John Howard believes that one of the reasons why the Australian people voted no in 1999 to the proposition to make Australia a politicians’republic, was that virtually all of the media were telling them to vote yes. Mr. Howard was made the comment during a lecture in August on politics and the media at the University of Melbourne.
He said the issue was unusual because when it came to the media, “you had the ABC just in full republican mode, you had the Fairfax press in full republican mode, and you had the Murdoch press in full republican mode.
“And sure there was talkback people who had a different view, and there were others were taking a more sceptical view, and I thought it was an interesting reaction that despite all of that, and the stronger – the greater the crescendo came, it was almost as if the resistance began to build,” he observed.
“So it’s one of those interesting case studies that in a sense reminds us of a general proposition, and that is that the Australian people themselves have a great capacity for scepticism,” he continued.
“And I think that one of the defining differences between Americans and Australians when it comes to things such as this, is that Australians are a more deeply sceptical people than sometimes our American friends and cousins are.”
Demonstrating the balance the media did not always show him, he then referred to some case studies where he believed the media had played a very positive role.
“I think from the 1980s onwards, the media in Australia, by and large, has adopted a very sensible attitude towards the need for ongoing economic reform in this country. Now you might say to yourself, he would say that, wouldn’t he, because he’s been associated with a lot of that economic reform himself.”
“ But I’m talking here not only about economic reforms that I’ve been associated with, but also economic reforms that the other side of politics have been associated with.”
Mr. Howard disapproved of the hounding of the former Governor-General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth.
”On the negative side, I have to say that I thought by and large the Australian media treated Peter Hollingworth disgracefully. You could criticise his judgement, you could criticise the prime minister who was responsible for the recommendation, but I thought the relentless pursuit and character assassination of a very, very decent man, I thought that was appalling. And it went largely right across the media.”
On both points Mr. Howard is absolutely right. We have cited here the scathing judgement of a visiting expert in the media Lord Deedes who 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.”
His conclusion was supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets.
Ten years ago the mainline media were unanimous in their prediction that the Australian Crown would and should be abolished.
How ironical then it is that it is the mainline media whose existence is under threat from the refusal of the young to subscribe in any significant numbers, and the development of the internet.
If the taxpayer funded media insists on campaigning for a particular agenda the time will eventually come when the taxpayers will tell the politicians they have had enough.