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Government blueprint for TV self regulation of sports gambling ads

In Gambling, Margo Kingston on May 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM

UPDATE 2 May 27: Why won’t PM Gillard close the loophole which allows gambling ads during sports broadcasts in children’s viewing time? Extracts from her doorstop transcript:

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if you want to get rid of the influence of gambling in sport, why don’t you go as far as to ban any gambling related advertisements even through half time onward?

PM: Well we considered that but the proposal that we’re announcing today, we believe, gets the balance right between protecting the community from gaming and the influence of gaming and making sure that there is an appropriate revenue stream for broadcast rights for our sporting codes.

People want to watch great sporting matches on TV. Obviously that’s got to stack up as an economic model for broadcasters, so we believe that what we’ve announced today gets that balance right…

We’ve needed to get the balance right between that and the economic proposition that brings those great matches to our screens.

And what that means is it’s got to stack up for the broadcasters to pay the money to the codes to have access to the game, to put it on TV, so you and I can sit there and watch it.

We think we’ve got the balance right because people know when half time is, they know when, if they’re watching AFL, quarter time and three-quarter time are.

That means if you’re sitting there and you don’t want to watch any gambling advertisements, then have a chat amongst yourselves, go and get a drink, have a little wander around, settle back in for the next section of play.

You can watch every moment of the match and not see a gambling ad and not hear any reference to live odds.

Margo, UPDATE 1 May 26: Here are some key documents in the latest Government attempt to make this issue go away. First, thanks to Fairfax Media Press Gallery journalist Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan), for a background paper given to journos on Sunday morning, then the apparent backdown by ALP backbencher Stephen Hones on his pledge to seek Caucus approval for a private members bill to ban gambling ads during sports broadcasts in kids time. The PM’s official statement, issued later on Sunday to accompany her doorstop announcement, follows.

The government’s policy is so minimalist the gambling and TV industry have rushed to say yes to the PM’s get out of jail free card. Note there is no ad ban, even in childrens’ viewing time.

*

Backgrounder

All promotions of odds by gambling companies and commentators will be banned during the broadcast of live sports matches, under new rules.

The Gillard Government has demanded that Australia’s broadcasters amend their broadcasting codes in the following ways to ensure a reduction in the promotion and advertising of gambling during sport:

• All promotion of betting odds on broadcast media will be prohibited during live sports matches. This includes by gambling companies and commentators.

• All generic gambling broadcast advertisements will be banned during play. Advertisements of this sort would only be allowed before or after a game; or during a scheduled break in play, such as quarter-time and half-time or the end of a set.

• Banner adverts, sponsorship logos, and other broadcast promotions must not appear during play. Read the rest of this entry »

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Australia invaded Iraq by deceiving Australian people: 43 Australian elders

In Democracy, Iraq War, Margo Kingston on May 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM
An estimated 600,000 Australians participated in Iraq War Protest Marches in  February 2003

An estimated 600,000 Australians participated in Iraq War Protest Marches in February 2003 Pic: Andy Baker

We must return stable, predictable, AND honest government to Australia.‘  Joe Hockey, May 23, National Press Club

By Margo Kingston

May 23, 2013

When I saw Paul Barratt’s tweets today on some momentous Howard government lies, I remembered this letter, which Barratt signed in 2004. The government’s trashing of the elders who signed it triggered the decision of public servant Michael Scrafton to blow the lid on the children overboard lie. Thanks for the memories, Paul. And Joe Hockey, don’t talk about bringing back honest government, please. Your last government’s record does not allow it.

Paul Barratt, AO, former Secretary Dept of Defence and Deputy Secretary Dept of Foeign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)


TIME FOR HONEST, CONSIDERED AND BALANCED FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES: A STATEMENT BY A CONCERNED GROUP OF FORMER SERVICE CHIEFS AND AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATS

Sunday August 8, 2004

We believe that a reelected Howard Government or an elected Latham Government must give priority to truth in Government. This is fundamental to effective parliamentary democracy. Australians must be able to believe they are being told the truth by our leaders, especially in situations as grave as committing our forces to war.

