Showing posts with label propaganda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label propaganda. Show all posts

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Tweet of the week

Quote of the Week

All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its
spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself. Therefore its spiritual level has to be screwed the lower, the greater the mass of people which one wants to attract.” [Houghton Mifflin Company, Hitler, Adolf (1941) “Mein Kampf”, p.180]

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison caught misrepresenting climate change facts to the United Nations

The Australian, 24 October 2019:

At the United Nations during his US trip, Scott Morrison said that when it came to per capita investment in clean energy, Australia spent more than “anywhere in the world”. Not a lot of ambiguity there. He repeated the claim last week in parliament, but instead of referring to clean energy the PM narrowed the description down to renewables.

Both claims are false, the latter more so than the first.

The Australia Institute decided to look into the claim, which was based on a Bloomberg study which revealed yes, Australia has the highest per capita investment in clean energy of 14 countries it looked at. The Prime Minister’s office confirmed to me that was the source for his UN claim.

Where to start …

I suspect most readers, along with the PM, realise that there are more than 14 countries in the world. Quite a few more actually. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that. Which means relying on a 14 country study to make the wild claim that we spend more per capita on clean energy (we’ll forget when the PM misspoke in the parliament about “renewables”) than “anywhere in the world” is pretty silly. Yet that’s what Morrison did, on the world stage. It’s rather Donald Trump like.

It turns out beyond the 14 countries in that study there are other nations that invest more per capita than we do — in clean energy broadly and in renewables more specifically……

But if the PM wants to crow about something his government has criticised in the domestic political setting that’s his choice.
However it was plain wrong to claim we are first. And unnecessary, given we do so well despite not being first.

When I first flagged this inaccuracy by the PM last Friday in a news package for Network Ten his office were quick to accuse me of being misleading and complained that when calling out the inaccuracy I didn’t specifically refer to the report which showed we were number one.

Never mind that the PM didn’t refer to the 14 country study either in his 15 minute speech. Apparently I should have done so in my one minute ten seconds package. Weird to expect me to cite a source the PM didn’t cite when making a claim the source didn’t make…….

The next tactic in the PMO complaints was to attack the credibility of the Australia Institute — which yes we can categorise as a left leaning think tank. Reminiscent of John Howard’s “who do you trust” campaign in 2004, I was asked (though it wasn’t really a question) which organisation do I trust more: the highly credible Bloomberg which did the 14 country study, or the ideologically compromised Australia Institute.

But the Australia Institute report didn’t contradict the Bloomberg study. It accepted it, simply pointing out it only examined 14 countries. The criticism for inaccuracy was levelled at the PM, who misused that study to claim first place over every single country across the globe, not Bloomberg. So which organisation anyone thinks is more or less credible just isn’t relevant. It is a red herring.

This is just one example of the way political spin doctors try and challenge entirely fair and reasonable reporting and commentary. Or the way some do, anyway. The funny thing is they become like the boy who cried wolf when they do so this way. Of course journalists and commentators make mistakes and misjudgements. Meaning that there is always a place for the media guardians of a PM or any politician to (politely) complain or correct.

But when they do so on flimsy ground, or no grounds like in this example, they make journalists and commentators instantly cynical of the next time they whinge, just like the boy who cries wolf.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Australian PM Scott 'Liar from the Shire' Morrison caught manipulating and misleading the electorate yet again - this time over the cashless welfare card

"In these trials, we have seen 48% of drug takers using fewer drugs, 41% of drinkers drinking less, and 48% of gamblers gambling less." [Liberal Party of Australia, Our Plan, April 2019]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party are living up to their reputations as a politician and party who rarely speak the truth.

One social media user called Morrison out over his misuse of statistics, as he pushes forward with his plan to control and penalise all wefare recipients by restricting access to Centrelink cash transfer payments (pensions, benefits, allowances etc) by placing these payments on the Indue Limited Cashless Debit Card.

Turns out that hidden in his misuse of statistics is the fact that of those Ceduna and Kununurra cashless debit card trial participants surveyed in 2017 only est. 8 people self-reported a reduction in the use of alcohol.


The 2017 final trial evaluation report itself notes that there was a risk that participants may only have reported lower alcohol consumption, illicit drug use or gambling because they believed that: a) to claim a reduction in use was the more socially acceptable answer; and/or b) this is what the questioner wanted to hear.

It noted that some existing data sets relied on were for broader areas than the trial sites and could not be reliably narrowed to those sites and, that there was no adequate time series data available to perform robust preTrial and post-Trial comparisons.

