A journalist’s greatest asset is the facts. Deprive them of that and you are stopping them from doing their job. Who better knows this better than another journalist.
One of the greatest stunts launched by Tony Abbott during the election campaign saw him standing in front of a billboard counting the number of asylum seekers reaching our shores. Not only was it a great visual device it turned all asylum seekers in to a number, and a nuisance.
And then when he won government that billboard and any up to date data on boat arrivals came to an abrupt end.
Now we have tightly controlled press conferences once a week where any pertinent question on the matter is hidden behind the answer of ‘operational matters’. The farce this has created has seen our government argument go from arguing ‘we want to stop deaths at sea’, to ‘we’re being invaded’, to ‘we are at full-blown war’.
I feel for all the journalists who must sit in that press conference week after week and be treated with contempt for just doing their job. They are just asking the questions all Australians want answered. Yet what is more frustrating is having a transcriber who can’t hear the questions only the short succinct answers of the Minister.
When Oliver Laughland from The Guardian posted this on Twitter I realised we are heading in to very dangerous and dark territory. His and David Marr’s questions are scrubbed from the public register as being inaudible.
Asking hard questions and keeping a government accountable is a journalist’s job. What makes this whole situation untenable is when Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office releases statements that claim our boat arrivals are at their lowest in three years.
Now how do we really know that when the offices for Immigration or Customs are not allowed to answer journalist’s questions or verify the figures?
Suddenly we are supposed to take the word of a department and government that is stifling information?
Sorry where are we Russia or Australia?
So now is the time to pause and reflect on what Mr Abbott said in an article prior to the election published in The Australian. It was aptly called Tony Abbott to Champion Freedom of Speech. In it he said:
“Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous. If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.
“We’ve got to allow people to think things that are unthinkable in polite company and take their chances in open debate.”
Now he was talking about speech that discriminates and talks about race. But what I found quite profound was what the article went on to say.
Mr Abbott’s link between speech and thought is the pivotal point. This goes to the heart of the progressive agenda that he opposes – by limiting what people can say, the purpose is to limit what people think, hence the idea of “thought crime”.
Well Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison I think you have just both been found guilty.