Our destiny: an expat’s perspective


I’ve been meaning to write to your for a long time. Unfortunately, whenever the urge strikes it is always at an inappropriate moment. However today during my lunch hour I read over some of the articles in Webdiary – in particular the insightful, honest and passionate contributions from Canberra on the recent events surrounding the visit of GWB (sorry, I am so repulsed by that man I can’t even bring myself to write his name). I told myself that when I got home, I’d write to you. So here I am. The topic: John Howard.

The destiny of Australia has been on my mind of late. Currently I don’t reside in Australia and haven’t for the past four years. One of the great advantages of living “outside” the cosmos of Australia is that all preconceived ideas are stripped bare. Instead, you come to appreciate the place Australia has in the world, how Australia is perceived by other nations, and how the actions of a country can affect their standing on the world stage.

When I left Australia four years ago I was under the impression that Australia was a “player” on the world stage, a naive thought for a 32 year old. However, 2 years in London working for one of the biggest financial institutions in the world changed all that. When in comes to business and politics, Australia doesn’t count for three reasons – financial, geographical and time.

While we are a developed country we have a very small economy which has little to no impact on the “world” economy. Hence the reason why the Australian economy is in decent shape and remained relatively unaffected during the downward economic cycle the world has found itself for the past few years.

Australia is an island continent so far from the action (both geographically and time wise) that we just don’t count. They forget about us. Even as late as 2001 people in London would say to me, “So, Keating’s still your PM isn’t he?”

During my time working around the world my illusions about Australia’s place on the world stage have been stripped away and replaced with a more balanced view. It’s also been interesting to note that of late I’m received differently when entering countries or talking to people of other nationalities than I used to be, and that’s disappointing.

Having said that, I also say that Australia has an awful lot to contribute to the world. Australia is, or at least it used to be, a country with a “can do” attitude. If there was a problem, Australians would continue until a solution – usually pretty creative – was found. I say “at least it used to be” because over the past 2-3 years, Australians have become complacent and willing to believe whatever propaganda is placed in front of them. However I feel the tide is turning and the population is becoming less complacent and more willing to question the motives of their elected officials (federal, state and local).

And this leads me to John Howard. I’ve just finished reading a book titled The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. It’s fiction based on the author’s relatives’ remembered stories of the family history from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century, following their path across South East Asia. The end of the book sees the reunion of a niece with her uncle whom the family lost contact with after the WWII when they returned to India and he was trapped in Burma.

The uncle grew up in Burma and decided to stay, in the process watching the death of democracy and Burma’s decline under dictatorship. I’m sure Mr Ghosh won’t mind if I quote from the final passages of this novel – a discussion between Uncle and niece after listening to the weekly talk given by Aung San Suu Kyi. The uncle says that she is the only leader he’s ever been able to believe in. The niece asks why:

Because she’s the only one who seems to understand what the place of politics is – what it ought to be – that while misrule and tyranny must be resisted, so too must politics itself – that it cannot be allowed to cannibalise all of life, all of existence.

To me, this is the most terrible indignity of our condition, not just in Burma, but in many other places too… that politics has invaded everything, spared nothing. Religion, art, family – it has taken over everything. There is no escape from it – and yet, what could be more trivial in the end?

She understands this, only she, and this is what makes her much greater than a politician. She has torn away the masks from the generals’ faces. She has shown them the limits of what she is willing to do, and these limits have imprisoned them too. She haunts them unceasingly, every moment. She has robbed them of words, of discourse. They have no defense against her but to call her an imperialist, which is laughable, when in fact it is they who invoke the old imperial laws and statutes to keep themselves in power.

The truth is that they have lost and they know this – this is what makes them so desperate. The knowledge that soon they will have nowhere to hide, that it is just a matter of time before they are made to answer for all that they have done.

While it’s a bit far fetched to say that Australia is being ruled by a dictatorship, there are some echoes of truth there, and have been for some time. Let me explain.

I’ve never been fan of John Howard. There are many nuances and ticks that indicate the character of a person. For me, the biggest sign is the eyes and I’ve always felt that John Howard had shifty eyes. I was willing to see how he went as PM –

the turning point came during the euthanasia controversy back in the late 90s.

