Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Cronulla Revisited

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.


Cronulla Revisited
by Suheil Damouny

Darrin Hodges ran as a candidate in the “D” ward of Sutherland Shire for the 2008 council elections - he received 333 votes out a possible 20,662.

His campaign addressed some environmental and developmental issues – the usual politicking carried on in the local council scene every three years or so.

Hodges, who is the NSW Chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, certainly has an appetite for publicity, gaining media coverage on SBS World News Australia, a brief appearance on ABC’s Q&A and even the Canberra Times – whose readers live almost 300kms away.

What was the secret to his successful national media coverage?

Running a race-related campaign in the backyard of the 2005 Cronulla riots, Hodges’ main sales pitch was that the “Shire should be a place for white Australians” and warned against the influx of Asian immigrants into the area.

“I'd just like to maintain it the way it is - keep it as a predominantly Anglo enclave, for want of a better expression,” Hodges told a news reporter prior to election night (SBS World News Australia, 9th September 2008).

Despite his best attempt to create a link between local development decisions and broader national issues of race and identity, he failed.

Councils deal with libraries, arts programs, local infrastructure, recreational and sports facilities, waste collection and recycling, among other things – but not immigration – FYI that is a Federal Government issue.

Luckily, for the Sutherland Shire community, the majority saw through Hodges’ scare tactics and racist remarks and cast their votes elsewhere – designating him to dead last in the vote count.

However, I remain dumbfounded on how such extensive media coverage was provided to him on a platform that was clearly not a council issue?

Hodges’ comments, disseminated by media outlets nationally, gave an otherwise mundane local election a newsworthy twist and in the process delivered inflammatory messages to the masses without the proper checks and balances.

Where were the editors and chiefs-of-staff to provide the editorial judgement when asked to deal the race card? When do codes of ethics play a role in journalistic coverage?

Whilst most media reports “featuring” Hodges were fair and balanced, media consumers must question the validity of journalists placing unnecessary emphasis on a politician using a racially charged message designed to raise tensions during an election to determine who is best to govern local facilities – not the quantity of Asian immigrants.

Whilst subscribers to this blog are aware of political spin and a genuine political campaign, I am less inclined to think that the public have the same capacity to distinguish the difference.

Naturally, Hodges has every right to campaign and seek media attention to boost his voting numbers; however, when did racial campaigning become such a news story and part of the normal election process?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Give the Shire some credit

Hi Suheil,  thanks for choosing this issue, I had seen the media coverage and was  completely aghast, being someone of indeterminate heritage who goes to work every day in the Shire.

 Where were the editors and chiefs-of-staff to provide the editorial judgement when asked to deal the race card? When do codes of ethics play a role in journalistic coverage?

SBS must trust the audience enough to make up their own mind, and I believe it was good editorial judgement in practice - the issue is newsworthy in demonstrating how outdated thought is still deeply-rooted (and continues to find support!) in some parts.

One question lingers in my mind though - how exactly did he propose to limit multicultural settlement from the local government level?

Caveat emptor

Larissa, I agree - the media's role is not necessarily to inform the public of racists; it is just in this particular case the media exposure did him no good. The media was not necessarily playing a role (in his demise); it was acting as a conduit.

At the end of the day it is up to the individual media organisations to decide what news to report to the public, what shows to entertain them with, what shows to educate them with, and whose opinions  to solicit debate and consideration.

If a  wannabe politician is clever enough to attract media exposure, for whatever reason, then so be it. The public at large should be able to make up their own minds how they feel. In this particular case they did.

I suppose when it all boils down it is very much the responsibility of the public to take the media for what it is worth. Most punters don't necessarily want the media to inform them; they want the media to entertain them or reinforce their pre-existing prejudices. The media obliges. Give the the people want they, says Rupert M.

Fortunately in this day and age we can get information from a wide variety of resources, all of which should be treated with prudence. We also have access to more and more information much of which is rubbish but some pretty good.

As always and increasingly, it will be up to the individual to select, analyse and make decisions based on the most reliable information available and be prepared to see people who repulse us get coverage in the media.

