The role of Australia’s mass media regulations in the death of Jacintha Saldanha. Part 3h:- The Vice Regal cop-out.

The Australian Governor-General wants to duck the issue of Jacintha Saldanha’s death as this  “Pontius Pilate –  wash my hands of the matter” response clearly illustrates:

The Queen's Vice-Regal representative in Australia does not wish to accept responsibility for the Australian Government laws that regulate the mass media. Laws that failed to protect Jacintha Saldanha from an illegally recorded phone call.

The Queen’s Vice-Regal representative in Australia does not wish to accept responsibility for the Australian Government laws that regulate the mass media. Laws that failed to protect Jacintha Saldanha from an illegally recorded phone call.

Australia’s incredibly shonky mass media safety standards are one of the prime reasons why Jacintha Saldanha died. Maybe I am crazy in saying that, but I firmly believe that the ACMA yardstick for determining inappropriate conduct by Australian broadcasters is totally out of touch with reality.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, the ACMA yardstick for protecting the general public is a crazy, idiotic and exceedingly dangerous one:

  1. “Use of the words, ‘intense’, ‘serious’ and ‘severe’ indicate that the Code contemplates a very strong reaction and sets a high test for the prohibited behaviours. It is not sufficient that the behaviour induces a mild or even strong response or reaction.”  ACMA Report 2729
  2.  Even worse is the phrase “…mild or strong reactions”. This means that if the targeted person commits suicide, IT SIMPLY DOES NOT COUNT!
  3. Why not? Because, as page 2 of both report 2729 and report 2780 make perfectly clear, it is only the presumed response of a mythical “ordinary, reasonable person” that counts and NOT the response of the targeted person!
  4. If someone is so traumatized by the actions of an Australian broadcaster that they commit suicide, as far as the ACMA is concerned that person was obviously not an “ordinary, reasonable person” and therefore that person’s suicide does not reflect the response of an “ordinary, reasonable person” and consequently it can be ignored!
  5. Can you really believe that this is the regulatory standard used by a supposedly democratic nation to protect not only its own citizens but the rest of the world as well?

Australia’s 6 states and 2 territories do have laws that deal with the issue of a reckless disregard for human life that results in the death of a person.

  1. Last year a South Australian citizen, Giuseppe Corbo, was charged with 3 counts of reckless endangerment that were subsequently upgraded to 3 counts of Manslaughter.
  2. It appears that if private citizens recklessly endanger life, then it is a crime.
  3. However, if as a result of federal Government laws that fail to protect innocent people from unlawful actions by the Australian mass media a person dies, or lots of people die, then that is not a crime.
  4. In a previous blog I detailed how the Australian Government is trying to downplay the actions of 2Day FM as a “prank.” That so-called “prank” was a serious indictable offense and under the News South Wales Crimes Act (1900), those involved could wind up facing murder charges because of Jacintha’s death.
  5. However. Australia’s mass media is so powerful that for decades successive governments have allowed the mass media to be ‘self-regulated’ with voluntary codes of practice that only serve to protect the mass media from the consequences of their reprehensible actions!
  6. If 2Day FM personnel are charged under the laws that are appropriate to the situation, it will be a major setback that will expose the sham ‘self-regulation.
  7. It is therefore absolutely imperative for Australia’s mass media that no criminal charges are laid against 2Day FM personnel.

Make no mistake when looking at how the Australian Government and the Australian mass media want Jacintha’s case handled. There really are two totally different standards of law in play in these two cases. In the case of Giuseppe Corbo, the constitution and statute laws apply but in Jacintha’s case a totally different set of rules are being applied that are best summed up with the statement that “The system protects the system.”

It is the Governor-General who signs legislation into Law and therefore it is the Governor-General who must accept responsibility when those laws cause people’s deaths, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The problem is, the risks posed were known and understood years ago as the following information clearly  highlights:

In 1998 an official report into mental health  problems in Australia  stated that:

  1. Suicide is a leading cause of death in Australia, resulting in a total of 2,393 deaths (1,931 males, 462 females) in 1996.
  2. Since 1990, suicides have exceeded road injury deaths and have been the leading cause of death due to injury in Australia (DHFS & AIHW 1998a).
  3. Several known factors can, under certain circumstances, contribute to a person attempting suicide. Mental disorder, and specifically depression, consistently emerges as the largest single risk factor for suicide.
  4. UNEMPLOYMENT is the most common cause of depression triggered suicide.
  5. People with a history of mental disorder are 10 times more at risk of dying from suicide compared to the general population (Gunnel & Frankel 1994).

