We bikies deserve a hearing
I couldn’t agree more with David Penberthy’s claim last week that the National Press Club “damaged journalism” by giving a platform to motorcycle riders.
The damage is not, as Penberthy thinks, to the grand institution of journalism. After all, a profession that has survived, adapted and flourished over hundreds of years is hardly going to be scarred by the ramblings of a bloke from Blacktown.
No. The damage to journalism caused by Wednesday’s Press Club address is simply that the news media were not – at least for the 60 minutes of the live broadcast – able to control the public’s perceptions of bikers.
We were – maybe for the first time ever – free to tell our story in our own words, without those words being twisted and taken out of context.
“Journalism” was damaged only to the extent that its choking monopoly over the channels of public communication was broken for a very brief period.
Far from vilifying the National Press Club, those in the media who claim to support the open exchange of ideas should be applauding the club for its willingness to think outside the regular suit-and-tie brigade when selecting its speakers.
Also, they should praise the ABC for being willing to broadcast the event and then follow up the issues raised in a thoughtful and serious manner on its flagship current affairs programs.
However, within hours of this outrageous outbreak of free speech, I notice you were doing your best to put the bricks back in the wall – trotting out tired and unsupported allegations of criminal activity, and twisting and exaggerating our comments to the point where they could easily be ridiculed.
The value judgment that people in the audience – people the author had never met or spoken with – were all “ratbags” simply because they had tattoos, demonstrates the depth of prejudice at play here.
Fine. Hate us if you must, but at least look at the legislation. Any fair-minded reading would show that these laws do indeed strip away fundamental legal rights, including:
- The presumption of innocence
- Open court hearings
- Traditional rules of evidence
- The right to know and challenge allegations against you
- The right of appeal against a court sentence.
Penberthy points out that these laws are not restricted to motorcycle clubs, but goes on to assure us that “no Australian police force” would ever abuse this unprecedented power.
Seriously? That’s the new system of checks and balances? Tear away the time-honoured safeguards of our legal system, and trust the police not to be corrupt?
Even the most basic understanding of political history would show that to be a delusional and dangerous point of view.
It’s certainly not the view presented at the Press Club by Professor Paul Wilson – arguably Australia’s leading expert on criminal behaviour, including among law enforcement officials.
We were joined on the speakers’ platform by the Reverend Dr John Smith – a minister of religion who has devoted his life to exposing human rights abuses around the world and helping troubled young people to put their lives back on track.
Regardless of what you think of me, those two men have accumulated several lifetimes’ expertise in this area, and do not deserve the deeply disrespectful treatment they received in The Punch.
In providing a forum for experts of this calibre to debate a very serious issue, the National Press Club has done a great service to public debate in this country.
It’s people who use their privileged positions in the media to spread their own personal prejudices and hatred that cause the real damage to journalism.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
RT @ImaanHMazari: Sick terrorists beheaded a 20-year old British soldier in London are giving Islam a bad name. You aren't Muslim. Stop def…
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…