David Davis – the most prolific expat Webdiarist this year and the man who’s intrigued many of you with his political mood swings throughout the year, has a serious go at defining his politics. Then advice for December from Polly Bush and a year wrap from David Redfearn. To end, a review of Webdiary for March and April.
The Australians against Racism TV campaign on refugees – to which many Webdiarists have generously donated, is under way. Co-organiser Eva Sallis advises:
Faces in the Crowd’ went to air on Monday night across all capital cities and is still on in Darwin. The response has been huge, both positive and negative. This suggests that it is doing what it should: rallying people and raising the temper and tenor of open public debate.
At present we are exploring all avenues for getting the ad into stations as a filler and as a Community Service Announcement. Both will be free to air and will be in regions where the traffic station manager decides that he or she would like it on air, so this will be dependent on goodwill.
We are also costing SBS airtime to see if this will be possible.
We are also looking into the possibilities of getting the ad into cinemas, a context in which we believe it will come into its own. This will cost a few thousand dollars in technological remaking of the ad in appropriate form but we will be asking cinemas to cut it into their reels for free. We’ll start with Melbourne on this project and then call on you all to approach your local cinemas. Wait on this, as we need to check that the plan is viable (and affordable).
Many country viewers have been disappointed that the ad didn’t go to air on WIN and other country TV stations. We are exploring the CSA/filler possibilities with this. We would also encourage you to organise independent whiparounds in your district to get the ad on air on your regional station. If anyone comes to us with an adequate amount of money and says this is for getting the ad on primetime on our regional station, we would be delighted to organise the booking and make this happen. If we pay for airtime, we have better chances of getting filler and CSAs on as well.
The website is growing steadily. We now have a resources section with some articles already up. This will be expanded.
By David Davis in Switzerland
I hope you will forgive me but I am in a pre silly season mood and am going to go through each of the models in Defining your politics and define mine. We all seem to agree that the terms left and right have lost much of their meaning, however I am not so sure the alternative models are particularly conclusive either. Perhaps I am just a rare bird defying all attempts to be classified. Genus complexitus.
Donald Brook says the only ideological division that counts is the one between the neo-liberals and the egalitarians. I have my feet firmly planted on either side of this so called division so I don’t really understand the gap he sees. Perhaps he interprets egalitarianism to mean equality of outcomes. I prefer to look at it as equality of opportunity and I am very happy for society to organise itself in such a way that we can achieve more equitable access to opportunity for all. My interpretation of neo-liberalism isn’t a dysfunctional society. I think you can be a bit of both neo-liberal and egalitarian. Such is life in the radical centre.
Under Mark Pengryffyn’s system I tend to be toward the anarchist-green-globalist-tolerance end of his multi-dimensional universe. But then that doesn’t sit very well. Perhaps I can better define it under his system by clearly stating what I am NOT: totalitarian, brown, nationalist, bigot. These labels seem so extreme. I know he is talking about continua but can one really be part totalitarian or part anarchist? Anyway at least under his system I know what I am not even if it is uncomfortable to say what I am. So many axes to travel under Pengrffyn.
The James Paterson model presents fewer conundra (is that the plural of conundrum or some place on the Sunshine Coast?). In his model I am a “tempered neoliberal”. Tempered sounds kind of tepid though and it would feel more pure to be either hot or cold on basic philosophical positions.
In Matthew Pearce’s system I would be classified as a “progressive”, as being a person who wants some change and I would apply it to both the economic and cultural spheres. I am not happy with the status quo but on the other hand am not particularly inclined toward revolution.
The easiest method of classification is presented by Peter Parker. Under his method, I am a social and economic liberal.
Last and certainly by no means least, Don Arthur suggests four camps: traditionalist, humanist, rationalist and bohemian. This is becoming like “Twister” because I think I have a foot in two of these camps and two hands in the remaining two. I’ve been and continue to be bits of all of these. I think I’ll go bohemian for the holidays.
It’s possible of course that I have a natural aversion to labelling but if I must be labelled can I not label myself and simply be an “upbeat, future-oriented, moderate liberal with a strong progressive agenda and a distinct but not overbearing internationalist bent”?
I’ll announce how I have defined myself to the mates when I get back to Sydney at Christmas. I expect to be told I am a wanker, it’s my shout and not to get Reschs like I did last round. Trying to convert people to Reschs is part of life in the radical centre!
Accepting the tyranny of the VB paradigm is just not on. It robs one of identity. Defiantly sticking with the minority brew of Reschs is all about being separate but equal. Not elite but able to differentiate between competing mass market brews. It is also about preferring the taste of Reschs and the joy in the knowledge that in the end there’ll always be a place in the sun for the Reschs drinkers!
Polly Bush in Melbourne
The silly season has begun. Time to dust off the boardies and measure the amount of Winter chocolate consumption. Time to sweat, (a) if you’re fortunate to live somewhere where December does resemble Summer and not some hangover of the Melbourne Winter, and (b) to perspire away the remaining must do’s, must finishes of the year.
Mental thought is currently scrambled and the winding down of time provides unnecessary urgency. Remember there are things that can wait. You don’t need to have a pre-Christmas drink with every straggler that rears their head around the time of giving. And don’t feel guilty when you receive a Christmas card from a friend you were meant to call five months ago. If it’s meant to be, they’ll be back.
Work. No one’s doing much anymore so why should you. No more hard slog, you’ve done that, or at least you’ve attempted it or thought about it, so drop the excess, drop the overtime, it’s time to unwind. You have plenty of time to work hard next year. Or the next.
Try to avoid your work Christmas party if possible, but remember it’s the occasion when colleagues get spastic and colleagues talk. It might be in your interest to go, at least to keep an eye on things and yourself. Alliances can be cemented or torn. Coups can occur in the New Year.
You have alcohol as the excuse to push the envelope and cause a small riot. Emphasize small. Be careful not to vomit on anyone – it’s embarrassing and people will talk. This goes without saying but don’t become the Christmas office pash. It’s cheap. And transforming from office nerd to Pete Townsend air guitar genius, windmilling and carving up the dance floor, may look a bit suss. Alternatively bake a special Christmas cake, complete with all spice to spice things up.
Don’t spend more than your Kris Kringle (shudder) limit. It’s been set for a reason and others aren’t as generous. Remember, they probably voted for one of the major political parties. Make sure you pick someone you know, and if you don’t, perform a swap. Nothing worse than being confronted by your unknown gift giver and another colleague who says, “Who gave you that?” to which you rudely point and say to the guy’s face “him”. Trust me, it’s been done.
If they barrack for a footy team, it’s sorted. Go the mug, sticker, key ring, fluffy die, stubbie cooler, coasters, or a bloody big ridiculous inflatable finger. Give them the big finger, it may make you feel better, and next season they’ll look like a wanker at the game. If they drink, go the bottle of vino – a six pack of VB may not have the same effect. If they smoke, whatever colour of the rainbow, head down to your nearest tobacconist. Be wary that a gigantic poster of Bob Marley choofing on a kick-arse reefer may not go down well in front of other colleagues. But remember, it is anonymous.
Christmas shopping (another shudder) bites. Remember last year’s vow to collect pressies throughout the year to avoid another deficit in December? No, bugger. Since it’s the live to give season, why not instead ask your loved ones to bypass the money on your Christmas present in favour of a charity. Do it, it will make you feel better and others might follow.
Christmas Day. Going home versus staying home. If you go for the whole family reunion event, be careful. If confrontation is inevitable, get out any long or short term issues early before you get drunk and have a climactic brawl. Stick to your principles. Don’t put yourself through the whole God doesn’t love sinners sermon if you know it will stir you up. Put your foot down and tell your Mother on arrival there’s no chance you’ll sport a frock and you don’t care if Auntie Beryl thinks you look like a bull dyke. She’ll get over it and her crocheting sucks anyway.
Avoid politics as a topic of conversation. It’s not the occasion to hear what a fantastic job Philip Ruddock or Mr Burns from The Simpsons is doing. Chances are you’re going to be outnumbered. Remember your uncle voted One Nation and it was only a few years back, and your precious cousin who never ventures beyond the leafy burbs is freaked out by “ethnic” crime. And don’t forget your father labelled you “dangerous” because you partially convinced your sister to vote for Peter MacDonald in November, breaking for the first time her normal Liberal vote. Stand proud, but gnaw gracefully on your tongue.
If you can’t avoid the topic roll with it. Get one of your small nephews or nieces whose parents believe the hype to stand and greet other guests at the gate with the words “We will decide who comes here and under what circumstances”. Elbow around your great aunt at the kitchen table, excusing yourself with, “Sorry, did I jump the queue?”. When someone asks if you’re happy, reply “I’m just so very relieved our borders are being protected. Finally I’m sleeping again.” And when there’s talk about terror, why not throw Timothy McVeigh into the fold.
If you feel compelled to pass out make sure you do it after lunch, not before. Keep an eye on the oldies. Remember when your late great uncle made the dog spew on rum balls it was not funny, as first thought.
If you stay home, bunker down and enjoy. Get the calls out of the way early and then take the phone off the hook. Crank up the Polly Jean Harvey and thank Christ you don’t have to listen to Neil Diamond’s Christmas carols at home (eye yi yi yi dreamin of a why yi yi yi Christmas). Yes, thank Christ, it is his birthday. Pre-order the food, and be adventurous. You’re not obligated to eat you mother’s bean salad if you’re not there. Drink and be merry, that’s what it’s supposed to be about.
New Year’s Eve? Worry later. The less expectations the better. The less planning the better. Ensure your grocer isn’t taking off for the Woodford Folk Festival. You don’t want to buy crap, and you certainly don’t want to end up the subject of a coronial inquest in 2002. You want to be here. There’ll be so much to do.
Thank you for Webdiary and to all those who have made the effort to contribute. I have made a couple of paltry contributions but I promise to try harder next year!! It has indeed been a fascinating ride this year; I am not sure if I have really enjoyed coming along but I have found many of the contributions very stimulating especially those from humane and thoughtful conservatives like David Davis whose sojourn in distant Switzerland seemed to make him both wonderfully detached and yet most intimately engaged in the affairs of our nation.
I think the election resolved nothing. Howard won but I don’t necessarily think he won the so-called culture wars. The election was still too close to be able to say that.
I now hope that the ALP (of which I am a long standing member) will take the issue of policy development and its structure seriously. I hope it can be done without union bashing because it only gives Howard and Abbott something to talk about (although If Abbott keeps it up he might drive a few people back to the unions) and because the unions, despite declining numbers in recent years, are actually relevant stakeholders in our society.
I hope too that the ALP actually articulates what it stands for and yells this loud and clear from the roof tops. Let’s stop being obsessed with hating Howard and believing everyone else does. Clearly many do not hate him and, if they do, didn’t think the ALP worth examining as an alternative. We should get on with the job of defining our values and principles, develop relevant policy and putting this before the electorate even at the occasional risk of short term unpopularity.
Having said this, I am still ambivalent about the ALP stand over refugees and the Tampa issue in the recent election. Should we oppose Howard on principle like Calwell did Menzies and Holt over Vietnam and cop an electoral thrashing? Vindication there was a while coming but come it surely did.
Could we have done the same over Tampa and the refugees? Or was it better to remain a small target in order not to be decimated and let Howard definitively win the culture wars (by siding with him on this issue we risked doing that anyway)? I guess I will reflect on that for a while yet and I still don’t know the answer to that strategic question although my heart certainly says that the former response would have been the right one.
Next year will no doubt reveal more and we armchair critics, analysts and assorted members of the chattering classes will no doubt continue to pore over whatever entrails we chance upon. I hope you and all your contributors have a very happy Christmas and come back refreshed for 2002. It will be a busy year.
Webdiary review – March/April
Greg Weilo, our One Nation theorist, wrote in March:
“Well it seems undeniable that One Nation has achieved more in the past two weeks than the Labour opposition has in the past two years. The government has backflipped on the sale of Telstra, petrol pricing, foreign ownership of Woodside (MARGO: not yet) and provided more funding for the Alice Springs to Darwin railway. Just imagine their achievements when they hold the balance of power after the next election!”
Such was the general mayhem in politics post the Ryan election result. I wrote:
“For the third straight election this year, voters have delivered the political and media establishment a surprise. In WA, the Libs were supposed to crawl over the line. a substantial Labor win ensues. In Queensland, Labor was supposed to crawl over the line. It won in a landslide. Labor was supposed to win Ryan in a landslide. It’s too close to call. Why oh why does the media keep getting it wrong? When will we address our endemic disconnect with the people?”
“Howard produced his brand of leadership in the Ryan campaign. He threw his credibility into the mix, explicitly, with that letter (vote for me or Beazley will think the election’s in the bag for him) late in the last week. Beazley, as usual, played safe. Safe is not good enough. Without positive positives he was, as usual, an ineffectual bloke with nothing to say”.
And so he stayed. Despite becoming serious alternative prime minister material after the close win in Ryan, he did nothing to fill the positive space with new policy or big speeches setting out his priorities. Instead Howard filled the gap with backflips and budget giveaways, forcing Labor to accept each move for fear of a backlash, rendering any ideas they had impossible to pay for. Meg Lees became a GST victim after an awful result for the Democrats in Ryan.
After Ryan, bitter Webdiarist attacks on your moderator for alleged unfair tirades against Beazley as Webdiary shifted its focus to policy debate – the working poor, energy, Kyoto, political structures, the banks, corporate governance – and introduced regular columnists – Jack Robertson with Meeja Watch and Don Arthur with The politics of ideas. Both have made sensational contributions to the Webdiary this year.
If you’re new to the Webdiary and want to read their early work, here’s where to go.
1.Oprah Winfrey and the Third Way (the new welfare philosophy): Beyond Ryan (Don, a former public servant, is doing his Phd on “The new battlers: How working Australians get and stay poor and what we can do about it.”)
2. The (sometimes) working poor: Advising the Meeja.
3. Truth, lies and spin: Spin by post
4. An appetite for lies: Australia: Green enough for Kyoto?
5. `Coalition unleashes youth crime wave,’ says ALP: A client state
6. Professional politics – cynical voters: Demand for milk
1. A call to cerebral arms?: Advising the Meeja
2. By George!: Disclosure and you
3. Boswell, Kernot and intellectual will: Winning by sacrifice
4. Watching the watchers: Cut and paste
5. Get the damned “MARKET’ off the front page, thanks: What’s the point?
March 30 saw Webdiary go into full bore policy debate when a 7,000 piece on dairy deregulation by Tim Dunlop lobbed in. It was the first time I devoted an entry to a long contributor piece – Pull the udder one – and, not being interested in the topic at all, wondered if it was worth it.
What sparked my interest was an exchange with Tim on WHY he was interested?
“I wasn’t really interested at all, but it is a rather symbolic topic in debates about the role of government, the notion of free markets, and the place of economy versus society in our lives. It started because I heard Mark Latham on Lateline, I read Paul Kelly and Imre Salusinzky, and they all sound so authoritative about what an unequivocal “good” dairy deregulation is (and neo-liberalism in general) that I decided to check it out for myself. Thanks to the internet an immense amount of material is available and I thought the claims of the various advocates just didn’t add up. So I decided to put what I’d found down on paper and see what I came up with.
“A couple of things make it attractive as an example. One is that it is about something that nearly everyone knows something about, that is, we all buy milk. The other is that it shows how ideology can simply overcome common-sense in that, even if deregulation worked exactly as they say it should, the net benefit to consumers is so bloody small that you have to wonder what the point is. I show in the article that even if it reduced the price of milk to ZERO, on average we would be only $3.20 a week better off. And this against the loss of 4000 dairy farms and $2 billion out of rural communities. Nutty in my book.
“So I knew nothing about it going in and had no previous interest in cows, farms or even milk before in my life. It just seemed like a good example of how the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality, which is why I tied it to a wider discussion of democracy and citizenship, which is something I do have an interest in. My thesis topic is on the relationship between intellectuals and citizens in Australia.”
The response was incredible, drawing in so much comment and flying off in so many directions that I pulled the debate together on a separate page, and a picture of a cow led the page for ages. Bondi Leftie Andrew Stapleton matched Tim blow by blow in his defence of the economic rationalist position on the matter. Democrats Senator John Woodley ran off copies of Tim’s piece and distributed it to dairy farmers at protest meetings. Tim, whose thesis had been completely theoretical, included a chapter on dairy deregulation, proving that yes, approached right, the intellectual could enter the public debate with effect. His piece was extracted in a high school text book.
The dairy debate also saw Webdiary mentioned in the mainstream press for the first time, and to this day still defines it in some neo-liberal columnists minds.
In April, I started to work out what the Webdiary might be about. I wrote:
“As it’s turned out, the page has become an open ended-conversation with me as facilitator, as well as general rave merchant.
“What’s the point of that? A big thing in its favour is that no-one believes anyone HAS the answers/the complete picture, anymore. We are in a transition of thinking, ideologically and philosophically, about our society and its values. To scream at and deride those who have different starting points castrates the debate, not enlivens it. It’s also depressing.
“What I love about this page is that intelligent people from many starting points are interested in other thoughts. It’s exhilarating. It cleans out cobwebs and lifts feelings of disempowerment or hopelessness.
“It’s also a pretty big challenge to the mainstream, in that it’s privileging ideas over who has them, and intellectual debate over rhetoric and conflict-thrill.”
By late April I’d got around to writing a Webdiary charter.
* that widely read broadsheet newspapers are essential to the health and vibrancy of our democracy
* that they are yet to adapt to a multi-media future pressing on the present
* that there is a vacuum of original, genuine, passionate and accessible debate on the great political, economic and social issues of our time in the mainstream media, despite the desire of thinking Australians in all age groups to read and participate in such debates
* that newspapers have lost their connection with the readers they serve
* that the future lies in a collaboration between journalists and readers
The mission of the Webdiary is:
* to experiment in the form and content of the Herald online
* to assist in the integration of the newspaper and smh.com.au
* to help meet the unmet demand of some Australians for conversations on our present and our future, and to spark original thought and genuine engagement with important issues which effect us all
* to link thinking Australians whoever they are and wherever they live
* to insist that thinking Australians outside the political and economic establishment have the capacity to contribute to the national debate
* to provide an outlet for talented writers and thinkers not heard in mainstream media
April also marked the start of continuing debate about Webdiary content and design. Weeks of debate saw us finalise a new design which was aborted in June when the Herald online lost 25 percent of its staff after online budget cuts.
Several readers complained that the Webdiary was becoming a chat show for PhD students, frightening normal people from putting in their two bobs worth. I adjusted the mix, only to be accused of gender bias, with several people noting the preponderance of male contributors. Female readers quickly advised that they read the thing too, but had little time to write. Since then the gender balance has partly corrected itself.