Protecting our safety AND our liberty

Stop press: Sensational new developments on SIEV-X: The federal commissioner of police seeks immunity from answering questions on whether the AFP fitted tracking devices to asylum seeker boats. Go to sievx for the latest.

Today, a suggestion to ensure the Carr government does not abuse the sweeping new police powers it wants to rush through Parliament in the run-up to the election. Then readers comment on the chador controversy, the political climate, and the Carr/Kingston thing. A piece by Annabel Douglas-Hill on how the Philippines leadership handled similar protests to last week’s WTO march is a highlight.

The NSW parliament is off next week then back to pass Carr’s police bill before parliament is adjourned until after the election, so there’s no time to waste if you want to have your say. I’m especially interested in legal analysis of how far Carr could go under the new powers, and how the Opposition and the Greens could overcome a Carr vilification campaign if they seek amendments.

You can read the Terrorism (Police Powers) Bill 2002, at nswgov.

A good website to consult is Zem at zem. The author says he’s “a software developer from Sydney, Australia, who works in the telecommunications industry. He used to live in Melbourne. His real name is no dark secret, but has been omitted from this site as a courtesy to his employer.” Zem details developments in “cryptography, censorship, copyright, thought crime”, and there’s been a hell of a lot of them since September 11. His first take on the Carr bill is at zemcarr.

It’s vitally important that the public get involved in the short time available. Remember the multitude of problems with the federal government’s anti-terrorism bills earlier this year, and the fact that before a Liberal backbench revolt the government wanted to extend the ambit of “a terrorist act” to political and industrial protests. These problems came to light in a Senate inquiry rushed for time due to a government-imposed deadline. Carr has ruled out even a quickie inquiry.

For examples of the dangers we face if an unscrutinised, uncontested Carr bill is passed, see Come in, Big Brother, May 1, webdiaryLiberalism fights back on terror laws, May 8, webdiaryPayne and gain, May 29,webdiary and ASIO: Right beats might, again!, June 5, webdiary


Who will balance the power in Carr’s new terrorism law?

by Margo Kingston

In times of national crisis, most particularly when we face fighting a long war, it is imperative that the people trust the government. This is because we must accept a compromise of some of our fundamental human rights and liberties in the cause of effectively fighting the enemy.

A united, strong nation is a bedrock requirement for success in war. It is conceivable that conscription could be necessary, so it is vital that enough of our young people are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country they love.

Leadership in such times is about uniting the people against a common enemy. The antithesis of leadership at such times is to divide the nation and crush those who sometimes disagree with government policy – especially in this war, where the enemy could, in rare vases, be within.

We have a problem. Trust in our key institutions – government, big business, the professions, and the media – is low. It has been breaking down for some time. It is now the duty of the leaders of our key institutions to work hard to rebuild and maintain the trust of the people as we prepare for war.

Bob Carr has a problem. This week he released his “Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002”, which he demands be rushed through parliament without any inquiry the week after next to grant police sweeping new powers to search and interrogate citizens. The person he wants to oversee and endorse the police use of these powers, on behalf of the people of NSW, is police minister Michael Costa.

Yet the integrity of his government is under extreme pressure, as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into the Oasis development exposes the seedy networks of closed-door influence and power of his government. Carr has refused to stand down the minister accused of soliciting a bribe of $1 million to buy safe passage for the development, Mr Obeid, and refused to act on Mr Obeid’s serial breaches of his legal requirement to disclose his pecuniary interests. In suburbs of Sydney and the towns and cities along the NSW coast, residents disempowered from any say in development are frustrated and angry, many taking to the streets to protest.

In the last two weeks, in an effort to take the heat off, Costa – without evidence – accused intending protesters against the WTO meeting – students, church people, environmentalists, unionists – of condoning and sponsoring violence. He tried to close down a seminar in Parliament house on the history and role of civil disobedience. He oversaw the banning of a street march in the city, which turned peaceful protesters into lawbreakers. He brought in mounted police and hundreds of other police into the CBD, along with many media representatives, then – despite a remarkable absence of violence in the heated atmosphere he created – demonised them yet again as violent criminals.

NSW citizens feel fear, uncertainty, and insecurity as the threat of terrorism on our own soil mounts. The last thing a responsible government should do is hysterically inflame these feelings by turning people against each other through the demonisation of innocent citizens. Its job is to reassure all citizens that their safety is in good hands and to foster a climate of trust in its good faith.

The way I read Mr Carr’s police bill, the WTO protests would have been, by Costa’s own words last week, “a terrorist act” triggering permission for police to search and interrogate all those involved. Imagine the games he could play with that if Labor was looking bad in the polls.

Costa just needs to say that a political march or industrial protest “creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public”, as he did last week. That makes it an “action”. “A terrorist act” is an action done “with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”, and of “intimidating the public or a section of the public”. Yep – Costa banged on about that last week, too.

The escape clause for protests is “advocacy, protest, dissent, or industrial action” not intended “to create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public”, or “to cause serious harm that is physical harm to a person”. There’s no way last week’s protest would fall within this exemption: Michael Costa accused protesters over and over of wanting to that do just that – without proof – for days before the protests took place.

It gets worse. By Costa’s own words, if this bill had been law two weeks ago he could have declared – through the police – the seminar in parliament house a terrorist act. On November 1, Costa told Parliament the seminar, hosted by Greens member Lee Rhiannon and approved by Upper House president Meredith Burgmann (Labor) would “teach people how to cause problems for our police and members of the community as they go about their business”. His claim was untrue, as the seminar proved, but that makes no difference.

Carr is in election mode. All efforts are directed towards winning in March 2002. He and Costa have proved beyond doubt they are willing to do whatever it takes. In these circumstances, to entrust the oversight of sweeping new police powers to Costa is a recipe for disaster. Too many innocents could be hurt, even destroyed, for political advantage. Our society could be divided so bitterly that our capacity to fight the war could be compromised.

Carr cannot seriously expect the people of NSW to go along with sweeping new police powers without responsible, trusted, oversight by a person with long experience, deeply-held values, unimpeachable integrity, excellent judgement, and above all independence from partisan politics – particularly just before an election.

His game plan is to bluff the opposition, the Greens, the minor parties and the independents in the Upper House into passing his laws or risk relentless vilification as irresponsible risk-takers with the safety of NSW residents. It is imperative, for the sake of innocent people who could be crushed, and the war effort, that the opposition forces in this state call Carr’s bluff.

My suggestion is this. Oversight of the new police powers should be vested in an experienced, independent person who the people of NSW trust. If our core protections against the abuse of government and police power must be suspended – which they must – then the people must feel supremely confident that their interests are being fully protected.

The names that come to my mind are:

* The NSW State Governor, Marie Bashir,

* The NSW Lieutenant Governor and Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, James Spigelman,

*. The former Hight Court chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan, now chancellor of the NSW University of Technology,

* The former NSW Chief Justice, Sir Lawrence Street,

* The former Governor Generals Sir William Deane and Sir Ninian Stephen.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people of NSW could discuss over the next week whom they wanted to entrust with the awesome responsibility of protecting them against terrorism AND abuse of State power? Perhaps the NSW Opposition will have the courage to call Mr Carr’s bluff and give the people of NSW the chance to trust again.


Tim Dunlop was a tragic loss to Webdiary when he left to blog at roadtosurfdom. This week, just before my run-in with Carr, he wrote a called “The false logic of the blame-the-victim accusation”. In it, he points out that while the right terrorises people who suggest that poverty is part of the cause of the rise of fundamentalist terrorism, the right makes the same suggestion when promoting the virtues of globalisation post September 11. Right-wing columnist Michael Duffy did it last week, as do the Americans when lauding the advantages of free trade deals. Much online discussion has ensued at Tim’s site. I recommend it.

It’s the end of a long week, and still Bob Carr has not met his public commitment to me on Tuesday that: “I will deliver you that quote” – the one he said proved that I blamed the Bali dead for the bombing. He has also not replied to my letter of Tuesday night enclosing everything I wrote on Bali and inviting him “to find one instance where I have blamed the Bali dead for the bombing, or said that Australian tourists in Bali provoked the bombing”.

Thus my only personal experience of Carr is that he cannot be trusted to keep his word, or to justify serious allegations against a citizen of NSW. If you can’t trust the Premier, you can’t trust the government.



Annabel Douglas-Hill in Laguna, Philippines

It’s a nightly treat to read jottings in the SMH online in this part of the world. Allow me to comment on Carr and his actions from the point of view of an expatriate.

His recent attack of you was childish and abusive and I was embarrassed for him for having lost control and showing anger in public, which in Asia entails a loss of face. My concern with Mr Carr is that he has not fully thought through his demand for increased surveillance, increased police rights and his refusal to allow the WTO dissenters to march.

He might feel he is doing the right thing by the State by being tough and dictatorial in a time of crisis and fear, but even President Arroyo, after starting tough when she first came to power under a violent and restive public, allowed her people the right to march on the 400 strong CGIAR meeting in Manila a fortnight ago.

Even though many of the visiting delegates are fighting against world poverty and economic inequality and a fair amount of CGIAR aid comes to the Philippines, she did not allow economic or terrorist pressures to prevent a fair debate by both sides. Ten points to Arroyo, Nil to Carr.

In the Philippines I am living under a more controlled and guarded lifestyle than in Australia, but no more so than in many other places of the world. You can get blase about seeing uniforms en masse, although North Korea might hold a shock for me still.

It has not missed my notice that there is a lack of respect for uniform in a country where so many people are authorised to carry guns, and wear uniforms and badges. We have had colleagues held up and their cars stolen by gangsters disguised in Army uniform, so that I sometimes wonder if I would stop my car if ordered to do so by anyone in uniform. Maybe through my fear of a drawn out kidnapping I would run them down and ask questions afterwards.

This distrust of uniform would not be unusual in an Australian migrant from a country where the police or army had been experienced as corrupt.

This sounds like an enticement for a police state, and perhaps it is due to over-exposure to uniform, but I no longer bat an eyelid when an armed guard opens the door for me to MacDonalds, or when a man walks jauntily down the street with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

Do we want a similar situation to develop in Australia, as it has shown a disturbing tendency to do over the last few years? Or shall we stomp our colonial feet bravely down in our Blunstones and set an example for the rest of the world to follow? Shall we decide to grow up, stop calling each other names when we hold opposing viewpoints, listen carefully to the views of our majority Muslim neighbours and instil some sanity into the world?

This includes demanding some respect from the USA, which has shown itself urgently in need of some honest advice and moral direction. This approach to terrorism is not appeasement but maturity.

What Carr must understand is that too much of a show of security will dull our respect and reliance on the uniform as a symbol of good. Does uniform have due respect in China, in North Korea, in Iraq?

If the police are allowed to behave as terrorists, even if they are given the right to break into a suspect’s home without a warrant, we will learn to distrust all uniform.

If people cannot march or attend conferences peacefully while under police protection or debate alternative points of view, how can I hold my home country up as a symbol of free speech and democracy to the Asian world?


Mr Mercurius in Summer Hill, NSW

I was going to give Fred Nile’s speech all the attention it deserves (none), however the predictably poll-driven, wedge-driven response of our Prime Minister, and the supportive comments Fred’s speech attracted inHerald ‘Have Your Say’ today (see ‘PM’s veiled comments on how Muslim women dress’, smh) gave me pause to reflect on the following:

* This is a week which saw law enforcement given unprecedented search-and-arrest anti-terrorism powers; against terrorist threats which according to Fred Nile extends to women wearing the chador.

* When Religion (of any persuasion) and State (of any persuasion) get together, they are a terrifying, and virtually unstoppable force.

* ‘Mainstream’ Australians really do hate anybody who looks different, acts different, dresses different or sounds different. Really. Hate. There’s just no point pretending otherwise any more.

* The fear and loathing driving political discourse in this country will serve only to perpetuate the terrorism it purports to be ‘at war’ with, and condemn the next generation of Australians to living with the fear, and the reality, of more murderous attacks.

* More than ever, we need to stand united in our diversity. The terrorists want to drive us apart, we must stand together.

* Those who talk about ‘integrating’ into society, about ‘you’re in our country, be like us’ etc are thinking like the terrorists. It is the same world-view that says ‘everybody must be like me, do what I do, believe what I believe. Or else.’

To paraphrase a great quote from the twentieth century:

“When they came for the asylum seekers, I did not speak up because I was not an asylum seeker. When they came for WTO protesters, I did not speak up because I was not a WTO protester. When they came for the journalists, I did not speak up because I was not a journalist. When they came for the muslim women in their chadors, I did not speak up because I was not a muslim woman in a chador. And when they came for me, there was nobody left to speak for me.”


Martin Williams

For all of your comments about Carr and Costa, most of which I support, I still think the main game is being played elsewhere. For all of Carr’s excesses, at least he and others can’t be accused of cosying up to the rapidly evolving stupidity of Fred Nile.

Which is more than can be said for John Howard, who in these worrying times has decided to return to some effective, familiar old tactics:

Howard knows damn well that Nile has been flinging his own fundamentalist take on religion in other people’s faces for decades, yet refuses point blank to assure Muslim women that the cloth they wear won’t be branded illegal! Result: Muslim women face the fear of a Taliban-style legal imposition which prevents them from leaving their houses WITH these clothes on instead of without. Insane, no?

You’ve got to hand it to Howard: he’s good. Render the floated prejudice potentially respectable and name the target in a vague, obscurantist way and observe the response; if the response is negative then one can withdraw without having pushed too far. But if the response is supportive then go in for the kill. Quite like the old Chinese Communist tactic used when introducing policy or commencing a purge.

Shades of Asian immigration, Pauline Hanson and Tampa once more. In short, I do not trust John Howard to adequately defend this country from terrorists because he appoints bona fide incompetents to key ministries and is passionately committed to playing these dirty little political games of defending risible kooks like Nile (now disowned by Bishop Robert Forsyth, interestingly) and courting Nile’s followers no matter how absurd or offensive or frightening their utterances. This is at the expense of spending all his energy fortifying the entire Australian community to stand together in repelling terrorist elements.

Sadly, this kind of thing – unifying statesmanship and symbolism – has never been his forte, nor his priority for that matter. And it is clear now from his comments today that he is incapable of adapting himself to what is required in the national interest at the moment it is most needed.

His preparedness to comment on the role of Muslim dress off the top of his head, so ignorantly and so glibly – now an indispensable Australian characteristic, this – could only be interpreted by Australian Muslims as patronising, at best.

If I were Muslim, I would be incensed. But you can be sure that average Muslims – especially women and girls – will do what they have to do to get through these days: cop it sweet, keep the head down and the mouth shut.

It doesn’t augur well.


Hamish Tweedy

I can’t believe there is someone getting around calling himself Reverend espousing such vile bilge. The man is in parliament and obviously has no idea what the place should stand for. Surely one of the things that most people love most about this country is our freedom, however when attacked it seems to be one of the first things we are willing to give up.


Doug Wilson in Marsfield, NSW

Rev Nile,

Following your suggestion that the headdress of women should be removed, I feel that I must point out that people can hide weapons in other types of clothing so perhaps we should just follow these guidelines that I came up with:

Raincoats. Items can be concealed within them and henceforth should be banned (sorry to the people in Melbourne who have purchased these, but they are a risk).

Umbrellas. Swords or powders can be concealed in hollow umbrellas, so these will be banned as well. We encourage the women out there to not wear any hairstyles that will be messed up in the rain since you can’t wear a raincoat as well.

Hairstyles. Items such as guns or knives could potentially be hidden in longhair or hair that is quite “large” (think Marge Simpson). Thus maximum hairlength should be no more than 2 inches.

Dresses and pants. Items such as guns, explosives or other harmful materials could be concealed in these. Thus everyone must wear tight fitting shorts to ensure that nothing is contained within them.

Large winter coats. Much like the raincoats above, these should be banned. From henceforth in the winter everyone will just have to suffer.

Long sleeve shirts, sweaters and the like. Someone could conceal knives or other weapons within. So everyone should be made to wear t-shirts or more preferably muscle shirts to prevent this.

Any boxes or bags. These of course could contain bombs and thus should be banned as well. Everyone should have to carry everything in their hands.

I’m sure that if everyone followed these guidelines then we wouldn’t have to worry about any dangerous items being carried about on our cities. Here’s a $.50 piece Mr Nile, go and buy yourself a clue.


Helen Smart: Bob Carr on 2GB, November 19: “Margo Kingston, reportedly from – purportedly from the Sydney Morning Herald, who I cannot deal rationally with. …”. (Snort) Well, Bob, you did say it!….

Kate Carnell in Canberra: Bob Carr’s comments were totally out of line – pay no attention!!!

Kathryn Davy (first timer): I’m shocked and deeply concerned by Bob Carr’s behaviour. I have voted for him in the past, but I am so moved to anger by this that he will never get my vote again.

Kathy Kang: Carr’s treatment of you makes my stomach turn. It’s the last straw. I’m now in no doubt that we’re governed by thugs, and I don’t think he’s even ashamed of it. But even thugs cannot snuff out the lights of hope for a future democracy that is worthy of the name.