We are concerned that Australia was committed to join the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and the deception of the Australian people.
Saddam’s dictatorial administration has ended, but removing him was not the reason given to the Australian people for going to war. The Prime Minister said in March 2003 that our policy was “ the disarmament of Iraq, not the removal of Saddam Hussein”. He added a few days before the invasion that if Saddam got rid of his weapons of mass destruction he could remain in power.

It is a matter for regret that the action to combat terrorism after 11 September 2001, launched in Afghanistan, and widely supported, was diverted to the widely opposed invasion of Iraq. The outcome has been destructive, especially for Iraq. The international system has been subjected to enormous stress that still continues.

It is of concern to us that the international prestige of the United States and its Presidency has fallen precipitously over the last two years. Because of our Government’s unquestioning support for the Bush Administration’s policy, Australia has also been adversely affected. Terrorist activity, instead of being contained, has increased. Australia has not become safer by invading and occupying Iraq and now has a higher profile as a terrorist target.

We do not wish to see Australia’s alliance with the United States endangered. We understand that it can never be an alliance of complete equals because of the disparity in power, but to suggest that an ally is not free to choose if or when it will go to war is to misread the ANZUS Treaty. Within that context, Australian governments should seek to ensure that it is a genuine partnership and not just a rubber stamp for policies decided in Washington. Australian leaders must produce more carefully balanced policies and present them in more sophisticated ways. These should apply to our alliance with the United States, our engagement with the neighbouring nations of Asia and the South West Pacific, and our role in multilateral diplomacy, especially at the United Nations.

Above all, it is wrong and dangerous for our elected representatives to mislead the Australian people. If we cannot trust the word of our Government, Australia cannot expect it to be trusted by others. Without that trust, the democratic structure of our society will be undermined and with it our standing and influence in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Trying for Pyne and Entsch accountability on @MRowlandMP baby leave

In Ideology, Industrial Relations, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston, Misogyny, Paid Parental LEave on May 21, 2013 at 1:45 PM
Refused leave to look after her sick daughter: Michelle Rowland with daughter Octavia Chaaya and husband Michael Chaaya. Photo: Supplied - The Age

Refused leave to look after her sick daughter: Michelle Rowland with daughter Octavia Chaaya and husband Michael Chaaya. Photo: Supplied – The Age

By Margo Kingston

May 21, 2013

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about the Coalition’s May 16 response to the revelation of its decision to refuse Labor MP Michelle Rowland a pair to be with her ill baby.

Christopher Pyne, the likely new head of government business in the House of Representatives,  and Warren Entsch, the likely chief whip in an Abbott Government, made several false statements to the public about the matter which they have not withdrawn. Neither have apologised to Ms Rowland for relying on that false information to question her behaviour as a mother. Mr Abbott has not been questioned about their behaviour, and Mr Pyne has sought to erase his statements from the public record by failing to post the transcript on his website

http://www.pyneonline.com.au/category/media/transcripts

I believe it is a baseline responsibility of political journalists to require that politicians tell the truth to the public. If they don’t, more politicians will lie more often, and the public will be more misinformed than they already are. It’s an accountability responsibility of the fourth estate which involves seeking to uncover the truth and insisting that politicians who have not told the truth correct the record and explain the reasons for their falsehoods.

Last Thursday, May 16, News Limited papers published the news that Mr Entsch had refused Ms Rowland’s request for permission to return to Sydney early to be with her sick baby.

Press gallery journos on morning duty outside the doors of Parliament House, and the gallery, led by Fairfax media, Nine news and ABC radio, did a strong job getting most of the truth and the lies on the public record. Due to Pyne’s transcript cover-up, the record of his doorstop was missing, and I published it after Fairfax online editor Tim Lester kindly sent me the audio feed available to the Press Gallery.

But hey, the issue blew up on budget reply day and Press Gallery journos moved on. Fair enough – there’s a lot fewer of them these days, and they have many more platforms to fill.

