Yassmin Abdel-Magied, ANZAC Day, The ABC: Get Some Perspective

IN THE brouhaha over a token ABC “celebrity” indulging her proven immaturity and lack of any sense of occasion by posting disrespectful left-wing propaganda on Facebook, one point is clear; this is no question of free speech, much less one of Ms Abdel-Magied’s religious views — this time — but of the ABC’s role as a taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, and what it tolerates in terms of content, balance, and the behaviour of some of its staff.

Some years ago, as the Abbott government contemplated, then shied away from, sorely needed reform of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, Attorney-General George Brandis waded into the debate with the inadvisable and cringeworthy observation that “people are entitled to be bigots;” widely slated for this crass (and politically damaging) utterance, Brandis was pilloried across the country, branded — among other things — as “a bigot” himself; I’ve known George for decades, and whilst I haven’t seen him for a while, he never changes. The last thing anyone who knows him would call him is “a bigot.”

Yet Brandis, in the literal sense, was correct; it is not the role of government to legislate thought, and nor should it be the role of government to legislate speech; people must have the right to think and say whatever they like: but the reciprocal obligation is upon the rest of us, whenever and wherever the nutcases show themselves, to shout them down and show their words for the offence to reality they are.

And small point as it might be to note, Brandis wasn’t actually encouraging people to be bigots. Quite the contrary.

At the time, the voices who shout loudest in this country (which emanate almost exclusively from the Left, amplified by such fine institutions as the Fairfax press and the ABC) pronounced with all the finger-shaking pomposity they could muster that not only was Brandis Public Enemy #1, but that his “honesty” amounted to an unrebuttable case as to why S18c should be strengthened, not watered down or (God forbid!) abolished altogether (as it should be).

Fast forward to early this year, and that waste of taxpayer cash, Gillian Triggs, found her way into the public discourse with a diatribe lamenting that it was regrettable that the state was unable to control the “free speech” that occurred around the kitchen tables of family homes around Australia: and if this didn’t frighten the hell out of ordinary good folk, whose only real crime is to have an opinion, then I don’t know what would.

I begin my remarks this morning thus because as a fervent champion of free speech — genuinely free speech — I have watched over the past few years, with increasing dismay, as this issue (which ought to be something Australia as a country is renowned the world over for as a strong, free country) has become little more than a political football and a slogan to be kicked around and used to hurt opponents politically.

And with ANZAC Day having been and gone again for another year, this year’s festivities have been marred by an ugly public spat over a despicable post in social media by someone who should have known better, employed by people who ought to have provided the guidance to stop her.

By now, most people will have heard of the fracas over Muslim ABC identity Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s foolhardy words on Facebook; those who haven’t can check out this article from The Australian (and I am using this, rather than any of the other reports available, as I wanted to include the opinion offered by Graham Richardson on the issue).

“Lest we forget (Nauru, Manus, Syria, Palestine),” she wrote. This reference to the hard-Left agenda of ending offshore detention, withdrawing from the Middle East and its obsession with sticking fingers (or worse) into the eyes of Israel is too blatant to claim as a coincidence, and too tastelessly timed to be anything other than a jab at another object of left-wing hatred: ANZAC Day.

Predictably, the voices of the Right roared. It was obscene, un-Australian, treacherous, disrespectful, blasphemous, an insult to the men and women who fought and died for Australia’s freedom.

It was indeed all of those things.

But the voices of the Left returned fire, claiming that calls for Ms Abdel-Magied to be sacked by the ABC proved that once and for all, the great conservative cause of free speech was nothing but a hoax; here they were, trying to shut down “free speech” from someone on the Left. How dare they! After all, Abdel-Magied was entitled to offer an opinion, wasn’t she? Or was this just because Abdel-Magied is a Muslim, and conservatives are “bigots?”

Yet again, the football that is free speech gets kicked around — and the central point (or in this case, problem) is missed.

