YOU might imagine that Gay Alcorn, former editrix of the Sunday Age, would have on her mind at least one issue more galling than the boundless evil of Rupert Murdoch. Sexism, for instance, and the fact that at about the same her heroine, Ms Gillard, was frothing about Tony Abbott’s misogyny, the enlightened, progressive, sensitive, culturally advanced and highly principled Fairfax Media mounted a gynoputsch that saw her replaced by a man – sage correspondent Cameron Forbes’ little boy, Mark. On the same day in Sydney, her Silly counterpart, Amanda Wilson, was rudely replaced by another XYer, Sean Aylmer of BRW, otherwise known as the Very Little Book of Lists (and bugger all else). Aylmer and Forbes went on to preside over substantial losses in circulation, and have each since failed upward to loftier Fairfax perches. But no, Margo Kingston’s half-sister prefers to have a go at the opposition. Is it nature or nurture, do you reckon?
To be fair, Alcorn’s column in today’s comic isn’t 100 per cent unhinged. Early on in her ramble, she dismisses “media commentator” Tim Dunlop as someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about. The woman isn’t entirely loopy, just mostly (although, irony upon irony, in this instance Dunlop is correct: neither Murdoch, nor Fairfax, is anywhere near as influential as once they were).
But after that she is all over Murdoch like a rash (or should that be a Rebekah?), until finally, right near the end, she has this to say:
In the 2004 election, the Herald Sun published a story that said, among other distortions: ''Ecstasy and other illegal drugs would be supplied over the counter to young users in a radical policy framed by Senator Bob Brown's Greens.''
The Australian Press Council found, six months after the election, that it was ''irresponsible journalism'' that misled readers.
Brown said the article caused ''irrevocable harm'', possibly costing a candidate his seat. Whether Labor or the Coalition wins is up to the Australian people, of course, but don't pretend Murdoch's intervention can't make a difference.
Well, yes, the Press Council did say that, and still does in its archived rulings. But in the matter of the Greens’ then-policies on illegal drugs, the adjudication limits itself to these few specific words:
Additionally, regarding the headline on the article, Sen. Brown said that it was 'manifestly wrong' and that Greens policy was a call for 'a study of options'.
Unlike the big parties, The Greens have made their 2004 platform vanish. Try hunting it up via Pandora, Trove, Wayback Machine or Google and all you get is a 404 message. Perhaps they recycled it as mulch for mung beans. Whatever the old platform’s fate, the current policy document is quite concise in stating that the party does “not support the legalisation of currently illegal drugs.” This is quite a change from the 2004 document.
The Web being a wonderful thing there are snippets and snatches of the 2004 Greens platform still to be found. The IPA, for example, published a lengthy analysis, with direct quotations, and this is still available. As the IPA is an organ of jackbooted intolerance and free-market perfidy, Alcorn would never dream of going there for enlightenment.
But what of Margo, surely she trusts her sis?
Well, at the post-Silly Web Diary, the one with all that ruinously expensive bolding, here is how one of Ms Kingston’s correspondents commented on the Herald Sun story, in theprocess quoting the now-disappeared 2004 Greens platform:
The first step in their policies is to de-criminalise drug usage. Nowhere, and this must be repeated, nowhere do The Greens advocate illegal drug taking.
The Greens’ policies state that:
The regulation of the personal use of currently illegal drugs should be moved outside the criminal network.
Drugs are a hot button issue, just the sort of thing to get a reaction. Greens’ policies acknowledges as much:
Drugs and substance abuse are complex issues and strategies need to acknowledge this complexity.
Other misleading statements in the 31 August article include the assertion that ecstasy would be supplied over the counter to young users. Real policy:
Investigations of options for the regulated supply of social drugs such as ecstasy in controlled environments where information will be available about health and other effects of drug use.
The Greens’ policy only talks of "investigation of options". It doesn’t state that their intention is to start issuing ecstasy, ad libitum, as soon as humanly possible. And why has the Herald-Sun said the drugs would be issued to "young users"? Are they insinuating that The Greens would hand out drugs like candy to children and teens?
Remember, the author is a Greens sympathiser, so speed-read through his rationalising commentary and dwell upon the directly quoted, italicised sentences, appraising them for what they are – everything the Herald Sun said: The regulation of the personal use (not the elimination of personal use); information will be available (not information might be available)on the options for the regulated supply. The “option” isn’t to consider legalising drugs, it is ponder how best they might be distributed.
With regards to the use of cannabis, the Herald-Sun is correct. The policy does support "the controlled availability of cannabis at appropriate venues".
The Greens policies also recommend "the decriminalisation and regulation of cannabis cultivation and possession for personal use, while monitoring its effects on the health of young people".
This is not as far out as it seems. Remember 1999, when Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett floated the same idea? The concept certainly doesn’t belong to the ‘loopy left’.
Many may argue this is all hair splitting. Yet it is important to make the distinction between a drugs policy that is advocating heavy regulation, education and research into the effects of certain drugs, legal and otherwise, against a completely irresponsible and libertine (sic) free-for-all, as the Herald-Sun would have us believe.
The Herald Sun attempted to appeal the Press Council ruling but was denied a further hearing. Perhaps it should now launch a second attempt by lodging a complaint against Alcorn’s column. Not that it would take such a step, of course. A paper that declined to appeal Judge Mordy’s shameful slagging of Andrew Bolt as a racist isn’t going to take action on this.
And anyway, by the time the Press Council brought down a decision, the Age will be available only in Newspaper Heaven, right beside the latest celestial editions of Melbourne's other vanished papers, The Argus and Newsday.