While I know Johnny is probably not the first nor the last politician to do this, I was disgusted that he would so blatantly use the Constitution to negate the Northern Territory law legalising euthanasia, and in the process disregard the wants and needs of the Australian public.

For those who are unaware, the Australian Constitution allows the states to create their own laws, but if a state and federal law are either the same or in contradiction of each other, the Constitution dictates that the federal law will preside. At the time, around 75% of the Australian public were in favour of the Northern Territory law. While I’m not an advocate of suicide, I am an advocate for the right for people to choose what is right for them. You know the saying about not making comment until you’ve walked a mile in another man’s shoes – in no case has this been more applicable.

And that’s what appalled me – that the Prime Minister of the country overrode popular opinion and the opinion of his own party and used the Constitution to force his own morale code on to the public. That was a red letter day for me and it only seems to have gotten worse since then. For me, decisions such as following the US in invading Iraq was inevitable given other things he allowed to take place during his time as Prime Minister.

The other issue that literally turned my stomach was the incident with High Court Justice Michael Kirby. The behaviour of a certain Senator was bad enough, but when you consider that it was with the PM’s full knowledge I was appalled. And it wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time this type of behaviour occurred.

Have you ever asked yourself why John Howard, despite pressure from the general public – and the then President of the US, Bill Clinton – never really criticised Pauline Hanson? It was because she was saying what he, as Prime Minister, couldn’t without adverse damage to his reputation. I’ve been appalled that the PM uses his party members and other members of parliament to achieve his objectives while appearing to remain Mr “Squeaky Clean”.

John Howard is the ultimate “Teflon Man”. No matter what happened you could never really make anything stick to him no matter how much you knew, in your heart of hearts, what he did and how culpable he was.

To me John Howard is the worst kind of person – a hypocrite. He expounds virtues and morals yet he has little to none. He expounds on protecting Australia, her freedoms and rights. John Howard would like Australians to see him as a compassionate man, yet this is a man who refuses to fight for the rights of Australians being held unlawfully by the United States military; a man who willfully ignores the doctrines and conventions of the United Nations; a man who unlawfully detains people seeking entry to this country under refuge status to flee persecution in their lands of origin.

I found the 2001 election laughable. I was in Australia for a few months and the Coalition’s campaign was straight out of Hollywood. If you’ve ever seen the movie The American President – I’m aware of the irony – you’ll know exactly what I’m referring too.

Toward the end of the movie, Michael Douglas’ character Andrew Sheppard makes an impromptu speech at the daily White House press briefing. To me, its one of the best scenes and dialogue in a movie, and the parallels with the Coalition tactics in the 2001 election are unbelievable:

How to win an election? Make people afraid of something and then find someone to attach the fear to so the people have someone to direct their anger at. In this respect, September 11 couldn’t have come at a better time, as it generated a fear factor unlike anything anyone form the baby boomers down have ever had to face. The Baby Boomers are probably the biggest demographic in the electorate – a group of “middle age, middle income, middle class voters who remember with longing an easier time”.

While the opposition was trying to focus on the problems Australia was facing (education, health, unemployment, increased taxes), John talked about protecting Australia from the terrorists. He made sure Australians linked terrorists to both Islam and people from the middle east, thereby cleverly creating the link to a group who will induce fear and bring terror into the average Australian’s daily life.

To top it all off, the Coalition publicity machine in conjunction with the foreign minister showed footage of “boat” people throwing their children overboard to jump the queue to get into Australia, while ensuring the link to Islam and the middle east is very clear. It then babbles “Do we really want these kind of people in Australia?”, talks about improving boarder protection and hey, presto you’ve won an election by instilling fear into the electorate while sidestepping the real issues.

If John Howard is willing to go to these lengths to stay in power, what else is he willing to do? I’ll tell you. By calling anyone with enough intelligence and audacity to question the government un-Australian. The persecution of the ABC is a case in point. And it is here we can start to relate the performance of John Howard with the passages from The Glass Palace.

And the opposition aren’t much better. I always thought the mainstay of the political process in Australia was for all elected members of both Houses to question the laws being implemented in the running of Australia – to debate their relevance. I think some members of the Labour Party would dearly love to do that, but the price is political suicide, particularly if you want a political career and have ambitions for higher office.

Simon Crean seems to dictate to the labour troops much the way John Howard dictates to the Coalition’s. We end up with a group of elected officials who are too scared to question for fear of being vilified. The irony – they end up being vilified anyway for sitting on their hands and doing nothing. History will not be kind to this crop of politicians.