This column believes Ms Abdel-Magied should be free to think whatever she likes, turgid and contemptible as some of those sentiments are: and courtesy of her status as one of the ABC’s tokenistic fabricated “celebrities” — who, to be blunt, would be of little interest to anyone, the ABC included, were it not for the fact she hails from a minority community — we are learning more and more about the thoughts of this lamentable excuse for a TV personality.

Such as the ridiculous notion that Islam is “the most feminist religion” in the world, when irrefutable evidence of the savagery and barbarism of fundamentalist Islamic regimes towards women in many parts of the world tells a very different story.

Or the equally fatuous suggestion that Sharia Law is purely concerned with “mercy and kindness,” and that the law of sovereign nations always takes precedence over it — when again, there is ample evidence over many years and from many countries that nothing could be further from the truth.

I think Ms Abdel-Magied is shrewd; she’s been appointed to government taskforces on multiculturalism and domestic violence; she was sent on a tour of Muslim countries by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to “promote Australia;” she was appointed to the board of the Queensland Museum; and she’s been packaged up as a “media identity” by the ABC (possibly as the ABC’s answer to Waleed Aly on The Project, about whom my objection has nothing to do with the fact he’s a Muslim and everything to do with the fact he’s a socialist idiot whose views I vehemently disagree with).

Even in an era where political, social and cultural institutions are dominated by the Left in this country, it still takes a degree of guile to extract and compile that kind of CV — much of it with salary cheques attached to it — especially for a 26-year-old, no less, and it is obvious that guile is not a commodity in which Abdel-Magied is lacking.

But I don’t think her views are in any way representative of the silent majority of Australians; and I think elements of those views are so insidious that it behoves anyone dishing out what can only be described as CV-building items to think long and hard about what kind of national “celebrities” they are creating.

Herein lies the nub of the matter: the culpability of the ABC.

“Their ABC.” The ABC of the finger-shaking Chardonnay drunks of the self-styled “elites” of the Left who would have a clear world view if they could only extract their heads from their rectums.

Too much of what the ABC puts to air — especially where politics and current affairs are concerned, and especially wherever any kind of panel or discussion is involved — is unapologetically misused as a forum to advance the causes of the political Left; whether it’s to omit key details from its coverage (like failing to identify Islamic terrorist acts as being committed by Muslims) or to stack the loathsome #QandA panel every week with a majority of leftist and radical socialist identities, the only time the ABC feigns any pretence of impartiality is when anyone tries to hold it to account.

My point is that for all the (justified) uproar over what Ms Abdel-Magied had to say on Facebook, the ruckus isn’t a question of free speech: Abdel-Magied was free to post what she did, and the rest of us were free to slap it down as the odious rubbish it was. The fact she took the post down (and apologised) is a clue that someone belatedly got through to her that there are some things you just don’t do.

But organisations like the ABC, which are responsible for providing people like Abdel-Magied a national platform from which to disseminate fringe opinions, also bear some responsibility for what their media creations subsequently say or do: if Yassmin Abdel-Magied was just a nameless resident of Brisbane — irrespective of her religious convictions — who posted something like she did on ANZAC Day, it’s doubtful anyone would have noticed, let alone cause the fuss we’ve seen over the past two days.

No big media profile, no public interest in social media profiles. One follows the other. The ABC made her a “star.” Its curt dismissal of her post, or the callous claim that deleting it was “acceptable,” simply isn’t good enough.

If you create the monster, you own its handiwork. The ABC can’t have it both ways.

Nobody doubts Ms Abdel-Magied’s ability; and nobody could criticise the daughter of migrants trying to carve out a niche for herself. It is her judgement that is in question.

Whilst she should be free to think (and indeed, say) whatever she likes, trying to misappropriate the national spotlight for herself on what is tantamount to a sacred day in Australia, with opinions that are offensive drivel to most Australians, is not the way to go about it.

Through her public utterances on #QandA and this week through her deleted Facebook post, whatever else you might think of her, Ms Abdel-Magied has exhibited a distinct lack of maturity: and if she can’t or won’t behave like a grown-up, then those who dish out the dough — like her employers at “Their ABC” — ought to think twice about providing her with taxpayer-funded junkets and/or platforms to spruik her wares.