I suppose the responsibilty of the media (in a free society) is for individual organisations to respect their statutory responsibilities, act in the financial interests of the entity and provide a product/s that will attract repeat customers.

If a media company is run responsibly, it will (generally) be the customers who decide its success or failure. If the customers enjoy crap then the customers will probably get crap - so long as crap has a buyer.

Caveat emptor

Pedantic Avianism

That would wipe that condescending little smile off their faces for good.  

The albatross doth not smile; the albatross doth grinneth. Therefore that sentence should read:

That would wipe that condescending little grin off their faces for good. 

Geoff, best add "pedantic" to the terms "smug" and "supercillious".

Fair and balanced?

It seems voters are much better at distinguishing between real campaign issues and extremist racial remarks than the media. I was surprised to read that SBS gave coverage to Mr Hodges. I would expect a segment on him on A Current Affair, right after another story on Roberta Williams’ bikini body, but not on SBS.

I'm afraid I disagree with Justin; I don’t think the media’s role is to make the public aware of racist opportunistic creeps. If that was the case, the news would be full of stories about people like Hodges, and nothing else.

Of course, I’m all for balanced coverage, and if there is someone in the newsroom that thinks a segment on Hodges is newsworthy, I will leave the door open to that possibility. However, I am not so open-minded to the fact that at no point did the media address the fact that he was campaigning on federal issues, instead of council issues. That in my opinion would have been a balanced and informative approach. Without it, I’m not too sure you can call the Hodges media coverage “fair and balanced”.

Richard:  For some reason, Larissa, wheneverhear that phrase I think of FOX..  So, you don't think there's a nobless oblige to journalism?

Problem for democracy

"Whilst subscribers to this blog are aware of political spin and a genuine political campaign, I am less inclined to think that the public have the same capacity to distinguish the difference."

This is the sort of paternalistic thing you are presumably taught in your journo school. In my view, the public is well able to tell what's going on if only they have sufficient information. Unfortunately the major media controls information for its own corporate purposes. You wouldn't notice it if you never read anything else. I also subscribe to the theory that media owners select editors who share their ideologies and that editors hire journos who swallow their ideologies and that journo schools mould their students to meet these criteria.

In fact, the votes for the gentleman your article discusses were very low, so perhaps you should lift your opinion of the public. Australia really doesn't need more journalists, editors and media owners who treat the public with contempt.

By the way, have a look at James Sinnamon's article on Webdiary for an acute view of the Australian mainstream press and why we cannot trust them. It's called, "Media contempt for facts in NSW electricity privatisation debate. It's here.

It's a really bad problem for democracy.


Geezus I hate albatrosses.

They are just so ... you know .. smug.

I could wring all their supercilious, self-satisfied, scrawny necks. That would wipe that condescending little smile off their faces for good.  

Just for you, Jenny....

I will apologise for suggesting you meant racist when you meant intolerant of alternative religion.

With regards to section 94 payments, as I understand it the levies only really apply to the immediate area of the development. A developer could not be levied to improve all the roads, rather only those to the boundaries of the site. This certainly fits with my experience of several subdivisions out in Wollondilly area where the roads in front of the site had kerb and guttering but either side reverted to typical Wollondilly goat tracks.

The main reason I responded in the first place, Jenny, is because you are second-guessing a decision in exactly the same manner that you have rightly taken Marilyn to task for on another thread. The council (as I understand it again) took their advice from the Planning Department. That group did not offer advice based on religion but on the deveopment meeting guidelines and suitability for the site.

Fair enough Craig

Fair enough Craig, though I think some councils might take some developers for a bit of a ride. I know of rural subs where the farmer subdividing had to do quite a big upgrade of the main road in the area of the subdivision. Seemed unfair to me since all that was being added was a couple of more houses and the council had done nothing to the road for years anyway and the increase in traffic would be minimal.

Of course, when you oppose a development you can only do so on planning grounds. I won't go into it here as it is a bit off thread but I have sat in one council meeting where a person seeking to subdivide a property was asked if he was a practising Christian by a councillor. No, I am not joking. When he said no, he was called a hypocrite and his development application was rejected. It was approved later in the LAEC.