The greatest thing I have at the moment is hope. And hope is a powerful thing. I hope that members of the opposition, whatever their political persuasion, will start to question the government and be brave enough to face down the wrath of their own party. I also hope the journalistic community and the Australian public continue to increase their questions of our elected officials.

The reward – the respect of a disillusioned Australian public and the satisfaction that you can go to bed with a clear conscience knowing that you tried to do what was morally right instead of being complacent. I know all those people are out there – they just need to make their voices a bit louder to be heard over the baying of the sheep.

Keep asking questions and you will “rip the mask” from John Howard’s and the government’s face so that they have no discourse, nowhere to hide and will have to finally be accountable for their actions.

Thank you, Margo, for Webdiary and for providing a forum where people are allowed to express their opinions. By doing this you allow a balanced view of the Australian political and social landscape. Whether you are aware of it or not, a large majority of people appreciate your commitment and your passion to truly free speech.

Howard’s letter to Kylie’s MP


Beauty and the barb, by Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com

Here is the letter John Howard wrote to Kylie Russell’s MP Graham Edwards in reply to Edwards’ letter of protest the day after Howard failed to invite the war widow to a wreath laying ceremony by George Bush in honour of our war dead.

I’ve also republished Mr Edwards’ letter, a letter from Gini Hole in The Canberra Times on Wednesday and a reply from the War Memorial’s head of public affairs Ian Kelly which indicates deep dismay at the lack of respect shown by the Prime Minister to Kylie Russell. War Memorial staff are determined to ensure that the snub does not diminish an Australian sacred site.

My Sun Herald column on Sunday is about this matter. In Question Time next week Edwards will ask Howard to reveal who is responsible for the “oversight”, whether the SAS officers invited to attend requested the inclusion of Kylie in honour of their dead colleague Andrew, and how this unforgivable cold shoulder to Kylie and her baby daughter Leisa occurred. In a terrible irony, George Bush chose to dedicate the wreath he laid to Sgt Andrew Russell – the only soldier so far killed during our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and Howard failed to invite his widow to the ceremony.

I hope Edwards has more success in getting the truth out of Howard than we journos, who’ve been unable to penetrate Howard spin doctors’ cone of silence.


29 October 2003

The Hon Graham Edwards MP

Member for Cowan

PO Box 219


Dear Mr Edwards,

I have received your letter of October 24 about Mrs Russell.

As you may now know, Mrs Russell’s failure to be invited to attend the wreath laying ceremony at the Australian War Memorial last Thursday was a most regrettable oversight.

President Bush had indicated in his speech on the same day that he would dedicate the laying of his wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to her late husband, Sargeant Russell, and the long line of Australians who had died in service for our country.

I can assure you that neither Mrs Russell’s activities nor criticisms of the Government in relation to war widows in any way contributed to her failure to be invited.

I have written to Mrs Russell extending the Government’s deep regret that she was not invited to the War Memorial at which her presence and that of her daughter would have been entirely appropriate.

Yours sincerely,

John Howard


Hon John Howard

Prime Minister

Parliament House

Canberra 2600

Dear Prime Minister

I write to urge you to contact the widow of Sgt Andrew Russell and apologise for her not being not invited to attend the wreath-laying ceremony in honour of her husband at the War Memorial.

Mrs Russell was distressed that she had no prior knowledge of this event, until she was advised by media outlets about the mention of her husband in President Bush’s address to Parliament.

I am not sure whether Mrs Russell would have wanted to make the trip. I am sure, however, that she would have liked to have been advised and at least invited.

I contrast your dealings with her to your dealings with the victims of Bali. Those who lost loved ones and those who were victims in Bali have been brought to Canberra on two occasions and quite deservedly treated with a great deal of compassion, sympathy and given much support in the process of healing.

Why was Mrs Russell not extended the same comfort and support at this most important time when both you and the President of the United States made much of the sacrifices of our Defence personnel?

Mrs Russell is a constituent of mine and I know she has been very active in seeking a better deal for war widows and that she has at times been critical of you, your Government and your Ministers.

I believe the people of Australia would be affronted if this is the reason she was not invited to attend the ceremony at the War Memorial or the barbeque at The Lodge.

