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Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Deputy Editor Kerri Browne: Last night in Perth, Margo gave a lecture on the the future of fair dinkum journalism introduced by the Hon Judi Moylan MP, Liberal member for Pearce.

Tonight, the Hon Dr Carmen Lawrence, Labor member for Fremantle will MC the launch of the independent Margo Kingston's  Webdiary in Fremantle. Webdiarist Jack H Smit has more...

Launching Margo Kingston's Independent Webdiary

23 September 2005, 5:00pm
Film and Television Institute, 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle, WA (whereis)

by Jack H Smit

First of all, our warmest thanks for making things possible today should go to the Fremantle Film and Television Institute in Fremantle, who provided for us the equipment and facilities and access to the lovely Cinema where we'll be gathering today  - recently refurbished - for such a nominal fee that it's come our way as good as gratis. Thank you, FTI, and I say that, knowing that Project SafeCom has a long-standing relationship with FTI - we were right here for our first public event almost three years ago, and FTI has been supporting us ever since.

Special thanks should go to the work by Marketing Manager Jon Cope and FTI's facilities' expert Adam Ferronato. You and many other staff have been personal supporters of us - and today you're acknowledging the link between the need for independence in Australian visual media - the reason for FTI's existence - and the need for independent news and current affairs media, as exemplified by Margo Kingston's Webdiary.

The Tampa incident in August 2001 and the invasion by the US, the UK and Australia in Iraq following September 11 could easily go into the history books as a time of the start of a new unprecedented low in Australian journalism standards.

Just think of it in this way: if we would throw journalists in prison if in their reports and writings they fail to measure and mirror statements by politicians and government ministers against the various International Conventions such as the Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, the International Declaration of Human Rights or the Convention for the Rights of the Child - then we would have a lot of Australian journalists in jail right now.

Since Tampa Australian journalism as a whole has failed abysmally in its duty of informing Australians about the rightful status of uninvited refugees - and this failure can also be seen as complicity with the falsities peddled to the Australian electorate since Tampa and during the election campaign of 2001 by MPs seeking re-election, following in the footsteps of the Prime Minister. It took almost an entire year of electronic activism, initiated in my role as the operator of Project SafeCom before we got a sustained change to the standard of journalism around one tiny but essential aspect of reporting.

Our project, started on the back of an idea by Perth refugee advocate Ross Copeland, was an e-activism campaign in which hundreds of people around the country participated. People would send complaints to a newspaper editor-in-chief if a reporter pandered to and happily joined in with the chorus of the Prime Minister and most of the MP's in the Coalition, calling boatpeople's status "illegal" or calling them "illegal arrivals". Every time people sent a complaint to the newspapers, they would send a copy of the complaint to the Australian Press Council at the same time.

It was not before one of those hundreds of Australians working on this project remained dissatisfied by the response to her complaint against the Sydney Morning Herald and took The Sydney Morning Herald Fairfax outlet to the Press Council tribunal, that we got a result.

The Australian Press Council as a result of this action then finally issued an adjudication and ruled that the "illegal" label of refugees arriving by boat and unannounced on our shores constitutes "incorrect reporting". A few weeks ago I heard that the emails are still coming in to the Press Council offices in Sydney, and that the Press Council Secretary Jack Herman keeps mentioning this issue, apparently with fondness. Good for him - after all, it is likely that he's had more emails about this single issue than about any other issue in the course of his career.

But while it was a success in its own right, our action did not change the wholesale sell-out of investigative reporting and its replacement by quick-grab info-tainment stories we find every morning in the Murdoch press. As David Marr shows in Do Not Disturb, a reader edited by Robert Manne on the failure of journalism in Australia (for sale on the table today), almost all of the Australian newspapers failed to grasp the essence of the massive implications of the Al-Kateb High Court case - the fact that Australia became the only democratic country where people who have committed no crime at all can be jailed indefinitely, until they die, at the behest of one single politician - the Immigration Minister - without the say-so or intervention of any court.

In Western Australia we live in a media desert: the Canberra Press Gallery reporter for the West Australian tells me when I pop in to her office in Parliament House in August last year, "Sorry, we have a new editor, and we don't do refugee stories is basically the line now"; and generally speaking, our other daily, The Australian, phones me when they discover my press release has resulted in stories on CNN or the BBC.

On 25 April 2004 Julian Burnside QC and Eric Vardalis were stopped from boarding their aircraft to Nauru. They had booked to fly over to attend the court in Nauru and bring their case against the holding of asylum seekers who were smuggled to Nauru out of Australian waters in 2001 - out of the reach of Australian legislation and our UN obligations.

At the same time, a number of other lawyers on that Anzac Day flight, those acting for the Commonwealth, as well as the Australian Judge, presiding at the Nauruan court, were flying off to Nauru without Burnside. The Australian did not run a single report on it, and as a result I called on the refugee channels for a new slogan for our national newspaper The Un-Australian: "…keeping you uninformed about the Un-Australians".

On 19 February 2004 Burnside claims that Ruddock, Vanstone and Howard are guilty of crimes against humanity under Australian legislation at a Melbourne Rotary breakfast. He goes on to accuse Senator Vanstone, sitting three meters away, of crimes against humanity. Over the next few months he repeats his legal argument on three more occasions. No reports in any major newspaper, while a major newspaper tells Burnside that his story is not interesting.

On July 21 this year, The Governor-General signs off with Vanstone on the excision of 4600 islands from the Australian migration zone. Only limited reporting follows a press release from me, when 14 days later, I discover this extraordinary exclusion of future refugees from Australia's obligations under the UN Convention.