It certainly is risky lodging development applications in the Bible belt of Sydney. I would hate to be trying to get approval for a Muslim school in that particular council area. Prejudice is alive and well it seems.

Just the way it should be, Jenny

Jenny, that makes you a theoist; although you have your faith of preference you have no problem with the faith of others. Just the way it should be. You choose to be tolerant and are inquisitive about other faiths. Just the way it should be. In short, your religious journey in life is an inclusive learning curve.

On the other hand the journey of the racist is exclusive; this of course creates ignorance and misunderstanding that is easily manipulated into distrust and aggression; both physical and psychological.

Theoist are OK; racists aren't - but we already know that.

"A predominantly Anglo enclave"

Why is it that those proclaiming this rubbish are always the worst example of "Anglo" perfection?

It reminds me of the Nazi regime constantly rattling on about Aryan supremecy yet everyone of them was the worst possible example one could find - apart from perhaps Eva Braun. Fat, plain, overweight etc - each one of them, just like this nerd in Cronulla!

It reminds me of the very old Olympian I met just before the 2000 Olympics who had received a medal from Adolf Hitler at the '36 Berlin games. "What was your impession ?" I asked. "He had dreadful halitosis," he replied.

I am amazed as well

I am aghast, in fact, that anyone could run on an openly racist ticket. It ought not to be possible at any level of democratic governance to run on a platform of racial or ethnic vilification, exclusion of discrimination.

The AEC did a lousy job of double checking the actual membership numbers of Pauline Hanson's One NAtion (or One Nation or what ever it bloody was). The numbers were a dodge. They've obviously ducked this one as well.

I'm off to look at various Electoral Acts.

A big frolicking grinnnnnnnnn

Sadly Ian moi has had a long but disrepectful euphemistic history. I blame it on my diet. Living on red herrings and black label probably doesn't help, but what can you do?

Anyway "frolicking" it is and it goes so much better with bollocks than that other word.

Oh dear now I have images of a bunch of Scotsmen doing the highland flingy thingy.

Damn what a terrifying thought - I should wash my head out with soap. Time for a quick top up and another herring or two, that should do the trick.


Maybe Jenny you are a theoist. A theoist is by definition (in the albatross dictionary) biased to one religion or another. This is self evident as we have a heap of religions, most of which are biased to some degree or another.

Any member of a religion is by definition a theoist; however, any member of a race is not necessarily a racist. Religion is more a mind thing while race is genetic. The theoist and racist are only similar in the way that their beliefs and prejudices are quite often inherited from their parents who want their children to be just like them.

Theoists, however, are not to be feared for (in the end) they choose their prefered god/s, ideology or spiritual beliefs and disciples for positive and altruistic reasons (in general); unlike racists who choose their god/s beliefs etc for destructive and selfish reasons.

Yep, in the albatross world you're a theoist Jenny; someone who believes in one particular religion over all others. No harm in that unless one falls into the trap of becoming a theoracist.

The theoracist is usually a theoist turned mongrel; though on many occassions the worst form of theoracist is the pseudotheoracist who in fact is not even a theoist but a bludger masquarading as a theoist who seeks approval and support to do nasty stuff. We see the type often.

In short, theoist is cool, it's the prefixes and suffixes we should be concerned about.

Ian M (Ed): Justin, do you keep your 'albatross dictionary' [sic] hanging on a cable round your neck, mariner style? Sounds like the best way to keep it handy for quick vocabulary additions.

Hey Justin

Hey Justin, give this old head a break will you? All I was trying to do was point out to our friend Craig that those good Camden folk opposing that there development might be a tad religiously intolerant which is not the same as being a tad racist.

Now today being the most important day of the last century in the year 1940  I think you should all celebrate it in whatever way takes your fancy.  