Tony Krone in Sydney

The Premier is racing to an election and his treatment of your questioning is appalling, particularly as he is proposing such far reaching legislation. So much for accountability. The Premier’s rush to judgment on Bali reminds me of the ‘children overboard’ nonsense put out by the Howard government. The press is here to question – good on you for representing that ideal.


Noel Hadjimichael

I have refrained from making a webdiary public comment on the Carr business. However, I make the following observation:

Election Victory Landslide = Strong Mandate = Power = Deals = Arrogance = A Retreat from Principle = Laziness = Voter Disillusionment = More Arrogance = Byelection Problems = Blame the Victims = Blame the Media = Voter Revolt = Government by smear and deceit.

Orwell was right … just too early in his analysis.


Kylie Ann Scott in Haberfield, NSW

All I can say is that I hold grave fears for our state. I hold grave fears about Bob Carr, his tactics, his politics and the ancient Roman-style mechanisms that he uses.

We are dealing with a very deliberate, media savvy man knowledgeable in how to manipulate the masses here. We need to begin to look very closely at his words, his actions, his right hand men, and his mouth pieces.

And Question, Question, Question. We need to be very precise in those questions, because it is in the details that his blustering and fear mongering can’t work.

I could not believe what he did to you, and I felt your astonishment at his behavior. And later I felt angry. How stupid does he think we are? Keep asking precise questions on the detail.


Gillian and Paul Sloan in Sydney

Just finished your piece on your interview with Carr: Now another two Labour voters are lost. Where do we turn? It’s not Ernie Page’s fault (our local member for Coogee) but the NSW state government looks so ugly. Do they think fear, violence, abuse and ugliness will attract us? Is their policy to scare us into voting for them? Who is Carr talking to when he abuses you and treats us like we’re pig ignorant?

The content of the SMH and the discussions in Webdiary are part of the information sources we use when we discuss issues with friends and family – all are frustrated at the limited content we get from any other media source. Related to this is that we all notice we watch so much less TV!


Meagan Phillipson

I agree with Peter Gellatly about your run-in with Bob Carr – it was unwarranted and baseless for Carr to act in such a manner. Ergo sum, he is the one with the problem (or something to hide?) so don’t let it reflect badly on you. And like with all bullies, I also think the best way to treat such behaviour is to throw it back in their face – so it would be right to wear the incident like a badge of honour.

Being a literal person, I’m thinking you should wear this honour in the form of a t-shirt along the lines of the infamous “Free Winona” shirts. I can see it now – a t-shirt emblazoned with the words; “Bob Carr thinks I am a parody of a journalist”)


Grant Harcourt

I admire your courage in the face of such frightening stupidity. I’ve read about the press conference incident with a mixture of despair, outrage and fear (come to think of it, most of the news these days engenders that reaction). In this situation, Carr is using the victims of the Bali bomb for his own political gain. By behaving the way he did, he evaded your question about Labor’s links to developers – very handy and utterly disgusting.

I’ve been tardy in attending protest rallies of late – that despair is pretty powerful – but Carr’s appalling and unaccountable behaviour, against a backdrop of increasing attacks on what remains of our democracy, has reignited my desire to protest and be involved. Thanks for providing a dissenting voice within the mainstream.


Nigel McGuinness

When I travelled to Bali many years ago I was uncomfortable being the Aussie there. But then I often felt that way in places where westerners spent time in third world tourist spots. It is simply a question of the discrepancy in wealth. The rich have their desires met without regard to local sensitivities. And of course the average local not in the tourist service industry gets none of the rewards and is often resentful.

This resentment is the root cause of a lot of problems. However this fact cannot be mentioned at the moment. To discuss causes is jumped upon by the hawkish in spirit as an attempt to get into appeasement.

Worse, as Bob Carr is doing now, is to accuse the contemplative of treason. No matter. Way of the world.

Interestingly, Bob Carr on Lateline this week said closer relations between the mainstream and muslim Sydney were being actively fostered and could be called “an anti-terrorist measure”. He thus admits that bad relations lead to resentment which can turn the murderous to terrorist action. So it just depends on which way around you put the argument!

Don’t get upset – all the leaders are on an adrenalin rush at the moment because they’re not having the usual discussions on bottom lines with treasury and are getting breathless briefings from spies and generals. They’re all on a high. They know they must act well to safeguard the population etc and fear they’ll stuff up, so they err on the side of the tough guy. They want to be Guliani (and their cheerleaders just want to rat on someone).

Anyway, Africa is where the real issues are. Let the “war” here play out and hope nothing bad happens. There ain’t much to do about it otherwise, I reckon.


Ken McLeod in Sydney

Dear Mr Carr,

As a member of the ALP, I am deeply concerned that your behaviour of late seems to be tending towards fascism rather than being true to our humanitarian roots. For example, your attack on Margo Kingston (“What happened in Bali was the murder of innocent Australians not people who were guilty because they were celebrating in a 3rd world country as you argued in the Sydney Morning Herald”) has all the hallmarks of Goebell’s tactics, such as:

– tell lies about anyone who queries your behaviour;

– remember that the bigger the lie the more likely it is that people will believe it;

– assign sinister, untrue, motives to them, (preferably Jewish, but any intellectual elite will do);

– never answer questions;

– use the machinery of State to overpower anybody who stands in your way;

– never forget that nobody remembers losers;

– and never, never, apologise.

How about you prove me wrong and prove that you are a real man and apologise to her.

Ken McLeod, ALP membership 020519


Bhavika Haviez

The point here is not what he accused you of – that’s between you and him – but why didn’t he answer your questions? Why did he keep bringing up the Bali bombings instead of answering the real questions about the new counter-terrorist powers being introduced in the State?

I don’t think these powers are a bad thing, but I would like our politicians to be accountable and at least answer the questions being presented to them. If they are so sure that what they are doing is right, they should have no difficulty.

This whole episode, and various other pieces of news I have been reading, seem to be showing that under this wave of fear politicians have just not been accountable for their actions, at both State and Federal levels.

First, there is no viable opposition from federal Labor. When met with opposition from the Labor party, such as Latham/Emerson, the media have just hacked into their language and presentability, instead of realising that some sort of opposition, in whatever un-mannered form it may take, is being presented.

Second, politicians feel they can use a climate of fear as a reason for almost anything. Terrorism is a valid threat, but should not be used whenever politicians need an excuse to legitimate their own agenda.

There are several important issues for our government to debate, and who will debate these? John Howard certainly can not hold a debate with himself, as he is presently being allowed to do. My concern especially at this point is the war on Iraq so obviously being prepared for.

Do we not have a right to question our politicians movements? Are not our politicians supposed to be representing us? I do not have 100% faith and trust in politicians but I do live in a democracy. In a democracy asking questions is a basic right. Australia as a nation cannot progress until it realises it is a nation in its own right, and can make its own decisions. It is not a shadow of the US, only an ally.


Rowan Cahill

Bob Carr is right: You are not the sort of journalist wanted around the place. You ask challenging questions, and do not fawn in the face of power; you seem to think journalism is something more than rewriting government press releases, more than accepting CNN at face value. And as for Robert Fisk, what would he know?

No, the sort of journalists Carr and Howard want are those prepared to believe Osama is under every bed and who have no problems with the erosion of civil liberties. After all, the definition of democracy is ‘a reluctant trip to a polling booth every few years’; it is not an ongoing, daily commitment.

Don’t forget that Bob Carr has this long weird love affair with American history, and possibly wears the stars and stripes on his undies; I just wonder when he’ll come up with a local version of the Patriot Act. Or maybe he’ll have his legal apparatchiks whip up a draft for Howard to rush into Federal law.

Just a warning Margo. If you keep going the way you are, then maybe it won’t be too long before you are in an interrogation room, without an lawyer, in a seat previously warmed by a kid abducted on the way home from a local mosque, with maybe an ASIO quack injecting you with instant confession serum. Better pack your bag.


David Davis in Switzerland

What in the hell is going on down there? Carr is out of his tree and I feel sorry that you had to put up with such offensive behaviour.

I well remember the remarks you made re tourism and Western influence in Bali. I remember at the time reading it and thinking, “Well that isn’t my reaction”. On reflection, I thought that it was unfortunate that so often the interpretation is that we Westerners are always wrong and always the victimizers of all other cultures (of course often we are, but not always). That was the extent of my reaction. If I had interpreted your remarks to mean that those murdered by the terrorists were to blame, I would have been disgusted and would have stopped reading Webdiary. Clearly they were not to blame and no sane person has suggested that. I haven’t read that anywhere.

It is divisive and wrong to start picking apart the way people should react or what they should say. In any case ever since Bali happened, I haven’t seen you write a single sentence that was offensive or inappropriate, and I have read everything.

In fact, exactly the opposite aspect struck me. You were very supportive and extremely patriotic. I thought it was perfect. You may recall some even accused you of “mawkish sentimentality”. So what is the Margo Kingston reaction to Bali? Is it “blaming the dead” or “mawkish sentimentality”? It’s neither but I’d rather you be accused of the latter than the former.

None of this makes any sense. I smell a rat.

There are a lot of dots around Sydney and you seem to be connecting a few and highlighting others. The highlighted dots await connection! Clearly this makes you unpopular and perhaps threatening. In a sense the Carr reaction is flattering. You are getting under their collective skins and under his in particular.

I respect you even more because you have long identified yourself as left of centre and could not possibly be a more harsh critic of the PM. Right after Bali, you complimented him. This proves a somewhat open mind.

I don’t know if it is Carr arrogance or desperation. It probably doesn’t matter because in politics either one of these things is death at the polls. I’m now convinced that he is finished.

Can I start writing up the synopsis for the Sunday after the election? You know how it goes. We have seen this write-up before. “In a last minute upset, the highly successful premier was defeated by the dark horse. Some put it down to the Premier’s arrogance which grew during his term in office and….blah blah blah.”

The remark that you are a parody of a journalist is in itself amusing. Saying over and over that you blamed “the Bali dead” and then wrapping it up with “you are a parody of a journalist” – what does that make him? I reckon it’s got to be a caricature of a cretin. Whichever way you look at it, reality is lost in this kind of process. We are left with parodies and caricatures.

If the Premier feels comfortable in drawing outrageous conclusions, I’ll end with a quote from history. A history we are taught to never forget. “The bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed” (Joseph Goebbels – Ministry of Propaganda). Probably it also helps to repeat a lie. They tell you that in the second lecture of Propaganda 101. So if I were him and it comes up again, I’d come out swinging and just repeat it. Of course Margo blamed the victims. We know that and she should be discredited as a result of it. Say it over and over and suddenly it becomes true.

The disconcerting aspect is that it is hard to know whether to laugh or to be scared. I’m leaning towards being scared. We are definitely in deep trouble and you don’t have to look far to see more and more evidence of this changed environment.

PS: A bit of history. Remember the hand that signed the paper? He signed the paper to allow the various toasters (high rise apartments) at East Circular Quay to be constructed. This was when he was Environment Minister. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. In the dying days of the Unsworth government, Bob Carr put that millstone of East Circular Quay around our collective necks. It’s pretty bloody easy to say “I set aside this national park and that national park” in areas no one cares about anyway. He’s always been Bob the Builder and one of his biggest accomplishments was even before he took office as Premier – those hideous buildings right next to and virtually overshadowing the Opera House, the greatest building of the 20th century. Never forget who did that. Bob the Builder. Don’t believe the sensible sun hat and “oh, but I don’t drive” routine.

Seven precepts for disempowered people

A long day. To begin the last instalment of your say on the Carr thingo, my favourite email on the matter.

Despair, and seven precepts for disempowered people

by Robin Ford

Walking to work I was pondering a response to the John Wojdylo/David Makinson scrap over war on Iraq. I didn’t share your positive view of it. As I read their words it seems to me that Wojdylo despises the reflection that Makinson holds dear, and Makinson is in despair over Wojdylos single-minded drive for proper action.

A Myers Briggs categorisation of each would be fascinating. With such different emotional drivers I can’t see this providing much help to me in sorting out what I should do. A drag-em-out, knock-em-down fight, particularly if each believes in different rules, isn’t the way to enlightenment for onlookers (although it sometimes reconciles the protagonists).

All that fell away when I read about the Bob Carr interlude. When I think about what you have written recently, his attack and its style was surely to be expected, presuming that Mr Carr thinks you are significant. His response is completely consistent with the view you have come to hold of the man. And think of the police minister he has chosen. Your response on these webpages is impeccable; write how you see it, then print the source material. It impresses me, but then I’m among the marginalized too.

There is a link with the Wojdylo/Makinson scrap. Your attacks on Carr are Wojdylovian in their confrontational style, whereas your articles on Bali are Makinsonian in their open reflectivity. Carr has replied to your attacks by using the free edges that your open-ended reflection leaves for multiple, and invented, meanings. Dangerous stuff, open reflection.

So how should I respond to our current circumstances? You have given us some ideas in recent articles. It is time for a consolidated list of precepts so I dont overlook them in times of despair. Moses exemplified the idea. I need something to look at in hope. I’ve seen four possibles for the list:

* vote for people who meet the eye-ball test

* take your body, fragile though it might be, to protest meetings that you agree with numbers count

* write to politicians, with a pen

* keep up with webdiary, and similar sites of honesty and hope

There must be more, and perhaps some of the above are trite. Seven in total would be a good number.



steve j spears:Mr Premier, If you think Margo Kingston’s a parody of a journalist, you’re in need of a looooong rest. She’s got the most balls of any hack in the state. Your job is to answer questions, not spread malicious lies. Get your shit together.

Robert Lawton: Bob Carr is obviously looking for an easy target and the pinko press = you for now it seems. No haters like Labor haters, are there?

Janet Fraser: I think that Bob Carr is using you to score political points and any vestigial respect I felt for him has vanished in a puff of political posturing. There are many of us who think like you do, Margo. You go for it!

Phil Knopke: I have just read your exchange with Bob Carr from todays SMH site. Seriously, why don’t you sue the bastard?

Cathy Bannister: Isn’t the Bob Carr outburst libel? Good luck with the suit.

Sean Hosking: The reknowned thinker Bob Carr clearly had a score to settle with you. It reminded me of my days in the playground at Maroubra public school. Not to worry. Your recent pieces for the SMH on the NSW government have been succinct, passionate and punchy. Clearly you’ve upset the right people. Keep up the good work. You’re helping to restore my faith in the press.

Emma Geary: Bob Carr is not fit to lead this State if he resorts to bully boy tactics as soon as the heat is turned up. I suppose you could take the ferocity of his attack on your professionalism as a compliment – he obviously felt threatened by your enquiries and has something to hide. I thought your coverage of the Bali victims was particularly sensitive and on rereading the articles I don’t understand where Carr is coming from. Keep up the pressure.



Richard Moss: If you say you have never written what Bob Carr accused you of, what precisely are the 7th and 8th paragraphs of your story of 14 October supposed to mean?

I interpret those paragraphs as implying that Australian tourism had adversely affected Bali and that this may have contributed to the circumstances that led to the bombing. While this doesn’t precisely amount to blaming the victims individually and personally, it is nevertheless significant, and typical, that one of your first reactions after the event was to find reasons why it may have been wholly or partly “our fault”.

I am unsurprised that there is an adverse reaction to you, particularly at that early stage, implying that tourists in Bali, including the victims, may have contributed to the circumstances that led to the crime.


Geoff Honnor

Here’s what you wrote in the aftermath of Bali:

“I know little about Bali, and whether we’ve respected and nurtured the place we love to visit or colonised it with our wants. A friend in Byron Bay said Australians had taken Bali over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Bali were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

“Maybe part of it is the lack of services for locals. A completely inadequate hospital, for instance, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people – foreigners like us, elite big-city Indonesians – make their fortunes. Have residents lost their place, their power to define it? Did the big money fail to give enough back to the people who belong there, whose home it is?”

I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable for Bob Carr to draw a “blame the victim” conclusion from that, on the evidence available . Any more, presumably, than it would be totally unreasonable for you to conclude that the government deliberately acquiesced in the deaths of 300 illegal immigrants, on the evidence available.

Or have I missed something?



Michael Cahill in Sydney

I haven’t written to you before, and I will admit to not agreeing with all of your views. However, the incident of the attack made against you by Bob Carr has me angry enough to write something.

I’ve watched the video several times and read the transcripts, and I cannot interpret Bob Carr’s actions as anything other than a deliberate tactic to derail the press conference.

Why is it that those in power both here and elsewhere in the western world are so afraid to ask what motivates the deplorable, inexcusable actions of terrorists? Why do we not distinguish between searching for explanations and blaming the victims?

Of course, widespread fear in the community increases support for the incumbents, and there is always talkback radio support for stronger police powers. For politicians, the mere mention of terrorism is a guaranteed way to demonise opponents or divert attention from issues they would prefer not to talk about. Bob Carr’s words are one of the clearest examples of this tactic in action.

My strong conviction is that we can’t fight terror with terror. To me, journalists who only repeat and amplify messages of fear are the real parodies. Please keep asking questions.



Hamish Tweedy

Do you believe that Bob Carr just invoked memories of the victims of the Bali Disaster to distract you from your line of questioning? If he did, Australian politics has reached a new low and if he did not then he badly misrepresented your article and owes you and the victims and their families an apology. For my part I almost have to force myself to believe the latter as the former is too disgusting to contemplate. Do think he realises what he has done?


