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Submitted by Guest Contributor on May 17, 2005 - 11:00pm.
Hicks and the Geneva Convention, by Stephen Kenny

"If Australia does not call for the Geneva Convention to be applied to its citizens now, then it is possible that countries involved in conflict with Australia in the future will disregard the Geneva Convention. History has shown us that this will result in the unnecessary ill-treatment and no doubt deaths of Australian service men and women. It has always been a mystery to me why General Cosgrove was not pounding on the Prime Minister’s door advising that Australia should insist that all those captured in Afghanistan be dealt with under the Geneva Convention to ensure the future protection of our own forces. Unfortunately for our Defence personnel... it is now only the United States and Australia who are publicly committed to supporting the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay." Stephen Kenny

Submitted by Jack Robertson on May 17, 2005 - 12:00am.
Discussion guidelines

(first published here on May 16, 2005)

Last week was a hectic one for Webdiary, with some fast-breaking stories bringing a lot of traffic, many debut commentors and a lot of intense and angry discussion. Sometimes nasty, too, which is why I announced my intention to conduct an experiment banning all personal abuse altogether.

As a part of what I hope will become a concerted attempt by all Webdiarists to lift the tone, substance, depth and civility of our increasingly pluralistic discussions - and also as a simple editing and formatting aide memoire to help both editors and contributors speed up the mechanical hack work of facilitating discussions while we are still investigating a broader technical redevelopment - my Contributing Editor Jack Robertson has drafted some guidelines for Webdiarists.

To make some key points doubly clear:

I've instructed Jack and guest editors not to publish any post that contains abusive attacks on another Webdiarist, or his or her views. I also want to make it clear to the nastier critics of Webdiary that I no longer have the time or inclination to indulge your pointless abuse of me or this site. For nearly five years I've worked hard to publish even the most vitriolic of your attacks. Enough. We've heard all your lines now. Save your time and mine. You know where to go on the net if you want to see your attacks on me published.

For more serious Webdiarists, banning abuse does not mean that I want you to avoid vigorous criticism altogether. If you disagree with someone, by all means say so. But I expect you to do so civilly and calmly, and I also expect you to amplify that criticism with well-reasoned and relevant counter-points, and, ideally, positive alternative suggestions. I want this site to be a place of substance and creative debate, not tit-for-tat niggling and destructive point-scoring. I want every Webdiary poster to to find and acknowledge the best points in other posts, not just knee-jerk react to their worst. I want our discussions to end up adding, not detracting, to our collective knowledge of the issues we address.

I want the Webdiary community to make itself greater than the sum of our constituent parts, not lesser.

I'm hoping that Jack and the guest editors won't need to delete too many abusive posts as part of this new approach. I'm still hoping that self-regulation might ultimately prevail. At each week's end, we'll review the list of posts/phrases that have remained unpublished/been deleted. This will help us all get an idea of how this experiment will play out. So please read the guidelines below and think about our intentions in laying them down. (And see Webdiary 'no abuse' trial - week one, published May 21, 2005.)

Guidelines for Webdiarists

by Contributing Editor Jack Robertson
Please read these guidelines and take them in both the letter and spirit in which they are framed. Their purpose is not to discourage Webdiarists from contributing, nor to appear prescriptive about content or opinions expressed, but rather simply to enhance the quality of the discussions conducted. Like all useful etiquettes for civilised discourse they are not absolute, nor are they unbendable as occasion merits. Webdiarists are strongly encouraged to recognise and respect the deeper strategic intent behind the specific list of rules.

These guidelines should be applied in conjunction with the Webdiary Charter, Webdiary Ethics.

Formatting conventions

These rules, while appearing pedantic, serve three serious purposes:

a. to maintain an eye-pleasing and consistent site appearance;

b. to assist contributors and editors in the management of conversations, especially the latter (by far the majority of an editor's time is spent 'tidying up' lazily-formatted posts);

c. to ensure that contributors give serious thought to the preparation of their posts, to help reduce the number of frivolous, lazy and bad faith posts.


1. Use standard English (Fowler's) capitalisation, grammar and spelling (Macquarie) rules. Use of the internet 'convention' of writing in lower case only is acceptable in poster's name-boxes only.

2. Do not indent standard paragraphs. (The 'blockquote' html format for delineating quotes should only be sparingly used.)

3. Separate paragraphs with one blank line space.

4. Insert no space before the following punctuation marks: ,.?!;:)> and one space after.

5. Insert one space before: ([< and no space after.

6. Insert one space after and before - + = &

7. Insert no spaces before or after: / " ...

8. Standard ellipsis length is 3 full stops thus: ... Use of excessively long ellipses to 'make a point' should be minimised.

9. Use of CAPITAL text means that you are SHOUTING at your fellow Webdiarists. Bar staff will tolerate single SHOUTED words, phrases and short isolated sentences, but no more.

10. The use of other internet formatting conventions such as emoticons is acceptable.

11. Quotation marks should be used on all quoted material, including Webdiarists' posts. If quoting text with no contained quotations, simply use "...". If quoting text already containing quotations, use "...'...'..."

12. For brackets, the equivalent convention is (...), and (...[...]...)

13. When quoting from a hyperlinked source, use normal font.

14. When quoting from a hard copy source not on the internet, use italics.

15. When quoting a fellow Webdiarist to respond to a specific point, the convention is thus: Jack R: "......blah blah blah..." as a stand-alone paragraph.

16. Webdiarists may add to this thread suggested solutions to 'format standarisation' issues you have encountered and which I have not addressed above.

Hyperlink conventions

Already it's clear that the internet's hyperlink capacity is one of the most exciting discussion 'tools' Humanity has developed since the printing press. The ability to draw on practically unlimited stores of information while conducting a written exchange is altering the way we write, read and even think. The downside is that the internet is also becoming a place of information anarchy.

Here are the Webdiary rules on hyperlinks:

1. Contributors will ensure that posts containing hyperlinks are submittted with the appropriate html tags already in place. If you do not know how to use basic html, there are many free websites available via Google where you can learn to make your own text bold, italic and hyperlinked (AKA 'hotlinked') in minutes. Serial offenders won't find their tag-free posts indulged by editors for long. Learn how to speak basic html, and do so.

2. Editors will - are bound - to check all hyperlinks on publication, and if possible will rectify any dead-end or dumb-thumbed mis-links, but the poster is ultimately responsible for any dud, and should advise the editor if his links fail. Dead links in cyberspace are like blank pages on a newspaper; Webdiarists should all work to minimise the number published here.

3. Editors also reserve the right to add hyperlinks to Webdiarists' posts if they think it will enhance a post; contributors can however request the removal of any such links if they are inappropriate to the post.

4. When hyperlinking to a website, Webdiarists should try to indicate, either in the 'hot-text' itself or immediately adjacent to it, some indication of:

a. the site/net publication the reader will be linked to; and/or
b. the author/blog-site the reader will be linked to;
c. the type of cached file linked to IF it might require software that is non-standard on older systems (ie, pdf; jpeg; mpeg);
d. whether the source/site requires paid-up subscription to read/gain access to;
e. whether the link invokes an excessively-long download time, or other unusual technical responses.

5. Webdiarists are also expected to include links only in transparent good faith. Note the following:

a. contributors who knowingly seek to link Webdiary with illegal websites will be banned, and reported to the relevant authorities;

b. contributors who knowingly seek to link Webdiary with websites of a hate-inciting, explicitly sexual or pruriently violent nature without making crystal clear in their post (and preferrably to Margo Kingston directly) that intention, and their justification for doing so, will be banned. The STRICT convention for linking Webdiary to controversial or confronting (legal) content is: do NOT hyperlink to the site, simply post the url. This ensures that Webdiarists can only visit the site by making a conscious decision to cut n' paste, then click. Contributors should be explicit in what they will find. If, for example, you wish to underpin an anti-war point during a discussion on Iraq by linking to explicit photographs of mutilated children, you should pre-warn Webdiarists that this is precisely what they will find. Margo Kingston reserves the right to veto any links.

c. Webdiarists who wish to hyperlink to content on their own personal sites or blogs may do so, but should declare their interests in the hot-text. Repeated posting of such solipsistic links, designed to do no more than boost personal hits, will be viewed with an increasingly jaundiced eye. Expect to be heckled ruthlessly by the editor if you persist; then eventually de-linked.


6. ...

Webdiarists may add to this thread further suggestions on hyperlinking conventions for consideration.

Limitations and general notes on posting

1. Except in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of Margo Kingston and the editors, Webdiarists are limited to a maximum of 5 posts per 24 hours. This limitation, which is imposed on a trial basis, is to help ensure:

a. that each Webdiarist posts a smaller number of more substantive (in length and/or depth) contributions to debates, rather than many superficial ones;
b. that Webdiary discussions do not descend into pointless and repetitive tit-for-tat squabbles over trivial disagreements;
c. that threads do not become overly dominated by the same small core of regular posters;
d. that newer or less confident Webdiarists are not discouraged from having an equal say;
e. that Webdiarists will not 'waste' posts on abuse.

2. Posts that contain personal abuse of another Webdiarist of any kind will not be published. Serial attempted-offenders may be permanently banned. 'Personal abuse' is a difficult and subjective notion, but the following are likely to be so:

a. any criticism of a Webdiarist's actual or imagined physical appearance or characteristic (voice, inherent intellect), or non-physical qualities over which they have no immediate control (writing ability, education level, life or work experience);
b. criticism which contains sneering or foul-language criticism of views and opinions, as opposed to witty and pithy critiques;
c. criticisms that depend for their sting even obliquely on a Webdiarist's specific (known or imagined) sexuality, gender, race, religion or nationality;
d. most criticisms that assign a pejorative adjective or noun to a person rather than an adjective or an adverb to that person's actions (including the action of expressing of an opinion);

Another useful guide to apply when deciding whether or not your post is 'personally abusive' is to ask yourself: 'would I be prepared to make this comment face-to-face to my fellow Webdiarist if we were standing at the bar of Club Chaos?'

Webdiarists should feel free to discuss the concept of 'personal abuse' further on this thread if they wish

3. All swear words up to and including f**k may if thought absolutely necessary be used in full. F**k and its derivatives must be asterixed, thus: 'f**k'. This represents the extreme end of the foul language permitted at Webdiary, and should be used very sparingly if at all.

4. In line with Webdiary Ethics, posters must post using, at minimum, a first initial and a full surname ('J. Robertson'). Ideally all posters should post using their daily-use name ('Jack Robertson'). Where overlaps with existing Webdiarist posting names is possible, additional information should be used by the late-comer ('Jack J. Robertson'; 'John James Smith). Posters who wish to use a pseudonym must advise Webdiary editors briefly of their reasons, or be willing to do so. Pseudonyms must be:

a. of a neutral and conventional nature;
b. consistently used once chosen.

Use of standard name forms lends Webdiary discussions a more sustantial and civil tone. It is far easier and more egalitarian for a 'Jack Robertson' to maintain a serious conversation with a 'John Smith' or a 'J. Smith', than with a 'John', a 'Johnny12345', a 'John Howardsucks' or a 'Mickey Mouse'.


6. Margo Kingston retains the right to disregard any and all of these Guidelines.

Jack Robertson: Webdiarists, please feel free to discuss any aspect of these guidelines, and add suggestions for areas that I have missed, at length on this thread. Thank you.

Previous comments on this thread

[ category: ]
Submitted by Jack H Smit on May 16, 2005 - 2:02pm.
Citizen Jack: how a man with a computer and a passion for justice can make a difference in today's Australia

Want to know how a man with a passion and a computer can help hold a government to account? Webdiarist Jack H Smit began 'Project Safecom' after Tampa. He is now one of Australia's most respected and effective refugee advocates. Here is his story.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Craig Rowley on May 5, 2005 - 11:33am.
The sun is never the worse for shining on a dunghill
"If you’ve ever had much to do with contracts you’ve probably heard of a sunset clause. If you’ve ever negotiated hard for a contract you may have burnt the candle from sundown to sunrise. Upon a successful outcome, you may have basked in the sun and scored the bonus that will pay for some time on the beach. Of course, in all likelihood the contract will never be so exposed to the clear light of day. Commercial-in-confidence. These three words are such an effective shield; they’re as good as sunscreen. Governments these days use these three words often. Too often we are treated like mushrooms rather than citizens, and it stinks." Craig Rowley
Submitted by Carmen Lawrence on March 24, 2005 - 4:41am.
Indefinite detention, Cornelia Rau and the denial of mental illness

"We need to revive our commitment to the principle that lies at the heart of our Western, liberal tradition - that every person has the right to be free; a right that is second only to the right to life itself. The right that is embodied in the common law principle that only courts after proper charge and trial - and not government - should decide who is deprived of their liberty." Carmen Lawrence

[ category: ]
Submitted by Chris Saliba on March 23, 2005 - 10:59am.
There’s a riot goin’ on

"Democracy sure is messy. Last Friday’s Melbourne anti-war protest was proof of that." Chris Saliba reports

[ category: ]
Submitted by Carmen Lawrence on March 23, 2005 - 7:01am.
Choice in Childbirth: a public policy failure

"Exhortations last year by the treasurer, Peter Costello, that patriotic young Australians should go forth and multiply, caused more than a few indulgent chuckles from the assembled media. Many of those being urged to have more children were probably less amused as they contemplated the hurdles they confront in taking his advice." - Carmen Lawrence

[ category: ]
Submitted by Richard Tonkin on March 23, 2005 - 5:05am.
Halliburton down under: taking over South Australia by stealth

Webdiarist  Richard Tonkin lives in Adelaide and has taken a close interest in the doings of Halliburton in Oz. This is his first piece for Webdiary. He writes: "I'm a 39 year old folkie with 25 album credits and a member of the family that has operated respected Adelaide live music venue "The Gov" for a decade. I've spent the last year attempting to publicise the quiet conversion of South Australia from the Festival State to The Defence State. A string of defence related letters has been published in the Adelaide Advertiser, and my research for No-War S.A. resulted in the Halliburton protest that was broadcast on the SBS Dateline feature 'Halliburton Down Under'."

Submitted by Margo Kingston on March 1, 2005 - 1:57am.
General Comments

This is a place for general comments about this site, generally not for publication.

If at all possible, choose a thread to which your comment is most relevant and post there.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Craig Rowley on February 28, 2005 - 6:38am.
WE are at a tilting point
"Unlike corruption under other forms of government, from totalitarian state to illiberal democracy, our political officials act in our name with our express consent. Quite honestly, they are our representatives. Ultimately their ethics are our ethics as well. If they are corrupt, and we allow them to be, then we are corrupt, too." Craig Rowley
Submitted by PF Journey on February 26, 2005 - 3:14am.
Maybe I am also a thief

"It’s a cry from an Indonesian’s heart. It expresses the frustration and exasperation of the Indonesians about corruption in their own country. They are helpless to do anything about it because it has become the norm. No one is clean anymore. Corruption has become us." PF Journey

Submitted by Hamish Alcorn on February 22, 2005 - 10:25am.
Don't think of an elephant

G'day. Here's something to really get your teeth into, a review by Hamish Alcorn, my brother and convenor of my soon-to-be-launched website yourdemocracy, of the American bestseller Don't think of an elephant. After the review, an extract from the book with the kind permission of publisher Scribe. It's about how the hard right has hijacked the language of politics and how progressives can take it back. Author George Lakoff is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and is a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Polly Bush on February 19, 2005 - 5:20am.
Carving up Club Chaos

"A long time ago in a far away land reigned the establishment Kingo's Club Chaos, sometimes now referred to as Ye Olde Webdiary. This makeshift saloon bar quickly became a refuge for the damned and a retreat for the restless, evolving into Margo's Home for Wayward Cowboys and Cowgirls. As the crowd grew in numbers renovations became inevitable. Like the ol' suburban pub, the expanding clientele needed to be dazzled with wanky trendy trimmings. This was no easy task as patrons varied completely in thought, word and speed. The best solution seemed to be to carve up the saloon bar into different themed rooms and activities." Polly Bush

[ category: ]
Submitted by PF Journey on February 18, 2005 - 6:55pm.
Pride and Prejudice: is the third Sino-Japanese war inevitable?
"Although North Korea is grabbing all the headlines, it is only a red herring. The real issue is the little reported rising tensions between the two super powers of East Asia, namely China and Japan. The Chinese and Japanese people have many things in common: ethnicity, custom, culture and language. One can almost say they are family. However, like any family, when family members squabble, it can turn really nasty. They have a 'love hate' relationship that has been running for thousand of years." PF Journey
[ category: ]
Submitted by Kerryn Higgs on February 12, 2005 - 8:35am.
The trouble with Iran

"What seems to be in the offing is an airstrike aimed primarily at a couple of dozen nuclear installations, plus Iranian defence facilities: a quick burst of ‘shock and awe’, not necessarily followed up by invasion, though an uprising leading to showers of roses and chocolates is again expected." Kerryn Higgs

[ category: ]
Submitted by PF Journey on February 8, 2005 - 2:07am.
The Aceh Conflict: Past, Present and Quo Vadis?

G'day. A couple of readers have complained that Webdiary is fixated on the USA and the Iraq war at the expense of discussion about the big two for us in our region, China and Indonesia. I asked if anyone would like to report on either nation, and got a bite from a Webdiarist on the latter, who starts the batting with a piece on Aceh.

Submitted by Craig Rowley on February 7, 2005 - 10:00pm.
Our last chance to know: Act 2 of regional rorts cover-up
"Take a mental note for next week: The Committee would like to hear answers to some of these questions from the horse’s mouth. Will they ask Mr Maguire to appear before them? If they do, and he seems like a brave and true fellow, will he appear?" Webdiary's regional rorts reporter Craig Rowley
Submitted by Craig Rowley on February 5, 2005 - 10:48pm.
'Bigger than all of us': our last chance to lift the regional rorts veil
"I think that the inquiry into Regional Partnerships will shape up into a big and important story that should now be getting a higher profile and sparking much conversation on Webdiary. I have written an article reporting on the first day of the inquiry, setting the scene for a series of pieces by looking more closely at the first day." Craig Rowley, Webdiary's regional rorts reporter
Submitted by Carmen Lawrence on January 1, 2005 - 4:01pm.
Carmen Lawrence SMH Webdiary Archive Nov 03 - March 05

Carmen Lawence: SMH Webdiary Archive

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 01:51 PM         

Indefinite detention, Cornelia Rau and the denial of mental illness

"We need to revive our commitment to the principle that lies at the heart of our Western, liberal tradition - that every person has the right to be free; a right that is second only to the right to life itself. The right that is embodied in the common law principle that only courts after proper charge and trial - and not government - should decide who is deprived of their liberty." Carmen Lawrence more

[ category: ]
Submitted by Margo Kingston on January 1, 2005 - 3:59pm.
Margo Kingston SMH Webdiary Archive Aug 04 - Aug 05

Margo Kingston Sydney Morning Herald Archive

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 01:55 PM

Barnaby to Queensland Nats: "You must go forth and talk to your people."

"This issue has an iconic substance about it that really means that the ramifications of my decision affects my whole party, the party that I represent. Whether it goes forward. Whether it survives or not. And to be completely frank, if the National Party was not to survive, the Australian political environment would become a very much poorer place. It would become very bipolar. You'd really only need four people in the chamber and everyone else could go home. We have to make sure we get this right, not just for Queensland, not just for the future of the National Party, but for the future of a broader view in the political scene in Australia's future." Barnaby Joyce angst today more

Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 04:10 PM

Barnaby's Lathamesque psychological strip tease

Joyce has harnessed people power to stop the sale by convincing very cynical voters that he was different. Then he proved to be the same, almost in an INSTANT! Re-read his maiden speech just 2 days ago, the day after after he was supposed to have been just about won over by the big boys in the Coalition. The Telstra story isn't over yet, folks. Icarus Joyce will get so many emails and irate contact in other forms from pissed off Ozzies he'll either change his mind or collapse as a centred human being. more

How Australia metamorphosed in a generation

"Ideologically, the Australian nation is no longer committed to social democratic or socialist ideals of a kind that were often seen to be the cutting edge of practical socialism in the antipodean British colonies a century ago." Bob Catley believes November 11, 1975 "ended the high water mark of the political left in Australia" and began "the transformation of Australia from a regulated economy and egalitarian society embracing a national political culture of social democracy, to a predominantly liberal economy, a more inegalitarian society, and a laissez faire national ideology". more

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 06:14 PM

If..., by Barnaby Joyce

"Politics talks in riddles and packs with verbiage what is absolutely crystal clear at the mother's morning tea or the local hotel. Politics appears to be the art of telling half the story and your followers guess the rest while using the absence of the complete message as a defence against the implication drawn by your deriders. When things get contentious we blame our faction or the joint party room as a reason that plasters over a personal political ambition. It leaves a political monoculture that can be less than inspiring and does not give credit to the public's ability to hear all sides of the debate and understand that a decision which favors one side has to be made. It would be nice to see the debate unencumbered in this chamber, not in the caucus or the joint party room. Neither of these are mentioned in the constitution and it is a convenient appendix designed by political parties that was specifically not entailed in the constitution." Barnaby Joyce more

Why the Coalition hates Barnaby on Telstra, a reminder of their Judas day in 1998

G'day. Barnaby Joyce will make his maiden speech to the Senate just before 6pm. He could well be Pauline Hanson with brains, the latest maverick thrown up by Queensland regional and rural voters to demand a 'please explain' or else. The big issue now, as it has been for a long time, is the full sale of Telstra. Seventy percent of Australians don't want it. Rural and regional Australians fear they'll get left behind on communications if it is, and they don't trust the Libs or most of the Nats to ensure it isn't so. And no wonder! The Nats betrayed the bush over Telstra long ago, before the 1998 election, in fact, in a Senate vote on Saturday, July 11, 1998. THE NATS VOTED TO SELL ALL OF TELSTRA. Ex-Labor Senator Mal Colston, who sold his soul to the Libs in exchange for getting deputy president of the Senate, finally said NO! The Judas National Party Senators still sitting in the Senate groaning about Barnaby Joyce were Ron Boswell (Qld), Sandy Macdonald (NSW) (alleged to have helped try to bribe Tony Windsor so the Nats could get his seat) and Julian McGauran (Vic), the bloke who gave the Senate the 'up yours' last week. They worked within the system alright, and they're still alright, aren't they. more

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 03:07 PM

Senator Steve Fielding's maiden speech

"Today, sadly, what are sold as family friendly policies are really market friendly policies. The major parties struggle to reconcile their professed family values with their free-market mantra. They struggle because the two cannot be reconciled. The mantra of choice, competition and consumerism is in conflict with family and community. Often it seems we live in a world where few values matter except those of the market." Senator Steve Fielding more

Andrew Bartlett: how Howard's team will de-fang the Senate

G'day. Last December I set out my predictions for the collapse of the last real parliamentary accountibility for John Howard and his ministers - the Senate. The government would really be saying up yours to all of us by doing this, of course, and Senator Julian McGauran did the gesture in the Senate last week in a helpful visualisation of the government's contempt for our democracy. Of course Howard, our perception-trumps-reality king, frowned and said that was very bad. I thought it was honest, but, of course, that's very bad. Webdiary will keep a very close watch on the Senate, and today, long-time Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett kicks off with his thoughts on what is to come. more

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 08:42 PM

Your IR War (how we get and keep our jobs ) primer

Many Webdiarists want to know the detail of what the nation is arguing about over John Howard's IR revolution. He hasn't given us detail yet, but the Parliamentary Library has pulled together the background, what's on the table so far, and who is playing how. Let's add the twists and turns through comments. more

Friday, August 12, 2005 at 01:52 PM

Restoring citizens' respect for journalism: we are not without power

"We all know that the media can no longer be trusted, that their performance is incompetent ... that they broadcast blatant lies as if they were manifest truths." Veteran Oz journo Phillip Knightley citing Le Monde with approval more

Thursday, August 11, 2005 at 12:22 PM

What is Happening to Australian Democracy

"Ideally, 'information' advertisements paid for by public money should relate to legislation already enacted (or at least fully discussed by the Parliament) and any judgmental argumentation in them should be scrupulously balanced, with alternative views presented. The ads should also be subject to independent oversight. Recent advertisements such as on GST in 1998, on Medicare in 2004 and most recently on industrial relations (IR) reform fail these tests. The decisions were made by a Government Committee (the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications) which is not accountable to Parliament or answerable to Cabinet and not subject to independent oversight. Nor can their content be described as non-political. The Broadcasting Services Act offers no great impediment to the broadcasting of blatant political advertising by governments using taxpayers' funds." Fred Argy more

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 10:08 AM

What ARE are our shared values, Webdiarists?

G'day. Who amongst us is unAustralian and why? Are there ANY common values we can agree on in these tipping point days? And if there are, how can citizens insist that laws, policies and practice adhere to these values? more

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 01:32 PM

LibLab re-elect the Senate President who betrayed our Parliament for JWH glory

On October 23 and 24, 2003 the Senate President, Paul Calvert, played out his capitulation to the Prime Minister in degrading the Senate and betraying his obligations to show equal respect for every Senator elected by the Australian people. Today, Labor voted with the Coalition to re-elect him Senate President in the new Senate in the full knowledge that he had already AGAIN betrayed his obligations by ordering without consultation with any non-government Senator new gerrymandered Question Time rules favouring Family First's Steve Fielding. more

Monday, August 8, 2005 at 05:51 PM

Infernal paradise: how city design determines lifestyle

"It does not matter how far away you go, or to which country you visit, if you are only remaining in the inner cities of such places, life is practically identical. Shopping malls are the same all over the world. Nightclubs are the same all over the world. The biggest barrier in the global environment is not language it is class." Solomon Wakeling more

Robin Cook is dead; his warnings on Iraq will, if there is justice, haunt Bush, Blair and Howard

"The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people. On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own." Robin Cook, deceased, March 17, 2003 in the British Parliament more

Saturday, August 6, 2005 at 12:47 PM

Where Is the Hirsch Report?

"The Hirsch report examines three scenarios: one in which mitigation efforts are not undertaken until global oil production peaks; a second in which efforts commence ten years in advance of peak; and a third in which efforts begin twenty years prior to the peak. Each scenario assumes a "crash program rate of implementation." In the first case, the study concludes that peak will leave the world with a "significant liquid fuels deficit for more than two decades" that "will almost certainly cause major economic upheaval"; even with a ten-year lead time for mitigation efforts Government intervention will be required and the world will experience a ten-year fuel shortfall. A crash program initiated twenty years ahead of the event will offer "the possibility" of avoiding a fuel shortfall. The report emphasizes repeatedly that both supply - and demand - side mitigation options will take many years to implement and will cost "literally trillions of dollars"; it also notes that "the world has never faced a problem like this."" Richard Heinberg more

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 at 04:48 PM

Costello, is it time?

"Up until recently the Liberal Party was the signature-Howard tight ship. The ranks have since broken and must have been emboldened with a shift in party power. Public opinion has forced the Prime Minister to back track. And to apologise. There is no more gloss to sell in the Iraq war. China and America call from separate corners, yet to bring forth the winds of public direction, except to place a thereby uncertain Howard at the brunt of it. We've turned a new page now in Howard's remaining political life." Robert Bosler more

Monday, August 1, 2005 at 09:06 AM

Get up!: first impressions?

G'day. Now here's an interesting development - Australia now has its own MoveOn.org in GetUp!. What do you think of the concept, the structure, the website, the funding model and the launch impact? Would you join? Why is this happening now? more

Friday, July 29, 2005 at 01:38 PM

A judge and a DPP: which one served the public interest?

G'day. Today a tale of two statements on the scary case of Steve Vizard, the man with the political and business clout to get a seat on the Telstra Board and tried to profit from confidential information he got in that position of public trust. He was there to represent the people of Australia. He helped himself instead. more

Send for the silent seniors

"Now, more than ever, our modern community needs to re-engage our older folk, and we need their perspective. If not for anything else, we need it for a sense of balance." Robert Bosler more

Thursday, July 28, 2005 at 12:36 PM

Grattan on gatekeepers and gatecrashers

"Often stories sweep past like fashionable movies; after a while the run is finished and people don't go back and ask, well what did happen after the publicity died down. In other cases we can't or don't get the information, and we don't make enough fuss about that... Today's round-the-clock torrent of words exhausts the politicians, drowns the journalists, and leaves the public jaded. Knowing more can mean understanding less. The effort to keep up with it all can preclude getting behind much of it." Michelle Grattan more

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 12:45 PM

'Two Brothers': the play and the reviews

"This review essay of Hannie Rayson's Two Brothers comments both on the play itself and on the nature of its critical reception: stories which tells us much about the current intimidated climate of intellectual and moral debate in Australia." Tony Kevin more

How about a party to bring back democracy in our parliament?

"The following is an idea I have had in the back of my mind as I watched the Howard Government act with ever increasing disdain for the Westminster system of Ministerial responsibility for the actions of their departments. Sadly, once this sort of behaviour appears on one side of the House, we generally see the other side following suit. It could indeed be argued that Labor started the slide of Ministerial accountability in their last term in government. Accordingly, I thought up a system that would give voters an opportunity to more effectively control the probity of their Parliament, whilst still being able to vote for the policies of their Party of choice. This manifesto is what I came up with as a result of my thinking on the topic." Allison Newman more

Monday, July 25, 2005 at 04:48 PM

The thought crimes of Jennifer Zeng

I asked Jennifer Zeng what she thought Mr Chen Yonglin's claim of a thousand spies working in Australia. "I was not surprised at all by Mr Chen's claims," she said. "My family back in China warned me more than a dozen times that they were not only warned, but also convinced by Chinese authorities that everything I am doing and saying here is monitored." Chris Saliba more

Saturday, July 23, 2005 at 01:14 PM

Special regional effects of IR war

"Whatever grand plans the prime minister has for promoting 'the national interest' by demolishing the family interest, in towns such as ours the chances are that more people will be worse off, not better off, following the introduction of this legislation by Kevin Andrews... In towns like this, word soon gets about if you visit the industrial inspector with a work diary detailing the hours of unpaid overtime your child has done. Blacklisted!" Hugh Wilson more

The United States-v-David Hicks: Guanatanamo Bay update and backgrounder

"A complication in the debate was created by the Department of State and Secretary of State Colin Powell. On 26 January 2002, he wrote to the President on the issue outlining the 'pros' and 'cons' of determining that the Geneva Conventions will not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. He was particularly concerned that the President clearly understood the options and consequences of either applying or not applying the Geneva Conventions. In so doing he identified the advantages of applying the Conventions including providing the 'strongest legal foundation' for future military action and preserving the 'credibility and moral authority' of the United States and protecting US forces and officials from criminal investigations." From Lex Lasry QC's report on The United States-v-David Hicks more

Friday, July 22, 2005 at 06:09 PM

Remembering Howard's waterfront war as he starts a new one

"When I mentioned this book by Helen Trinca and Anne Davies (Doubleday, 2000) as a source of evidence for an example of the Howard government's criminality Margo suggested a review in light of the start of the next battle in the IR war. An entirely appropriate suggestion as it provides a perspective on how the government will act to achieve its aims and, as such, is a caution against placing much, if any trust, in statements from the government or in trusting to its 'good intentions'." Bob Wall more

Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 05:28 PM

Senate Inquiry into DIMIA needs public input

"In the final days of the old Senate, an inquiry was established to investigate the abuses of the Immigration Department. This provides an excellent opportunity for the community to raise objections to current immigration policies and instances of mistreatment and abuses of power by the Immigration Department, and put them on the public record under parliamentary privilege. There is a slight danger that the Government will use its numbers in the Senate to shut the Inquiry down, when it sits in early August, but public pressure and interest will make it difficult to shut it down. Therefore, The Greens are encouraging public involvement in this Senate Inquiry." Senator Kerry Nettle, inquiry member more

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 05:36 PM

Keeping the party under control

"Many (political) parties would be happy to keep their operations beyond the reach of the law... The suggestion that all parties ought to be organised democratically, or at least conduct preselections in such a way, is worth considering." Anika Gauja more

Please swipe your card and press delete

"Finally, I will have the last swipe. It will be a swipe at my government. Up it comes: date of birth, mother's maiden name, nationality, last date of entry into Australia, flight number, colour of my eyes, known medical condition, started smoking when I was fifteen, was blacklisted and arrested pending self-removal from the USA in 1997 for overstaying my visa for 48 hours. And on it goes. I expect a big amount of crunching to go on inside my old computer. Never mind, I'll boil the kettle for another coffee, dream of an Australian Bill of Rights and wait. Then, Mr Howard, Mr Ruddock, Mrs Vanstone, I'll Select All, and I'll press delete. Because all the information, Prime Minister, all of it, is mine. It always was mine - and it certainly is not yours to hold or behold." Jack H Smit more

Monday, July 18, 2005 at 01:55 PM

Shutting down blogs: 'sucks' and the tort of injurious falsehood

"It is arguable that the words "Hunter Holden Sucks" convey the imputation that the business of Hunter Holden is poorly managed, and that it provides poor products and services. There may be other available imputations which are disparaging of the business and products of the second plaintiff... the concepts of free speech and discussion and liberty of the press had little relevance to an action for slander of goods." NSW Supreme Court says yes to injunction shutting down a blog critical of a product. more

Will Australians really let Howard let everyone off the hook post Rau?

"This culture came from two people. It came from the Cabinet table. It began with Philip Ruddock, and Philip Ruddock should not escape blame in any of this. Philip Ruddock, from the Palmer Inquiry it's now clear, is not fit to be a minister in this Government. But secondly, Amanda Vanstone has shown utter neglect, disinterest and laziness in her capacity to deal with the problems as they've been presented. You don't fix the problem while you have Amanda Vanstone in that portfolio." ALP immigration spokesman Tony Burke more

Friday, July 15, 2005 at 02:40 PM

The bloody price of US foreign policy

"The invasion and continued occupation of Iraq, the continued presence of US military bases in Muslim countries, coupled with continued western support for authoritarian regimes and continuing support of Israel at the expense of justice for the Palestinian people, guarantees that terrorism will not go away." John Richardson. more

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 at 10:15 PM


"My purpose is merely to highlight that an acknowledged dire problem (in this case, projected water shortage) is not necessarily intractable - that, indeed, the technical/financial (if not the political) solution might even be easy." Peter Gellatly more

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 at 08:11 PM

Comments Trouble

G'day. An SMH online producer advised me just before 8pm of a significant system problem concerning comments, which in many cases are being rejected without cause. It was reported to him by a reader and verified by an F2 techie, who advised that F2 was unable to assist and that he had called Netpresence for help. Fairfax has advised that Netpresence is unable to assess the cause of the problem until tomorrow morning. The producer asked me to pass this information on to Webdiarists. more

Friday, July 8, 2005 at 07:12 PM

Live 8: Dylan, Sir Bob and the selling of illusions

"With Live 8, as with Live Aid before it, Geldof follows his perpetual star. His dream is an electronic world of solidarity. But is this a false salvation? One notable absence from Live 8 was Dylan. Instead he was busy issuing a CD of a long lost gig at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village from 1962. In a typical Dylanesque twist, its release is exclusive to the Starbucks coffee chain." Stephen Smith more

Thursday, July 7, 2005 at 07:05 PM

Let's create worldwide happiness

"Have you noticed that although politicians, parents, teachers, businesses, organisations and the media promote the goal of happiness, no one seems to achieve real enduring happiness?" Martin Gifford more

Man who never has to work again fights for those who may never have a job

"Rabbiting on, Mr Combat added that "...no case has been made to support this argument. There is no economic evidence. Seventeen labour market academics recently confirmed that there is no economic case," he said. Here at the Murdoch Morning Glory, we have dismissed Mr Combat's arguments, as we require at least 20 academics to agree on anything before we will print their opinions." Ian McPherson more

Monday, July 4, 2005 at 10:22 PM

We turned 5 today

G'day. We turned 5 today, the 4th of July, 2005. Cheers to Club Chaos patrons who've come and gone, popped in occasionally, and left forever but returned anyway. Cheers to new patrons, especially those who joined us since October 10, 2004 after dropping in to commiserate, gloat or chew the fat on what the result might mean for all of us. And Cheers to the stayers. You know who you are. It's wild when readers hands join mine on the steering wheel. I won't say I've always enjoyed the experience, but it has held my focus, not least because of the sheer unpredictability of the journey. more

Liberalism and industrial relations

"The proposed sidelining of conciliation and arbitration also means the dismantling of a once proud Liberal tradition, although one hardly talked about in the Howard era. The fathers of conciliation and arbitration were Liberals like Alfred Deakin, Charles Kingston, Bernhard Wise and HB Higgins. They drafted the legislation, starting with Charles Cameron Kingston who drafted the first bill in 1890, with the advice of Alfred Deakin." Marian Sawer more

Friday, July 1, 2005 at 04:02 PM

Be alarmed, not just alert, on ASIO power extension

"We should be alarmed, not merely alert, about Australia's terror laws. They abrogate civil rights, which are our bulwark against tyranny. We are already seeing them used in what appears to be a McCarthyist witch hunt against vulnerable members of the community. We have spawned a monster, and it is only now beginning to show its menace. These laws are due to expire in July next year, but the Federal Attorney-General has called for their retention beyond that period. They should be repealed immediately." Melbourne silk Brian Walters SC more

Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 08:00 PM

'A Life of Unlearning': Roger Fedyk's book review

"The cycle of guilt and loathing, prayer and confession started again. However, it had no deleterious effect on his ministry. In fact, Tony became a leading preacher in the Assemblies of God church. He travelled the world, preaching to thousands and he developed and gave seminars that were booked out many months in advance. Finally after one life-changing homosexual experience in Brisbane, Tony had reached the end of the road for his double life. Of his own volition, he returned home and confessed everything to his wife and eventually to his church and its leaders. He was stripped of his licence to preach, he lost his income and finally his self-respect and dignity when he was made to stand in front of his own church congregation and confess his sin of adultery." Roger Fedyk more

The power of Latham's ghost, by Robert Bosler

"Years ago we were told we were, all in all, just another brick in the wall. That may well prove to be so, but in today's world Mark Latham's unique political thrust has given us the political measure to not just be another spouse in the house." Robert Bosler more

A new political paradigm: beyond the Wellbeing Manifesto

"The Australian political process is in disarray. The major parties are failing to provide what most people really want, yet there is no coherent political alternative available... Sanity will only prevail, and collateral damage will only be minimised, if we clearly grasp the nature of the beast to be tackled. The nature of the current paradigm can only be properly appreciated from the outside. We must view it from the vantage of a new paradigm." Dr Geoff Davies' more

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at 04:14 PM

John Faulkner, Labor's leading historian, on 'Loner'

"When Bernie Lagan asked me to launch this book, I admit I had some misgivings. I disagree with some of the analysis, and with some of the opinions in this book - including those of its subject! There is always the risk that someone, motivated by stupidity or by spite, will think launching a book equals endorsing its contents. But, on reflection, I thought this was a risk well worth taking. Loner covers a very recent and very volatile episode in Labor's history. The dust has not settled. The wounds are raw. Some would say that nowhere near enough time has passed for a reasoned (or reasonable) discussion of Mark Latham's leadership..." Senator John Faulkner more

Bush admits invading Iraq could have triggered WWIII

"Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: 'This Third World War is raging' in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in 'victory and glory, or misery and humiliation'. The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take." George Bush more

Should Australia go nuclear? The cautious case in favour, by Peter Gellatly

"Deja Vu, all over again? For Australia has been here before: three times in the last 60 years. Though all to no avail. But this time is different: this time, nuclear shares the stage with greenhouse. Any contemporary nuclear debate in Australia must take cognizance of this fact: so far as our neighbours are concerned, enhanced reliance on nuclear power is a given. Australia can't stop this progress, even if it wanted to. Still lethargically, some Western countries are now taking this fresh look. Will Australia be clever enough to join in?" Peter Gellatly more

Monday, June 27, 2005 at 05:45 PM

Should Australia go nuclear? The no case, by Lindsay Tanner

"The crucial point is that the onus is on those who are advocating change to demonstrate why that change should occur. As a member of the Labor Party I know only too well that that onus rests on all of us who advocate change. Advocates of nuclear power have an onus to demonstrate a genuinely commercial market for energy without the huge subsidies that have characterised nuclear power in other markets particularly in Europe and with genuinely accounted for external costs, such as the additional cost required to protect installations from terrorist threats, the cost of waste disposal, decommissioning and other issues, properly factored into the equation." Lindsay Tanner more

The future of criminal law, by Michael Kirby

"In the global market of media entertainment, serious debate about international issues of criminal law and punishment is usually furthest from the minds of the media industry. It remains for lawyers and other experts to attempt to clarify the real issues to be debated in such a case: is the present international approach to drug use and drug addiction just, sensible and effective? Is there a more effective and just approach, at least for some such cases and some drugs? Is 20 years' imprisonment (still more, life imprisonment and death) for such an offence, wherever it takes place, self-evidently excessive? Can the disparity between punishments for such an offence, in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere, be justified by peculiar local needs and the attitudes of the public in different countries? Do such punishments, in any case, deter those to whom they are targeted? Is there disharmony between the punishments inflicted for such offences and other punishments involving crimes of corruption, terrorism, violence and other anti-social conduct? Can there ever be a useful comparison between the criminal laws and legal punishments imposed in the judicial systems of countries so different as Australia and Indonesia? Is it futile, or useful, to compare such punishments?" Justice Michael Kirby more

Thursday, June 23, 2005 at 07:53 PM

Last Question Time in the old Senate

Senate Question time is fairer, more respectful and more information-based than QT in the House of Representatives - Senators even have to answer the question asked! - because the government doesn't have the numbers. Thus, though Senators vote for a Liberal President to be presiding officer, that person knows that he or she relies on the confidence of the Senate as a whole. Expect House of Reps rules and behaviour when the new Senate sits. From now on, if the Senate President is fair the government can sack him. This is the last Senate Question time of the era which closes tonight. The Rebel 4s compromise bill will also pass the Senate tonight. Fitting. more

Last House of Reps Question Time of the old era

It's the last day of the old Senate. When Parliament returns after the winter break, the new Senate - the one the Coalition controls - will come with it. Already today John Anderson has stepped down as National Party leader and Beazley said he will announce a reshuffle of his frontbench tomorrow after a special Caucus meeting tonight. So what themes did the Coalition and Labor run with on this historic day and how did they play the game in the final moments of the old era. Here is the transcript of today's Question Time in the People's House - the House of Representatives. more

John Anderson steps down on the last day of the old era

"My party is at a point where it will enter a new era with the Coalition's impending majority in the Senate. I believe the party needs a leader who is certain to have the energy to meet the challenges this will bring, and to take the party forward to the next election." John Anderson steps down more

Kay Hull: Today is the beginning of their lives

"Make no mistake, the people who have come here are mostly genuine refugees , and have been recognised as such. They have been victims time and time again. They were victims in their own countries. They were victims of abuse and violence and death threats to their families. They became victims of people traffickers and people smugglers and then they became victims of a set of rules that treated them as though they had committed significant or horrendous crimes when in fact the only crime that they had committed was to try to remove their family from these circumstances. I believe that, given the same conditions, I would make the decisions that many of these people have made. There is no doubt that if somebody threatened the life of my family, my sons, my grandchildren , I would be willing to make any sacrifice or take any risk to ensure their safety and their wellbeing." Kay Hull, National MP for Riverina, rural NSW (Wagga/MIA), conservative, prosperous, hardworking, multicultural. more

Lindsay Tanner: 'Decent, caring Australia is finally asserting itself'

"The real significance of this bill is that it reflects a major change in community opinion in Australia. Finally, we are seeing the middle ground of genuine, caring, decent, honest Australia starting to assert itself... This major revolt that we have seen in the parliamentary Liberal Party is an illustration of how strong that sentiment is becoming and how much the attitudes in our community are changing." Linday Tanner, Labor MP for Melbourne, greenie inner urban more

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 at 09:00 PM

The Father of the Senate takes his leave

"I entered this parliament with one fundamental objective that would guide my approach to issues of public policy. The objective I outlined in this maiden speech was to contribute to the development of an economic and social order in which persons can live with freedom and dignity and pursue both their spiritual development and their material wellbeing in conditions of economic security and equal opportunity. I was determined to defend the uniqueness and dignity of each individual human being. In three decades I have witnessed the encroachment of utilitarianism, crass materialism and particularly, more recently, moral relativism. Each of these has negative implications for true human flourishing." Senator Brian Harradine's valedictory more

Petro Georgiou: 'It will usher in a new era...'

"Not all of the measures that have been proposed by some of us have been realised, but the overwhelming reality is that this legislation represents a major and essential step in ensuring a more flexible, humane, compassionate and accountable framework for the treatment of asylum seekers and others. I believe it will usher in a new era in asylum seeker policy in Australia." Rebel 4 leader Petro Georgiou, Liberal MP for Kooyong, establishment Melbourne. more

Tanya Plibersek: a triumph of hope despite experience, Rebel 4?

"I was probably about 14 years old when my dad was taking a group of us to the blue light disco and the station wagon was packed. My friend Kaleen was sitting in the back seat with me and she said, 'I really hate wogs and their big cars.' I had to point out to her that she was, in fact, in one of those big cars driven by one of those wogs. The members for Kooyong, Cook, Pearce and McMillan have done a very brave thing, considering the way party rooms work, and I commend them on their bravery. I am not embarrassed at all to say that I admire what they have done in putting this issue once more into the public arena." Tanya Plibersek, Labor MP for Sydney, inner city, lots of greenies more

Julia Irwin: Welcome to the trenches, Johnny's come-latelies

"I support the amendment moved by Labor and the minor improvements made by this bill. If the heavy burden of despair is lifted off just one parent, if just one caged child can breathe the free air of our country, Australia, I would support the bill. But I cannot help feeling like the soldier who has spent years in the trenches of the Somme: it is tempting to think that those who now claim the glory spent most of their time drinking champagne back in the bordellos of gay Paris." Julia Irwin, Labor Left MP for Fowler, Western Sydney, multi-ethnic, aspirational; a tough anti-MD sell which didn't stop Irwin becoming one of the earliest such advocates on the parliamentary record. more

John Forrest: 'John, we are just a little bit uncomfortable with this policy approach'

"What it has done is brought me, along with my communities, into close association with the sorts of people that members have been talking about in this debate, particularly a large number who have lately come from very high profile Middle Eastern countries. The communities have been very strong in giving them moral and financial support and in providing them with employment. Having sat with some of these people, many of them having spent long periods in detention, and listened to their stories, I can say that the only way to understand their situation is to put yourself in their position." John Forrest, National MP for Mallee, Victorian rural, conservative, close-knit...and short of good hard workers. more

Simon Crean: Labor did the hard yards too

"When I assumed the leadership, I indicated that we knew that we had to change the policy. I took the initial step on Australia Day in January 2002 - within a couple of months of assuming the leadership -in an address to an Australia Day citizenship forum in Brisbane, to call for the kids to be released from behind the razor wire. It was a call that said: 'All unaccompanied minors should be released and all children with their whole family should be settled in alternative accommodation.' I argued at the time that we needed an independent medical assessment available in the detention centres. Had that call been heeded, we could have avoided the tragic circumstances of Cornelia Rau. I also argued that the government should be back in control of the detention centres, that it should mothball Woomera and move the detainees to other facilities and that it should allow media access to detention centres with appropriate protocols. I make the point that that call was made by the Labor Party as early as January 2002." Simon Crean, Labor MP for Hotham, safe Labor worker's seat, Melbourne more

Bruce Baird: 'Once you have seen the injustice there is no turning back'

"The memories that I have of places like Curtin, which fortunately has subsequently been closed down, are that they were more reminiscent of gulags than modern Australia. We expressed our concern at that time (2001) through the human rights committee with 20 recommendations... Let us never again see children in detention in this country. They should not be behind barbed wire or razor wire. It is an indictment that we have let it happen." Bruce Baird, Liberal MP for Cook, blue ribbon Sydney South more

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 11:19 PM

Peter Andren's take on the Rebel 4 compromise bill

"Since the shameful Tampa episode we have seen a steady decline in our reputation as a fair go country, and the treatment of asylum seekers has been the major contributor to that dramatic decline. I said in August almost four years ago the Tampa episode was being exploited to create the desired anti-asylum-seeker sentiment-indeed what was, in its effect, an anti-Muslim sentiment. I said then that if that was the way to win government in this country then whoever exploits that way holds a poisoned chalice. Fast forward to this bill: a response by a prime minister under enormous pressure from the four dissident members doing the job of an opposition that is locked into the mandatory detention process because it invented it, which has been rigid with fear of a backlash from the electorate-so rigid that the opposition to this obnoxious policy has gradually developed within the ranks of the government itself." Peter Andren, Independent MP for Calare, regional NSW more

The compromise bill: full text


Russell Broadbent: why I took a stand

"I would like to express my thanks to the thousands of people from throughout Australia who expressed their support for what we were trying to achieve and took the trouble to e-mail, write and call my office. In particular I would like to thank those people in the McMillan electorate who contacted my office with messages of support, many of them from sectors of the community I would not normally have expected. The messages of support outweighed overwhelmingly those in opposition to any change from the status quo." Rebel 4 member Russell Broadbent, Liberal MP for McMillan, where Melbourne's outskirts meet regional Victoria more

Big Kim on the Rebel 4's compromise bill: the wind has changed

"The changes we see today are the cynical outcome of a series of crisis meetings between the dissidents in his own ranks and the Prime Minister. They are a quick fix forced on a Prime Minister desperate at any cost to avoid the public humiliation of backbench rebels voting down Government policy. As always a solution driven by spin. A superficial response to a systemic problem... the disaster-prone Department of Immigration presumably continues on its merry way detaining Australian residents, deporting Australian citizens and keeping women and children behind razor wire. It defies all logic." Kim Beazley more

Menzian liberalism in our Parliament: Judi Moylan's speech on the compromise refugee bill

"Our democratic system of government has a foundation principle of justice for all, an adherence to the rule of law and separation of powers between the executive, parliament and the judiciary. As elected representatives we owe it to our communities to uphold these strong democratic principles as a priority. It is my belief that the policy and its administration heightened the trauma of men, women and children who were fleeing regimes that we have condemned. People from all age groups, all walks of life, all beliefs, have worked toward the common goal of alleviating the suffering of people who've fled their homes and countries in fear of their lives. Most Australians don't simply talk about a fair go for all. They actually live it day by day." Judi Moylan, Liberal MP for Pearce, a Perth urban+rural mix, Western Australia more

Come on, Amanda, get real

G'day. Is Vanstone telling the Senate the truth, and if she is, how can she be the "responsible minister" for immigration? The Rebel 4's bills as negotiated with the PM will be introduced into the House of Representatives and debated tonight. I'll be there for Webdiary. more

A Catastrophic Failure of Alternative Leadership

"Who will stand, who will face the challenges? Who is willing even to look? Who is not oblivious to the malaise, to the cries and signs around them? Who will step aside so real leaders may step forward? Not the Australian Labor Party..." Geoff Davies. more

The Rebel 4 deal analysed

It's a complicated deal, the one the Rebel 4 dragged out of the PM tiny bit by tiny bit over at least five long face-off meetings. Don't believe Howard when he says these reforms were long overdue. He didn't want any of them. Here's an analysis of the pros and cons by refugee barrister Nick Poynder. more

Monday, June 20, 2005 at 05:00 PM

Public Confidence in Australian Democracy

"Respondents were satisfied and proud of a general conception of Australian democracy but were mistrustful of politicians, the federal parliament, the legal system and the public service. Thus this study supports Norris' contention that citizens support democratic ideals whilst being critical of the practical workings of democracy." Scott Brenton. more

Sunday, June 19, 2005 at 03:39 PM

Kirby's back

Justice Michael Kirby will resume his duties in the High Court tomorrow after eight weeks on sick leave following open-heart surgery. more

Saturday, June 18, 2005 at 04:46 AM

The PM's spin on having to bow a bit to liberal values: watcha reckon?

Michelle Grattan: If they're long overdue Mr Howard, why weren't they done before? John Howard: "Well that's a fair question. I thought you would ask it, but I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, we have to confess that that's one of the many failings of this government of which you've written frequently. I'll withdraw that last bit Michelle, that's fine. more

Friday, June 17, 2005 at 05:35 PM

7000 TPV holders have hope, rebels give ground on mandatory detention

Six hours of crisis talks from 9.30am to 3.30pm today and Howard has a deal with the Rebel 4. I will write about what happened and why later. Here is the Prime Minister's press release this afternoon containing the agreement. The rebels asked for it to be released. more

Thursday, June 16, 2005 at 05:06 PM

Senate procedure for a debate on the Petro bills

"The Greens will wait to see whether Petro can have his bills debated in the House of Representatives. If he cannot, and it looks like this is the most likely outcome, then they will move to have the bills debated in the Senate. The normal time for private members legislation is on Thursday afternoon but because the Senate is at the end of its session and there are a lot of government bills to get through this time slot for Private Members Bills has been axed for next week. In any case the need for this debate is urgent and The Greens will seek to have the bills debated as soon as possible." The Green plan for Georgiou's bills in the Senate more

When evil happens to good people

"I have a disclosure. I know Doug Wood. At least I have met Doug a few times many years ago. That on its own put me somewhat closer to his kidnapping than if it had been someone else. However, I have had a close personal relationship with one of his brothers, Vernon, for many years. We went to school together at the Gordon Institute (now Deakin University) in Geelong. We worked together professionally and our young families grew up together after we both married." Roger Fedyk on the emotions unleashed by the high-profile kidnapping and release of a close friend's brother. more

The people want a parliamentary debate on this matter, John

G'day. Big, big developments today in the struggle for the soul of the Liberal Party. Enter The Greens and Victorian conservative Senator Judith Troeth. What a combination! more

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 at 03:09 PM

It's about the values of liberalism, John

In the end, liberalism is not compatible with Howard's Liberal Party. That's the truth of it. The party either rebalances or there's a split. The mask is peeling off. What will the people think now? When they see Howard will they see themselves, or someone else entirely? more

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 at 01:05 PM

The stakes get higher: rebel Libs outstare Howard on Georgiou bills, for now

After a homecooked meal together, the four rebel Liberals - Petro Georgiou, Judi Moylan, Bruce Baird and Russell Broadbent, met Howard at The Lodge last night - the Queen's Birthday holiday. On the same day the long-time head of DIMIA, Bill Farmer, whose administration even Howard admits needs cleaning up, got an Order of Australia. more

Thursday, June 9, 2005 at 12:23 PM

MPs, please heed the call this time

Many have wrongly written that the backbench revolt over prolonged mandatory detention of refugees is the first big test of Howard's absolute power over his party. The last big one, in 2000, was also over mandatory detention, a Northern Territory law compelling judges to send children to jail for their first stealing offence. It's worth reviewing the outcome, because it points to how Howard might resolve the current revolt. In 2000 an Aboriginal lad of 15 was sent to jail for stealing a Texta pen. He hung himself after unqualified staff - one of whom was an ex-abattoir worker - ignored his deteriorating mental state and locked him up in solitary. more

Your top ten protest songs

A fair while ago - I think it was after David Makinson, Webdiary's leading anti-war contributor before we invaded Iraq, wrote In defence of America - there was a Webdiary discussion on where the protest songs had gone to. A Webdiarist whose name I remember well sent me a CD he'd compiled of contemporary music which he called "Not enough protest songs". How about some of you lot give us your top ten, in the ORDER you'd want them played, for your album, "My top ten protest songs". They can come FROM any era. more

Monday, June 6, 2005 at 07:28 PM

Downer joins Vanstone in Alvarez cover-up

"But to try to sex up a story like this as though somebody has done something terribly wrong, or DFAT were involved in some sort of conspiracy to send Vivian Alvarez Solon back to the Philippines-come on; grow up." Downer's response to his Department's palm-off of the Philippine Embassy's concerns for Vivian Alvarez in 2001 and its failure to look for her when advised she'd been illegally deported in 2003. more

SIEV-X: an update

"Having travelled from Perth to attend the people smuggler trial at Brisbane Supreme Court with three Iraqi men who lost family on SIEV-X, I can offer a unique perspective on this chapter of the SIEV-X story. It was unbelievably hard, they tell me, to sit for hours listening to detailed accounts of how the asylum seekers were moved across Indonesia by people smugglers and ferried by small boat onto the SIEV-X, for this is the journey their wives and children took in the days and weeks leading up to their deaths." Sue Hoffman more

Thursday, June 2, 2005 at 08:43 AM

Only powerless if we think we are

Don't get depressed at how powerless you are. Have a look around and work out how you too can defend your democracy. It's fun, and it's scary for those political "representatives" and business leaders who think they've won their fight to crush our right to know what they're really doing for themselves at the expense of us and our future. more

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 06:00 PM

Militant socialism: alive and well in the Coalition

"Those of you out there who voted for John Howard because of his exceptional fiscal management should be disgusted at the amount of money that is being thrown at rural industries in an attempt to keep them from falling over. Let them fall over I say!" Simon Martin more

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 01:55 PM

Rebel Libs leap from 5 to 9: Howard gets more talks

Georgiou agrees to delay presenting his bills until June 20 pending talks with Howard and Vanstone. UPDATE June 1: Where do your MP and your State's Coalition Senators stand? Here's the list of Coalition MPs and Senators who've declared their positions as at Tuesday, May 31. I've got 39 out of the 43; additions welcome. more

Labor runs dead on Georgiou bills

Gutless Labor. Here's the Beazley statement this morning and an extract of his interview with Sky News. Labor won't put up its own bills if the Georgiou bills don't get debated. Note no committment to support the Georgiou bills if Labor's amendments don't get up. Gutless. UPDATE: I've added Bob Brown's offer to introduce the Georgiou bills into the Senate if Howard stops House of Reps debate, and Beazley's doorstop this morning. more

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 10:23 PM

Upgrading Webdiary: a call for volunteers

Webdiarist Caroline Compton has taken on the task of co-ordinating action to expand Club Chaos after a comprehensive discussion paper prepared by Marc Macdonald, to whom I am forever grateful. Thank you Caroline and Marc! Here is Caroline's first report to Club Chaos patrons. more

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:00 PM

Democracy is not a spectator sport

Let's tell it like it is. Let's feel proud to do so, and let's see the vitriol rained down on us for what it is, the scream of the facists and their yes people now dominating the "governance" of this nation. No more pussyfooting around with these people, okay? Yes, it is us versus them, but the them are the destroyers of our values. The us are the ever-growing numbers of Australian citizens who've decided that democracy in Australia can no longer be a spectator sport. more

The skull beneath DIMIA's skin

Your name is Bill Farmer. You have been the head of DIMIA for many years. You know that if Senators questioning you are even half-smart, you will be exposed, sometime during the day and night ahead, as the leader of an organisation whose failure to act upon learning that it had deported an Australian citizen brings to mind the banality of evil. more

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at 09:41 PM

Palmer to resign after Rau report: judical inquiry needed into DIMIA scandals

The Government's private and legally powerless investigation into more than 200 unlawful detentions in five years could collapse, with Lateline reporting that its head Mick Palmer told Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone an inquiry with judicial powers was needed to get to the bottom of the scandal. more

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 09:23 PM

The Mandatory Detention Bill 2005

This is the text of the Liberal rebels' Migration Amendment (Mandatory Detention) Bill 2005. John Howard has yet to decide whether he will allow the House of Representatives to debate the bill, or will tell Coalition MPs to vote with him to stop any debate on it in the People's House. more

The Act of Compassion Bill 2005

This is the text of the Liberal rebels' Migration Amendment (Act of Compassion) Bill 2005. John Howard has yet to decide whether he will allow the House of Representatives to debate the bill, or will tell Coalition MPs to vote with him to stop any debate on it in the People's House. more

Petro Georgiou's case for change and his plan to do it

Here is the argument for and the outline of the rebel Liberal MPs' bills to abolish mandatory detention and temporary protection visas, which Petro Georgiou sent to all Coalition MPs today. How's that for open democracy? more

Lib MPs 'stand up for human dignity', will cross floor to stop mandatory detention

"Episodes of self harm, attempted suicides, suicides and mental health problems resulting from detention policy are matters of conscience. Personally I have felt a great sense of pride when our party and parliament have allowed matters going to the heart of the preservation of human life and dignity to be freely debated on the basis of conscience, for example euthanasia, abortion and stem cell research. It seems no less important, for reasons of conscience, to engage in a wide ranging debate on asylum seeker policy, a policy that fails the foundation test of upholding human dignity." West Australian Liberal MP Judi Moylan lays it on the line to Howard. more

Vivian Alvarez timeline: a work in and for progress

She knows she's lost her war to hide truth, and now she's focused on saving her career. Watching Vanstone's latest tactical play - note that as always it's about her, not the victims - is getting interesting. Meanwhile, here is a rough draft timeline of the Alvarez scandal to help work out the evidence Vanstone and DIMIA give to Senate Estimates hearings tomorrow, if they don't clam up, of course. I request your help to flesh out the timeline. UPDATE May 29: Timeline updated to incorporate info from Senate Estimates - DIMIA. Thanks to Alastair Gaisford for trawling through the transcripts. UPDATE June 6: Timeline updated to incorporate info from Senate hearings - DFAT. UPDATE Jun 28: Correction: Wayne Gibbons did NOT sign the deportation order as stated. More detail in this entry and in June 28 comment. more

Monday, May 23, 2005 at 04:00 PM

Why we ask...'why?'

"In the end we, as human beings the world over and in our own way, love. We believe. We seek to eat, to have shelter and safe beds to sleep in. In all the tiny corners of the world, torn by war or party to it even if just by deed of our being human, we each head into sleep at night while within us somewhere deep or near the surface is the fundamental question we all ask. Why do we hurt, harm, kill?" Robert Bosler more

History in our hands: radical transformation in Tasmania and beyond

"The most obvious lesson I draw from the nine year campaign for gay law reform in Tasmania is that human rights law reform and improving community attitudes to human rights are inextricably linked. Clearly changes in community attitudes make law reform more likely. But we often forget that the relationship is reciprocal. One of the most significant causes of social change in Tasmania has been community education. In my experience all meaningful or substantial change comes not from the hands of authority, but from below, from ordinary people making the decision to improve their everyday lives." Rodney Croome more

Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 02:22 PM

Malcolm Fraser: once there were liberals

We have entered a new world where people cease to be people 'not because they are known to be something but because they are suspected to be something', Malcolm Fraser says. He points out that normal reporting of such cases can also lead to imprisonment. 'It's the sort of law Stalin passed, and it's an Australian law.' more

Thursday, May 19, 2005 at 12:02 AM

The battle for truth on Iraq

When Tony Blair's Labour Party was re-elected in Britain two weeks ago, the saga of the Iraq War begun in March 2003 seemed to be, in one sense, over. All three leaders of the "Coalition of the Willing" - the United States, Australia and Great Britain - had survived politically after a war that divided citizens and challenged long established principles of international law. The three leaders survived despite evidence - still emerging - that now seems to prove that the detailed justifications for the war were not only wrong, but in many cases known to be wrong or uncertain before the war began. This is the second battle for Iraq - the battle for the truth. more

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 03:20 PM

Hicks and the Geneva Convention, by Stephen Kenny

"If Australia does not call for the Geneva Convention to be applied to its citizens now, then it is possible that countries involved in conflict with Australia in the future will disregard the Geneva Convention. History has shown us that this will result in the unnecessary ill-treatment and no doubt deaths of Australian service men and women. It has always been a mystery to me why General Cosgrove was not pounding on the Prime Minister's door advising that Australia should insist that all those captured in Afghanistan be dealt with under the Geneva Convention to ensure the future protection of our own forces. Unfortunately for our Defence personnel... it is now only the United States and Australia who are publicly committed to supporting the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay." Stephen Kenny more

Inventing a local newspaper

"Residents of Blackall [Qld] were left with two newspapers sold into their town but produced and controlled in other Outback towns, one 200km to the north-west and another 300km to the south-east. So in 2002, a group of Blackall residents formed a committee and asked local Queensland Department of Primary Industries official Chris Capel to help them in a project to re-start their own locally controlled and produced newspaper." Dr John Cokley more

Curtin an appeaser, says Downer the Great

Downer wants to lead the Coalition. Here's his vision for Australian foreign policy and his justification for the lies he and John Howard told to send Australia to its first war of aggression and its first war begun without the support of the majority of the Australian people. more

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 at 05:00 PM

Torture, anyone?

G'day. It's a funny old world. As we face the fact that our government and its organs cannot be trusted to respect the rights, and even the humanity, of innocent Australian citizens, the same government and its organs are calling for the downgrading of citizen's protections against abuse of power by the State with a view, perhaps, to the legalisation of state torture. more

Getting elected as an independent: electoral laws and party favouritism

"History shows that there have been very few successful Independents, and it remains very difficult for an Independent to get elected. Part of the reason is because the rules regarding political practice in most Australian jurisdictions have been designed in a way that favours parties over individuals. While such measures appear undemocratic, they are unlikely to change significantly without considerable public support or the political will of the major parties." Jennifer Curtin more

Monday, May 16, 2005 at 05:36 PM

Webdiarists help reveal Vanstone 'mistake' on crucial Alvarez fact

It looks like Webdiary has its first strike in our people's inquiry, after excellent research by Stephen Biddle, Melba Marginson and Jack H. Smit. The government did NOT deliver Vivian to the "Overseas Women's Welfare Association" as Vanstone claimed. And she failed to correct the record for several days until challenged on her claim by the media. more

Webdiary discussion guidelines

As a part of what I hope will become a concerted attempt by all Webdiarists to lift the tone, substance, depth and civility of our increasingly pluralistic dicussions - and also as a simple editing and formatting aide memoire to help both editors and contributors speed up the mechanical hack work of facilitating discussions while we are still investigating a broader technical redevelopment - Jack Robertson has drafted some guidelines for Webdiarists. more

A letter to Webdiarists from Melba Marginson, a Filipina Australian

"The day the news broke out about the missing woman, the Centre for Philippine Concerns Australia, a national network of Filipinos in Australia, began joining the ABC in searching for Vivian Solon through its network Centre for Migrant Advocacy in the Philippines. The CMA immediately contacted the Australian Embassy in the Philippines and Philippine government authorities. However, they faced a blank wall - Australian officials told them they were briefed not to disclose any information. The Philippine government, on the other hand, did not know anything about the search and sought information from us instead... If I ever meet an accident today as I go back to my office in Collins Street, please take note that you are all witnesses that I am Maria Selga, an Australian citizen of 9 years." Maria Selga, Victorian chairperson of the Centre for Philippine Concerns Australia more

Citizen Jack: how a man with a computer and a passion for justice can make a difference in today's Australia

Want to know how a man with a passion and a computer can help hold a government to account? Webdiarist Jack H Smit began 'Project Safecom' after Tampa. He is now one of Australia's most respected and effective refugee advocates. Here is his story. more

Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 06:55 PM

The impact of outsourcing in immigration detention

"The Court findings in the case of S v. Secretary, DIMIA [2005] FCA 549, where the Government failed to meet its duty of care towards two detainees suffering severe mental illness, raises many issues. Whilst the entire policy of mandatory long-term detention is at the heart of the problems, one aspect of the policy that is currently very relevant but has received little attention is the outsourcing of the management of immigration detention." Andrew Bartlett more

Seeking volunteers for Webdiary's 'people's inquiry' into Alvarez

I suggest that we establish a "People's Inquiry" into Vivian Alvarez. We can start the inquiry now. more

Friday, May 13, 2005 at 01:29 AM

I don't know why you think that is funny: Vanstone

"If we have got to the stage of cheap politics in this place where you cannot make a simple factual statement without some bad faith being attributed then we have really sunk to the very bottom." Vanstone plays Alvarez for laughs in Question Time. more

Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 08:47 PM

Building a fairer Australia, by Kamikaze Kim

"Our great country is about to enter the second decade of conservative rule. History will mark 1996 to 2006 as the Liberal/National Government's decade of deception. Year after year of lowering the 'truth' bar then deliberately crawling under it. With one common theme - the Government deceives, and Australians pay. If you think anyone here of Labor principle would vote ourselves a $65 weekly tax cut when the people who put us here get $6 - you've got another thing coming. Sadly we're learning the truth. They've squandered this chance to make Australia secure for our children and grandchildren. They have surfed a wave of prosperity but left the tough decisions to future generations." Kim Beazley more

Ray attacks Liberal 'blowhards' on Alvarez cover up

"Thank heavens the Catholic priest was watching the television at that time or she still may not have been found. And if that publicity had occurred 21 months ago, that would have been 21 months less that she would have had to spend in a hospice for the dying - an Australian citizen!" Senator Robert Ray more

Charge of the female journos stuns Vanstone

Forgive me, but I'm proud that the media fightback is led by women. Lateline's Margot O'Neill deserves a Walkley for breaking the first story about Vivian Alverez and sticking to it like superglue. In the Press Gallery, The Australian's Elizabeth Colman made it her business to get the name of the Australian citizen our government kidnapped, and she did, while AAP's Sandra O'Malley got the facts quickly and reported them hard and straight every day. Both women were at the forefront of the mauling Vanstone copped at her doorstop. Cold fury was their method. more

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 10:48 PM

Government knew where Vivian was all the time: Priest

The government told Vivian Alverez where they were taking her before deporting her to the Philippines and delivered her to someone from the convent hospice where she still lives four years later, Catholic priest Father Mike Duffin said tonight. more

Alvarez found: Vanstone's statement

"I am advised that an Australian Consular official in Manila has spoken to a local Australian Catholic Priest in Olongapo, who has been in contact with a woman in a local convent. It now seems, on the basis of that discussion, that the woman is the Vivian Alvarez who was removed from Australia in 2001." Vanstone more

Vanstone disappears, Brandis reads mag, as ministerial responsibility dies after a long illness

The Senate has just passed a censure motion against Vanstone. The debate was a depressing preview of how the accountability of ministers to our Parliament will completely collapse after July 1, when the government takes control of the Senate. Vanstone did not even bother to turn up for the debate, let alone defend her honour by speaking. Acting Senate Deputy President Senator George Brandis (Lib, Queensland), who chaired the debate, thought so little of the serious issues under discussion that he ignored it, choosing to read The Economist magazine instead. more

Liberals: the Consumption Party

"The 2005 budget in 20 words or less: 'Last night Peter Costello cut taxes so that wealthy Australians will be able to afford to buy more things.' That's pretty much it. The Liberal Party stands for consumption. That is its ideology - underpinned by the belief that no matter how shoddily they govern, as long as people can afford plasma screens they'll keep voting for them." Dave Green more

Time to rethink cancer treatment?

"If the Senate Committee gives anything more than lip service to the requests from their constituents for more support for cheaper self-help [cancer] therapies, this will undermine the implication that vested interests are the dominating influence over parliament." Don Benjamin more

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 05:54 PM

Vanstone, minister for buck passing, doesn't know, won't ask

She's got no class and unlimited gall, Amanda Vanstone. Tonight, an annotated transcript of last night's Lateline interview and her "answers" to questions in the Senate today on the growing number of scandals she's chosen to cover up rather than take responsibility for - her department's culpable neglect of mentally ill asylum seekers in Baxter, her pretend inquiry into Cornelia Rau, and her refusal to take responsibility for the search for Vivian Alvarez, who her Department illegally deported, then, after realising the mistake in 2003, did nothing to find her and bring her home to her son. To begin, John Howard's response on Alverez. Believe it or not he smiled during his answer. Looks like he's betting Australians won't give a damn about this, so he won't. more

Monday, May 9, 2005 at 10:56 AM

Can new millennium Germany transcend Hitler's evil legacy?

"If Germany of today could articulate what I suspect heavily is in the minds of many, it would say the following: Remember, remember...please never forget the terror. For, as Winston Churchill once noted, if we fail to learn the lessons of history then we are doomed to repeat them. But let us find our way to a new day also - finally free, yet paradoxically bound to the conflict, violence and division that carved Germany for the majority of the 20th Century." Meagan Phillipson more

The citizen investigator: Marilyn's story

"In early March this year I decided it was easier and cheaper to store all the DIMIA answers to questions in Senate Estimates hearings on my hard drive rather than constantly have to go on line to find answers. I started reading them that week starting from last year's and working backward. I found a funny thing. In an answer to a question about the numbers of people released from detention from July 2003 to February 2004, DIMIA included the phrase "33 not unlawful". What did that mean??? I wondered if I was the first person to actually read the answer." Marilyn Shepherd more

Urgent: an Australian bill of rights for all of us

Australia is the only Western country where citizens don't have some civil rights protection in law, and it's showing. I like Professor George Williams' idea: that Parliament pass a law guaranteeing our right to free speech, freedom of association and assembly, our right to equality before the law, and our right not to be arbitrarily detained by the state. These rights would prevail over contrary laws unless those laws specifically overrode them. That would mean we'd at least get advance notice when our rights were about to be curtailed, and could debate whether the cost was worth the benefit. more

Friday, May 6, 2005 at 05:35 AM

Government policy deepened asylum seekers' mental illness: Judge

Here is Part 2 of the judgement that finds the Government guilty of systemic breaches of its duty of care to mentally ill asylum seekers in Baxter and condemns its outsourcing policy, which Labor promised to abolish at the last election. Part 1 is at Judge finds government guilty of "culpable neglect" of mentally ill in detention: whose heads will roll? more

Judge finds government guilty of 'culpable neglect' of mentally ill in detention: whose heads will roll?

Want to know one of the two big reasons the Government is running scared on Rau, so scared that the inquiry into Rau's incarceration is private and has no legal powers to get evidence and documents? The edited text of today's Federal Court judgement, part one of which I've published below, will fill you in. We're talking "culpable neglect", and that means Vanstone and her Department are in big, big trouble. Got the decency to resign now, Amanda? Or is culpable neglect your brief from the PM? more

Thursday, May 5, 2005 at 12:32 PM

God under John Howard

"In her new book Marion Maddox examines the influence of US style right-wing Christianity on Australian politics and finds that it is not a new phenomenon. Such an influence has been at work since at least the early 1990s in the form of firstly, the Lyons Forum and, more recently, the right-wing evangelical churches of the US. The tactics are adopted from the US New Christian Right and adapted for Australian conditions." Bob Wall more

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at 12:40 AM

Howard: I am the wisdom of all Australians

"The late Manning Clark produced a powerful piece of historical mythology when he cast the Labor Party as the 'enlargers' of Australian horizons and our side of politics as the 'straighteners' of our national life. It was always a myth, but never more so than today. We in the Liberal Party are the enlargers of choice and opportunity in Australian society. We are the friends of freedom and initiative over compulsion and conformity. And we are the party that respects the accumulated wisdom that resides in every Australian home. In this, I believe, history is on our side." John Howard more

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 at 12:23 PM

Costello a fox in Howard's trap

I am of the view that Howard has begun a campaign to destroy Costello's pretensions to the top job. I believe Costello must do something dramatic to change the dynamic and make the case to become Prime Minister. more

Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 02:54 PM

Why the continuing dance with death?

"... the role played by the Australian Federal Police in the recent arrests in Indonesia is cause for grave concern. It raises many questions in need of an answer from a Federal Government that continues to remind us it is opposed to the death penalty. The actions of the AFP brought those nine people face-to-face with the possibility of execution. Our police have no role in dabbling with the business of death." Rachel Walsh more

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 at 08:46 PM

The People -v- Abbott: Gillard's case

"As the attached Safety Net Timeline of Deceit shows, Minister Abbott's so-called defence also flies in the face of the clear fact that the Howard Government has had plenty of notice of blow outs in the Medicare Safety net, including knowing pre-election that the cost of the Medicare Safety net had blown out to $1.3 billion." Gillard's case for the prosecution more

Bali busts: our road to a new form of fascism

"The big drug busts in Bali illustrates my belief that some western countries are firmly on a road to a new type of fascism. In no way do I condone the trafficking or dealing in hard drugs. But the only way to stop this awful crime is to do so at the very scource. If these Bali Nine are guilty, they are no more than deluded drug 'mules', although I have no doubt that the AFP will perpetuate the exaggeration that they were a major cog in a huge drug ring." Michael de Angelos more

China is not a normal country

G'day. Our relations with China are on the boil as we saddle up for Free Trade Agreement talks with the giant, as are relations between China and our biggest trading partner Japan, and between China and Taiwan. James Squires asks for a new thread. more

Thursday, April 14, 2005 at 10:55 PM

The role of newspapers in this digital age, by Rupert Murdoch

"Scarcely a day goes by without some claim that new technologies are fast writing newsprint's obituary. Yet, as an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent. Certainly, I didn't do as much as I should have after all the excitement of the late 1990's. I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along. Well it hasn't ... it won't ... and it's a fast developing reality we should grasp as a huge opportunity to improve our journalism and expand our reach." Rupert Murdoch more

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 at 05:32 PM

Howard government corrupt and unpatriotic: Beazley

"Well, they do have to take us on trust. I suppose there's no getting around that, and it is true that the Labor Party is as capable of breaking an election promise as the Liberal Party is. You promise to be different and you hope that you would be. I think the best answer to it, apart from the role that all of you perform, is to actually have a set of legislation that you would put in place to have yourself governed by. A better FOI Act, a better Act on controlling how governments use advertising, you've got to actually put around yourself a few impediments and that's what we would do. We'd put a few impediments around ourselves, I'm not saying that there wouldn't be a thrust to try to get this and that argument up when you're in government, that seems, in a way, only natural. The question is how you're checked and a set of bits of legislation usually does it. Make the hurdles a bit too high to jump over." Kim Beazley more

Accountability, by Kim Beazley

"Having the job of opposing all this may seem a thankless one to some. But on the contrary, as I have told my colleagues, it is a noble calling. For Labor, it presents us with the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Australian people as their champions in their House of Parliament. As this term wears on, this Government will show more clearly than it ever has how badly it needs to be stopped. And the Howard Government's decisions will belong to the Howard Government, and no-one else. There is great honour in standing against the abuse of power, and standing for a better alternative for the Australian people. That will be our task, and it is one I relish over these next few years." Kim Beazley more

Friday, April 8, 2005 at 10:12 AM

Club Chaos GM: my thoughts

I've read your comments to Club Chaos general meeting and am considering how to take Webdiary forward right now. Thank you for your offers of time and money to keep this show on the road. I pre-recorded an interview with Radio National's 'Media Report' on online journalism yesterday afternoon, and realised in the middle of it precisely why I'm feeling a bit low. I've become Webdiary's editor and moderator as comments and reader pieces have grown, and I really miss not researching and writing my own stuff. I want to be a Webdiary writer too! I have firmed up some ideas which I'll put to you when I've spoken to Jack. more

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 at 06:56 PM

Khristo's crime at the Baxter protests

"I was one of the people arrested for pulling down part of the main fence, and I want to explain that briefly. I do want to apologise to my family and friends for fracturing 'good order',for the creation of conflict and turmoil, but I also must stand by my actions because I believed them to be right, and knew that I did them in the true spirit of non-violent direct action." Khristo Newall more

Coming in from outside that circle

"And isn't that what we Greens are; forming new, unexpected, unpredictable alliances in the name of the next generation, a fairer society and a world that they can live in with their fellow citizens." Bob Brown more

Monday, April 4, 2005 at 02:24 PM

Who's afraid of The Greens?

"Are the Greens policies as 'kooky' as John Howard insists? Without doubt their overall program is radically different to the prevailing orthodoxy. The last decade of the Howard government has seen a current account blowout that would make Kath and Kim blush, from $194 billion dollars in 1995 to the $393 billion today. Under Howard, we've all shopped ourselves silly, and still feel like we're missing out. The Greens would change all this. Under the Greens we would be made more aware of the cost of everything we consumed - to the environment, to poorly paid sweated labour. Splashing out on an outré outfit at a Chapel street boutique would become fraught with all manner of ethical dilemmas. Were the workers properly paid? Did the dyes used in the product have an adverse environmental impact? Is the outfit sustainable?" Chris Saliba more

Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 12:46 PM

Entsch and our democracy watchdog -v- the people

"During the 2004 federal election, in the electorate of Leichhardt in far north Queensland, Mr Tony Hudson, an installer of antennae and communication systems from Cairns, had had enough of the sitting member Warren Entsch, and campaigned for his removal. Mr Hudson created a caricature of Mr Entsch as a lying devil (horns, forked tongue, Pinnochio nose) and printed it on a set of electoral signs. The signs were authorised according to the Electoral Act, and directed people to a web-site where Tony made his case that Warren was a poor representative for the people of Leichhardt. The signs were erected commencing 28 September 2004. Within days, Mr Hudson's signs were attacked, knocked over and removed. Mr Hudson made a complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission on 30 September..." Bryan Law more

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 02:50 PM

Taking back your democracy

My starting point is that those who rule us get their way partly by dividing us, and that the belief in democracy has the potential to unite us in its defence, regardless of who we vote for and what else we disagree on. So I've started, with the help of volunteers, a new website called 'Your Democracy' to see if this is possible. more

Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 10:53 PM

Club Chaos general meeting

G'day. Webdiary will close for Easter, and resume on Tuesday. I've got MUST DO NOW tax stuff to sort out, then I'll do chill out time with friends to re-charge. I'll keep the comment boxes open, but please be sparing in your comments so I'm not snowed under on Tuesday morning. Happy Easter to all. And now to business... more

Rau proved them is us: the backlash begins

Cornelia Rau ripped down the barrier between "us" and "them" and showed us all that you can't treat "them" as if they aren't worthy of the rights enjoyed by "us" without eroding our rights too. The dam has burst. The government is exposed as a serial abuser of human rights incapable of owning up to its crimes. more

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 12:47 AM

The Menzies years

"The problem encountered in the country town where I lived, and I suppose in many places, was that the Movement was so secret that only Catholics who were known by the P.P. and recommended by someone already a member could be admitted to the Group. The result was that the Group consisted of four or five professional people and me, I being the only person in the Group to be a member of a Union. I was the last one to join the Group so, after being sworn to secrecy, was told that the Communists had great caches of arms, were ready to start a civil war and take over Australia at any time. I found this information difficult to accept, as the only people I knew who admitted to having an interest in communism seemed pretty harmless to me. But a country town is an unlikely seat of national sedition." Jim Connelly more

Monday, March 21, 2005 at 05:00 PM

What our leaders believe

I've been wanting to make Webdiary less reactive for a while now, but there's so much incredible news and the now routine breaking of traditional democratic conventions these days, from both sides, that it's damned hard not to react, especially when so few journos are documenting the latter. During my break a friend gave me the transcript of the ABC Compass program of October 3 last year called What our leaders believe. She'd got it from a senior political journo on the 2004 election campign trail who believed the interviews with our leaders were by far the most insightful and telling of 2004. more

Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 12:46 AM

100 years of Truth, Damned Truth and Statistics

"A strong official statistical agency is one of the most important elements of an effective democracy. To play this role effectively, the ABS has to be trusted. Trust means that statistics are compiled and presented objectively. Trust means that there is confidence in the quality of the statistics. Trust also means that providers of data are confident that we are a reliable custodian of their data and that its confidentiality will be protected." Dennis Trewin, Australia's chief statistician more

Club Chaos advisory

G'day. I'm flying to Western Australia this morning for three days to speak at the first Perth Social Forum. Harry Heidelberg has very kindly agreed to guest edit your comments while I'm away. more

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 01:03 AM

The legacy of Sir Robert Menzies

"The country has great and imperative obligations to the weak, the sick, the unfortunate. It must give them all the sustenance and support it can. We look forward to social and unemployment insurances, to improved health services, to a wiser control of our economy to avert if possible all booms and slumps which tend to convert labour into a commodity, to a better distribution of wealth, and to a keener sense of social justice and social responsibility." Sir Robert Menzies more

Monday, March 14, 2005 at 02:26 PM

The nature of democracy

"In my own opinion, our most grievous error has been that we have thought too much of democracy in mechanical terms - as a system of government - and too little of it as a spirit, a moving force; not a mere vehicle for the expression of the human mind alone, but a challenge to the human spirit... If, as a voter, I am concerned only with my own advantage and am indifferent to the cost to others, I am simply corrupt. I am selling my vote for an individual mess of pottage. Government of the people by my party, for me, is not democracy. It is just a system of crooked bargaining. It cannot support any decent new order, and it is not worth fighting for." Sir Robert Menzies more

Webdiary, you and me

I've felt for some years now that parliament is the realm of the second rate, and that real power is now with big business and international capital. Politicians, in the main, are mere salesmen for their backers or, if they believe in serving the public interest, are quickly squashed by the media and other forces. more

Saturday, March 12, 2005 at 08:35 PM

Onward to Iran

"At first thought, it seems a US attack on Iran would seem foolish, given that the American military is already bogged down in neighboring Iraq. However, there are three important reasons why the Administration might be more than willing take up the immense risks involved." Richard Heinberg more

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 12:15 AM


February stats, taking a WD break, reopening for business next Tuesday. more

Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 02:44 PM

Howard puts more Aussie bodies on the line in Iraq, minus mandate

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. We're sending MORE troops to Iraq! Where is the mandate for that? Howard framed the Iraq war before and during the election around not bringing them home until the job was done. He made no mention at all of sending in more, and if he had, Iraq could have well become front and centre of the election campaign, with a stark difference between the majors. Bring them home or send in more? more

Don't think of an elephant

"This book is not for the Howard/Bush lovers on this site. So to these, don't read the book. It's secret leftie business. Tactics and stuff. In fact, skip this review altogether. You really wouldn't be interested anyway." From Hamish Alcorn's review of the new book 'Don't Think of an Elephant - Know Your Values and Frame the Debate' more

Monday, February 21, 2005 at 03:05 PM

It pays to be prudent on morality in world politics

"It is in terms of such a morality of prudence that I believe that the Bush Administration has seriously failed in Iraq. Its policy has been rich in unintended consequences (a global wave of intense anti-Americanism, the opposition of some of America's most important allies, the indefinite tying down of a third of a million military personnel, disgusting images of torture, the killing of large numbers of civilians) and dangerous precedents that may be exploited by others." Owen Harries more

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 at 02:07 AM

A primer on defence dissemblers' tall tales before today's try-on

To prepare you for today's Senate questions to defence and its minister Senator Hill on the latest scandal to erupt over our conduct in Iraq, I've gone through the transcripts of evidence in May 2004, when untruths were first exposed about Australia's knowledge of American torture in Iraq. There's more than a few people in serious trouble here. Lying to the Parliament is - or used to be - a serious matter. more

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 at 05:05 PM

Howard to Parliament: ask someone else about the truth of my statements

It has come to this. A Prime Minister of Australia has, for the first time, refused in Parliament, the people's house, to confirm or amend personal assurances to the Australian people after their veracity was disputed by a credible witness. Leadership overboard. more

Every Coalition MP is guilty if no heads roll over Rau

Amanda Vanstone told the Senate Estimates committee today that her job was to defend her department. She does not represent the Australian people; she represents herself, her Prime Minister, and her public 'servants'. Her department, its top officers admitted today, has not even collected the facts yet, the excuse for it failing to produce even a timeline of what happened, when and where. How many times did a DIMIA officer visit Cornelia Rau in prison in Queensland in the five months before the department sent her to Baxter? Dunno. Unless the government now orders a public judicial inquiry, every single Coalition MP is guilty of the crime perpetrated in the Australian people's name on Cornelia Rau. more

Monday, February 14, 2005 at 05:25 PM

Seeking truth about Australian interrogations in Iraq

Mark Twain said that if you told the truth you didn't have to remember what you'd said before. Or, I might add, wait till allegations are made before determining what you'll say is the truth. Here's what Howard and Hill have told the Australian people to date about whether we interrogated prisoners in Iraq. more

Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 01:20 PM

The sinking of Tuvalu

"On Wednesday, February 16, 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol finally becomes part of international law, we should all pause and think of the directly threatened peoples of countries like Tuvalu, be ashamed of what we in the industrial world have done to them, and do what we each, and collectively, must to to reduce global warming, because Tuvalu Mo Te Atua! We Are All Tuvalu!" Dr Mark Hayes more

Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 12:53 PM

Georgiou revives the liberal conscience in Parliament

"In the US the nation's courts have recently drawn upon the bill of rights in the constitution to question the government assertion of complete authority to indefinitely detain immigrants who cannot be deported. The Australian Constitution has fewer provisions for the protection of human rights. In 2004, by a 4-3 majority, the High Court decided that the government had the legal power to indefinitely detain people it wished to deport even if it is in practice impossible to deport them." Petro Georgiou more

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 at 04:02 PM

Can the Senate tell us who abused Cornelia Rau?

"It is incredible that behaviour Aborigines in Cape York and asylum seekers in Baxter Detention Centre clearly identified as related to mental illness could be construed by the department of immigration as "normal". It is even more incredible that the department and authorities at Baxter Detention Centre deemed it was appropriate to lock up Ms Rau in the isolation unit." Senator Kerry Nettle more

How the Rau story broke

Here's the countdown to the exposure of the Cornelia Rau scandal, by refugee advocate Pamela Curr. Congratulations Pamela; you've done something special. more

Tuesday, February 8, 2005 at 07:14 PM

Vanstone's defence: trust us, we're the government

Q: The questions are so big and so hard, surely Commissioner Palmer should have legislative authority to compel witnesses, to stop destruction of documents and to get to the bottom of this in public. A: With respect, I think the complaint you now make is one that you may wish to make when Mr Palmer has finished his inquiry. more

Vanstone cites Rau's 'rights' to scuttle inquiry

Amanda Vanstone has announced that a former policeman will have a private poke-around into the Cornelia Rau scandal without power to compel those involved to be interviewed or answer questions or to order the production of documents. She won't even give the poor sod's report protection against legal action. Why? more

Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 12:36 PM

Peak oil and our government: what energy crisis?

"Two of the most obvious consequences of declining world oil supplies are rising prices and international resource conflict. As supplies decline prices will rise for both oil and oil exploration. The remaining oil will be in smaller reservoirs in increasingly more difficult locations, like under the sea, under arctic ice or in oil sands. Higher oil prices will be reflected in the price of food, transport, heating, plastics, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, prosthetics, contact lenses, computers, housing and much more. Then there's the cost of petrol." Ian McPherson more

Friday, February 4, 2005 at 12:00 PM

A society devoid of conscience?

"We are rapidly becoming devoid of creative thinking and have become mundanely comfortable in selling our souls on a daily basis to anybody who will pay us enough. When ones self centered desire for the latest and greatest techno toy depends on towing an ideological/ corporate line, compromising one's own values without appearing like one is suddenly becomes a mandatory skill. We have become our politicians, or perhaps it is that our politicians have become like us." Andrew Stretton more

Monday, January 31, 2005 at 11:56 PM

What next for Iraq?

"G'day. The Iraqis, some of them anyway, have voted to elect people to then elect a Prime Minister and draw up a Constitution to put to the people at the end of the year. A few readers have asked me to dash off a comment piece on the election's success." more

Friday, January 28, 2005 at 03:44 PM

Fat's in fire for USA in Iraq: Beazley

"The clearest argument we have to make to our American friends is this: you must not become involved in a long running civil war in Iraq, full stop. Should you become involved in a long running civil war in Iraq you will undermine the international fight against fundamentalist terror and you will not see yourselves in a position where you can take up the issues of weapons of mass destruction spread wherever else it's occurring...if it becomes the determinant of all features of American policy because it's so absorbing the Americans, the fat's well and truly in the fire by now, my friend." Big Kim more

Burial or praise of Labor's new Caesar? No comment

Is Labor paranoid? The Labor whip Roger Price broke tradition to ban TV and print camera people from filming caucus members going in and out. He even tried to ban reporters gathering in the usual place on the way to the Caucus room. Huh? They stood their ground, and on the way in to rubber stamp Beazley (Price is a Rudd supporter) he barked, "No cameras. And no approaching anyone." more

Monday, January 24, 2005 at 02:09 PM

Raise the white flag: vote Beazley

The idea that Beazley as leader will inspire citizens to spend time and effort rescuing Labor from the abyss is plain silly. From what I've read, Beazley, unlike Rudd or Gillard, has yet again failed to articulate a plan for Labor's regeneration, in policy or organisational terms. more

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 02:36 PM

Looking for Webdiarists' choice for Labor leader

G'day. Let's find out who Webdiarists would like to see as the next Labor leader. My hope is Kevin Rudd, with Julia Gillard as deputy. I think a return to Beazley would be a return to small target NSW right style. He's a captive of that group, as shown by his failure in two terms as leader to do anything to reform the party itself. more

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 10:06 PM

Remembering Latham, leader by a vote for a year

"The collective gasp of reporters swarmed around the Labor bloke who announced the result on Tuesday was reflected in offices throughout Parliament House. The jaws of John Howard and Peter Costello dropped when someone advised the Coalition party room meeting of the result. Even those who voted for him were in shock all week at what they'd done. How on earth did this happen?" Webdiary Friday, December 5, 2003 more

Mark Latham's goodbye statement

"I am exceptionally fortunate to have a fantastic family, especially my beautiful wife and two little boys. I would be crazy to put this at risk. In politics everyone talks about family values. I would like to practice them in a normal way." Mark Latham more

Monday, January 17, 2005 at 02:01 PM

Let the media tear him apart

G'day. Webdiary is open for conversation in 2005, and I wonder if the tsunami will significantly influence the course of world events this year. It's already triggered a leadership crisis in the ALP. more

Friday, December 17, 2004 at 08:12 PM

Christmas break

G'day. Webdiary will close at midnight tonight and re-open in mid-January. Best wishes to all for Christmas and the New Year. more

The year ahead

On July 1 next year we will lose the Senate as an accountability mechanism unless we, the people, do something about it. Here's some of what will go. more

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 at 01:14 PM

2004 Webdiary award winners

And the winners are... more

Monday, December 13, 2004 at 11:03 PM

The media's role in hiding political donations

"The public, as consumers of both the media and the products or services advertised, have a right to be fully informed through the press of the extent of corporate funding of political parties and to be told which companies are funding which parties. Otherwise the suspicion remains that the principle of political equality is being undermined by the political influence of party funders." Robin Tennant-Wood more

Saturday, December 11, 2004 at 04:44 PM

Mungo, Latham, and the press gallery up close and personal

EXCLUSIVE (I think): the transcript of Tuesday's conversation between Mark Latham, Mungo MacCallum and members of the federal press gallery on politics, journalism and the media in the context of the 2004 federal election campaign. more

Friday, December 10, 2004 at 08:01 PM

The Webdiary awards for 2004: nominations open

I've thought over a reader's suggestion for Webdiary awards for 2004, and call for nominations in the following categories. more

Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 01:13 PM


Nom de plumes, November stats, security codes and blanks. more

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 09:18 PM

Countering the threat to our right to know

As we get less and less information and less and less context we are going to have to do more investigative work ourselves. more

Monday, November 29, 2004 at 05:48 PM

Anderson told Maguire to get Windsor to back off bribery claim: Windsor

"Get your mate to pull back...this is bigger than all of us," Windsor claims Deputy PM John Anderson told Greg Maguire within days of allegations that an unnamed intermediary on behalf of an unnamed political party had urged his retirement from politics in exchange for a government job. And last week the Government black-banned the man elected to New England with a huge vote from attending or speaking at the opening of a local aged care facility in his electorate. more

Windsor-v-Anderson: now another conversation's in dispute

I'm getting the feeling that the longstanding enmity between John Anderson and the man he beat for National Party pre-selection in Ando's seat of Gwydir could climax in the political destruction of one man or the other. Windsor has just told Parliament Mr Anderson had misrepresented an exchange between the pair after the famous meeting between Windsor and Maguire on May 19. more

Saturday, November 27, 2004 at 11:29 PM

Webdiary guidelines for you and me

I'm going to try one innovation, inspired by a comment from Peter Carlisle: "The use of right/left wing labels does more than redirect the quality of what we are trying to say. Our self catergorisation along those dimensions actually influences how we think. You can see it in the mindless name calling on both of the arbitrary sides (right vs left) of the Webdiary debates which does nothing to further anyone's knowledge and only serves to highlight group distinctions (encouraging more mindless mud slinging). Maybe a solution to the problem would be to instigate a rule that no submissions containing a left/right label will be published on the site. How 'bout it Margo?" more

Friday, November 26, 2004 at 12:42 AM

Has Windsor triggered Ando's sports rorts Armageddon?

What do you reckon about the propriety of a government MP announcing cash for a project in his marginal seat during an election campaign under a funding program when an application hasn't even been made - let alone assessed - under the strict published guidelines? Welcome to Hinkler, and welcome to the fallout of Tony Windsor's allegations of bribery. John Anderson, what have you done? more

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 at 12:01 AM

Your right to know? Silly you - trust the AFP

Here's the AFP's statement - we'll do nothing, as usual, on conduct allegedly involving the government, and won't tell you anything either - on the Windsor allegations. Oh well, why should the public have the right to know the facts? It's our democracy, that's all. And notice how quickly the matter is finalised after the story gets a public airing? Inappropriate to comment, eh? No such qualms after the bombing in Jakarta during the election campaign - indeed, the authorities put out false info about an SMS message, remember? Just how compromised is the AFP? But who cares? It's the economy, stupid. I say the least we deserve is an explanatory statement from the DPP, as we got in the Reith Telecard affair, and the release of the statements of the key witnesses - the ones the AFP bothered to interview that is. more

Monday, November 22, 2004 at 11:15 PM

Janine Haines, Democrat

"I am shocked and very saddened to hear of the cruelly premature death of former Australian Democrats Senate leader Janine Haines." Jean Jenkins more

What the ABC means to our democracy

"Why does the ABC need friends? What is its relevance to democracy and government in this country? Why should it be regarded as under threat? I think that the answers to these questions need to be looked at in light of the overall situation of the media in this country." Fomer chief justice of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson more

Modern Labor: Latham's new start

"After four election losses in a row, we need to be brutally honest about the changing nature of Australian society and its economy, and the ways in which Labor must change. Sure, there are other things we can blame for our defeat last month ... but none of them address the long-term trend. None of them confront the seriousness of our position: Labor has not won a Federal election since 1993. Something more substantial has happened. Something bigger than one-off factors or single-issue setbacks." Mark Latham more

A call to communicate

"Detour words unfortunately redirect the quality of what we try to say away from its value and in the direction of a useless reception or personal squabble. If you use these detour words, you can be pretty sure that your point will not be received the way you want by the very people you wish to influence. If you have something to communicate, why waste its value simply because you included a detour word?" Robert Bosler more

Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger

"When it comes down to it Labor lost because people think Howard is doing a good job of running the economy and few if any swinging voters thought Labor would do a better job. And who could blame them? What reason has Labor given them in eight and a half years to suggest they could do a better job?" Webdiarist Kerry O'Brien more

Sunday, November 21, 2004 at 12:59 PM

Reform the ALP!

"The objective of ReformTheALP is nothing less than to break the ALP out of its aging, restrictive mould and build it into a truly social democratic party. It will become a broad-based citizens movement, dedicated to progressing Australian society, and the economy upon which we all depend. This can absolutely be done, and it will be done." Dave Green more

Saturday, November 20, 2004 at 03:02 PM

The girl we (almost) left behind

Three days after being snubbed, a distraught Kylie spoke briefly to her local paper just once, before retreating. "I don't know if I wasn't invited because I have been a thorn in Mr Howard's side, but if so I hope he can live with himself after denying me and my daughter an opportunity to be part of something we would have remembered forever. No apology will bring that back." more

Privatising Christianity

"Instead of a population which broadly defines itself as Christian and maintains a broad set of values, we now have groups which claim to hold the copyright to the Christian label and assert that they alone are the arbiters of so-called Christian values. When we had two competing groups, a level of tolerance was necessary. You could agree to disagree or, as I said earlier, you could agree not to discuss religion at all. But now that we appear to have privatised Christianity and to have issued licences for some groups to have the exclusive right to call themselves Christians, we now have a split between those insiders and the great majority who may call themselves Christian but do not have the registered trademark and so cannot really call themselves Christians." ALP MP Julia Irwin more

And the winner is ...

Martyn King is the winner of Webdiary's election tipping competition. more

Friday, November 19, 2004 at 05:44 PM

Political bribery: the law and the reality

Greg Maguire, after months of silence and days of legal advice, has now accused an MP elected by Australian voters of being a liar. Those electors deserve to get as close as they can to the truth of this matter, in the public interest. An independent public inquiry is a must. more

Greg Maguire deserts Windsor

Did Maguire withdraw his support for Windsor after the meeting with Anderson and Macdonald over the equine centre, and run off at the mouth to try to deliver the seat back to the Nationals? Why would Windsor and two witnesses lie about what he said? more

Thursday, November 18, 2004 at 08:47 PM

Kylie Russell comes to Canberra, at last

"My husband was a good soldier. He was a Sgt in the SAS. You don't become a Sgt in the SAS if you are not a good soldier. But he came across a weapon that he could not see, he could not fight, and he had no protection from it. These are terrible weapons and we should, as a country, try and highlight to the international community that they should not be used - they should not be used in war - and we should be pushing for a global ban. And we need to show the rest of the international community that we are strong and are going to stick to these rules." Kylie Russell more

And now, the official Family First story

"Our desire and passion is to be a moderate voice that will seek to be an advocate of Australian families and a common sense voice that enhances mainstream Australian life in the Federal Parliament." Family First more

John Anderson on the front foot

"But did I suggest to Senator Macdonald that we ought to try and find him a posting? Let me be absolutely frank, as I said during the campaign: I do not believe the member for New England would make a suitable diplomat overseas in the first place. In the second place, it would have been corrupt and wrong, and I would not have done it." John Anderson more

Windsor's second punch

"Mr Maguire is the victim of an approach from Mr Anderson and Senator Macdonald and he, like me, was not aware that he was actually contravening, or potentially contravening, the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It would be, a great travesty of justice if the real villains in this case, the ones who are the architects of the message, were allowed to flutter off into the sunset, rather than the messenger." Tony Windsor more

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 at 07:48 PM

Windsor-v-Anderson: trouble in Tamworth

"Senator MacDonald said, offer him whatever it takes, we can deliver. One of them also said, and I quote, "the government makes about 500 political appointments, it can be done". Senator MacDonald also said, Windsor has a pension, why does he want to hang around anyway - apparently referring to my 10 years in the state parliament." Tony Windsor more

Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at 08:36 AM

Unholy alliances

What was Alston in democratic politics for, I wondered. What sort of difference did he want to make, and for whom? I tried to figure it out, as, enraged, he blew the cross-media legislation super-spin away like a parliamentary greenhorn. "This is a WATERSHED amendment! This amendment goes to the absolute HEART of the cross-media reforms!" he yelled across the chamber. more

Monday, November 15, 2004 at 03:35 PM

Closing the door on your right to know

John Howard's preferred scenario is an Australian media landscape so dominated by the two most powerful men in the country that only the ABC could, if it dared, subject either man's corporate empire to independent scrutiny. The Murdoch and Packer journos don't investigate each other's proprietorial doings because if they did their work would not be published and they would lose their jobs. There would be no media players left to defend Aunty. Murdoch's Australian savages the ABC as a matter of editorial policy these days, even calling for the abolishment of Radio National, while Packer simply sues it and ties it up in legalknots. These guys hate uncontrollable public media outlets as much as they hate an independent Fairfax. more

Terrorism and the democratic response

"The rule of law is itself one of the fundamental principles which democrats, the world over, defend against terrorists. As Chief Justice Latham once said in an Australian case, it is easy for judges of constitutional courts to accord basic rights to popular majorities. The real test comes when they are asked to accord the same rights to unpopular minorities and individuals." High Court Justice Michael Kirby more

Dear Margo, Meeja and Australia

"Concentration of media. What interest is served and why? This is not in the public interest. How could it be? I think Australians of goodwill all around this great land will gather online and in person. Australians are sensible and down to earth. We know when we are being done over. It is not the Australian way and we don't like being taken for a ride nor taken to be fools." Harry Heidelberg more

Waiting for the great leap forward

G'day. For me, the most pressing issue for our democracy right now is the seeming inevitability of the abolition of our crossmedia laws. I'm still thinking about how to approach dissent to this in the new circumstances. It is important to dissent, because even though the odds of success are minimal, it would be tragic for Australia if we lost a foundation stone of our democracy - an independent, diversely owned media - without a struggle. Besides, when the odds are impossible, creativity is the key, and that's got to be interesting. All ideas welcome. more

Sunday, November 14, 2004 at 03:35 PM

Conservatives and creatives

"We really are all a blend of each of the creative and conservative forces. And given a little thought, it is also clear that we are not always stuck in that particular blend. We change our mix of conservatism and creativity according to many different things in our lives and over differing lengths of time. What do we wish to conserve? And what do we wish to create? And between us, let's go do it." Robert Bosler more

Friday, November 12, 2004 at 07:31 PM

Machine man's report to Labor voters on why their team lost

G'day. On Wednesday I took time out from my time off to attend the National Press Club luncheon speech by Mr Tim Gartrell, the national secretary of the Labor Party, about why his team lost the election. Gartrell had to be pretty honest in what he said - so his omissions were also important to pick up. He had to ensure that noone important in the party would be too miffed, and protect a leader whose position is so tenuous that one Labor staffer told me after lunch that Rudd could challenge within the month! And there were Labor supporters to report to too, many of whom are incensed at the result and questioning whether Labor is up to the job without serious reform. And, of course, he's got to convince his people that he's the right man to organise the next election war. more

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at 07:53 PM

Democrazy: ten ideas for change

"The premise of this book is that just about every citizen, whatever their political colour, can unite on the need for an honest, open, fair representative democracy. If we get that, then we all have a chance to have a say, and the representatives of all of us have a chance to debate and decide the policies our society believes to be in the public interest." Not Happy John, 2004 more

Train spotting: election blogjam final

Train whistle blowin', makes a sleepy noise, Underneath their blankets go all the girls and boys, Rockin', Rollin', Ridin', out along the bay, All bound for Mourning Town, many miles away. more


Stats, tipping results, thank yous etc. Back soon! more

Monday, October 11, 2004 at 06:55 PM

A time for brave souls and croc wrestlers

"We have a truly unique opportunity ahead of us. It's time to stop pottering around on the road less travelled. Stop wasting time in the woods. It is a big wank. Get out of the woods and truly see the forest for the trees. That is the only way to save the things we hold so dear about Australia. Did you hear about that woman in North Queensland who jumped on the back of a crocodile in order to save a companion's life? Wild stuff, but it is that kind of thing that is needed from now on. All croc wrestlers: apply within. A time for brave souls lies ahead." Harry Heidelberg, who's coming home to help defend our democracy more

Saturday, October 9, 2004 at 10:46 PM

New era dawns for an Australia in Howard's image

Australia entered a new era tonight. Australians roundly rejected the once compelling appeal of 'a fair go', which must now be considered a relic of our past rather than an expression of our essence. more

Friday, October 8, 2004 at 05:06 PM

Hope triumphs for a day

This week, Howard deliberately, and after fine political calculation, p...ed on small l liberal voters and solid liberal voters who care about our environmental future, after judging that they would not change their vote in sufficient numbers in safe Liberal seats for the upside to be more dangerous than the downside. Principle: zero. The national interest: not a factor. more

A road less travelled

"They say all politics is local but in the end all politics is actually personal. It's the day before the election. The day before Judgement Day. In our truly unique and extraordinary Australian democracy between 95 and 96% of enrolled voters will tomorrow choose their next government. It's a sacred day and I wish I was going to be there to witness it. On Judgement Day, it is no longer about opinion polls, nor focus groups, nor even barbie chat. It's not about the media or the spin or the negative ads. In the end, so much of that doesn't count. Each citizen will express their view privately but collectively, we will determine our future. It's the world's most inclusive and effective system. God, that's exciting." Harry Heidelberg more

My brother's pre-election thoughts

"The threats to their world - the real ones that make parents freak - are international in nature. Ecological problems like climate change, massive refugee movements, through environmental as well as political displacement, terrorism, horrible weapons, failed states and the prospect of continuing global conflict based on unthinkable international wealth disparities. As I see it, these are the real and fast-growing threats to the world of my child. more

Thursday, October 7, 2004 at 06:12 PM

The Press Gallery-v-Howard

"I stand by the decision we took in relation to Iraq." John Howard more

A question of choice

"There is a very strong philosophical difference that has opened up and it surrounds really the question of the Coalition's commitment to choice against what I would describe as a preferred model of behaviour that would be rewarded and alternatives punished under a future Labor government led by Mr Latham. There is just a touch of the social engineer about all of this. There is a suggestion that if you behave in a particular fashion you will be rewarded. There is just a whiff of the behavioural policeman about my opponent in this election campaign." John Howard's last pitch more

Wednesday, October 6, 2004 at 05:36 PM

The Press Gallery-v-Latham

"In hindsight there's always things in politics you'd do differently, but that's the benefit of hindsight. In campaign strategy - understanding what the other side's doing - you haven't got a crystal ball, you just get out there and advocate and put your policies in a straightforward way. So I think we've done that in the substance of the campaign. We've done that well and it's not a time for regrets, it's a time for looking forward and hoping we can be honoured with the support of the Australian people on Saturday." Mark Latham more

Remembering the future

"Mr Howard hopes to win on Saturday by scaring people, by spreading fear and uncertainty. He's running against the past. I'm running for the future. He's campaigning on fear. I believe in the hope and optimism of the Australian people. Mr Howard started this campaign talking about trust. He's ended it with the politics of the Big Lie. Don't tell a small lie, tell a whopper. Not one independent economist in Australia supports Mr Howard's claims on interest rates. Not one." Mark Latham's final pitch more

Election Blogjam: the final countdown

"The late American comedian and political philosopher George Burns (who was but a few years younger than John Howard when he shuffled off his mortal cigar) once lamented, "Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair." Bloggers are finally coming to the realisation that these canny taxi drivers and barbers are also the only people with their fingers on the election pulse." Terry Sedgwick more

Eden Monaro's Carr trouble

"Carr is 'on the nose' throughout NSW, and it's no coincidence that Mark Latham faces a challenge in the State - just as, in the days when the Liberals' controversial Nick Greiner was Premier, it was difficult for Liberals in the State to break in to the Federal Government. Now, Liberals are frequently comparing Latham with Carr, even though they are quite different people. Indeed, it's pretty clear they don't even like each other. But they're both Labor." Mark Juddery, from inside the crucial Eden Monaro campaign more

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 at 06:05 PM

Greens or Democrats for the Senate?

"Many of my friends and I believe this is the key question in the Senate vote on October 9. We think the Democrats have generally done an excellent job in the Senate over the last 25 years, even if we were disappointed by a small number of perceived cave-ins. We also like the Greens because they have a clear vision and aren't afraid to make noise about it. We don't really trust either major party with the majority in both the House and the Senate." Justin Whelan more

All trust gone, a Liberal voter tells Howard's man in Ryan

"For this election, for the first time in my life, I feel compelled to do more than confine myself to expressing my opinion via my ballot paper. Mr Howard nominated "trust" as the key issue for this election. I welcome this, because for me, that does powerfully encapsulate my concerns regarding the current government, and my growing outrage at the damage that is being done to our system of government, our institutions, our standing in the international community, our safety, and the values that comprise our Australian identity. I do not, any longer, trust a Howard-led government to preserve and enhance our "fair-go" way of life, or to make sound decisions that are in the national interest regarding participation in military actions and the positions Australia takes on issues in international forums, or even to manage the economy responsibly if its power or its political advantage is threatened... I no longer trust what it says and I can no longer trust what it does. For me, there has been a serious breakdown in trust." Richard Davey's letter to his Liberal MP in Ryan more

Monday, October 4, 2004 at 04:57 PM

Holding the line at news

"If ever a prize is awarded for unanimity over the Iraq war, News Corporation will win easily - outdistancing all Western political parties, and even the American military. No organisation can quite eliminate dissent while operating under democracy. But Newscorp keeps it down to homeopathic dosage. How is it done? Now there is a specifically Australian dimension available on the website 'limited news'." Bruce Page, author of The Murdoch Archipelago more

False Prophet

"This painting questions John Howard's fitness to serve. It is not about evil. It's not about the bible. It's about John Howard purposely allowing himself to be susceptible to forces of negativity." Webdiarist Robert Bosler on his painting 'False Prophet'. more

Is Australia just a business?

"There was a time when our public service institutions held out against creeping Americanisation and commercialisation, but not under this government. The Prime Minister's action man - that egregious ex-public servant Max "the axe" Moore-Wilton vigorously drove a "reform" of public service which virtually reduced our most senior public servants to mere hack businessmen - gradually stripping away the protection of tenure, installing short-term employment contracts and submitting senior public servants to the absurdity of "performance pay" - as if they were branch sales managers. The inducement to give up the old ways was, of course, vastly increased pay." Alistair Mant more

Friday, October 1, 2004 at 05:31 PM

Why I'm voting for a change of Government

"Never before have so many voters been united in believing that this election is one of the most important in the nation's history. I recently joined one of the mainstream opposition parties, not out of any particular loyalty or admiration towards the party but solely as a reaction against the conservative policies of the Howard Government and to help bring about a change of Government in Australia. Despite this honest disclosure, I genuinely believe that a change of Government is more important now than I did when I voted for John Howard in 1996. I believe it is crucial for the long-term stability and security of Australia." Neil A. Millar more

Wednesday, September 29, 2004 at 02:03 PM

Latham's message to the people

"Unless we change now, it will be too late for the security and safety of our nation - too late to shift policy and resources to our part of the world, getting it right in Asia in the fight against terror. And unless we change now, it will be too late for the basic decency and honesty of government in this country - too late to restore truth in government and end the deceit and buck-passing of the Howard years. Australia needs these changes. And Labor is ready to make them, before it's too late." Mark Latham more

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 07:02 PM

Will Latham attack on the second front at last?

There's two campaign fronts in this election, and Labor is fighting on only one of them. The big question: will Latham attack on the second front in his campaign launch tomorrow? more

Howard and the price of oil

"The Bush/Howard war on Iraq has direct bearing on the price we now pay at the petrol pump. While the occupation continues, the risk premium is unlikely to decline for long. Neither government foresaw the risk it was creating. Both governments deserve to be thrown out for this among many other misjudgements." Kerryn Higgs more

Monday, September 27, 2004 at 09:47 PM

Your vote, your values

"Our vote counts most when it reflects our values. This election is a conscience vote about war and about our vision for the future. We can show the world that we are sorry for those who have died in this war so far, that we are sorry for those who will die in the future, and that we want to end war forever. You can contribute to making Australia the brightest example of morality and integrity in the world." Martin Gifford more

Not happy, Mark

"Respectfully, Mr Latham, these are bigger issues than Health, School funding and Tax policy combined. Perhaps it is not quite too late to acknowledge that for many Australian voters, this election will be the only democratic opportunity to voice approval or disapproval regarding the extraordinary events and actions of this government in its recent term in office." Mark Pendrith more

Election tipping comp: state of play

Here's the summary of the tipping competition so far. If you're in a bunched group, you can stand out from the pack by naming 5 seats you think Labor will win off the Coalition if you're going Labor, 5 seats Labor will take off the Coalition if you're going for Howard by less than his current margin, or 5 seats the Coalition will take off Labor if you think Howard will increase his majority. The best seat picker of those who have a go will win if their number comes up. more

Winning the ground war

"The major parties are locked in a titanic struggle to determine two critical questions: is the Keating agenda of the early 1990s returning and have the culture wars reached the suburbs and regions?" Noel Hadjimichael more

Election Blogjam: "Houston, we ALL have a problem."

Week Four saw bloggers from either side of the great divide pondering Hugo Young's arch description of former British Prime Minister James Callaghan: "Living proof that the short term schemer and the frustrated bully can be made manifest in one man." more

Saturday, September 25, 2004 at 01:14 AM

Now we KNOW he lied us into war: will it matter?

Howard has corrupted the public service, disgraced his office, and treated the Australian people with vicious contempt. His Cabinet cronies and his lame backbench let him do it. They are all guilty. Come on, voters in Liberal seats, do your duty and chuck these bastards out for a term to teach them the lesson that we care about our democracy and that the Government has shamed us all, not to mention knowingly made Australia and Australians less safe. more

Friday, September 24, 2004 at 06:19 PM

Family First: a one church affair

"When Joan Woods decided to run as a NSW Senate candidate for the Family First party in the upcoming election she turned, naturally, to her family first. And they didn't let her down. Her son, Mike, is now the candidate for Hunter. Mike's wife, Melanie, is the candidate for an adjoining seat, Calare. Then Mrs Woods turned to her wider network. Given her deep involvement in the Assemblies of God church Joan's husband, pastor Ian Woods, is the NSW president of the Assemblies, and leads the Hawkesbury Church it's no surprise where she found her other candidates." Mike Seccombe more

Not Happy John banned from Brisbane sky

I've got a bad feeling about the election, and have now put my pick in the election tipping competition. It's the Coalition by 11, the same as I picked in 2001, when Howard won by 17. Still, there's two weeks to go. more

Thursday, September 23, 2004 at 04:05 AM

Another world is inevitable

"Wallerstein believes that the period of transition we are entering allows us space and opportunity to break out, to recreate our polity and economy in a fashion more friendly to personal growth, creativity, and the possibility of personal freedom and transformation. If homo sapiens has any brains, as it were, s/he will grasp the opportunity, But this will only be possible if we do not underestimate the power and mean-spiritedness of the forces arraigned against us." Brian Bahnisch more

The two party shuffle

"One of the more interesting aspects of the campaign is the contrast between national two party voting estimates (the amazingly sexy 52:48 headlines that make political types excited) and the regional variations that hide shifting frontlines. Who wins the more votes is not always the winner. Just ask Mr Gore." Noel Hadjimichael more

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 at 09:22 PM

It's about Bennelong, stupid, says Howard

Want to know what the election is REALLY all about, straight from the horse's mouth? I was in Bennelong on Sunday for the inaugural Bennelong Writers Festival and was given a glossy brochure just put into the letter boxes of Howard's voters. John Howard: "This election is about the future of our local area." more

Election blogam week 3: "Are we there yet?

"First thing we do," says one of the followers of Jack Cade in Henry VI, Part II, "is kill all the lawyers." Before staging Henry VI, Part II, the Globe Theatre management submitted the script to a sadly misguided focus group. Consequently Shakespeare's next line, "The second thing we do is gag the politicians", hit the cutting room floor. Never gagged, bloggers and blog commenters relentlessy pored over the issues of week three, Terry Sedgwick reports. more

Monday, September 20, 2004 at 08:07 PM

Don't mention the war

"Watching the first ten minutes of the debate farce made me very angry. I get angry a lot lately. I know that I am not alone. There's a lot to be angry about. The elephant in the room could not have been more obvious: the total absence of weapons of mass destruction and the devastation of Iraq, tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians and conscripted soldiers, not to mention over a thousand dead young American men and women and sixty six British soldiers. Was I wrong to expect some attempt to address the unfolding catastrophe that is Iraq? It seems so, for there was not a word uttered on the subject." Dr Mark Craddock more

Letter from America

"Possibly the biggest fear, transcending any of the specific issues, is the overarching complexity of the new world. It is too hard to digest, let alone manage. So the politician that delivers the message that the answer is simple, embodied by simple slogans, wins!" Christopher Selth on American politics today more

Saturday, September 18, 2004 at 03:06 PM

Time for Latham to put the boot in on Iraq

It's on the cusp of being official. IRAQ HAD NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Ok, John Howard, where to from here? Come on, Mark Latham, it really is time to put the boot in. It's time to name Howard as a man of poor judgement without the courage to look his people in the eye and tell them the truth before sending us to war. It's time to state that Howard has proved a dangerous and divisive leader in times of international instability. It's time to trumpet Labor's credentials as the party of good judgement in such circumstances whose policy on Iraq has proved spot on. more

Friday, September 17, 2004 at 05:01 PM

Future shock: the ideology of Mark Latham

"What seems to have been largely ignored of Latham's past is his literary output. Celebrated as the new generation ideas man of the Labor party, the media over the year has not had much to say about the half dozen books he has written or contributed to between 1990-2003. There have been a few murmurings here and there, an occasional quote, but nothing sustained. This is surprising, because his literary output provides a sustained ideological view and program. Over that thirteen-year period, Latham's thinking has not changed much, if at all. I dare say it will not change much in the future. This could have consequences for all of us." Webdiarist Chris Saliba more

Half way in, it's still Latham's to win

G'day. Another huge week in politics, eh, starting with a debate which meant three things for Mark Latham. He cut the mustard as an alternative Prime Minister. He got a confidence boost to see him through the week. He exploded the myth that national security is John Howard's territory, full stop. He had to do that, and the subsequent concern about possible Australian hostages underlined his theme that Howard put us in grave danger by invading Iraq. more

Pauline Hanson, parody

She's back again, and just like her failed tilt at a NSW Upper House seat last year, she announced her candidacy at the last minute in a blaze of publicity. She needs the attention, clearly. Maybe even desperately. The other David, David Ettridge, spoke to me recently about his new book, and he too thought she'd be back. He said the people around her needed the fix, because that's what made them feel important - knowing her. And she does too. She basks in it. more

Thursday, September 16, 2004 at 09:57 PM

War of words

G'day. Year 12 student Josh Paine interviewed me recently for an assignment on what makes a good political commentator, after he did a stint in the SMH Canberra bureau on work experience and decided he wanted to be a journalist. Here's his piece. Congratulations Josh, and good luck at University next year. more

Tuesday, September 14, 2004 at 11:41 PM

Labor's bold bid for parents

"A feature of the Labor approach to school funding is the 'small target' strategy: choosing a symbolic number of schools to either slash or freeze funding with a optimistic number of remaining schools to obtain more funds." Noel Hadjimichael more

Election 2004 tipping competition

Please advise which party will win and how many more seats the winning party (the Coalition includes Liberal, National and the NT CLP) will have than the loser - that way we avoid the complications of minor parties and independents. I'll close the competitition on Wednesday, October 6. Just put your pick in the comments box and I'll transfer it into the body of this post. Please use your full name. more

Monday, September 13, 2004 at 11:27 PM

Keelty stops a 2004 'children overboard' scam

Why on earth would Howard do this? Remember, Keelty briefed the opposition on the rumour as well as Downer and Howard, and it kept quiet. What possible purpose could be served by stating this gossip as fact to the Australian people, creating page one headlines across Australia which were bound to inflame anti-Indonesian feeling among Australians? more

Sunday, September 12, 2004 at 08:39 PM

Latham puts Iraq on the election table

So Latham didn't squib it. He went for it on Iraq, and I'd say it was John Anderson's admission this morning that invading Iraq had made us a bigger target that gave Latham the oomph to have a go. Why? Because it guaranteed that Latham could not be yelled down by the Liberals for playing politics with the Jakarta bombing after Anderson himself had headlined the issue and its connection with our foreign policy. The transcript is here. more

The great debate: How will the leaders handle Iraq?

G'day. I'll write a comment on the debate tonight and post your reactions. Please use your full name or a nom de plume, giving your reason why you need one. It would also be good if you said what seat you're in or where you live. I think the key question in the debate will be: "Why is your party better placed to protect and enhance our national security?" And the key issue to be addressed in answering that question is whether John Howard's decision to invade Iraq enhanced or threatened our national security. more

Saturday, September 11, 2004 at 03:29 PM

What exactly are we witnessing?

"Politically motivated violence which accepts no limits or constraints and makes no distinction between combatants and civilians is indefensible, both morally and tactically. Public horror and outrage at recent events in the Caucasus and again in Indonesia last Thursday are therefore reassuring expressions of humanity, though as in the past they may temporarily mask the true nature of what we are witnessing." Scott Burchill more

Friday, September 10, 2004 at 08:07 PM

A conservative's view of The Greens

"The Greens are a very interesting party. They might be described as a movement more than a party. Each local area has a significant amount of autonomy, and local branches decide where to direct preferences. They have championed the environment until it has become a mainstream issue. However, they are at the crossroads." Noel Hadjimichael more

Vote Latham for a Liberal Government!

"Labor, unlike their opponents, have a fundamental strength. They have abandoned ideology. Howard is still harping on cold war notions that progressive parties are bad at managing economies and weak on security. Labor, on the other hand, has accepted that ideology is vastly inferior to reality, and have opted for a dose of reality with Mark Latham." Webdiarist David Green more

Lest we forget how Howard took us to war against our will

In the light of recent events, I've decided to publish Chapter Two of my book, 'Yours not to reason why', which tracks the process by which John Howard involved Australia in our first war of aggression and our first war without the majority support of the Australian people. Do you trust this man with our national security? more

Why trust Howard on national security?

Who will Australians trust more to manage national security in these terrible times - Howard/Downer/Hill or Latham/Rudd/Beazley? I think the chosen Howard "TRUST" theme could well bite him on the bum after this. more

Sue Bradford says thanks to Webdiarists

"I have been overwhelmed by the response to my letter to Alby Schultz. As well as the outpouring of posts to your site I have received a large number of emails - all but one supportive. I am amused that some writers think I am a Labour stooge and it also astounds me that people think they can make assumptions - that I have never known what it is like to be poor (I have), that I am not an immigrant (I am), that I am - that laziest of words - an 'elite' (I wish)." Sue Bradford more

Election blogjam: the fortnight that was

Australia's virtual Governor-General, cartoonist Terry Sedgwick, does the rounds of the blogger's election campaign. more

Thursday, September 9, 2004 at 02:54 PM

Howard's hallmark: ruthless pragmatism

"If the Coalition should perchance lose office on October 9, most people on the Left will be breaking out the champers and bar nuts to celebrate the fall of what they'll probably describe as the most ideologically driven of Australian conservative governments. Particularly bitter words will be uttered over the Tampa episode, the asylum-seekers crisis, and the war in Iraq. And there will be heady talk about an end to union-busting, scapegoating, wedge politics and the 'politics of fear'. In this I think the Left will be pretty much on the wrong track - as indeed, in my view, it has often been on the wrong track over the last two or three years." David Burchell more

Wednesday, September 8, 2004 at 01:37 PM

Letter to a Liberal MP from a disaffected Liberal farmer

"I have admired the job that you have done as our State and Federal member and have appreciated the support you have always given our local affairs. I wish you well in the forthcoming election but I won't be one of those voting for you and I wanted to do you the courtesy of explaining why. The problem is that I cannot cast a vote which indicates in any way that I support Mr Howard. I would dearly love to be able to vote Liberal but will only do so when the party has gained some of it's humanity and the small 'l' liberalism that it started with." Letter to Liberal MP Alby Shultz from Sue Bradford, farmer more

New Webdiary, frustrated Webdiarists

G'day. At last, an updated Webdiary publishing system, which should make the site easier for you and me to handle. For those of you who've bookmarked Webdiary, the new address is http://webdiary.smh.com.au. I've been dashing around in the last few days doing TV and having emergency dental work, and hasn't a lot happened! Today, David Eccles and Matt Rubinstein have their frustrated say on the election so far. more

Saturday, September 4, 2004 at 03:51 PM

The rat trap election

Why is John Howard spending precious campaign time campaigning in his own seat? Is it possible that there's a risk he could lose it? And does Malcolm Turnbull need Howard to stay away from Wentworth? more

Friday, September 3, 2004 at 06:38 PM

Turnbull's team takes gloves off: King is 'low life'

'Peter King is nothing more than a low life of the highest order who has had three years to argue the case for refugees within the Liberal Party and more importantly change government policy - and what has he done? Nothing!' Jason Falinski, President of Turnbull's Point Piper Liberal Party Branch, Wentworth more

Counting the rodents: week one

Who won the week? Labor. Who'll win the election? I still think Howard is favourite, mainly because, as he showed in spades this week, he has no limits when it comes to retaining power. None. more

Thursday, September 2, 2004 at 06:49 PM

Inside Wentworth: Turnbull accuses Webdiarist of 'mischievous dishonesty'

"I received a phone call from Malcolm accusing me of being 'mischievous and dishonest'. I was in a business meeting at the time and shouldn't have taken the call, and I offered to call him back. That made him angrier. 'So you have time to write letters but no time to speak to me!' he shouted. I put down the phone feeling a little threatened and shaken." Wentworth voter Jonathan Nolan more

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 at 10:40 PM

Brandis self-destructs to save Howard

The mirror cracked from side to side. The intense strain on the two people in Senate Committee room 2S1 today, who had - by very difficult choice - propped up the credibility of a cowardly and bullying Prime Minister for nearly three years, was palpable. more

Howard's begging letter to Liberals in Wentworth

"I am writing to you because I have a very real concern that the seat of Wentworth could be won by the Labor Party at the next election. Wentworth is not the safe Liberal seat that many people imagine. There is the added complication that Peter King could also run as an independent, which would split the Liberal vote and further help the Labor Party." John Howard more

The catharsis of Mike Scrafton

"Along with some of my colleagues, I have felt "tainted" by my involvement and disappointed in my own failure to act more courageously at the time. As the Public Service Commissioner has pointed out, this was not a time of which public servants can be proud. There is a cathartic aspect to my actions." Mike Scrafton more

Tuesday, August 31, 2004 at 10:30 PM

Poor George

Has Howard's luck run out? He'd stymied the 'honesty' problem, at least in relation to the marginal seats he's trying to hold or win, by associating the word the word 'trust' with Labor's old record on interest rates. Then one of his own throws the dead cat back in the ring, and Brandis has to, as usual, carry the can. more

Labor's Costello wedge keeps Wentworth on the move

I knew first hand that there was an election on when Tony Abbott - rubbing hands, big smile - strolled into the Sydney Morning Herald's Canberra Bureau yesterday to ask anyone who cared to answer: "Now what can I do for you?" more

Monday, August 30, 2004 at 02:25 PM

Trusting Howard

Trust, eh? I haven't heard anything so mind-boggling from a political leader since Treasurer Paul Keating, having helped win Labor the 1990 election by promising to avoid a recession, baldly announced that this was the recession we had to have. more

Monday, August 23, 2004 at 12:05 PM

Liberal voter rumblings mean second front for Howard

"As a person who has specialised in maritime law, I must say that his book raises many interesting questions - especially questions about whether aid could have been rendered 'for those in peril on the sea' - which is the undisputed first law of humanitarianism in relation to sea-going." Liberal MP Peter King on Tony Kevin's book on SIEV-X more

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 at 03:24 PM

Not Happy, John! Reflections of a Webdiarist

"There are fascist tendencies in all countries - a sort of latent tyranny ... Suppression of attack, which is based upon suppression of really free thought, is the instinctive weapon of the vested interest ... great groups which feel their power are at once subject to tremendous temptations to use that power so as to limit the freedom of others." Sir Robert Menzies, 1942 more

Monday, August 9, 2004 at 02:05 PM

Our military and diplomatic elders on truth in democracies and the downside of invading Iraq

"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." more

Saturday, August 7, 2004 at 04:00 PM

The battle for Bennelong: Valder-v-Howard

Liberal Party elder John Valder's manifesto for his "Not Happy, John!" campaign to unseat the Prime Minister at the election and restore Liberalism to the "Liberal" Party. more

Thursday, August 5, 2004 at 10:17 PM

The FTA state of play: your say

Isn't it funny that Australians only got a chance to have a look in on the FTA debate because Labor was divided? Thank God for it. More Labor division on policy please, so that the people get a chance to work out what's going on and whether or not they want what's being slipped through. more

FTA lessens our world power on trade: Brazil picks up our dropped ball

"Brazil is a semi-peripheral power moving towards core power status in the broader capitalist system. Australia is a semi-peripheral power, and by opening us up to increased domination by the US and its corporations through the FTA, is moving further away from core power status." Brian Bahnisch more

Wednesday, August 4, 2004 at 09:58 PM

Latham proves he's still got guts

What Latham has done on the FTA, to everyone's surprise given the incredible political and media pressure on him to cave in completely, is to avoid the Beazley small target disaster and pick a do or die issue of crucial importance to the Australian people which could show Howard up for what he is. more

[ category: ]
Submitted by Carmen Lawrence on October 26, 2004 - 5:29am.
Democracy is failing if the majority are alienated from politics

"Every election produces its peculiar set of certainties about the future of the losing party, certainties that later analysis often proves flawed. Knee-jerk analysis crowds the airwaves and advice is proffered by opinionated commentators about what must be done to avoid permanent oblivion. I've done it myself." - Carmen Lawrence

[ category: ]
Submitted by Hamish Alcorn on October 7, 2004 - 11:45pm.
My brother's pre-election thoughts

My brother Hamish sent this email "to everyone I’ve ever met in my life" last night.


Pre-election thoughts

Election campaigns produce enormous quantities of bullshit which, whilst having no undue impact, does not in my opinion help one person clarify what is important or what their leaders are doing. This is an attempt to describe what is actually important to me, and why.

I’ll start with the deepest, most abiding imperative I know about, which is at once biological and spiritual, seeming to emerge from some evolutionary well of unseen wisdom: concern for the future of my child, my child’s children, and their world.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Chris Saliba on September 17, 2004 - 11:33pm.
Future shock: the ideology of Mark Latham

"What seems to have been largely ignored of Latham’s past is his literary output. Celebrated as the new generation ideas man of the Labor party, the media over the year has not had much to say about the half dozen books he has written or contributed to between 1990-2003. There have been a few murmurings here and there, an occasional quote, but nothing sustained. This is surprising, because his literary output provides a sustained ideological view and program. Over that thirteen-year period, Latham’s thinking has not changed much, if at all. I dare say it will not change much in the future. This could have consequences for all of us." Webdiarist Chris Saliba

[ category: ]
Submitted by Chris Saliba on July 21, 2004 - 11:27pm.
John Howard's love and disappointment

"Not only does John Howard disapprove of gay marriage, but refuses to even give relationship status to gay and lesbian couples, preferring the tawdry term 'liaisons'. It's as if he'd never heard of famous couples like Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris, or Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas." Chris Saliba

[ category: ]
Submitted by Margo Kingston on June 29, 2004 - 10:37pm.
Brian Harradine, man of honour

"I am proud of my strong advocacy over the years for people suffering political oppression, for the rights of workers in Australia and overseas to organise, for initiatives to combat chronic unemployment and for assistance to refugees. I will continue to strive to ensure Australia as a society measures up to the standard I have always espoused: that the measure of a civil society is how it treats its most vulnerable members." Brian Harradine, the father of the Senate, announcing his retirement.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Chris Saliba on April 5, 2004 - 4:24am.
Who’s afraid of the Greens?

"Are the Greens policies as 'kooky' as John Howard insists? Without doubt their overall program is radically different to the prevailing orthodoxy. The last decade of the Howard government has seen a current account blowout that would make Kath and Kim blush, from $194 billion dollars in 1995 to the $393 billion today. Under Howard, we’ve all shopped ourselves silly, and still feel like we’re missing out. The Greens would change all this. Under the Greens we would be made more aware of the cost of everything we consumed – to the environment, to poorly paid sweated labour. Splashing out on an outré outfit at a Chapel street boutique would become fraught with all manner of ethical dilemmas. Were the workers properly paid? Did the dyes used in the product have an adverse environmental impact? Is the outfit sustainable?" Chris Saliba

[ category: ]
Submitted by Kerryn Higgs on March 29, 2004 - 10:01am.
Bush before September 11: the awful truth

"Revelations last week by Richard Clarke - Bush's counter-terrorism guru until just before the Iraq invasion - could destroy the Bush presidency. I asked Webdiarist Kerryn Higgs, a Australian living in New York who's been glued to live TV coverage of Clarke's evidence to the September 11 inquiry, to report the controversy." Kerryn Higgs

Submitted by Carmen Lawrence on March 27, 2004 - 4:56am.
Howard's games with boys' education

John Howard's attempt to use teacher training as a wedge to split Labor has backfired, writes Carmen Lawrence, with the Catholic Church running a mile from being used as his wedge stooge.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Polly Bush on December 19, 2003 - 10:32pm.
Pollie Waffle Awards 2003

"Another year, another war, another conga line of suckhole quotes to commemorate. As 2003 comes to a close, it's time to rejoice in the bum jokes again." Polly Bush

G'day. This is the last Webdiary for the year, folks, so thanks to all of you who wrote and read this year. And what a bloody big year it was, although I reckon next year will be even bigger. I've just written my last Sun Herald column for the year, out Sunday, and you can check it out online then at margo kingston opinion.

I'm in blind panic mode over my book, so no break for me. Hope you have a good one. Webdiary will return at the start of February.

[ category: ]
Submitted by Ian MacDougall on February 11, 2003 - 12:12pm.
Saddam as Stalin: The case for war

This long, thoughtful piece by Ian MacDougall argues the case for war by means of a deep engagement with and considered response to Scott Burchill's piece 'Counterspin: Pro-war mythology'. I highly recommend it.

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