Of Bunyips and Horsemen

I usually disagree with recently reborn RWDB blogger Professor Bunyip, and his potshots at this week’s principal witnesses in the Finkelstein Press Inquiry aren’t exceptional in that regard.  But I have to confess (not for the first time) to taking a certain guilty pleasure at the Bunyip’s elegant line in toxic splenetic bias. Yesterday’s attack on Martin Hirst was a reasonable example of the genre but today’s spray at Stephen Mayne, Robert Manne, Eric Beecher and law academic Adrienne Stone is a true classic of the genre:

So they are the main voices likely to dominate the witness box – an old Trot, a short wanker, a tall wanker, a rent-seeker and an academic who supports freedom of speech except she doesn’t.

Interestingly it seems cartoonist Peter Nicholson shares a not dissimilar view, although I can’t work out whether the Fourth Horseman is meant to be Hirst or Stone.  More likely the hourglass suggests it’s neither, but rather the spectre of print media  doomed by time and technology irrespective of the efforts of Manne, Mayne et al.  I’m not convinced he’s correct but it’s a great cartoon. I especially love the portrayal of Ray Finkelstein, who I briefed years ago in a commercial dispute and who at the time was a dead ringer for Woody Allen in both appearance and manner. Nicholson seems to think he’s acquired a rather more ecclesiastical gravitas in the meantime.

I assume that the serious point Professor Bunyip is trying to make (apart from gratuitously paying out on people he doesn’t like) is that regulation of print media is dangerous and not to be countenanced under any circumstances or to any extent.  This is a view not only held by those on the hard right.  The ABC’s Jonathan Holmes, for example, has a similar opinion.  Personally, I acknowledge the democratic dangers but I don’t think it’s beyond our wit or wisdom to devise an appropriate solution.

It’s a little hyperbolic to label media the “fourth estate” but the print media especially does play an important accountability role in a liberal democratic society like Australia.  Given that one effect of the Internet and social media has been to place vastly increased pressure on the MSM to attract “eyeballs” by almost any means however extreme and unprincipled, the case for checks and balances on media behaviour is stronger than it once was despite the evident danger of empowering a potentially overbearing State which could censor opinions or facts it dislikes under the pretext of “standards”.

The solution I favour would involve bringing print media under the regulatory oversight of the Australian Communications Media Authority, but with an “opt-out” option if the industry adopts a more effective self-regulatory code.  Such a code would necessarily require media organisations to give the Press Council self-regulatory “teeth” and perhaps adopt a set of Key Performance Indicators measuring their speed and effectiveness in responding to complaints and implementing Press Council decisions/recommendations.   Part III Division 3 and Part IIIAA of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), which allows opting out of the National Privacy Principles by private sector bodies with approved privacy codes, provides a model for such a system.  Section 18BE contains an explicit threat of reversion to formal government regulation if self-regulation fails, a prospect which should wonderfully focus the minds of even the most gung ho Murdoch executives and ensure that the Press Council ceases to be “slow and toothless”.


About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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12 Responses to Of Bunyips and Horsemen

  1. whyisitso says:

    I usually disagree with recently reborn RWDB blogger Professor Bunyip

    Well whaddya know, our “radical centrist” disagrees with someone who habitually points out with a high degree of style the rank hypocrisy of leftists. I realise Ken has used the term ‘centrist’ since he started this blog back in 2003 (or was it 2002?). I’ve often wondered at the meaning of “radical” centrist. I observe the Noel Pearson quote used, but then Noel is distinctly right of centre and makes more sense than nearly all other indigenous leaders combined. I assume the term means plum in the middle of the leftist cesspool out there, and absolutely not in that no-man’s land of the classic fence-sitter.

    I can, like Ken, enjoy the writing of those with whom I nearly always disagree, such as Ken, who while lacking the ascerbic, clever turn-of-phrase of Gudgeon, was always readable and interesting when he was the sole or main writer here.

  2. KB Keynes says:

    the first called are the dominant voices? No not Melburn

    Hmm they mostly live where? No not Melburn

    Who would have thunked it.

    Hearings are going to be held where that week?

    I see Gerry Henderson has been asked as well. (What will he be called?)

    Where are the hearings held then? no not Sydanee.Who would have thunked it.

    If it is still the same prat who writes, I can recall he mixed up Elizabeth Reid with Ann Summers. Don’t know why as the ages were vastly different.

    couldn’t admit he was wrong however.

  3. jtfsoon says:

    English is spoken around these parts, not Eastwoodian.

  4. KB Keynes says:

    Go to ESL classes then Jase

  5. whyisitso says:

    I comment 4 a bit of dog whistle, Homer?

  6. KB Keynes says:

    what dog whistle?

    You call for witnesses in Melbourne because well that is where they live.

    As I said I will be interested to see what he calls Gerry.

    Still how can you take seriously a person who mixes up Elizabeth Reid and Ann Summers.

  7. jtfsoon says:

    Still how can you take seriously a person who mixes up Elizabeth Reid and Ann Summers.

    Good point Homes. Because they are such well known and instantly recognisable personages. It’d be almost like mixing up a term from US rap and a Taiwanese warlord’s mistress.

  8. KB Keynes says:

    except even you showed that it was on Urban dictionary.

    you have bolted yourself yet again.

    this is called Davidson disease

  9. fxh says:

    Is Prof Bunyip still Imre Salinsky?

  10. whyisitso says:

    “Imre Salusinszky”. At least you could make an effort!

    I’d be very surprised if he were. The writing styles are very different.

  11. KB Keynes says:

    That’s FXH’s safari suits engaging his brain.

    Imre was never the Bunyip.

    The old Bunyip at least knew a lot about Adelaide except for mixing up Liz Reid and Ann Summers

  12. whyisitso says:

    Can the designer of this blog please change the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” tick box from an opt-out to an opt-in function. It’s a b… nusiance getting the flood of emails if I forget to turn the tick off when I make a comment on a popular thread.

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