Peter Gellatly in Canada

I have not so far contributed to the terrorism/ Bali bombing debate on Webdiary, so let me preface this by saying my views do not line up with yours. So on this occasion I write to defend you out of principle, not likemindedness.

Based on the transcript of the Carr press conference plus your two October opinion pieces, I would say you have been defamed on two counts:

(1) your character has been impugned, and

(2) so has your professionalism as a journalist.

But please don’t bother suing; rather wear these slurs as a badge of honour. You must be getting to him (them?)!

By the way, as to the substantive matter of the discretionary misapplication of police powers, if I recall correctly here in Canada the ink was barely dry on the new federal anti-terrorism bill before a police anti-terrorist squad participated in a raid on a native activist group. Later, a police spokesperson refused to rule out use of the anti-terrorism legislation to bring charges under similar circumstances.

The point is, within every political administration and every police force there is inevitably a minority – however small – of self-righteous hardliners for whom the ends justify the means, and who regard the strict upholding of civil liberties as kindergarten fluff beneath the concern of tough practitioners. All broadsweep criminal code provisions must be carefully drafted with this in mind – to proceed otherwise is simply to invite subsequent abuse.


David Makinson

Wanted to write in support. As you know I’m trying (and failing!) to cut down on my Webdiary habit, but I just had to read the Kingston v Carr saga.

If by including my humble scribblings you have been in any way further exposed to this expedient man’s despicable cynicism, I do apologise. This is what I mean about coming too close to something mean, nasty and permanently polluted.

As far as I know, nothing you have written even remotely “blames the Bali dead”. It is simply too astonishing a claim to be taken with any seriousness. I even wonder if you have grounds for a legal suit for libel or slander, but doubtless you in the media have to cop this sort of manure sweet. In the final analysis, Bob Carr, like most of his political colleagues, is a liar. And this is just another lie. Don’t sweat it.

By coincidence, I have been working sporadically on a piece for Webdiary about how the right (in which I certainly include Carr) invents preposterous positions for their opponents and then forces them to defend them. Don’t fall for it.



Hugh Driver in Sydney

I’m finding it very difficult to put my disgust at Bob’s responses into words. I’m no tort lawyer, but is defamation a possibility? If only we had the US interest groups that would fund that sort of litigation.

Who to vote for in the NSW elections? It seems that I’m sitting in a demographic which has become irrelevant to all major parties and is not worth courting. The policies of the major alternatives (eg the Greens) are, in my view, too unworkable and unsustainable for me to vote for. The same goes for many other dissenting groups which have arisen in response to current affairs in the last few years. Hopefully a sensible (well, sensible by my definition) independent will stand in my seat. Or dare I hope that some new, viable political party may arise? It seems unlikely.

I’m getting used to feeling powerless in democracy where I am out of step with the majority. The ALP will lose a lifelong voter in me, but I don’t think they particularly care. Perhaps I’m not aspirational enough.

Still, never give up. Best of luck.



Karen Young

I think that many, many people agree with the right to protest, and to speak out about the atrocity that is our current dominant political and social perspective. I am hoping that underneath this arrogant, dominant, bullying business driven machismo facade, lies a rich vein of hope and peace within the global population.

I especially resent the headlines of the Daily Telegraph, feeding Government and business propaganda, as it does, to people, with headlines like, “…a bloody disgrace”, in relation to the protestors of the WTO conference in Sydney. It is not a disgrace to care about what is really happening. It is not a joke, to want to find a peaceful solution to this overwhelming pressure cooker, uneasy, business-dominated world conflict. It is not a joke to point out inconsistencies in current political rhetoric.

People that would risk, who care, who are not afraid of speaking out against fear, war, racism, environmental vandalism, intolerance to refugees, greed and who point out the madness of current rhetoric, are not a JOKE or disgraceful.



David Burnett

A letter of two parts – sympathy and solidarity over WTO, and a question regarding the inner workings of the media at such times.

Firstly, I’m so sorry, Margo, that you have had to witness the brutality of today’s governors, both through the instrument of the police and by way of public vilification and humiliation.

I experienced the same fury and terror when 50 fellow hippies (including NZ Greens MPs), sitting singing on the road in the morning gloom, were attacked from behind without warning by armoured riot police on the second morning of Melbourne’s S11 protests. I suspect you would empathise with my experience that the boots and batons were far less brutal than the outrageous smears and bare-faced lies of police command, parliamentary representatives and ‘journalists’ both before and after the event.

The only consolation I can offer is that this experience at least allowed me to more fully know the enemy, and the true nature of the society in which we live. In the lead-up to the protest, it all seemed a bit of a game – tactics and counter-tactics, black bloc, green bloc, pink bloc, cheerleaders in drag, Trots and anarchists happily slagging each other off, everyone madly spinning and manoeuvring.

Even the stream of hysterical media coverage came across as a sign that we had got under their skin – and surely few punters would believe the transparent posturing of wannabe macho pollies, rabid shock-jocks and dour-faced police command.

But when the goons swooped, the batons fell, the horses charged, these childish illusions evaporated and I was left with one, crystal-clear insight – this is power. Not the voting, the lobbying, the letters to the editor, the tireless branch-work of your suburban politico, the cut and thrust of public debate. But big, strong men in body armour beating helpless people with sticks. Thus has it ever been, and we would be wiser (if sadder) to remind ourselves of this every day.

The great service that the wave of globalisation protests of the last few years has done is to reveal the iron fist inside the democratic glove, to remind us that even in the most enlightened modern state the fundamental roots of power are still the army and the police and the threat of the force that they wield.

Or, as a friend of mine remarked shortly after the death of a protester in Genoa last August, “We’ve learnt two basic lessons this year: first, the ones with the power have no intention of relinquishing it; and, secondly, if we push them hard enough they will shoot us”.

As for the way the media has presented such events – this confuses the hell out of me. Every journo I spoke to at S11 expressed their shock and disgust at the police tactics, yet the media outlets for which they reported universally ran with the police line of ‘urine-filled balloons’, ‘slingshots’, ‘marbles under horses’ etc (needless to say, all utter fiction).

As with last week’s events, the s11 media coverage was filled with images of police brutalising weedy-looking kids under headlines or voice-overs decrying the ‘violent protesters’.

My question is – where does this spin come from? I mean, who – specifically – did the spinning? The journo (not likely, from their on-the-ground reactions), their editors, the subbies, the media-company’s CEO? *Someone* wrote those words – who the hell were they and what was their agenda?

I didn’t see the SMH coverage (The Age ran a few pars and a ‘violent protester’ pic), but I would be fascinated if you were able to follow the paper-trail of a reporter’s account from street to presses and observe at which points the various agendas come into play.

Once again, Margo, thanks for your dedication and integrity – and take comfort in the belief that is at least better to know where we stand than to fool ourselves about exactly how welcome our participation in the process of government really is. It is only from this clarity that we can formulate an effective response.

‘Mad props’, as they say these days.

Christmas letter to our leader

OK, last entry for 2002.

After last year’s election, I wrote a piece called “What will you do?”

Lots of you kept the flame burning on refugees against great odds, including many ALP members and several Liberals who’ve had to work behind-the-scenes in secret. Great country, Australia. Love it.

Thanks for reading this year, and thanks a million to all those who contributed to Webdiary – you’ve inspired me and many readers who’ve emailed me privately. Special thanks to Brian Bahnisch for his wise counsel when I was down in the depths after the Carr thing.

To end the year a note from ALP member and Webdiarist James Woodcock, a note from Tom Andrews to Brett Harrison on why he cares about SIEV-X, and a Christmas letter to John Howard from Jack Robertson – who gave me a great Christmas present by returning to Webdiary and defending my honour over Carr.

I’ll begin with “What will you do?”, then my go at an-end-of-year review, which I wrote for the The Northern Rivers Echo (echonews) this week. Editor Simon Thomsen has backed my work for nearly two years now – thanks Simon. I hope you’ll let us know what’s happening in the seat of Lismore next year.

John Wojdylo’s first official column is a reply to David Makinson’s Never suspend your disbelief. Talk about showing no mercy! He reckons he’ll lighten up once he gets into the vodka with his Polish rellies. Click on John’s name in the right hand column for the latest round. How about you guys organise to be in Sydney at the same time and we’ll do a video debate to sort this out!

Happy Christmas. Back mid-Jan.


What will you do?

Monday, November 12, 2001

The election result shows that the disaffected right has come back to the Coalition, while the disaffected left has defected to the Greens. A John Howard masterstroke – the Tampa and its aftermath has united his side and split the other.

Several people have remarked that Howard is “an evil genius”. I profoundly disagree. It doesn’t take genius to appeal to xenophobia, or to racism. It’s a winner, especially if there’s no opposition. And it doesn’t take genius to destroy an opponent, in this case One Nation, by adopting its key policy.

Since the Coalition dismantled the White Australia Policy in the 1960s, both sides of politics have chosen not to play those cards. Howard chose differently.

The error of the bipartisan approach was not to address people’s concerns about it. The climax of that error came when Paul Keating ran the country. Asked in Singapore to discuss the extent of racism in Australia, he said there was none. A policy of denial will always be counterproductive. I also think there has been a real need for a long time to articulate core Australian values to which all migrants need to subscribe. There’s been a bit too much once over lightly on multiculturalism, and the backlash has destroyed the ideal.

I was in a strange space on Saturday night. I’d cried every day since the Liberal and Labor launches, so the grieving was already done. For me, the result was expected and I had emotionally reconciled myself to it. So the night itself was calm. I called the result first on 2GB, at 7.15. Some consolation.

Unlike some, I was bitterly disappointed by Beazley’s concession speech. The same smile, the same bravado as he’d projected throughout the campaign. I felt he just continued to fail to reflect his supporters feelings. Beazley keeps getting it wrong. In the valedictories on the last sitting day of Parliament, he praised Howard as the most considerable conservative politician ever, and wished him well, then smiled his way through the campaign as if there was nothing at stake. And so, on the night, it was congratulations for a great Labor campaign and on we go.

Guess what, Kim – many of your supporters were in tears. They were mourning the loss of a vision they had believed in and fought for for decades. Bob Hawke captured the Labor mood on TV, when he shed a tear. “Very, very poor standards have been set in many respects, and the country is more divided now than in many respects it ever has been,” he said. To which Michael Wooldridge replied, quite rightly: “It’s divisiveness, of course, that had bipartisan support”.

Among my circle, most cried when Howard said in his victory speech that “Australia is the best country in the world”. The worst moment for me was when he said that “the things that unite us are more important than the things which divide us”. Not to me, John. The things that divide us are now more important. We’ll put up audio of the two ‘leaders’ on the Webdiary soon, for posterity.

Many of those whose vision for Australia finally died on Saturday night asked themselves the next day: “What will I do?” My fear is that the brain drain will escalate and that many progressive intellectuals will leave the country. We’ll return to the 50s and 60s, the cultural cringe days.

To win through, enough people who believe that a multicultural, internationalist Australia will give our nation the best economic, security and social outcomes must stay, and rethink. We started that discussion in Webdiary last week. Some will join a political party, others will join the refugee protest movement. What will you do?

Many Webdiarists responded to this question in ‘Searching for answers’ (webdiary2001) and ‘Redrawing my map of home’ (webdiary2001).


A Tough Year, but you can Still Dance

At the end of a terrible year you look for hope and inspiration to survive the next one. My Australian of the year is Justice Michael Kirby, who eye-balled his government persecutors, mantained his dignity, saw off the bastards, and refused to be silenced.

Opening the Gay Games last month, he began: “Under different stars, at the beginning of a new millennium, in an old land and a young nation, we join together in the hope and conviction that the future will be kinder and more just than the past.”

The media story of the year was Cheryl Kernot, whose final humiliation – the disclosure of the affair with Gareth Evans – sparked a unique debate between and among journalists and the public on whether we wanted a line drawn between public and private lives. Happily, we proved that our culture is still different – unlike the Americans and the Brits we resoundingly voted yes to some privacy, and had – maybe for the only time this year – a quality debate on the merits about which side of the line the affair fell on.

As the former Democrats leader imploded one last time, the party which brought her to prominence died a long, painful public death, splintered by personality clashes and an addiction to public self-flagellation.

The Democrats demise added to the momentum of the Greens kick-started at last year’s federal election, and the Party went on to slay Goliath in Cunningham and finally seduce the state that had never been interested, Victoria.

But 2002 was a year defined by 2001, when the Tampa and September 11 blew away our domestic consensus on refugees and human rights and plunged the world into potential world war.

Many thought boat people had had their day in the epicentre of Australian politics after the federal election, but too many grassroots Australians, backed by too many rank-and-file members of the ALP, refused to give in and dug in for the long haul.

The federal ALP, until a week ago a sad shadow of the Liberal party on policy, a twisted wreck of a machine on process, staggered towards a split under the sad visage of Simon Crean, who helped destroy Kim Beazley through the infamous “small target strategy”. Carmen Lawrence pulled the plug, and her emergence as leader of the dishevelled, powerless left-wing of the party looked like it might prevent what looked like an inevitable formal split with the left defecting to the Greens.

But then, in a last gasp last Friday which transformed politics in a moment, Simon Crean eye-balled Howard on the ASIO bill and took him, with the inspired backing of Kim Beazley. Howard has threatened a double dissolution election, Labor has its pride back, and, in my view, Crean has saved his leadership and united his party and its supporters. The war over how many of our freedoms must be lost in the war on terror, and which man can be trusted to protect our safety and our way of life, will dominate 2003. Unfortunately, it’s Crean -v- Howard and Bob Carr on this epic battle for our values.

In NSW, Bob Carr exploited fear to ram through legislation creating a police state and a mesmerised opposition went along with it. It is well and truly time to say good-bye to Labor in NSW, but Bob Carr, actor, could well get a third term by playing strong man, directed with glee by Alan Jones. Being run by Tammany Hall in a time of national security crisis is a horrible thought.

The cataclysm of 2002 for Australia was Bali, a country we considered almost part of us. The slaughter, the agony, the shock – all brought home the reality of the war on terror. It also transformed the debate about whether we should join the United States in a first Strike on Iraq, which swirled through 2002 as the US dumped its key objective post September 11 – to catch Osama bin Laden – and abused the fear of its citizens to restart war against an old enemy.

John Howard’s me-tooism repelled too many Australians to last in its purest form, and he spent much of the year trying to appear independent while agreeing to back the US in a unilateral first strike. Now propaganda rains down on us to change our mind, despite the conviction of many that our troops belong in our region defending us against our real enemies rather than across the world creating another one.

Enough of despair. Michael Kirby ended his speech with a call to dance.

“Be sure that, in the end, inclusion will replace exclusion. For the sake of the planet and of humanity it must be so. Enjoy yourselves. And by our lives let us be an example of respect for human rights. Not just for gays. For everyone.”


James Woodcock in Sydney

Last week, at the last meeting of Harberfield Branch ALP for 2002, four of us individually brought along motions of Support for Carmen Lawrence’s principled resignation. Ir was passed unanimously ( with cc’s to Simon and John Murphy). I know it is early days yet, but Carmen’s stance and Simon’s recent discovery of his testicles (even for political reasons) are reasons for a little bit of hope.

You are right, this is a great country and what makes it good is that I can email you, a journalist at Australia’s best newspaper and I can get up in a Labor Party Forum and argue with the shadow Minister for Immigration and tell her to get her act together. In spite of all our imperfections I still feel have some input into democratic processes.


Tom Andrews

Brett Harrison wrote: “I think it’s amazing that Tony Kevin or anybody else can think that the rest of the world has even heard of SIEV-X, let alone care about it. So much for “gaining the respect of the world, including the Muslim world” by flogging this long-expired equine. Get some perspective, please. This is not world-shattering stuff. The only people in Australia who even think about SIEV-X are refugee advocates and political opponents of the current Government, both for obvious reasons.”

To Brett, I say these things knowing that you have written what you have in good faith. I know this because every person believes that it is impossible for anyone to be more decent or highly principled than him or herself. So if you don’t understand, the following, just believe me.

I am interested in SIEV-X. I am not a political opponent of the government. I should, though, be a supporter. By media definition, I should be an Aspirational Australian. I am not that, either.

I am interested in SIEV-X because just at the time of night I heard of the sinking, my one-year old son crawled up to me and gave me a hug for the first time.

Just that; complete chance.

This caused in me, in the following few microseconds, a wave of empathy for the surviving people who had just lost their children. It also brought on thoughts of those who died in darkness, out of sight of land, with their last hours spent in utter despair thinking of their own children they had seen disappear. Every day since, while we have continued our lives, the survivors have remembered the feeling of a hug from their wives or children, and felt the loss. Every day.

(This may seem mawkish to some, but I say it’s true. Maybe only parents will empathise with the fear of losing a child, or maybe even only parents who haven’t forgotten what it feels like when their children are still young.)

Brett, from his perspective, can’t understand why the hell anyone even remembers it any more. That is his call. I, from my perspective, can’t understand why it doesn’t bring people to tears just thinking about it. And it springs from one tiny event.