The final report also notes that survey did not necessarily gain a statistically representative random sample of the underlying population due to unequal selection probabilities.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Morrison Government's aged bonus just a political shell game

The New Daily, 9 September 2019:
It was billed as an $800 aged bonus, with a million pensioners promised a cash splash under Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s deeming rate change.
But documents released under freedom of information laws to The New Daily have revealed that seniors will secure just $5 a week on average for singles.
The average windfall for aged pensioners is just $249 a year for singles – a fraction of the $800 pensioner bonus heralded across front pages in July.
For couples, the average payment under the deeming rate changes is $3 a week and $156 a year.
Thousands of pensioners not affected by the deeming rate changes because they don’t have investments will get nothing.
Nearly half of all pensioners who receive the couples rate – 46 per cent – will secure less than $130 a year.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has repeatedly refused to provide the breakdown of how many pensioners will secure the $800 maximum payout.
The FoI documents reveal that the percentage of pensioners who will secure the $800 aged bonus promised in front-page newspaper reports is indeed a rare breed.
According to the department’s data, they represent just less than 1 per cent of the one million pensioners who are better off under the changes.
The number of pensioners on the couples rate who will secure $780 to $910 under the deeming rate changes total just 191 couples across Australia.
Source: Department of Social Services
National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said it was clear only a tiny fraction of the community will receive the $800 spruiked by the government.
Mr Henschke said because the changes are backdated, the first payment will be more generous in September. It will then shrink back to $3 a week on average.
“They will be tricked because when they open up their payment they will get a lump sum,” Mr Henschke said.
“Nobody has actually got the money yet. What we’ve got here is a classic case of a government not doing the right thing.”
The government uses an income and asset test to determine aged pension payments and the deeming rate is part of the income test.
Seniors have claimed the deeming rate is unfair because it assumes some pensioners are getting a better return from savings deposits than they do because interest rates are low......
On July 23, Ms Ruston’s office emailed The New Daily claiming the data did not exist to explain how many people got the maximum amount of $800......
The FoI documents provided to The New Daily outlining the exact data requested, not including redacted documents, runs to more than 30 pages.
Previous freedom of information requests lodged by The New Daily revealed hundreds of pages of emailed correspondence back and forth between the minister’s office and the department over the original request for the information on how many pensioners get the $800.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Australian PM Scott Morrison gets a slap in the face from regional News Corp masthead

The Daily Examiner, 29 August 2019: 


Be sure to verify statements before you take them with a grain of salt – even when they’re delivered by our most trustworthy Prime Minister. It’s probably not a profound statement given today’s world leaders and proliferation of fake news. 

But once upon a time, you could trust your national leader to rise above the spin. Scott Morrison’s response to the GetUp campaign during the federal election – which succeeded in ousting colleague Tony Abbott, if little else – was to smear the activist group with nothing short of propoganda. 

He has accused GetUp of bullying and misogyny – two words more apt for describing some of the far-right politicians who were targeted not because of their political allegiance, but because they actively blocked progress on environmental and humanitarian issues that, in the eyes of GetUp, shouldn’t be political footballs. 

As an observant member of the media with no political allegiance, but an environmentally conscious soul, I was on the GetUp mailing list. 

In this age of ruthless political tactics, GetUp’s consistency to their cause using fact-based evidence in an articulate, respectful and considered tone gave them far more credibility in my mind than any political party. 

If all you know about GetUp is how they’ve been portrayed in the media, then please read a couple of their releases, before jumping on the bandwagon. 

You might not agree with their philosophies, but they do play clean and fair.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Has U.S. citizen and media mogul Rupert Murdoch overplayed his hand in this Australian federal election cycle?

“It sounds unreal to say that News Corp is not a media organisation. It sounds outré to say that it is instead a political propaganda entity of a kind perhaps not seen since the 19th century, one that has climbed to its pedestal through regulatory capture, governmental favours and menace, and is now applying its energies to the promotion of white nationalism, even as white nationalists commit scores of murders.”  [Journalist Richard Cooke wiring in The Monthly, May 2019], 

It is your judgement that counts because the right and responsibility to elect the next Australian Government rests with you, the Australian voter, not with an elderly authoritarian U.S. billionaire who rarely visits this country.

Australian society is not as tolerant of Murdoch's sense of entitlement as it once may have been......

March 2018 to March 2019 year-to-year data shows News Corp's principal mastheads are losing readership over the 7 day circulation period, according to Roy Morgan.

