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Love from all your friends

I met Margo Kingston for the first time on 23 September 1993, when I was a Captain in the Army and posted as Aide-de-Camp to Governor General Bill Hayden. Here's my journal entry for the night:

23 September 1993: …dinner tonight for Francesca Beddie (former DFAT colleague of the Boss). Sat next to Margo Kingston - journo for Canberra Times. Have read her pieces on and off. Arrived dressed in black, looking every inch the classic Leftie (one-dimensional, etc). Anyway, proved to be one of the most steel-trap minds I've ever met. Truly multi-dimensional, great intellect, really impressive. We had a great chat. I found her bloody captivating, and exactly what I think a great journo should be: strong-minded,  open-minded, broad philosophy. Have to admit, found her bloody sexy, too. Really enjoyed the night…I played all the contentious questions - 'navy sexual harassment', 'Hayden's history and personality', 'Government House' shit, etc - dead-pan. There was the odd gentle probe alright. You'd expect that from a good journo. Enjoyable night.  Quite pissed, actually.

I met a lot of journalists that year - Oakes, Kelly, Ramsey, O'Brien, all the self-important Famous Authoritative & Responsible Typers & Talkers, or FARTTs, that constitute 'mainstream journalism'. Most of them were nice enough, but none of them had much time for a conservative, junior Army officer whose key purpose, as far as they were concerned, was handing around chocolates during after-dinner drinks. Of all the Canberra Insiders I ever got the chance to talk with, only Margo really gave a shit about my opinions and listened to my answers as if she wanted to hear them.

So it was no great surprise to me seven years later when Margo took me and my opinions seriously again, even though like most Webdiarists I remain a complete nobody as far as the 'Canberra Game' goes. And it was no surprise that she continued to take me seriously, and give me more and more opportunities to put my opinions into the public domain as Webdiary developed. It doesn't surprise me that, thanks to her personal example, her tenacity and drive and relentless, hard-nosed idealism, Webdiary has been such a successful and ground-breaking experiment in participative journalism for so long. Knowing Hamish and the current team it won't surprise me at all if keeps going successfully on, too, even without such a direct input from her. The whole point about taking someone else's opinions seriously, and treating them like an equal and an adult, is that you encourage a reciprocal response in them. Margo never played the 'First Among Equals' prima donna, and from the start treated everyone here in a genuinely democratic manner - if you wanted to have a say, you could. End of story. It was all up to you (which is why I always laugh at those who claimed Webdiary is loaded to the 'left'; if that's so, it's solely because those on the right are too lazy to get off their bums and contribute.) 

This is why Webdiary isn't going to disappear, even if MK does, too. We'll all keep it rolling along, somehow - including, no doubt, those creeps who only ever use the 'Diary for the charming purpose of calling MK ugly, stupid, mentally ill and a loony, etcetera. It's funny, isn't it, that some of the most vitriolic Webdiary-haters have also been some of the most durable and dutiful contributors. (Nice to see good old Imre pop in for a visit on MK's last day…hi Immers, you old stayer, you.)

By the way, here I'd just like to ask something I've wanted to ask for nearly five years, but have always been stopped by Margo, who never wanted to get into tit-for-tatting with her grubbiest critics: to all you cyber-jerks out there who think it's funny to call a woman 'ugly' in public, what sort of men are you, exactly? Haven't you got sisters, or mums, or daughters? Don't you ask yourself what they'd think of such hateful personal insults? Aren't you embarrassed by yourselves as men?  Jesus, I know I am on your behalf.

Grooming stank - if it wasn't for The Australian's Senior Editorial Writer we might never have realised what that was an anagram of. Thank God for Rupert Murdoch, I always say.

Anyway, sorry, this is supposed to be a tribute to someone I admire enormously, a woman I've been proud to call a friend for a few years now. I just want to write down, unfortunately without much editing or coherence or completeness (since I've just knocked off and my brain is still floating in pub dishwater), some of the great things about this remarkable person, whom this site will, with luck, welcome back often.

She's the most honest public figure I've ever known; honest to the point of self-destruction, of making herself vulnerable and an easy target - invariably hit by cheap shooters, too. Margo isn't naïve about public life - far from it. She knows exactly how the game is played and always knew what sort of shit she'd cop for wearing her heart on her sleeve. But she also realised years ago that the only way that Australian journalism will ever change - improve - is for individual Australian journalists to lead by (scary, ground-breaking) personal example.