That’s only two perspectives, Brett. There are a few millions of others out there somewhere. They don’t all fall neatly into your two categories of “political opponents” and “refugee advocates”.

I say two things to Brett Harrison. Firstly, my interest in the deaths of 353 people is not political, just empathetic. You don’t mean to, of course, but you insult and devalue my love for my child by conveniently labelling me, simply so you can avoid having to discuss or acknowledge. Secondly, I have an interest in plain decency. I want to be able to at least say that I made an effort on behalf of what’s Good and Right. Let’s face it, a society that has at best no care (as you do), at worst contempt and gloating, for the suffering of parents and their children, is not taking the forward view.


14 December 2002

Jack Robertson



The Honourable John Howard, MP


Dear Mr Howard,

I write to you as a former Army officer and Aide-de-Camp to Governor-General Bill Hayden, and also as the brother of a current serving member of the Australian SAS, to express my growing unease at international Human Rights organization accusations made against our serving personnel, in particular the ugly suggestions that your government’s ‘Border Protection’ policies of recent times may have placed them in difficult non-military situations which resulted in Human Rights violations on their parts.

Prime Minister, I am of course only making a shrewd guess, but I am fairly sure that my brother was a member of the SAS party your government ordered to board the Tampa in late 2001, and I certainly know that he was also among the first contingent of Australian troops who later fought so courageously to help liberate Afghanistan.

I of course have not spoken to him in detail about his unit’s activities in these two markedly different ‘operational’ environments, nor he to me – as is only right and proper from a unit and national security point of view.

I am, however, growing anxious at the apparent fact that your government, and in particular former Minister for Defence Peter Reith and current incumbent Robert Hill, seems at best ambivalent, and at worst wilfully dismissive, towards what I regard as an increasingly urgent need for it take a pro-active interest in protecting the reputation, morale and perhaps even exposure to future prosecution, of our armed services. This is especially so given the real possibility that your government may soon be asking those men and women to embark on dangerous military service in Iraq next year.

Prime Minister, I refer you in particular to the recent study of Australia by the internationally-respected organization ‘Human Rights Watch’, an independent Human Rights NGO whose reports the United States has often referred to in the past – for example, when seeking moral justification for military action in such countries as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The following frightening quote is taken from the Press Release advising of this Report’s release, on 10 December 2002, under the heading: “By Invitation Only: Australian Asylum Policy”:

“Human Rights Watch’s evidence shows that the Australian Defence Forces violated the rights of asylum seekers on board boats intercepted in October 2001. They detained the single men under inhumane conditions, beat several of them with batons and used other

unnecessary force against vulnerable refugee families. These findings contradict the report of the Australian Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident [issued on October 23, 2002] that praised the humanitarian conduct of the naval operations. Unlike the Senate

Committee, which could not collect refugee testimony, Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of refugees present during the naval operations.”

Prime Minister, as I said, my brother has naturally never discussed in any detail what exactly your government’s policy and orders required him (and/or his colleagues) to do on the Tampa, as is only proper for matters of ‘national security’. However, it unsettles me deeply that such an influential organization feels it is justified in making such ugly and unambiguous public accusations, and yet your government apparently feels no need to respond publicly to them, in order to defend our soldiers’ honour.

I refer you also to your government’s repeated ‘ducking and weaving’ on similar related matters, like the ‘children overboard’ affair (especially your personal refusal to pressure Mr Reith to appear before Senate committees); the government’s failure (in my view) to adequately defend our senior RAN and Defence Department civilians there; and your government’s continued silence over the growing calls – from such people as former diplomat Tony Kevin – for full disclosure of your government’s and our navy’s knowledge, if any, of events leading up to the tragic sinking of SIEV-X.

Prime Minister, my family are strong supporters of Australia’s firm stance against international terrorism. I have admired your national leadership in the immediate aftermath of both the S11 attacks and the Bali bombings. Furthermore, it may well be that these HRW Report accusations, and others from such people as Mr Kevin, are ill-judged and unfounded. However, as an ordinary Australian with a family member who has been thrust by you onto the ‘front line’ of both this country’s approach to asylum seekers and the war on terror, I feel justified in asking that you personally, your Ministers, and your government extend the full and proper public support in these matters that my, and other ADF families, surely deserve.

To that end, I now respectfully request you to a) publicly respond on behalf of my brother and his ADF colleagues to the HR abuse accusations in the HRW Report, and do your best to ensure that the mainstream press gives that response the fullest coverage; b) publicly state for the record – ‘before the fact’, so to speak – that responsibility for any such accusations against any member of our ADF that are subsequently proven correct lies ultimately not with them, but with you, your Ministers and your government for placing them in such difficult, non-military situations in the first place; and c) re-affirm that all past, present and future activities relating to ‘border protection’, on the part of our soldiers, sailors and airman, along with our AFP and ASIO, have been, are, and will continue to be, carried out with your government’s full authorisation, support, supervision and acknowledgment.

Prime Minister, thank you.

Jack Robertson

Via email, hard copy to Electoral Office (Bennelong), and hand-delivery to Kirribilli House Information copies: all Federal MPs and Senators (via PH email); Canberra Press Gallery

PS: I tried to deliver my PM’s letter to the Security Office at Kiribilli on Sunday arv, but they won’t accept anything there at all. Sigh. I’m getting sick of humiliating myself like this!

Costa: Police watchdog

It’s now clear that the people of NSW live in a dual reality. I saw most of the TV news programs on the night of last week’s march through the city, and saw no violence from protesters. I did see a mounted police officer charge into a reporter.

The next day The Daily Telegraph splashed with “WHAT A BLOODY DISGRACE” and a picture of a small man held by three large police being led towards the camera. The lead paragraph, by reporters Ben English and Rachel Morris, read:

“Violent street demonstrations over the World Trade Organisation’s meeting in Sydney by a coalition of professional protesters have cost taxpayers more than $5 million to police.”

The Tele published no pictures of protester violence.

The man Bob Carr will entrust with supervision of police activities under their new terrorism powers is police minister Michael Costa. I recorded his rhetoric and actions in the lead-up to last week’s WTO protests inLabor’s new crime: Civil disobedience (webdiaryNov1), Protesting GATS, if you’re game (webdiaryNov10) and Hey Joh: Costa’s the new demon along the watchtower (webdiaryNov14)

Tonight, the text of what Costa told Parliament last Thursday after the reporter smashed to the ground by police on horseback had been taken to hospital, a note I faxed to Premier Carr late today, and early reactions to Bob Carr and me. from Rodney Sewell and Mark Hyde.

I’ll publish your accounts of last week’s protests in the next entry.


The Hon. PETER BREEN (Reform the Legal System Party): My question is to the Minister for Police. Is the Minister aware that a number of people were arrested and others were injured in the protest march in Sydney today as a result of the World Trade Organisation meeting at Homebush Bay? Is the Minister also aware that, because the protest march involved unlawful policing, several demonstrators acted irresponsibly by defacing public buildings and spraying graffiti on public transport vehicles? Is the Minister also aware that the traffic in the city came to a halt and business was disrupted because police had no control over the boundaries or direction of the march? Can the Minister inform the House of the cost to the community of the protest march? Can the Minister compare that cost to the cost of giving police approval? Will the Minister indicate why police approval for the march was not given?

The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: There are elements of the question that are sensible, and I am happy to respond to those. I have asked the police to detail the cost of this WTO meeting and the cost of all of the precautions that had to be taken because of the threat of violent protest action. And there was a threat of violent protest action. Last night it was pointed out to me – I have not read the adjournment debate – that Ms Lee Rhiannon made some accusations that the Greens have conducted a search of the web to find where these disturbing threats of violence were. The fact of the matter is that they are on the web site. Today I can give the House some more information. A site called “Active Sydney” runs a messaging system. These are sophisticated protestors. They use information technology to cause maximum chaos in the city. They are running an SMS messaging service, which allows people involved in the demonstration to contact and be informed of where they should do something called “spin the bottle”. I read from the site.

For example, if your text message reads “SMUG the bottle is spinning on the corner of pitt and park” then all subscribers to SMUG will get the message on their phone: “the bottle is spinning on the corner of pitt and park”. It’s simple!

Then you try to work out what is “spin the bottle”. That is even more intriguing. It says: Spin the bottle takes the form of a blockade. The spin the bottle blockade takes on the WTO in a no-holds-barred fight to the finish. And you can join them.

I will not read the rest of it, but it goes on to say: We invite you to join us for the most militant game of spin the bottle ever attempted – turning up the heat until every kiss becomes a molotov.

The Greens come into this Chamber and pretend they are running peaceful protests. If they wanted a peaceful protest, they would go to protests permitted by the police. The police have permitted demonstrations against the WTO, and they ought to attend those. No. What do they choose to do? They choose to run wild in the streets. I heard Ms Lee Rhiannon and I think Hon. Ian Cohen as well making comments that I and the police were responsible for the violence that they – until this question time – had not sought to distance themselves from. I have asked Ms Lee Rhiannon on three or four occasions to distance herself from violent protest action. She chose not to – until it actually occurred in the streets this morning. Then did she come into the House and made a personal explanation, to try to distance herself from it. The Greens are hypocrites, and they have been exposed as such.

I have in front of me, off the web site again, the “[No2wto] sydney minutes”. These are the minutes of the meeting from 21 September 2002, in which there is an endorsement of mass action and a game of spin the bottle. I asked the Greens to tell me that none of their people participated in the “[No2wto] sydney minutes” meeting, where that particular strategy of spin the bottle was endorsed. It is a simple question. Did the Greens get involved in that? Were the Greens involved? If so, what did they discuss? And why are they condoning this sort of action? I might note that the very group that was running this forum in this Parliament is actually providing information on “arrest procedures, charges and rights”. Now, why would you be providing that information if you are going to go along to a peaceful demonstration? So they are preparing their legal action for a violent confrontation with the police. That is what they have got. They are responsible. They cannot hide from that.

BREEN: I ask a supplementary question. I attended the protest rally this morning, and was interested to note that no bottles were spun. There was no violence, despite what might have been in the Minister’s information. Why is it that other protests in the city, involving similar groups of people, are approved and this protest was not approved?

COSTA: I think I answered this question a number of days ago. Dick Adams, the commander in charge of the operational police involved in controlling the crowds and the protest actions in relation to the WTO, advised that he was not prepared to give a permit because he had evidence that there would be violent confrontation. That has been confirmed. The Greens might try to distance themselves from it, but it has been confirmed; it has happened in the streets of Sydney. That is the reason that they were not given permission. The police asked them to give an assurance that there would not be any violence, and they could not do that. That is the fact of the matter.

More important are the “[No2wto sydney minutes”. This is the meeting they held. It goes through a range of actions that they are preparing. It is all in very brief form, obviously, because they know that somebody like me might get on the web and have a look at these things. But the code is not all that good, because you can piece it all together. They have organised and endorsed a “mass action game of spin the bottle”. So these people have prepared for this action. They have defined what spin the bottle is in other postings on the Internet. They have come here for violent confrontation, and they are preparing lawyers for arrests. If you are going to a peaceful demonstration, why do you need to prepare legal strategies for arrests? It does not make any sense.

Apart from that, I did challenge Ms Lee Rhiannon yesterday to tell this Parliament what laws she believes require civil disobedience in this State. She made some very broad statements about civil disobedience, the role of civil disobedience, and a number of other things, and how her position in this Parliament was as a consequence of that. But she has never outlined to anybody here what laws she is opposed to that would justify the action in which she has been involved and which she has been sponsoring in this Parliament. The Greens are hypocrites. They stand condemned. The personal explanation given today will not distance the honourable member from that.



Note to Lee Rhiannon, Nov 17


I am writing on behalf of the No-WTO Spin The Bottle Bloc in reference to comments Michael Costa made in parliament on the 14th. As you may recall, Mr Costa denounced our group, apparently believing “spin the bottle” was some kind of code for violent disruption. We are now trying to make clear that what we called for, simply and literally, was a game of spin the bottle in the streets of Sydney. It is hard for us to imagine a less aggressive form of protest, and we find it incredibly bizarre that the police minister talk a call for teen kissing games as some kind of threat. At worst we are guilty of a use of metaphor that sailed over Mr Costa’s head. Thus, we will be holding a small game of spin the bottle outside parliament on Wednesday afternoon. Since Mr Costa seemed, in the hansard transcripts, to be maligning you personally for your participation in “spin the bottle”, we are extending the invitation to join the bloc as we spin. Please let me know if you are interested; I assure you the greatest danger posed by this action is having to kiss someone who didn’t brush their teeth that morning (a danger I will be vigourously discouragig). Please let me know, also, if you do wish to participate, whether I can include that in our press releases. Alternately, we would welcome your non-salivary presence at the event, possibly to make a brief statement to the media. Below is the press release we have sent out this morning for your perusal. Thanks for your time,


Morris Day.


Cops Crack Down On Spin The Bottle, Protestors Promise To Pash Anyway


The Spin The Bottle Bloc, an activist group involved in the recent No-WTO protests, are planning a game of spin the bottle outside State Parliament on Wednesday after their six-foot bottle was confiscated by police at the Olympic site on Friday. “We put it down for about fifteen minutes. When we came back it was gone,” said Morris Day, a member of the Bloc. “It’s bad enough the police stopped us getting to the hotel, but when they stop us snogging each other, it’s just unAustralian.” The bottle – a fragile and completely unthreatening prop made of chicken wire, acetate and sticky tape – was obviously no danger, so why was it seized? The Spin The Bottle Bloc blame Police Minister Michael Costa, who denounced their planned action in State Parliament on Thursday. Mr Costa, having come across the phrase “spin the bottle” in activist communications, pondered the “intriguing” question, “what is ‘spin the bottle’?” “Who doesn’t know what spin the bottle is?” asked Day. “Costa obviously wasn’t invited to the right parties, but that’s what you get for wasting your youth in party politics.” Mr Costa liberally and inaccurately paraphrased from the Spin The Bottle Bloc’s call to action, explaining: “Spin the bottle takes the form of a blockade. The spin the bottle blockade takes on the WTO in a no-holds-barred fight to the finish. And you can join them. I will not read the rest of it, but it goes on to say: We invite you to join us for the most militant game of spin the bottle ever attempted – turning up the heat until every kiss becomes a molotov” “[Protestors] have defined what spin the bottle is in postings on the Internet. They have come here for violent confrontation.” The idea that spin the bottle is a “violent confrontation” is absurd. In context, the use of words ike “molotov” was obviously a joke, a metaphor. A metaphor, for the police minister’s benefit, is when you use words in a symbolic rather than a literal way. For example, when we say we’ve been laughing our arses off at what a fuckhead Michael Costa is, we do not actually mean that our bottoms have fallen from our bodies, or that Michael Costa’s cranium is some kind of sexual plaything. Although it’s hard to take any of this seriously, there is an important issue at stake. The New South Wales Police Minister cannot tell the difference between pashing and terrorism. In Parliament, spin the bottle was his one and only example of protestors’ “disturbing threats of violence”, his justification for aggressive police tactics. The minister has wasted millions of dollars and injured dozens of people defending WTO delegates against the threat of tonsil hockey. Contact the Spin The Bottle Bloc: Email:





The Hon. IAN COHEN (Green): My question is directed to the Minister for Police.

Costa: Here we go.

COHEN: Yes, that is right – here we go. Will he acknowledge his role in vilifying protests and take responsibility for all police actions, including unlawful police actions, at the World Trade Organisation [WTO] protest today? Does he stand by the statement he made in the House during question time yesterday about “rabble [taking] control of our streets”? Does he regard Patricia Karveles, from the Australian newspaper, as rabble, given that she is now hospitalised with a suspected broken pelvis after being trampled by a police horse in an illegitimate and illegal charge by police horses when she was standing on the side of the road?

The Hon. Richard Jones(Former Democrat, now independent): You don’t care, do you, Minister?

COSTA: That is not right. It is important to acknowledge, although I do not know the circumstances

Cohen: I saw it.

COSTA: If the honourable member saw it, obviously he was participating in an illegal demonstration.

Cohen: That is correct.

COSTA: The honourable member is admitting to the House that he was participating in an illegal demonstration.

Cohen: That is correct.

COSTA: Okay, fine. The Greens have acknowledged that they have participated in an illegal demonstration. All honourable members have heard that. Let me deal with the issue of the media person who was injured. I heard news reports about that. I have asked for a report from police about it. Let me say that I think everybody in the House, including myself and the police involved, sympathise with the person who was injured and hope that she makes a speedy recovery. She was there, as were many people in the media, to cover events. She is obviously a person who was injured in the course of her work, as opposed to somebody who went there illegally to demonstrate, like the Hon. Ian Cohen – as he has just admitted to this House.

Breen: Point of order: The Minister is not entitled to denigrate another member of the House by saying that the member went to a particular place in a particular way. There was no admission by the Hon. Ian Cohen of why he was there.

COSTA: Yes there was.

Breen: I witnessed the Hon. Ian Cohen at the demonstration and he was not taking part in the demonstration. For the Minister to suggest that he was is an imputation against the Hon. Ian Cohen and it ought to be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT: Order! In previous rulings I have made a distinction between imputations against a member and imputations against actions of a member. The Minister for Police was making statements about the actions of the member. The Minister may proceed.