By its own admission News Corp has been lobbying local government to keep its community papers afloat in South Australia.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Morrison Government's well thumbed federal election campaign playbook needs updating

With another federal election a little over four weeks away the Morrison Government - a party without a genuine climate change policy - has obviously included a version of the 'hundred dollar lamb roast' in its talking points for the troops as allegation surface here and there that climate change policies held by The Greens or Labor will increase food prices.

Especially any part of these policies which might in the future seek to have industry limit its greenhouse gas emissions by placing a price on carbon.

Here is a rebuttal of those allegations.....
The Gillard Labor Government’s Clean Energy Act 2011 was assented to on 18 November 2011, came into effect on 1 July 2012 and was repealed by the Abbott Coalition Government on 17 July 2014, coming into post-dated effect on 1 July 2014 .

The absurd level to which the faux federal election campaign sinks

An overexcited and breathlessly earnest attempt to assert inherent bias on the part of the public broadcaster against the right wing of politics in the lead up to the federal election.....

Monday, 1 April 2019

PROPAGANDA: When Murdoch media asset joins with a hard right lobby group & inhouse commentator to run a line from the Liberal-Nationals election campaign playbook

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.” [Attributed to Joseph Goebbels, German Third Reich Minister for Propaganda 1933-1945]

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Xenophobic, racist US President Donald J Trump produces a midterm election campaign video

This is US President Donald J. Trump campaigning ahead of the American mid-term elections on 6 November 2018.
As with everything Donald Trump tweets - a little fact checking is in order.

Firstly, the convicted felon in this video entered the USA illegally twice. The first as a 16 year-old under a Democratic Administration in 1963 ,which later gaoled and then deported him in 1997 on drug offences. The second time he entered the USA was under a Republican Administration sometime around 2002 and he was not arrested until 2014 – after the drug-fuelled killings for which he was sentenced to death in April 2018.

Secondly, the Fox News mass scene shown is not necessarily video of recent events as Trump has a history of misrepresentation and, the current 'migrant caravans’ are nowhere near the USA-Mexico border, as the first caravan had not yet reached San Juan Guichicovi and the second was yet to enter Mexican territory on 31 October 2018. Both are quite literally thousands of kilometres south of the United States and members of these caravans are travelling on foot.

The yellow line represents the distance the first caravan was from the US border as the crow flies on 1 November 2018. The second caravan is at least 200-300 kilometres behind the first.

What Trump is also not saying in his campaign ad is that no previous migrant caravan has ever made it to the US border. The last one reportedly made it to Mexico City before petering out - at least 1,300 kilometres short of reaching the United States.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Scott Morrison's favourite facile sound bites

Australian (interim) Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison speaks like the failed advertising industry executive that he is,

By now his favourite slogans and their meanings are becoming obvious,,,,,,

The New Daily, 21 October 2018:

“We believe in a fair go for those who have a go.” (Those making money deserve to make more money.)

“We believe that the best form of welfare is to have a job.” (Welfare should be cut back.)

“We believe it is every Australian’s duty to make a contribution and not take a contribution.” (Everyone on social welfare is a bludger – a particularly telling twisting of John F. Kennedy’s “don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.)

“And we believe this, you don’t rise (sic) people up by bringing others down.” (Taxation is bad and progressive taxation is particularly evil.)

Add to these the following:

"You don't get children off Nauru by putting more children on Nauru through weaker border protection policies," (I will not let the children on Nauru leave to resettle elsewhere with their families, even though resettlement in third countries is one of the aims of Australia's offshore detention policy)

"[I want] to see how we can get greater investment in what I call 'fair dinkum power'; that’sthe stuff that works when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’tblow." (let’s ignore the science behind renewable energy and pretend that other OECD countries haven’t successfully integrated high levels of renewable energy into their national power grids)

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Is Sky News Autralia fast becoming national propaganda central for extreme world views?

This is an excerpt from the book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) by  Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.

That these observations have a basis in fact can sadly be borne out by mainstream and social media in 2018.

Take this most recent example....

The United Patriots Front (UPF) is a far-right Australian white supremacists group.

In September 2017 admirer of Adolf Hitler, UPF founder & sometime leader Blair Cottrell and two supporters were each convicted under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 and fined $2,000 plus $79.50 in statutory costs for religious vilification/inciting serious contempt.

This is not the first time Cottrell has been before the courts. In 2013 he was gaoled for a string of offences including stalking, arson, burglary and damaging property.

