Thursday, 23 September 2021

Union movement rejects claims CFMEU was behind the violent , anti-Covid-19 public health order mob on the streets of Melbourne over the last few days

The Age, 21 September 2021:

Australians are facing an organised campaign by anti-vax and far-right activists to undermine confidence in life-saving medicines and a public health response which continues to save lives every day.

That’s not hindsight. On August 25, I tweeted that unions were feeling the impact of organised, extremist, anti-vax and far-right campaigns. We were witnessing fringe interests attempting to infiltrate unions – not to help workers in any way – but for their own selfish political gains.

What happened on Monday in Melbourne was the continued organised assault by these groups on our unions who are working to protect members, save jobs, keep workplaces safe, and protect our health system.

The union currently under attack, the CFMEU, has worked tirelessly to keep its industry open for the benefit of workers and the Victorian economy. It has developed COVID-safe plans, run advertising to encourage members to vaccinate and put resources into testing on sites.

The attack on the union orchestrated by the far right should be a warning to all political leaders about the challenges we face in rebuilding our nation after this pandemic.

The union movement is not the only organisation subject to this co-ordinated and dangerous attack from extremists. We have anti-vax politicians in our state and federal parliaments.

A billionaire mining magnate is funding an ex-Liberal parliamentarian to send anti-vax texts to millions of Australians.

An upper house member of the Victorian Parliament attended Monday’s protest and gave vocal support to the extremists, a federal Senator tweeted his approval of the violence.

A billionaire mining magnate is funding an ex-Liberal parliamentarian to send anti-vax texts to millions of Australians.

An upper house member of the Victorian Parliament attended Monday’s protest and gave vocal support to the extremists, a federal Senator tweeted his approval of the violence.

That our unions are seeing this fear and anxiety should not surprise anyone. But anyone who cares about social cohesion and ensuring we get through this pandemic should know that left unchecked these groups will continue in their attempts to undermine confidence in the response to the virus……

How Twitter saw Melbourne riots over the last four days

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Tweed and Byron Bay local government areas removed from Qld 'border bubble' as of 1am Wednesday, 22 September 2021. Ballina, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley to remain in bubble - for now - with updated restrictions


AAP General News Wire, 21 September 2021:

Byron and Tweed shire residents in NSW will only be allowed to enter Queensland for essential work and limited essential purposes from 1am on Wednesday.

Queensland will remove Byron Bay and Tweed Heads from the border bubble after the NSW government ordered those shires into a seven-day COVID-19 lockdown.

The state government says Byron and Tweed shire residents will only be allowed to enter Queensland for essential work, emergency volunteering and other limited essential purposes from 1am on Wednesday.

Previously they had been allowed to cross into Queensland for work, education, compassionate care or essential shopping, provided they've had one vaccine dose.

The announcement comes as NSW moved to lock down Byron and Tweed from 5pm on Tuesday after a COVID-19 case was infectious in both shires last week.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had foreshadowed changes to the border bubble earlier on Tuesday.

"The concern is, of course, if there are cases in northern NSW," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.

"That will present a real risk to the southern parts of the Gold Coast, where I have thousands of families holidaying on the Gold Coast at the moment."

Removing Byron and Tweed from the bubble has complicated interstate travel for other border zone residents further south.

For Ballina, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley shires residents the most direct route to Queensland is via Byron and Tweed.

Queensland Health said people entering the state from non-restricted border zone local government areas in NSW can do so if they transit through Byron and Tweed without stopping, in a private vehicle, in under two hours…….

Queensland Health, media release, 21 September 2021

Updated border restrictions for northern NSW

Increased border restrictions will be reinstated for the local government areas (LGA) of Byron Shire and Tweed Shire, as New South Wales announce an increased COVID-19 public health risk.

Byron and Tweed LGAs will become part of the restricted New South Wales border zone from 1am Wednesday 22 September.

Border zone residents who have been to Byron and Tweed LGAs will only be allowed into Queensland for limited essential purposes.

Queensland residents may only return to Queensland if they have entered a restricted area for limited essential purposes.

Those entering Queensland from a non-restricted LGA, who must transit through a restricted LGA, can do so if they transit, without stopping, using private transport for no more than two hours.

To enter Queensland from an LGA within the border zone you must:

Anyone who is currently in Queensland but has visited the area in the past 14 days should get tested if they have symptoms and isolate until they receive a negative result.

We will continue to monitor the situation in New South Wales and review restrictions as the situation evolves.

For more information about the border restrictions, visit

Public Health Alert – new exposure sites at Brisbane Airport

A public health alert is being issued for contact tracing locations at the Brisbane Domestic Airport after a previously confirmed positive case transited from New South Wales to the Northern Territory, via Brisbane.

The case was infectious on the flight to Brisbane, a flight from Brisbane to Northern Territory and while within the airport on 17 September 2021.

Please contact Northern Territory health authorities for specific information relating to this case.

We are asking all Queenslanders to regularly monitor the list of exposure venues on the Queensland Health website and follow the public health advice, as there may be more locations.

Contact tracing venues can be found at

A reminder for all Queenslanders – if you have any COVID-19 symptoms at any time, no matter how mild, you should immediately get tested for COVID-19.


ITV Studios Australia allegedly failed to enforce mandatory stay-at-home public health order on its film crew while in the NSW Northern Rivers region

The twin diseases of 'exceptionalism' and 'entitlement' have been found lurking amongst visitors to the NSW Northern Rivers region yet again......

ABC News, 21 September 2021:

The COVID-19 case that sparked the lockdown on NSW's North Coast was a member of a film crew attached to reality show I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

The state government announced on Tuesday that the local government areas (LGAs) of Byron and Tweed would enter a snap seven-day lockdown after a woman tested positive for the virus.

The woman was an authorised worker but it is understood she did not follow stay-at-home orders while in the area.

The production company behind I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! confirmed one of its crew had contracted the virus.

The series is being filmed in the Northern Rivers…..

"The crew member is fully vaccinated and was wearing PPE while at work."

The production spokesperson said all close contacts of the crew member had been identified and were isolating while they awaited their test results.

"We are working with NSW Health to ensure all necessary steps are taken in relation to contact tracing, testing and further communication to anyone that needs to isolate," they said.

NSW Police said contact tracing was underway and authorities would investigate any alleged breaches of the Public Health Order.

The infected woman arrived in Ballina on Saturday morning at 8.45am on Virgin flight 1141.

Health authorities said the person was infectious over the weekend and on Monday in the Byron, Ballina and Tweed areas.

Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD) acting chief executive Lynne Weir said the Kingscliff Beach Hotel on Marine Parade was the only close contact venue identified so far, but health authorities expected to list more.

"We believe that Byron Bay will have quite a few sites, so that is an area of concern for us," she said…... 

A 20 September Northern NSW Local Health District media release revealed the woman allegedly drank at the Kingscliff Beach Hotel at 102 Marine Parade, Kingscliff on 19 September 2021, between the hours of 4:00pm – 9:00pm.

As a result; Anyone who attended the following venue at the times listed is a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days since they were there, regardless of the result. NSW Health sends a text message to people who have checked in at close-contact venues with further information.

At the time she entered the hotel the ITV Australia employee had been in the area for less than 9 hours, however her infectious state was not known until two days later on 20 September 2021.


NSW Police, News, 22 September 2021:

A woman has been charged over multiple alleged breaches of the Public Health Orders in the state’s north. 

Officers from Tweed/Byron Police District commenced inquiries yesterday (Tuesday 21 September 2021), after receiving information a woman from Greater Sydney had travelled to the area and since tested positive for COVID-19. 

Inquiries revealed the 31-year-old woman had been granted an exemption to travel to the area for work-related purposes only. 

She allegedly attended several businesses and venues in Byron Bay and Kingscliff over the weekend, which was in breach of the conditions of her exemption. 

Further, she failed to check-in at those locations using the QR codes. 

The Rushcutters Bay woman was issued with a Court Attendance notice today (Wednesday 22 September 2021), for five counts of fail to comply with electronic registration directive. 

She is due to appear before Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday 8 November 2021. 

Inquiries continue.

Labor State Member for Lismore calling for zero state & community tolerance: In the 24 months to June 2021, only one of the 17 major crime categories was trending upwards in New South Wales and it was sexual assault. Domestic violence incidents also trended upwards in NE NSW & Central West


Domestic Violence statistics demand more action: Saffin

ZERO tolerance and more well-targeted action by New South Wales and Federal governments are needed to prevent the growing scourge of coercive control and domestic violence, according to Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.

