the floor of the most amazing decency on the recent Alan Jones circus. 100 plus points to the man who made that remark. Hope, as I say, to get chapter and verse by tomorrow. It and he were just beautiful.

It may have been earlier than 7.35, but otherwise I still feel the same about this man and what he said.

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Ms Gillard and her cabinet had been busy dealing with questions about the carbon tax and foreign aid at a community cabinet event in Launceston when an elderly man asked if he could make a statement.

If you’re quick, Ms Gillard told him, and he read part of a letter he wished to give her, taking issue with shock jock Alan Jones’ version – since disavowed – of her relationship with John Gillard.

"John Gillard spoke of his love and pride for his daughter," the man read.

"He would have died knowing that she, Australia’s first female prime minister, is, as history will show, the most vilified prime minister by far in Australian political history.

"I dedicate this letter to your father, John Gillard – a Welsh coalminer, a psychiatric nurse, a loving father, a much-loved father and husband.

"And I dedicate it in the name of everything that’s good and pure and true and decent."

Cue massive applause, and Ms Gillard appeared touched…

No, Ms Gillard manifestly was touched, as was I, as anyone would be.

Let me remind you:

My father, John Gillard, passed away this morning in Adelaide.
He has battled illness in recent years but his death is a shock for me and my family.
Dad lived a long and full life.  He was brought up in a coal mining village and left school at 14, but transcended these humble beginnings to become a man with a love of ideas, political debate and poetry.
Migrating to Australia in 1966, he studied for a new life in a new land and became a psychiatric nurse.  For more than two decades, he showed his capacity for love and care to those most in need of help.
My father was my inspiration.  He taught me that nothing comes without hard work and demonstrated to me what hard work meant as a shift worker with two jobs.  He taught me to be passionate about fairness.  He taught me to believe in Labor and in trade unionism.
But above all, he taught me to love learning and to understand its power to change lives.  He always regretted his family background meant he had not proceeded on to higher education as a young man.  He was determined that I had the opportunities he was denied.
I will miss him for the rest of my life…

See also her address in Parliament on 20 September.

And let me add, in fairness, Tony Abbott:

On behalf of the coalition—and I suspect on behalf of all members of the parliament—I welcome the Prime Minister back after her bereavement leave. This is a tragic time for her, and we all feel for her at this very difficult and sad time. I also acknowledge the sad duty that the Prime Minister and I have been engaged in over the last few days attending military funerals. They are very sad occasions. But they are proud occasions, because the departed have done their duty, by their mates and by our country.

I again acknowledge John Gillard, who has done his country proud in producing such a daughter. It is a remarkable parent who produces a Prime Minister of this country. I acknowledge his journey from the valleys of Wales to this wide brown land. It is a journey I am a little familiar with, as my own maternal grandmother grew up in the village of Gelligaer, a former mining town on the south coast of Wales. For John Gillard, as for Phyllis Lacey, my grandmother, Australia has been a land of opportunity—although the same journey provided different political destinations, I hasten to add, in those cases.

We all know the place good parents have in the hearts of their children, and the coalition continues to extend its deepest sympathies to the Prime Minister.

Don’t you wish, at the very least, that Alan Jones had shut his gob? What he said would disgrace a public urinal even if muttered just to himself, let alone when speaking in “role model” guise to a bunch of eager Young Liberals, and some twat of a reporter…

Related:  Ross Gittins being quite marvellous yesterday.

The email from Quitnet and further framing thoughts on GBTWYCF2 on SBS

First the email from Quitnet:

Hello Neil Whitfield!

Your Quit Date is: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 AM
Time Smoke-Free: 548 days, 20 hours, 1 minute and 20 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 27442
Lifetime Saved: 6 months, 29 days, 15 hours
Money Saved: $17,536.00

I did celebrate at the appropriate time on Facebook and Quitnet.

Meanwhile Go Back To Where You Came From hasn’t just been playing to the choir after all.

The second series of SBS TV’s ground-breaking refugee documentary/reality series Go Back To Where You Came From drew a solid 752,000 viewers nationally last night.

The result slotted Go Back To Where You Came From into 10th place on the overnight [Tuesday] rankings…

To command such a large slice of the audience is a major win for SBS. Previously only shows such as the hit British motoring show Top Gear delivered similar audiences to SBS.

