A perhaps not new but certainly increasingly used and brazen form of speech control is taking place in the Australia of today. We have now seen several examples of media employees being sacked, apparently for having personal views of which their employer disapproves. It would be questionable behaviour for this to happen within the work environment unless it involved some deliberate or unethical sabotage of the role in which they were employed. However, this is not the case. This form of career blackmail is being used not only to suppress the inclination of an employee to take a stand of conscience within the workplace but to intimidate them into remaining silent outside the workplace, in their own time and among their out of work community.
In Scott McIntyre’s case there was direct involvement by Malcolm Turnbull, a senior LNP minister in the Abbott government. In the case of Marion Ives, her only “crime” was to pass on the view expressed by another person which raised the question of racist bias in the selection and appointment actions of SBS.
I have witnessed this type of intimidation of others during my own career and have even been the subject of it myself, with career and health damaging results. It is an insidiously nasty form of thought control or restricting the dissemination of ideas contrary to what an organisation, institution, government or other powerful group might want. It is extremely common in public service employment where often exceptionally restrictive “codes of conduct” are used to prevent employees from outing cases of misconduct, corruption or abuse – particularly by those who are at the top end of the organisational structure. Not that it doesn’t happen in private organisations for, of course, it does. It is one reason that so many organisations resist, inhibit or even prevent Union activity or membership in their workplaces. It is not an accident or coincidence or simply about a reluctance to improve pay and conditions – it is an ideological action taken to inhibit exposure of bad practice, employee exploitation or disemmination of senior staff actions that are contrary to employee or public interest.
It is my view that our current federal government, headed by Tony Abbott, models behaviour and attitudes and proposes and enacts policies that create a climate of endorsement for this sort of unethical practice. This government is actively promoting a change in Australian society towards a more opaque, socially controlled and punitive society where opposition or dissent from the controlling oligarchy or even expressions of conscience which do not align with the views of those in power can all too easily result in punitive actions disguised as “reasonable management action” – and I use the term advisedly.
We, as a nation, need to be very aware of this continuing assault on our identity and our freedom. Already our democracy reflects more the characteristics pertaining to an oligarchy and, to some, it would appear that the change has already been made. The severity of restrictions on our freedom and immunity from prosecution given to agents of the security and police forces is reminiscent and inviting of the sorts of civilian control and abuse associated with totalitarian regimes. That is not an exaggeration. Even relatively low level security personnel can now take someone from their home and have them incarcerated without a court order, warrant, evidence of a crime or any justification whatsoever. Sadly, this legislation had bi-partisan support and that, in itself, is an indication of how far down this dangerous path to authoritarian government we have already travelled. Fuelled by the “terrorism” fear-mongering of Tony Abbott and his ilk, it seems the “law and order” mentality that willingly exchanges freedom for the illusion of security, has taken hold of a substantial percentage of average citizens.
Despite the fact that any of us is thousands of times more likely to die of a medical mistake in hospital or from a road accident, it seems that we are convinced that a 1 in 25 million chance of dying from a terrorist threat justifies draconian legislation and $billions in expenditure whereas a 1 in 5000 chance of dying from a medical mistake or road accident is of little consequence. At a time when so many in our society apparently operate on the basis of such perverted logic, it is all the more important that we defend and even fight for the right of every individual to free expression and exchange of views.
The decisions of the SBS management in regard to Scott McIntyre and Marion Ives are not just of consequence for those two individuals – they are very much more – their sacking is an affront to democracy, freedom of expression and a fair and just society. It is a threat to the fundamental assumptions held by most, if not all, Australian citizens – that they can think and express their views freely, without fear or favour in an open, honest and *safe* society.
I urge all those who care for those democratic principles to condemn the SBS decision and call for the resignation of those responsible. I urge you to speak up against these dismissals and more – to speak out against the culture that endorses and encourages such actions.
Ives was dismissed a day after sharing an article on Facebook that was critical of SBS and is the second reporter to take legal action against the broadcaster