Australian Government to Ban Free Scientific Inquiry on the Internet

Australian government endorses Report banning publication of all but government approved science; proof if it were needed that Australian politics and post-normal science is in crisis.

In a shocking story If It Can Happen Down Under by Hal G.P.Colebatch (American Spectator, April 4, 2012) citizens are gearing up for a “head-on assault on Australia’s entire political culture of liberty and democracy.” In effect, the Australian Labor Party and extreme leftist Greens are preparing to make law the 470-page Finkelstein Report to ban from it’s borders those scientists and free-thinkers that are increasingly congregating to the maverick independent global science community, Principia Scientific International (PSI). PSI was founded precisely to fulfill a growing need because mainstream journals are increasingly shown to be refusing to publish any counter-establishment science.

'Inconvenient' Scientists will be Gagged

'Inconvenient' Scientists to be Gagged

One such victim of Australia’s attack on science is Professor Alberto Boretti, Assoc. Professor at the University of Ballarat, School of Science & Engineering. Dr. Boretti, a computational expert, has struggled for two years trying to get mainstream journals to publish his damning study proving government scientists have been falsifying sea level rises around the coasts of Australia. He found, “The measured rate of rise of sea levels is not increasing and climate models should be revised to match the experimental evidence.”

Dr. Boretti’s work was painstakingly reviewed by dozens of independent scientists connected with PSI but still the mainstream journals refused to touch it, he claims, for political reasons.

According to Professor Boretti and his PSI colleagues, the Report’s recommendations will make matters far worse. The recommendations are from retired Federal Court Judge Roy Finkelstein and are dubbed as the government’s vendetta against the Murdoch press in an attempt to make the media more “accountable.” Under the anti-Murdoch smokescreen the government is taking for itself the power to impose “professional standards.” Finkelstein wants a News Media Council (NMC) set up to license the press and to censor news reporting and political commentary (including websites).

Colebatch explains that in paragraph 4.10 of the Finkelstein report “it is stated that the council should control speech in Australia because the people are too stupid to be allowed free access to news.”

Worryingly, the NMC attack on free speech is not being faced down by the Australian Opposition so is more likely to become law. Liberal Party’s media spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull has been ambiguous and equivocal about the Report claiming “It has been said that the legal arrangements at present” (that is, ordinary freedom of speech) “do not adequately advance the public interest.”

Science Already Shackled by Corrupt Peer-review System

So how does this impact independent science think tanks and online publishers like Principia Scientific International?

First, the Report doesn’t define what “political commentary” includes and, being that most national governments are invested in science, any new science refuting or in any way critical of government science will be construed as “political commentary.” As Finklestein wants the Australian government to be the arbiter of what constitutes political commentary we can be sure that its Ministry of Truth thought police will likely ban whatever doesn’t conform to its views.

Second, the Report wants websites that get more than 15,000 hits a year (an average of 41 a day) to be subject to NMC’s government censorship putting all content at risk if anything on the website could be described as “news, information and opinion of current value.”

Clearly, science that is new may be considered “news” and the conclusions of scientists can be judged to be “opinion of current value.” As such there will be nowhere for independent scientists and intellectuals to share their ideas if this draconian mind control policy becomes law.

As most scientists who don’t work for government-backed institutions know all too well, it’s nigh on impossible to get any science paper published that promotes any ideas contrary to the orthodoxy. This is most apparent in the way mainstream science journals vet submissions behind closed doors in the post-normal fashion so tellingly exposed during the Climategate scandal. Thousands of leaked emails in November 2009 exposed how a clique of government scientists manipulated major science journals to act as gatekeepers against any science opposed to the government orthodoxy. It is because of the self-evident bias in the “peer-review process” of mainstream science publishing that Principia Scientific International (PSI) was formed and why so much cutting-edge science debate now takes place in the blogosphere.

How Mainstream 'Peer Review' Functions

Censorship in Science Implemented by 'peer review'

So, all honest scientists and supporters of free speech should heed the words of Keith Windschuttle, editor of Quadrant, who has written defiantly:

“If this oppressive scheme is ever implemented, we would feel compelled to defend the long tradition of press freedom by engaging in civil disobedience. While ever I am editor, Quadrant would not recognize the News Media Council’s authority, we would not observe its restrictions, and we would not obey its instructions, whatever the price. We hope other publishers will take a similar stand.”

