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Federal Government

THE GREATER FOOL: Crikey’s errorist Bernard Keane blown up by his own madness and prejudice

KeanebrandisBernard Keane is possibly the creepiest person writing within the Canberra Press Gallery, which, we acknowledge, is quite the claim. He is not without competition. 

A weird unit, he is a usually predictable lefty cheerleader who is probably quite useful to Crikey in reaching out to what we might call the GetUp! crowd, public servants from Canberra, inner-city Sydney or Melbourne, of a certain age. Which is exactly what Keane once was, a middling public servant whose mid-life crisis landed him at Crikey. He followed his bliss, but certainly takes the p*ss. His prejudices are theirs. He likes dripping wet Liberals, asylyum-seekers (except the ones who founded Israel), Labor Leftys, almost all Greensparty types and deep-in-his-heart thinks that Sir Humphrey is wiser and better than Jim Hacker. His name is Bernard, after all.

His record as Crikey’s political editor has been – to put it at its most polite – a mixed one. In 2008, Keane landed the online publication in serious legal trouble that prompted it to denounce their own Keane as engaging in “a serious breach of ethics”. It is remarkable in itself that Keane was retained as Crikey’s Canberra political reporter after this candid admission of wrongdoing.

Apology to Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor

Jun 27, 2008 12:00AM

crosbytextorOn 17 April, we published a feature article which falsely suggested that Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor had leaked Liberal party polling in August 2007. This allegation was not checked with either Lynton Crosby or Mark Textor. They have strenuously denied this and we accept their denial. The false allegation has caused them serious embarrassment, and we regret repeating it.
On 18 April, we followed up with a report that there were serious but unspecified allegations against Crosby Textor which had yet to be brought before any Court. We accept that we knew of no specific matter which could support this claim when we made it, and that to publish in those circumstances was both very damaging and a serious breach of journalist’s ethics.
Finally we alleged that Crosby Textor engaged in racism and thuggery. We acknowledge that this is not the case. We deeply regret having made this suggestion.
We sincerely apologise to Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor for the hurt and damage caused to them by our reports. We acknowledge that had we reported fairly, the compensation we have paid to them would not have been necessary.

The editor presiding over this Keane outrage was left-wing elite private schools advocate Jonathan Green, who departed shortly thereafter for a Crikey-killing ABC web-project before then heading to the lefty clover of Radio National at the ABC where he broadcasts once a week on a generous full-time salary. Jobs of this kind will be available to all, when the revolution comes.

Back in the nation’s capital, yesterday, pontificating from his creepy, musty, little cubicle, Keane opined that the highly-regarded champion of human rights causes, Labor’s Michael Danby MP, had “inflicted serious damage on the push for data retention by Australia’s security agencies.” For good measure, he spat out Crikey’s worst insult at a Labor MP, referring to him as “right-wing.”

Let’s stop there.

Essentially, what Danby, and the security agencies, and ultimately both sides of politics want or will ultimately implement is a proposal that mandates ISPs and telcos keep customer data and email for a certain period of time to help ASIO/ASIS etc track down bad guys who want to blow up kindergartens, pizza shops, Police headquarters or Hilton Hotels to make political points.

Danby is on a parliamentary committee looking at this issue which may devise recommendations for the government on what to do about it. Usually, national security matters are bi-partisan so there’s been a push on this committee to devise a policy both sides of politics can live with.

Keane – who has written on data retention at least eight times, describing the proposals as draconian, a shambles etc – is opposed to this root and branch. So, too, are the Greensparty and the undoubtedly principle-driven yet ideologically zealous folks in the ultra-liberal wing of the Institute of Public Affairs, led by Chris Berg, an Age columnist. The latter, at least, is consistently sceptical of government of all kinds, so is at least being consistent. Keane and the Greens could never be accused of consistency. Their organic muesli is full of exotic nuts and fruit chunks of all kinds.

Which is why Keane’s excitable and deeply foolish missive yesterday, attacking Danby for (somehow) undermining a proposal against which Keane is opposed, was a little curious.

It’s up there with the Greensparty’s inconsistent if not deranged policy response to wanting a bigger mining tax, because they hate mining and want to shut it down, is to vote to knock off a research & development tax concession, much of which benefits big miners and oil refinery companies. 

What provoked it was an article by The Australian’s excellent foreign editor Greg Sheridan, a close chum of Tony Abbott’s, and rumoured to be thinking of working for him in the next government. Abbott would do well to pick him up.