Ms Saffin said she kept a close eye on Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s (BOCSAR) quarterly updates, the latest of which (June 2021) shows major crimes against women had continued to trend upwards before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The June 2021 update – see, -- revealed that in the 24 months to June 2021, only one of the 17 major crime categories was trending upwards in New South Wales and it was sexual assault.

In BOCSAR’s media release, they highlighted increased reporting of incidents of sexual assault. This crime went up by 1367 incidents or 21 per cent in New South Wales over the year to June 2021.

In the Richmond-Tweed statistical area, incidents of domestic violence are up 33 per cent on a two-year trend and up 5.8 per cent on a five-year trend.

Also in Richmond-Tweed, incidents of intimidation, stalking and harassment are up 30.2 per cent on a two-year trend and up 8.6 per cent on a five-year trend.

Ms Saffin said she understood that increased reporting also applied to these two crimes.

I commend our local police for their zero tolerance of domestic violence and strong proactive approach to compliance checks,” Ms Saffin said.

I’ve written to NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman, asking him to organise a BOCSAR briefing for me and other MPs here if they wish to join, so we can consider further action that could be taken in terms of community programs.

We cannot ignore these statistical trends because they represent such a high human cost; if we can better interpret this raw data it will then inform that discussion.”

Ms Saffin said progress was being made with a NSW Parliamentary Joint Select Committee in June this year recommending that coercive control should be a criminal offence in New South Wales, in an effort to prevent domestic abuse-related homicide.


Ms Saffin also noted that the 2021-22 Federal Budget had included a $3.4-billion package of measures to improve outcomes for women’s safety, economic security, and health and wellbeing.

The outcomes of the National Summit on Women’s Safety – Ending Violence Against Women & Children – held online on September 6-7, would help guide the $1.1-billion women’s safety component over three years.


Ms Saffin’s Electorate Office in Lismore is now an official stockist for escabags, free escape bags filled with the necessities that a victim of domestic violence and their children may need when fleeing an abusive or dangerous situation.

There are two types of escape bags available -- one for a parent and child, and one for a single adult. 

If people need one of these, get in touch with the office on 0266 213 624 or email

For more info, go to

Monday, 20 September 2021.


Coffs Harbour- Grafton Statistical area 

Recorded criminal incidents from June 2020 to June 2021

Domestic Violence Incidents - 867 (previous 12 months 705)

Sexual Assaults - 213 (previous 12 months 166)

Richmond-Tweed Statistical area 

Recorded criminal incidents from June 2020 to June 2021

Domestic Violence Incidents - 1,116  (previous 12 months 838)

Sexual Assaults - 333  (previous 12 months 257)

As at June 2021 three of the local government areas in NE NSW with the highest number of domestic violence incidents for the last 12 months were Tweed Shire at 363, Lismore City at 274, and the Clarence Valley at 231, with Kyogle having the lowest at 32 - numbers for the remaining three local government areas fell in between. [See:]

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Kempsey, Byron Bay & Tweed Shire local government areas re-enter NSW regional lockdown from 5pm tonight for a minimum of 7 days


Kempsey, Byron Bay & Tweed Shire rejoin Lismore City in regional lockdown.....

NSW Health, media release, 21 September 2021:

Stay-at-home order for Kempsey, Byron Tweed LGAs

Stay-at-home orders will be introduced for the Kempsey, Byron Shire and Tweed Local Government Areas (LGAs) from 5pm today for seven days due to an increased COVID-19 public health risk.

These stay-at-home orders also apply to anyone who has been in an affected LGA since the following dates:

Kempsey LGA - 14 September

Byron LGA - 18 September

Tweed LGA - 18 September

Everyone in the affected LGAs must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason, which includes shopping for food, medical care, getting vaccinated, compassionate needs, exercise and work or tertiary education if you can't work or study at home. [my yellow highlighting]

People who are fully vaccinated can attend an outdoor gathering of up to five people for exercise or outdoor recreation, as long as all of those aged 16 or older are fully vaccinated.

To determine the extent of the risk and detect any further potential COVID-19 cases in these areas, we are calling on the communities to come forward for testing in large numbers.

