Words by Nathan Fioritti

Now, more than ever, it is crucial for newspaper publications to maintain integrity in order to sustain a devoted audience. The media world we are living in is one where falsities can be easily exposed, large-scale discussions can be easily had, and readers can access a plethora of different news options at almost any time. Integrity in the eyes of a certain newspaper’s readers is what keeps them hanging on.

For this reason, the second article in my column series will look at national News Corp. publication The Australian.

According to The Australian’s website, the newspaper exists in order to “lead the independent thinking, essential for the further advancement of our country”, and “cater to the needs of an influential and educated audience.” This feat, one would think, should not involve planting Kyle Sandilands on a front page. This is a man who abruptly asked New Zealand artist Lorde—who had reportedly been spending a lot of time with fellow musician Taylor Swift—“are you going to confirm now you’re in a lesbian relationship with her?”.

On the 12 March 2014 edition of The Australian, an article called ‘Fab and fat’ send Kyle and O off the dial‘ appeared in the middle-top right of the front page. Admittedly, there was a story there, with the duo reeling in over a quarter of a million listeners on their new station KIIS106.5 after getting kicked out from their former home at 2Day. But the choice to make the article front page material is almost akin to crowning them king and queen of our nation’s airwaves.

The Australian did, however, manage to slip in an important story about Labor’s increased opposition towards media reform, albeit below Kyle’s overly audacious mug. The media reforms had been proposed by Malcolm Turnbull, due to fears that local TV news are at threat. Unfortunately though, this story lived in the shadow of the one where Sandilands distastefully put his popularity down to him having the support of “fat people”. In similarly breaking news, Jackie O appeals to the “fabulous”, enabling the duo to cater to both the fab and the fat.

MEDIA_palmer_531x425Flick a few pages in and you would have found the article ‘Palmer channels Gandhi in electoral act bunfight’, accompanied by an image of Palmer standing awkwardly in front of a plane. “Clive Palmer in Hobart with the coat of arms on his plane,” read the caption. Even this, however ridiculous, would have been a better story to run in place of the Kyle and Jackie O article, if for no other reason than comic relief.

Better yet, let’s take a look at what other intriguing and/or outlandish potential stories were out there during the time of the article:

  • The Crossroads report, prepared by Ernst and Young and ReachOut, called for a rethinking of the Australian mental health system, stating that the current system is not meeting demand and that more of a focus on self-help and the young is required.
  • A series of emails, leaked to the ABC, were sent out to Immigration Department staff urging them not to use the word ‘sympathise’ when writing correspondence for ministers. They were instead encouraged to use the word ‘acknowledge’ to avoid an “emotional” tone. Confirmation as to whether or not the ministers in question are robots—as the desired tone shift suggests—remains unknown.
  • Both the Samsung app store and Google Play have released a new app called Power Sleep, which assists researchers by using your inactive smart phone to crunch scientific data. The app makes it extremely simple for anyone to lend a hand to science.
  • Oh, and Barrack Obama sent a tweet, containing an inside joke about “spider bites” to Zach Galifianakis, following the filming of a Between Two Ferns segment.

Words and Photos by Michael Roddan

Outside the Krystal Hotel in Jakarta’s south, I can hear the cover band from across the street. Even though the sound desk has the bass turned up too high, I can just make out the fumbled words coming from an obviously Indonesian singer: “I Still Call Australia Home”.

Given that this band only heard the song for the first time a week ago, they’ve managed to pick it up lightning quick, Allen says. Allen helped organise this Australia Day BBQ fundraiser, which seems to be a welcome escape for 40 or so mostly male, mostly overweight, mostly Australian expats living in Indonesia. They’re mostly involved in mining, shipping and having Indonesian wives.

Allen looks like he’s trying to look like a member of the Palmer United Party. He’s sitting with his mate Clive, who is dressed head to toe in his best Driza-bone and Harley-Davidson gear. Later, he takes out the prize for best dressed.

Allen explains to me that the Australia Day BBQ offers the expats a chance to feel comfortable for once. It allows them, he says, to spend time with their own kind. “The Koreans do it. The Vietnamese do it. It’s a language thing – people [of different nationalities] don’t mix very well,” he reckons.

Although Allen and Clive made the choice to move to Indonesia to start families, both men still feel that there’s something irreplaceable about Australians spending time with other Australians. “We take the piss out of ourselves,” says Clive. “It’s about having a few beers, a laugh and some self-deprecation.”

“But the Indonesians have a sense of humour,” I interject. To prove this, I tell them a joke: “What is the biggest sushi in Indonesia? Sushi-lo BambangYudhoyono”. Their opinion remains unchanged.

Across town at De Hooi bar in Jakarta’s glamorous Pondok Indah neighborhood, Paige and Tegan are counting down the Hottest 100, jugs of beer in hand. They want me to know, straight off the bat, that the Bintang singlets they’re wearing are “ironic”. They’re from Brisbane, but I still give them the benefit of the doubt.

A few weeks before, the girls crashed their motorised scooter in the Gili Islands, a destination which is fast becoming Australia’s new Bali. Now unable to surf or go hiking, they’ve been spending the remainder of their holiday drinking with Tom from Wollongong, who is also in the bar. He raises a plastic hip flask full of homemade honey-vodka, and salutes loudly to Australia: “The land of inclusion and racial tolerance”.

He then brainstorms brand names for his homemade liquor out loud: “Domestic Violence – everyone has an angry dad!” Everything is ironic, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek or self-deprecating. But—I start to wonder—if Australians identify themselves by their ironic Bintang-wearing, self-professed detachment, why do we all seek out other Australians to talk about Australian things on Australia Day?