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Julia Gillard vs Kim Jong-il


'Australia's and North Korea's media' by Chris JohnstonAustralia is just like North Korea. Except exactly the opposite.

Australia has the world's most stable economy, the most promising future and the government most lauded by outside observers.

Yet a significant proportion of the population hates the current administration with a passion and is scathing of its economic management. Hostile newspapers are backing calls for an early election. Even its most ardent supporters are pessimistic about its re-election chances.

North Korea is a mirror image. It has one of the lowest income levels in the world, in negative growth, and has a controlled economy that no-one believes will ever feed and clothe its population. Yet the people of North Korea admire their glorious leader and his visionary ministers.

How can this be? The simple answer is News Corporation. But it is a bit more complicated than that. A way to a more balanced national psyche in both nations may, however, actually be quite simple.

Outside observers look at Australia's economic management with awe. No other western country has Australia's combination of high and stable employment, low inflation, steady economic growth, low taxation, moderate interest rates, low debt, efficient delivery of medical and welfare services and effective superannuation.

Few other countries have the assured future of mineral trade, international tourism, international education, sheep and cattle exports (when the industry resolves its current problems) plus wheat and wool, and the chance to lead the world in green technologies.

Australia alone among western economies averted disaster when the global financial crisis hit in 2008. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote that the Rudd Government 'put in place one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country in the world ... Australia had the shortest and shallowest of recessions of the advanced industrial countries.'

'For an American,' the Columbia University professor added, 'there is a certain amusement in Australian worries about the deficit and debt: their deficit as a percentage of GDP is less than half that of the US; their gross national debt is less than a third.'

So why do Australians want to eject the world's best economic managers, while the North Koreans worship and adore their hapless regime?

Consider recent headlines from the one national daily newspaper, Korean News:

Kim Jong Il's Great Feats Praised Abroad
Kim Jong Il Inspects KPA Unit Command
Worthwhile Life under Care of Great Leader
Kim Jong Il's Work Carried in Bangladeshi Newspaper
Kim Jong Il's Visit to China Hailed by Indonesian Organization.

Compare these with the headlines from Australia's one national daily:

Tax, not Gillard, is ALP's problem: Tony Abbott,
Public Entitled to Carbon Anger — Tony Abbott,
Tony Abbott Rejects Need for Media Probe,
Abbott Warns Gillard on Carbon Tax, and
Abbott Demands Equal Airtime on Tax.

See the difference? News in North Korea is the government praising the government. News in Australia is the opposition bagging the government.

My first freelance article submitted to a major journal in the 1970s included a pertinent comment from an opposition MP with years of relevant experience. The editor immediately crossed out the quote with a sharp, 'That's not news. He's a politician. That's what you'd expect him to say.'

It was a lesson journos of that generation in all liberal democracies learned as cadets. The opposition criticising the government is party politics. It is not news. Like a government praising itself.

In Australia today, most newspapers run 'news' comprised solely of opposition rants. Several such articles can appear in one issue. Refer any edition of The Australian in the run up to the federal election last August. Even ABC News now carries items consisting only of opposition attacks.

Much of the Australian media openly joins these mindless assaults. A current example is the carbon tax issue where objective analysis is overwhelmed by vicious partisan attacks. Before this, the democratic process was subverted in the coverage of the Government's home insulation scheme.

A fair analysis of that project should have reported the outlays, the houses destroyed, the industrial accidents, and the failures of the contractors, supervisors and state government inspectors. These should have been compared with data from the industry — already a major one — prior to the stimulus package.

It should also have covered the scheme's intent to maintain economic growth and secure jobs. And it should have reported on the projected energy cost savings over the next 150 or so years.

Instead, the media focused almost entirely on the first set of issues, virtually ignoring the latter two. Blame was placed on federal Labor and the culpability of others overlooked. It was a relentless campaign and it continues.

Yet, as Sydney University's Rodney Tiffin observed, 'the stimulus played a central role in making sure that Australia suffered less of a downturn than most other developed countries'.

Professor Tiffin noted that ceiling insulation in 2.2 million homes saves as much energy as taking a million cars off the road. He claimed that insulation cuts household energy use by up to 45 per cent. 'Whatever the actual figures, the environmental benefits are clearly substantial.'

For those who regard Truth as one aspect of the Divine or simply as vital for freedom, resisting such distortions of genuine information is not an option. It is an obligation. Fortunately there are actions Australians can take. Unlike North Koreans.

Alan AustinAlan Austin is an Australian religious affairs journalist currently based in Nîmes, France. 

Topic tags: News Corporation, Kim Jong Il, North Korea, media bias, Gillard, Abbott, carbon tax, stimulus package



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Existing comments

"Worlds best economic managers" Please!!! This government has destroyed the huge surplus they had through sheer stupidity. Mineral reserves etc do not enable anyone to claim credibility for policy.

AS for the statements of the ABC. You must have been watching a different channel to me. The ABC is probably the most biased media organisation in Australia. I cant recall the last time I heard a conservative voice on the ABC.

The reason so many people dislike this government is not 'News corporation" The Australian people are simply not stupid. This government has no one to blame but themselves.