COSTA: I am actually surprised at that point of order. I think the Hon. Ian Cohen takes pride in the fact that he was at that illegal demonstration, but that is a different matter. Discussion has taken place about the WTO during question time in this House and in speeches that other members have made in adjournment debates. I am sure all members would be aware of the potential for problems to occur at a WTO meeting. On web sites, people have been advocating violent confrontation with the police. I read only a moment ago some other material from a web site called “active sydney”, which is one of the co-ordinating sites

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile (Christian Democratic Party): It happens in every city.

COSTA: Just because it happens

Nile: I am supporting you. I am trying to help you.

COSTA: I thank Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. I appreciate the help.

The Hon. Michael Gallacher (Liberal, shadow minister for industrial relations): There is no support coming from the members behind you, but there is some from the crossbench – from on the Right.

COSTA: I do not mind having support from the Right. The fact is that these sites have been advocating violence against the WTO meeting. Clearly our police are charged with the responsibility of maintaining social order. The fact of the matter is that if these people go out to close the WTO”shut it down”, to use their terminology – the implication is that they will use violence against those who are involved in it. How else is a legal, legitimate, peaceful meeting shut down? The only way it can be shut down is by illegal means. It is clearly the case that the demonstrators were there with the intention of shutting down the WTO meeting, by their own admission.

The Hon. Duncan Gay (National Party leader in the Upper House): And this is against a group that is charged with making things better for those who need help.

COSTA: We do not want a debate about the WTO.

COHEN: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister first of all answer the question about the media person who was seriously injured? Will he give a directive to stop using police horses as weapons in peaceful protests?

COSTA: Weapons?

COHEN: Yes, weapons. Will he undertake to provide the House with a full police report on this matter?

Jones: He should do that, at the very least.

COSTA: I have already indicated that I will ask for a full report from the police.

Cohen: Will you provide it to the House?

COSTA: I am happy to provide a report to the House on the matters associated with the WTO meeting, including the costs and all the actions taken. I think the House is entitled to have that to be able to understand the conduct of some of its members. I have not made any direct comments about it because I am waiting for a report. I could have made references to a news report I heard alleging that demonstrators were slapping the horses and that this caused the horses to move forward. I have not said anything about that because I am waiting for a full report, and I will get a full report on the matter. But that does not excuse the fact that a journalist conducting her work-related activity attended the place because an illegal demonstration was being conducted, and that illegal demonstration was being conducted in the face of police, government and other concerns about the likely outcomes of such activities in the city.

The people who are responsible are those who are running wild in the streets of Sydney. They are 100 per cent responsible for the problems in the city today. I have told the Greens that they have a challenge. It is no good their coming into this House trying to distance themselves on the day an event occurs. They had the opportunity to distance themselves earlier in the week and they did not take that opportunity. In fact. they refused point-blank to distance themselves from these activities. Now that an incident has occurred, they want to distance themselves and blame the police. Well, that will not wash. I have challenged the Greens to tell me whether there were any representatives of the Greens at the protest against the WTO meeting that is being held in Sydney who were planning these events and who talked very clearly about a spin the bottle action – an activity conducted this morning that has led to disruption of the city and illegal behaviour.


I faxed the following note to the Premier’s office tonight:

To: Premier Carr

From: Margo Kingston


I refer to the press conference you gave at midday today in Parliament House and the interview with you broadcast on 2GB at 12.30 pm.

At the press conference you falsely accused me of having written in The Sydney Morning Herald that the victims of the Bali bombing were to blame for their own deaths.

You said: “To blame the Bali dead for the bombing is a disgrace and you are a parody of a journalist.”

You also said: “What happened in Bali was the murder of innocent Australians, not people who were guilty because they were celebrating in a third world country as you argued in the Sydney Morning Herald. Not that at all.”

Despite my denials, you broadcast a variation of this damaging slur against me to a much wider audience on 2GB. You said I had written a column “attempting to argue that it was Australian tourists who provoked the Bali bombing, words to that effect”. You later said in the same broadcast that you had read my piece, which said “it was something in the way Western tourists behaved in Bali that invited the bombing”.

Your allegations are false and baseless.

For your information I enclose everything I have written about the Bali bombing. I invite you to find one instance where I have blamed the Bali dead for the bombing, or said that Australian tourists in Bali provoked the bombing.

In the event that you are unable to do so, I expect a public retraction and apology. Given the vicious nature of your attack upon me, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask your office to respond within 24 hours.


Margo Kingston


Rodney Sewell in Munich

As an Australian living in Munich, I very much value reading your column online in the SMH. It’s one island of intelligent calm in a sea of Padraic McGuinnesses.

I was shocked at the behaviour Bob Carr, at his intimidation and his insults.

Please, for what it’s worth, accept my support and my thanks for the stand you’ve taken and the articles you’ve written. I may not agree with what you say, but you have every right to say it. Take care but don’t stop.

PS: Was 2GB presenter Chris Smith’s line “those nosey reporters – they tend to ask questions…” meant ironically or seriously? As you can probably tell, I’ve been away from Sydney for a long time…


Mark Hyde in Armidale, NSW

While it’s easy to put the Premier’s Kennettesque style put down down to a just a ruffled ego, I do think that (after reading all you’ve published) you brought this whole episode on yourself (not Carr’s demonstrably misogynist attitude:)).

I agree with you that the whole allegations against are sickening, however there was some words in your first article that could have lead a desperate political operator like Carr to exploit the fears and worries of a hand wringing public.

I quote the paragraph I’m referring to:

“I know little about Bali, and whether we’ve respected and nurtured the place we love to visit or colonised it with our wants. A friend in Byron Bay said Australians had taken Bali over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Bali were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

“Maybe part of it is the lack of services for locals. A completely inadequate hospital, for instance, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people – foreigners like us, elite big-city Indonesians – make their fortunes. Have residents lost their place, their power to define it? Did the big money fail to give enough back to the people who belong there, whose home it is? Have Muslim extremists destroyed the vibe of Hindu Bali to force us out?

Supporting Carr’s allegations is not my purpose here, but a clutching politician who is itching to get his law and order/security credentials across is bound to exploit words such as these to his own advantage.

No Australian deserved or is responsible for the tragedy in Bali. But base political motives are bound to flow through town seeking out people to blame and the first questioner of these movements tends to be singled out and made an example of.

By the way, Paddy really outdid himself today. Linking the protesters with terrorists is the one of the most reprehensible acts a so-called commentator can make. I also pity future protester movements who have not made better cases to get a marching permit. But did they have to tear down ‘carefully’ constructed barricades to Costa’s base political motivations?:):)

Anyway thanks for the Webdiary voice on

Bob Carr and me

The morning started badly, and got worse.

I read Herald columnist Paddy McGuinness with disbelief.

“I wonder how many of the relatives and friends of those who died so tragically in Bali on October 12 were at the demonstrations in the city and at Homebush last week? It seems likely that there would be little overlap, since the real feeling of the demonstrators against the victims of Bali is that somehow they deserved what they got, since they were enjoying themselves exploiting the Balinese and thus supporting the world capitalist system.” (Rent-a-mob tarnishes victims of the Bali bombs, smh.)

I’d noticed over the last week that islamic terrorists and protesters against the current economic order and ideology have been converged by police minister Michael Costa and his chief media barracker, The Daily Telegraph. And by the United States – free trade agreements with the American is now a weapon in the war against terror, according to the US government.

But this was something else. Paddy did not say how he knew “the real feeling” of the WTO demonstrators, and this was the first I’d heard of any such suggestion.

Paddy’s words shocked me, but I also felt fear. The climate being generated in Australia – partly by NSW Labor politicians in election mode – is so threatening that it’s getting scary to speak your mind if you don’t agree with the people who rule over us. They’ve got the money, the power, the guns, the batons, and the public space. People who want to dissent against how the powerful and the privileged run the cities and towns, the state, the country, and the world, have nothing but their bodies and the time they can devote to research, lobbying and protest. Yet Paddy said the protesters – demonised as violent to a man and woman in defiance of all the evidence that violent elements are very small – “are more like the gangs of Nazi thugs who roamed the streets of Munich and Berlin as Hitler began his rise to power, or the militias which bully and sometimes murder people minding their own business”.

Still, it was only Paddy. That was something.

I attended the press conference of NSW Premier Bob Carr this morning for his announcement of his new anti-terrorism measures. By the end, I realised I was right to be scared. Mr Carr saw fit to refuse to answer any of my questions and instead to intimidate me with the claim that I “blame the Bali dead” for causing their own deaths. The enemy is me.

“This is not about a demonstration, this is about murder. What happened in Bali was the murder of innocent Australians not people who were guilty because they were celebrating in a 3rd world country as you argued in the Sydney Morning Herald,” Mr Carr said in answer to my question about whether the new terrorism powers extended to people in political protest marches where the police had refused a permit, like last week.

Mr Carr’s allegation is not true. Truth doesn’t seem to matter to the man who wants us to trust his administration with sweeping new police powers over citizens. I am a relatively well known journalist who the Premier of NSW trashed in public. I fear for the fate of the powerless in private.

I’ve read through everything I’ve written about the Bali bombing, and I can’t find anything in which I blame the Bali victims for the bombing. The very idea makes me feel sick.

Mr Carr said he’d dig out the piece that proves his allegation and send it to me, but he hasn’t. He said he’d read the piece in the Herald a month ago, so he might be talking about the first piece I wrote on Bali, calledOctober 13:Bali (WebdiaryOct14). The only time I expressed a firmish view on the motivation for the Bali bombing was in a piece for the Northern Rivers Echo newspaper last month, also published in (smhOct16). I disagreed with the view of some that John Howard’s support for a US strike on Iraq was to blame and said it was more likely to be about our stand on East Timor. The headline, ‘So this is what it’s like on the other side’, took on a new meaning after my experience today. I’ve republished the two pieces below.

I’ve calmed down a lot since the shock of Mr Carr’s allegations but am still too upset to analysis his motives, so I thought I’d put up what he said at the press conference and in a radio interview straight after and ask what you think. The press conference video can be accessed in the right hand column of Webdiary.


Bob Carr press conference, Parliament House, midday, October 19

Bob Carr: I don’t want to have this debate after a terrorist attack. I don’t want to have a debate about necessary police powers after there has been more people bereaved.

Ben (ABC): Have there been cases where federal agents have picked up people who have attended lectures by Indonesian –

Bob: Well Ben, can I just say this to you? J.I. murdered Australians in Bali. J.I. planted a bomb that took – just from my community of Maroubra – 8 innocent lives.

Margo: You’re prejudging it.

Bob: Margo, can I just remind you that you’re responsible for writing in the Sydney Morning Herald that Australian tourists in Bali provoked that attack. I think that was a disgraceful comment by you in your piece in the Herald when you wrote that Australian tourists by their demeanour in Bali provoked that attack.

Margo: I did not say that.

Bob: Well, we’ll give you the quote. You wrote that. I’m paraphrasing, but you wrote that.

Margo: I did not write that.

Bob: I will deliver you that quote.

(Unidentified journalist): Can we have the press conference?

Bob: We’re not taking away the rights of people to question and challenge police action.

Margo: Mr Carr, you’ve excluded lawful industrial and political protests. Does that mean that if like last week police refuse a permit for a march –

Bob: No, no, that is all lawful. No, no. I am adamant that nothing in this reflects the right to demonstrate. The right to demonstrate –

Margo: But you’ve got “exclusion of lawful industrial and political protests”?

Bob: Well, of course we do that. Do you want me to say that we exclude illegal activity? Of course we say that.

Margo: Police refused a march permit last week and Mr Costa said it was illegal activity. They could declare that a target area –

Bob: Margo, please relax. Please relax. It is inconceivable that these powers could be applied to a demonstration. This is not about a demonstration. This is about murder. What happened in Bali was the murder of innocent Australians, not people who were guilty because they were celebrating in a third world country as you argued in the Sydney Morning Herald. Not that at all.

Towards the end of the press conference, a reporter asked Mr Carr about revelations in the Herald the the wife of a a senior ALP minister, John Della Bosca, was set to benefit from a major government tender (smhtoday). Mr Carr said tender processes in NSW were squeaky clean, and moved on to berate NSW opposition leader John Brogden for receiving money from a big accounting firm. Mr Carr repeated that he would ban sponsorship of politicians, and began to leave.

Margo Kingston: Mr Carr, if you are going to ban sponsorships why don’t you ban donations from developers?

Bob Carr: Margo, Margo let me …

Margo: Why can you do one and not the other?

Bob: Margo, let me supply you with the quote that you wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald …

Margo: Fine …

Bob: …which is an insult to the Bali dead.

Margo: Could you, could you answer my question please?

Bob: An insult to the Bali dead.

Margo: If you are prepared to ban sponsorships to politicians are you prepared to ban donations to developers?

Bob: To blame the Bali dead –

Margo: Sure give me the quote, OK –

Bob: To blame the Bali dead –

Margo: I did not do that.

Bob: – is a disgrace –

Margo: You’re lying.

Bob: – and you are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: You’re lying.

Bob: You are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: Thanks for your accountability.

Carr: You’re a joke.


Rehame transcript


19TH NOVEMBER, 2002.



CHRIS SMITH – PRESENTER: As I said, the Premier Bob Carr, he’s now just emerged from that press conference announcing the tabling in parliament of the Terrorism Police Powers Bill 2002. The bill, as I said, will give the NSW Police the powers they need to deal with terrorist threats and emergencies, but the bill won’t go into law until thoroughly debated in parliament, according to the Premier. I fear a giant nose being thrown into the works from the Upper House. However, I’ve got the Premier on the line now. Premier, good afternoon.

BOB CARR – NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: G’day, Chris. How are you?

SMITH: Good. Thanks for finding the time. That press conference went a little longer than expected.

CARR: Yes, it did.

SMITH: These nosey reporters, Premier, they tend to ask questions until –

CARR: There was only one who I found objectionable, and that was Margo Kingston, reportedly from – purportedly from the Sydney Morning Herald, who I cannot deal rationally with. And she wrote a column –

SMITH: Right.

CARR: – attempting to argue that it was Australian tourists who provoked the Bali bombing, words to that effect. And as someone who knows victims of the Bali bombing, I found that intolerable, and I will not cop it and I will not cop her.

SMITH: And then she had the temerity to sit there in a press conference and argue between herself and yourself.

CARR: And challenge the powers we’re giving the police to minimise the chance of more bereavements to Australian families from a terrorist strike. Since I read her piece of I guess it’s a month a go now, saying, it was something in the way Western tourists behaved in Bali that invited the bombing. I’ve been rather angry, I’ve got to say.

SMITH: And I think most people would join you in that.


October 13: Bali

by Margo Kingston

October 14 2002

The Prime Minister said a true thing today, that the Australian people will take some time to absorb what happened in Bali in the early hours of October 13, our time.

For the families still looking, we cry with and for them. For those who are injured and those who saw their pain, we hold them and hope they will one day again sleep an innocent sleep.

There is no meaning yet. We don’t yet know for sure what happened. We don’t know who did this. We don’t know why. Shock needs to be deeply felt before we’ll know how we want to respond. Time needs to pass. Our casualties need to be identified and grieved for.

There are close links between us and Bali. We go there to surf. Many of us have businesses in Bali and live there. I was in Byron Bay on holidays when someone rang with the news. In this morning’s local paper, The Northern Star, Byron Bay resident Sai Frame, 25, described the horror. He and his grandparents were at Kuta Beach to celebrate the opening of a friend’s shop, across the road from the Sari club.

“I was at the Sari club a few days ago. You couldn’t get a higher concentration of young tourists anywhere in Bali,” Sai said. “It’s so hard to believe. Bali has always been considered the safest place in Indonesia. Noone thought this would ever happen. Much of the wealth of Bali is in Kuta Beach, and most of it is dependent on the tourist industry.”

Beautiful Bali is finished for us. We won’t want to go where we’re not welcome.

I know little about Bali, and whether we’ve respected and nurtured the place we love to visit or colonised it with our wants. A friend in Byron Bay said Australians had taken Bali over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Bali were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

Maybe part of it is the lack of services for locals. A completely inadequate hospital, for instance, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people – foreigners like us, elite big-city Indonesians – make their fortunes. Have residents lost their place, their power to define it? Did the big money fail to give enough back to the people who belong there, whose home it is? Have Muslim extremists destroyed the vibe of Hindu Bali to force us out?

Will we now swing behind war with Iraq or pull out and focus on our home? The Pacific. South East Asia. East Timor, especially, where we’re protecting a baby, Christian democracy. The places where we have duties and responsibilities and, in the end, where our self interest lies. I don’t know.

The image staying with me is in this morning’s Northern Star. Cartoonist Rod Emmerson drew the Grim Reaper clutching a surfboard called ‘Terrorism’. From the skull, the words “…And I’ve been to Bali too.”


So this is what it’s like on the other side

by Margo Kingston

October 16 2002

We’re “the other” now. The other is us. Now we know the feeling of living on the edge of fear. Now we feel vulnerable. Now we’re a target.