By ignoring such reports, and there are an awful lot of them that date back to the 1930s, the ACMA has been deliberately placing the lives of millions of emotionally vulnerable people with mental health problems at risk, a reprehensible and thoroughly action that is totally unacceptable!

  1. Last night on television the South Australian Government had an advert that highlighted the fact that 20% of South Australians have a mental health problem of some kind.
  2. Yes, 1 person in 5 in South Australia is an emotionally vulnerable and fragile person.
  3. The focus of the advert was on educating the public of the need to be aware of the extent of this problem and the need to be sensitive, compassionate and understanding when dealing with anyone who may have a mental health problem.
  4. This is not a new advert; it has been around for a some years and therefore there is no reasonable excuse for the ACMA to be using as its yardstick for ‘protecting the public’ the previously mentioned “high-test  for the prohibited behaviours” that so callously disregards the impact upon targeted individual or social groups, especially those in identified high risk goups such as the 1 in 5 with menatl health problems or the ultra-high-risk groups such as unemployed people with depression.
  5. Unemployed people are a frequent target of mass media welfare bashing which is what the complaints that lead to ACMA reports 2729 and 2780 were all about.
  6. There are no “ifs” or “buts” about the regulatory standards used by the ACMA.; the deaths of Jacintha Saldanha and literally thousands of others are conclusive proof that the Australian Government has been criminally negligent in failing to prevent the deaths of emotionally vulnerable, ‘At-risk’ people who have serious emotional or mental health problems.

The Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, is the head of state and she is like the captain of a ship, i.e. she is the person who is ultimately responsible for the ‘Ship of State’ that is the Commonwealth of Australia. When it comes to the well-known statement, “The buck stops here”, in Australia that statement means Quentin Bryce.

  1. In the 1970s, a former Governor-General named John Kerr sacked a democratically elected Federal Government.  That reveals just how much power the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has.
  2. Ms Bryce should have refused to sign any legislation that unconstitutionally and deliberately placed millions of people at risk.
  3. Like several predecessors, she failed to protect Australia’s most vulnerable people and now that she is apparently aware of the consequences of her actions in presiding over yet another lethal humanitarian disaster, Quentin Bryce appears to now be trying to do a Pontius Pilate and wash her hands of the matter.

[ NOTE: For readers who may not understand my reference to Pontius Pilate, he was the ancient Roman Governor in Jerusalem, who after questioning Jesus Christ, found him to be innocent of the charges that he had been accused off. However, Pontius Pilate was fearful of the Jewish leaders and the religious mob that wanted to crucify Jesus and so Pilate’s solution was to call for a wash bowl and towel and in sight of everyone, he washed his hands to symbolically demonstrate that he had “clean hands” when it came to the death of Jesus Christ. He then allowed Jesus Christ to be crucified. ]

Ms Bryce’s response is identical to that of Pontius Pilate.  Just as Pilate’s response fooled no-one who was aware of the truth of the matter, no-one who is aware of the truth about the circumstances that lead to Jacintha Saldanha’s death will be fooled by Ms Bryce’s pathetic attempted to ‘wash her hands of the matter.’

When it comes to Justice, either everyone counts or else no-one counts. I happen to believe that everyone counts, regardless of their race, religion, mental state or employment status. That is why I am striving to have Dr Wilcox, the coroner at the Westminster Coroner’s Court where the inquest into Jacintha’s death is being held, look not just take a narrowly focused approach to the investigation and analysis of her death, but rather take a totally holistic view and look at the role played by the Australian mass media and Australian Government agencies such as the ACMA in contributing to the cascade of events that triggered Jacintha’s death.

Ronald Medlicott (A Christian advocate for welfare justice.)

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