Read the full and unexpurgated diktats of the Finkelstein Report here.Below is my legal analysis of the wording of the salient parts of the Report. Like with most things drafted by govt. the blandness of the wording hides the sinister intent as may be seen in paras. 2.22;4.9; and 4.10 below:

2.22 A second assumption which has been criticised is that having more information reduces the risk of error. It may be true that where free speech is suppressed lack of information may result in error. But even armed with full information, people do not necessarily have the means for weighing and evaluating that information. And, in any event, more information is only desirable if it is relevant. [my bold: who determines ‘relevance’ in a free society?]
4.9 Media proprietors often defend their adherence to standards by reference to their readers. So, rejecting any suggestion of bias against the government on the part of News Limited, Mr Hartigan said such claims were an insult to readers, who were capable of making up their own minds. [This is the defense for free speech status quo that is then countered in the next para.]
4.10 Often, however, readers are not in a position to make an appropriately informed judgment. They expect news stories they read to be accurate. [my bold] Usually only the authors/publishers, and the subjects of the story, know the extent to which a story lives up to that expectation. Overtime, though, the public develop perceptions about the media that have an important influence on their opinion of the media.”
[O’Sullivan’s legal note: Thus the Australian Government will henceforth determine both what is  ‘relevant’ and what is ‘accurate’ and will hold the power to ban anything breaching their definitions by means of the withdrawal of the publishers’ license it shall require all such publishers to hold]
John O’Sullivan LLB, BA (Hon), PGCE is Legal Counsel for Principia Scientific International


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31 responses to “Australian Government to Ban Free Scientific Inquiry on the Internet

  1. To quote from the chapter “The Great Myth” in CONVENIENT MYTHS:
    “This great myth is the idea that politics can direct scientific outcome.”

    Prior to the 1970’s, the peer review process did essentially not exist in European scientific journals. Every scientist was responsible for his/her own reputation and their work being published. Journal editors’ responsibility was primarily to maintain their journal’s standards of clear, unambiguous presentation and so forth.

    As a young post-doctoral fellow in North America, I have personally experienced abuse of the peer review system as practiced by most journals published there.

    Much later, as Editor-in-Chief of another journal for many years I had manuscripts reviewed by at least two colleagues, one of whom I considered a specialist in the particular field, and a non-specialist whose was looking at a paper from a general point of view.

    Any attempt to control scientific results through laws or what may be deemed publishable on the basis of political considerations will end up being very costly for the country. Hitler tried such and so did Stalin. In the end, their attempts were all in vain.

  2. Marrickvillain

    This post misrepresents the proposed New Media Council, which is not intended to have censorship powers.
    Indeed, the Finkelstein report says “The establishment of a council is not about increasing the power of government or about imposing some form of censorship. It is about making the news media more accountable to those covered in the news, and to the public generally.”
    The powers the body would have, should it ever be brought into existence, would allow it to “require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply”.
    The reason for creating the NMC is that online media currently have no regulator. Many online publishers are not members of industry groups that share a self-regulation code. Extant groups move slowly and have tended to go very easy on their members.
    The proliferation of online media in Australia means there are now many outlets that, if they report inaccurately, cannot be held to account through any process other than litigation. As it is expensive to seek redress through the courts, many people feel that online media can effectively act with impunity.
    The ALP and Greens are also *not* preparing to make the recommendations of the report law. The report has been received by the government and is being considered. A companion report on the impact of convergence on Australia’s media landscape will also be considered before policy is developed.
    I suspect this post, given its failure to quote the report it traduces, is just the kind of thing the NMC is proposed to address..
    You can find the report here:

    • jose lori

      You sir must be extreemly niave if you truly believe what you say

      • MC62

        You need to quite writing such posts when you are sitting in your gagrage with your car idling–it does have an effect whether you perceive it or not.

    • eddy.canuck

      I echo others reply’s to Marrickvillain.
      You are a naive fool sir.
      There are some things that can not be “out-sourced” to government – in particular the right to have an opinion – no matter how “poorly informed” as judged by the “elites”. Citizen voters are not as dumb as the “elites” believe they are – and in fact possess a great deal of common -sense.

      The most important aspect of this common-sense is a healthy “skepticism” at being fed a stream of lies and half-truths by their supposed “betters” (aka “elites”). If you are not getting the support you feel you deserve – you are either NOT explaining yourself clearly/in a compelling enough manner – or people are not buying what you are selling.

      Finally, there is NO reason at all why in a truly democratic nation citizens should stand idly by when their rights to freedom of expression are being hijacked by another groups of over-paid bureaucrats.

      • eddy.canuck you said:
        “If you are not getting the support you feel you deserve – you are either NOT explaining yourself clearly/in a compelling enough manner – or people are not buying what you are selling.”

        You have missed a critical third possibility. What if I am explaining myself in a clear and compelling manner and the people who hear me are convinced of the truth that I say but I’m only being heard by a handful of people because I can only get my views published on my personal blog which is only read by a handful of people? What if the mainstream media won’t publish my views and instead they publish their lies?

        The result will be that the mainstream media will be able to deceive the majority of the population. This was never the intent of “freedom of the press”.

        The ideals of freedom of the press where forged in an era when the government was un-elected and the press was a few small business mavericks with their printing presses run by a handful of apprentices.

        The situation now is the opposite – the government is elected by the people and held responsible for its actions every 3 years, whereas the media, is very powerful and is not responsible to anyone.

        The notion that Rupert Murdoch has my, or your best interests at heart is laughable! He only takes his interests into consideration. Rupert Murdoch has enough power to influence the outcome of most elections in USA, UK and Australia.

        When are people going to realise that the majority of “the press” is not the little battler struggling to represent the wishes of the people against “the powerful” – “the press” IS the powerful!

        The press that’s viewed by over 95% of the population is not free – it’s controlled and censored and distorted by Rupert Murdoch and a handful of other powerful manipulators. Don’t let them fool you into becoming their Praetorian Guard! They pretend they’re powerless and that they’re the defenders of the little man’s right to free speech and they play you like suckers.

        Don’t be fooled. Open your eyes.

        The owners of big media don’t care about truth, they don’t care about you or your right to free speech – they only care about maintaining the status quo so that they can keep deceiving you in order to get you to do their bidding for them.

        The deception is beautiful – they deceive you into believing that what is best for them is what’s also best for you, then they get you scared and angry, so that you’ll go out and be their loyal foot soldiers who’ll fight to the death!

        Come on. Wake up. Don’t be puppets.

        Rupert Murdoch is not your friend. Neither are any of the other big media owners.

        Why do you think Gina Rinehart just bought a big chunk of Fairfax? Is it because she thinks the best time to invest in newspapers is when they’re all going broke? Or because she so passionately wants to support the little man’s right to free speech?
        Of course not! It’s because she knows that the media has huge power and she wants more power so she can get what she wants regardless of whether it’s what’s in the best interests of the public or not.

        I’ve written two articles on this on my blog. One article is titled “Freedom of the press argument is deceitful”
        and debunks the argument that says that the public is smart enough to identify biased and untruthful media for themselves and that therefore we don’t need any regulation.

        The other is called “What’s better than freedom of the press?”

        I look forward to hearing your comments on the ideas I’ve expressed there. If you can pick any flaws in the arguments I put forward there, please do so – nobody else has found any yet.

        Lau Guerreiro

  3. Geoffrey Cousens

    One is left virtualy speechless at the mere thought of this sort of nonsense[in this country].The sooner the left is out of power the better.
    Geoffrey Cousens.[Melbourne].

  4. johnosullivan

    Readers should note how Marrickvillian fails to quote any safeguards from the Report that will assuage the fears of honest scientists already subject to outrageous censorship by left-wing controlled mainstream journals. To my mind he is yet another apologist for the creeping rise of diktat by unpopular government in its war on free speech.
    As I cited above, para, 4.9 makes the defense for allowing readers to determine for themselves what is journalistic quality; while para’s 2.22 and 4.10 in the Report point to the real gagging agenda by means of holding to itself what it determines to be “accurate” and “relevant.” Anything the NMC deems not accurate or relevant will result in the publisher’s license being revoked.

  5. But there is always the right to litigation if someone is defamed or slandered. And, if the legal suit is valid, then costs would be assigned to the guilty party.
    The worst victimization of the population has always been conducted by socialists who do things for the people’s own good, as they are too stupid or invalided to do it for themselves.
    This is the type of thing that revolutions are caused from. When will ozzies pull out the torches and pitchforks.

    • You say:
      “But there is always the right to litigation if someone is defamed or slandered. ”
      Will the government litigate against you if you publish lies about what they are doing or going to do?
      Will the scientific community sue you for lying?
      Will an ethnic minority sue you?

      The worst victimisation of people has always been perpetrated by powerful people who only cared about themselves, regardless of whether they were left wing Stalinists or right wing Nazis.

      And today, as has always been the case, a lot of money, buys you a lot of power!

    • Dr Max Hathaway

      Adn who, in your blessed country, presides over litigation — a corrupt judiciary perfectly willing to do the dirty works of the fascist left.

  6. Pingback: OBAMA-STYLE SCIENCE DOWN UNDER | Cognitive Dissonance

  7. Marrickvillain

    Thank you for adding some quote from the report.

    Common journalistic practice would mean noting the update to your original post, but I note you have chosen to simply add on more material without informing your readers of the addition.

    That is your choice, as is your choice to quote the report selectively.

    Section 2.2, which you quote as if it were a recommendation, is actually part of a section titled “Rationales for free speech and a free press: the search for truth”. The section reports on the attitudes of those consulted during the report’s presentation. Sections 4.9 and 4.10 are from a section of the report titled “Public opinion, confidence and perceptions of the media.” That material is also derived from consultations.

    None of the material you quote is in any way, shape, or form, a recommendation or government policy.

    Nor does the Finkelstein Report suggest or recommend any power to ban anyone from publishing anything.

    As I pointed out in my last post, its aims, stated in the report, are “making the news media more accountable to those covered in the news, and to the public generally.” The report proposes to do so with a new body that will assess complaints about media coverage and have the power to compel corrections or apologies.

    So let me just point it out one more time.

    The Finkelstein Report does NOT recommend powers to ban any form of publication, on any topic. The recommendations of the report are NOT government policy. The report has NOT been adopted and is NOT being expressed in any current draft legislation.

    Moreoever the report has been the subject of considerable criticism in Australia, as the proposed New Media Council is generally held to be unworkable in the form described by Finkelstein. One reason for the criticism is that the report proposes insufficient safeguards proposed for the decision making process around the compulsion of apologies and corrections.

    So please stop suggesting that Australian press freedom stands on the abyss. It simply is not the case.

    Lastly, I am not an apologist for this government or for reductions in freedom of speech. My livelihood depends on freedom of speech and my ability to exercise it vigorously.

  8. @Marrickvillain.
    The Finkelstein report says, “The establishment of a council is not about increasing the power of government or about imposing some form of
    It the states in the very next sentence, “It is about making the news media more accountable to those covered in the news, and to the public generally.”
    And how is that ‘accountability’ to be achieved other than by Government powers being increased so to do, and by censoring that which does not gain Governmental approval?
    Have you never heard of ‘mission creep?

    • You know what the best definition of “accountability” is? It’s the one put forward by the West Australian Media where they say they are going to set up their own independent body to keep them accountable.

      That’s like the mafia saying that the police and court system is costing too much money and not doing their job properly so the mafia will set up an independent police and court system, who will do a better job!

  9. Keith

    If this regime of press control comes into being, then I look forward to a massive outbreak of underground journalism via the internet. Licenced to report and opine, yeah that’ll work. It’ll be fun to see conservatives “going underground” and sticking to “the (marxist) man”. Pretty easy to start a new blog, if the current one is found to be illegal, and what happens if said blogs are hosted overseas ? Chinese-style internet filters ?

  10. I agree with the sentiments of Marrickvillian.

    And I think that your article is the perfect example of why we need more regulation in our system. (The irony is incredible!)

    If you said untruths about me and damaged my reputation and good standing in the community, and I was rich enough, I could sue you for defamation.

    But what happens when you say untruths about the Finkelstein Media Enquiry, or about the government, or about climate science? What happens if your lies decieved the public and diminished the reputation and effectiveness of the damaged parties? Would they be able to sue you?


    So, basically our free speech system says, that you can’t publish lies about people but you can publish lies about anything else you like. Does that sound like a system that has the best interests of the public at heart?

    Or does it sound like a system that allows a few deceitful spoilers to poison the minds of the masses with lies and fear in order to feather their own nests?

    Why did you misrepresent the sections of the report, as pointed out by Marrickvilain? Was it because you were misinformed or did you misrepresent it deliberately?

    As for the arguement that its an insult to the public to suggest that they are too stupid to figure out whether what the media is telling them is true or not – this is such a ridiculous argument!
    I have written a blog post on this very subject explaining it to you so that hopefully you will never be misinformed about this subject again and hopefully you’ll never try to misinform other people about it.

    The article is titled “Freedom of the press argument is deceitful”
    and debunks the argument that says that the public is smart enough to identify biased and untruthful media for themselves and that therefore we don’t need any regulation.

    Lau Guerreiro

    • johnosullivan

      Please specify precisely where I have lied. Otherwise we can fairly dismiss your rant as another apology for more government diktat attacking our freedoms.

      • Where did you lie?

        How about we start with that big headline?
        “Australian Government to Ban Free Scientific Inquiry on the Internet”

        Really? Is that true? Where exactly in the report does it say that?

        And what about the first line?
        “Australian government endorses Report banning publication of all but government approved science;”

        Really? Do you honestly believe that’s 100% true? You’re not exagerating – not even a little bit?
        And what exactly do you mean by “endorses”? Are you using the traditional English language definition for that word?

        I searched the entire report and it doesn’t use the word “ban” once. Nor did I find any reference to censoring science.

        In fact it doesn’t talk about censoring or banning anything.

        It talks about making the publication giving space for a right of reply or making it issue a correction where it can be shown that the original statement was factually incorrect.

        If the publication can demonstrate that it’s facts where truthful then they’d be home free, and if not they’d have to publish a correction – big deal!

        Does any of that sound like “BANNING”? Could you have made it sound any more scary?
        Perhaps you could have said that anyone who published scientific inquiry on the internet would be put through a meat grinder!

        Even if your stuff was found to be untruthful you could still publish it if you phrased it in a way that acknowledged that the majority of opinion was against you and if you acknowledge that there was a possibility that you could be mistaken.

        The objective isn’t to censor anything! The objective is to ensure that the public has access to the truth!
        The objective is to protect the public from being deceived by unscrupulous people.

        How would you do that? How would you ensure the public couldn’t be deceived by unscrupulous media barons?

        I mean, think about it seriously – don’t just blindly spout the freedom of speech mantra without thinking about how it actually applies in our current environment. If Rupert Murdoch and the owners of Fairfax, and a couple of other major Australian media owners decided to decieve the Australian people, how could you stop it? Could we stop it?

        You might be able to point out the truth on your little blog here, but how many people would read that? The truth might spread through a few other little blogs, but those bloggers would be ignored or discredited by the mainstream media, and the 95% of the population that feed on nothing else but mainstream media would be led by the nose like cattle to the slaughter.

        The “media” are the “powerful” – they’re not the defenders of the little guy.

        If you choose to disagree with me please point to the bits in the report that support your statements.

        As already pointed out by Marrickvillain:
        “None of the material you quote is in any way, shape, or form, a recommendation or government policy.”
        Do you acknowledge that?
        If not then please tell us which bits you believe are recommendation or government policy, and what your justification is for saying so. (It might help if you actually read the bits surrounding the quoted paragraphs.)

        Being able to have a right of reply, as you and I are doing right here, is what freedom of speech is all about. And this is how the truth comes out. The problem is that no one can do this to a front page story on the Australian or Sydney Morning Herald.

        What the Finkelstein Report is proposing is that when we have the facts on our side we will be able to counter a front page story.


      • johnosullivan

        The fatal flaw in your argument is that you claim “The objective is to ensure that the public has access to the truth!”
        But who will be the arbiter of truth according to the proposals of this govt report? Why, none other than another unwanted govt quango s – the NSM!
        You write as if I’m a supporter of Murdoch and other media barons – you couldn’t be further from the truth. I am an advocate of independent news media and science publishing that is thriving on the internet. You fail to comprehend that the Finkelstein proposes a licensing system of the press and the new unaccountable quango, the NSM, will have the power the revoke media licences without appeal if the NSM decides it doesn’t like what a publisher is saying.

        I am Legal Counsel for Principia Scientific International (a new global group of independent scientists and science publishers). As such I represent dozens of scientists who are extremely worried about the sinister rise of gatekeepers in the mainstream over the past 20 years. They, like me, see the Australian govt gearing up to ban more inconvenient science by driving us off the internet. Such independent scientists believe this kind of Report is a tool of government to kill off science publishing not in accord with government approved science and propaganda. Remember, is only thanks to the blogosphere that the great global warming swindle was busted and the Truth Movement was able to grow.

        As part of my work I am also legal adviser to climatologist, Dr Tim Ball, who is currently being sued in the courts in Canada for allegedly defaming govt scientists on the blogosphere. I can advise you, as an advocate for the ‘little guys’ like Dr. Ball that the last thing the ‘little guy’ needs is another unaccountable government quango.

        Not just scientists, but the public also doesn’t trust the mainstream media (inc. Murdoch). It’s why the public is increasingly turning to the blogosphere as an alternative to the garbage they are been fed by the alphabet news channels and national press. You appear to want to stop those of us who are fighting the lies of the mainstream media from doing our job. Thus you are actually doing the bidding of Big Media and Big Government wihtout realizing it. If you speak to any non-mainstream publisher they will tell you precisely what I’m saying – they don’t want more regulation because it is not in the wider public interest.

        You appear to fail to comprehend that this Report is the tool of Big Government for gagging inconvenient truths. Or perhaps you are one of those suckers who believes the government (and it’s unelected quangos) is always fair and impartial? Wise up please!

  11. I’m glad to hear that you’re not a puppet of the media barons.

    I’m also glad to see that you didn’t disagree with my statements that your headline and first sentence are lies, and in particular that the government hasn’t “endorsed” the report.

    I’m disappointed to see, however, that in your response you continue to speak untruths about the report without producing any evidence from the report itself.

    Surely, as a lawyer, you have the intelligence and experience required to be able to put together a well reasoned argument that refers adequately to the available evidence in order to convince a skeptical audience. That’s the job of a lawyer right?

    But you don’t provide any evidence for your claims. Why? Surely if there was evidence available you’d be rushing to present it to the audience wouldn’t you?

    Let’s examine your latest untruth. You wrote:
    “You fail to comprehend that the Finkelstein proposes a licensing system of the press and the new unaccountable quango, the NSM, will have the power the revoke media licences without appeal if the NSM decides it doesn’t like what a publisher is saying.”

    Let’s take this one lie at a time:
    “the Finkelstein proposes a licensing system of the press”
    Really? Where does it say that? All I could find was where it said the exact opposite! Chapter 11 titled “Reform” contains the report’s recommendations. Under the heading “What options should be rejected?” you’ll find paragraph 11.26 which reads:
    “Licensing the press should also be rejected, because in a democratic society the government should not be involved in controlling who should publish news. Nor should it be involved in setting and evaluating press practices. These would be the inevitable consequences of licensing, which could eventually end up being just a dressed-up version of censorship. Whatever may be the justification for licensing broadcasters (and many hold the justifications to be false), it cannot be transported to the press.”

    Why would anyone who read that paragraph then say “the Finkelstein proposes a licensing system of the press”?

    You go on to say:
    “the NSM, will have the power to revoke media licences without appeal”
    Once again I have to assume that you haven’t read the relevant sections of the report and that you’ve been deceived by someone else into believing these lies.

    Once again in Chapter 11.Reform under the subheading “Remedial powers” you’ll find the recommendations for what the powers the NMC should have.
    You will note that they can make a publication:
    – publish a correction
    – publish a reply by a complainant
    – publish the News Media Council (NMC/NSM) decision
    – they can tell them when to publish the abovementioned.
    – withdraw a particular article from continued publication.

    From a pure freedom of speech perspective the last one is the most severe. But note that it doesn’t require anyone to get approval for an article before they publish it. They can print anything they want on the front page of the Australian and no one will stop them. If it’s found to be lies they’ll have to print a correction.
    So it’s not about preventing information from getting out – it’s about ensuring that information gets out.

    Paragraph 11.76 states that there shouldn’t be any fines or damages awarded.

    Then under the heading “Enforcement of Determinations” paragraph 11.77 it states:
    “There should be a legal requirement that if a regulated media outlet refuses to comply with a News Media Council determination the News Media Council or the complainant should have the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order compelling compliance. Any failure to comply with the court order should be a contempt of court and punishable in the usual way.”

    So there will be no fines or penalties, but if publications refuse to publish corrections then the NMC can apply to the court who can order the publication to comply. If they don’t they will be subject to the normal contempt of court laws.

    Why are you telling people that the NMC will “revoke media licences”? Why are you making that up? Firstly, there won’t be any licenses and secondly there’s no process for revoking them. What are you doing?

    And thirdly, you state that there’s no appeal process, which is only a deceptive half-truth. Under the heading “Appeals, merits review and judicial supervision” paragraph 11.78 does indeed state that there won’t be an internal appeals process because they don’t want offenders to be able to use an endless appeals process to delay having to publish a correction.

    In the very next paragraph 11.79, however, it goes on to say:
    “It would, however, be neither desirable nor possible to preclude all judicial supervision of determinations. In any event, because enforcement may need to be by way of court order, judicial supervision would be built into the process. In the course of enforcement proceedings a collateral challenge to a determination may be available and this would provide a sufficient mechanism for judicial supervision.”

    So there is a form of appeal through the normal court system. Is the court system not adequately independent for you? Would you prefer the NMC ran their own internal appeal process?

    I believe I have demonstrated to the satisfaction of any jury that the statement “the NSM, will have the power to revoke media licences without appeal” is false.

    To address a slightly different point: the fatal flaw in your argument is that you assume that a government funded quango will be less independent than the current one funded by the media barons.

    How independent is the courts system? Who funds that? Would it be more or less independent if it was funded by big business and organised crime than by the government?

    Who is more accountable to the public, the government or Rupert Murdoch? When do I get to vote him out?

    Please get your facts right.

    The truth is our most valuable asset.

    Thank you for allowing me to engage with you in this discussion. This is what free speech is all about.

    You can download a copy of the report here:


    • johnosullivan

      All your best efforts seeking to convince readers that I’m the bogeyman touting lies about bans is undone by your own quote from the Report whereby the NSM will have the power to order a publisher to:
      “– withdraw a particular article from continued publication.”
      Sorry, but in the plainest of English that equates to a ban. As such the NSM makes itself the arbiter of what will or will not be forceably withdrawn and it will be as per what they regard as “relevant” or “news”. It is then incumbent on the publisher, if it objects to this draconian law, to take the NSM, a govt quango, to court! How is that fair-a citizen having to sue his own govt just to have a right to free speech? In your world that may not be a ban, but in mine that’s a govt ban and as such the NSM (working on behalf of the govt) are unaccountable licensees of what is acceptable publication. QED.

  12. Lau Guerreiro (and Marrickvillainm) you are too cute. You essentially are saying because the report does not literally say it plans to censor it can’t be a censor, while you parrot’s the government’s rantings about the evil Murdoch press needing to be brought to heel. Presumably the Fairfax press and ABC just fine for you. If you can order an apology, and importantly, the withdrawal of an on-line article, you are de facto censoring that message. I have not seen mention of ‘licensing’ and ‘de facto’ licensing might be more appropriate.
    Nevertheless, this report does not exist in a vacuum. It was prepared for a Government which is trashing every legal, procedural and parliamentary convention to survive, in the clear context of wanting to silence press critical to it’s almost universally acknowledged disastrous governance, and not just by the Murdoch press.
    Notwithstanding John’s perhaps hyperbolic reporting, which we readers are quite capable of discounting, your inversion of need for freedom of the press (to keep governments accountable) by suggesting that instead the government should hold the press accountable is the most naive, frightening and totalitarian-leaning logic, so sadly prevalent on the left.

    You say the government is accountable every 3 years but not newspapers. Well, without a free press to report on government performance, government corruption, government failures and successes, how can the voters make informed decisions at election time? Elections alone do not make democracy. I lived in a communist country and we had elections every 3 years, but no democracy.
    You say Murdoch can sway elections? What, no one watches the leftist ABC and reads leftist Faifax press? No one has the internet? You can’t be serious.
    I am afraid, despite your careful and admirable dissection of John’s accuracy, you come across either as extremely naive or more likely a leftist government apologist and closet totalitarian.

