The Herald Sun has launched a vitriolic campaign against two councils in Melbourne for their opposition to the Victorian government’s $15 billion East West Link toll road project.
In an appalling lack of sensitivity, the paper has also sought to use the rape and murder of journalist Jill Meagher in defence of the paper’s pro-corporate and road-building agenda.
The paper’s attack follow announcements by Labor that, if elected at the November 29 state election, it will not oppose a court challenge to the road project launched by Moreland and Yarra councils, making it more likely the project will be defeated.
Opponents of the project say the East West Link will destroy homes and public space, and increase traffic congestion in the two municipalities. It will also use government money that could be spent on improving public transport.
The Herald Sun has published six articles and editorials on the subject between September 14 and 18. In a September 14 article titled “Two councils use more than $100k of ratepayers’ cash to fund Link battle”, the paper sought to scandalise funds spent on campaign material and give a platform for Victorian planning minister Matthew Guy’s opinion that “these two councils are putting their own personal politics ahead of ratepayers’ priorities”.
An accompanying editorial labelled the Moreland and Yarra councillors as the “looney left”.
Most appallingly, in four articles, an opinion piece, an editorial and a cartoon on September 17 and 18, the paper sought to portray Moreland council’s spending on the anti-East West Link campaign and the associated court challenge as an “insult” to the memory of Meagher. This is because the council has not installed extra CCTV cameras on Sydney Road, Brunswick, as a response to the 2012 rape and murder of the journalist.
The councils are at the forefront of the campaign against new roads and for better public transport because of the presence on each of socialist activists: the Socialist Alliance’s Sue Bolton in Moreland and the Socialist Party’s Steve Jolly in Yarra.
Both socialist councillors see the Herald Sun’s attacks as highly dishonest and hypocritical. “Unlike the Herald Sun, the Socialist Alliance has long campaigned against sexism and violence against women,” Bolton told Green Left Weekly.
“We didn’t support the council’s CCTV decision, but argued for effective responses such as better lighting, a late night community bus and better services for women.
“The CCTV cameras are a gigantic waste of money which could be better spent on school programs to tackle sexist attitudes towards women and on women's services."
Jolly agrees, telling GLW: “It's part of their law and order agenda to deflect attention away from class issues and the cuts. Cameras won't stop street crime, as we’ve seen in Britain. It will have even less effect in the area where most violence occurs: in the home.”
The councillors argued these attacks were typical of the paper’s ideological and political role. “The paper is a mouthpiece for corporate Victoria,” said Jolly. “They see the anti-tunnel pickets in particular and the broader tunnel campaign in general as out of their control and that of the ALP.”
Bolton and Jolly won’t be deterred from pushing socialist politics in councils. “We’ll continue to fight for a council that supports sustainability, public housing and public transport, and to use the council position to help working people mobilise to defend their rights and interests," said Bolton. Jolly was dismissive of the paper’s tirades, saying: “They have less and less impact with every hysterical article.”