Where the ABC is concerned, the notion of being “independent” is too easily distorted into an excuse to propagate blatantly biased left-wing propaganda, using carefully selected messengers (such as Ms Abdel-Magied) to enable dissent to be portrayed as a racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic (insert your favourite lefty taunt here) attack on nice people with “valid insights.”

Sorry Aunty. You created her and if you can’t control her, piss her off. The rest of us don’t need to be lectured, and especially not by a kid who apparently doesn’t even value the traditions of the country that has given her a better life than her homeland ever would have.

 

 

51-49 Newspoll: Messages For Turnbull, Shorten, Coalition

A THIRD POLL in a week sees Coalition fortunes under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rocket, albeit off a low base; a second narrow lead over Labor from those — enough to win an election, but no more — is accompanied yet again by the collapse of direct “support” for Labor and the disintegration of Bill Shorten’s personal ratings. There is no cause for Coalition complacency here, although there are messages in these numbers across the board.

First things first: I’m aware that opposition “leader” Bill Shorten enjoyed a solo appearance on the ABC’s ghastly #QandA programme last night, but the sleep-deprived stupor that saw me miss the show would nonetheless have almost certainly been induced by Shorten’s dull wit had I been sprightly enough to watch; it’s a little disturbing that confronted with a new Liberal Prime Minister the ABC opted to not only showcase Shorten but did so 140km from Melbourne amid a clutch of marginally held state and federal ALP seats in Ballarat, but perhaps my cynicism that Labor had been provided with a de facto campaign stump for the night can be held over for another week — and “their ABC” given the benefit of the doubt.

That said, a third major poll since the Liberal leadership change — this time, the long-awaited Newspoll in The Australian, showing a 51-49 lead after preferences for the Coalition — has appeared overnight, and whilst we’re not going to get obsessed with polls to the point of picking every one that appears to pieces, this one is significant in that some trends are appearing that warrant comment.

That 51-49 Newspoll mirrors a Galaxy finding late last week, and comes after an automated ReachTel survey produced a 50-50 finding; on a crude aggregation this puts the Coalition position since the leadership switch at 50.7%: and given the Coalition average over the previous 18 months was a ridiculously settled 47%, the findings suggest a move of 3.7% back to the conservatives, cutting the swing to Labor (on 2013 election numbers) to 2.8%.

A 6.5% swing (which is what polls were showing before last week) would, if replicated uniformly at an election, have seen the Coalition lose 29 seats to the ALP, reducing it to 61-63 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives (depending on what happened in seats like Fairfax and Indi) and electing Bill Shorten very solidly as Prime Minister.

A 2.8% swing, by contrast, would have limited the loss of seats to just 13 (from a starting tally of 90) and produced a small but workable majority for a re-elected Turnbull government.

There are those who believe the early bounce in polling for the Liberal and National Parties is no more than a “sugar hit” that will quickly wear off — and I agree to some extent that without a sustained emphasis on rebuilding its position with voters, that is a likely outcome — but the indications are already clear that the change in the Liberal leadership has indeed offered the circuit breaker its proponents argued it would, although what happens from here is very much a matter for conjecture.

The mostly excellent fist made of his ministerial reshuffle by Turnbull offers the Coalition some prospect that its early gains can be consolidated by a more politically adept frontbench line-up, although that judgement is heavily contingent on a thorough cleanout of the back of house and the injection of some real nous in the areas of (surprise, surprise) political strategy and tactics, media relations, communications, parliamentary management, and a sales and marketing focus that has largely been absent for the past two years.

To be clear, a 51-49 position (or the 50.7% rolling aggregate it feeds into as of today) is not a lay-down misere result, and the real work begins now for Coalition insiders to start to lock down, consolidate and build upon the early promise the switch to Turnbull appears to have generated.