What have we done to deserve this? What have any victims of terrorism done? It’s terribly difficult to accept what happened to our people in Bali. It’s not possible to intellectualise the pain of being intellectualised by the people who did this to us.

Some experts say we’re up ourselves to think our enemy aimed at us. It was a generalised aim – us as Westerners, Bali as Hindu, the Indonesian government as ripe for overthrow. Others say we were the target because John Howard is so sycophantic to the American compulsion to invade Iraq. My feeling is they chose us to kill and maim because of East Timor. Australia, white Western outpost, sends its troops to rescue the East Timorese dream of independence, then stays on to protect and nurture the baby Christian democracy. Is this the cost?

Whatever the motivations, the fact is we’ve suffered the biggest loss. This is our experience. Many are trying to define it for us, to appropriate it for their purposes, but we mustn’t let them.

This tragedy should see our differences melt as we feel the connection between us as Australians. Webdiarist David Davis felt it in Switzerland.

“On my commute through the Swiss countryside this morning it was dull, dark, grey and unusually cold. I was reading the Times of London and drinking luke warm coffee. On page three was a shot of the Kingsley Senior Football club from Western Australia. Everyone smiling, the larrikin spirit practically leaping off the page. You know for sure these guys would know how to have fun. A night out with those guys would be HUGE – as we would say. That’s what they would have been doing, having a HUGE night. The next day there would be the inevitable post mortem over a breakfast, and comments of “Maaate, such a HUGE night, could you believe it when Dave did that?!

“For a second I was smiling at the picture and forgot why it was in the Times and why I was l looking at it in Switzerland. For a second I escaped and was above the clouds, transported to happy memories. I looked out the window and it came back to me. The horror of what has happened. My God. What is happening in this world and now even to my own – my Aussies.”

How we express our collective grief, how we collectively respond to this horror, will help define us to each other and to the world. The Bali bombing gives us the chance, once we’ve fully felt the pain and formally mourned our loss on our national day of mourning on Sunday, to unite, and to explore what difference we, as Australians, and our nation, Australia, can make to what increasingly seems an inevitable slide into world war, the slaughter of “others”.

Webdiarist David Makinson wrote: “Politicians and commentators of all persuasions will seek to portray their particular cause as noble because we have lost our friends. We must reject this cynicism. Be clear that these poor, poor people died for nothing – a tragic symbol of an abject failure of leadership.”

“The left says our government’s public support of the US makes us a target. We sense the truth in this. The right says that it is folly to think that a passive stance will protect us. We sense the truth in this. The right says a military solution is the only solution. They may be correct. The left says violence begets violence, and they too may be correct. Neither group can recognise the merits in each other’s case, and so the true, far more complex solution eludes us.”

“President Bush said, in the seeming long ago, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists”. Wrong, George. We’re against both of you. We wonder if perhaps you deserve each other, but we’re certain we have done nothing at all to deserve you. We, the cannon fodder, oppose you. We are the innocent people of Australia, the US, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, the world, and we are opposed to you. It’s not as simple as us and them. It’s about all of us.”

“Every instinct I have says we need to seek an active path of peaceful action and engagement if we are to have any chance of working through these troubles. I believe this is the test of courage we need to confront – to engage these people at the root of their grievances and hurts – both real and imagined.

“I fear our bravery does not run that deep. The pragmatist in me recognises that we will resort to force. We will dress this up in words of action and purpose, and imagine it a considered and effective response. We will convince ourselves it is necessary and just. It is neither – and it will not work.

“It is a dark time. I fear for my children. Let us pray that somewhere amongst the dross is a kernel of constructive thought which can be built into hope.”

One kernel this week: Australians couple Jennifer Ball and George Pengilly, of Melbourne, did not cancel their plan to marry in Bali after Balinese locals requested them to “please do the wedding”. More than 250,000 Australians visit Bali each year. Many Australians have businesses there. Bali has been our national escape to innocent pleasure. We are in relationship with the Balinese people. They made and laid Hindu funeral flower arrangements to honour our dead. They cried with us, for their dead and ours.

Valuing the Triple J brand

Here’s a strange little story I picked up in Byron Bay on the weekend which makes me wonder whether there are is any lines between public service and private profit any more.

There’s a big new nightclub in the town called CMOOG, and it’s distributed a glossy magazine which announces that on New Year’s Eve “Triple J presents CMOOG’s genrebust. Welcome in the New Year with a musical mystery tour through all the genres of dance, featuring ….”

The Byron community will go troppo for its own reasons: It’s overwhelmed with tourists for New Year’s eve every year, doesn’t know how to cope, wants as little publicity as possible, and has had a community committee working on safety on the night for several years since a notorious NYE riot some years ago. Today the mayor and a councillor cried foul, foreshadowing a motion to council to ask Triple J to pull out because the promotion breaches its gazetted NYE ‘crime prevention plan’.

I’m more interested in the Triple J’s commercial role in all this. When the story broke this morning, the club’s financier, one Simon Page, immediately threatened legal action. He’s threatening to sue the council for $150,000 in damages if Triple J pulled out, being the lost value of advertising and promotion which the club would have extracted had it done the gig. His grounds: Triple J surveys showed a majority of young people list Byron Bay as their ultimate destination and the Triple J cache would mean they’d come to the club when they came to Byron.

That means that a nightclub run for private profit will get a significant economic benefit via the reputation and crowd-pulling capacity of the Triple J brand.

The ABC Charter bans it advertising private product/services, but what about the private sector profiting from the ABC brand? My first thought was – what does Triple J get out of it? And since the nightclub is effectively claiming the endorsement of Triple J for its club – and using it as it’s big NYE attraction – what steps has Triple J taken to ensure the club is an OK place to go to?

I spoke to Triple J program manager Linda Bracken late today. She said the club hadn’t even signed a contract with Triple J yet. She said that despite what I’d read as the clear message of the magazine that Triple J would be there on NYE with bells on, what was planned was something much lower key. A techie person would attend to feed the music through, and that’s all, which is why Triple J thought increased crowds wouldn’t be a problem.

She also said Triple J had not given permission for its logo to be used by the club, and that if permission was given in the future, it would be on the basis that the artwork was vetted by Triple J before publication to ensure it wasn’t connected with commercial sponsorships. Which raises the question: Does Triple J insist on any quality control over the uses to which its (ie the taxpayer’s) brand is put? And if the use of its logo is unauthorised, and the advertising pitch misleads Triple J’s fans, what will Triple J to do about it? Does it give a damn anyway?

Ms Bracken didn’t say whether Triple J would get monetary gain from the arrangement – if it went ahead – but did say Triple J’s motivation was to showcase Byron Bay and Sydney DJ talent on NYE. “If we’re not welcome there, we won’t go,” she said.

Why should a for-profit company profit from its association with an ABC radio station? On the other hand, why on earth would Triple J do this unless it got a fee for selling its brand for advertising and promotion? Surely the ABC wouldn’t allow its brand to be used for private profit with nothing but potential downside for the brand if the product it’s advertising isn’t up to the mark?

I’ll try to speak to ABC corporate affairs and its legal department tomorrow. I’ve tried to contact Simon Page, but had to make do with an email which I’ll chase up tomorrow. On the face of it, there’s something weirdly blurred about all this. A nightclub sueing a local council for lost profit because it convinced a public broadcaster not to do something in the public interest is pretty darn strange.


Last week the ABC’s Radio National program Night Club asked me on after a piece in The Age included me in a discussion on weblogs despite the fact that I’m not a weblogger. (The reporter did not contact me.) The weblog thing has been going a while in Australia but I know little of it except for a few political/war weblogs. I offended some weblog pioneers with a remark that Tim Blair got the scene going here. He didn’t. So today,Graham Freeman and Anthony Hicks set the record straight, as it should be – too many times the trailblazers of the next big thing get forgotten when others popularise it. By the way, the first weblog I noticed was that of pioneer Neale Talbot. His excellent weblog is at wrongwaygoback.

Graham Freeman

I was particularly intrigued to hear your version of the history of how weblogging in Australia: “The person who started the weblog scene in Australia is a right-wing warblogger called Tim Blair, and he sort of helped other people who wanted to get into it, left and right.”


Tim Blair happened to get in amongst the post-9/11 rush to rant about turning the Middle East into glass. He had his journalistic skills and some contacts (a big help), and consequently he happened to be in a position where he could plug it somewhere in a respectable print publication. He had something to say, he said it well, if perhaps a little disingenuous about it, and he was savvy about it. Fair enough.

However, to give him the credit for starting weblogging around here? Ha-ha! No. I don’t bloody think so.

It was I, along with Anthony Hicks, who started his a year before me in 1998, and a few others who ceased blogging even before the diminutive “blog” was coined. It wasn’t all hardboiled political opinionating, but we called them weblogs, and we knew what the term meant. Weblogging in Australia, as elsewhere, took off during 2000 as more and more people discovered the damned things, and a fair number of those, including mine, certainly had political content amongst the writing, even if they weren’t as one-note as some of the current favourites.

The truth is, I started thumping out near-daily instalments of uninformed opinionated dreck (and stuff about music) a good two years before Tim Blair discovered Blogspot. I don’t know why he’s still hanging around Blogspot rather than getting his own domain and the technical jiggery-pokery behind it into gear, as everyone else seems to be rapidly doing, as they realise that having “blogspot” in their address is tantamount to wearing a big sign around their torso saying “I Am A Crank!”.

Regarding your remark about the lack of gender balance in the blogging world in general, before mindless aggression became the flavour of the month again, weblogs were one of the most gender-balanced aspects of the internet, and still are. It’s just that a small but noisy segment that finds the format ideal for promulgating their simple and wrong ideas have gotten most of the attention in the past twelve months, and that of course is extraordinarily blokey.

Fortunately, as you’ve well realised, there’s also been a corresponding increase in the number of weblogs maintained by people who actually some idea of what they’re talking about.

Am I bitter? You bet. Having been somewhat of a pioneer with the bloody things, at least in the local scene, it’s been galling to have media drone after media drone send an email saying “can you talk?” and when I finally get around to responding, they’ve already filed the report, in the same samey samey fashion – usually along one of three things:

“Weblogs are radically changing the face of the media.”

“Weblogs aren’t radically changing the face of the media.”

“Weblogs are passe.”

So it goes. Even though I have a mild distaste for self-promotion, as I regard hyping up something as marginal as a weblog as a bit crass, my ego doesn’t agree and has demanded that I join the empty-headed “look at me!” brigade.

My main point is Australian weblogging certainly did not start with Tim Blair, he just happened to catch the wave that grew from the ripple that I helped to start.


Anthony Hicks

I just wanted to set the record straight on the origins of weblogging in Australia. Actually Tim Blair came into the scene quite late (2001 according to his archives). When I started the Aussie Blogs webring in early 2000 I found around 70 Australian weblogs, many dating back to 1999. I started my blog back in March 1998, and the online diary/links/commentary form has been experimented in Australia since the beginning of the web, they just weren’t called weblogs.

I’ve seen this claim that Blair kicked off Australian weblogging a few times now, but only by journalists. I think it comes down to the fact that for journalists Blair’s blog is the first widely read Australian weblog they see, and therefore conclude his must be the first or most influential. Certainly for his topic area he is popular, but most certainly cannot be said to have “kicked weblogging off in Australia”.

Humbly, if anything, I have donated hundreds of hours of my time to hundreds of Australian webloggers since 1999 to help create a community and to help them get online and find other weblogs through the Aussie Blogs web ring (currently listing 320 sites – with more than 600 sites over its history), and I certainly do not claim to have kicked off blogging in Australia.



Is enough enough yet?

NSW opposition leader John Brogden won’t say what he did to earn $25,000 a year for several years from a big-four accounting firm while supposedly representing the people (for the background see Pocket politics: it’s about who’s in whose pocketwebdiaryNov14).

His defence is the one most often used by desperate men – to divert attention from the substance by questioning the motivation of your accuser. Brogden is right to say his problem is handy for a Labor government mired in corruption allegations, but the fact remains that there are matters of substance Brogden must answer satisfactorily if he is to rescue his shattered reputation.

This is what Brogden told Parliament last week during the censure motion against him for failing to detail how he earned his money from PriceWaterhouse:

“The Government wants to know the details of the relationship…no letter of engagement was signed; a verbal agreement was entered into regarding a monthly retainer that could be cancelled by either party on one month’s notice. That is a standard arrangement…

“It is incumbent upon the Government to prove what it is yet to prove: that there is any conflict of interest. It has failed to do so; it is throwing mud, but it is not sticking. … As I indicated in the letter to the Clerk, the advice received from PricewaterhouseCoopers was that I provided general public affairs advice upon request. I move:

“That the motion be amended by deleting all words after “censure” with a view to inserting the following words: ‘the Premier for his failure to stand down the Minister for Fisheries (Eddie Obeid) after serious allegations that he sought a $1 million bribe for the Australian Labor Party and for his failure to uphold parliamentary standards of propriety and integrity with other Ministers and members of Parliament.’

Government members are trying to throw mud this way when one of their own is facing the Independent Commission Against Corruption on one of the most serious accusations this State has heard: that he asked for a $1 million bribe.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 8 November ran the headline, “Million on the table at Oasis lunch”. Two witnesses have already indicated to the ICAC that Mr Arthur Coorey came to them at a lunch, where he had been with Eddie Obeid, who had asked for a $1 million bribe to smooth the Oasis project. Under pressure, the Labor Party tries to turn the attack and avoid the fact that after eight years in government it had in Cabinet a rotten, corrupt Minister whose history on matters of arson would suggest that he should be on the New South Wales Fire Brigade’s watch list. The claim against Eddie Obeid is that there are 154 separate failed declarations on his pecuniary interests register. And where does it end? It ends in the ICAC. Two witnesses have indicated to an ICAC investigation that Mr Arthur Coorey came to them at a lunch and said, “I have just been with Eddie, and he said $1 million dollars will smooth it all over.” What a coincidence! It is just like the good old days of the Labor Party. They cannot help themselves.

The old Wran problem of 1983 has come back to haunt them again. It is all too cute. For the 2002 season Labor has crippled one of the best rugby league teams in this State through its corruption and through the involvement of Eddie Obeid in seeking a $1 million bribe. The ICAC will bear out the truth. An article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald reads:

The former Bulldogs Leagues Club chief, Gary McIntyre, has confirmed he discussed a $1 million political donation to the ALP with fellow director Arthur Coorey, but said it occurred in a discussion on how the hotel industry had achieved such favourable treatment from the Carr Government.

What the Government has sought to do over some time is pretend that this is all about poker machines, when it has always been about land and about forcing a decision. Half of the members of the front bench have been involved in briefings – including the Minister for Transport, the Attorney General, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the Minister for Agriculture and, of course, the Minister for Public Works and Services. We all recall that he went very red and was very quiet when the questioning started.

They will all rue the day. In one day, at the request of this House, I have provided more information than Eddie Obeid offered to the upper House privilege and ethics committee. He obfuscated; he refused to provide information. The fact is that the Obeid matter is wide and deep, and it goes to the core of corruption in this Government. The Labor Party is the party of corruption in New South Wales, and it always has been. The Government’s grubby attempt today to censure me – with three to four sitting days left this year and four months until the election – is entirely predictable. But in four months time the people of New South Wales will make a decision based on who can better run our schools, who can make our streets safer, and who can provide better health care and transport services in this State. These grubby attempts by the Government will be forgotten because they are unproved and they are lies, lies, lies from Labor.


Oh dear. Dear John, when a perceived conflict of interest is revealed, it’s the duty of the person whose credibility is in question to show there is NOT a conflict of interest, not for others without the information – which happens to be in your possession, not theirs – to prove you’re guilty. Just as it’s your POSITIVE duty to transparently disclose financial arrangements, not hide behind technicalities to avoid disclosure of where your money’s coming from as you did with your PriceWaterhouse windfall. It’s called transparency. It’s called taking your obligations to the people seriously.

I can see two reasons why Brogden won’t say what he did for his $25,000 a year. He either did stuff that would be tricky to explain, or he did nothing. I reckon the likelihood is that he did nothing, which is worse, in a sense, than giving special help to his private sector employer while employed to work full time for his constituents in particular and the people of NSW in general.

Money for nothing would mean Brogden had sold his name, his “brand” in the parlance of sports stars, for a mere $25,000 a year. Too cheap, John. Way too cheap. (A ‘gift’ from the big firm might also raise tax deductibility questions, as John Brogden is not a charity.)

The gift could be a nice little deal among the Liberal mates to look after John Brogden financially on the way to the leadership, or it might mean the odd attendance at a cocktail party. The value for Price Waterhouse is to enhance the status of its brand – it knows the right people.

It’s sort of like Mark Waugh and Shane Warne taking cash from bookie for a pitch report. No worries in that, except that you do end up owing something, somehow, someday. John Brogden, Premier, would answer the door to Price Waterhouse, you’d think, and give them his time, at the very least.

Brogden is damaged goods, all the more galling for him and the Liberals because he was well into a brilliant long-term campaign to win government on the back of Labor’s unholy, unhealthy alliance with developers. Labor’s relentless attack on Brogden last week was about making him look as dirty as it does, thus neutralising development and general back-scratching between Labor and Sydney’s money-men as an issue.