Sheridan pointed out the obvious and we think a reasonable summary of the situation is as follows:

■ The mainstream of politics – on both sides – support law enforcement and intelligence services being able to gather evidence of wrongdoing as long as there as checks and balances and reasonable privacy protections to protect the innocent from bureaucrat snoops;

■ A weird coalition of the unwilling, of the usual suspects on the Left but aided by the prospective Attorney-General and chief law enforcement officer of Australia Liberal wet barrister George Brandis QC MP and a few in the well-regarded IPA, are strongly opposed;

■ Ultimately, despite the huffing and puffing of a few, “data retention” is not such a big deal (many ISPs and telcos already do it) and will help ensure the internet doesn’t become a safe haven for the murderous in plotting terror attacks on civilian targets. 

Why the expression of this reasonably mainstream argument was such a provocation to Comrade Keane is not adequately explained in the article.

But it’s also pretty obvious.

By flushing out the position of a minority of Liberals – like Brandis – Sheridan has put considerable pressure on them to come to their senses and support data retention. Liberals like former Attorney Phil Ruddock are believed to strongly oppose barrister Brandis’s position. The consensus forming on the committee is to support it but with safeguards and checks and balances. Fair enough.

Keane no doubt thinks the worst of the security agencies and is slightly inclined to tin-foil hat-wearing thoughts about elaborate conspiracies at times. Every Canberra dinner-party should have a Bernard just to ensure everyone has a reason to keep drinking. Brandis isn’t quite as nutty as Keane but is most certainly part of the wet Brisbane Liberal set dominated by doctors’ wives, barristers and those who regarded Sir Joh as a devil. He has given nods and winks and under-the-table foot-stroking to those from the IPA and elsewhere who’ve made angry submissions denouncing the plan as the beginning of state omniscience. 

Aside from being troubled by Sheridan’s direct hit on those opposed to what seems to us as an inevitable policy formulation, the Crikey columnist reserves particular venom for Danby, calling him a fool and so on. Why the invective? Because the MP is a highly-effective, if occasionally free-wheeling, champion of national security and a strong national defence of a kind that offends every sensibility of the Canberra leftist Keane. Danby’s unique brand of politics reminds those with a good knowledge of modern American history of Scoop Jackson, who passionately championed both human rights and a strong America that stood up to its enemies.

In the interests of full disclosure, the author was once involved in assisting Mr Danby in elections of various kinds, and he’s never failed to make us proud, whether he’s standing up for Israel against the murderous misogynists Mullahs who wish to nuke it into oblivion or for the Tibetans against Beijing or for the richly diverse electorate he represents so ably.

If there were more Labor MPs like Michael Danby, more principle-driven politicians who wore their passion on their sleeve and fought for freedom loud and proud, then we have no doubt the government would be in stronger shape and Canberra would be wholly less depressing and fetid than it currently is. By sticking his neck out on issues like this, Danby has undoubtedly denied himself promotion in Canberra’s game of Snakes and Ladders but his impact on public policy has been as substantial as many Cabinet ministers. History will be very kind to him, while Keane won’t even be a footnote.

That said, the personalities of politics are much less important than this issue.

What’s at stake is our right not to be blown up while dropping off kids at a kindergarten, eating pizza with friends, or while flying across the country to meet up with loved ones, or whatever. Danby has engaged in that discussion, perfectly legitimately, and has in so doing ensured some degree of public accountability for Libs like Brandis who is hopelessly conflicted between his private ideological civil libertarian indulgences and his duty as the person highly likely to be our chief law enforcement officer after September 14th.

Sheridan was right to call Brandis out on his views. We’d say it’s nothing less than his duty as a citizen to do so. He puts it well:

There have been some disappointing elements of the debate. Some Liberals have been hysterical in their response to it. There is a disturbing drift among numerous Liberal politicians not to take national security agencies and their advice seriously. If Labor politicians were making such comments against these agencies with the Liberals in power they would be savaged.

Too right, they would.


Our prospective Attorney-General is championing views best described as undergraduate on an issue central and vital to our national security. We can only hope he’s not serious about it.

Our prospective Foreign Minister accepted extensive gifts from a large telco equipment manufacturing company in China, frequently accused of being an intelligence-gathering tool of its government, including a tablet PC, that could very well be used to monitor her communications.

Back in 2011, Simon Benson, the well-informed Daily Telegraph reporter, exposed shocking claims that the Chinese government had hacked the emails of our most senior Cabinet ministers.

This week, US cyber-security firm, Mandiant, has revealed some of the vast extent of Chinese state-sponsored hacking of US and Western targets over many years. 98% of them coming from the same place in Shanghai, from an arm of the Chinese military. The Chinese are at war with us, by non-violent means, stealing our secrets and intellectual property on a grand scale.

It’s a big, bad world out there. That doesn’t mean we should give unfettered power to bureaucrats and politicians but it does mean that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. 

The next government isn’t likely to indulge in a continuation of the weird practices of some Coalition MPs in taking gifts from those who are clearly not our friends or in opposing policies that keep us safe from our enemies. 