You may not have known that the President was going to mention Sgt Russell, although I would be surprised if you did not. You certainly knew, however, that members of the Australian Defence Forces who have been involved in the war against terrorism were invited to the Australian War Memorial for the wreath-laying ceremony.

Mrs Russell should have been extended the same courtesy and she deserves your apology.

Yours sincerely

Graham Edwards


Canberra Times letters published October 29 and 30

Hearts of steel

How can some of your correspondents carp and complain at Senator Bob Brown’s behaviour towards George Bush when our Prime Minister’s behaviour towards SAS trooper Andrew Russell’s widow, Kylie Russell, was to forget that she existed?

How can the collective memory of the Prime Minister’s department, the War Memorial, the Defence Force and the Embassy of the United States of America overlook the young widow? All the words of gratitude and sympathy fall emptily amongst the grandstanding.

These people must have hearts of steel and short memories.



Out of the blue

In reply to Gini Hole (CT letters, October 29), the Australian War Memorial would like to reiterate that at no time was it informed President Bush was planning to dedicate his wreath laying specifically to Sergeant Russell.

Like most people, the first we were aware of this was when the President referred to Sgt Russell in his address to the joint sitting of parliament.:

“This afternoon I will lay a wreath at the Australian war memorial, in memory of Sgt Russell and the long line of Australians who have died in service to this nation.”

102,000 Australians have died in the service of their country during war. The Australian War Memorial commemorates each and every one of them.

I can assure Gini Hole that there are no hearts of steel here, and when it comes to honouring our war dead, we have very long memories.

IAN KELLY, public affairs, Australian War Memorial


Previous Webdiaries:

1. Snub for war widow, October 27

2. War widow’s long wait for PM’s apology, October 29

3. Kylie’s statement, October 30

Teeth bared, Howard’s team mauls our latest outbreak of democracy


Martin Davies image. www.daviesart.com

I haven’t heard a speech like George Brandis’s since the one Tony Abbott made just after the 1998 Queensland election when Howard decided to switch from appeasement of One Nation to its destruction by whatever means available (Unmasked Howard gets amnesia on Hanson).

Now it’s the turn of the Greens. After the Greens interrupted George Bush, Rehame reported that 33 percent of talkback callers supported their actions. That’s way too high for such a radical action in normal times. And the Bush show choreographed for Howard’s aggrandisement is gradually being exposed – see today’s Canberra Times for proof that the blanket security was a sham: AFP put clerks on Bush duty: Claim sparks internal inquiry. Something’s gone wrong for the Government, very wrong.

This week the Government began talking up the Democrats. They’re tagging them reasonable people ready to work constructively to get compromises on controversial bills.

The reason? The government knows that moderate Liberal voters have lost faith, having realised that the Liberal Party no longer represents their beliefs. The recent formation and growing membership of the Reid Group in Sydney illustrates the trend. It’s co-founder, former Beazley chief of staff Syd Hickman nailed the disenfranchisement of true liberals in Can Liberalism fight back?

The Brandis attack is designed to persuade disaffected Liberals not to vote Green and to vote Democrats if they can’t bear to stay with the Liberals. It’s a scare campaign, pure and simple. Don’t be surprised at its viciousness – just remember what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned about the American government in George John’s exploitation of S11 to get uglier:

Yet it’s almost certainly wrong to think that the political exploitation of Sept. 11 and, more broadly, the Bush administration’s campaign to label critics as unpatriotic, are past their peak. It may be harder for the administration to wrap itself in the flag, but it has more incentive to do so now than ever before. Where once the administration was motivated by greed, now it’s driven by fear.

In the first months after Sept. 11, the administration’s ruthless exploitation of the atrocity was a choice, not a necessity. The natural instinct of Americans to rally around their leader in times of crisis had pushed Bush into the polling stratosphere, and his re-election seemed secure. He could have governed as the uniter he claimed to be, and would probably still be wildly popular.

But Bush’s advisers were greedy; they saw Sept. 11 as an opportunity to get everything they wanted, from another round of tax cuts, to a major weakening of the Clean Air Act, to an invasion of Iraq. And so they wrapped as much as they could in the flag.

Now it has all gone wrong. The deficit is about to go above half a trillion dollars, the economy is still losing jobs, the triumph in Iraq has turned to dust and ashes, and Bush’s poll numbers are at or below their pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Nor can the members of this administration simply lose like gentlemen. For one thing, that’s not how they operate. Furthermore, everything suggests that there are major scandals – involving energy policy, environmental policy, Iraq contracts and cooked intelligence – that would burst into the light of day if the current management lost its grip on power. So these people must win, at any cost.

The result, clearly, will be an ugly, bitter campaign – probably the nastiest of modern American history. Four months ago it seemed that the 2004 campaign would be all slow-mo films of Bush in his flight suit. But at this point, it’s likely to be pictures of Howard Dean or Wesley Clark that morph into Saddam Hussein. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has already rolled out the stab-in-the-back argument: If you criticize the administration, you’re lending aid and comfort to the enemy.

This political ugliness will take its toll on policy, too. The administration’s infallibility complex – its inability to admit ever making a mistake – will get even worse. And I disagree with those who think the administration can claim infallibility even while practicing policy flexibility: On major issues, like taxes or Iraq, any sensible policy would too obviously be an implicit admission that previous policies had failed.

In other words, if you thought the last two years were bad, just wait: It’s about to get worse. A lot worse.

The Greens now matter and Howard is out to destroy the latest people’s movement. In this context, it’s worth re-reading Tim Dunlop’s great piece Pauline Hanson’s gift to democracy. The Greens have a long established party structure, so the One Nation technique won’t work with this enemy. Webdiarist Simon Moffitt has tracked the roots of the government’s political assassination technique for the Greens:

Have you wondered where Liberal Senator George Brandis got his Greens/Nazism idea? I’ve been looking into the Psychology of Conservatives vs Liberals and came across Australian academic Jon Ray promoting the line, connecting the ideals of the Left to individuals like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. This is the far right conservatism of the Neo-Cons, Bush and Rush Limbaugh. I thought Howard’s behaviour was just desperate opportunism of the worst kind, but now I’m not so sure, and that scares me. For an idea of what the other side is saying from an Australian perspective go to brookesnews.


Brandis is a moderate who fought hard against the excesses of Howard’s anti-terrorism and ASIO legislation. He threatened to die in a ditch to stop the executive government getting the power to ban political organisations it didn’t like without reference to Parliament, yet now tags the Greens an enemy of the State.

This is the pathetic position liberal moderates are now in. Howard and co tell them to play attack dog to prove their loyalty, with the promise that upon sufficient proof they’ll get promotion. Chris Pyne’s been at it for years, and so was Helen Coonan until she walked away from the moderates to secure a ministry. Brandis last played attack dog big time in the unthrown children inquiry.

I spoke to an unrepentant George Brandis today. He said he was preparing a major speech further developing his theories. Later today, Howard did his standard trick. Set the hares running then appear to distance himself – he understands George’s attack but wouldn’t have used those words. He stays clean, the hate takes off. Will it work?

Webdiarist Jozef Imrich found this Los Angeles Times piece, In White House Actions, A Troubling Echo of Life in Communist China by Liu Baifang, an American citizen who emigrated from China in 1977. He writes:

Lately, I find myself worrying about my adopted country, the United States. I’m alarmed that dissent is increasingly less tolerated, and that those in power seem unable to resist trying to intimidate those who speak their minds. I grew up in the People’s Republic of China, so I know how it is to live in a place where voicing opinions that differ from official orthodoxy can be dangerous, and I fear that model… I am getting a whiff of the Leninism with which I grew up in the air of today’s America, and it makes me feel increasingly uneasy.

…I could not help but think about China recently during the flap over former State Department envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV, who angered the White House with his finding that documents suggesting Iraq had tried to acquire nuclear material from Niger were in all likelihood forged. The administration went ahead anyway in citing the documents as part of its justification for invading Iraq. After Wilson wrote an article for the New York Times calling attention to the deception, someone in the administration allegedly leaked information to the press that Wilson’s wife was an undercover CIA agent. In China, it was not just one official like Wilson who was targeted for retribution but countless individuals, many of whom spoke unwelcome truths about their country, only to be rewarded with public shaming or prison sentences.