The first series, which was screened last year, was watched by 524,000 viewers on its first night and ranked 23rd for the night. It then built to 569,000 and 600,000 for its second and third nights…

The second series features six celebrities: former government minister Peter Reith, comedian Catherine Deveney, singer Angry Anderson, former ombudsman Allan Asher, model Imogen Bailey and former "shock jock" broadcaster Michael Smith.

In last night’s first episode the group was split and sent to Kabul in Afghanistan and Mogadishu in Somalia.

The big result for SBS did particular damage to Ten, at least in perception terms. Go Back To Where You Came From out-rated every show on Ten last night.

In pure ratings terms such comparisons are not always sound – they’re a little like comparing apples and oranges – but it does serve to illustrate the particular ratings pressures on Ten at the moment.

Because of Go Back’s strong performance, SBS’s share was only a few percentage points behind Ten’s last night. That will no doubt set tongues wagging…

See also The danger is palpable in an inspired Go Back.

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Peter Reith in Kabul: not a monster

Peter Reith appeared also in Leaky Boat last year. There he stayed in his sheltered workshop of memory and self-justification, but even then…

The information in this documentary is substantial and coherent. It is also very persuasive.

Fascinating to me – because it conformed with the serving sailors I spoke to around that time – was the honesty and clear sight of the military.

What the documentary added to the picture for the first time, as far as I know, were voices from the boat people themselves.

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Made a nonsense of Reith and his scrap-book – though it was interesting to notice that the iron man does have twinges of conscience. Watch it again if you don’t believe me!

Full marks to Reith for participating in GBTWYCF, and he does have a point when he asks:  if the number of asylum seekers taken into Australia were raised to 40,000 or 50,000 what would his critics do about the 50,000-and-first arrival?  It isn’t a silly question. This and other questions also concern me. However:

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We can do better than that – hardly a controversial statement in my opinion.

I would like to repeat a remark I made last night on Facebook though – a note to self as much as anything.

Go Back to Where You Came From part 2. Very thought-provoking and best given some hard thought not knee-jerk reactions of whatever kind. Glib self-righteousness is just too easy and I admit I have been known to indulge myself.

I think we rather miss the point if we just dwell on anything crass someone like Mike Smith may say. The personal dynamics of the participants have become extremely interesting and if GBTWYCF makes us all a bit more willing to listen and a bit more circumspect and a bit more aware of the complexity and sheer scale of the issue – and, as much on the left as on the right, a bit less parochial and myopic – it will have done everyone a favour. Friday’s debriefing and discussion will be well worth seeing.

You are well advised the boycott anything from this mob though: _SqAPPLogo_normal. Now there is something the country really does not need – ever! We have been down this road under other names before.

Relevant in its way is Anonymity powers the cudgels in hatesphere by Elizabeth Farrelly in today’s Herald.

Anyway, all hell broke loose. By breakfast, my humdrum little blog had 50 comments and a thousand hits. By day’s end, almost 4000.

I was called a pompous prat, a rude and viscious (sic) idiot, an incredibly stupid woman, a small sad person, a pompous git, an old commie bat, an absolute wanker, a poor little suffering Doctor princess pet, a moron, an imbecile, a pestiferous little idiot, a selfish fool, an arrogant conceited woman, an old tart, an old fart, a dolt, lord of the bicycle paths, a wowser, pathetic, despicable, weak, dishonest and a complete f—wit.

"That people can anonymously abuse someone in public is not freedom of expression," said author and essayist John Ralston Saul during a conversation last week with members of Sydney PEN. "It’s slander. It’s not taking responsibility for your views. It’s not citizenship."

His critique of cyberspace’s role in "the rise of secrecy as an acceptable way of grabbing power" resonated strongly with me, especially considering my experiences in the digital hatesphere.

There’s a bus you see round town that bears, in similar vein, a quote from Peter Cundall: "The greatest power that ordinary people have … is to tell the truth."

Both presume that "ordinary people" are oppressed by the secrecy of governments and corporations, which is no doubt true. But in the blogosphere the boot is on the other foot. There, it’s so-called "ordinary people" for whom secrecy becomes both mask and cudgel.

Which is not about immigration issues but about the way we conduct discussion.

See also How do we escape the hysteria that threatens to erode public debate? by Peter Beaumont.

…The internet, it was once claimed by theorists such as Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, was supposed to be democratising and empowering, giving a voice to those marginalised by the elite of opinion formers dominating the media and politics.

These days, even Shirky has moved to distance himself from that earlier utopian idealism, telling Journalism.co.uk three years ago he feared that he, like others, had got it wrong and that public pressure via the internet, far from leading to "democratic legitimation", could be seen as "just another implementation layer for special interest groups".

All of which leads to an inevitable question – whether our new developing public discourse, largely mediated online, has made our conversation more open, democratic and accountable? Or, instead, more fragmented and poisonous?

Among the pessimists has been the US academic Cass Sunstein, who was early in proposing a more dystopian picture of how debate was being shaped online, noting a fundamental contradiction. "New technologies," Sunstein has suggested, "including the internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others."

He noted that while the internet was efficient in bringing together virtual communities of interest, it also encouraged participants "to isolate themselves from competing views… [creating a] breeding ground for polarisation, potentially dangerous for both democracy and social peace"…

In that spirit I again commend Peter Reith:

So, would I do it again? No, but the real success of the series is the extent to which the audience is encouraged to better understand the issues and promote informed debate. I know that sounds pretty mundane, but it’s the stuff of a functional democratic society.

Ross Gittins is one of the sanest people in Australia…

… in my opinion.

His column today is a national treasure.

Do you ever wonder how the environment – the global ecosystem – will cope with the continuing growth in the world population plus the rapid economic development of China, India and various other ”emerging economies”? I do. And it’s not a comforting thought.

But now that reputable and highly orthodox outfit the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has attempted to think it through systematically. In its report Environmental Outlook to 2050, it projects existing socio-economic trends for 40 years, assuming no new policies to counter environmental problems.

It’s not possible to know what the future holds, of course, and such modelling – economic or scientific – is a highly imperfect way of making predictions. Even so, some idea is better than no idea. It’s possible the organisation’s projections are unduly pessimistic, but it’s just as likely they understate the problem because they don’t adequately capture the way various problems could interact and compound…

Alarmist?  I don’t think so: just sober evaluation of facts and trends that only the perverse, deluded, or ultra-committed to some half-baked ideological (usually “libertarian”) position could object to, along with maybe a gaggle of has-been or media hungry scientists, most often in some tangentially relevant discipline — the so-called “skeptics” Confused smile. See the somewhat related Media Watch item from last Monday to discover yet again where these turkeys come from and how and why they do what they do.

The occasion for Ross Gittins’s column is OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction.

Humanity has witnessed unprecedented growth and prosperity in the past decades, with the size of the world economy more than tripling and population increasing by over 3 billion people since 1970. This growth, however, has been accompanied by environmental pollution and natural resource depletion. The current growth model and the mismanagement of natural assets could ultimately undermine human development.

The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 asks “What will the next four decades bring?” Based on joint modelling by the OECD and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), it looks forward to the year 2050 to find out what demographic and economic trends might mean for the environment if the world does not adopt more ambitious green policies. It also looks at what policies could change that picture for the better.

This Outlook focuses on four areas: climate change, biodiversity, freshwater and health impacts of pollution. These four key environmental challenges were identified by the previous Environmental Outlook to 2030 (OECD, 2008) as “Red Light” issues requiring urgent attention. Based on model projections, this edition of the Environmental Outlook paints a possible picture of what the environment might look like in 2050. It focuses on four areas which were identified by the previous edition of the Outlook as needing urgent attention: climate change, biodiversity, water, and health and environment.

You will find plenty more about climate change on this blog – look at the tabs above or check out the side bar, so I am not going to start beating my head against the brick wall yet again, and I advise any commenters to bear in mind that whatever they say I almost certainly will already have been down whatever blind alley or into whatever swamp you care to invite me into.

So don’t bother. I respect your right to your views, even if the views are not worth a sane person’s attention for any longer than a nanosecond!

Go instead, readers, to some sound information, such as Understanding Climate (NOAA). Contemplate last month on a global scale, not just  what passed your window on your patch of the planet.

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See also the State of the Climate report for February 2012.

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In a very civilised Q&A last week Malcolm Turnbull showed that he is among the sane, as I always knew anyway.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Can I make one quick point? Look, there’s no doubt the climate has changed a lot and particularly over the period of 19 and a half thousand years. You know we’ve had ice ages in that period so but that’s really not the point, okay? So we are – this is – we are actually making a difference to the climate, which humans have never done before. That’s a very significant thing. Second, there are so many more of us now than there used to be. You know, this is not like, you know, 100,000 years ago when there was only a handful of humans and they could go to higher ground or wander off somewhere else. If we get a one, two, three metre rise in sea levels, there are hundreds of millions of people at risk and this is the thing that we forget is that, yes, we are more technically sophisticated but because of the size of the global population we are so much more vulnerable.
CLEMENTINE FORD: And also…
TONY JONES: I’m just going to go – we’ve just got a gentleman with his hand up there. We’ll just go quickly to his question or comment and then we’ll move on.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, look, if we do all go under, if the whole country goes under water, will there be a new Noah? Who will he be and who’s he going to save?
TONY JONES: Okay, I’m going to take that as a comment. A satirical comment. Time to move on. Our next question comes from Kate Aubusson…

There’s more in the March “Monthly” than Wayne Swan

Some that have interested me are:

In ‘As Robert Was Saying’, Gail Bell meets Robert Dessaix. On the eve of the release of his new book, As I Was Saying, Dessaix reflects on the beautiful things in his life – his home in Tasmania, his travels, his writing and his loved ones – and takes solace in a newfound discovery a single, well spent day…

Plus, in ‘Flag of Convenience’, Alice Pung helps raise the flag in rural Pyalong on Australia Day; in ‘Same-sex Union’, Benjamin Law gets onside with Sydney’s champion gay rugby team; in ‘Rejecting the Centre’, Christine Kenneally meets Chunky Move’s new artistic director; in ‘Love thy Leader’, George Megalogenis talks to Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard in retirement; and, in ‘One Last Deadline’,  Chips Mackinolty pays his respects to NT writer Andrew McMillan…

In ‘A Coup By Any Other Name’, Rhys Muldoon gives an insider’s account of the ALP’s leadership overthrow of 23 June 2010. As a friend of Kevin Rudd, Muldoon writes a candid account of the “night of knives” from inside Parliament House, and offers a personal perspective on the most dramatic political spill of our time.

See more.

All of those make the issue worth having, but it is undoubtedly Wayne Swan who has attracted most comment.

…There are many Australians of great wealth who make important and considered contributions to the national debate. I always welcome that involvement in the discussion of public policy whether I agree with them or not. What characterises the vested interests that I’m concerned about is how they misrepresent their self-interest as the national interest. There has been a perceptible shift in this country in recent years, and it is sadly very much in the American direction of stronger and stronger influence being wielded by a smaller and smaller minority of vested interests. Crucially, much of our media seems more and more inclined to accept that growing influence.

I know that 99% of businesspeople want the best for Australia, and that most people want us to remain the nation of the fair go. I talk to business owners from coast to coast and am constantly impressed by their forward-looking and can-do natures. For every Andrew Forrest who wails about high company taxes and then admits to not paying any, there are a hundred Australian businesspeople who held on to their employees and worked with government to keep the doors of Australian business open during the GFC. Despite the howling of a small minority, the vast bulk of the resources industry is in the cart for more efficient profits-based resource taxation which serves to strengthen our entire economy. The vast majority of our miners accept that they have a social obligation to pay their fair share of tax on the resources Australians own.

But again, it’s that tiny 1%, or even 0.1%, who are trying to drown out the others, who are blind to the national interest, and who pour their considerable personal fortunes into advertising, armies of lobbyists, dodgy modelling and corporate and commercial manoeuvring designed to influence editorial decisions.

The latest example of this is the foray by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, into Fairfax Media, reportedly in an attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests…

There have been several curious full or half page ads in the press since from some of the named mining interests extolling their contribution to our economy and society, and well-word phrases like “class conflict politics” and “the politics of envy” have inevitably had a run, most notably perhaps from Joe Hockey in Politics of division will kill ambition. Alan Moir has a take on that today:

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See also John Birmingham’s Rich and white . . . and oppressed.

I actually think Wayne Swan’s essay is a reasonable contribution and a valid enough warning. I was amused though by Amanda Vanstone on QandA on Monday:

AMANDA VANSTONE: I think I know why Wayne has done this. When people were talking about who might be an alternative Prime Minister, if it wasn’t Julia, no-one mentioned him. He is out there, someone in his office has said, ‘Wayne, this isn’t too good. You’d better get out there. Get a few big headlines and kick the rich – that will work well. Give it a run, and he’ll be happy with that.’ So Wayne’s been a bit worried…

And pretty much agree with Natasha Stott Despoja:

First of all, the premise is, of course, from the Treasurer that there is disproportionate influence from the mining sector in terms of decisions or media access. I don’t think that’s disputable. I think anyone that can take out a full-page ad and run am incredible campaign against the proposed, then, mining tax, there’s indisputable power. I accept certainly there are interest groups in society that have more power than others. And, arguably, with a Labor government in power, there is a very strong connection to the labour movement and unions in particular – not only by virtue of the people who are preselected and elected to Parliament, but in terms of the decisions that are made at their conference. I guess the answer – and certainly this has guided my political career – has been respecting within the democratic process the role of the ordinary Australian. So whether it’s big business or big unions, you have to ensure that you’re looking after your everyday average punter. So I am not a fan of the strength of either of the extremes, but, having said that, I think it is a long bow to draw that the union movement in some way has comparable strength certainly in a financial sense, but I take your point.