    • MichaelC58, I’m not a “leftist government apologist and closet totalitarian” – I’m actually in the centre, I’ve voted both liberal and labor in the past. And I don’t believe I’m naive – I’m idealistic.

      I’m not naive about the threat of government media manipulation, I believe we need to add more safeguards to the Finkelstein model to ensure government can’t manipulate it.

      It could be said, based on your comments, that you’re naive about manipulation of free speech by big media.

      I’m not saying The Finkelstein report should be implemented as is – There is obviously a lot of work still to be done to build safeguards into that model. It’s still just a framework of suggestions – it’s not a piece of legislation ready for implementation.

      The choice would be easy if it was between a flawed Finkelstein model and a flawless current model. But the model that is currently implemented is far from flawless. There are now two great power blocks in society, the government and the media, and the current model protects us from government abuse of the free press system but doesn’t protect us from the big media abuse of the free press system.

      So we have to choose between two flawed models. What I object to is people who characterise the choice as being between a perfect model and a flawed new model.

      I object to people throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are good things in the Finkelstein model – lets keep them and fix the flaws instead of rejecting it all.

      If we acknowledge that both models are flawed we then need to examine each one to see which one can most easily be modified to produce a better solution. What are the flaws in each system that can most easily be fixed?

      I believe that the major flaw in the Finkelstein model is the power to compel a publisher to remove an article. This power needs to be removed.


      The Finkelstein Media Inquiry report recommends in paragraph 11.74 that the News Media Council have the power “To require withdrawal of a particular article from continued publication (via internet or otherwise).”

      This is the most Draconian recommendation in the report and it’s what has sparked the hyperbolic denunciation of the report.

      So how do we fix this flaw while maximising free speech and access to truth and minimising deception?

      One way is to allow the article to remain online but to put a big red warning across the top; the specific offending sections of text in the article should also be highlighted in red.

      These warnings and sections would be linked to the page on the NMC’s website that explains the reasons for the breach.

      There should be various colour-coded levels of breaches. The most severe would be for irrefutable lies: such as that “the Australian inflation rate in 2011 was higher than at any other time since 1900”

      Then next level would be for things that have an extremely low probability of being true.

      Then there would be a category for deliberate omission of relevant information with the intention of deceiving the reader. This would prevent people from telling pensioners that the government was going to increase their electricity tax, but omitting to tell them that they would be fully compensated for it in their pensions.

      In order to ensure that there’s a right of appeal and that free speech is preserved, the link through to the NMC website should take you to the official ruling and the public should be able to comment on it, as we are doing here.

      But in order that the comments are not just swamped with a flood of abuse there needs to be two levels of comment visibility. In the “raw comment stream” level, all comments are visible – but this is not displayed by default – you have to specifically click a link to see the raw comment stream level.

      The default level would display only the serious, well argued comments. So that people who are interested to find out the truth can easily read both sides of the argument without reading the abuse and nonsense.

      Surely this is the ultimate fulfilment of the ideal of free speech! Not only can you say what you want but you don’t have to own a newspaper in order to be heard by the majority of the public.

      The comment stream could be further organised into several sub-streams, each dealing with a specific point. That way the arguments and evidence for each point can be localised rather than just lost and ignored amongst the stream of comments.

      So the official ruling would be a properly structured argument with numbered paragraphs that listed the evidence and arguments to support it’s ruling. This would also include evidence commonly used by the opposing argument but which had been ruled to be incorrect or irrelevant (and reasons given). Each of these would have its own comment stream where supporters could appeal the inadmissibility.

      On top of this there would be some sort of summarising of comment streams and score-keeping of points for and against.

      For example, in the my previous comment I demonstrated that the statement “the NSM, will have the power to revoke media licences without appeal” is false. This would be broken up into 3 sub-points (and 3 separate comment streams) :
      – media will be licensed
      – the NSM will have the power to revoke media licences
      – there will be no appeal process

      The arguments for and against each point would be examined and a true or false probability assigned to each one. Exactly how this probability would be calculated needs to be worked out – there could be a voting system, but we’d need to work out who was eligible to vote. And each voter would have to be accountable for their vote – you’d have to be able to see a list of everything someone had voted for, and if you vote against something that has been logically proven you have to demonstrate where the flaw in the logic was, so that people can’t just stubbornly vote for something that is demonstrably false without giving a sensible reason.

      Maybe we need a set of ‘people’s representatives’ that can vote – like a large jury. They would need to first demonstrate that they are able to use logic effectively, and are aware of the common logical fallacies and tricks that are employed in arguing a case. This is not a popularity contest – this is a contest where we want the truth to win!

      If the ‘people’s representatives’ votes do not support the NMC ruling then there would be some process to require it to modify it’s ruling.