So when the mainstream media are failing to such an extend that they are no longer reporting the thinking and truths behind the facts behind the events, and when they on many occasions choose to completely ignore the reporting of even the events themselves, the landscape of reporting changes and the nature of journalism shifts as dramatically as it shifted when newspapers first came into circulation.

When Margo five years ago received the offer from the Sydney Morning Herald to write whenever and whatever she wanted at Webdiary, I imagine someone on the Fairfax board may well have thought to end any controversy by giving Margo her own playpen or sandpit in a quiet corner of the Herald's website. After all, Margo is not at all conforming to the image of the professional female journalist. I've seen Margo more often in bare feet with a sloppy t-shirt than in a slick 2-piece black outfit that says: I am female, a corporate professional to be reckoned with, and if my dress code is not convincing go take a look at my heels and the pointy end of my shoes. Margo is mainly, um, Margo - and I say that in admiration and respect.

Margo's move to Webdiary was in itself already something to take note of, and her separation and independence of Fairfax is something which I imagine will still be discussed in journalism courses in 50 years time, if we still run them in Australia.

Let's fast forward to that time, 50 years from now.

A child asks: "Dad, what is a newspaper?" Dad obligingly answers, and says: "Well, you remember the trees that were chopped up for paper long ago as you learnt at school? When that still happened, many of the beautiful Australian trees were chopped up to make real cheap paper, and every day all the news that now comes in on your school palm top and on mummy's laptop, was printed on fat bundles of that cheap paper. That's what newspapers were until the government stopped doing that and gave people big fines for wasting paper."

The child then asks: "When did that paper wasting stop?" And Dad goes: "Well, there was this woman journalist, and she started the first newspaper without using paper in Australia. And soon every person who had a computer got the summary of the articles on their PC every morning in their newsreader program, while the sales of printed newspapers kept going down and down until all the big fat companies around the world went broke. Remember the little photo you can click on to read all the news on your school palmtop? That's the picture of the woman who started all this. She was called Margo Kingston."

My warmest congratulations to you Margo with the launch of this very unique platform in the Australian landscape. Remember, Webdiary does not grow from sales of print copy, but from the number of website hits and from the ranking when someone googles you up. That will increase organically, and all you can do to make that happen, is work to the best of your ability, applying the highest standard of journalism. And while democracy is so under threat, keep the platform functioning as an online form of democracy in action, as you already do. If you build that, then indeed "the people will come".


What: Launch of Margo Kingston's Independent Webdiary
Where: Film and Television Institute, 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle (whereis)
Date: 23 September 2005
MC for the Launch: Carmen Lawrence MP, Webdiary columnist
Chief Catalyst: Margo Kingston, owner, www.webdiary.com.au
Invited guests and speakers: WA Webdiarists and other interested citizens.

Followed by: First WA face-to-face Club Chaos meeting (see below)
Where: Clancy's Fish Pub
Address: behind the FTI: 51 Cantonment Street


Club Chaos

Club Chaos is the nickname for the loose and sometimes chaotic collective of Webdiarists who helped build and grow Webdiary at the time of its residence at the Sydney Morning Herald, and later at the independent  Margo Kingston's Webdiary. Webdiarist Polly Bush is credited with naming Club Chaos. See her piece Carving up club chaos.

The first non-virtual meeting of Club Chaos in Western Australia will take place - over a drink and dinner of course - tonight following the Webdiary launch, at Clancy's Fish Pub in Fremantle across the road from the FTI. And who knows, apart from Webdiarist Jack H Smit and other Webdiarists such as Sean Hefferon, Khristo Newall and John Wojdilo, who else may be there to help the meeting getting underway! Western Australian Webdiarists known and unknown, come join us!


Congratulatory statements

by Dr Carmen Lawrence MP

Dr Carmen Lawrence's parliamentary career began in State politics in 1986 when she won for the Australian Labor Party the Western Australian Legislative Assembly seat of Subiaco, held by the Liberal Party for the previous 27 years. She was promoted to the State Government Ministry in 1988, as Minister for Education. She was re-elected to Parliament in 1989, representing the seat of Glendalough. Following the State Labor government's re-election her responsibilities were increased with the addition of the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio. In a leadership change on 12 February 1990, Dr Lawrence made history by becoming Premier of Western Australia and Australia's first woman Premier. ... On November 14, 2003, Dr Lawrence was elected by the first popular ballot of ALP members as President of the Australian Labor Party. Read more on Dr Carmen Lawrence MP here.

I welcome this venture - the new and independent Webdiary - as the latest example of Margo Kingston's commitment to the ideal of quality journalism, a vital component of healthy democracy. It's also an example of her personal courage. The Webdiary is the pursuit of a dream; a dream, to some extent, of flying free - and that means without a safety net.

Margo's pioneering work in on-line political commentary and journalism has inspired a growing band of Webdiarists with a passion for improving the Australian body politic. Under her editorship the SMH Webdiary fast became one of a small group of online political staples. It was a place where the orthodox media hierarchy, the orthodox one-way flow of media commentary was replaced by an egalitarian and interactive political discussion. We need more of it. Now Margo has taken the next step, by moving Webdiary out from under the Fairfax wing and into a position of full independence. From here she will no doubt continue to push the boundaries, set the standards, and promote the important cause of citizen journalism in this country.


by Christabel Chamarette

Christabel Chamarette is the Clinical Director of Safe Care, Western Australia; a Principal Member Parole Board of Western Australia; a Consultant to Department of Justice; and, a Clinical Supervisor at the YMCA. Christabel is also a member Anglican Church Of Australia Professional Standards Committee for Western Australia . From 1972 to 1985 , Christabel worked as clinical Psychologist in male maximum security prisons, and she later went on to work with adult (mainly women) survivors of sexual abuse. She was formerly a Greens Senator for Western Australia 1992-96 and is now also in private practice as a psychologist.

Margo Kingston first won my respect and admiration as a brilliant and intrepid investigatory journalist in 1992. As a member of the Senate Joint Standing Committee on Migration which was addressing the issue of the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, I was a minority dissenting voice and gained much comfort in her efforts to bring the injustices of the situation into the light. Having retired from politics since my stint in the Senate (1992-1996) I have followed her movements and writings with appreciation. The Webdiary is a wonderful innovation which provides an avenue of expression for people who want to challenge the way things are and bringing greater community access into the public arena. The wider debate is important to increase scrutiny and accountability of the policies of government and politicians of all persuasions.

I congratulate Margo on her valiant and tireless efforts and wish the Webdiary the success it deserves and wishes for.

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re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

I’ve been enjoying Webdiary post Tampa, and it’s not always clear to me what it is I like so much, and sometimes I get taken by surprise.

I can say one thing for sure. It’s the link between Webdiary and my social change activism that keeps me coming back.

During the lead-up to the Iraq war Webdiary gave me useful articles and information then used for public education and discussion, as we built a public opposition to the war.

I also got a wide range of discussion and response about activist proposals. It’s always worth hearing again the key issues that come up for people when a situation is politically charged. Along with regular local consultations and independent research, Webdiary helps to clarify and amplify our messages for public campaigning.

Three years later, Webdiary was a powerful aid to the recent round of Scott Parkin information and solidarity actions. I was particularly happy to see the interaction between Webdiary and the nonviolence net.

I’ve noticed in the past that Webdiary has stimulated successful political action in relation to asylumn seekers, Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon.

I notice those campaigns are successful because of independently organised community groups that successfully function to produce agitation and publicity. We continue to see instances of nonviolent civil disobedience discussed here. Webdiary is like a clearing house to spread and obtain information, discuss important ideas.

I can see no reason why Webdiary ought not continue to grow in both numbers and depth in relation to a wide variety of “national” community interests. The current attack on single parents and the disabled is a great issue to pick up.

I think that what’s different about the form of Webdiary isn’t the cyber spin, but the politically charged and open reporting. Margo is much more than a “senior journalist”. Margo is a principled journalist and activist who makes it very clear where she stands on an issue. We are cyber-enabled to participate in the political journalism of the Gonzo Age.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

The key word in the development of the 'Diary into a full scale independent newspaper is exactly that: Independent. As a news watcher I have found that the news reporting on the ABC is very little different from that of the commercial stations. It appears that all of our stations simply pull too much of the news from the wire service and that the ABC currently suffering from lack of funding has become more and more bland. I do so want the Webdiary to be able to reach as many readers as possible but continue to be amazed by the number of cynics, even those who are as senior as I am who simply say, 'I don't listen to the news any more. They are all crooked.' My great hope for Australia is that the voice for truth that has been the Webdiary will be able to continue the task.

(Margo, take care of your health and watch your back for there are those who would destroy you either vindictively or by indifference.)

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Stuart Lord, you raskal you. "Don't you need power to chuck out the powerful? As being powerless will do nothing to the powerful, so therefore some power being provided? Does that mean you have to chuck yourself out?"

It's a good little joke, but I wonder if you'd like to actually have a think about power and its various natures and locations. Institutional power, instrumental power, personal power and people power.

I know of a power that may transform nations and governments without creating further imbalance or poverty. It's called nonviolence, and if you'd like to have a structured discussion pro and anti - the invitation's open.

C'mon Stuart, hone that intellect.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Hi Margo, Congratulations. Cannot leave you alone for a second and you are off and running already. Be back soon.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Michael Ekin Smyth, "absolutely", indeed! It's funny how many people - and, not ONLY on the 'right', by any means, as you suggest - fail to understand this oh-so-basic point. Adam Smith did, interestingly, which is what makes his dishonest 'deification' by the neo-liberals such a travesty.

The founders of American constitutionalism did, too - albeit they would (undoubtedly) be horrified by the way their interem solution has been deified/undermined by subsequent generations.

Still... I have one SERIOUS reservation as to your comment. 'Continuous revolution' is not the answer... but, continuous renovation/reform is. Try forgetting the over-inflated rhetoric of failed approaches to politics... and, just have a look at the historical record. Because, what you proclaim here is NOT revolution, by any means...

Instead, real democracy is the institutionalised means by which we can AVOID the damnable bloodshed/stupidity/waste of revolutions... and, gradually, deliver what we need without them.

Sure, our current system is badly ossified & well-overdue for reform. But we can deliver same - with patience - within its broad framework, as you yourself suggest. But - please - don't confuse this with the intractable mess that REAL revolutions deliver. Because we can well do without that kind of romanticism...

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

I am excited about Smit's vision of a paperless news future, where all our information comes from one source: the first, the unique, the original, the one-of-a-kind Webdiary (or as I'm sure we'll call it in the future - the Bdiary).

I look forward with great anticipation to the future, where our information is displayed on something like a palmtop which requires no resources to create or operate.

Keep up the excellent work!

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Stuart Lord, absolutely. That is why term limits are such a good idea. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Give everyone an equal shot, then chuck 'em all out as soon as possible.

The power lies with the people - who are always the chuckers-in-chief. When they, or some of them, get power - and get above themselves - it is time to chuck them out.

Continuous revolution. That is what living, breathing, democracy is all about.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Michael Ekin Smyth, hold on. Chuck out the powerful, right? Don't you need power to chuck out the powerful? As being powerless will do nothing to the powerful, so therefore some power being provided? Does that mean you have to chuck yourself out?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Marcus, I don't think being 'anti-government' is sufficient either. Actually it is being anti those who have power. Or, more succinctly: chuck all the bastards out. If someone is in power, or exercises power, they should be monitored, commented on and, if necessary chucked out.

So, opposing abuses of power by union thugs is just as important as opposing abuses of power by government ministers, the mainstream media, parliamentary renegades, NGOs or indeed bloggers.

In addition to those seen as conventional 'authorities', many people in our society exercise real power: including marketers, professional groups (seen teachers or doctors resist change anytime?) campaigners (seen any Greenpeace agit-prop lately?) and also students. Didn't they scream when their unjust and undemocratic system of compulsory funding came under threat!

So, yes there is a need to comment on and expose. And, given the power of the online digital medias - their accessability and economy - they are the new frontier.

Margo's initiative may or may not flourish. But, it is a good one. She is feeling her way, surfing a breaking technological wave. That takes a certain amount of guts - and is to be admired.

In an earlier generation another Australian, a certain Rupert Murdoch, also took risks and ventured further than others. Now, there are many, many differences between the two. But, in one respect, they are similar. They are willing to go where others are afraid to tread.

They're willing to put it on the line.

Personally I like that. Even when badly dressed.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Here is a great laugh for all those outside the media circus.

I wonder how Amanda liked it.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

On the topic of independent media, a very interesting internet site is Reporters sans Frontiers.

This site champions freedom of press throughout the world and highlights abuses of press freedom.

A fascintating recent project they have completed is to compile an 87 page booklet which is a how-to guide aimed at cyber-dissidents who wish to hide their identity when posting messages online, encrypt e-mail and describes which countries monitor chat rooms most closely.

The booklet is aimed at circumventing official attempts to censor free speech on the internet. The booklet can be downloaded in pdf form here.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

While I don't disagree with your sentiment regarding an independent media, I think you've tried to argue it in the wrong way. I don't think that being more anti-government necessarily reflects 'independence'; does that mean that all journalists suddenly have to lurch to the right when Labor wins office, then back left when the Coalition gets in? That's silly. If your argument is that the media is not diverse enough, then what you propose (greater 'anti-government' reporting, regardless of who's in office) seems to contradict that, as it would impose a greater constraint on journalists rather than a greater freedom.

Ed Hamish: thanks for your comment Marcus. Please use a full name next time as per Webdiary Ethics.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

It was so encouraging to hear you at Uwa on Thursday evening- at least I know that I am not alone.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Oh thank the Gods. Margo Kingston is back. On behalf of those of us at Tim Blair's web site, we are so happy you are back with us.

Ed Hamish: Well thanks Wronwright, on behalf of me big Sis. But unlike over at Blairsville, we require a full name.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Congrats!! It's excellent to see your vision becoming a reality, and awesome that you've stuck to your instinct with this despite the challenges and set-backs. Thanks and respect to you and all those working with you to make Webdiary happen.

Love and peace.
WA activist and occasional Webdiarist.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

I tell you what Ivan Stewart, I have had a gutful of this crap from people who don't know me from Adam.

I am not looney. I have never been looney.

Just because I disagree with this government, locking up innocent people, bashing kids and invading countries for no reason does not mean I am looney.

Ed Hamish Alcorn: sorry for letting it through Marilyn. That's your right of reply. Abuse has been rife in the past few days and it does nothing for Webdiary. Please, everyone, keep it civil.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

I doubt any of us including Margo delude ourselves that one internet forum could change the government Ivan Stewart. But thanks for the compliment.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Bryan Law, non-violence can work. Sometimes.

But ask how all those non-violent people in Zimbabwe are going. Does that stop their houses being destroyed? Oh it's Africa.

But seriously, any institution, grouping or system that removes or suppresses the powerful is a beast of its own - its power to remove the powerful in turn means that it is able to be turned to use its power to dominate other people/institutions/systems/etc.

Non-violence works, up until the point where you meet someone that is not willing to bow to the moral pressure of the protest, and is willing to use arms against those who practice non-violence - what I call 'hard' dictatorships/kleptocracies. 'Soft' dictatorships /cleptocracies /theocracies/ corptocracies/ democracies will not be willing to use massed armed instruments of power against the people. Then non-violence can be effective.

But against 'hard' tyrannies? Think Saddam against the Kurds/Shi'ite populations in the late 80's to mid 90's. Or Mugabe against the Ndebele people from the early 80's to mid 90's. Or Stalin against his populace in general from the mid 30's to '53. Non-violence gets the person to the labour camp, the mass grave, the police or secret police interrogation room, the blood soaked streets.

In an Australian context, mass non-violence protest would probably work. But then again, if the numbers were there for mass protests, the numbers would be there for a parliamentary majority, enabling whatever reforms were needed, would it not? Or at least the financial power and numbers to compete with the 'powerful'? We have systems of reform available to us, that are ready to be used if sufficient numbers are agreeing with your particular point, no?

Why not use those first?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

It seems that most people involved with Webdiary are hoping that this will be a vehicle to get rid of Howard. I have to admire their optimism but I am afraid it is misguided, and the whole venture is doomed to failure.

Webdiary will not reach enough people to make a difference at the next election, it was tried at the last election with Not Happy John and was a disaster.

What you well meaning people forget is that the thing that will be against you is the Labor Party. When the next election comes round Labor again will have a packet of hair brained policies that the public will throw out. They will be led by Beazley who you must admit is a loser by any standard you set. They may well change their leader in the run up to the election, but their record in this department is pathetic.

However for Margo’s sake I hope that Webdiary is successful; she deserves it, but she will have to control the 'looneys' like Marilyn, Alison Jobling, Angela Ryan and Michael de Angelos.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Rod Finch, Hugh Mann, Zoe Brain, we're soon forming a cheer-squad to wave and cheer at public Webdiary events - please apply when you see the next event announced. The cost of the Pom-Poms is not covered, I'm afraid, and you'll have to send a photo in of yourself in the soon coming Webdiary t-shirt to apply for a place in the squad...

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Hi Margo! Good to see you back on line and speaking 'truth to power'! all the best to you and your team in your new venture. Regards.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Is there any likelihood of a Webdiary Podcast? After all, if you're all about being 'bleeding edge' media, that is the way to go. For those of us who are used to Margo's voice on LNL it would be a welcome addition to the Webdiary... Keep up the great work!

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Jeepers, JH Calvinist, I hope, as to your main thesis re this last post that things haven't gone to far down the garden path, if not for democracy then possibly for democracy as we have known it, as per this country. We have known no other but the relatively untypical for the world 'easy'.

The older generation that recalled genuine hard times and struggle are now moving on and with them is departing a meaningful historical memory. A once-secure and energetic nation state is itself being buffeted and perhaps even dismembered by forces most of its citizenry aren't even aware of, let alone engaged enough to grasp the force and meaning of these and show no sense of vigilancy either. Things seem ok superficially, but what if we are actually living cocooned in some sort of comfort-zone, complacently unaware of immanent change of a type that might put us, unprepared, back to the era our grandparents and great grandparents?
Alarmist? Perhaps.

I just see an awful lot of complacency, even apathy, at the moment and it bothers me, because next to pride complacency comes closest to a fall.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Great job. Keep it up.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Ivan Stewart, your tone is patronising and your opinions unsupported by any argument. On what basis do you claim that Webdiary or any small independent publication can't make a difference? That is absurd. The world has been changed many times by small numbers of dedicated individuals. Howard himself is an example of this, he worked assiduously for years towards his goal of achieving power and implementing his radical right wing agenda and after decades of frustration and setbacks he's achieved much of what he set out to do. The Power of One is not to be dismissed so lightly.

As for your claim that "it was tried at the last election with Not Happy John and was a disaster", I'm really not sure what you're trying to say here. Do you think that because Howard was re-elected that the book had no impact or that its message was irrelevant? On what basis was 'it' a disaster? Pretty strong language.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Thanks Hamish. I am off to the Adelaide session of the senate hearings into the Migration Act and try and keep my mouth shut while they pretend they have never heard the stories of brutality before.

Seriously, it is maddening that they sit like wey faced puddings and listen when they already know what they know and have said and done nothing.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Paul Walter, good to hear from you. My opinion re the decline of "meaningful historical memory" and "complacency" is that the first is real, albeit unfortunate... but the second is basically a hollow shell. Because it - like its equivalent in the USA - is largely built upon a drastically unsustainable housing bubble that is seriously worrying even sensible liberal-conservatives.

See The Economist for some of the best examples of this... although (unfortunately) you have to subscribe to access anything bar the latest issue. Which is why I read it every week!

When that crashes - and, remember, Howard has staked his essential strategy on its survival - such "complacency" will wither on the vine. What we'll then need, however, is some intelligent approaches to reform our democracy that will genuinely appeal to ordinary voters... not just those already engaged. Because I do think that our system is rotten, corroded by cynicism and badly-managed short-term self-interest running rampant, and we certainly can't depend on the existing players to do our job for us...

When citizenship - again - means genuinely broad discussion of the full range of policy issues, I'll abandon this diagnosis. But not before. Which - bluntly - is why I'm with Margo and Webdiary.

All the best.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

First day of senate hearings into the Migration Act threw up some surprises on all sides - it was a good day for me.

The Law Society started off the day with the legal ramifications of how the migration act is operated. It is a monster of an act and needs to be put on the bonfire.

The Refugee Advocacy Service covered a lot of the same ground but threw in some extra stuff.

Claire O'Connor got in the stuff about having to go to the courts still to get medical care. You would think after Cornelia they would at least get that much right by now wouldn't you?

An anonymous person, then lunch where I finally found an album with Tar and Cement on it, if you still want it PF.

After lunch Jon Jureidini who everyone has heard from before.

But nonetheless terrible.

Then the Woomera lawyers - I am so damn glad I work with those guys.

WE finally have forced the senate to look at the documents used against the Bakhtiyari family, finally got it on record that Ali was denied his visa back due to nothing more than newspaper articles by Russell Skelton and Matthew Benns, articles never questioned or integrated.

It is a shameful thing that a quasi-legal "tribunal" would do such a thing to innocent children.

And the other good news for music lovers is that "Guilty Pleasures" the long awaited follow up to "Guilty" is better than the original.

Striesand sounds better than ever and the Gibb songs are magnificent.

I accept your apology Ivan because I am too tired not to.
A good week so far and it is only Monday.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

I photographed this roadsign back in 2003.

It's as true now as it was then.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Firstly I would like to apologise to Marilyn, Alison Jobling, Angela Ryan and Michael de Angelos, it was done in the heat of the moment and please believe me it was totally out of character.
Having said that, why can’t you direct some of your anger at the Labor Party, they have let you down badly.
As I write this I am watching 4 Corners, and now I see that Greg Combet is conning the people he is supposed to represent. He is spending the unions money in order to prop up his own job, he should be apologising for letting the union membership to drop to 23%.
It was sickening to see how he manipulated a women who worked in a mushroom farm, the poor women had no idea what was going on.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Michael Ekin Smyth...I notice that you haven't replied to my response to your comments re another contributor on the "Rita, Katrina, Oil and the Economy" thread...

On revolutions... well, prior to the so-called 'Glorious Revolution' in late-seventeenth century England (not Britain, yet), the term meant - in political terms - a cyclical movement, rather than a drastic upheaval. You seem, here, to want to revive that meaning... contra the last few hundred years of language usage, Now, I'm quite sympathetic to the impulse... In fact, I have more than once lamented the lack of such a term in our political lexicon. But... let's face the facts. 'Revolution' has - particularly since the French Revolution - meant the violent overthrow of the entire political order...and, to any serious student of history, has a truly rotten record in establishing viable political orders, let alone egalitarian ones...

Oh... and the Enlightenment was - essentially - a seventeenth/eighteenth century movement... and so hardly "began" in the "mid-18th Century"...as any historian will affirm. Please don't attempt to mis-inform professionals about things they studied in their infancy, please.

And "shareholder capitalism" - in any socially-meaningful sense - has still yet to emerge. I'm truly hoping it will, mind you, but - in the current system - wherein management can so easily misinform/betray their 'owners', there's (unfortunately) little chance that it will. To suggest that it formed a key part of the mid-eighteenth century political/economic order, however, is simply foolish...

Try reading some more history - please! - particularly diverse histories from a variety of disciplinary/ideological perspectives... as I (still) think that you're on the side of the 'angels'... it's just that you have yet to properly digest the nasty (yet hopeful) mess that history proper presents us with...

all the best

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Dear Margo and Webdiary team, congratulations on the launch of the new and fully independent Webdiary.

This site has the potential to become a shining example of independent journalism underpinned by people power and smart use of technology - whilst allowing a range of diverse views to be expressed. Again congratulations and I (and no doubt many others) look forward to the continued growth of this new media. And a final point to you Margo from another person of independent views (Thoreau) – “When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?”

Sean Hefferon
West Australian Webdiarist

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

When are we having the Adelaide launch, Margo?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

John Henry Calvinist, liberal democracy and shareholder capitalism are indeed revolutionary. This revolution began in the mid-18th Century with the Englightenment and continues to this day. The little armed uprisings you refer to are rarely revolutionary in any sense. More often than not they are simply coup d'etats - one bunch of over-privileged thugs beating up on another bunch in order to gain power.

A revolution occurs when the established order is overturned. In all previous periods of history people lived in hierarchies - owned or controlled by people further up the hierarchy. Today we see increasing numbers, for all practical purposes, freed from these onerous controls. We'll never finally get rid of all hierarchy, but we are moving in the right direction.

So, yes, a revolution is underway - a revolution of the most thoroughgoing and meaningful kind.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Well this is one way to conquer the great divide between East and West. It will be interesting to see how Western Australians view things that matter to us, like Canberra. Maybe they will think the whole political focus is irrelevant. Maybe not. I hear there are up to 20 Indonesian fishing boats a day sighted off the coast up near Broome and the Government says it has the whole thing covered.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

'The media are actors, active elements, which transform the confusions of reality into a narrative. They are like the play within a play in Hamlet, put on to show the usurping King of Denmark the sin he had committed in killing Hamlet’s father.'

It is great to witness the way East meets West, to boot with the wishes from, the antipodean version of Havel in a skirt, Dr Lawrence. ;-)

Gary Sauer-Thompson digs deep and posts on The corruption of the Canberra media.

Is the ultimate goal of media in a democracy to promote truth and accuracy or a diversity of views? The responsibility of the harlot.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Stuart Lord, thanks for the response. The reason I’m inviting you or C Parsons (or anyone else) to a structured debate is to get beneath the surface of our discussions, and to pull out some basic assumptions for review.

For example, twice you’ve mentioned 'the powerful' without stating your understandings/assumptions about 'power'. Is power measured by the degree of institutional authority a person holds in their job? With Prime Minister being 100,000 times more powerful than a toilet cleaner, and a sqillionaire publisher being a sqillion times as important as a home carer?

Certainly we can talk about these institutional arrangements of power and how they are articulated/operated. We might also talk about 'personal power', or how a person feels in their ability to articulate and meet needs in the social spaces of 'society', 'family' or 'community'.

The two kinds of power are different, but related. Institutional power is a zero sum game, and I can only increase my relative degree of power by overcoming or taking away some of yours. Personal power can be expanded for everyone at the same time by encouraging all people to become free, skilled and self-determining in their actions.

Institutional power is 'power over', with an ability to lay police enforced sanctions against citizens who don’t play along. Organised personal power networks (what non-violence activists call 'power with') are aimed at increasing a community’s ability to determine their own processes and environment. The ultimate sanction in 'power with' is to withdraw cooperation.

In the practise of non-violence, personal power and 'power with' is cultivated so that a community might become able to curb and channel the institutional use and misuse of 'power over'. Labour strikes, consumer boycotts, and universal suffrage have been extensively used in shaping the contemporary Western world – and those issues are still being contended today.

Historically, non-violence has succeeded against some very 'hard' military states indeed. Against the Nazi occupation in Denmark, ordinary citizens used non-violent tactics to preserve Danish Jews against the Holocaust. Against the attempted Soviet military coup against Gorbachov, the Baltic state of Lithuania used non-violence to maintain its self-declared independence for the loss of only four lives. British out of India, Marcos out of the Philippines, majority rule in South Africa. Which of these states were cream-puff pushovers again?

Stuart, I’ve written 1,100 words on “Civil Disobedience, and the destruction of property” and sent it to Hamish. If you’d like to pen 1100 words putting a counter-argument, I’d really like to see what you come up with in your thinking about contemporary democracy.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Thanks Margo - but Stephen Bennetts writes: "In Australia, engaging with civil society may involve membership of a local parent-teacher association, the Australian Conservation Foundation, a refugee rights group or participating in Margo Kingston's web diary, Your Democracy."

We'll have to educate Stephen a little more - YourDemocracy.net is not Webdiary. Good reason for another Club Chaos meeting in Freo, with less consumables and more agenda - Stephen was even there last Friday!

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

How surprising that detainees want to be admitted to Glenside as a one-way ticket out of detention! What does that prove? When detainees know that Jureidini is campaigning for their release based on the fact that they have mental illness, well its a no brainer that they flock to him. It is a complete joke.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Margo... very nice reference, but... I do think that the reviewer should've been much more aware re where many of these arguments actually came from. Cause the 'American Sociologist' Robert Putnam, that he so blithely cited in one (minor) section of the article was - to put it bluntly - the actual source for much of what he wrote.

Putnam - as the leader of a large team of (mostly Italian) researchers - was the researcher behind almost ALL serious sociological arguments re 'civil society' in the last few decades... and, the key focus of said work was Italian regional government. The key text - very dry, but well worth the effort - is Making Democracy Work (Princeton University Press: 1994) - and his later works re the USA are merely a much less empirical extension of same.

Still... it's hardly surprising that Italian sociologists - as opposed to journalists - are deeply familiar with the work of his team...

I'd have to say - however - that I wasn't at all up with the Brazillian democratic experiments... despite the fact that they are closely in accord with my own speculations as to the best route towards viable democratic reforms. Does Webdiary have any homegrown experts here? I'd be most intrigued to read/debate the outcomes of this most promising experiment.

Here, Ginsborg clearly exceeds Putnam - who is basically an empirical sociologist, tied to the workings of long-extant models - and moves into new (and welcome) terrain. As he says, deliberative approaches "cannot replace representative democracy, which is the result of a formal voting process, with opinion rightly protected by the secrecy of the ballot box. But it can and indeed should flank it. The activity of the second guarantees the quality of the first. If it works well, deliberative democracy guarantees transparency, constantly questions financial choices, builds wider circles of decision making, and plays a crucial role in the formation of a small but expanding group of experienced, educated and active citizens, who have an ethic of public service in their very bones."

Let's see Webdiary start to ACTIVELY debate the - to my mind - necessary balance between direct and representative democracy... because (as I've said many times in this forum) we won't start to deliver ANY viable alternative to our (understandably) corrupt system until we address this fundamental issue...

All the best.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Michael Ekin Smyth, I used to think as you do and the process of coming to terms with the reality of what was really happening was slow and painful because there didn't seem to be any alternative. We have been deluded into thinking that market participation will free us from hierarchies, just as the communists believed their system could deliver fairer results.

Undoubtedly, a few benefit from participation at the micro level, but the market is still the instrument of oppression at the macro level in that it skews the profits towards those who already 'have' and away from those who 'have not'. How can this be fair?

Adam Smith certainly understood its limitations as an arbiter of social virtue and he was the champion of free markets. It seems to me that what is missing is the balance between the economic and the social. For me, the balance is provided in the mucky, messy chaotic process of democracy, where people, as a community, decide what the priorities are and determine the freedoms and constraints necessary to secure those wants and needs.

And after watching 4 Corners last night, who has confidence in the government's committment to the democractic virtue of listening to people who dissent to their ideology? As was admitted, there was no public discussion about changes to the industrial legislation prior to the election. Those erstwhile advocates of the market were not prepared to place their 'product' out in the marketplace of the democratic process so that people could knowing select this policy at election time.

So to my way of thinking, the Howard government does not have a mandate for these sorts of changes. The end result smacks political opportunism which is surely about power and privilege.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Congratulations Margo. It is so important that a variety of views be presented otherwise we are lulled into a sense of mind numbing apathy. When we read of others' concerns it lends voice to ours.

I agree with many of the comments regarding the lack of reporting by the general media. I think Mark Latham was right when he said that many reporters now think they are all powerful in changing opinion, rather than in reporting facts so that we can make up our own minds. Your publishing of transcripts has been a huge help in placing facts before us. It is disappointing that journalists who get to hear all of the facts do not then follow with appropriate questions in interviews, that expose some of the grubby cons that some of the politicians are running. I also have concerns about their research skills (have to excuse some of them for being too young to remember) but it is really annoying when politicians think that we won't remember what they said ten minutes ago let alone ten years ago.

Someone else commented on your voice being heard on LNL. I think that is something you should pursue again as well as the print side as many people are still computer illiterate and will never make the leap into the technology but loved to hear your views on Radio National. Maybe the ABC still has enough principles to ensure that you can be heard in some form. (You are probably saying "where in the hell would I get the time??)

Anyway keep up the good work. Would be happy to contribute financially if that helps.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

John Henry Calvinist, thank you, I will. That Runciman name seems to pop up a lot among scholarly humanities books. Are they all from the same family, do you know?

I think the most profound work of Sociology I have ever read is Manuel Castells three volumes of The Rise of the Network Society. I came across Castells in my last two years of undergrad in the 1980s. I was attracted to his Marxist analyses of urban economies. But this trilogy really is a masterpiece. Have you come across it?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Bonjour Jack H Smit. I am out of breath to hear you to speak about the climbing of Webdiary on the classifications of ladder of d'Internet.