On another issue altogether Ross Gittins is good today: Reporting crime drop just doesn’t pay, it seems.

Wow. Did you see the latest figures for the falling crime rate? Pretty good, eh? What’s that, you didn’t see the figures? No one told you, eh.

It’s true. Despite the best efforts of the federal Minister for Justice, Jason Clare, on Sunday, the Australian Institute of Criminology’s latest compilation of statistics got remarkably little attention.

Why? One reason could be that it’s old news. Levels of property crime have been falling for a decade. You’ve long known that, right? If you have, congratulations: you’re much better informed than most.

A survey conducted in NSW in 2007 found that more than 80 per cent of respondents believed property crime had been increasing or had remained stable over the past five years. Only 11 per cent said it had been falling.

So why were the media so uninterested? Because they didn’t think you’d be interested. They presumed you’d prefer to have your existing beliefs reinforced rather than up-ended. But I prefer to write for the minority who want to be informed rather than humoured.

The figures show falls in all the main categories of recorded property crime – burglary, motor vehicle theft and ”other theft” (pickpocketing, bag snatching and shoplifting) – across Australia in 2010.

They also show falls in all the main categories of recorded violent crime – homicide, assault, sexual assault and robbery – other than kidnapping/abduction in 2010. For the latter, the number of cases rose by 39 to 603…

If you allow for our rising population – up by a per cent or so a year – the decline in the rate of property crime is even greater.

So, as I say, it’s clear property crime has been declining for a decade. For violent crime the trend isn’t as clear – except for robbery, the property crime with violence. Robberies reached a peak of almost 27,000 in 2001, but have since fallen by 44 per cent to below 15,000 a year….

But you can’t scream and froth at the mouth about this, can you? Hence it is not newsworthy…

Local and national–from landlords to rich women with Charles Foster Kane ambitions

You’ll recall how though an old age pensioner I enjoy the ambience at Yours and Owls – in daylight hours at least.

Today they have received lots of no doubt useful publicity in The Illawarra Mercury.

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276871_247289368648707_5614960_nEfforts by a Wollongong art gallery and bar to retain its unapproved mural wall have won support from 2000 social media followers.

Owners of Yours and Owls are under orders to repaint the wall its original grey colour by Monday, or have it done for them – at a cost of $1100.

The bar’s owners say they would like to replace the mural with three panels, to be regularly repainted by different artists, but the landlord has been silent on their request since December, instead repeatedly ordering it be returned to grey. The building is owned by the Sargents Charitable Foundation – the 15-year-old altruistic arm of Sargents Pies.

The Mercury requested interviews with a Sargents representative, and with Colliers agent Peter Mitchell, but had no reply.

Yours and Owls co-owner Balunn Jones conceded the wall was painted without permission and that the partly graffiti-style work would not be to everyone’s taste. He argued that having some kind of artwork on the wall was in line with the aspirations of both the artistic community and civic leaders to create a more vibrant city centre.

‘‘We’re not purposefully trying to be antagonistic. This is what a lot of people from Wollongong want,’’ Mr Jones said. ‘‘We’ve got this mob from Sydney saying they don’t want it here, and they don’t even see the place.’’…

The business owners – Mr Jones, Adam Smith and Ben Tillman, all aged 24 – say they had a discussion with the agent and submitted a proposal to retain the non-graffiti part of the work and install changing panels, mimicking those at Wollongong City Gallery.

‘‘We were under the impression that until we received feedback regarding this proposal … nothing needed to happen,’’ Mr Jones said, adding he was instructed again in January to remove the mural, with no reply to the proposal.

The silence was frustrating, he said, because the landlord had also withheld approval for a development application, prepared since September, for outdoor seating and changes that would increase the gallery’s capacity from 50 to 80.

‘‘This has resulted in an inability to undertake any action to try and improve our business,’’ Mr Jones said.

On Tuesday the owners received a third request, with a painting company’s quote, seen by the Mercury, for $1100.