Despite this dubious history Sky News decided to invite him on as a guest of former Northern Territory Chief Minister & former Country Liberal Party Leader Adam Giles for a one-on-one studio interview on The Adam Giles Show on 5 August 2017.

To describe Cottrell as "an activist" is deliberately misleading as his history is well-known, as are some of his more extreme pronouncements such as this:

The reaction to Sky News was swift and this is just four examples:

Sky News issued an apology:

Then announced a ban on Blair Cottrell and a suspension of the Adam Giles Show, along with an internal  management shakeup, as the general public pushed to the limits continued to fight back against the 'normalising' of violence and racism.

However, as Sky News often employs markedly right-wing personalities and regularly hosts guests with extreme, intolerant and sometimes racist world views, it is not always easy to accept assertions that extremist views are not the news channel's own views. Or at the very least, that these divisive opinions are seen by Sky News management as driving an agenda desired by News Corp and powerful right-wing groups.

In fact Sky News appears to be fast developing into a version of that US right-wing propaganda vehicle, Fox News, in that it seeks to legitimise and monetise for its own corporate profit the most dangerous elements on the far-right political and social spectrum.1


1. Sky News' liking for yellow press journalism hasn't past unnoticed. 
Junkee, 6 August 2018: Sky News…. was deeply sorry for slut-shaming a (female) federal senator a few weeks ago. In the past, Sky News has been deeply sorry for linking a (female) former state Premier to corruption, deeply sorry for poking fun at a (female) journalist’s disability, and deeply sorry for suggesting a school boy was gay because he’d appeared in a video about feminism.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull supports an attempt by former prime ministers Howard and Abbott to impose an elitist world view

Here is public comment on and by the main characters in what looks remarkably like an ill-considered and rather crude attempt at a beer hall putsch against academic freedom.

With one of the eight Ramsey Centre directors, Tony Abbott, giving the game away when he revealed that half of the proposed four-person Partnership Management Committee had an expectation that this committee would directly set the Bachelor of Western Civilsation curriculum and hire academic staff.

An expectation which appears confirmed by a statemet attributed to the Ramsey Centre CEO that; “If we feel like it’s not going to go to appreciation of Western Civilization, then we can withdraw the funding.”  

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation vision statement:

Paul Ramsay was a leading Australian businessman who was passionate about education and wished to educate future generations in the traditions and practices of western civilisation: its history, philosophy, literature, science, theology, music, art and architecture.

He also wanted to create over time a cadre of leaders – Australians whose awareness and appreciation of their country’s Western heritage and values, of the challenges that have confronted leaders and people, with that broad heritage in the past, would help guide their decision making in the future.

The Ramsay Centre Scholarships will provide students from across Australia the opportunity to study western civilisation in this spirit at one of our partner universities. Places will also be available within the BA degrees to non-scholarship holders. [my yellow highlighting]

The ANU Observer, 8 March 2018:

ANU announced plans for a $25,000 a year scholarship associated with a proposed Bachelor of Western Civilization on Tuesday, subject to student consultation. The announcement occurred at a forum for staff and student feedback, where more details of the proposed program were given, though some students voiced concerns.

At $25,000, the scholarship is the largest ever offered at ANU. It will be larger by just above 15% than the Tuckwell Scholarship, which is set at $21,700 for 2018.....

In a question at the forum, one attendee quoted the CEO of the Ramsay Centre, Simon Haines, as saying, “If we feel like it’s not going to go to appreciation of Western Civilization, then we can withdraw the funding.”  [my yellow highlighting]

*The proposed program comprises 16 core courses, typically taken over three years, with an additional Honours year sequence open to outstanding students. Students may replace up to 4 of the 16 BWC courses with 4 courses of classical or modern European language study. Students will be able to take the program alongside other disciplines offered by the University and (in the case of double-degree students) other degrees.

*The different courses within the program consider books from a variety of genres or disciplines (predominately works of literature, history, philosophy, religion, politics) but also including architecture, art and music, 

*The program will be capped at 60 students consisting of up to 30 scholarship recipients in the first year and up to 30 non-scholarship recipients. Up to 10 further scholarships will be made available to students in the second year of the degree.

*A distinct aspect of the proposed program is the use of the ‘Socratic’ approach. The program aims to create active learners engaged with primary texts in classes of no more than six to eight students. These small-group discussions will be supplemented by a series of panel-style discussions where academics from different perspectives engage in discussion with each other and with students.

