Suggestions for the webdiary are pouring in. Email your suggestions or responses to the ideas to date by Monday, when I’ll wrap them up and give them to Tom.
Before your webdiary comments, a demand from Brian Lopez for the media to demand answers on pollies super and proof that you too can help from Alison de Jong. Marc Pengryffyn continues the drugs debate inspired by Polly Bush. In the Dairy update section, Mark Latham has bitten back at his critics and David Eastwood enters the debate.
By the way, Labor has finally committed itself to the Kyoto protocol even if the US stays out. It took a Greenpeace Newspoll showing public support for Kyoto to do it. Environment spokesman Nick Bolkus said in a statement today: “It is imperative that the Kyoto Protocol survives the attack of the United States. It is a critical first step in the global response to the threat of climate change…Australia’s ratification will be important for the protocol to come into force. Australia has a global responsibility to progress the protocol coming into force. With or without the US, the Kyoto Protocol is not dead and although Australia should use whatever influence it has to bring the US back into negotiations, we will not be beholden to the United States position.”
I have read your article on Politician’s Superannuation and can only say – you took the words right out of my mouth – and may I say probably out of numerous other normal working Australians. I think the great majority of us look in absolute amazement at what is offered to our Politicians both State and Federal. More senior political journalists should ask our political leaders the following questions.
1. Why can’t normal Australians expect the same returns, contributions and conditions that are given to Politicians and paid for by Australian taxpayers.
2. When can we expect Parliament to pass these laws to stop the preferential treatment handed out to Politicians.
3. If these laws can’t be passed – when will superannuation laws should be amended to allow ALL Australians the same conditions that are afforded the Politicians.
They should keep asking these questions until they get an iron-clad commitment. A combined effort by senior political journalists will be the only thing that will shame these people into making this highly unfair perk more fair for all.
ALISON DE JONG
I’m new to this kind of thing. Each Wednesday when I am driving to work I hear you on LNL with Phillip Adams (this week’s was on pollies super). I have just arrived home with 2 of my kids from Niagara Park community centre (central coast, NSW) where Michael Lee, Trish Moran and Kim Beazley were holding court. I tried the “pollies super” question on Kim, and after a lot of raving on about how he could have had more than $5m and that it was the short termers who really made a handsome sum, he said that yes, they’d have to look at it when they were in government.
The whole time this was going on I was surrounded by middle aged matrons nodding their heads adoringly at everything he said. He could have said he’d only have $10m and they would have still nodded sadly for him!!
I guess it’s my naivete, but I’m feeling a bit cheesed off. So there you go, a bit of “spleen venting”.
MARGO: Direct action. Fantastic.
I’d like to echo Robert Lawton’s praise of Polly Bush’s contribution on the drug debate.(Webdiary yesterday, Polly’s piece is in Webdiary, April 10) and to praise his thoughtful piece highlighting the danger that harm minimization programs could serve to mask the underlying social problems that cause much, perhaps most, drug abuse.
That side of the equation is almost completely ignored, and few politicians would touch it with a barge pole.
There is a parallel danger, however, that a focus on addressing underlying social issues can mask the fact that far too many people are suffering and dying for no good reason. That is what harm minimization addresses, and I think that morally it must be our first concern. You can’t improve the circumstances of someone who’s lying dead in a doorway.
Polly Bush talked of the diverse reasons she got into heroin; I don’t think you can simply say that poor circumstances lead to addiction .Archaeology shows that the human race has been manufacturing recreational drugs for millennia, and observations of our simian relatives suggest that we’ve been using the things since before we left the trees.
The unutterable truth in the debate is that for a lot of people drugs are fun, and some of us are always going to get into trouble with them. I really think the line is between levels of use and abuse, and that’s never going to be a solid demarcation.
Yes, there is more abuse of drugs associated with poverty and dislocation- they’re an accessible if not ideal way of dealing with misery. But even rich and happy people can get addicted – remember cocaine? Rich people don’t do it in the streets, of course, and they go to private clinics for treatment.
The best analogy to ‘the drug problem’ is the illegal status of abortion in decades past, with the associated taboo on honest discussions of sex and access to contraception. There was the same failure to admit the inevitability of unsanctioned activities despite their risks, the same constraints on open dissemination of information, the same needless, horrific death toll.
In the case of abortion, harm minimization consisted of sex education in schools, free access to birth control even for the young (*especially* for the young!) and the decriminalization of abortion itself. It seems to have worked; very few women die in backyard abortions in Australia these days, and unwanted pregnancy is way down. This was part of a wider picture of feminism and the increasing equality of the sexes – an ongoing process of social change.
Likewise, the most sensible approach to recreational drugs is to admit that they are an inevitable fact of human society, provide resources to reduce the dangers (clean needles, safe injection venues, safe and inexpensive supply, open investigation and research), encourage free, frank and accurate exchange of information, and above all decriminalize the activity itself.
Mind you, the gambling industry should warn us what can happen if governments are allowed to profit from addictive activities. There is a world of difference between compassionate tolerance and profiteering.
Abortion and sex education were pushed along by the feminist movement; perhaps it’s time for the human-rights movement to argue for the rights of addicts and drug users to be treated as an abused minority who are being denied the measures that they need for the preservation of their lives, health and place in society. Or would this just isolate them even more?
At any rate, despite the vicious rearguard action of conservatives like Howard and Brian Watters, I think we are looking at a more enlightened future, perhaps a few years off yet, and I hope that changing attitudes to drug use will come alongside more rational, equitable and compassionate approaches to many of our society’s ills. Well, I can dream.
I know this is a deeply loathed perspective in many circles, and I’ll probably get called a radical libertarian or such, but let’s face it, prohibition has failed time and time again, and has created far more problems than it has ever solved. It’s driven by narrow social perceptions encouraged mostly by religious doctrinaires of various stripes.
Of course drugs can be dangerous, but so is sport. So is childbirth. Yes, we’ll have to make changes in slow, incremental steps to allow social attitudes to catch up, but until we start making those changes drugs will continue to be a big problem for all of us. And people will keep dying.
I have to say I agree with Fiona Ferrari. When I first started reading your webdiary, I think on the day it started, the format was an editorial by yourself, with short, paragraph like comments from your readers as their mail started to trickle in.
However, that changed, rather dramatically, once you started pasting in long, long, -LONG- essays by what appear to be political and economic science students. This creeping intellectualism has destroyed the original purpose [as I see it, it is yours after all] of the site, to promote political discussion between as many varied voices as possible.
I can understand wanting to give your regulars a voice, and some of them definitely deserve one. However, perhaps an additional essays site would be more appropriate.
It used to take a coffee break to read the webdiary. Now it takes so much longer, it’s scary.
MURRAY CHRISTIAN in Perth
Long time reader, first time poster. I agree with Andrew Stapleton and Fiona Ferrari in part. Don’t mess with it too much.
I don’t go with Andrew on the view that the debates to be found on the net just devolve into point scoring. It’s more a case that some topics don’t have perfect solutions, communication isn’t perfect and passions often run high.
Also, whilst I agree with Fiona about avoiding things becoming too highfalutin, it’s pretty hard for it not to get down to brass tacks once in a while.
What Andrew had to say about “experts” in the dairy dereg section was interesting; that they have almost a duty of care, providing information/knowledge and trying to make sure it is understood. If we don’t get hung up on the language of being an “expert” and any hierarchical undertones, this idea sits quite happily, for me, with the spirit of Tim Dunlop’s argument for the layperson not being afraid of the issues and that being central to democracy.
I think the page is quite good at the above so far. Views, discussion, investigation and expertise all together.
I had run through in my mind, the various message boards and comment systems I’ve run into. But, more and more, I don’t think it matters too much what is done, so long as it doesn’t reduce you to an editor/moderator and occasional setter of the topic (as maintaining the diary seems to have done recently).
My suggestions: Keep the main page and have the regular contributors and anything else in a “diary”, like it is now, with a message board/thread forum (or whatever) as a kind of subsection. This is because I find the page readers/email corresponders often a breed apart from those folks inclined to become forum denizens (in general, not just because of the types of behaviour Andrew notes), so they need something. Plus it keeps the focus. Very important. A lot of demarcation on a new forum can stop it from getting going. So keep it simple and let it grow at first. If you do decide to give the regulars separate sections, precis them in the diary or somewhere. Keeps people clicking.
MURRAY HENMAN in London
I agree with Fiona Ferrari (Webdiary yesterday) re the big pieces. I still want to see them, but perhaps can we make a link to them or put them at the bottom, or separate the diary into 2 sections. Perhaps you could impose a limit on contribution length, although that does sound a bit fascist. The long pieces do tend to make one feel that a contribution is not worthy unless well thought out and extensively backed up.
The other thing I would really like is to see some sort of of distinction between you and the different contributors. Sometimes I have been confused as to who is speaking where. Perhaps using italics, different colours, line separators? (MARGO: Will do.)
PIERRE DU PARTE in Worrigee, NSW
* More opinions from you, with less reliance on quotes from Hansard or other publications.
* Stringent assessment of readers’ submissions, like the SMH Letters Page – it took ten years of letter writing before the buggers published me. (Oops, that means this has no chance.)
* A moderated discussion group.
* A “Keep the Bastards Honest” page – essentially a page that posts responses from our pollies to closed questions on policies, ideology etc. I figure that if a prominent web site was to do this many of our pollies would have no choice but to go on record in regard to specific issues. As an example: Mail a question to all pollies “What will YOU do to ensure that public education is adequately funded so its performance as a first class system is uncompromised?” Stereotyped and answers exceeding 100 words will be dismissed as “pulling the wool over our eyes”, with an appropriately disaffected “outing” of the offending pollie!
SEAN CODY in the UK
New, improved version 2 Webdiary, now with extra added interactivity
Sorry for the title – couldn’t resist the advertising approach.
I’ve been a long time reader of the web diary, and have come really close to contributing some things, but for various reasons haven’t as yet. I suppose, in a way, I have felt almost inadequate when faced with the intellectual prowess of some of your more regular contributors – although, it must be said, certain right-wing diatribes and opinionated drivel have spurred me to the point of pressing the “send” button, then rational thought has prevailed.
Anyway, I read with interest your request for ideas for a new format, and perhaps I may be so bold.
1. Perhaps a semi-chat or discussion forum might have a place. I think the best way to approach this would be to take a format similar to the Independent Newspaper’s site under the Argument section. Certain topics are presented for discussion, generally those that have been dealt with in Argument pieces by the various contributors, and readers are invited to have their say.
I’d shirk away from getting users to register – a lot of people are reluctant to wade into a service that demands addresses, employment details etc. Just a simple request for a name would be enough to do the trick, methinks.
Obviously, the question of whether or not it will be moderated will be raised, but I think people are of a reasonable enough nature not to need a watchdog (Hmmmm, am I really that naive???)
2. The advantage I see in a forum such as this is that it allows people to easily comment in an area that is not overtly academic. Of course, the larger pieces should still be there, but this stuff should perhaps be accessible via a link on the webdiary main page. So you therefore end up having an editorial-type section, and a shorter, more accessible discussion section – a bastardisation of Fiona Ferrari’s comments.
3. Election year – yes, but there will also be elections in other parts of the world at
various times. The UK, for example, where I’m currently living (ex-Sydney) is going to have what could be an interesting one later this year. What about getting a regular piece from people living in different countries about their perceptions of local election run-ups? And here’s a shamelessly-crawly-suck-up offer – I’d perhaps be keen to contribute, although you’d better give me an electronic slapping if my work is not up to scratch (of course you would) – there, I’ll do anything for my 15 minutes.
The point of this exercise? Perhaps to let the readers know how other societies react to/deal with election campaigns, as well as how the foreign pollies act.
MARGO: I’d love pieces from expats on elections where they’re living, and you’re on, Sean.
I do hope your boss realises just how jealously your respondents wish to guard the webdiary. By all means broaden the appeal. (But how will you be able to handle the mail volume? You’ll need dozens of assistants.)
However, SMH must ensure the webdiary does not deteriorate to the abysmal quality of most reader response forums. Frankly, I have found nothing matching webdiary – even the Christian Science Monitor and Atlantic magazine online forums are dreadful.
I take Fiona’s point about keeping a mix of long and short articles, and also Andrew’s about not becoming an online slanging site where neither side really listens to contrary views. I would add a preference for starting, or at least notifying, all new topics in your daily intro (ie as you do currently).
So many issues overlap (eg greenhouse/energy, environment/population, both of these with industrial development) that strict separation into “fields of interest” would be counterproductive.
A while ago you put out feelers about what people would be willing to pay for online. Well, one likely attribute of a pay site would surely be access to something not obtainable elsewhere. Those people who phoned the SMH to enquire about Tim’s dairy deregulation piece did so, I submit, because they wanted to read the considered views of a thoughtful citizen – imagine Tim’s 7000 word piece edited to 200 words for the letters page!
As for keeping the site fresh, I suggest you try the following. As a jog to memory, list all the federal ministries, departments and organisations. Then invite readers to comment if they feel a potentially hot topic is not yet on the media horizon. I expect all sorts of things might emerge.
The goal of this approach is to keep webdiary out front, rather than allowing it to become purely reactive. So please Boss, keep the reins loose, Margo’s doing just fine. Let’s see where she takes us.
MARGO: I like the idea of being out front.The best example was the debate over the defence bill, where the Coalition and Labor wanted to give the defence force the power to shoot to kill etc against civilians. The debate was triggered by two emails from readers wanting to know more. I do get occasional reader’s suggestions for topics, which I follow up when I can. I got one yesterday which I’ll write about on Monday.
I’m deeply sympathetic to “Fiona’s” comments about elitism. My PhD, ironically, is about exactly this question: how do you get intellectuals and citizens to interact as equals. To me, it’s one of the central questions of how we get the sort of society we want.
It’s exactly why I think it is worth contributing to forums like this, because I think it does contribute to breaking down those barriers.
So I thought the milk piece, though long and canvassing some tricky stuff, was nonetheless pretty accessible. It certainly wasn’t academic, and part of the reason it was as long as it was, was so that I could spell out quite clearly what was at stake with each point I was making. I wanted people to be able to follow the exact point I was making, without presuming they had the benefit of the knowledge I’d managed to dig up.
It was also written from a position of absolute ignorance, and everything I found out I found out by staying up late and reading documents. The whole point was that I WASN’T an expert but I found out some stuff anyway. It was meant to be encouraging of others to have a go at this sort of thing and it’s a bit disappointing to find it had the opposite effect.
But if people find that sort of thing intimidating, then people like me have to be aware of that. As I say, I’m deeply sympathetic to the question, having spent the past 3 years thinking about little else and defending the position against associates who think that it’s just pointless to get the two groups (citizens and experts) together.
Andrew Stapleton’s comments raise some interesting points too. Partly, it’s about the difficulty of having discussions like this online. It is really easy for people to get the wrong idea about people’s intentions. But the suggestion that I made no attempt to understand his position is, I have no doubt, sincere, but I don’t think it is fair. Let me defend myself if I can.
Sure I got a bit narky – that is, my tone wasn’t always saintly – but I was only put off with some of what he he was saying. There was nothing personal in it, though I know how easy it is to take things personally when you are addressed in public.
But there were a number of times when I expressly acknowledged points he was making, even if I didn’t then agree with them. I think this is a really important point about about having discussions as citizens in public forums and about rising above the sort of parliamentary question-time brawling that most of us thoroughly deplore. So this is my general policy when responding to people in forums like this: I always make it a point to respond by quoting what they actually said to precisely show, first, that it’s not personal, and second, that I have actually read quite closely what they’ve said. It also keeps ME accountable.
If it sounds a bit short or angry or whatever, then that’s just the way it is, I guess. What else am I meant to do? Say I agree with something that I find trivial or trite or simply wrong? The rude thing would be to have ignored the detail of what he said and write some generalised response.
The thing is, sometimes exchanges are going to be terse or strong when people disagree about important things and I don’t think we should be afraid of that. Which is not to say that it’s easy. I sometimes wonder if people are aware of the personal risk people like me feel we are taking when we enter into these discussions. My heart is in my mouth everytime I click that ‘send’ button, especially when I’m responding to someone like Mark Latham, a professional arguer. It’s just plain scary. I don’t know why some people think it is hard for them to stick their heads up but easy for others.
All that aside, on the issue of revamping the site, two things I’d keep in mind. One is that you want it to be a site of reader interaction, which is great. But the other, I think, is that you want it to provide content, in the form of reports, essays, articles etc. I think these two things need to be kept separate to some extent, simply because the format of an “endless” webpage is difficult to read and it adds to the feeling that people are ploughing through reams and reams of material. A webboard still seems like a good idea, but I don’t think you want to give all discussion over to that format, largely for the reasons that Andrew mentioned.
In terms of content, despite what Fiona said about shorter pieces, I think it’d be a real shame to give up the ability of the web to provide a space for more detailed comment and interaction.
I mean, isn’t part of the idea to get away from some of the superficiality of normal media coverage and get some muscle and bite into analysis/commentary etc?
Part of the reason for the milk piece was precisely because all the other general coverage was so tokenistic. And where else would that piece have got published? I think it contributed something to the debate, and to more general discussion, but you know as well as I do what would’ve happened if I’d sent to any newspaper or mag in the country: reject.
How else do we break out of the habits of stale, formulaic debate unless we’re willing to open up topics to this more detailed analysis? Where else can we do it except in spaces like yours?
I am aware Fiona wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t have these longer pieces, only that on some level people can find them intimidating etc. I apologise if my piece was like that.
It was the very fact that I was intimidated by the writings of Paul Kelly and other commentators that made me go out and look at the issue. It is surprising how UNintimidating they are once you have the information yourself. But you do actually have to go and do the work.
That’s why I think the website is such a promising venue for social/political discussion; exactly because it does give ordinary bods (even men doing PhDs) an opportunity to question things we wouldn’t normally have a chance to question.
Anyway, I’d also like to say that if I can help anyone with research material or getting a piece together, then I’d be happy to do it, within certain time restraints. I don’t really think I’m part of the elite, but having done a few years at uni you almost can’t help but pick up a few research and writing skills, so if they can be helpful to anyone, please let me know.
I agree very much with Fiona Ferrari’s views. I really hope Webdiary doesn’t take on too much of a “wanky” format. Of course some “wanky” is fine but if it means those with less time, resources, interest or intellect are deterred from contributing, that would be a great pity. I am hardly promoting a dumbing down – all I am saying is that it should not become an exclusive preserve of a certain type of individual.
I don’t think we should underestimate the psychological aspects either. Competition is often exceptionally healthy but it can also have the impact of excluding people we should love to hear from. I’ve often wondered about the psychological profile of the “regular contributor”. Is it the ideas, is it the writing, is it a form of competition? Is there a common driver? What motivates them? I would like to hear what makes the regulars, well, regular. I of course exclude myself from such analysis but am nevertheless interested in the others.
I think your involvement is CRITICAL. I dont like this idea of “limited administrative involvement” from you. I always like it when you chip in one liners in the midst of people’s pieces. One liners, not detailed rebuttals!!!!!! If there is less of you I am going to visit this site a lot less often!! I am not ONLY interested in the views of the “viewers” – I most definitely want to hear your perspective. I was initially attracted to this because it seemed we were getting something NEW….we were getting more of an insiders view – in a new and entertaining format.
I see your role as being far more important than one of some kind of back seat moderator in a free for all. Not to say I don’t like “free for all” but none of this would work without you being the glue holding it together. We need to see your ideas and opinions just as much, if not more, than before. Just because Dairy Dereg is flying solo – don’t expect everything to turn. I love what has happened with Dairy Dereg but this is not some panacea which will enable you to put your feet up.
I think the idea of separate areas for debates which are up to “flying solo” is an excellent one. Dairy dereg is a good example. I know I will go back and check it every now and then. A little structure is not a bad thing.
Having said that….. I hope it doesn’t become TOO structured and involve a lot of navigating on the readers part. That gets really old really quickly.
In summary I suppose I am saying:
1. A bit wanky, but not TOO wanky (a tricky balancing act to keep a good tone);
2. Lots of Margo content with chipped in comments as well;
3. Some structure but not TOO much structure for issues taking their own wings;
4. Promotion of diversity (ie contributor diversity); and
5 Promotion of diversity of style (ie from punchy, to detailed, to emotional, to cooly analytical)
It should be thought provoking AND entertaining. So far so good!
I got a phone call from one of your colleagues yesterday who said he read in my email (Webdiary Tuesday) that I had been a student of Cheryl Kernot when she ran off to Queensland, and hinted that I might know something different to the “official ALP line”. I don’t, and told him so. Weird. I didn’t think to write down his name, unfortunately, and he didn’t mention who he works for- he woke me from a nap and I wasn’t at my best. I’d make a lousy journalist.
Anyway, to business.
I must admit that I am somewhat daunted by the longer and more erudite pieces at times, but always find it worthwhile to struggle through them. I think it’s a good idea to put the longer pieces in a side-gallery (or whatever the jargon is) and ditto for the longer running debates and the columnists, with the only danger being that they may all get ignored. Make sure you have lots of big friendly signage reminding us that they’re there. You could maybe make selections from the side-galleries to include in the front page letter stream.
Similarly, if you want to print ‘outside pieces’, like Peter Andren’s speech on Tuesday 17th April, or pieces from other journos, you might want to present them as hypertext links with a small summary.
I agree that the central letters page [front page?] should be retained as the primary focus. It’s what most people will read and is really the most important part of the project. I think perhaps you should have a word limit for the letters you put there, but I’d be generous and I wouldn’t be a nazi about it.
I agree with Fiona Ferrari that you should include yourself more in the debates – your interjections are invaluable! Apart from anything else, they help to stamp your personality on the Diary, and I think that’s no bad thing. Plus, I think it’d help solve the problem of ‘newsgroup bombasts’ that Andrew Stapleton mentions (a category of netnerd whose number I fear sometimes includes myself).
I like the format you usually adopt, where you start off with a few thoughts of your own, then introduce the day’s writers and topics before the letters themselves. As above, I like it when you inject yourself into the letters occasionally. A heading, and maybe a *brief* intro before each letter would be good as it would help when I’m trying find bits to re-read later.
If this project takes off (as we all should hope!) you’re going to find yourself selecting and editing more, of course, but I like your commitment to letting people’s voices be heard. The trade-off will be between inclusiveness and accessibility, but I think this technology is good at that kind of problem when well designed.
I have an idea for the site that you can put to Tom. How about having a regular web-chat on the site, say once a week. You could advertise a topic and readers could interact with you online on that topic in a similar way to ICQ/AOL. I suggest that you have a mediator for the reader’s questions so that the chat has some structure and coherence. I am sure f2’s web-types are up to the challenge of creating an online application to handle this feature.
I agree with Fiona Ferrari’s comment about the length of some of the pieces that you have published. I personally scan over anything that is more than a web-page in length, and so prefer brief contributions. We younger types do not have the attention span of your generation.
My vision for the site would be more policy debates getting off the ground and then given a separate space like dairy.
I’d like to see these policy debates include solutions not just complaints. Eg drug policy, higher
education, research and development, refugee policy, health policy, and ideas for reforming the electoral system to make it more democratic.
Another idea is for readers to suggest topics they’d like you to write about. Of course most of the time you should choose your own topics but readers’ suggestions may come in useful for slow news days. For example my suggestions today would include:
* Australian defamation laws (if and how they stop newspapers writing certain political stories- as a journalist you’d know more about that than me- and how they should be reformed)
* A juicy piece on what really goes on in the Canberra Press Gallery and how your perspective has changed by not being located there (if it has)
* A detailed critique of what wrong with the internal functioning of the ALP-jobs for the boys, seniority over merit etc-explaining why its like that and suggesting how they could reform it
*Ideas to help the next Government get real people involved in policy development (eg local members’ internet sites like Latham has, more summits and conventions like the NSW Drug Summit and the Constitutional Convention, more deliberative referendums, and perhaps policy debates on-line at the policy development stage-so politicians and public servants could publicly engage in the policy issues).
MARGO: My problem in researching and writing investigative pieces is that I do this diary on my own – pulling it together, writing my bit, subediting it, and putting it online. So it’s a time thing. I’ll write about the press gallery on Monday.
I think one way to “spice up” your page would be to add a regular “insider” commentary on the issues raised by your correspondents – that is, get random Fairfax journalists, TV commentators, pollies, industry figures etc to contribute their feedback or views on the readers’ points of view.
If this were to work, it would probably be wise to ensure that this is not used as an opportunity for political non-speak,or propaganda, but thoughtful response – u could do this by including a post-poll on readers’ evaluation of the contributor and a comments section.
On another issue altogether, there was a front-page photograph of Gary Toomey and John Sharp yesterday. There was also a short explanatory story by Mark Robinson on p6. Now, although I have found the whole Ansett saga fascinating, I did find myself reading Robinson’s story and going…”No..no..that’s not the story here”.
Does anyone else think it’s about time for a long critical, journalistic look at the lobbying industry, in particular the numerous influential figures who use privileged information and contacts for the benefit of companies in a way that would have been considered conflict of interest during their official career?
There seem to be a preponderance of ex-ministers (barely, in Sharp’s case), ex-department heads and other politically influential figures who are turning up in the employ, or “service”, of industries that are closely related to their areas of official duties. Am I alone in believing that this constitutes a form of conflict of interest?
Isn’t it time to consider close scrutiny and greater regulation of the post-careers of people who have access to the wheels of power? Isn’t it enough that pollies and public servants have probably the most generous superannuation policy in Australia? Shouldn’t there be a time limit (say 5 years) before one of these people can use their inside knowledge for the benefit of well-heeled businesses?
Overall, I agree with Fiona Ferrari, but wonder if I have been labelled as elitist or a PHD wanker? I hope not… I am neither!
Set up a word limit per contribution of 75 words on each topic for discussion, and then provide a forum for each separate topic to be discussed. People can refer to previous contributions by date in each topic, rather than cutting and pasting previous comments and then inserting their comments, and lastly, split the page into our comments and your repartee.
I agree with Fiona – beat us up a bit more, we love pain! See how that goes…
Nice to hear Elen Seymour’s inside story from Canada (Webdiary yesterday). Just a couple of things – I was comparing Australia extremely favourably when it comes to personal tax – on 35% less salary, I still take home more here than I did in Europe. Scandalous!
The other point is concerning Gen-Xers (I am one of them, by the way) – have we not learned that Greed is Not Good from our troubled past? There are sufficient historical examples – Rome’s collapse in the 5th was partly created by greed, the Catholic Church schism of the 16th century, the 1920’s creating the depression of the 30’s.
The Boomers had been working for a while before hedonism went to their heads – we have just gotten out of school, and we want it all now… Sad!