But if it does continue in this irregular and strange way, make no mistake, Michael Danby is right, it will become the stuff of epic scandal. In Opposition, playing footsie with radical libertarians or greedily snapping up gifts from the Chinese regime and its satellites, is a bit of an indulgence, in government it would be enough to disqualify them from office.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. “What provoked it was an article by The Australian’s excellent foreign editor Greg Sheridan”

    Gimme a break. Sheridan is a typical Tory shill continuously defending the indefensible (ie Abbott).

    Posted by Dan Gulberry | February 22, 2013, 10:10
  2. Nothing that Abbott or infact any of the Liberal party can be defended in any way. They are all right wing extremists.

    Posted by Argus Tuft | February 22, 2013, 14:27
  3. The problem isn’t the stated purpose of these laws, e.g. allowing ASIO to track terrorists, every sane person supports that purpose.

    The problem is that the data will be used a lot more widely – as we saw this week when it was revealed local councils are legally accessing call logs and gps data from our phones without a warrant. Once the telcos are forced to retain all our emails, websites visited, etc, experience shows there will be no real limit to who is allowed access to that data.

    Posted by Robert C | February 22, 2013, 14:39
  4. The question I have is, what will this new quanko be called. Stasi? Gestapo? KGB? Keystone Cops? CIA?

    Posted by Taliban fan | February 22, 2013, 16:01
  5. Where’s Siegfried when you need him. “We don’t do that at Kaos”.. “We do more heh”.

    Posted by GetSmart | February 22, 2013, 21:16
  6. I am a civil libertarian. I want proper parliamentary and judicial oversight before any personal data can be accessed and a requirement that each and every access is recorded and monitored and spot checks to ensure compliance with codes of best practice. There is no benefit in living in Australia if our freedoms are eroded.

    Certain agencies should never have access to this data – state police forces, tax agencies, welfare agencies and local and state government agencies. The data access should be limited to defence and security personnel in the active performance of a surveillance operation.

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | February 22, 2013, 22:50
  7. To describe Greg Sheriden as anything but useless is utter hyperbole. And to hear that Abbott is thinking of including him in his staff… words fail, it looks as if we really will be governed by the idiots of this country.

    And I do wonder where you get your information from. Even if an ISP tracks my information, once I log onto a VPN, especially one without a back door for the secret squirrel brigades to access and there are any number of these around, then any internet activity that I pursue will be completely hidden from that ISP and thus from the secret squirrel brigades. And please, let’s not get started on peer to peer or overseas ISPs. Really, do your bloody homework, you’re sounding as ill informed as Greg Sheriden. By the way, this was written while I was logged onto a VPN with its servers in Romania. Check my IP via your logs if you disbelieve me. Good luck in trying to track me as the encryption is top class.

    Posted by Get Real | February 22, 2013, 22:59
  8. “as we saw this week when it was revealed local councils are legally accessing call logs and gps data from our phones without a warrant.”
    What?! please provide source, not that I doubt you for a second. Just interested/alarmed.

    Posted by huh | February 23, 2013, 10:52
  9. Let freedom ring!*

    *Unless Department of Homeland Security says otherwise

    Posted by oh the irony! | February 23, 2013, 10:56
  10. Let freedom ring!*

    *Unless the Department Of H omeland Security says otherwise

    Posted by oh the irony | February 23, 2013, 10:57
  11. Let freedom ring!*

    *Unless the Department Of H omeland S ecurity says otherwise

    Posted by oh the irony! | February 23, 2013, 10:57
  12. freedom

    Posted by shit | February 23, 2013, 10:58
  13. Let Freedom Ring!*

    *Unless the D epartment of H omeland S ecurity says otherwise

    Posted by oh the irony! | February 23, 2013, 10:59
  14. Ring Ring! Oh hello Janet Napolitano, how’s your carpet cleaning going?

    Posted by Let Freedom Ring! | February 23, 2013, 11:03
  15. I thought the core value of the Labor Party was that it was supposed to represent the left.

    And always so much vitriol toward the left.

    Confirmation that our two party system now fully supports the elite?

    Posted by So much vitirol toward the left | February 25, 2013, 11:35
  16. How interesting it will be when data retention starts happening on a large scale!

    It is inevitable that either a hacker or disgruntled ISP employee will leak massive amounts of communication data and plonk it on the net for all and sundry to read.

    Imagine all the private information and communications the public will then be able to view including the comms of MPs and their apparatchiks.

    Posted by Data Retention | February 25, 2013, 11:41
  17. Posted by Freddy | March 3, 2013, 20:58
  18. how about some evidence and referances Latham when you bag ideas

    Posted by Freddy | March 6, 2013, 22:52