*Curriculum recommendations will be made by the Partnership Management Committee (consisting of two academic staff from the Ramsay Centre and two academics from the ANU, one of whom is the Dean of CASS) and considered through the normal ANU academic processes[my yellow highlighting]

Liberal MP for Warringah Tony Abbott in Quadrant Online, 24 May 2018:

“The key to understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is that it’s not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it. The fact that it is “for” the cultural inheritance of countries such as ours, rather than just interested in it, makes it distinctive. The fact that respect for our heritage has largely been absent for at least a generation in our premier teaching and academic institutions makes the Ramsay Centre not just timely but necessary. This is an important national project. It’s not every day, after all, that such a big endowment is dedicated in perpetuity to raising the tone of our civic conversation…..

A management committee including the Ramsay CEO and also its academic director will make staffing and curriculum decisions.” [my yellow highlighting]

Brisbane Times, 7 June 2015:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will personally intervene in the ANU's decision to pull out of a controversial new degree in Western Civilisation, saying he wants to talk to the university's vice-chancellor about it directly.

On Thursday, Mr Turnbull became the latest Liberal politician to wade into the furore over the course, which was to be funded by the John Howard-headed Ramsay Centre.
The Prime Minister said he was "very surprised" by the ANU's decision last week to end six months of negotiation with the centre and would be speaking to vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt personally "to get his account of it".

"I find it very hard to understand why that proposal from the Ramsay Foundation would not have been accepted with enthusiasm," Mr Turnbull said….
[my yellow highlighting]

Professor Brian Schmidt AC, Vice-Chancellor and President, Australian National University, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 2018:

The news came yesterday that Australian National University remains ranked by QS as number one in Australia and in the top 25 universities in the world. It is a global reputation we take seriously. One that is built on the basis of academic autonomy and free academic inquiry.

ANU has declined donations in the past and will again where we are unable to meet the wishes of the donor within our normal practices. It is right that we explore opportunities openly and in good faith, but it is also right that we let prospective donors know when we cannot provide them with what they want.

Our decision to end negotiations with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilization has attracted a great deal of interest. In this case, the prospective donor sought a level of influence over our curriculum and staffing that went beyond what any other donor has been granted, and was inconsistent with academic autonomy.

This would set a precedent that would completely undermine the integrity of the University.

While there has been plenty of noise from all ends about the merits of the study of Western civilisation, the decision at our end has nothing to do with the subject matter.

In fact, the reason we entered into discussions and, no doubt, why we were of interest to the donor, is our global reputation for scholarship and teaching across the full breadth of the Western liberal tradition from classics, history and literature to philosophy, art and music. We offer more than 150 courses in western scholarship. It would take 18 years of study to complete all of those courses.

The opportunity to augment our teaching and research in these areas, along with a generous scholarship program for students, was an attractive proposition for ANU and we were grateful to the Ramsay Centre for considering ANU as a partner.

But at the end of the day, the University operates on the same principles with all donors, whatever their area of interest. Whether it is funding to support the study of Persian language or the study of classics, the same principles apply. The University retains full control of all curriculum and staffing decisions. This actually gets to the crux of the issue here for us. In this case, the donor sought a level of influence over our curriculum and staffing that went beyond any existing arrangements we have.
[my yellow highlighting]