I introduced the form of Webdiary communication to my revolutionary friends the night before and they were mad of joy. We are agreed to form a committee to write an application to the Ministère de l'éducation nationale and Ministère de l'éducation nationale for a subvention to take up similar independent mass média in France. We have intention to use mass média to announce on fasciste alliance with the capitalist sociétés and the servicemen militaires. Perhaps our mass media will also be réputé as Webdiary one day.

I thank your éditeur for permitting me taking the liberty of writing my hopes and for sharing my joy with you. I also thank the publisher for recreating my French accent markings. It must consommer much time. The most part of software is provided by anti-French corportations which try to destroy the language Française.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Noeline, thanks again. I'll check out the last two in your list, since I haven't read them. But, I'm not planning to review all the books I've read... just the very best ones. Ten years with moderate/serious depression - rarely leaving my flat - and possessed by the desire to properly complete my education after abandoning a doctorate, due to despair about the academic job market and the state of the Humanities - have left me in the rather odd position of having chased-down what I see as the very best available work around on pretty much every question that interests me. But... it's certainly not a 'life', now, is it?

Ah well... maybe if I can get the book finished - The New Humanities: an anti-textbook - I might just be able to make a little money out of my addiction!

And, finally, on sociological prose I (basically) agree... BUT there are exceptions. Try WG Runciman's The Social Animal (HarperCollins: 1998) for a truly incisive mind fluently addressing the broader readership - review forthcoming next month - and Ernest Gellner... a philosopher/anthropologist much of whose work is, in essence, sociology. Both of these gents are true polymaths, and watching them take no prisoners dealing with academic narrowness and stupidity is a joy to behold...

All the best.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Marilyn Shepherd. OK, I'm going to stick my head up here knowing full well that I risk having it chopped off by you! :)) Can you fill in my missing details, please? I have not followed any of this story, but when I read the SMH article, I was very sceptical: Why? Because it was written by Paul McGeogh, whom I simply do not trust, after several of his stories in the past have been revealed to have been highly suspect.

After reading this, I wondered what all the hoo-haa was, and why it was given the front page? As far as I can tell, the Bakhtiaris are citizens, or at least legal residents of Pakistan. If this is the case, what is the rationale for your attitude against Vanstone?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

John Henry Calvinist. After visiting your website, I must confess to being a little intimidated! You have certainly read all the top non-fiction tomes of the past 10 or so years. What a wonderful idea to write a review of everything one reads. I might do something similar.

My decision to leave a challenging and stimulatiing career to take over as Home Duties Bitch (a bit like a Door Bitch at a nightclub, except in a dressing gown with baby food going mouldy down the front) and return to university was largely inspired by reading some of the books on your site. The four main ones that got me going were Guns, Germs, and Steel, The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker, Islam: What Went Wrong? by Bernard Lewis and The Bible in History: How Writers Create A Past by Thomas Thompson.

Sadly, Putnam's work, while stimulating and provocative, left me cold. I have never encountered a sociologist who can write well or think to save themselves.

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

John Stevens, you write: "How surprising that detainees want to be admitted to Glenside as a one-way ticket out of detention! What does that prove? When detainees know that Jureidini is campaigning for their release based on the fact that they have mental illness, well its a no brainer that they flock to him. It is a complete joke."

Your post is incendiary, offensive, and vilifying, John. First, you attempt to paint a psychiatrist as an activist without reason but with a biased cause: the cause being to "get detainees out of detention".

Buried in your post is the assumption that Jureidini after his 7-9 year training as a doctor and psychiatrist would not just apply ethical and clean psychiatric assessment to those in Baxter who are his clients. No need to become "partisan" when Jureidini can - just clinically, not partisan of any sort here - conclude that spending 4-7 years in the Baxter detention centre and being subject to its culture makes you so sick that a clinical recommendation includes a removal call from that environment.

Secondly, you paint detainees as 'users' of the system of clinical assessment where they would flock to the psychiatrist to try and 'escape' detention. No need, John - because you cannot just make an appointment with a psychiatrist if you're an inmate at Baxter.

Webdiary is about debating issues, John. I don't think Webdiary is designed to have folks 'slam activists' - thereby painting activists as people with a cause (in your eyes a biased cause) and without reason. Or would you paint judges in Australian courts also like this when they conclude that - links to another Webdiary item - the Immigration Minister is guilty of culpable neglect?

re: Launching Webdiary and Club Chaos in WA

Since Marilyn Shepherd is once more copping a bit of a baking from some folk, it could be a good time to mention that reports in the SMH and Age concerning the epic saga of the Bakhtiari family tend to vindicate her. This is concerning the subject of the hapless Bakhtiari family, upon which subject much has been written.

In fact, as with Alvarez and Rau, there appears to some sense of a real whiff of BS emmanating from the sensitive souls who run the immigration/refugee system, as to their trigger-happiness or indecent haste involving unfortunates like those mentioned above.

I'd have thought an Aussie fair go/Christian attitude would have entertained notions of innocence till proven guilty and some sort of sensitivity and sensibility as to the sufferings involved concerning these folk.

There is nothing wrong with an immigration/refugee identification system, but it is way off track when it performs mental gymnastics hunting for manufactured excuses to throw out obvious refugees, instead of spending vast amounts of time effort and money wasted in the above, rather than catching out genuine queue-jumpers and people- smugglers.

Australians, notwithstanding, have just given even more power to the same government concerning ASIO, and have also entrusted an indecent amount of power to self-same concerning industrial relations and welfare, to name just two of many subjects.

If we are lied to concerning other issues as we have been concerning assylum-seekers and then treated as inhumanely, then god help most of us.

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