So there’s a gap that new media needs to fill. We can’t do the job as well, of course, because we aren’t backed by big media employers and thus don’t have the power to pressure politicians to answer our questions. But we can put on the record the fact that politicians who have misled the people have been asked to correct false statements.

My first step was to DM Ms Rowland asking her to write a piece detailing her version of exactly what happened. And that’s when I realised that there is yet another factor in play in the brave new world of public affairs that I hadn’t comprehended – the social media pressure on politicians not to pursue stories to protect themselves from harm.

Ms Rowland said she didn’t want to write about her ordeal because she had already been falsely accused of playing politics with her child and needed to move on. As a result of statements by Mr Entsch questioning the quality of her care for her baby, she said she had been bombarded with tweets and emails saying, among other things, that she was heartless mother and would be referred to DOCS (the NSW Department of Children’s Services). ‘I don’t want crazies to mess with my mind on this. I’m a first time mother and this is the first time my baby has been this sick.’

She was happy to give me the facts as she knew them, and I talked her into letting me quote her for this story.

So here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

Ethics overboard: How to promote integrity in the moment of choice

In Democracy, Fifth Estate, Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media on May 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Capture_2013_05_19_16_39_51_112

By Margo Kingston
January 14, 2003

MARGO: With all the talk about stronger shield laws for journos, I think we are edging ever closer to needing an answer to the question: What is a journalist? We cannot argue for special protections and exemptions from privacy laws unless we can distinguish ourselves from non-journalists. To me the essential requirement is commitment to a genuinely accountable code of ethics, yet this is still just a dream. I gave this speech to a 2002 corruption prevention conference in Sydney, and reckon my idea is still relevant to the debate. I will run several pieces covering different aspects of the ‘What is a journalist’ question in the hope of genuine discussion on this vexed and increasingly urgent issue given the rise and rise of new media.

Ethics overboard

by Margo Kingston, September 2002

When you think about ethics, by which I mean ‘professional standards of conduct’, your starting point has to be your own.

Just after I started work in the big smoke of Sydney many years ago, the Herald chief of staff told me in confidence that the paper was sending a reporter posing as a prospective student into a Sydney high school to report on the youth of today in today’s public education system. The editor was to pretend to be his father when enrolling him, but was too busy to do so. Could I pose as my colleagues aunt?

Weeks later, while the reporter was still at the school, another reporter stumbled upon the project and leaked it, resulting in political condemnation in the parliament and outrage from our readers and my colleagues. Thus I discovered that journalists in the journalists union were bound by a code of ethics.

This was the first time I’d heard of it. I had a duty, personal to me, to tell anyone I was speaking to for a story what my job was, unless the matter was of such compelling public interest that I was duty bound not to. Everyone in my industry believed that this was not a case where the exception applied.

The shock of the incident marked the beginning of my deep interest in journalistic ethics. I thought about my role in relationship to my readers, and my duties to assert my professional ethics to avoid abuse of power by my industry.

I was trained as a lawyer, not a journalist. I knew my ethical duties as a lawyer: My duty was not only to the client but to the court, and I should never knowingly use as evidence material I knew to be false. So I don’t agree with the idea that ethics are instinctive in all cases. Written principles are required, and they need to be vigorously communicated as a matter fundamental to your career.

I believe the principles should be general, not particular, as particularity breeds legalism and the dangerous belief that technical avoidance equals compliance with ethical duty. Every ethical code should include not only the principles to which adherence is required, but the reasons why. For ethics, in the end, is about ourself in relation to other individuals and to our society.

The elites are in relationship with the people, and professional ethics – by accountants, lawyers, engineers, clergymen, architects – are constraints on abuse of power by the elites. A sellout of ethics for money, power, or survival, weakens the stability of the polity itself.

Example

In the early 1990s, a construction company sued an establishment Brisbane law firm for its costs in a prolonged Federal Court civil action. The firm had acted for a developer, since jailed, who instructed it to resist and delay an action for payment of a debt due for building a shopping centre by alleging fraud. There was no evidence for this accusation. The ethical duties of solicitors and barristers forbid them from pleading fraud without supporting evidence.

When the developer went into liquidation, the plaintiff bought its legal files for a pittance and sued the legal firm. The barrister involved was Ian Callinan QC, since appointed a High Court judge.

So, a former leader of the Queensland bar and a partner in Queensland’s best connected law firm were caught red-handed with their pants down.

The Queensland Law Society, a body backed by legislation to police the ethical standards required by solicitors, would not say whether or not it was examining the solicitor’s behaviour. It was confidential. And the society implied that it only acted on a complaint, not of its own motion. End of story. Read the rest of this entry »

The Liberal Party’s war on freedoms: My reply to Brandis

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston on May 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Capture_2013_05_10_15_41_00_803

By Margo Kingston

May 10, 2013

But at least the debates about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which we have seen in the past couple of years, have been a sharp reminder to the Liberal Party
of its historic mission. For in the freedom wars, there has been only one party which has stood steadfastly on the side of freedom.’ – Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech

I used to be quite close to George. We were both small-l liberals, not surprising because we grew up under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and studied law at Queensland University at the same time, a time of the right-to-march protests. For Queenslanders of our era, free speech and political freedoms are fundamental because we’ve lived under a government that didn’t believe in either.

George is a Menzies scholar, and I asked him why Sir Robert, a true believer in democratic values, had banned the Communist Party. I learned that he had tried very, very hard not to.

We fell out when he signed a stat dec denying he had called Howard a ‘lying rodent‘. I was shocked because I knew he had called him a liar and a rodent. Still am.

In retirement I eschewed anger, and was surprised how deeply angry I became while watching his free speech interview on Lateline. Luckily I’ve also learned not to write in anger, so I spent the week publishing extracts from my book which detail some of the relentless attacks on free speech and political freedom which were a hallmark of the Howard Government. That’s what the book is about, really, and that’s why, after voting Liberal in 1996, I became a Howard-hater.

How could George forget? I mean, he was one of those who fought Howard’s attempt to trample our freedoms in his anti-terror laws! How could he forget?

I think he has to forget because he has ditched his core values to survive in a Party which has slowly and surely eliminated the moderate, Menzies branch of the broad church. He has had to prove he’s not one of those limp-wristed small-l liberals any more.

The other reason for personal anger was his assertion that Bolt and Albrechtsen were the only journos who supported free speech. I have written about and campaigned for free speech all my working life, beginning with Labor’s attempt in the early 1990s to ban political advertising during elections. I have also opposed racial vilification laws on free speech grounds, and campaigned to maintain media diversity to protect free speech. It is true that many journalists, including me, support media reform  for reasons eloquently stated by Press Council chief Julian Disney (see here  and here).  We support reform because we believe in free speech, and the Brandis smear against journalists who want reform made me feel sick.

So, having sorted out the reasons for my personal anger, I planned to write a considered response to George today. This morning, before the bombshell news that Bolt and the IPA were asking Australians to donate to an IPA free speech fund, Google revealed that I had already done so.

My reply is a 2004 speech to the Sydney Institute, the same organisation which hosted George’s ‘freedom wars’ speech.

George, I am still a small l liberal. I guess you had to black out your party’s horrific free speech and political freedom record under Howard so you can sleep at night in your new skin. Good luck with that.


Not Happy, John! Reflections of a Webdiarist

By Margo Kingston
August 11, 2004

The day after Mark Latham was elected ALP leader by a whisker, I had a coffee with a Liberal MP stunned by his ladder-of-opportunity victory speech. “We’re in trouble,” he said. “Latham has updated Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Skull Beneath the Skin

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Freedom of Speech, Ideology, JWH & NGOs, Margo Kingston on May 10, 2013 at 9:48 AM
Created by Peter Nicholson NicholsonCartoons.com.au (http://nicholsoncartoons.com.au/east-timor-and-oil.html)

Created by Peter Nicholson NicholsonCartoons.com.au

By Margo Kingston
10 May 2013

In his Cry, Freedom speech this week, Shadow Attorney General George Brandis said this:

‘But at least the debates about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which we have seen in the past couple of years, have been a sharp reminder to the Liberal Party of its historic mission. For in the freedom wars, there has been only one party which has stood steadfastly on the side of freedom.’