…I also worry about what I see happening to our media and freedom of the press. The Bush administration has repeatedly made clear that it does not welcome skeptical, penetrating questions. White House spokesmen have made it clear that they view the Washington press corps as a corrupting “filter” on the news. Reporters and publications seen as unsympathetic to the administration’s goals find it harder to get access to officials. Recently, Bush made an end run around the entire White House press corps by going directly to regional television outlets in the hopes of being better able to spin the news at the local level.

Indeed, Bush press conferences, which I enjoy watching, seem to me to have become more and more like those held by the Chinese Communist Party: Nothing but the official line is given, and probing questions from reporters, which are crucial to advancing the public’s understanding of the government’s actions, are often evaded or ignored… Open inquiry, freedom of expression and debate are essential parts of a well-functioning democracy. When leaders disdain debate, ignore expert advice, deride the news media as unpatriotic and try to suppress opposing opinions, they are likely to lead their country into dangerous waters.

Jozef also recommends an interview with the Union Theological Seminary’s Joseph C. Hough on the intersection of politics and religion, why it is the duty of Christians, Jews and Muslims to fight growing economic inequality together and why he suspects that the time for a non-destructive, civil disobedience may be near.

At this time, us journos need to remember and apply Paul Krugman’s guidelines for reporting a revolutionary regime outlined in Howard cancels democracy for Bush and beyond: Can we stop him?

1. Don’t assume any policy proposals make sense in terms of their stated goals

2. Do some homework to discover the real goals

3. Don’t assume the normal rules of politics apply

4. Expect a revolutionary power to respond to criticism by attacking

5. Don’t think there’s a limit to a revolutionary powers objectives

Webdiarist Philip Gomes has some calming advice:

Pity the Greens, threatened with being bagged, tagged, and shagged by our Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and labelled Fascists and Nazis by Liberal senator George Brandis. Clearly the ghosts at the beginning of the last century still stalk us at the beginning of this one. Is this an age old struggle destined to be repeated forever, or are we seeing the death knell for Fascist Corporatism? Do the consequences of the adventurism in Iraq spell the last gasp of tired old men still wedded to these ghosts of the 1930s?

It may be time for some to re-read Umberto Eco’s Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. And for a view from the last century, see The Danger of American Fascism, a piece written in 1944 by Henry Wallace in the New York Times.

Maybe Senator Brandis should have a good hard look at himself in the mirror in view of this quote by the father of modern Fascism, Benito Mussolini “Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power.” Sounds like Liberal Party and neo-liberal policy to me.

If it walks like a duck……….maybe it’s time for Steve Irwin to tackle ducks not Greens.

It’s been a big two weeks in Australian political life, I think we’re all a bit tired and emotional.

Did you read Alan Ramsey’s call today for courage in journalism, Crying out for some stirrers of the old school: Where are you, Tom Fitzgerald, when we need you? He wrote: “All this is apropos of a piece of journalism by the celebrated American columnist Russell Baker in a review of a book, The Awful Truth: Losing Our Way in the New Century, by Paul Krugman.” Phil Kendall found the link: nybooks. Phil writes: “The theme is revolutionaries. Ramsey cries out. But it’s all in his hands, and those of a few other “opinion leaders.” THEY could save OUR democracy, just by stopping the bullshit. If they wanted to. Easy”

No it isn’t Phil. Believe me.

Before your reaction to George Brandis, a piece on our democracy by Sean O’Donohue, who writes: “Whilst I don’t always agree with you or the other participants, I invariably feel the need to defend you whenever you are attacked. Such attacks, some so unnecessarily personal, are the price you pay for your independence, I guess. Which is how I found myself devoting an hour or two writing a piece advocating greater democracy. In a way web-diary embodies that spirit of participation. Keep well.”

Can anyone answer a question from Roy Wilke? “Up here in Brisbane last February, if I remember correctly, The Courier-Mail’s front page was dominated with a story over how Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” had been loaded onto four cargo ships which were to remain at sea until it was safe for them to return their cargoes to Iraq. Not a word has been said or written since about this. It would be interesting to track this particular yarn down, considering the odyssey of the MV Cormo Express during these past weeks.”


Reinventing our democracy

by Sean O’Donohue

Senator Brown’s somewhat muted remarks from the back of the People’s House should be seen as a cri de coeur for participation, even democracy itself. If you and other Webdiary participants will indulge me a little, I would like step back from the immediacy of the fracas surrounding the visits of Presidents Bush and Hu to reflect on the state of that democracy.