So she always did. And it's cost her a lot.

She's been incredibly generous to Webdiarists with her time and space and, lately, her money. God, if some of you only knew the half of what it's cost her. MK's tough, but to those of you who obviously set out to do so, don't feel sad that you haven't managed to hurt her deeply enough over the years. Because you have, to the point of helpless, frustrated tears and profound depressions. Well done. You must be very proud. Why would you want to hurt her so badly - call her a 'loon', a 'crazy', a 'bitch', a 'Jew-hater', a 'terrorist-lover' (and much worse)? Why would you want to abuse her good faith in allowing you to post here, or inviting you to write a column, or contribute a chapter to a book? What - because she's sometimes called John Howard or George Bush or Bob Carr or Rupert nasty names herself? So you think they need your protection from big bad Margo, do you?

I'm sure Mr Bush and Mr Howard and Mr Murdoch, and other powerful men and women who will still be here when she is gone, are very grateful for your protection. Well done. You really know how to go after the hard targets, don't you. Sorry, again, excuse my mild bitterness. It's not exactly becoming. Sorry, MK. I know you hate the negative stuff. Margo's kind, and compassionate, and smart, and good drinking company, too, because she's also funny. No, honestly, she is; Margo's always had a great sense of humour, even though she thinks she doesn't. Unfortunately one thing about running a website that's a collaboration of diverse and often earnest voices is that you have to surrender a bit of your own sense of the ridiculous in public, lest you get good faith contributors offside. One man's joke is another's insult, and all that. MK has a finer sense of black irony than most. If she wasn't free to wield it as often as she might have liked here at the 'Diary then it's because when you're trying hard to take everyone's opinion seriously, you have to take everyone's opinion…well, seriously.

She's a great reporter. Tough and fearless - she's especially not afraid to risk making a fool of herself in public, which is one of the greatest and most underrated assets any modern reporter can have. It's rare, too. The vast majority of Australian journos lie awake night praying that, next day, they don't make a fool of themselves in the Big Press Conference. That's why they're such lemmings; it's that mundane: they all have wet dreams about being iconoclastic and fiercely independent, but wet themselves when actually faced with the opportunity to do so. Go and watch the video of Margo taking on Bob Carr some time; in the background you see row after row of meek little lamb, shuffling in embarrassment while MK went after Carr solo. These are the same big tough pack dwellers who lambast Carr endlessly nowadays - he's not Premier, see.

Margo's got more guts than the entire Press Gallery. What a pack of pussycats they are…oh look, I'd better stop now. I could go on about her but it's late, I'm f**ked, and this article is not doing six years of brilliant endeavor (and privileged friendship) the slightest justice. Sorry, Margo; this decision's caught me a bit short and clumsy. Probably caught us all on the hop. In the end, I think you all know how we all feel about you anyway. But my thanks to you, and especially to the current Webdiary team, for letting me late-night-ramble a bit and have a go explaining it again here; here, on your last WD day (for now), perhaps, as an early and long-time contributor, loosely representative of all your proud 'Diarists over the years.

We all just wanted to say how much we are personally grateful to this remarkable women; how proud we are - I am, many here at Webdiary are - to call you our friend and, just incidentally, to close this MK era in a traditional Webdiary end-of-year way, by announcing you, mate, as the Webdiary Meeja Watch Most Memorable Australian of 2005.

Take care of yourself, girl. Be proud of what you've built here, visit often, and above all, know how much we all love you. We love you, MK.

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Dinner with Bill Hayden

Hi Jack. As usual a great piece. You tell a bloody great yarn!

I haven't met Margo but I can still honestly say that I admire what she has achieved. She is almost the perfect Aussie. There is just that little flaw that we don't talk about... (Ssshh. She is a Banana Bender, but try not to hold it against her.)

I went to a lunch at the Newcastle decommissioned steel mills at BHP, Newcastle in the early 90's. Bill Hayden (GG) was the guest speaker. I remember Bill had a sexy little (female) Aide-de-Camp seated upon his right. Didn't notice who was on his left. Could it have been you by any chance?

re: Love from all your friends

Good to hear your blessed decent voice again, Jack!

re: Love from all your friends

It was actually a good piece, Jack. A bit more restrained than usual, and the pen did the talking. No hyperbole. an honest thumbnail an onloker suspects to be drawn of long-term respect; the more beleivable for the lack of mawk. The sort of thing that makes Rembrandt beautiful.

re: Love from all your friends

Thanks Jack for saying well what many of us Webdiarists were thinking and feeling yesterday. It has been wonderful to get to know you and other WD people through Margo's tireless efforts at making the SMH version and this version work.