A strong response to testing will be a key factor in determining if these stay-at-home orders are extended beyond one week. High vaccination rates are also essential to reduce the risk of transmission and protect the health and safety of the community.

COVID-19 vaccination is available through NSW Health clinics, GPs, pharmacies and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

Use the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility checker to find the nearest vaccination clinic, or refer to Get your COVID-19 vaccination.

A list of regional and rural NSW Health vaccination clinics is available on the NSW Government website.

Northern NSW Local Health District, media release, 20 September 2021, excerpt:

One new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Northern NSW today, and will be included in NSW Health’s official reporting tomorrow (21 September 2021).

Initial investigations indicate that this person has been infectious in the Byron, Ballina and Tweed areas between 18 and 20 September.

The person is not a resident of the Northern NSW Local Health District but is isolating and receiving care in the area. The case travelled on Virgin Flight VA 1141 on 18 September, leaving Sydney at 7:30am and arriving in Ballina at 8:45am.

All passengers and crew are being contacted by NSW Health and will be required to get tested and self-isolate as instructed.

Further contact tracing is currently under way, and we will provide updated information as soon as it is available, including any exposure venues of public concern.

To 8pm on 19 September there were no new confirmed cases among NNSWLHD residents.

#COVIDIOTS gathering a bit of a fizzer on NSW North Coast last weekend

 EchoNetDaily, 18 September 2021:

Police arrested 11 protesters in Byron Bay. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Police say they have prevented the mass gathering of people in various locations across NSW, arresting 32 people and issuing 265 Penalty Infringement Notices in a coordinated and mobile response to planned protest activity.

Earlier today (Saturday 18 September), a high-visibility policing operation was launched across Sydney and parts of regional NSW, to prevent, disrupt and respond to any mass gathering or protest activity.

Police say that more than 1,700 police were involved in the operation across the state – including general duties officers from the Central Metropolitan Region, assisted by specialist police from the Public Order and Riot Squad, Operations Support Group, Police Transport Command, PolAir, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and the Dog and Mounted Unit.

Of the 1,700 police, approximately 1,500 resources were deployed across the Sydney area.

A further were 200 on the ground at regional locations including Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Central Coast, Wollongong and on the South Coast.

During the state-wide operation, 20 people were arrested in Greater Sydney and 236 PINs were issued, 11 people were arrested and 28 PINs were issued in Byron Bay, and one person was arrested and subsequently issued with a PIN in Tweed Heads. 

NSW Police, News, 18 September 2021: 

Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell, Operation Commander was pleased to see the police strategy successful in disrupting protest activity. 

“We take the health and safety of the community extremely seriously and we are glad our policing response, supported by road and transport strategies, effectively reduced the movement crowds and potential for disruptive protest activity,” said Assistant Commissioner Thurtell.....

“Most importantly, I want to thank the community who did the right thing and stayed home today. Also, I acknowledge the 1700 police officers who were deployed across the state for their professional response during today’s activities,” added Assistant Commissioner Thurtell. 

Police continue to appeal to the community to report suspected breaches of any public health order or behaviour which may impact on the health and safety of the community by contacting Crime Stoppers: on 1800 333 000 or via Information is treated in strict confidence.

So you are a professional journalist and you personally don't like the social media platform, Twitter? Read on.......

IMAGE: The Wheeler Centre

University of Melbourne academic, author, writer, Tim Dunlop writing at Patreon, 19 September 2021:

The audience-journalism treadmill

 This post is out from behind the paywall for a few days. Feel free to share. If you find your way here via this article, please consider a paid subscription. It will give you access to the full archive and all future work. Thanks. (My Twitter travel hiatus continues.)

The best thing about Leigh Sales writing about abuse on Twitter, I was thinking as the story broke, was that it will likely bring forth a response from Margaret Simons.

Lo and behold.

Simons has a piece in The Age responding to Sales's piece at the ABC.

I want to say something about both, and the debate more generally, about why we keep going over the same old ground and what journalists who hate social media think the endgame might be.

Apologies if you've heard all this before.

The Sales' piece, as far as it goes, is compelling. It addresses a serious issue that needs regular reiteration, and it highlights a failing of social media that users––and owners––of various platforms need to acknowledge, that particularly for women, and maybe particularly for women journalists, such spaces can be sites of unforgivable and unrelenting abuse.

Honestly, read the article and take it to heart. Keep the tab open. We are all diminished by the abuse she documents.

The article is, though, a very partial take on what is a much bigger issue. I say this as a criticism, not just of Sales' piece, but of the way too many journalists continue to wear blinkers when it comes to social media.

We can all acknowledge the problems with Twitter, but if we are ever going to seriously address the underlying issues we need to engage with a few other things, and it is a constant failing of journalists that they don't. This is not to diminish their complaints; in fact, it is take them more seriously than they tend to themselves.

Neither Sales' piece (nor Simons') can be read in isolation from the previous two decades of exchanges between professional journalists and their post-digitisation audience, and one of the most frustrating things about the issue is the way in which various journalists reinvent the wheel every time they get annoyed with Twitter.

As often happens in the media, the controversy du jour is presented as just that, and little regard is given to history or wider context.

Even worse, insufficient attention is paid to matters of power and institutional structure, of the place of the media in society more generally, of the way in which public spaces like Twitter and Facebook are controlled by privately-owned corporations, and of the ongoing relationship between audience and media. Little or no reference is made to the endless pieces that have already picked these issues apart outside journalistic op eds.

We have been having this discussion since at least the turn of the century, since blogs, but to read Sales' piece is to start from scratch.

It is a huge failing, and no wonder nothing changes.

So, it is worth noting that Sales offers no structural analysis, makes no attempt to understand the wider issues in which the abuse she rightly criticises arises. She responds to precisely none of the, by now, extensive body of work that exists on the nature of journalist-audience interaction on social media. It is all reduced to personal anecdotes (powerful ones, I might add) and generalisations, an unfortunate combination.

Can we at least be honest here and recognise the problems she describes are not limited to social media, let alone to Twitter in particular. Racism, sexism, misogyny, all sorts of gendered and class abuse are stock-in-trade for other platforms and, for the mainstream media itself.

In an Australian context, News Ltd in particular has elevated bullying––the almost unchecked exercise of their own power––to a reflex, and Margaret Simons herself, along with any number of others, have been victims of this, and it is more damaging than any 'pile on', so-called, on Twitter.

Can we talk about that?

And don't tell me this isn't relevant to Sales' piece, or that she is making a more specific point. It is part of the same problem.

Let me let you into a secret: part of the reason people take to Twitter in the first place is because the media, its journalists, and editors, and its so-called regulatory bodies, fail to respond to the way in which the media regularly drops the ball, either in terms of accuracy or analysis, or, indeed, in terms of abuse. They create a vacuum into which an audience with access to social media is inevitably drawn.

Journalists will regularly invoke badly formed theories of free speech to defend their own shortcomings, but never extend anything like the same standards to "Twitter". To put it another way, they hold Twitter to a standard they don't apply to their own industry.


Some people are running the line that the Sales' piece is about abuse she has received, not about other sorts of criticism, and that therefore––the logic runs––if you are upset about her piece, then you must have a guilty conscience.

This is disingenuous at best and goes to the heart of the problems we have in discussing these issues.

By which I mean, the line is not that easily drawn. Indeed, the difference between abuse and criticism is one of the matters at stake. Sometimes the line is obvious, other times it isn't.

Over and over, journalists write pieces like this and they respond to the most mindless abuse they receive, generalise that to all of 'Twitter', while ignoring more thoughtful criticism that comes their way. It is a lazy and self-serving approach.

Journalists are completely within their rights to complain about the way people respond to their work, but it would help everyone, especially them, if they acknowledged and engaged with the huge body of work that already exists on these matters. If they responded to the best of the criticism rather than the worst.

Only then are we likely to get off this treadmill.

Yes, Sales makes a valid and concerning case about the abuse directed at, particularly, women journalists. And yes, such abuse is cowardly, demeaning and indicative of broader issues of misogyny in public culture and should never be tolerated.

But now what?

Unless journalists also engage with the legitimate criticism they receive, they run the risk of conflating criticism with abuse, and that is what at risk in Sales' piece and other articles like it.

A double standard develops.

The people Sales blocks on Twitter include well-credentialed journalists who have criticised her, not abused her, and while it is entirely up to her who she does and doesn't block, can we at least acknowledge that lines are, at best, blurred.

Abuse on social media is given disproportionate attention by journalists, but the abuse, sexism, misogyny, and racism that is structurally embedded in the mainstream media is given little attention at all.

Sales is on strong, if anecdotal, ground when she highlights abuse. She is less convincing in some other matters, and it is a shame she didn't offer a more in-depth analysis.

For instance, she writes, 'Let's not duck the common thread here — it is overwhelmingly left-leaning Twitter users who are targeting ABC journalists for abuse.'

Given the way in which the ABC is targeted by News Ltd, the IPA and the Liberal Party (a point Sales notes in passing) I would like to see some data that supports the claim that abuse is 'overwhelming left-leaning'. It may well be true of Sales's experience, but as I say, it would be good to see some evidence that this 'fact' extends beyond that.

The plural of anecdote is not data, as they say. And the use of 'left-leaning' as a descriptor is itself hardly an example of precise labelling.

My own experience is that most abuse is from the right and from the centre (yes, also imprecise terms), not to mention from the mainstream media itself––particularly true in the days of blogs––but I would try not to say this amounted to a common thread, let alone present it as an overwhelming fact of Twitter or any other social media platform.

Let's look at the Simons' article.

Margaret Simons is one of a relatively small number of established journalists who were trained and came to professional maturity in the pre-digital age who have meaningfully adapted to the changes wrought by digitisation and rise of social media. In fact, she is a leader in the field, and has written extensively and wisely on the topic. From the beginning, she has engaged with the new landscape and has tried to make sense of how, not just the industry, but the craft of journalism has changed. (And yes, she is a friend, so I am biased.)

She is simply one of the best journalists out there, with a love of, and dedication to, public interest journalism that shines through everything she does, and that she enhances with her own use of social media, as anyone who followed her Twitter coverage of the lockdown of the Flemington public housing towers in 2020 can attest.

In her hands, Twitter is a powerful tool, and her journalism on the platform has won her plaudits and a dedicated following amongst those other journalists dismiss as the Twitterarti. Her example puts the lie to the idea that the site is nothing more than a sewer.

Beyond all that, she is journalism educator, most recently as the head of the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, where she has nurtured some of the best young journalists in the country.

And this is one of the things I keep wondering as journalists continue to bag and rubbish social media: from a purely pedagogical standpoint, what message are they sending to young journalists who will inevitably have to work in this environment?

Maybe a Leigh Sales or a Chris Uhlmann or a Chris Kenny can excuse themselves from such platforms, but it is a privilege not available to most journalists, especially newbies.

Simons' response to Sales is measured, but with steel in it.

She acknowledges the problems with bullying; she concurs with Sales' concerns about accusations of bad faith. 'Nevertheless,' she writes, 'I think she fails to draw a distinction between abuse and legitimate critique.'

She calls Sales bluff on journalists not being thin-skinned, and writes: 'Journalists ARE thin-skinned, sometimes ridiculously so, when they are criticised in public.'

Simons makes the point that simply withdrawing from social media is not good enough, arguing, 'Journalists who do not interact are missing a professional opportunity.'

Many journalists dismiss Twitter as unrepresentative of broader society in order diminish its relevance, and Sales says it is not 'anything remotely representative of the Australian public.'

But as Simons points out, Sales is underestimating the number of people who use Twitter:

Leigh Sales quotes data from the ABC’s Australia Talks survey to assert that only 6 per cent of Australians use Twitter regularly. The University of Canberra figures suggest that is closer to 18 per cent – but these general figures obscure important details.

The Digital News Report data shows Twitter users are particularly news-aware and engaged.

They are more likely to use Twitter mainly for news, whereas Facebook and YouTube users come across news incidentally.


Twitter users are more likely than other social media users to follow mainstream media outlets and journalists, and less likely to get their news from social media personalities and “influencers”.

Importantly, at a time when persuading people to pay for news is crucial to the survival of serious journalism, Twitter users are much more likely to be already paying subscriptions.…

By comparison, only 14 per cent of Facebook and YouTube users pay for news, although the user bases are much larger. (Park emphasises that sample sizes are small once cross-tabulated, so the data should be treated as indicative rather than precise.)