@NoFibs has disproved this claim – indefensible given the Howard Government’s record – in several pieces which detail just some of the relentless assaults on free speech and political freedom by the Howard Government. At all times Brandis was a member of Howard’s team, and a minister in the late years. See our ‘You must remember this, George’ archive.

A new chapter in the 2007 update of my book told the saddest, baddest, meanest story of the Howard Government’s intolerance for free speech which disagreed with it. It’s hard to believe unless you are cognisant of the anti-free speech values of neo-liberalism (see the IPA philosophical rationale in Howard’s blueprint for Abbott to stifle dissent )

In short, the Howard government signed a contract with a small East Timorese NGO to monitor human rights in local prisons. Before the contract, the group joined other local NGOs to sign a statement urging Australia to recognise international dispute settling bodies in the East Timor Sea oil dispute. When Downer was informed, he broke the contract and ordered his department to lie to the group about the reasons.

When the official told to lie, Peter Ellis, protested that this would breach the ethcial duties of public servants, his career was over.

Cry, Freedom.


The Skull Beneath the Skin

On 10 December 2004, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the world’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the horrors of  the  Second World War, Downer announced grants to ten NGOs in the Asia-Pacific. ‘Australia has a proud tradition of protecting and promoting human rights,’ he said. The Timorese NGO Forum Tau Matan would get a grant to ‘monitor and educate community groups and legal officials about prison conditions’.

Accordingly, on 25 January 2005, the senior AusAID diplomat in East Timor, Peter Ellis, made a written offer on Australia’s behalf of $65,830, which became a legally binding contract when Forum Tau Matan signed off on 22 February.

While organising local media coverage to hand over the cheque, Ellis saw the NGO statements on the internet. Acting on the orders he’d received when posted to Dili to note the Howard government’s ‘political sensitivities’ about funding NGOs, he scrupulously referred the statements to AusAID’s head office in Canberra. Downer was advised.

Downer hated NGO criticisms of Australia on the Timor Sea negotiations. In a BBC interview back in May 2004, he had complained of ‘hysterical and emotional and irrational claims’ and ‘a whole lot of emotional claptrap which is being pumped up through sort of left wing NGOs’. He meant Oxfam, which in the same month, on the second anniversary of independence, had released a report noting that ‘the Australian Government is reaping more than $1 million a day from oil fields in a disputed area of the Timor Sea that is twice as close to East Timor as it is to Australia . . . In total, Australia has received nearly ten times as much revenue from Timor Sea oil and gas than it has provided in aid to East Timor since 1999. Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, Journalism, Liberal Party, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on May 9, 2013 at 6:22 PM
Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser

Liberal shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Advertiser


ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

Margo: Well here it is, the Brandis speech on free speech he calls the Freedom Wars. It is not online, so Barry Tucker rang the Brandis office and obtained a copy. Thank you @btckr. I have a feeling I’ll want to write a response soon – my boiling anger at his @Lateline interview on the speech has just about subsided enough to safely have a go. (UPDATE: My reply to Brandis.)

Thursday 21 March – the last sitting day before Parliament rose for the Easter recess – will long be remembered as one of those days of frenzy and madness which infrequently, but memorably, punctuate the pages of our political history. It was, of course, the day of the famous leadership challenge that wasn’t. We will long remember Simon Crean’s stupendous press conference, as much as we remember the confused hours and bizarre outcome which it called forth. The political shenanigans of that day masked an event which was, in its way, even more consequential: the announcement earlier that morning by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, that the Government would not proceed with its attempt to create a statutory office of Public Interest Media Advocate – the most overt interference by an Australian government with the freedom of the press since Governor Darling’s (also unsuccessful) attempt to licence newspapers in the colony of New South Wales in 1825.