But the real story, for now at least, is that voters appear to be deserting Bill Shorten in droves: and stripped of the huge positive the ALP believes it had turned Tony Abbott into over a period of many years (through character assassination, defamation, and outright lying) it seems improbable they can attempt to turn Turnbull into a similarly reviled ogre figure (although given the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Labor Party these days, they will sure as hell try).

Newspoll finds Turnbull preferred as Prime Minister by 55% of its respondents, compared with 21% for Shorten; and just like the result recorded by Galaxy during the week, I suggest this constitutes a return to more “normal” findings for a first-term government confronted by an insidiously vapid opposition “leader:” the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister is inconceivable, or at least it should be — judged solely on his (dubious) merits.

This contention is borne out by continuing dreadful personal approval numbers for Shorten, which sit at just 29%; 54% of Newspoll respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as opposition “leader,” and whilst that’s a mild improvement on the previous Newspoll survey, the fact remains that Shorten is little less unpopular than Tony Abbott was — and that’s without facing the kind of mindless, baseless, senseless, highly personal onslaught that Labor has filled its days directing toward Abbott.

By contrast, Turnbull’s first outing since his rebirth as liberal leader finds 42% of respondents approving his performance, 24% disapproving, and a predictable 34% yet to form a view.

Readers can access The Australian‘s coverage of Newspoll — and its tables — here.

With the benefit of the first few polls now complete it is possible to segment some key messages from these numbers, although I emphasise the political situation is likely to remain fluid — and that whilst Shorten and his party have the most to lose in raw terms, with a consistent if undeserved election-winning position now gone — it is the Coalition that will largely shape the political climate from this point a year out from a scheduled federal election.

The most obvious is that having decisively rejected Labor at the polls two years ago, underlying voter sentiment remains very much open to the idea of Coalition government; whether through ineptitude on Abbott’s part (and, more importantly, the people he surrounded himself with), bloody-mindedness, or a mixture, it is this position the Coalition had spent two years squandering.

It is a point that should not be lost on Labor and on Shorten in particular, who has spent two years mouthing empty platitudes and being relentlessly obstructionist for the sake of it: convinced they could slither into office whilst delivering precisely nothing of any substance, Shorten and his cohorts have been found out; it is inconceivable Turnbull will permit an equivalent to the Credlin regime to fritter away the position of his government, but unless he does, Shorten — and Labor — are set for another term in the wilderness at least.

Pause should be given to any leadership change at the ALP, and whilst I have heard those around Plibersek are spending the parliamentary recess looking for the numbers to roll Shorten, such an enterprise is pointless if it simply replaces him with more of the same: Plibersek might be pretty and (in the absence of any particular substance) be pleasant to listen to, but she is also an unreconstructed socialist and a carping whinger seemingly more content stirring up trouble than with producing anything pertinent for public consumption.

I tend to think Turnbull would make mincemeat of her, although he would be pilloried by “their ABC,” Fairfax, and the other blinkered media outlets of the Left for doing so.

If nothing else, the replacement of an unpopular leader with a well-regarded one — even if Turnbull does face questions of just how “conservative” he may prove in some quarters, like this column — shows that mind-numbing negativity, banality, and stupid populist bullshit impresses nobody if there’s nothing to back it up: and it is this strategy Shorten is going to have to junk urgently if he even wants to make it as far as an election.

The past week has seen a distinctly panicked inflection colour his public utterances; spooked, wrong-footed and skewered, you have to wonder if the Labor “leader” has any real clue at all now he has been found wanting. Yet that isn’t my problem, and I don’t really care what happens to “Billy Bullshit.”

In the end, Turnbull appears — at the outset — to be readying for one hell of a crack at both running an effective government and at re-election, which makes a refreshing change from the way things had been going under the previous regime.

Unless Shorten fixes his act — a tall ask at the best of times — he and his God-forsaken, union-dominated party will go down like a sack of shit whenever they face the voters, and it won’t matter how many de facto community forums “their ABC” engineers on their behalf: free publicity is one thing, but if all it is used for is to deliver vacuous drivel, intended audiences will look somewhere else for a message of genuine substance.