In other words, the more serious contributors on Twitter are exactly the kind of people serious media organisations most want to attract.

I would make a further point: the fact that Twitter is not representative of the broader population is a feature not a bug. Used properly, as many have found, it can be an endless source of useful information and, what's more, can offer insights not available elsewhere.

In other words, by virtue of the engaged and learned nature of many participants, Twitter users are often ahead of the game precisely because they are not beholden to the same echo chambers and self-reinforcing problems of journalists who talk only to their own kind.

I know this flies in the face of a lot received 'wisdom', but so be it.

Users on the platform saw the end of Malcolm Turnbull long before the gallery did. They saw the relevance and power of the Gillard misogyny speech while the press gallery was churning out Tweet after article dismissing it as a gimmick.

To say you don't want to deal with the most engaged edge of your readership/viewership is a limiting professional decision.

For most people––for the representative Australian public Sales invokes––politics is completely mediated, known only by the way it is reported. Twitter, on the other hand, is full of people who interact with politics more directly and it therefore offers, as Simons says, a tremendous resource for any journalist who is smart enough to take it seriously on its own terms.

There is another inconsistency here. If Twitter users are as small and irrelevant a section of the population as Sales claims, and if your intention is to make a stand against bullying and abuse, then why is Twitter given so much journalistic attention and the mainstream media itself so little?

There is a glaring double standard here.

Again, this has all been pointed out before.

In the early 2000s, when blogging took off, it was inhabited by engaged amateurs, often with expertise in various areas, and it was noticeable how the tone shifted––from a deliberative space to one of gotchas and, yes, abuse––as more and more mainstream journalists started to use the space.

When I blogged for News Ltd, my comments thread would on occasion fill with abuse and I knew that in all likelihood Andrew Bolt had 'mentioned' me and linked, thus encouraging his carefully cultivated readership to whip over to my joint and tell me what they thought of me. This wasn't an accident: it was a business model, and when I complained to higher ups, no-one was willing to confront Bolt, let alone issue any sort of wider directive about such matters.

Sky News doesn't exist to deliberate on matters of public importance: it is there to cultivate and monetise anger and disaffection and it does so in such a heavy-handed way that YouTube recently suspended Sky's channel on the platform.

Can we talk about that? Can we get a phalanx of journalists who are concerned about standards in public debate to put pen to paper on that?

Journalists who regularly find fault with 'Twitter', rarely call out abuse when it is other journalists doing it, and they use their powerful platforms to intimidate, and in some instances, actually abuse a particular sector of citizens, namely, those on Twitter. They rarely take the time to discriminate, dismissing and criticising 'Twitter' with a broad sweep of their hand.

In the Phil Coorey article the above Tweet links, Coorey says of the Lindy Chamberlain trial:

One can only imagine how even more hideous the whole episode would have been had the internet – including its sewer, Twitter – existed back then.

It's laughable. One of the huge failures of mainstream Australian journalism, and his concern is it might've been worse if Twitter existed.

Great argument. Compelling analysis.

Coorey dismissing Twitter as a sewer and Uhlmann calling people on Twitter sewer rats is itself a form of bullying. By itself, each insult might be a glancing blow, but they reinforce prejudices that poison public discourse. The difference is, Uhlmann and Coorey (and others) are doing it from a position of much more power than any no-image user on Twitter.

Can all mainstream journalist concerned about bullying and abuse on Twitter write a swathe of articles about that?

Until journalists acknowledge this power imbalance, until they openly address the structural problems with their own industry and pay more than lip service to the failings of their profession, they are never going be taken as sincere contributors to this important debate.

And round and round we will go.

I honestly don't expect Sales to pay any attention to this piece, but that's why I was glad Margaret Simons wrote a response. Maybe Sales will be less willing to dismiss the criticism Simons offers, and take to heart, not just the article itself, but the way Simons conducts herself on social media and how she deploys it in her journalism more generally. 

Regardless, the issue goes beyond individual behaviours and rests on structural matters to do with the incentives––algorithmic and human––built into the business models of both social and mainstream media. If journalists genuinely want to address abuse in the public sphere, they could do worse than enlist the support of their most engaged readership and work with them towards a common solution rather than simply dismiss that readership as the problem.