But lets clear this up first:  I've prayed in the Mosque in a veil;  I've knelt with the RC's as they chanted in the incomprehensible; I've reached for Nirvana in Sri Lanka - no good at mountain climbing am afraid; have taken tea in a tent with the most revered Sufi in the Punjab; done bits of India with a Sikh; been engaged to a Chinese of belief unknown; fallen in love twice and been engaged once with a worshipper of Allah; sung Be Still my Soul with the Pressies in a bush church and finished up marrying an atheist.

Now I wonder what that makes me - you try coz I haven't a bloody clue.

The Nag Race

When is a religion a race?

Bloody horse racing is a religion to many. Personally it bores me to death; like that game they play with an egged shaped leather ball stuffed with air.

Now Moderator, yes you, what's this "frolicking" crap. Everyone knows a bloody cranky old albatross would never use such a term. Besides how does one lick a fro anyway and what the frolick is a fro for frolick's sake.

Please for the sake of my reputation and dignity allow me to correct your censorship:

FC$&K*&IN&GU will do nicely thank you.

Ian M (Ed): Justin, 'frolick' and 'frolicking'  have a short but respectable euphemistic history on this site, added to by the fact that they are both respectable words and can both be found in any respectable dictionary, unlike the execrable expression you suggest above.

The burden of proof

Jenny, you might doubt that it was about infrastructure but I followed it pretty closely in the local rags as well. While there was an undoubted "redneck" element present, there were also a great may people who objected on the grounds that the basic infrastructure in the area was simply inadequate to cope with a school of the size proposed. It wasn't only the buses. The roads are lousy - the whole area would need to be upgraded and substantially. For all the talk of the Murdoch press being biased, the fairfax groups and ABC are pretty quick to play the race card if it suits them too.

You might think its because of a fear of Islam, but unless you have proof of that it is unfair to label a whole region as racist.

I  like your idea for a mixed school, Mr Albatross.

Reminds me a bit of the idea of heaven being full of brick walls so the various religions think they are the only ones there.

When is a religion a race?

Craig, a council approving a large development in an area can require the developer to upgrade the relevant infrastructure. That is normal in all developments so why was the school managment simply not asked to make a large Section 94 contribution to overcome the transport and other issues? Or offered another site if that one was not suitable?

By the way, when was a religon a race? Would you say that Dawkins was racist because he wrote a book canning Christianity, and religion generally? Race and religion are not the same. I simply suggested I believed the opposition to the school was probably more anti Islamic than anything else. That is not an accusation of racism, since Islam is not a race. Muslims are not a race. You find them in every country of the world, of every nationality and in a wide range of ethnic groups.

So I think it is nonsense to say I labelled a whole region as racist, don't you think?

The proper interpretation of what I wrote would be that I have suggested the opposition to the school could have been driven by underlying intolerance of a particular religion. And I put it to you that even it it were, few would admit to it.

Of course the opposition was expressed in planning terms. Those are the only legitimate grounds for opposing developments. What proof do you have that religious intolerance was not driving the opposition? Just because they cited the bus problem and other planning issues? Come on, you don't really think that all those people were out there protesting over the school for that reason alone? Some no doubt were, but not all.

What if the parents of the proposed Islamic school wanted to move to live in the area, thus increasing the Muslim population in Camden by thousands? You don't think that did not cross the minds of quite a few?

But yes, why not ask the Catholics to build an annex for the Muslim kids on their site? A very good idea, Justin.

The media works in mysterious ways

"Whilst subscribers to this blog are aware of political spin and a genuine political campaign, I am less inclined to think that the public have the same capacity to distinguish the difference."

Suheil, we are the public.

I suppose the media did a good job making sure this creep was known to all. With only 1.6 percent of the vote I would suggest the message was received loud and clear.

Personally, I haven't got a clue who to vote for in local elections; and when I turn up to vote I haven't got a clue who anybody is. But if I knew one of the candidates was a creep I'd most definitely give him a miss.

It's rather comforting to know that after all that exposure there were only 333 people (probably his brothers, sisters and cousins, half brothers, half sisters and second cousins three times removed, a dog named Pauline and a cat named Claudette) who supported him.

PS. Funny - for the race card is usually good for around 10% if subtly sold by a crafty polly. John Howard knew this well. This creep could only get a lousy 1.6%. He must have been pathetic.

Well done media.

Cheers dears - problem fixed

The school thingy can be easily fixed. Build the Catholic School where planned but add a Muslim annex for the smaller number of Muslim students. Economies of scale would kick in rather nicely.

Also it would allow the kids to intermingle and connect and share and stuff like that. Friendship rather than fear.

I know - it's a frolicking stupid idea - the parents would never allow it - but I would love to see it.

Friday night, a good night to dream of better things and get very pissed, well adequately pissed anyway.

Cheers dears.

Number of electors

The total figure for electors in para 1 is incorrect: http://vtr.elections.nsw.gov.au/result.aspx?areaname=sutherland

 I should have thought that if you wanted to write such a slanted piece (we know what you think), you could get a basic number correct.

The guy is a racist?   So?   He's a racist; he got what he deserved electorally.   Where's the story?

Playing the race card?

Jenny, arent you playing the race card yourself now?

I don't live in Camden - but right next door in Campbelltown. Prior to that I lived on the other side of the place in Wollondilly Shire. On my understanding, the Catholic School was proposed on an existing school site, not just a site in the area.

There is a world of difference between expanding an established school and building one in an area where none exists. In addition, the Islamic population of Camden is "minimal", certainly not enough to sustain a school. While Campbelltown has a fairly large Muslim population I dont know that even it could support a school of the size proposed. The issue as far as the council was concerned was that the infrastructure in the area (particularly the roads) could not cope with the number of buses required.

Of course, when the SMH mentioned this event they didnt mention those details. I am certain that was an honest mistake because the SMH would never have an agenda to push.

I have no doubt that the Muslim thing played a part in the views of some people opposing the school but to suggest in the *nudge* *nudge* *wink**wink way you have that it was the only reason casts an unfair stain over this whole area.

The good people of Camden cracked a massive stink about Maccas opening there; a large number of the people there simply want it to remain a low key rural town.  

By the way, Suheil, why do you think the general public is less able to distinguish political spin that readers of webdiary? Dont be shy, say what you think of them!

About buses?

Craig, I would be surprised if the issue was not largely motivated, not so much by race, but by the fear that people have about the Islamic religion and its capacity to foster intolerance and ultimately radicalism. Some would see that as a reasonable fear, others would not.

I doubt very much that those who turned up to protest about the school were really concerned about the increase in buses on the street. It takes more than that to get people moving in this country of apathy.

I guess the only way we would really know is if the Catholics had seen the same site as the preferred one for their school. If they had do you really think the protest group would have been so large?  

Most communities in my opinion would welcome the establishment of a large private school in their area. Seems not, so maybe I am wrong.

Cheers. It seems the issue is a dead duck now anyway.

A plea for mercy or what

Fiona: "Jenny, a plea from your moderators..."

A plea for what my dear? Mercy? Attention to punctuation? That the comment was irrelevant? My spelling?

Psychologists might be mind readers dear moderators, but I am not.

Never mind. Easier to sign off, retire in a huff and do something else. Bye bye.

Fiona: Style when addressing other Webdiarists, as opposed to the style used when quoting them, Jenny. See my email a few weeks ago. Enjoy your huff.

I will

Fiona: "Enjoy your huff."

I will. Thank you. But my sincere and unreserved apology for my latest misdemeanour.   

Councils and race issues

Suheil Damouny, yes I saw that broadcast and was surprised that he got such a run on prime time., and it was his race issue that got aired, not his other policies. That is the media for you, I guess.

We could see more of this sort of thing. Look at how the race card has been played in the electorate where that Islamic school was planned, and rejected by Council.

The Council said it was rejected on planning/zoning  grounds but you can't tell me that, given the opposition in the community to the school, councillors were not conscious of the up coming elections.

it is all going to get a bit embarrassing now the Catholics want to put a school in the same area, which looks like getting approval.  Council has an answer for that. That site is already zoned to allow such a development whereas the site for the Islamic school was not.  Well, that's the council's story anyway.

Fiona: Jenny, a plea from your moderators...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 5 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 2 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago