Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘John Howard’

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 »

Advertisements

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 »

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 »

Costello’s free speech record

In Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Margo Kingston on March 15, 2013 at 9:06 AM
06fdf300-6e89-11e1-9a0f-fc6d4e3f9f56__MG_3558--646x363

Peter Costello

Queensland Liberals are taking a leaf out of the Howard-Costello playbook on crunching free speech for charities and non-government organisations. Just after we published my book chapter on Howard’s multi-pronged attack on free speech led by the IPA, readers advised that Campbell Newman was copying Howard’s policy of gagging NGOs who received government funding.

Federal Labor removed Howard’s gag clauses when it came to power, and has now introduced legislation to ban them in federal government contracts with NGOs. It will be fascinating to see how the Coalition votes, given its outspoken rejection of strengthened self regulation by the mainstream media, and its support for blatant abuses of power by Murdoch newspapers.

On Wednesday, in response to the government’s media reform proposals, Abbott tweeted:

We shall see.

In the meantime, several readers have tweeted a piece from the Webdiary archive on Peter Costello’s changing views on the right to free speech in opposition and Government. So here it is, with the note that he now Newman’s mentor.


By Margo Kingston
July 30, 2003
Source: Webdiary

As Peter Costello tries to hose down his incendiary assault on free speech through tying tax relief for charities to their willingness to drop or downgrade public advocacy for the underprivileged and the powerless, perhaps he’ll take time to reflect on what he used to believe in.

Back in 1992 Costello, then shadow Attorney-General, led a vigorous campaign on free speech grounds against the Labor government’s law banning political advertising on television and radio. In the end, the High Court threw out the laws after finding that the Australian Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to free speech on political matters.

When I interviewed Costello on the ramifications of the High Court’s finding, he called on Labor to establish a parliamentary rights and freedoms committee to ensure that legislation contrary to human rights did not become law. He said the Courts should not be forced to protect our rights and freedoms, and had done so because Parliament had failed in its duty to do so. (See article republished below)

The High Court was activist in those days, and has since retreated from protecting citizens rights by constitutional implication as the Howard government began stacking the Court with legal conservatives.

At the time, Justice Toohey said there were virtually no parliamentary checks on “arbitrary government”, and that the judiciary would limit abuse of power by implying constitutional protections of “core liberal-democratic values”. Read the rest of this entry »

To perform our democratic function we need and are entitled to the truth: Tony Fitzgerald

In Corruption, Democracy, Margo Kingston on March 6, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Tony Fitzgerald

Tony Fitzgerald  Photo: Tamara Voninski Brisbane Times

By Margo Kingston
March 6, 2013

News of the accidental publication of secret documents from the Fitzgerald Royal Commission got me thinking about my hero in the context of recent examples of our corrupt and dishonest politics. Tony Fitzgerald exposed the corruption at the heart of the Bjelke-Petersen government and laid out a blueprint for ethical government.

Tony Fitzgerald and Mike Ahern

Tony Fitzgerald and Mike Ahern

Southerners were smug, but it’s since been shown that their governments were much more corrupt than ours.

In 2004 Tony launched my book Not Happy, John! Defending out democracy and made some harsh judgments about the state our democracy. It’s got worse, and last year he noted with dismay the cronyism in the Queensland LNP government

After awful news out of the NSW corruption inquiry, this week the Victorian Liberal National government was revealed to have sold access to ministers and the Premier to developers, an unethical practice now commonplace in Australian politics.

So, on the night the Victorian Premier resigned amid evidence of cover-up, ministerial perjury and the payment of hush money, I publish Tony’s 2004 speech and urge both big parties to develop and announce serious policies to return honesty and ethics to public life.


June 29, 2004
Source: Webdiary

Webdiary

Justice Tony Fitzgerald’s speech launching my Not happy John! Defending our democracy at Gleebooks in Sydney on June 22. Michelle Grattan reported on the speech at Fitzgerald berates both sides of politics

In a speech last year, the author Norman Mailer described democracy as ‘a state of grace that is attained only by those countries which have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it’. Not Happy John! is Margo Kingston’s admirable contribution to the ‘heavy labor’ of maintaining democracy in Australia.

As the title hints, Margo has focused her analysis on the behaviour of the current Commonwealth government, especially the Prime Minister. In the words of the publisher: ‘Not Happy, John! is a gutsy, anecdotal book with a deadly serious purpose: to lay bare the insidious ways in which John Howard’s government has profoundly undermined our freedoms and our rights. She doesn’t care whether you vote Liberal or Labor, Greens or One Nation. She isn’t interested in the old, outworn left – right rhetoric. What she’s passionate about is the urgent need for us to reassert the core civic values of a humane, egalitarian, liberal democracy.’

You will observe the force of Margo’s argument when you read her book, as obviously you should. My brief remarks will be directed to the damage that mainstream politicians generally are doing to our democracy.

Australians generally accept that democracy is the best system of government, the market is the most efficient mechanism for economic activity and fair laws are the most powerful instrument for creating and maintaining a society that is free, rational and just. However, we are also collectively conscious that democracy is fragile, the market is amoral and law is an inadequate measure of responsibility.

As former Chief Justice Warren of the United States Supreme Court explained: ‘Law… presupposes the existence of a broad area of human conduct controlled only by ethical norms.’

Read the rest of this entry »

The new terrorists

In Margo Kingston, Refugees on March 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM
webdiary_0708davies (1)

Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

By Margo Kingston
November 22, 2001
Source: Webdiary

EDITORS NOTE: I was going to write a piece about Morrison’s play this week to trap Gillard in Western Sydney with his asylum seeker ambush when I realised I already had, more than a decade ago. Looks like Abbott is copying his political father’s playbook to win the 2001 election.

*

Reading Frank Devine’s column in Monday’s Australian, it hit me that the vicious cycle of demonisation of “the other” had reached its illogical conclusion.

There was not a skerrick of a suggestion that terrorists were among the boat people until after September 11. Suddenly, without evidence, the link was made – by Peter Reith, Phillip Ruddock and by John Howard in the last week of the campaign. The reactionary right jumped on board immediately, repeating the claim, embellishing it, and refusing to interrogate what it meant – an implicit admission that our security checks were not up to scratch. You’d expect an upgrading of security, wouldn’t you? None was announced. And what difference would processing the boat people offshore make to the danger – most assessed as refugees and cleared by security would come here anyway? None of these questions were asked. None of them mattered.

The fear of terrorism was all too real after September 11. Naturally. Yet, from what we know to date, the terrorists entered the United States by air, with fake or real passports. They had the money to do the job without putting themselves in danger. We also know that there are more than 60,000 overstayers in Australia – people who have also broken the rules. Surely, if fear of terrorist infiltration was real, the fear would focus on our airports and the security we use to weed out fake documents. And surely it would settle on the rule-breakers already in our midst. A boat person is subject to serious, intensive security checks, so logically is much LESS likely to be a terrorist after jumping those hurdles.

But logic has no place in this debate. It feeds on itself – so much so that Howard happily released the video which proved his government had lied about its proof that children had been thrown overboard two days before the election, and busily filled our television screens and radio airwaves with his defence. In truth, truth has become irrelevant. The emotions fuelled by Howard’s campaign, and his tactics of complete identification with people’s fears, are visceral. Exposure of untruth cemented support for the misrepresenters.

Logic is unwanted. The use of it merely reminds its users of the irrelevance of their discourse. Beazley’s pleas to the public that terrorists were far more likely to arrive in suits and carrying impeccable documentation at airports than on leaky boats, his last-minute protests that it was unnecessary to lie and demonise to prove the case for border protection, had zero impact.

And so we come to Frank Devine and his condemnation of the increased Greens vote at the election due to voters “in prosperous parts of Melbourne and Sydney”.

“Prosperity has much to recommend it, as do Melbourne and Sydney. However, it is from unthreatened urban enclaves that primal Greens come, combining sanctimonious tree worship with ruthlessness.”

“The Greens are also somewhat unusual in having an organised activist wing, Greenpeace, as well as a political one. Is it going too far to make comparisons with Sinn Fein and the IRA? No further than I’m prepared to go.”

You see what he’s done through imagery? There are terrorists on board the boats. Some people have supported the party which supports the terrorists on the boats. Those voters are terrorists. We are the terrorists within. It’s a line of “thought” echoing the link made between anti-globalisation protesters and the September 11 terrorists by his daughter in the Herald a week before.

The rhetorical devices used by such columnists is simple. Set up a straw man, `the other”, speak from the position of the right-thinking, normal reader, just like the writer, and tear the straw man down. It’s emotive polemic. It eschews reason at the same time as it purports to represent reason. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking to past to prepare for future: Lessons of a Webdiary story

In AFHP, Fairfax, Margo Kingston, MSM on February 16, 2013 at 8:03 PM

by Margo Kingston
March 15 2006
Source: webdiary.com.au

Former Liberal Party federal president John Valder and Margo at a forum in the Blue Mountains, 2004.