More than 2000 Facebook users have ‘‘liked’’ the proposal to make the wall a public exhibition space.

I am one of the 2,584 Facebook users.

See also for background Owls Cafe and Gallery (23 April 2011).

And if you’ve been to Newtown in Sydney I am sure you can’t fail to have been impressed by this:

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Pooh seeks control of honey supplies

The Mercury is a Fairfax paper. Right now a very bad development in the history of Australian media is being played out. In what promises to destroy any pretence of objectivity or critical perspective on any issues seen to be not in the interests of herself, fabulously rich person Gina Rinehart is moving very heavily into Fairfax. That’s this Gina Rinehart:

Given that Australia’s leader of the opposition can call human-induced climate change "crap" and still enjoy a thumping lead in the opinion polls, it’s perhaps not surprising that Cate Blanchett has had to endure a flurry of non-theatrical criticism this week for fronting a pro-carbon price advertising campaign.

The pillorying of Blanchett highlights the increasingly shrill tone of an Australian media that has recently come under the iron ore-tinged influence of the country’s richest person – mining magnate Gina Rinehart.

For many Australians, the first cab off the rank to attack Blanchett for supporting the Labor government’s carbon price was The Bolt Report, a Sunday-morning TV show hosted by News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt.

Bolt spent the opening portion of his weekly televisual soapbox decrying the "deceitful" Blanchett ad, labelling it "crass propaganda."

He went on to call Tim Flannery, author of a new Climate Change Commission report that warns of a one-metre rise in sea levels by the end of the century, a "long-time global warming scaremonger" before insisting that the world has not warmed for a decade…

But it’s only since April that Bolt has been given the platform of a TV show, on the youth-orientated Ten Network, to espouse his climate change scepticism.

Australian media commentators have pointed to the arrival of Rinehart to Ten’s board as being instrumental to Bolt’s sudden rise.

Rinehart was last week crowned Australia’s richest person by BRW magazine, with an estimated wealth of $10.3 billion – putting Blanchett’s $53 million somewhat into the shade – and she has loosened the purse strings to become a budding, if belated, media mogul.

Rinehart splashed out $120 million to buy a 10% stake in Ten in November, taking her place alongside Lachlan Murdoch on the broadcaster’s board a month later.

She swiftly followed this by doubling her stake in Fairfax, the country’s second largest newspaper group, to 4% in January, tantalisingly close to the 5% share that would require her to declare her interest and expose her to questions as to her sudden interest in Australia’s media.

As it is, Rinehart’s public comments have been sparse, but the little she has said has been pored over by environmental groups concerned over her tightening grip on two of Australia’s main media outlets.

After the Ten deal, she said in a statement: "Our company group is interested in making an investment towards the media business given its importance to the nation’s future and has selected Ten Network for this investment."…

Rinehart chairs Hancock Prospecting, a resources company founded by her father Lang Hancock in 1952. It has significant iron ore interests in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and has embarked upon large-scale thermal coal projects in Queensland.

She has also formed Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision, a lobby group that includes prominent geologist and climate sceptic Ian Plimer.

Aside from opposing the resources and carbon taxes, Rinehart has grumbled at how Australia "drowns" in environmental regulations and has called for an influx of cheap foreign labour to the country’s sparsely populated northwest.

She even helped fund the bizarre speaking tour of climate sceptic Lord Monckton, who travelled from his Highlands estate to traverse Australia in January.

Monckton’s tour saw him receive a $20,000 stipend as well as the organisational help of Rinehart’s office when he arrived in Perth…

— 31 May 2011

At the moment some Fairfax journos are fighting back.

… What is interesting is the timing of Rinehart’s raid, which comes just before the release of a report into media convergence. There is no doubt there will be sweeping changes to the way media companies and content are regulated, which will further loosen cross-media ownership laws.

If the recommendations become legislation, it will spark a number of takeovers. For instance, Seven would be able to buy Prime, Nine could own WIN TV, Ten could own Southern Cross and News Ltd could own Ten.

Buying a stake in Fairfax and pushing for a board seat does two things: it gives Rinehart influence either overtly or more subtly, and it gives her a seat at the table in any potential takeover with the ability to either encourage it or block it.

When a few radio stations were put up for sale in regional mining towns she called her old friend John Singleton and asked him if he was going to buy them. She told him she would be happy if he was, but very worried if "they fell into the wrong hands". This gives an insight into what she thinks about the media and its powers…

It surely does!  I too would hate to see Fairfax in “the wrong hands”.

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