Just 24 hours earlier, the Attorney-General, Mr Mark Dreyfus, had announced that the Government was also abandoning another of its ill-conceived assaults on political freedom, the bizarrely titled Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which famously – or perhaps I should say infamously – proposed to make actionable the expression of political opinions on the ground that they might be insulting or offensive to other citizens – and, for good measure, proposed to test that requirement by the subjective standard and with a reverse onus of proof.

That same morning, as Mr Dreyfus was announcing the government’s backdown on the Anti-Discrimination Bill, Mr Crean gave a little-noticed speech in the House of Representatives – although he did not know it at the time, his last Parliamentary speech as Arts Minister – introducing the Australia Council Bill. This Bill, currently before the Parliament, is the product of an extensive review of Australia’s principal arts funding body, whose operations have hitherto been governed by a Whitlam-era statue, the Australia Council Act of 1975. Although Mr Crean told the House that “the core principles of the Council … enshrined in the [1975] Act … are … retained by this bill”, there is one core principle which has disappeared entirely.[1] S. 5 of the existing Act defines the functions of the Australia Council as being to formulate and carry out policies designed, inter alia, “to uphold and promote the right of persons to freedom in the practice of the arts”. However, when one inspects the comparable clause of the new Bill, one discovers that the protection of artistic freedom has mysteriously disappeared from among the Australia Council’s core functions: a development not missed by the arts community themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten People

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Margo Kingston on May 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM
Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed parliament during his 2003 visit, which marked a shift in China's attitude to Australia. Picture: AP Source: AP

Chinese President Hu Jintao addressed parliament during his 2003 visit, which marked a shift in China’s attitude to Australia. Picture: AP Source: AP

By Margo Kingston
May 9, 2013

The day after Howard, Abbott and Brandis, among other Liberals, pulverised our freedoms for George Bush, they did it again for Chinese President Hu. This chapter of my book is Part 5 in our series of memory joggers for shadow Attorney General George Brandis, in the hope that he revises his recent speech this week proclaiming his Party a champion of free speech. Senator Brandis has rather oddly chosen not to publish the speech online so it can be freely read by voters, so for now check out the transcript of the @alberichi interview after he delivered it.

In our time, we must decide our own belief.
Either freedom is the privilege of an elite few, or it is the
right and capacity of all humanity
George Bush, address to the Australian Parliament, 23 October 2003

There are fascist tendencies in all countries – a sort of latent
tyranny . . . Suppression of attack, which is based upon suppression
of really free thought, is the instinctive weapon of the vested
interest . . . great groups which feel their power are at once subject
to tremendous temptations to use that power so as to limit the
freedom of others
Robert Menzies, ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’, from


24 October 2003

Speaker Andrew and Senate President Calvert wait at the side entrance of Parliament House to greet President Hu. A white car pulls up but instead of Hu, Chinese Foreign Minis- ter Li Zhaoxing alights to express ‘some concerns’. Andrew, Calvert and the Foreign Minister adjourn to Andrew’s office, where Li says Hu is worried about ‘two Green Sena- tors in the chamber and three guests – “dissidents” he called them – in the gallery, who were likely to interrupt the President’s speech’. Li names Chin Jin.

Andrew assures Li that the Greens’ senators will not get in, and that Chin Jin will not be in the public gallery. ‘The Speaker repeatedly gave them assurances, as best he could, that that was not going to happen. They seemed satisfied with  that.’

(Revealed by Calvert to Senate Estimates on 3 November 2003.)

When the Australian Tibetans arrive at Parliament House Chinese agents point them out to Australian security, who call Andrew. The security officers take them to the enclosed, soundproofed gallery. They cannot follow Hu’s speech because Andrew does not provide translation devices.

Chin Jin is in the office of his host, Greens MP Michael Organ, when Organ is told the fate of the two Tibetan guests. Two officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs escort Chin Jin to the security check area, then into the soundproofed area. Two Chinese officials closely watch the three guests while talking on mobile phones.

