It is clear that many in the modern media have an agenda, and that is an agenda for change. They are quite prepared to use the news, and not just comment , to advance this agenda. .They ignore the adage, comment is free but facts are sacred.
The public is well aware of the failings of the media to observe their own ethical codes. Annual surveys on the credibility and honesty of different professions demonstrate this. Circulations are falling, even in cities which have experienced record growth. And even the declared circulations are suspect, yet these serious allegations of circulation fraud are strangely not the subject of media investigation.
Significant sections of the Australian media have lost all credibility.
But the pursuit of the agenda continues with a desperate urge to change Australia. This agenda goes to the core-one of the major targets for change is our constitution, another is our flag. For purely tactical reasons, most in the media have put the anti-flag campaign on hold until the constitution is changed.
The Age has dissented from this tactic. Now the editor agrees with the other republicans that the flag will have to be changed once the republic is achieved . But as a republic is inevitable, the flag should go now. All this appears, incidentally, in a newspaper whose first page is graced by the Royal Coat of Arms!
That use of the Royal Arms has continued unchanged from before Federation. This was a time when, as my correspondent Nigel Morris tells me-his source is the Centenary of Federation "Federation 100 Projects", Victorian Education Department, 2001- schoolchildren in Victoria were organised into the form of a hollow square facing the school flagpole to recite the pledge in this way:
"When, at a given signal, the flag is run up, the boys should salute, and the girls stand to attention Then all, placing the right hand on the left breast, should say the following words simultaneously:- I love God and my country; I honour the flag; I will serve the Queen, and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers, and the laws.
Immediately afterwards, taking the time from the teacher, or some one appointed for the purpose, three cheers for the Queen should be given, the boys uncovering their heads"
In 2005 a pledge by schoolchildren reminding them of their duty and their heritage would not go astray and, I suspect would be widely welcomed.
Australians do not want change for the sake of change. While constitutional change is of little or no interest to most members of the general public, it still permeates the Australian journalism. Even in a piece in the Daily Telegraph on 15 April, 2005, on the current TV craze for ballroom dancing, where the public voting seems to favour those who cannot dance , Sue Dunleavy sensibly saw this as" clear proof of why we should never have a popularly elected president in this country".
On the next day in the Telegraph, 16 April 2005, Simon Benson saw the NSW politicians’ recent and infamous attempt to break their oath of allegiance as a step on the road for the secession of NSW from Australia become the Republic of Sydney-so named because Mr Benson argues nobody has ever heard of New South Wales!
These examples were of course written tongue in cheek, and would be received that way. But when journalists go overboard, and make their attacks vicious and personal, the public does not like that. I suspect the Telegraph was inundated with letters expressing outrage about the many nasty comments made by Bruce Wilson, their London correspondent. The Telegraph commendably published some of these.
The impact was such that Wilson wrote a column on 16 April, 2005 in which he claims that during the referendum he wrote in favour of keeping the monarchy!
He then accused the Royal Family at the wedding of having a "persistent lack of any kind of awareness of what the House of Windsor owes its subjects". The heading for this non-repentant column was QUEEN CAMILLA AND THE WOBBLY HOUSE OF WINDSOR. Wilson obviously cannot control himself, even when he realises he had gone too far.
Since the announcement of their marriage, the major tool in the media agenda for major constitutional change has been to blacken the character and reputation of Prince Charles, and to demonise Camilla Parker Bowles. Another part of the agenda has been to demean the office of Governor General, except where an incumbent can be portrayed as in some state of moral opposition to the government. The technique is too often the same. Grab a few facts, and put a slant on them to undermine the Prince, and preserve the image the media wish to portray of him.
An example was in The Sydney Morning Herald on 13 April, 2005, G-G LEFT BEHIND.
This was based on a story published on 12 April 2005 in The Independent, a London newspaper, under this objective heading :PRINCE CHARLES LANDS HIMSELF IN ANOTHER DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT.
The first so called diplomatic incident was nothing of the sort. Rather it was part of the modern Catholic liturgy. During the mass between the offertory and the consecration, the congregation shakes hands with one another as a sign of peace. At the Requiem Mass for the Pope Prince Charles was seated close to the Zimbabwean President , Robert Mugabe. The practice is to shake hands with all those close to you. So Mugabe offered his hand and Charles shook it . Hardly a diplomatic incident- rather the observance of the liturgical expression of Our Lord’s exhortation to love one another even as he loves us.
Note one thing about this report. The Independent did not mention who else among the Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers also shook Mr Mugabes hand. Presumably these also constituted diplomatic incidents! So why they were not also reported? Perhaps Mr Chirac also shook Mr Mugabes hand too- after all Mr Mugabe was recently received in Paris over British reservations. Then, according to the Herald, Prince Charles reportedly-that word reportedly means this is a rumour, we are not satisfied it happened, but since it is damaging to someone we wish to attack we will publish it-Prince Charles blundered into yet another so called diplomatic incident. This was not only described as a diplomatic incident , it was was also described as a disaster-yes a disaster – for our Governor General.
Let us take stock. The Herald admits it is publishing a rumour, but to give it a frisson, the Herald actually reports , on the sole basis of a gossip page , that Major –General Jeffery is the victim of a diplomatic incident or disaster mastered by Charles, his second of the day!
To embellish the story, the Herald reports that Major –General Jeffery is, on the basis of an invention in one gossip column, now known in Britain, presumably the length and breadth of Britain, as "the hapless Governor-General of Australia"
Hapless? He was, according to Cardinal Pell, prominently seated in the front row at the Requiem Mass. Yet the proclaimed but oxymoronic republican royal watcher, Mr. Barry Everingham, continues to insist on the Crikey.com website- wrongly- that the Governor General is not received in Rome, or elsewhere, as the Australian Head of State!
Of course The Independent has no evidence to support its so called report which has been twisted and embellished to create and to maintain the picture of a blundering Prince and an unfortunate hapless figure dependent on the Prince’s kindness.
The newspapers then report the Governor-General complained to Charles that he was on a budget flight to London from Rome on Ryanair.
Whether he was or not booked on Ryanair, he actually left on British Airways.
But on what evidence can the two newspapers say the GG complained rather than say, informed? Perhaps the Prince enquired –we do not know. The point is, neither do the journalists. They were not present.
Charles then offered places on his flight, although the papers reinterpret this as Charles taking pity on Governor General.Note that-taking pity.
But not withstanding the efforts of the embassies, the Roman traffic, the departure of vast numbers of VIP’s and the strict controls at Rome airport were such that the Governor-General could not make the departure time set by the airport, and came instead on British Airways.
This is reinterpreted to say that Charles, fleeing Rome because of the so called diplomatic incident with President Mugabe , and now in a grump, barks an order for the plane to take off.
All of course fiction dreamed up by the journalists, fiction designed to demean and ridicule the Prince and the Governor General.
The story was correctly reported, without embellishment in The Australian on 14 May, 2005.
So an attempt by the Prince to provide seats on his aircraft, which in the confusion of the rush to leave the city cannot be taken up, becomes a second diplomatic incident, a disaster for our hapless Governor-General. As Lord Deedes said during the referendum-he had never seen in a democratic country such shameless bias as was displayed by our press.
Until next time,