Warwick Murphy | 25 July 2011  

For those bruised and battered Labor supporters, take heart, it is not the first or last time you will be beaten to death.

Australia was lauded as great economic managers because Howard and Costello(recipient of worlds best Treasurer) had put in place a strong foundation that Labor could build upon.

Alan, as you well know, Australians don't like liars, incompetent politicians who waste money, implement programs that kill people, and time after time show a breathtaking disregard, arrogance and stupidity for the well being of all Australians and stop listening; despite their political leanings.
That is why Keating and Howard got thrown out and it will be why Gillard and Labor are clobbered beyond recognition unless they turn it around.

Unless the Labor machine and their fervent supporters can stop simply just "blaming Murdoch" and recognise their failures, accept their responsibilities, be accountable, and work towards creating a culture, programs and economy that most are happy; they will never recover.

However, no one in Labor wants to replace Julia Gillard; because they don't want to be remembered for being the PM that led the party into political decimation! This adds to the angst and uphill battle they face on a daily basis!

Colin Murdoch | 25 July 2011  

Warwick, have you read this article and the links? Your comment about the ABC doesn't seem to follow. Which government handled the GFC better, do you think?
Colin, I think it was actually PJ Keating who was world's best treasurer.

Stacy | 25 July 2011  

The date is july 25th, NOT july 27th as stated above!

mike | 25 July 2011  

Please don’t regard the people of Australia as totally stupid. They know a liar when they see one. As far we know, Australia had only one Labor PM who was not out to destroy the economy and it was Keating.

Beat Odermatt | 28 July 2011  

If you think the people who lived through the Arduous March in the 90s, the currency redenomination of 2009, and all the hard times in between hold happy, adulating views of their government, you are mistaken. Some know a lot about their situation through illegal media. Even the least aware know that the government says glorious production is moving full steam ahead, while at the same time the people receive absolutely nothing but housing and demands for materials. You are able to criticise even the best of leaders. which is a sign that you don't live in a dictatorship.

Greenwick | 28 July 2011  

Clearly, Warwick Murphy doesn't get home in time to listen to The Drum where the voices of conservative commentators peddling predictable party lines far outweigh those of people willing to analyse the issues of the day without fear or favour.

Elizabeth | 29 July 2011  

You're kidding, right? The reason people "love" Kim Jong-Il is because north korea is a Stalinist dictatorship, where loving the dear leader is mandatory under pain of death. The newspapers are propaganda. Official figures are propaganda. The people have no access to information that isn't state produced. Moreover, to say the only reason people don't like Gillard is poor journalism is, at best, a stretch.

Adam | 29 July 2011  

It's rather silly to argue about 'best treasurer', rather, it is the recognition of sound economics that matters. In a single word:'Keynesianism'.
Without it we had the tragedy of the prolonged Depression of the 1930s with over 30% unemployment and a woefdul gap in the construction of infrastructure.

Then, in the 1940s Keynes was recognised by both sides of politics and Chifley and Menzies, with the help of 'Nugget Coombs',
propelled Australia into advancement with minimal unemployment.

The original Liberal Party platform included 'The preparation of a programme of public works . . to be put into operation at the first sign of any recession' - pure Keynesianism! And it worked, whichever partywas in power.

Bob Corcoran | 29 July 2011  

I cannot believe this article. Do you think that Australians are stupid? We are being taken for a ride over scare mongering by the Labor and Greens in that a Carbon Dioxide Tax is needed to save us all from Doomsday. What a joke. Climate Change exists but does not need the disgraceful, costly response of this government. If you want to waste money, please feed the hungry, visit the sick, give clean water to those with none. Simply: act with justice and integrity and not with lies and blame on the media for attempting to tell some of the truth. If bias goes one way it is OK - but not the other. Christine Milne called for the right and proper response. Who decides what is right and proper? It is just shameful

Jane | 29 July 2011  

Good try, Alan Austin!
By contrasting a communist society controlled by Democratic Centralism at its worst with a democratic pluralist society with a mixed economy scrutinised by a free press, Australia was sure to come out looking good.
But no.
The conflict that democratic pluralism tries to sublimate into a form of social consensus has been transformed by the media into a blood sport - up there with boxing (How fitting that Abbott has a Uni Blue in the gentlemanly art of self-defence!)and football (How fitting that the PM barracks for The Bulldogs!).

Every available opportunity to higlight conflict is exploited ad nauseam. A bit like the replays of "The Big Hits" in the weekend's ARL matches.
The comments on your article, Alan, only confirm my suspicions. Most political commentators are as biased in their opinions as Eddie McGuire is where Collingwood is concerned.

Uncle Pat | 29 July 2011  


Its looks like you have been in France to long .Australia is in a mess and the press is reflecting the mood of the people and the only people not listening are Canberra politicians and bureaucrats .We have lost the oppertunity to get it right ,we overstimulated the economy that resulted in very high interest rates and exchange rates so that tourism ,manufacturing ,education etc are all dying while Camberra works out how to Tax us more to pay for there pet projects.