Three Parliament House security officers block senators Brown and Nettle from entering the House of Representatives. Senator Brian Harradine boycotts Hu’s speech. John Howard makes no mention of human rights or democracy in his welcome to Hu, but stresses the trade relationship.

Several Liberals refuse to applaud Hu’s speech, including NSW Senator Bill Heffernan, who also pointedly fails to use his translation device during the speech.

After Hu’s speech, NSW Liberal Senator Marise Payne muses over coffee, ‘I have to say something about Tibet.’

At the joint Hu–Howard press conference, Howard states, ‘I can say very confidently that it is a strong relationship built on mutual respect for each other’s traditions.’

That evening Speaker Neil Andrew refuses to tell the Australian people what he’s done, declining to comment when the media calls. The next day the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian break the story of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s intervention.

Read the full chapter below. Read the rest of this entry »

A day in the life of Our House under siege

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Democracy, Margo Kingston on May 8, 2013 at 9:57 PM
Bush and Howard during visit to Australia. Credit. ABC

Bush and Howard during visit to Australia. Credit. ABC

By Margo Kingston
May 8, 2013

Margo: In this chapter from my book, I detail the unprecedented mauling of press, parliamentary and citizen’s freedom in Parliament by Howard when George Bush came to Canberra in 2003. Brandis was in the thick of it, and made no protest. My contemporaneous report of the events is Parliament meets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy

Political systems have much more frequently been overthrown by their own corruption and decay than by external forces
Robert Menzies, ‘The Sickness of Democracy’, from The Forgotten People radio broadcasts, 1942

The anti-democratic hustle

On 8 October 2003 John Howard’s government lied to the Australian people to obtain their Parliament’s consent to hold a special joint sitting for President George W. Bush. Manager of business Tony Abbott told the people’s House:

‘The government has decided to deal with the visit of President Bush in precisely the same way that the Keating Government dealt with the visit of President Bush Senior on 2 January 1992. As well as the formal Parliamentary proceedings, there will obviously be an opportunity for all members of this Parliament to mix with President Bush, and very possibly to meet him.’

Senior ministers would hold talks with the President, Abbott said, adding, ‘Of course, there will be similar opportunities for the Leader of the Opposition and senior shadow ministers. This Parliament spends a lot of time dealing with what might be described as politics as usual, but it is important to put politics as usual aside for this day.’

The 1992 speech by Bush Senior was the first time any foreign head of state had addressed our Parliament. There is nothing in the Constitution to allow it and no precise rules in place. But his visit had gone well. Australians had generally supported our participation in the UN-endorsed coalition to drive Iraq from Kuwait, and the man who’d masterminded it arrived as a largely uncontroversial figure. ‘Politics as usual’ was put aside by making Bush Senior’s stay a state visit. He was welcomed at Kingsford Smith Air- port on his arrival in Australia by the Governor-General, Bill Hayden, with Prime Minister Keating in attendance; there was a state dinner hosted by the Governor-General at Government House, a non-partisan parliamentary dinner hosted by Keating, and meetings with government, Opposition and even farm lobby leaders. The President mixed equally with all our representatives after his speech to show his respect for the honour we, their electors, had extended to him; and he treated our media congenially and with even- handedness throughout.

Australian Prime Minister: Thank you for coming. And just before I invite the President to say a few words, just to outline, first of all, the structure of the press conference so we can operate smoothly . . . I hope we’ll be able to take a roughly even amount from both the Australian and visiting press . . .

American President: My [opening] remarks, Mr Prime Minister, will be very brief. And I simply want to, once again, thank you, thank all of our official hosts, and thank the people of Australia for the warmth of the reception on this visit . . . And I’ll be glad to take my share of the questions.

At that joint press conference Australian journalists asked Bush Senior about half of the twenty-two questions he fielded. Presumably when Abbott told Parliament that this next Bush visit would proceed in ‘precisely the same way’ both our press gallery and elected representatives felt reassured.

