Contributed by Glen Davis
The Herald Sun is the Victorian flagship of the Murdoch media empire. its bias is as blatant as the Collingwood cheer squad. Since the early 1990’s it has been little more than a cheer squad for the Liberal Party. The latter period of the Cain/Kirner Australian Labor Party (ALP) governments saw nonstop vitriolic attacks from this newspaper, combined with lavish adoration of their state opposition.
When the Liberal coalition government of Jeff Kennett came to power in Victoria back 1992, replacing the ALP, there was much community concern, about how it would act: Those fears were quickly realised.
I was one of the many Victorians who remember these years with dread. I lost not one, but three jobs in this time. This wasn’t because I was incompetent. No. It was about a government’s fixation with tendering of services, budget cuts, privatisation all of which increased the bottom line for the business beneficiaries, whilst working and low-income Victorians bore the pain.
More than 300 schools were closed, along with 9,000 teaching jobs lost. Hospital funds were severely cut, public transport, prisons were privatised, with of course the privatisation of the old State Electricity Commission, resulting in around 9,000 job losses.
Photo from The Age: Students protest the intended closure of their school in Richmond in 1993. School communities occupied and and continued to run their schools in Richmond, Fitzroy, Northland, and Gravel Hill
Across Victoria people lost jobs, services were closed/gutted as Jeff Kennett and his government sought to slash and burn to reward their wealthy masters.
Many community services were defunded. Those on the public payroll were threatened that if you speak up, speak out, your job is gone.
Dissent, questioning was quickly gagged. This was the climate of fear across much of Victoria in the Kennett years. There was the auditor general Ches Baragwanath whose questioning of Kennett saw Kennett respond by proposing to restructure the office of auditor general to do away with its independence. The proposal was to replace it with Audit Victoria. This body would have limited autonomy. It certainly would not be able to question the government of the day.
Near the end of his tenure, Kennett even banned his own ministers from speaking publicly on policy. Famously he also refused to answer questions when interviewed on ABC radio just prior to the 1999 election.
In 1999 Kenneth was voted out. Subsequently state government have been true to his economic activities: tendering, privatisation, low wage rises. However, none have endeavoured to gag public voices the way he did.
Nowadays the ALP state government led by Dan Andrews has had the arduous task of getting Victorians safely through this Coronavirus pandemic. There have been mistakes made. Some very serious. There has also been a lot of positive.
Throughout this period, the Herald Sun has run a non-stop campaign attacking the government, even creating a character called Dictator Dan as a way of undermining it. We see in the Murdoch national flag ship, The Australian, cartoons of Andrews wearing a Mao cap, like some crazed red guard. Below is an example.
This so-called Dictator Dan fronted the media daily during the horrible second wave Coronavirus outbreak of 2020. He has been up front over 2021, except when off work after a spinal injury.
Extremists involved in protesting his government’s pandemic response are a feature of 2021 Melbourne. Would a dictator allow this?
If Jeff Kennett banned his own ministers from speaking publicly how much public criticism did his government accepted? Imagine how he would respond in the face of the Coronavirus?
Jeff Kennett has lately been scrawling in the Herald Sun. Not surprisingly, he has commented along the lines of the Dictator Dan theme. In the health field, his behaviour is best described as projection when you attribute your own bad qualities on to someone else.
If we’re talking about dictators and cults of the individual how many of us remember the Liberal Party setting up the jeff.com website, or the ad where a young man was heard saying: ‘Jeff, yeah, he’s a legend. Jeff fucking rules.’
Is the currently elected Victorian Government and its Premier making ads like this?
Who can remember the heavy handed policing of targeted opponents? Examples are the occupiers of Richmond Secondary College, anti-logging campaigners, and the violent attack on gay patrons at the Tasty nightclub.
Dan Andrews and the current Victorian Government have made mistakes, including some significant ones. But dictator?