Hi. I had a wow of a holiday in Byron Bay after its annual writers festival, where the audience played the starring role. A great vibe at an Australian writers only event where 17,000 people turned up and got right into it. Cripes, I got my hope back! So a thank you to festival organiser Jill Eddington for the invite – I’ll be back next year in the audience.
It’s true what they say about Byron – magic happens. I’m even looking forward to the rest of the working year, whatever horrors it brings. Thanks to those who emailed to say they were missing Webdiary – it was a nice way to ease back in.
I’ve just sent Democrats name-game winner Gerry Orkin, a Canberran, his prize for Murray’s Darling Party- two autographed photos of Meg Lees’ central Australia sojourn to decide her future. We’ve put the six photos she sent us to chose from in Webdiary.
Today we did a pilot for what we hope will be a regular video chat show on smh.com.au, working title SMH Connect. I interviewed Herald investigative journo Kate McClymont on the blockbuster yarn she and Anne Davies broke on the Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league team – how they cheated and by how much, and the red hot development deal called ‘Oasis’ the club is into with the Liverpool council. It’s a classic expose of how Sydney does business (sport this ain’t). The interview is on the home page.
I’m hoping the video thing will have two strands. I’d like to interview Herald journos across the paper on hot news, hot comment and hot media trends. This way, you’ll get to know the journalists who work for you, our readers, and get an idea of what happens behind the scenes in the newsroom and how stories happen and why.
The second strand will be interviews (and maybe debates) on current issues with real people – including Webdiary contributors.
While producer Vanessa Wilson and tech-head Adrian Alback are tweaking and developing the technical stuff there’s little room for direct input from you, although we’re hoping that in time you’ll be able to ring in questions and talk direct to the talent. At the moment, it has to be prerecorded and processed before being posted – in time we hope to do it live.
I’ll interview Kate or Anne tomorrow around 1pm on the latest Doggiegate developments, so if you’ve if got a question email me before then. We’d love your ideas on content, presentation and a final name for the show.
My last entry before holidays, And the winner is … included a bitter rave on Labor closing down the unthrown children/SIEV-X inquiry. Several readers emailed Simon Crean to protest, and he’s distanced himself from the cave-in by claiming it is the Senate inquiry members’ decision. Since Labor and the Dems have the numbers, Simon is indulging in a pathetic distancing exercise, but what’s new with old, old Labor? You’ll find the case against Peter Reith and other reluctant witnesses in What servants are for (June 27), as well as a piece by public service expert John Nethercote on the systemic damage Labor’s gutless stance will inflict on the people’s power to hold their government accountable through the Parliament they elect.
Judith Quilter wrote:
I read your article regarding the ALP giving in on the children overboard inquiry and wrote to Simon Crean, who replied and told me to check my facts as this is not so. Where do you get your information from? I realise you journalists are all alike and we the public should take very little notice of you. I just find all the hysteria for the Coalition and the antipathy for the ALP rather disquieting. I do believe that Simon Crean is a much stronger character than the previous leader and I think it is time the Press gave him a go. However I guess while John Howard goes on his trips with his large retinue we will hear little criticism.
Hi. Confirmed it with Labor inquiry people, Lib inquiry people, and the secretariat. Can you send me Crean’s reply? Would love to publish it. I hope they change their mind, but doubt it.
Herewith the reply. I do realise that John Faulkner has done a good job. It looks like the ALP might be hard working at the moment, but that is what Kim Beazley should have been doing for the past 6 years. I must say I do feel empathy for Simon Crean. I think the media has really sucked up to John Howard.
Dear Ms Quilter,
Please check your facts before you accuse us of being craven. We have pressed, and are continuing to press for the truth at the children overboard inquiry. The public hearings have ended, at the committee’s decision, not ours, and if necessary the committee can reopen them. The committee is now continuing its consideration of the issues and its conclusions , and the Labor members will continue to press for the truth to be told.
It is obvious that you feel strongly about this, as do we all, but this does not mean you can malign honest and hardworking Labor members of this committee.
For the record, the unthrown children/SIEV-X report was to be handed down on Thursday. The draft minority report is ready, but the Liberal inquiry members successfully sought a delay to September 25 so they could draft a minority report.
Here’s the rotten rub. Labor Senator John Faulkner worked hard earlier this year to convince journalists that Labor hadn’t walked away from the big call – to subpoena Peter Reith and key ministerial and prime ministerial staffers to give evidence. You’ll recall there were several media reports that Labor was ready to subpoena Reith and co to get the truth. Instead, Labor came up with an unprecedented ploy.
It asked the Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, to recommend an independent expert to assess the evidence, decide whether any of the reluctant witnesses had a case to answer and, if so, to set out that case. Labor argued that the independent report would put pressure on the witnesses to front up and defend themselves. If they didn’t, Labor would have the moral authority to go in hard, as the Government could not claim that the case against the witnesses was only political.
Faulkner specifically told me and others he did not rule out subpoenas if Reith and co maintained their refusal to account for their actions after the independent report was completed.
I bought the line. Sucker punched. Now, the draft report is ready BEFORE the expert, Stephen Odgers SC, has even sent in his report.
So the last word should go to Liberal Senator George Brandis, who, it must now be said, has brilliantly led the defence team at the inquiry.
“The independent report was a completely confected excuse which you were silly enough to swallow – that this was a bona fide attempt to advance the committee’s work,” Brandis told me today. “It was nothing but a red herring to get the Labor Party over the embarrassment of not being prepared to exercise the subpoena power when it had insisted for months that these people must give evidence.”
“One the Liberal Senators called their bluff, they ran away at a million miles an hour.”
Brandis called their bluff when Dems Senator Andrew Bartlett moved a motion at a private meeting of Senate inquiry members that the reluctant witnesses be subpoenaed to appear. Brandis specifically conceded that the committee had the power to do this, and the three Liberal committee members abstained. Labor voted against, so Bartlett, and the Australian people, lost.
Brandis reminded me today that the inquiry “opened the batting between Crean and Howard after the election – look at how comprehensively Crean has wrong-footed himself.”
Personally, I just don’t believe that John Faulkner caved in off his own bat. He’s put too much hard work and passion into it – particularly on the SIEV-X tragedy – to do so. I reckon he’s been rolled.
Finally, Webdiarist Noel Hadjimichael in Camden welcomed me back today with his list of hot topics.
“I hope the break was productive and beneficial. What should the Webdiary tackle at the moment?
“I would suggest one of three topics that have got the potential for substantial “mums and dads” feedback:
(a) the tormented “reform” environment for the ALP – pushing for greater transparency and membership involvement on the one hand whilst allowing another head office imposed nominee for the first byelection since Hawke/Wran (Margo: Anyone in Wollongong who’d like to report this byelection, and perhaps explain why Labor factional heavies have imposed a candidate, disenfranchised local branch members and generally behaved as the thugs Crean’s reforms are supposed to disempower?)
(b) the important debate over stem cell research (with both major parties divided into “conscience vote” lobbies)
(c) the powerful and emotion-charged public response to the 55 year sentence for the gang rape leader (overlaid with lashings of questioning over multiculturalism etc).
I look forward to your renewed leadership of this valuable interface between journalism and its marketplace consumers (the mums and dads).”
Noel emailed just before George Pell stood down as head of the Catholic Church in Australia after sex allegations against him. Add (d)
OK, let’s do it.