The anti-democratic sting

Contrary to Abbott’s pledge, the government already knew that, unlike the visit by his dad, the visit by Bush Junior would NOT be a state visit, but a partisan ‘working’ one, as a guest NOT of the governor-general, our head of state, but of John Howard. The President would NOT ‘very possibly . . . meet’ our parliamentarians, or even ‘obviously . . . mix’ with them. He would NOT ‘of course’ meet senior shadow ministers. He would NOT hold a press conference.

The government knew all this weeks before Abbott misled Parliament to obtain our consent. Read the rest of this entry »

Brandis: Enemy of free speech, friend of false speech, on children overboard

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Margo Kingston on May 8, 2013 at 3:03 PM
Sly defensive. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

Sly defensive. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

By Margo Kingston
Wednesday, 1 September, 2004
Source: Webdiary

The intense strain on the two people in Senate Committee room 2S1 today was palpable. The two had by very difficult choice propped up the credibility of a cowardly and bullying Prime Minister for nearly three years. Yet Howard’s point man on children overboard – George Brandis, whose own credibility has been questioned this week – put the boot into the truth-teller, Mike Scrafton.

Yesterday’s resumed children overboard inquiry produced the most dramatic, and painful, human drama I have seen in Parliament or on the stage.

Consider this:

Mike Scrafton has turned his life upside down to have his very belated say. His account of how he came to the decision, and the never-before-heard perspective of an ethical public servant, can be read in The catharsis of Mike Scrafton.

There’s never been commercial sponsorship for a whistleblower. He’s lost his very precious anonymity and privacy. He knew his life would be trawled over by the man whose image he threatened, and that anything would be used – completely out of context if necessary – to destroy his reputation to save John Howard’s.

Scrafton, after correcting the record, signed a statutory declaration swearing on oath that he was telling the truth, took the most credible lie detector test available, and submitted himself to scrutiny by the people of Australia through the resumed Senate children overboard inquiry. He knew that would mean brutal cross examination by Howard’s de facto barrister George Brandis, the most brilliant legal mind in the Parliament.

Queensland Senator Brandis had yesterday been accused by a former senior Liberal Party official in that state, by statutory declaration, of calling Howard a “lying rodent” over the children overboard scandal, and of complaining that “we’ve got to go off and cover his arse again on this”.

Last night, Brandis countered the accusations with his own statutory declaration denying that he had said these or similar words on the occasion alleged or at all, either in public or private. The significance of signing a statutory declaration is that you swear an oath that what you are saying is true. If it is not, then criminal charges can be brought against you. You are putting your personal integrity on the line.

Brandis submitted his oath in the knowledge that many people in Parliament House and beyond know that he does call Howard “the rodent” in private. Under pressure, he made partial admissions to @MikeSeccombe.

Brandis deliberately sought to destroy Scrafton’s reputation through the use of untested, unsworn assertions of fact based on ‘evidence’ he insisted be kept confidential and the source for which he refused to reveal. He also refused to take the stand to be questioned as a witness.

And who was that source? The Prime Minister. And who backed his version? The four Howard political staffers who signed statements backing Howard’s denial of Scrafton’s claim, but all of whom followed the PM’s lead in NOT signing statutory declarations and all of whom refused to appear before the committee. Their motivations are, quite simply, blindingly obvious.

Thus, to get cheap headlines designed to destroy the reputation of the man in the dock – on behalf of the man who refused to subject himself to the same scrutiny yet triumphantly beamed on national TV tonight that Brandis must be telling the truth because he WAS prepared to sign a statutory declaration – Brandis stooped to the level of feigning shock that he might not be believed, that:

1. Howard was in the Lodge at all times on the night when Scrafton testified that he told him there was no truth in the children overboard claims;

2. There were only eight phones at the Lodge; two landlines, Mr and Mrs Howard’s mobiles, and the four mobiles of the Howard ‘team’; Read the rest of this entry »