Bob Carr’s behaviour has been interesting. He didn’t lead the debate against Brogden, but left it to his deputy. I reckon this is because Carr still thinks he’s got political mileage left as a ‘clean’ leader – the bloke who doesn’t get his hands dirty. To maintain this crazy farce – doesn’t being the leader mean the buck stops with you? – he can’t be in Parliament taking the flak for his constant, complete backing of Eddie Obeid despite his flagrant failures to disclose his financial interests and private companies, and his refusal to stand Obeid down while serious allegations of corruption concerning him are aired at the ICAC.

Instead, Bob Carr comes out on the weekend announcing he’ll ban “sponsorship” deals of politicians:

Mr Carr said private companies or corporations should not be allowed to sponsor their “favourite MP”, and this was effectively what Mr Brogden’s $25,000-a-year consultancy with the legal arm of the global firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, represented. He warned that if the practice was allowed to continue, it could degenerate into MPs of either side announcing sponsorships by ‘big mining companies’.

Mr Carr said the issue was no longer an argument about pecuniary interests. “I’m determined to nip in the bud any notion that might linger out there … that politicians of either side that you can be engaged as consultant on public policy,” he said.

“The role of a Member of Parliament is public policy. It is advice on public policy. That is the role of the Member of Parliament. But to enter a non-specific relationship with a private company and its clients. To get paid for advice on public policy. Now that is fundamentally wrong.”

Mr Carr said he would not pursue a ban on politicians having second jobs, arguing that might preclude farmers or lawyers or small business people from pursuing political careers.

The debate should be about whether the practice in which companies put MPs on the payroll should be allowed.

This could gradually become the norm, he said. “You could have an MP sponsored by a big PR and lobbying firm, an MP sponsored by a big merchant bank an MP sponsored by the advertising companies,” he said.

“And not far behind, you would have mining companies and infrastructure companies. It is intolerable. One way or another, I will get it ruled out.”

Mr Carr said he would ask Cabinet Office to investigate amendments to the legislation banning MPs from such agreements, or perhaps investigating whether any similar business relationship involving an MP should require a contract.

“There is too much obfuscation going on,” he said. (The Herald last Saturday)

Where does Bob Carr get off? Notice he’s careful not to mention sponsorship by developers. When Paul Keating and Frank Sartor suggested in strong terms last year that developers be banned from donating to political parties, Carr said it couldn’t be done except on a national level, because if he banned it in NSW, money would come in from interstate. The same reasoning applies to the sponsorship scandal. The Victorian branch of Price Waterhouse could pay Brogden.

In reality, the solution is clear, on both counts. Make it an offence for a NSW politicians or the NSW Branch of any political party to RECEIVE a donation from a developer or sponsorship money of any sort. Then it wouldn’t matter where it came from.

One thing is certain. The NSW election in March will be very dirty, very bitter, and generally rancid. Stand by for sensational revelations in the Herald tomorrow about a senior NSW Labor figure.

Carr might think that exposing Brogden as just another compromised man-about-town will neutralise corruption and Labor coziness with developers as an issue. It’s a standard political tactic – when your party’s caught looking bad, ensure the other party is exposed as bad as well. No election issue on that, so diffferentiation must occur on safer ground.

But what say people finally feel enough’s enough and curse both houses by putting in community independents or Greens? These plays are settling into place right now on the ground, using the template of Cunningham. It’s happening in Labor and Liberal seats, where both major party candidates aren’t trusted, aren’t good enough, have identikit views (especially on development) or don’t respect their community enough to live in it.

The double wedge play relies on voters not “exhausting” – ie only voting for one candidates and leaving all other boxes blank – but cross preferencing.

Say you’re in a safe Liberal seat. The Greens put up a solid community candidate who attracts about 10% on anti-development feeling. A well known conservative local with a strong with a strong pro-community stand on local development stands, getting 25% The Greens and the independent have enough in common on hot local issues to agree to swap preferences. With this left-right wedge in place, the Liberal MP’s vote collapses to 30% and Labor’s to 35%. The Greens candidate goes out first, putting the independent on 35%. The MP goes out, and his preferences elect the independent!

For this play to work, as it did so well in Cunningham, you need a strong, activist local community whose denizens talk across partisan political lines. You also need hot issues which unite the left and the right. Untrammelled development is one. Integrity in politics is another.

If this play looks like it will work, we’ll start to see the major parties closing ranks and actually preferencing each other in certain seats – Labor/Liberal preference deals – to ensure their hegemony remains intact. Which is what they did with One Nation, in essence. But wouldn’t it look bad, and wouldn’t it make voters wonder what their major parties really stood for, apart from power?

You’ll recall that we had a discussion on ethics recently: See EthicswebdiarySep9Your ethicswebdiarySep10The pursuit of virtuewebdiarySep13. I agree with Webdiarist Noel Hadjimichael that “If the Liberals want to be fair dinkum about transparency and governance they need to look at this issue as a priority. If Labor want to clear the decks before March 2002 they need to act now, before further ICAC time elapses. The major parties dominate only when voters are broadly accepting of their fitness to govern and their preparedness to take tough decisions.”

I doubt if either party would be game, even if either wanted to, to promise to clean up politics. That leaves the media as representative of the people on this one.

I suggest that each local paper around the state questions all relevant candidates in its local seat on ethics and publish the answers or refusals to answer. Anyone know of a pro forma questionnaire that would do the job? It would ask whether the candidate would earn all his or her income from the job of politician if elected, and if not, what other income would be earned and how would actual or perceived conflicts of interest be avoided. If elected, what would the candidate put on his or her pecuniary register if he or she wished to fully inform their constituents of their assets and income – ie wished to comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Would the candidate guarantee not to participate in debates where he or she had a personal financial interest in the outcome?

Most importantly, I’d like to see questions along these lines: What does the word “ethics” mean to you? What do you believe would be your ethical duties to this community if its voters chose you as their representative? How do you intend to fulfil those duties?”

Finally, a word on the former Victorian Liberal treasury spokesman, Robert Dean. Buried beneath the rubble of his career is the smell of deliberate misrepresentation to his voters. Dean faced a tough preselection battle for the seat of Berwick. To avoid accusations that he didn’t live in the electorate, he rented a place there. He won’t say whether he ever lived there, but he did enrol as living there. We do know returned to the much more leafy suburb of Hawthorn, outside his electorate, once he won the preselection, and not only didn’t change his enrolment, but told his Party when asked that he was enrolled in Berwick still. The truth, before the Electoral Commission threw him off the roll when it became clear he wasn’t living there, but a lie to the electoral commission that Berwick was his residential address.

I’ve been amazed that media coverage has portrayed this tactic as smart politics, and that his stupidity was in not doing the paperwork right. You have to wonder whose side some journalists are on. What Dean did was lie to his voters. He lied because voters want their MP to live in their community, because his or her job is to represent that community. He perpetrated the lie when he told his Party he was enrolled Why would he, or anyone else, WANT to live elsewhere? I’d would have thought it would be a matter of great pride to be elected to represent your community. How can you do that if you don’t live there and experience it on a daily basis? Dean’s behaviour is just the latest example of the big con many major party politicians engage in. They’re in politics for themselves. That’s all.

John Howard’s response? Nothing, except that it was “yesterday’s story”. When will a political leader have the guts to call a spade a spade and condemn MPs in their party who think nothing of cheating their voters and demeaning themselves – all for the sake of NOT living in the area they represent? When voters punish them until they do.


Harry Heidelberg (nom de plume)

We now live in an environment where we are justified in being ferocious on ethics and disclosure. Too much has been done and too many people have been harmed to have anything other than a zero tolerance attitude. We need ethics champions in our society. If we don’t, the downward spiral will continue. The disconnect and discontent will simmer on, perhaps with the temperature gradually increasing. No wonder boiling point is reached from time to time and the electorate explodes in anger.

Some large businesses know and understand the new environment. They don’t just give it lip service, they recognize it as an asset. I work for a well known, large US listed company. It is not a company that has been involved in any scandal to date and desperately wants to avoid such a situation.

I am learning more and more about my company and its plans to institute a whistle blowing procedure. It’s better than I thought. All employees will have access to a third party who can be contacted regarding ethical matters. Privacy will be protected and there will be a process to ensure action is taken and disclosure of the action made. I think it’s going to be quite revolutionary in the corporate world.

What about Brogden though? He can’t be an ethics champion. He can’t be part of a modern movement to throw away the bad old ways, because He can no longer be trusted, due to inadequate disclosure and involvement in a deal he should never, ever have allowed himself to be associated with. Am I alleging any wrongdoing in fact? No. I am alleging poor judgement and a failure to recongnise the impact on perceptions his actions would create.

I end up feeling bemused at the stupidity of our elected representatives. For many $25,000 a year is a lot of money. Particularly for those receiving benefits or whatever. For Brogden though, I would suspect such an amount makes no material difference to his life. You have to figure that half of it would have gone in tax so the end amount in his pocket would hardly have made him rich.

This is where the stupidity, the duplicity and all the reasons we hate politicians comes in. It is like Reith and the Telecard. This sort of behavior is so unnecessary and so infuriating.

Why is it infuriating? It is because it is an example of someone selling their name and reputation cheaply. A man who could have changed Liberal politics becomes a man diminished in reputation.

Its only perception but people will wonder. What does the deal with PWC say about Brogden, what implications did it have?

If he wanted to swan around at cocktail parties and get to know the movers and shakers, well and good. Networking and all the rest of it should be part of politics. A beer here, a glass of wine there, a canape somewhere else, well and good. But money changing hands? I think not.

I’m not always comfortable with business donating to political parties and I am even less comfortable with a direct payment to a politician. I am actually quite sure it is all above board but it just sounds so shabby and unfortunate.

Indeed, he sells himself and his party short …. and in the process we are all cheapened.

It also cheapens his appeal and makes us listen less. He marketed himself as some kind of new Liberal. Modern, open, pragmatic, socially responsible, inclusive and all the rest of it.

Now I have an image of a man who would hold a glass of fine wine on the 22nd floor of the PwC building or similar, looking out at the sun setting on the Western Suburbs, hermetically sealed, cosy, comfortable and complacent. The setting may be modern but the mind set is outdated (at best).

Therein lies the disappointment. He’s not in tune with the times. This is a terrible shame because he seemed so promising.

Hey Joh: Costa’s the new demon along the watchtower

For a week now I’ve been tracking the progress of the story that’s resulted in injuries to a journalist on Sydney streets today, but the inevitability of the denouement makes makes me feel no less sick at the behaviour of NSW police minister Michael Costa.

Images of the worst of times in Queensland under Sir Joh keep flashing through my mind. A police officer caught on video repeatedly bashing a protester walking, just walking, in the front line of a march. Sir Joh said onya. Division on the street – regular people with a cause pitted against hundreds of police with batons. No respite, no reason. I fled ultra-conservative Queensland for a place where people’s democratic rights were respected. Now history repeats itself in Labor-run NSW via a police minister who used to head the State’s union movement and now apes a Queensland Premier hated by unionists. Many unionists are protesting today against the WTO meeting. Costa puts hundreds of police on the street to face them, after frothing at the mouth for days on how evil they all are, creating a hyped media event from nothing. It can’t be… It is.

Today, a comment piece I wrote for on the tragedy, extracts of Michael Costa’s mouth-foaming rhetoric of hatred in Parliament yesterday, and an AAP report on his response to today’s tragedy.

The people and corporations whose interests are being represented at the meeting are rich, powerful and well connected, and want to increase their dominance over world affairs. Whether they’re right or wrong, the people outside wanting to protest are virtually powerless, have little money, and aren’t being paid for their commitment. To see them as “David” against Goliath is a gross understatement. Costa’s demonisation of ordinary citizens is despicable. He’s inciting violence on the streets to literally feed off people’s fears and anxieties for his political advantage.


Shove polling: copping it tough before an election

by Margo Kingston

I feel like I’ve been transported back to the days when it was frightening to dissent from government policy in Queensland. The then Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, banned protest marches and condoned police violence against people who marched to protest the ban in order to win and keep conservative voters.

It’s hard to believe that a modern Labor government is blatantly using the Sir Joh precedent more than 25 years later in what looks like a deliberate policy to foster and politically profit from violence on the streets.

The lead-up to today’s injury to a journalist when mounted police charged into protesters in the Sydney CBD is chilling.

It began, ironically enough, when Greens Upper House member Lee Rhiannon asked this question of NSW police minister Michael Costa October 31:

“Will the Minister, as a responsible Minister, ensure that police on duty at the protest planned against the world trade organisation to be held in Sydney next month do not perpetrate violence against protesters, as we witnessed by some police at the S11 Melbourne protest in 2000 and some M1 protests in Sydney? Will the Minister ensure that police exercise their duty of care to protesters in such a way that protesters who infringe any law are arrested and not brutalised by police using their horses, batons or wedge chargers?”

Costa not only refused to give such a guarantee, but called on Rhiannon to resign for hosting – with the permission of Costa’s Labor colleague, Senate president Meredith Burgmann – a forum on civil disobedience to be held in parliament house that Friday. Without a shred of evidence, Costa accused Rhiannon of condoning and promoting violence on the streets.

“I believe that every member of this House, other than Lee Rhiannon and maybe a couple of the nutters that support her on the cross benches, would be appalled by this move by Lee Rhiannon. She speaks very sanctimoniously in the House about things that other members of the House do, yet she is blatantly involved in a process that could lead to violence at the WTO meeting. It is a disgrace. She ought to resign.”

Civil disobedience, as Costa would know as the former head of the NSW Labor Council, is about using non-violent means to make a political statement. Having witnessed the May Day blockade of the Sydney Stock exchange last year, I can personally attest to the discipline and focus of protest organisers to dissuade the few outlaws who sometimes hijack these events from causing trouble. If events were allowed to take their normal course this week the police would have had the cooperation of protest organisers and the great bulk of participants to arrest those with a violent agenda.

The planned protest march against the agenda of the World Trade Organisation meeting in Homebush this week was backed by many unions, Christian social justice groups, environmental groups and many other respectable community organisations Costa now condemns as condoners, if not perpetrators, of violence.

Ms Rhiannon asked a supplementary question: “Minister, will you confirm that, if any protester breaks the law at the WTO meeting in Sydney, they will be arrested and the police will not use inappropriate and illegal tactics?”

Costa’s reply chilled me to the bone. “Let us be clear: People are coming here to have a violent confrontation with the police. Let me say to you: The police will be prepared and I will back the police in what they do.”

The next day, Costa went to town. After getting the Daily Telegraph on the rampage with a page one scream, Costa talked to the shock jocks, led by Alan Jones, to kick the can even more. The police commissioner then accompanied him to Homebush for another rave. Create and incite hysteria, suppress peaceful dissent, and what do you get? Perhaps exactly what you want.

At last Friday’s parliament house forum, rumours began to circulate that routine negotiations with the police to arrange a march permit for the city to protest the WTO meeting (such permits are issued as a matter of course) had suddenly come to a halt. Instructions from “higher up” meant there’d be no permit, junior police started saying. Why on earth would this be so? The march would be miles away from Homebush, where no marches were planned.

On Tuesday, the commander of security for the WTO meeting, one Dick Adams, suddenly announced a black ban on march permits from yesterday to Saturday, when the WTO meeting wound up. I spoke to one of Costa’s people that day. Yes, he’d heard that Adams had just announced a ban, “but that would be an operational decision taken by the commander – we wouldn’t get involved in that”.

Yeah, yeah. The Adams action was nothing short of incendiary. It meant that the only way for dissenters to the WTO agenda to make their point to the public – a street march – had been outlawed. He trashed fundamental civil liberties in the state of NSW. Naturally, the WTO protest organisers decided to march anyway. Costa had set the stage for the violence he claimed he wanted to avoid.

Today, the inevitable result. The protest march took on enormous symbolic importance, heightened emotions on both sides, and probably attracted the attendance of outlaws who mightn’t have bothered to turn up if the cameras weren’t guaranteed by Costa’s actions to be there.

Police let the march happen, in which 1500 people took part, including “scores of media” and “hundreds of police”. That’s right, hundreds. Then the violence – by the police, not the protesters, from reports so far – and an horrific injury inflicted by police on a reporter from the Australian. (At first it was thought that the reporter had broken her pelvis, but doctors later ruled this out.)

“The only injury so far has been Patricia Karvelas, a journalist from The Australian, who was trampled by two police horses. Witness Sally Quilter, a 57-year-old nurse, said: “Somehow she fell to the ground and these two great big horses at the end of the line came out and charged and trampled on her. “There were two big men on them, so that’s a lot of weight. They just rushed into the crowd. I can’t believe they weren’t told to. I can’t believe what I saw.” Ambulance officers treated Ms Karvelas before taking her to hospital with a suspected fractured pelvis.”

What provoked this police action? Superintendent Glen Harrison said there was a small element of the march “committed to provoking violence”.

“Fifty or sixty of the protesters have been pushing and shoving and trying to provoke the police and cause disruption to police and traffic,” he said. Notice he makes no allegation of protester violence. Protesters simply provoked the police into violence. Nice one. Be careful, all NSW citizens. The police under Michael Costa are ready to do violence if “provoked” by a push or a shove.

