Bleats

Every Front Page Is Redacted Today And You Have A Right To Know Why

It's all for you, really.

If you spotted the newspapers on your way to work today you might have noticed that they all had a striking similarity: the front pages of every major newspaper in the country were all censored with black out. Wondering what it’s all about? Well, it’s all for you, really. You have a Right To Know.

Media organisations – often warring – have joined together to fight against the decline in Australia’s press freedom. Seventy-five pieces of Australia-wide legislation have been introduced since 2002 that intended to protect people from national security threats, but unfortunately haven’t always been used that way. A lot of these laws have instead been used to restrict information telling the public about what the Federal Government is up to.

Stories like abuse of elderly people in aged care homes and the reasons behind foreign investment decisions are getting harder and harder to write about in Australia, and the Right To Know campaign wants to make people aware of it through their front page protest.

The campaign was organised by Australia’s Right To Know Coalition, a group that includes major media powers like Nine, News Corp, the ABC, SBS, and The Guardian. They’re demanding six reforms that they say will protect whistleblowers and journalists, and enshrine press freedom into Australia’s law.

These reforms are:

  • The right to object to any search warrants issued on journalists or news organisations
  • Make changes to the law so that whistleblowers are properly protected
  • Limiting which documents the Government can decide to mark ‘secret’
  • Reviewing the current Freedom of Information laws
  • Exempting journalists from national security laws (like metadata tracking) so that they can’t be put in jail for doing their job
  • And finally reforming our defamation laws

Scott Morrison has responded by saying that the Government “will always believe in the freedom of the press”, but that he also “believes in the rule of law and that no-one is above it”.

The issue of press freedom has been bubbling away for a while now. News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller has said that Australians should be “suspicious” of Governments that hold back any information from the public, and the ABC’s Managing Director David Anderson has said Australia could become “the world’s most secretive democracy” if we aren’t careful.

People outside Australia are noticing, too. Reporters Without Borders ranked Australia 21st in the world for press freedom in 2019, dropping down two places in the list over just 12 months.

The tipping point came earlier this year when the police made two raids in two days. On June 4th, News Corp political journalist Annika Smethurst had her home raided over a story she wrote in April 2018. The story was about a proposal from the Government to make it easier for them to spy on us.

The next day, June 5th, the Sydney headquarters of the ABC were raided over a 2017 report that exposed accusations of war crimes made against Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Another raid was planned on News Corp headquarters for June 6th, but that one never happened.

The news organisations involved in the Right To Know campaign are all competitors, so to see them all come together like this is really something special to watch. Press freedom is invaluable, we can’t afford to let it go without saying anything.

I think I’ll leave the last word to Nine Entertainment’s CEO Hugh Marks:

“This is much bigger than the media. It’s about defending the basic right of every Australian to be properly informed about the important decisions the government is making in their name.”

The Government Is So Sick Of Your NBN Complaints They've Created Their Own Speed Test

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Is there anything more infuriating than slow internet? I’ve honestly never wanted to fight a computer more than when I was dealing with my tax return, only for the whole page to crash right before I hit submit. Maybe my problem was trying to do my own tax in the first place (the final frontier of being a functional adult), but the garbage internet connection certainly didn’t help.

When the NBN was first pitched to us over a decade ago, it was going to be this amazing project that wold catapult Australia to the front of the digital game. The things we were promised were amazing, but sadly for us and our blood pressure, those promises wound up getting the Spinning Wheel Of Death and crashing. Hard.

Same.

Nobody is stoked with this outcome, and the Government seems particularly unhappy. Not unhappy that the internet sucks by the way, but unhappy that we keep getting called out on it. They could always try the solution of fixing the damn internet, but it seems that they’d rather give gaslighting the entire country a go.

This week at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, NBN Co will launch its very own internet speed ranking system based on research that they paid for. It’s called the Global Broadband Speed Report, and at the same time as proving how great we are, it’s suspiciously going to ‘debunk’ every other ranking system that has said Australia has terrible internet.

One of those systems is the Ookla Speed Test. Ookla is an American company that has been comparing internet performances since 2006, and nobody seems to have a problem with them except for our Government. 

Back in April this year, an Ookla report ranked Australia’s internet only 62nd in the world, behind developing nations like Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and Barbados. If we want to look at numbers, Singapore topped the charts with 199.62 mbps average speed, and the global average speed is 57.91 mbps. Australia crawls in with just 35.11 mbps.

No word on what the Government’s shiny new ranking system will say that Australia should really be coming in at, but my guess is that it will be much (much) higher than 62nd. Problem solved, right?

What a win.

This isn’t the first time they’ve been sprung paying for research to fix a problem. Back in March this year, the NBN Co paid for a report that said the NBN is super accessible and that Australia’s broadband affordability is among the best in the world. That would great except for the fact that this goes directly against the Government’s own findings from 2017 that say the NBN is really hard to afford if you’re in a low income household. I’m guessing that somebody in the Government assumed they’d get away with the different reports as long as nobody was actually able to Google it.

It’s a unique Australian experience to give up on the WiFi and jut use your data in your own house, and the NBN doesn’t look like it’s going to be solving that particular problem any time soon. Strap yourselves in my friends, we’re going to be yelling at our computers for a long time yet. 

World Mental Heath Day Is A Reminder That Sadly, Money Talks

Twelve billion dollars and counting...

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and while the world is thankfully starting to do away with the idea that it’s shameful to talk about less than ideal mental health, we haven’t quite shifted the stigma entirely. With one in every five Australians affected by mental illness in some way, shape, or form, the chances are that if you aren’t living with a mental illness yourself, then you’re close to someone who is.

Lightbulb moment.

Even if there were only a handful of people taking their own lives each year it would be too many, but the real statistics are genuinely terrible. If you’re an Australian aged between 15 and 44, then suicide is statistically the most likely way for you to die.

Each and every year 3000 Australians will die by suicide, and a further 70,000 will survive an attempt. That’s a little bit over eight people losing their life every single day, and about 192 more people attempting.

A couple of days ago, Scott Morrison insisted in an interview that he’s trying to lower the national suicide rate, whilst parroting some of the reasons that the statistics are particularly bad for LGBTQI people in the very same breath. Not such a great look. If there’s one thing we know that the Government will sit up and listen to though, it’s economic statistics. So let me put this one out there:

Mental health costs the Australian economy $12 billion per year in lost productivity due to workers calling in sick and not being able to work for long periods of time. That is an insane amount of cash.

I saw this tweet the other day and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

I’m going to leave the Jeff Bezos part for now. But a billion dollars is more than I can wrap my head around as a broke millennial, and every year Australia is losing 12 times that amount because of the mental health of its workers.

We shouldn’t have to talk about mental health in terms of cost to the economy for it to be taken seriously, but it seems to be a strategy that works when it comes to dealing with the government and other powerful people. Money talks, after all.

So much talk.

Progress is certainly being made when it comes to our attitudes towards mental health in Australia, and that’s brilliant, but it doesn’t mean we can call it a day. For as long as statistics are still telling us that young people are more likely to die by suicide than anything else, we need to be working towards providing emergency help and accessible long-term support to each and every person who needs it.

For now, use World Mental Health Day as the perfect excuse to cut yourself some slack. Chat to a friend, wrap yourself in a blanket in front of Netflix, and accept this big internet hug from me.

If you or someone you care about needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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