Nasty people get particularly so when they know you are in no state to defend yourself. The benefit for the rest of us is that it does remind us how good most of humankind actually is, and in that there is hope for the future.

We should all get together for a real drink in the new year and toast MK's recovery and discovery journey. You've got my email.

re: Love from all your friends

Webdiary has been a great source of information and a great place to debate. For those opposed to the current government it has been a rallying point. As Crikey pointed out weeks ago other attempts to create a similar site pale in comparison to Margo's creation. My regret is that I stumbled onto Webdiary less than 12 months ago.

Margo and the team have given all a fair go whether they oppose the views of Margo or otherwise.

It was very upseting to see some posters use vitriol against Margo when in the past she has been so generous to them. For a dynamic environment we do need opposing views to be debated, to maintain our freedom we need to continue to assert our right to freedom of speech.

To date Webdiary has been a success, issues have been disclosed that would not have been in the tired old style media.

Hopefully those with a conservative view will continue to debate issues. It has been great where posters have remained on topic and not made personal attacks. Thank you Webdiary team.

re: Love from all your friends

Thanks for writing what so many of us felt yesterday, Jack. Margo's one-day experiment in publishing a selection of un-moderated comments (though by no means the worst of them) indicates again why we can't maintain any civilised discourse without the moderation step. I really do wonder why some people take pride in writing stuff on the internet that would cause their girlfriend or their boss to sever all contact with them on the spot - presumably the same sort of people who thought it was funny to bury broken glass in the sand in the toddler's playground near our house.

re: Love from all your friends

Thank's Jack for putting into words what many of us want to express and in your own inimitable way.

re: Love from all your friends

Jack, great piece. If that was clumsy then I await elegance with anticipation.

You've captured Margo's huge character and huge contribution in a snapshot that will stand to repudiate any suggestion that she has failed in spades.

re: Love from all your friends

I forwarded $50 via the internet last night and am writing this to pursuade others, who like myself, unthinkingly tend to regard everything on the net as "free". I first came across Webdiary after Margo's sessions on Late Night Live and have been reading it ever since.

I regard any continuing contribution as a very effective and cost-effective anti-depressant first thing in the morning, convincing me, from the great majority of contributors, that idealism and regard for the greater public good is not some time expired and quaint idea that gave me a decent tertiary education but should now be buried.

re: Love from all your friends

Having never contributed or commented before on Webdiary (I have been logging on several times a day for over a year and used it as an alternative news source), I am compelled today to give thanks to Margo for a truly great website. I know others like me have used the site and never contributed but are grateful for the resource.

The way Margo has been treated by some is a sad indication that free speech is often mistaken as a right without a corresponding responsibility, yet I hope this will help to build a stronger resource where perhaps membership will be necessary. It may address both the nuisance comments and some of the business issues.

I wish Margo every success in the future and hope she knows that many more people are saddened by her decision and I also hope she doesn't drift too far away because her input is a reassuring indication that people still care about each other.

re: Love from all your friends

Good piece Jack. If more journos were like her this would be a much better world. We love you and will miss you Margo but I bet you will do a piece or two or three...

re: Love from all your friends

Thanks for the tribute to Margo. It was long overdue. Australia is richer for the contributions that have been made by Margo and the Webdiary team ... I only wish that I had become a part of the Webdiary community much sooner. Good luck with the new venture.

re: Love from all your friends

A nice summing-up of the respect and affection in which Margo is held by so many. It is no mean feat to be able to garner both.

If 'success' for organisations did mean some kind of crude eminence on the business fitness landscape perhaps WD would have failed. But that notion is about as valid as GDP is for the success of nations.

Margo has achieved more with WD than most lesser folk will manage in their lifetimes, and she is widely loved and admired for it.

re: Love from all your friends

Today I have mowed the lawn in the time I normally read the Webdiary. An empty experience in comparison with the normal clash of ideas. I was amused that you are being called a "lefty" - just shows how far right Australia has moved. We are "Still Not Happy John".