What a sad way to try to win an election. What dangerous games are being played, what civil liberties are being trashed, to keep this disreputable, cynical government in power. Pity the police on the street who did nothing to encourage this disgusting spectacle, yet got enmeshed in it on the orders of their superiors after their minister’s orchestration.


NSW Parliament, Wednesday, November 13

Ms LEE RHIANNON: My question is directed to the Minister for Police. What possible justification is there for banning peaceful protest methods such as walking and holding banners at the World Trade Organisation [WTO] Sydney meeting? Does the Labor Government want to protect Trade Ministers from reading banners critical of WTO policies? Is a banner an offensive weapon? Is walking violent? Does the Minister concede that the heavy-handed policing methods planned for the WTO are counterproductive and designed to discourage people from attending and exercising their legitimate civil rights peacefully?

MICHAEL COSTA: I am getting sick of Ms. Lee Rhiannon leading with her chin but she has once again taken the opportunity to do precisely that. Part of her question could have been reasonably intelligent. I would not have minded explaining what the WTO stands for and giving intelligent critiques of the problems associated with some of the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. There are some good critiques in that regard that people should read. But Ms Lee Rhiannon did not ask that question so we cannot go into policy issues.

… Ms Lee Rhiannon focused on the rabble who are seeking to take control of our streets and to use a legitimate vehicle in our democracy – the right to protest – to carry on in a ratbag manner. I have already outlined to Parliament several times the sorts of people who are associated with WTO protests. They are open about their actions: Their views are on the web site. I have the details in front of me. These same people recommend that protesters purchase metal baseball bats because they are lighter than wooden ones to use against police or to purchase paints “to throw on pigs”that is a direct quote from the web site. The list goes on and on. These people have signalled clearly that they are coming to Sydney to cause problems not only for the community but for delegates who will attend the WTO meeting. I understand that those delegates will, for once, discuss issues to do with global poverty and how we can stabilise international trade. They are important issues about which some community elements have important views, many of which are not positive regarding the WTO’s actions.

That should be dealt with intelligently. I have not heard Ms Lee Rhiannon say anything intelligent other than to talk about civil disobedience. As honourable members know she has defined civil disobedience very precisely, that is, the right to break laws that she does not agree with.

Would Ms Lee Rhiannon explain which laws of this State are oppressive and people have a right to civilly disobey? The fact of the matter is her proposition is that civil disobedience is the way forward because of unjust laws – and that is a legitimate tactic – but Ms Lee Rhiannon has never identified the laws about which people should engage in this sort of action. Is it the law to peacefully protest? Police will permit people to go to a number of venues in the city and peacefully protest but that does not entitle them to run down the streets and cause mayhem, targeting commercial and government businesses and other institutions that they label as being against their ideological views.

Ms Lee Rhiannon has a major problem. She needs to do a number of things. Firstly, she must give the commitment that I ask for: that people associated with the protest will not be involved in violence. She has not given that guarantee. Secondly, I ask Ms Lee Rhiannon to apologise for what the ratbags in the Greens did on Remembrance Day in Victoria, about which she has been silent. She has the hide to constantly accuse our police prospectively of being involved in police brutality. That is a nonsense; she has no evidence to support that claim. She ought to do the right thing and apologise to the groups she has offended. She should take the opportunity tomorrow and on Friday to urge restraint, caution and a peaceful protest.


Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS (Democrats): Did the Commissioner of Police issue a memo asking police officers who are to be involved in crowd control operations at protests against a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Sydney on 14 and 15 November to remove identification badges from their uniforms?

MICHAEL COSTA: I am not aware of the issue raised by the honourable member. I am happy to determine whether any such memo exists. However, knowing the record of the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, it would not surprise me if he made this up. I am glad that he asked me this question because it gives me an opportunity, once again, to reiterate the position of the Government, NSW Police and all sensible members of this House: We have no problem with people engaging in peaceful protests. We acknowledge that it is a fundamental right to engage in peaceful protest. However, we have a real problem with people arming themselves to go and confront police in a violent demonstration.

Rhiannon: Where’s the proof?

Costa: The proof is there.

Rhiannon: Where?

Costa: If the member had been in the House earlier she would have heard me answer a question about web sites that advocated violence.

Rhiannon: Who put it on the web sites? Your mates?

Costa: It is completely absurd for the Hon. Lee Rhiannon to interject in that form, given that last week she used Parliament House to hold a forum on civil disobedience. By her own definition, civil disobedience is about breaking the law when she believes it appropriate to do so, so that she can gain personal benefit. I was amazed to hear her say that it was appropriate to break the law. That is precisely the issue we are discussing: the right to peaceful protest versus arming for violent confrontation, which is not civil disobedience is a bunch of ratbags taking advantage of democratic rights and principles, and abusing those democratic rights and principles.

It is a shame the Greens are taking this attitude. The Greens ought to explain to this House whether they condone the actions of some of their party members who protested yesterday, Remembrance Day, in Victoria. It was disgraceful. Yesterday two Greens candidates, Robyn Evans and Pamela Curr, were among a number of demonstrators who used Remembrance Day to make an anti-war statement in a manner that was offensive to the veterans who were present at the ceremony. One person involved in that demonstration said she believed that the ceremony was an horrific experience that glorified war, particularly when four vintage planes flew over and a cannon was fired during the service. That is the sort of person we are dealing with! On a day on which we were paying respect to our war veterans, the people who fought for the democratic rights that the Greens want to abuse, they ran a campaign against Remembrance Day. Steve Bracks, the Premier of Victoria, has asked the two Greens candidates to apologise. I ask Ms Lee Rhiannon and the Hon. Ian Cohen to apologise for their actions in this House and to not accuse our police of potentially engaging in violence and to not desecrate the honour of our war veterans and everything else that this country stands for.

Chesterfield-Evans: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister assure the House that police officers will wear their identification badges when on duty so that they can be seen to be accountable while at the meeting of the World Trade Organisation?

Costa: I assure the honourable member that our police will take action to ensure that the community can go about its business on 14 and 15 November without harassment from the hypocrites who come into this House and make unsubstantiated allegations against our police officers before the event. The only evidence that such harassment is likely follows on from the demonstration of 1 May, when demonstrators threw marbles under police horses in an attempt to bring them down. Those hypocrites have the gall to make allegations about our police officers, but the people that they support have been involved in confrontation with our police. They sought to disrupt the New South Wales community, and on Remembrance Day they had the gall to denigrate the memory of those who died protecting the very rights that they seek to abuse. They are a disgrace. The real question is: Will the Greens apologise for the disgraceful effort of their candidates, during the Victorian election campaign, on Remembrance Day? If not, they stand condemned as the hypocrites that they are.


NSW: Costa to table report into journalist WTO protest injury WTO Costa


SYDNEY, Nov 14 AAP – NSW Police Minister Michael Costa will provide a full report after a journalist was injured today by a police horse at an anti-World Trade Organisation (WTO) protest.

Mr Costa agreed to make the report public after he was questioned by NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen in the upper house today.

Patricia Karvelas, a journalist from The Australian newspaper, was rushed to hospital with a suspected fractured pelvis after being stood on by a horse when police charged to arrest protesters.

“I’ve asked for a report from police about it, let me say that I think everyone in the house, including myself and the police involved, acknowledge and send our condolences to her for her injuries,” Mr Costa said.

“She is there, as are many people in the media, to cover events. She is obviously a person who was injured in the course of her work as opposed to somebody that went there illegally to demonstrate like the honourable Ian Cohen.”

Mr Costa said Ms Karvelas was only there because an illegal demonstration was being held.

“And that illegal demonstration was being conducted in the face of police, government and other concerns about the likely outcomes of those sorts of activities in the city,” Mr Costa said.

He disagreed with Mr Cohen’s claim that police action had vilified protesters, saying certain websites by action groups indicated their plans for violent confrontation this week.

“The fact of the matter is that these sites have been advocating violence against the WTO meeting and clearly our police are charged with the responsibility of maintaining social order,” Mr Costa said.

He said protesters were “very sophisticated” and technology was being used to cause “maximum chaos in the city”.

“They are running an SMS messaging service and that service allows people involved in the demonstration to contact and be informed of where they should do something called spin the bottle,” he said.

“The spin the bottle blockade takes on the WTO in a no-holds-barred fight to the finish, and you can join them.

“They come and pretend they’re running peaceful protests – if they wanted a peaceful protest they would go to the ones that have been permitted by the police.”

Mr Costa said he had asked police to detail the cost of the WTO meeting and the cost of all precautions that had to be taken due to the threat of violent protest action.

Margo: The nerve of this appalling person knows no bounds. Police banned all marches from yesterday to Saturday, for the duration of the WTO meeting. The march was illegal because police refused to issue a march permit, out of the blue, after Costa had begun his fear and loathing campaign against protesters. The bill for the cost of putting hundreds of police on the streets today should be sent to Costa: he set the whole thing up.

Pocket politics: it’s about who’s in whose pocket

Ever wondered why politicians didn’t get hot under the collar over the cash for comment scandal? You know, the one where Alan Jones and John Laws got caught red-handed selling their “opinions” to the highest bidder.

Two reasons. The big two shock jocks are powerful and the pollies won’t take on power, in whatever form it takes. They’d prefer to kowtow to it. Underlying this, however, is the fact that the major parties sell access for cash, and, in many cases, are mere salesmen for the interests which fund them. Big companies sponsor their annual conferences these days, and in return get private hearings with the salesmen who’ll represent their interests to the detriment, if necessary, of the public interest. They also sell access at fundraisers.

Here’s a sample of the evidence at the Independent Commission against Corruption hearing into the ‘Oasis” development yesterday. Gary McIntyre, the Bulldogs bloke who was having trouble getting State government help to make his venture super-profitable – ie more pokies and a transfer of Crown land – gave evidence of a conversation he had with one Arthur Coorey, a bloke with, they all say “impeccable Labor connections”.

“I had heard rightfully or wrongfully that donations had been made by the hotel industry prior to the last election…and they had been going alright.”

“He (Arthur) said to me: ‘Well, if you give a million dollars to the party you’ll probably also get what you want at Liverpool.”

The Herald’s CBD business column revealed a corker of cash-for-access abuse last week, an abuse so prevalent that the pollies don’t even make a secret of it any more. Andrew Refshauge is the NSW deputy premier and the planning minister, the one who’s been falling over himself to win back public support for Labor since Cunningham. He announced recently that he’d “call in” all sensitive coastal development to ensure our coastline got the protection it deserved. And we know from Alvin Stone’s piece in Rage in the suburbs that Refshauge as planning minister can and does declare many projects of “state significance” thus overriding local councils and local communities to get them happening, whatever the cost to the community.

So he’d want to appear independent so the public could confidently trust that his judgment would be made on the merits after taking into account all relevant facts, wouldn’t he? Not on your life.

CBD, last Friday

That well-known leftie, Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge, is getting back to basics for his latest fundraiser next week.

The event is being held at that well known Bolshevik hang-out, Aria, at a very proletarian $1250 a head.

That other well-known eastern suburbs socialist (when he’s not a socialite flirting with the property market), Dr Robert Hampshire, is organising the do, along with the help of the former secretary of the NSW Labour Council, Michael Easson.

Left-wing location, left-wing price and left-wing organiser. How very convenient. Refshauge is also in charge of planning in NSW, which is why it makes sense to have a property developer plan the do.”

So what do you do? Kick out the Labor Government and put in John Brogden’s Liberals to clean up NSW and deal the public back into the game?

You’ll get more of the same if you do. On Wednesday the Herald blew the lid off the carefully constructed good-guy image of Liberal leader John Brogden, showing he’s just as much part of the disintegration of trust in the political system as everyone else.

The people vote in politicians and they pay them well. Brogden, as an elected representative, let alone a major party frontbencher, now leader, is supposed to represent them full time, carefully weighing competing interests to produce a result on the merits. It is imperative that he not be paid by anyone else. So what does Brogden do?

At a time when he was in the most sensitive portfolio possible, that of planning, he signs up with Price Waterhouse, earning $25,000 a year – $110,000- between 1997 and 2001 – for what? Something “very minor”, says Brogden, “just general public affairs advice”. Money for nothing, John? Spare us. It sounds to me like Price Waterhouse bought the Brogden name cheap to parade him at cocktail parties to enhance the power and influence of the Price Waterhouse brand.

The conflict-of-interest perception problems are legion. I’m not saying Brogden was corrupt in any way, but he’s bound to get caught out on perception. The Herald reported that as planning spokesman he asked two parliamentary questions about a development with which Price Waterhouse was involved.

If that’s not bad enough, John Brogden, front-man for an Opposition looking to win government by exploiting the failings of a pro-developer ALP and convincing voters he’ll do the right thing by them, didn’t tell the truth in his pecuniary interest register.

The regulations for declaring pecuniary interests state that MPs must declare income with a “description sufficient to identify the person from whom, or the circumstances in which, the income was, or is reasonably expected to be, received”.

Pretty simple really – make your disclosure transparent so any potential conflicts of interest are fully revealed. Brogden’s response? He declares “dividends from shares” from his family company Northmist. Price Waterhouse paid Brogden through Northmist. Brogden’s ‘disclosure’ was meaningless.

Then, after a journalist started nosing around last year, Brogden changed his declaration to read “consultancy income from Price Waterhouse Legal through Northmist”. He revealed yesterday that straight after becoming leader in a coup, he sought advice from a top barrister on whether he was obeying the disclosure rules. Why not tell the whole truth, John? You afraid of something? The last refuge of a bloke with something on his conscience is to bring in the lawyers and argue technicalities.

So, the alternative premier of NSW supplements his income with an ill-defined consultancy ripe with conflict of interest problems then avoids his ethical obligation to disclose it to the people who voted for him.Do you trust this man?

The Brogden scandal comes hot on the heels of Labor protecting one of its ministers, Eddie Obeid, from any consequences for multiple, serial failures to fully disclose his company interests for several years. First Carr scuttles a full investigation by an upper house committee, then he accepts Obeid’s latest apology. This is the same Eddie Obeid accused before the Independent Commission gainst Corruption of offering to fix problems with the Oasis development in return for a $1 million donation to the ALP. He denies it, but Carr has not even seen fit to stand him down until the inquiry reports. To top it all off, the bloke who Carr chose to lead the charge against Brogden in Parliament yesterday was none other than Andrew Refshauge!

The contempt with which Bob Carr treats the people of NSW is breathtaking, but is Brogden a viable alternative?

Liberal voter Noel Hadjimichael calls for urgent action by both parties: “The reports about John Brogden’s consultancy fees require a quick and clear answer. The reports about Labor’s Mr Obeid’s family business dealings require some additional thoughts. If the Liberals want to be fair dinkum about transparency and governance they need to look at this issue as a priority. If Labor want to clear the decks before March 2002 they need to act now, before further ICAC time elapses. The major parties dominate only when voters are broadly accepting of their fitness to govern and their preparedness to take tough decisions.”

What can we do? All I can think of to lodge a massive protest vote. If a big slab of us vote for a community candidate we can look in the eye on the street and trust, or a Green who similarly passes the eyeball test, maybe we can frighten the majors into taking their responsibilities seriously. You’ve got a choice after that – to just vote one, or to preference either of the majors. I reckon the maximum impact play is to preference the party which DOES NOT hold your seat. We’d see a massive turnover of MPs, and the realisation by the majors that no seat is safe, that the right to represent people has to be EARNED.

Voters don’t ask for representatives who parrot their views. They want honest, untainted representation. As independent Peter Andren showed in his conservative federal seat of Orange, a minority view, sincerely held, is respected by the electorate, not punished. Peter opposed the post-Tampa refugee policy of Howard. He was returned with an increased majority in last year’s federal election. Peter is honest, intelligent, a strong local representative and a crusader against politicians’ rorts. He’s passed voters’ trust test, and he’s in for as long as he wants.

Is it possible to break through our malfunctioning – perhaps non-functioning “democracy” or do we give up? Webdiarist Jozef Imrich is a librarian who’s been interested in democracy and how to clean it up for a long time. He advises that a few people who care about this unfashionable topic have set up a website called as a forum for issues pertaining to campaign funding, electoral law and parliamentary and congressional ethics.

“Susan Richards, the editor-at-large is like you a fearless woman … (smile). Democracy, after all, is like woman’s work it is never done … as I am typing my wife is still pottering around and it is rather late …,” Jozef wrote.

The media must play a big part in trying to shame the bastards in charge of our political process into at least trying to restore trust. We’ve got to highlight all their excesses, all their institutionalised conflicts of interest, their capitulation to the interests of big business with big money. We’ve got to stop doing what we’ve been doing for a while – accept that this is the way the game is played and not write the stories any more, or the comment pieces, because it’s not NEW any more.

For a start, where do the majors get off banning cigarette advertising and sponsorship for everyone but themselves? Both parties take cash from Phillip Morris to sponsor their conferences and fundraising events. The Canberra Press Gallery should be writing yarns exposing the scandal of big companies “sponsoring” political parties, and editors should be campaigning on the topic. We’ve also got to get stuck into governments on their secrecy – the insidious practice of refusing to reveal information because it’s “commercial in confidence”.