      In order to make things more efficient the system would share common argument points, so that if there are 20 articles about the same topic there doesn’t have to be 20 different comment streams on the same subject. There would be one central comment stream on that subject and the rulings on each article would link to the relevant common comment stream.

      Surely the model I’m proposing is a more efficient way of ensuring that free speech leads to greater public awareness of the truth.
      The current system is very inefficient – it doesn’t make it easy for people to find out what all the pros and cons are for a particular issue. My proposed system will!

      It’s time for a paradigm shift!
      Its time for freedom of the press 2.0!

  13. PeterB in Indianapolis

    It is funny how some people simply fail to understand basic things which history has taught us time and time again.

    1. The government (regardless of WHICH government or country) CANNOT perform an “independent” review of anything whatsoever. That would simply be a logical impossibility. So those of you claiming “independent review” please give up that line of argument, it is illogical.

    2. Science is always evolving, and new discoveries are being made constantly. Let’s say, for example, that the “majority of scientists” are convinced that human emissions of Carbon Dioxide are causing overall warming of the global climate. Let’s further say, for example, that over the course of the next 40 years, average global temperature FALLS by 1.4 degrees Celsius. Obviously new scientific theories would have to evolve to explain this. Either the theory of human emissions of CO2 contributing to warming would be falsified completely, or it would have to be significantly modified to account for the factors causing 1.4 degrees of cooling over the next 40 years. PLEASE NOTE, I am not saying that this is what is GOING TO HAPPEN, I merely cite it as a potential example of the types of things which happen in science all of the time. Any attempt by ANY government to determine what is “true” in the field of science is extremely unwise at best. Rather than encouraging new avenues of science and the potential for breakthroughs, “determination of truth” when it comes to science stifles innovation and new ways of thinking. Simply a terrible idea.

    3. When the government gets heavily involved in the fields of science and attempts to restrict them to “what the government wishes to prove” you frequently end up with Stalin, Lysenko, Hitler, etc. We all know how those episodes worked out for humanity.

    4. The “scientific community” itself often frowns upon new lines of thought and even supresses new science for as long as it can. Albert Einstein was thought to be a stark raving lunatic by a “majority of the scientific community” when he first burst onto the scene. If the “scientific community” had had the aid of massive governmental “support” in declaring Einstein a lunatic, where would science be today?

    5. Any scientist claiming to know what “the truth” is about ANYTHING is flat-out lying straight to your face. The ONLY things a true scientist knows are which hypotheses, theories, and “laws” have not been falsified yet. Just because they haven’t been falsified yet doesn’t make them “true”, it simply makes them the best working hypotheses we currently have to describe the way the universe works.

  14. Pingback: Australian Government to Ban Free Scientific Inquiry on the Internet? | johnosullivan | Clackamas Point of View

  15. ilma630

    Obama has just signed H.R.347 in secret in the US allowing Secret Service agents to decide where a ‘no speech’ zone should be, and applying felony charges to those who violate it. So free speech in the US has now just be stopped, against the direct will and word of the 1st amendment.
    This too needs shouting from the rooftops.

    • johnosullivan

      I agree. It’s a sinister step towards fascist tyranny in America. That the mainstream media are silent on this exposes their duplicity.

  16. Marrickvillain and Lau Guerreiro argue (at length) from a cerebral and a theoretical position, respectively. And that is all well and good, but it totally misses the point, and may in fact be a smoke screen.

    The real problem with the Finkelstein Report is its generality.

    How would any legislation, based on a report that is no more than a theoretical and academic legal thesis, distinguish between scientific hypothesis, scientific theory, scientific proof, and “established” scientific fact? What place for scientific opinion?

    Would one have to be a scientist to be able to comment on a blog about scientific matters? Would it be wrong for a non-scientist to have any opinion at all about scientific matters?

    If so, how do you define “scientist”? Is a mere BSc sufficient, or does it require a post graduate qualification? Does Science include or exclude Engineering? And if the latter, what would be the status of Applied Physicists as compared to Theoretical Physicists? Are Doctors of Medicine scientists? Some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been made by Medical Doctors.

    And what about Librarians? Librarians study Information Science (among other subjects). Does that make Librarians scientists?

    The fact of the matter is that the scope of the problem that the Finkelstein Report attempts to address is not well understood, and no attempt has been made to define it in the report. In fact, the nature of the problem is probably not even understood by the authors of the report.

    The fact that the report was produced at all, indicates that they have not asked the questions that would lead them to a conclusion that there are no answers at all, because, “Information knows no boundaries other than those imposed by writ”.

    Rather they have worked backwards and created a solution. They have done this in the belief that the problem to be solved will be defined at a later time, probably by case law. And it will be the creeping post hoc definition of the problem, that will erode freedom of expression, and with it, all the other freedoms we tend to take for granted.

  17. PG

    This is typical of an insecure government , who are trying to make an authoritarian society , as exists in Asia .
    If this goes through , Australia will become the backwater of science

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