Media assessment of a great Foreign Minister
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Friday, 11 July 2008

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...systemic bias...

 

One of the features of the 1999 campaign was the way of vast elements of the media, particularly the “serious” media campaigned for the Yes case even in claiming to report the news.

As the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:  “I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end.” (“Will the media be balanced ? ” 11 May 2008).  


Lord Deedes’ conclusion is supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets. “(“Republicans turn on former leader, benefactor,” 14 February 2008)

 

The failure of the media to report accurately the precise decisions of  the 2020 Summit on proposed republican change, and the surreptitious way these were changed, would not have occurred had the Summit been a project of John Howard.(“ Mad Hatter’s Tea Party: media accused over 2020 Summit,“ 9 July 2008.)



...a nasty personal attack more appropriate to a gossip magazine...

 

In the various commentaries on the role of Alexander Downer as the longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs , I found the one in The Sydney Morning Herald particularly unpleasant, a nasty personal attack more appropriate to a gossip magazine (“Vale, Alexander the not-so-great,” Peter Hartcher 4 July , 2008).


This sort of commentary would never have been tolerated in the golden days when The Sydney Morning Herald was one of the world’s great newspapers.

How the mighty have fallen.  

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 In the gallery of Foreign Ministers, as they are now known, we have had some outstanding world statesmen  from Dr H. V Evatt who was the first President of the General Assembly and, incidentally, a great constitutional monarchist.

In The Sydney Morning Herald of 11 July, 2008, (“Bias ignores years of hard work on foreign policy”) Mr Downer pens a response which captures the feelings I had when I read Peter Hartcher’s quite personal attack. Mr Downer replies:-

“The tragedy of much public commentary in Australia is that it is blatantly anti-conservative, fascinated with trivia and, when it comes to conservatives, rich with personal abuse. 

“Peter Hartcher's retrospective last week of my 12 years as foreign minister was a case in point.

"For any commentator who is a self-styled serious analyst of Australian foreign policy to reduce a dozen years of diplomacy to a tirade of personal abuse is to reveal a stark and embarrassing anti-intellectual bigotry.”

Exactly.