Former Liberal Party federal president John Valder and Margo at a forum in the Blue Mountains, 2004.

18.02.2013: It seems I’m diving in again, so I’ve read about what happened last time. I decided to publish the past for anyone interested in the future of Australians for Honest Politics, as my beliefs about professionals partnering with citizens to do citizen journalism haven’t changed. This is an edited version of a speech I gave a few months after retiring due to burnout and ill health. Nancy Cato told me today there are no failures, only past experiences. Onward.

WHEN someone from the South Australian Governor’s leadership forum suggested I speak to it on ‘the media, democracy, citizenship and globalisation’ I asked if she knew I’d just failed – spectacularly – in making a go of my independent Webdiary, which I launched last August when Fairfax gave me the choice of ditching my vision or going solo.

Fairfax’s slow but relentless rejection of my work since 2001, when they made me leave Canberra and warehoused me in the backwater of the Sydney Morning Herald online, culminated, I thought then, in mid 2004.

The SMH editor Robert Whitehead vetoed the literary editor’s recommendation to publish an extract of Not Happy John! and pulled a piece on the book from the Spectrum section. Fairfax Sunday papers then picked up the rights, but the Sunday Age editor reneged on the contract with my publisher and refused to pay, while the Sun Herald would not have published the extract without the last minute intervention of the features editor. The Sun Herald also cancelled my weekly column as I was about to travel around Australia launching the book. I was told when I called to advise that my piece was on its way.

Naturally I saw the writing on the wall for Webdiary. The latest redundancy round had just closed fully subscribed, but they agreed to my offer to take redundancy in return for a contract to write for, edit and publish Webdiary for three years. I knew that three years would be it, and invested half my redundancy package in employing my brother Hamish to organise and launch Your Democracy, a website to experiment with citizen journalism with a view to moving Webdiary there when my contract expired.

But by early last year, the new publishing system which came with the contracted Webdiary, which enabled readers to comment directly through a comments box rather than by email, had overwhelmed me. Editing and publishing the ever increasing number of comments saw me chained to my computer seven days a week, unable to research or write my own stuff. So I asked for a couple of technical tweaks to cut down processing time.

From a detached viewpoint, this should have been no problem. I was on less than half my permanent employee pay doing the same job without the permanent employer add ons, a job I’d done without supervision or a writ for nearly five years. It was very popular and a unique feature of  the SMH online. It remained the sole mainstream media interactive political site, one which consciously and transparently sought to fulfil the journalist’s code of ethics while allowing anyone with something to say the opportunity to do so and to criticise me and question its framework and judgment.

Under Fred Hilmer, Fairfax was a short-term bottom-line-focused operation which saw journalism as an expensive and troublesome way of filling the space between the ads. Short term costs were the dominant factor in every decision apart from the size of mega executive bonuses. At first my request was dealt with by SMH online managers with no budget, so I disclosed my technical problems to readers, and lo and behold they came up with an idea I thought was breathtaking in its generosity and its advantages to Fairfax.

Readers offered to edit comments on a voluntary basis and to construct a new site with upgraded technical features, also for free.

Wow! Read the rest of this entry »

Jane Cattermole asks: Why a different rule for Peter Slipper?

In Ashby Conspiracy, Jane Cattermole on January 15, 2013 at 11:57 AM

By Jane Cattermole
15th January 2013

Peter-Slipper-420x0

Peter Slipper, for the latter part of his parliamentary career was much maligned and ridiculed by colleagues and members of the media alike. He was called a “turncoat”, a “rat”, ”Slippery” and was portrayed as “King Rat” on the front of a News Ltd tabloid complete with a digitally altered image of him with whiskers and a rat’s tail, and mockingly, dressed in a wig and gown.

Despite the relentless gossip about his private life and the constant trashing of his reputation he took to high office impressively and most would agree that he was an exemplary Speaker. He showed fear and favour to no one, he ejected senior politicians from the House and told the PM on more than one occasion to confine herself to questions of relevance.

It’s a matter of history now that Slipper was accused of sexual harassment by James Ashby and that the titillating details of their private text messages were splashed all over the daily newspapers. They were talked about ad nauseam on commercial TV, radio, SKY News and our ABC alike. Tony Abbott was so sure of its implications for the Speaker and government that within hours of charges being laid he was announcing that it was untenable that an MP facing such serious allegations should hold such a senior position in the parliament. Not content to let the court do its job he was relentlessly pursued by the Coalition who moved to have him removed as Speaker. He survived the vote in the House but with his reputation in tatters, and his political career in ruins he resigned in tears. Read the rest of this entry »