I was heartened to see in Debating our democracy, by Webdiarists of all colours that there is an emerging debate on the values that we citizens are seeking in this somewhat overburdened ship of state, Australia Felix.

Communities, even the Leviathan-like communities of modern states like Australia, reinvent themselves with a regularity that is as breathtaking as it is challenging. By and large the modern mechanism of that reinvention is the ballot box. Who would have thought that the extension of universal male franchise to the New South colonials in 1862 would lead to ‘radical social democratic’ experiments that marked the Australian colonies as some of the most progressive administrations in the world of the late 19th century?

Compulsory state-funded education, the beginnings of a state-funded social welfare, the extension of the franchise to women, the minimum wage, the list of achievements is long and impressive. Today, most of us regard them as birthrights – so much part of the social furniture as to be oblivious to their origins.

Without them, democracy is meaningless. Yet each was long-fought-for and hard-won. And each can be considered as an example of democracy reinventing itself. I believe that we are ready for another such reinvention.

Abstract musing on the state of democracy may seem a little ‘off-message’ for comment on the impact of just-concluded visits of the two Presidents. Or do they not provide an opportunity to reflect on the quality of democracy, on what it means to those who so regularly call on it to justify their actions?

For, at its root, isn’t it the absence of democratic legitimacy that so galls opponents of Mr Bush’s sequestration of Iraq? Would not many consciences be salved if the world’s hyper-power had sought to act only with the blessing of the legitimately constituted international body? Undoubtedly.

More than anything, then, Mr Bush represents a basic affront to the democratic principles that putatively justify his own position as President. Those same principles are also the foundation of the Australian parliament’s legitimacy. By analogy, his appearance in our People’s House is an affront those values and those who hold and represent them also, an even greater affront than President Hu’s, whose hypocrisy in insisting on the exclusion of certain members and their guests, at least had the virtue of being rendered transparent by its crudity.

That of President Bush reeks all the more for its appeal to the rule of law and democratic principle. Granted, by all reports, Hussein was a ruthless and bloody dictator whose swift demise is not to be mourned. It is just that it’s very hard to make the case for a change to a more ‘democratic’ regime when those making the case clearly have so little respect for the principles that they are espousing. Which in bypassing the UN is precisely what the Bush Administration did.

As it is at the macro level of international affairs, so it is on the battlefield of Australian democracy. I fear that the shameless invocation of democratic imagery to shroud fundamentally anti-democratic action is gradually seeping in and taking hold of Australia Felix.

After all, what more embodies the egalitarian and democratic ethos of Australia than the barbecue? The familiarity and relaxed bonhomie that the barbie evokes in most Australians was pressed into service not, we now learn, for the Australian State, but rather, the Australian government.

And here I was thinking that Mr Howard and his Liberals were governing ‘for all of us’! Alas no, as the only Australian citizens who were awarded the privilege of tossing shrimps at the proverbial hot plate were not our elected representatives but a hand-picked coterie of largely sporting and business types. (Not a rabble-rousing, chardonnay-sipper amongst them, I hope!)

No doubt the president, with his recently declared love of free speech, relished the opportunity to mix it with the cross-section of ordinary Australians assembled in his honour. And isn’t that what rankles, that the overwhelming majority of our representatives, most notably the leaders of the various opposition parties, were denied the opportunity to present themselves and their (or is that our?) points of view. Not just at the barbecue but in our very own House of Representatives!

Which brings me back to where I started: Bob Brown and his cri de coeur. Much was made of the inappropriateness of his behaviour, of the disrespect shown to both the People’s House and a visiting Head of State. However, if has as been asserted, President Bush’s visit was not to the Australian State but only its government (a distinction that becomes more sinisterly Orwellian with its every repetition) then Senators Brown and Nettle should perhaps be understood as the distant but inexorable voice of those who are not the government.

Or perhaps the barely-audible whisper of democracy itself calling those who would corrupt it to account. After all, Senator Brown was doing no more than reminding democracy’s most strident defender to return to its essential truths: respect for the law and respect for individual rights with respect to two Australian citizens, let alone the countless others unable to avail themselves of the much-vaunted and fundamental rights that form the basis of legitimate US government. He exposed an Australian government (but not a State) either too infatuated or too supine to call them to account. Surely protests like Senators Brown and Nettle represent the best hope for a truly democratic and participatory future.