We are in trouble and the incumbents must be held accountable .

john crew | 29 July 2011  

I am saddened that the same old Aus reps of the tea party have their brew ready boiled to spill on us the minute they suspect the right wing anti-Government bile is being neutralised in this publication. Let them do homework on any dozen News Limited front pages and honestly not agree with Austin's conclusions.

Antal | 29 July 2011  

Very good article Alan. Unfortunately, based on your comments it seems Australians are stupid after all. I watch Q&A on the ABC where both sides of politics get to spout their propaganda. I read the Daily Telegraph which screams unmitigated disaster but never looks at the pros of any government policy. I hear friends living overseas how impressed they are with the current Australian government and can't understand why we are having problems implementing a mining tax, especially now that the two-speed economy it was designed to prevent is actually here.

And is anyone surprised that retail operations are losing money when the newspapers scream about the supposed economic mismanagement and people are afraid to let go of their money and get the economy moving. It seems we are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I don't think it's the government who are demonstrating Australian stupidity. I think it's the rest of us.

Michelle Hallett | 29 July 2011  

can't help but agree with your anlysis. How so many of my fellow Australians can become so vitriolic and accept seemingly without question, the bile that pours forth from most media is beyond me. The hysterics over 'the carbon tax' which is not a tax on the populace but on the polluters, and the constant personal attacks on individuals makes me quit the conversation. Mr Murphy below seems to forget the 'man with no hands' who threw away the billions of surplus up until 2007 and quite without a word of criticism. Strange that! The so-called later spending was at least targeted to keep the economy running despite the GFC. But then I guess once the hares are set running, it's difficult to stop the howling dogs no matter the logic.

Brian Larsson | 31 July 2011  

And here's another thought for the day. Most of the commentary/blogs is gossip and the repetition thereof. Added to that is Chinese whispers which is thoroughly destructive and agreed by all the 'thinkers/commentariat'

Brian Larsson | 31 July 2011  

Having read the comments by Warwick et al, I know now how effective News Corp's Goebbels-like propaganda is. And "The ABC is probably the most biased media organisation in Australia"? Murphy, try listening to Alan Jones, read Andrew Bolt in Herald Sun or Shanahan & co in The Australian?

By the way, guys, you forgot to drag out the reds under our beds. Remember, it's all a socialists' ploy to destroy your Tea Party !

Alex Njoo | 31 July 2011  

I wonder whether the continuous negative tone of media reporting was a factor in the English riots? A girl rioter interviewed and replayed on ABC AM Radio program, 10/8/11, thought it 'good fun' to destroy the property of others. How far is it between not appreciating any good in what you see around you, pulling down another's good name, and doing so to property?

Bernadette | 10 August 2011  

A terrific work Alan Austin with ‘wake-up’ power. However the comments were actually frightening. The ignorance and lack of economics wisdom supporting ugly negative unAustralian blurbs boosted by ‘know betters’ deceitfully fanning the ignorance damaging the nation’s economy while the Rudd/Gillard Governments have, as Aussie and global intelligence tells us, done too wonderful a job. I have said for two years a lot of Aussies in the ordinary economy will feel the GFC, less than anywhere else except Germany with a Carbon Price doing better than us, and turn against the government as recessions always cause. There is no, will be no carbon tax in Australia. There will be a carbon price to be paid to encourage change just like the ‘sewage price’ is paid. The payers pass these on but for carbon that is pathetically called a ‘tax’. Australia is suffering abject stupidity and dishonesty. The only thing great John the Howard did with a new 10% tax on everything was distinguish Australia by calling Obama the ‘Al-Qaeda’ candidate and take 1 billion out of the health budget. This government is repairing GFC damage and economic damage by neglect of Johnny the Great.

Dr Harvey M Tarvydas | 28 August 2011  

It's great to read someone else who is fed up to the gills with being fed right-wing propaganda 24/7.

Has anyone else noticed that there are no advertisements on FOXNews in Australia? None at all. it is simply a full time propaganda feed from the homeland - supported by the oligarchy to defend the interests of the oligarchy.

I often read comments like some of those attached to this thread and simply wince. I don't like disliking other people but sometimes I wonder if these people ever do their own thinking.

Yes - currently we are the golden haired child of the international monetary community. If there was a conservative government in Australia we would be deluged with commentary from overseas, headlining every newspaper virtually every day, with commentary and opinion about how terrific our glorious leaders are. But what do we get from our Peak National Organ?
Carbon pollution a Myth!

We'll all be rooned (says Abbott the saint)!
Disaster disaster disaster (and it's all the governments fault)!
Small boy stubs toe - Gillard denies responsibility! etc etc

And while the mining sector can't possibly afford a tax or the whole of Australia's womenhood will go into instant menopause and the Koala's will starve to death (at least that's what i think they said) at least BHP's 25 billion dollar profit for the year should be able to buy them a crumb of comfort that such a disastrous result was averted

Jim Moylan | 29 August 2011  

Ditty for the day:

There are big nasty snot-eaters
squatting in my cave!

not very sensible
not very brave

would a snot-eater beater
make ‘em all behave?

Damn the nasty snot-eaters
squatting in my cave!

Jim Moylan | 29 August 2011  

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