Thank you again Margo and please recharge for the final fight for democracy. You have made a wonderful contribution.

re: Love from all your friends

David, yes, yesterday's posts make very clear the need for moderation to deal with the cowardly and nasty, just as the last 10 days of shameful parliamentary behaviour illustrate the same thing, without a proper Senate process the cowardly and nasty think they own the world. They don't, they are mortal, they will die, others will take their place ... all in the course of nature if not otherwise.

re: Love from all your friends

Jack Robertson, you said:

"She's the most honest public figure I've ever known; honest to the point of self-destruction, of making herself vulnerable and an easy target - invariably hit by cheap shooters, too. Margo isn't naïve about public life - far from it. She knows exactly how the game is played and always knew what sort of shit she'd cop for wearing her heart on her sleeve. But she also realised years ago that the only way that Australian journalism will ever change - improve - is for individual Australian journalists to lead by (scary, ground-breaking) personal example.

"So she always did. And it's cost her a lot."

Those are my sentiments exactly. I believe this is what drew me to Margo's site. Her absolute intellectual and emotional honesty shone through.

I wasn't one of the "regulars", though I was becoming more vocal as issues that were so dear to me, and of so much concern, were aired and discussed.

I hope that when Margo has healed her body, her soul (and her finances?) she will come back to post from time to time. She was, and is "up there" in my list of truly passionate, caring individuals.

My sense of real grief was enormous yesterday. At last I'd found this brilliant Aussie site where Aussie voices were heard and all opinions were treated with respect. (I ignore the "cheap shots", just as I ignore them on forums on other international sites. They're simply not worth the energy it takes to get mad at them.)

I'd been trawling the web for years in my search for the truth, and except for many years ago, when there was a site in Australia called www.publicdebate.com.au, I had failed to find a really good Aussie one. Now I had.

I understand Hamish and others will be continuing this site. Will it have a new name? And if so, what will it be called, so that I can come back readily, to keep in touch with like minded Aussies.

Thank yo again, Margo, for your exceptionally valuable contribution to free journalism, especially at this time where new sedition laws under now a fact in Australia.

We needed you, and will always need to know where you are and what you are doing. I guess we know that whatever you do will always have Australia's best interests at heart.

Thank you so much for what you have given us.

re: Love from all your friends

Jack, we love you too mate, where the hell have you been?

I started on the diary nearly 4 years ago when a neighbour taught me how to use the internet and then I was given a computer at home. I didn't meet her until July 2003 at the Festival of Ideas in Adelaide - it was a case of instant rapport followed by a great dinner with a group. Regulars will know that was the weekend that Philip Adams helped her give birth to Not Happy John.

She was clearly way ahead of most that weekend among a weekend of luminaries - we were graced and blessed to have David Marr (who bought me lunch), Robert Manne, Philip, Frank Brennan and many others - but no-one was greeted like Margo.

I saw her again last year at the launch of Not Happy John and the launch of Brian Deegan's heartwrenching book "Remembering Josh".

The book shop that does those launches usually does it in a small room but with Not Happy John they packed out a huge hall which was interesting because Margo took a while to convince that she should come.

For some silly reason she thought we didn't like her here in Adelaide.

Just got a message from one of her colleagues expressing his regrets from Amman. Read the Herald to see who is in Amman covering Saddam's trial.

Margo will be back just because she is so damn curious.

And Jack, you too love.

re: Love from all your friends

Best of luck to Margo. I remember stumbling across Webdiary a couple of years ago. what impressed me about Margo was her moderate and kind responses to people who were ranting, abusive, insulting or just plain stupid. What does not impress me is the campaign by Tim B.Liar and others to portray her as mad and ugly. As far as ugly goes, I want all her critics to post photos of themselves, so we can criticise them. The majority of us are not supermodels and Margo is just a typical, non-supermodel Aussie woman like millions of us. The trouble is, she's highly intelligent and so must be shot down.

I wish her every success in whatever she does next.

Jack, you write like a dream. Your pieces have been inspirational. Please get your own blog!

re: Love from all your friends

More and many more of us will not remain in fearful silence
Watching power broking strutters trash our values without licence
Each grain of change in the landscape we will together fashion
Communities of not so common sense, castles of compassion

Thanks for leading the way Margo - here's to continued friendship.

re: Love from all your friends

Hear! Hear! Thank you Jack, for saying much more than any of us could muster yesterday. The whole scenario re the political arena has been so depressing lately that I felt Margo's news came as the final nail in the coffin of free speech.

What a sad day it was. Whenever, it got too much we could always log on and know that Margo was keeping the fires burning so to speak. It was here we could find out the truth and hear from a whole range of opinions that helped shape our own. So it was such a relief that Hamish is to keep the site going albeit without Margo for the time being. As to the detractors, teachers spend years trying to motivate children to write so Margo even succeeded here.

That the content was of the gutter type is just a stage in their evolutionary process. Imagine how they struggled with choice of words and grammar. Then they had to try and find all the right letters on their key board. What an achievement! However, it's a bit like when your four year old learns those nasty words. Ignore them dear people as they thrive on a response. (See I've also responded, so last time I'll mention it!)

Let's hope Margo's spirit is quickly replenished and judging by the love and best wishes on this site following her announcement I'm sure she'll be successful in finding her voice again even if it is not in this forum.

re: Love from all your friends

Thanks to Margo and to all those from whatever sphere of political thinking who have contributed thoughtfully to WD.

I don't know Margo personally, but have always felt sickened by those who 'slung off' at her with personal jibes etc. However, I figured she was making her mark if they were thus provoked. It sounds as if Margo now can do with a bit of TLC and it's great that she has friends and family who appreciate her and who are supportive.

So many contributors have said much more eloquently than I can how valuable WD is. So I just hope that it continues on, evolving but retaining its integrity and I appreciate the hard work that keeps it going.

Craig R: Thanks Sylvia, we're energised by the hope of many people like your good self..

re: Love from all your friends

"Not that I want to be a god or a hero. Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone." Using trees as the metaphor, these poignant words of Nobel prizewinner Czeslaw Milosz sum up what it truly means to be human.

As they say there is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life and human rights. Margo displayed passion in everything she touched.

In 2000, community-minded Margo dropped a pebble into the pond of Antipodean political lake in the form of a online exchange about current issues that really, really, mattered. Five years or so later, the ripple effect has reached many living rooms here in Australia and many other countries. In those living rooms we realise how true some of the lines in certain songs prove to be:

One HOPE will raise our spirits
One TOUCH can show you care
One VOICE can speak with wisdom
One HEART can know what is true
One LIFE can make a difference.

Margo had made a difference in a many, many, positive ways as opposed to some of the petty and negative **** some of her distractors have unkindly served to the WD community ... In my opinion, community networks like WD tend to develop deep roots and they never stop growing! The prerequisites for effective democracy are ... deeper institutional forces--flourishing unions, readily accessible third parties, inexpensive media, and a thriving network of cooperatives and community organizations--are the real basis of effective democracy.

Ach, Jack, you make us all proud for creating a meaningful and unique tribute we all wish had the knack for composing. I know it came from the heart and not just your deep sense of wisdom ...

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.Your playing small does not serve the world.There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

- Credited to: Nelson Mandela/Marianne Williamson

re: Love from all your friends

Thank you, Jack, for expressing what most of us out here were thinking. Margo is an inspiration and I admire and respect her immensely.

I hope she emerges from a well earned rest and comes back swinging in whatever form her future takes. I know a woman with her talent, integrity and commitment will not sit meekly at the sidelines of life but will continue to pursue truth in all that she seeks to accomplish.

And Webdiary will continue to be her legacy. I hope we will all make her proud.

re: Love from all your friends

Ariel here is your link.

re: Love from all your friends

Margo and Jack and all of you humans.

Margo is a compassionate and cluey creature and I hope she'll revive with love from all of us - Jack's article is a beautiful thing.
How wonderful to read such stuff. I'm sure there are many more people who feel Australia has lost its heart. I get very depressed about it but I reckon we have to try and restart it! Y'all - maybe Margo especially - may be interested in a minute movement we've just started.

Here's a bit from our website:

Reject Howard's Christmas presents! Unite to give each other support!
Million Mothers March started on Friday 2 December 2005 at 12 noon on Parliament lawn, Canberra. More people - including mothers, fathers and children - continued the next day with Manuka Mums opposed to IR laws and we will keep going until we can see a future where fairness, freedom and "for all Australians" means caring and compassion for each other - not callous competition...etc.

You can read the rest on the website.
- sorry I've tried to get on this website a few times but never did until now (via crikey.com by the way)... typically too late!!.

Guest Ed Ross: Hi Ariel. You haven't given a link for the site!

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Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner