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Silencing the lambs: the LNP, libertarians and civil-libertarians

By Lester Thompson and Jo Coghlan - posted Monday, 11 November 2013

The front page headline for News Corp's popular Sunday Mail on 20 October 2013 demanded Queenslanders 'Jail 'em All'. Thankfully 'Premier Campbell Newman…won't rest in the war against bikies until our jails are full of them'.

Queenslanders have been boldly told that their Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is a 'Hero' for creating Australia's most illiberal criminal laws. Penberthy has variously described Bleijie as a 'genius' and as a 'caped crusader' for introducing 'the toughest bikie laws the nation has ever seen' and for preventing 'the very worst criminal offenders from being released from prison'.

Though Penberthy's article was tempered, by a considerably smaller feature, where Sweetman in the same edition highlighted the risks to everyone of 'draconian' legislation (p. 46), theSunday Mail's message is boldly that we are lucky to have Newman and Bleijie courageously suspending the rule of law in our protection. Rather than our previously 'Liberal' Premier being checked against liberal principles he seems encouraged by media sentiments to go hard.


Newman has bragged that: 'The civil libertarians will bleat and they will carry on but the point is that Friday was a turning point for myself…and of course for the people of Queensland, and now we are going to act like no state has ever acted before'.

Shortly after the supportive article by Penberthy, and the critical one by Sweetman, the latter was accused by Newman of 'being an apologist for paedophiles'. Since then commissioner Tony Fitzgerald (QC) has argued that 'Politicians should pause before interfering in the criminal justice system'.

His argument is that those with years of legal and criminal justice, experience might be more knowledgeable and qualified regarding legal intervention than new politicians. This argument is however to no avail in the news, as the Courier Mail editorial opposite Fitzgerald's proclaims that the 'anti-bikie crusade [is] a battle worth fighting for'. The Courier Mail's view is that 'Mr Newman and Mr Bleijie should be applauded for their brave decision to be serious in taking on the outlaws', and presumably anyone standing in their way.

Most fascinating about this situation, is the relative affirmation from News Corp media outlets regarding this authoritarian turn towards government legislation reducing public freedom. Newman presumed correctly that 'civil libertarians' would 'bleat'.

This Queensland legislation identifies individuals from particular groups so that state agents can subject them to punitive treatment, a clear threat to individual liberty and the rule of law. This fundamental threat to freedom seems to have been noticed by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a body that according to Sharon Beder (2006), was set up to work towards the electoral success of the Liberal party and more recently was focussed upon protecting individual liberty.

News Corp is a donor to the IPA and Murdoch is a member of the IPA, and yet News Corp's Sunday Mail and Courier Mail applaud these deep-seated attacks on individual liberty. There might have been some expected concern about the fate of the legal checks that protect liberty in Queensland, especially given its history and especially from stakeholders that are linked with a body charged with protecting freedom.


Even more interestingly the IPA 70 year celebration hosted a speech by Tony Abbott, which was effusive in praising Rupert Murdoch for his long-term commitment to their shared political agenda. Abbott praised the IPA thus: 'You campaigned against the bill of rights because you understood that a democratic parliament, an incorruptible judiciary and a free press - rather than mere law itself - were the best guarantors of human rights'.

There is little doubt that his News Corp papers strongly favoured the Liberal-National Party (LNP) during the 2013 federal election campaign. Brisbane's News Corp papers conformed with other News Corp papers in encouraging Queenslanders to vote the Rudd-led Labor Government out of office, not so long after they had encouraged Queenslanders to vote for the LNP and oust Queensland's Bligh-led Labor government.

More recently they seem to be enacting a strong support role for ensuring that the public endorses LNP policy. Donovan has recently cited an interesting example of how Samantha Maiden, the national political editor of News Corporation's Sydney Sunday masthead,The Sunday Telegraph engaged in 'arrogant assertions, obvious distortions, snarky insults, pathetic smears and, let's face it, outright lies' to cover up a broken promise by Tony Abbot in his new role as Prime Minister.David Donovan suggests: 'In any case, the question is not really why Sam Maiden lied; the question is why she was so determined to support Abbott against all the available evidence?'

Perhaps a question that should be asked is how a media mogul and his oligopolistically powerful empire can be so closely aligned with institutions which work to empower a specific political party? Another might be: how they can act in direct opposition with the stated intention of supposedly altruistic organisations that they are aligned with?

Hopefully the answer is not so simple as to be an extension of Newman's metaphor about bleating civil libertarians. One hopes it is not that the difference between 'civil libertarians' and 'libertarians' is that the first protect the freedom of the 'lambs' and the later ensure the liberty of wolves.

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About the Authors

Lester Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in Social Welfare at Southern Cross University, Gold Coast.

Jo Coghlan is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Lester Thompson
All articles by Jo Coghlan

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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