On 1 June The Australian National University announced that it was withdrawing from negotiations to create a degree program with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. We took our decision for no other reason than the Centre's continued demands for control over the program were inconsistent with the University's academic autonomy.
We anticipated attacks from some for even contemplating introducing the degree, and from others for being anti-Western civilisation. What we had less reason to expect was the protracted media firestorm which has continued daily for nearly a month, in certain sections of the press, with ANU constantly assaulted for capitulating to pressure from those hostile to the Ramsay Centre, but without evidence or new information being offered. Scrutiny from the press is crucial in western democracies in holding public institutions to account - and universities should not escape it. But does stating over and over again a false narrative make it true? 
We have intentionally refrained from going into the details of the University's negotiations with the Ramsay Centre, partly because of our respect for what we had understood to be the confidentiality of those negotiations, partly to allow the Centre clear air to rethink its position after exploring options with other institutions, and partly because of our unwillingness to personalise the arguments in the way that others have been all too ready to do. But it has become obvious that we need now to further explain our decision "in the public square".
If ANU had withdrawn from the program simply because some people within our ranks were uncomfortable, for essentially ideological reasons, with the very idea of it, we would deserve all the criticism hurled at us.  But that was absolutely not the case. There was, and remains, strong support across the University for a major enhancement of our teaching and research capacity in the area of Western civilisation studies. We are attracted by the wide-ranging liberal arts courses taught in some prominent American universities, and remain wholly willing to craft a similar degree course here. Designed to convey understanding and respect for the great Western intellectual and cultural traditions - albeit in our own way:  analytically rigorous, not triumphalist, and open to comparisons being drawn, as appropriate, with other major intellectual and cultural traditions.
ANU has long been ranked number one in Australia in humanities disciplines, and we already teach some 150 undergraduate subjects addressing Western civilisation themes. The attractiveness of having major new resources to advance them, is why an enormous amount of effort has been invested by our staff in developing a very detailed proposal, including a draft syllabus, in support of a Ramsay gift, and why negotiations for common ground continued as long as they did.
So what went wrong? We withdrew from negotiations because there were irreconcilable differences over the governance of the proposed program, not its substance.  We were willing to accept the Ramsay Centre having a voice in curriculum design and staff appointments. But only a voice, not a controlling influence. From the outset, however, the Centre has been locked in to an extraordinarily prescriptive micro-management approach to the proposed program, unprecedented in our experience, embodied in a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of some 30 pages with another 40 pages of detailed annexures.
It has insisted on a partnership management committee to oversee every aspect of the curriculum and its implementation - with equal numbers from both the Ramsay Centre and ANU, meaning an effective Ramsay veto.
It has been unwilling to accept our own draft curriculum, and has refused to accept our preferred name for the degree ('Western Civilisation Studies')While acknowledging that any curriculum would have to be endorsed by the ANU Academic Board, it has made clear that to be acceptable to the Ramsay Centre it would have to find favour with the joint management committee - with its representatives being able to sit in the classes that we teach and undertake "health checks" on the courses and the teachers.
It became clear that there are fundamental differences in our respective conceptions of the role of a university.  The Centre has gone so far as to insist on the removal of "academic freedom" as a shared objective for the program: this remains in the draft MOU as an ANU objective, not a Ramsay one. For us academic freedom doesn't mean freedom to underperform or to teach without regard to the disciplines or agreed objectives of a particular syllabus. But it does mean appointment or retention of staff on the basis of their demonstrated academic merit, not political or ideological preference.
A continuing concern has been that the proposed Ramsay funding is provided short-term, up for renewal in eight years. A time-limited gift is not in itself problematic, but building a major program involving the hiring of a dozen staff, and then being held hostage to its continuation by a donor whose most senior and influential board members appear to have manifestly different views to ours about university autonomy, is not a happy position for any university to be in.
Ramsay CEO Simon Haines, in an interview in last weekend's Fairfax Press (The Age, 23 June), has now at last engaged in a little circumspect distancing from the Tony Abbott article in Quadrant, which was very explicit about the controls envisaged. But that dissociation has been a long time coming, and it remains to be seen whether there will in fact be a change in the Ramsay board's position.  In successive conversations with the Centre, ANU sought public assurances that Ramsay's position had been misstated, and that the University's autonomy in actually implementing agreed objectives would be fully respected.  But no reply we have received has given us any cause to believe that the MOU, with all its over-reach, would be fundamentally revised.  In the result, it was simply impossible on our side to believe that there was sufficient trust and confidence for the project to proceed.
We withdrew from the negotiations for governance reasons of this kind. Boiled down, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation simply did not trust the ANU to deliver a program acceptable to it, and consequently asked for controls on the University's delivery of the degree that ANU could not - and should not - agree to.  
ANU, accepts gifts from individuals, foundations, groups, entities, government agencies, and foreign governments. In no cases are these gifts allowed to compromise the University's academic integrity, nor are they allowed to impose on our academic freedom, or autonomy. Regarding historical gifts surrounding our Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS), Australia's leading academic capability in its area, let us be clear: if the Ramsay Centre were to take the same approach to a gift to ANU as the donors to CAIS, we could reach an agreement in less than 48 hours.
The University has never accepted gifts with such restrictions as demanded by Ramsay, and under our watch as Chancellor and Vice Chancellor we never will.
Let us offer this frank assessment as things stand at the moment, as the Ramsay Centre seeks other partners: to succeed, either they will have to change its approach and trust its partners to deliver a program in Western Civilisation studies, or be limited to a university willing to make concessions on academic autonomy. If the Ramsay Centre and its board are prepared to understand and respect the autonomy of Australia's national university, our door remains open.
Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC and Professor Brian Schmidt AC are Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, respectively, of The Australian National University.
 [my yellow highlighting]