For isn’t that really what Senator Brown is saying? “Let us participate, let us shape our world by respecting its laws and its institutions?” And isn’t it precisely participation and agency – and by that I mean the capacity to make our world – that is at risk when leaders exclude or ignore alternative voices?

Is that not what also underpins Senator Nettle’s comments on trade? Isn’t that what motivates those who protest globalisation and its excesses?

In a sense, doesn’t it also underpin the rise of right-wing parties around the world, including our own One Nation – the need to participate? And isn’t it the denial of democratic participation, the opportunity to sit down at the table, that spawns hideous bastard offspring like terrorism?

The hallmark of each reinvention of democracy has been a drive toward greater participation, to facilitating the inclusion of as many of a community’s citizens as possible. Isn’t that the reinvention that democracy is now edging towards? And as that reinvention beckons, is it not being resisted by many who supposedly represent its would-be beneficiaries?

Thus, from the dizzy height of his Chesterfield can Mr Howard goad the elites, Mr Bush override international law supposedly to defend it and President Hu doff Mao’s cap to his people, all in the name of democracy.

No, the cri de coeur of Senators Brown and Nettle is a welcome antidote to the spin and downright hypocrisy of the incumbents. More importantly, Senator Brown’s words remind us to return the rule of law to its pride of place. His actions remind us that this is only possible with the active participation of each and every one of us.



Jon Hulme

We learn nothing from history. A colleague of mine pointed out that the recent visit by Bush had all the hallmarks of Hitler’s visit to Paris the day after its Fall on June 23, 1942.

While I’m no historian, when I started looking for references to this visit the timing seemed eerie. After the capitulation by France, Hitler flew in from Belgium for a whirlwind tour. While not as regulated as the Australian model, the streets were all but deserted for Hitler’s three hour visit. Hitler, like most sightseers, had his photo taken with friends, architect Albert Speer and sculptor Arno Breker in front of a number of famous Paris landmarks. Very few parisians saw the brutal dictator, as his visit was controlled by aides and security.

From the web: “From the Opera, the motorcade went on to the Madeleine, one of the city’s numerous memorials to the Napoleonic era, then drove around the Arc de Triomphe and stopped near the Eiffel Tower, where Hitler paused for a travel album snapshot with his artist companions. At Napoleon’s Tomb, in the Invalides, the Fuhrer stared at the red porphyry sarcophagus of Europe’s last great conqueror, and murmured, “This is the finest moment of my life.”

The compliance of Australia is no less than capitulation. John Howard’s egotistical attempt to grab the world stage and appease his US taskmasters while placing the country under greater risk of attack frightens the hell out of me. Yet, I find it amusing that the most fearsome, murderous repressive regime is so easily replicated by our so called democracy because of Howard’s vanity. Hitler’s visit was nothing more than sightseeing of a country under his control. Remove Hitler’s name from that last sentence, replace it with Bush and you’ll find a striking parallel to today.

The length at which the media was controlled, the people subdued and the leader’s protected from all criticism is essentially fascism by any other name. If the liberals are calling the Greens Nazis while they systematically undermine all our rights in the name of economics and the terrorism bogeyman we’re in trouble.

The Greens were the only voice of dissent heard during this time. For that I thank them, for representing my views and showing extreme courage where others are too cowardly to speak up or gagged by a opportunistic lying fascist with bushy eyebrows (pun intended).

Look out John Howard, because when my kids read the history books in fifty years, I’m sure that’s how you’ll be remembered.


Mike Lyvers in Queensland

Margo, I heard Brandis’s hilarious diatribe while driving somewhere yesterday. Aside from amusement my reaction was: totally ludicrous, but turnabout is fair play given how many ridiculous cries of “Nazi!” I’ve heard from Greenies and lefties directed at Howard and Ruddock in recent years.


Marilyn Shepherd in Kensington, South Australia

I listened yesterday with a sort of horrified fascination as George Brandis gave a speech that Senator Faulkner rightly called pompous, overblown and grandiose rhetoric which meant nothing.

Senator Brandis needs to ask himself a couple of serious questions about his deranged rantings:

1. Did Bob Brown or Kerry Nettle lie to the world to blow up an entire country and slaughter thousands of innocent people?

2. Did Bob Brown or Kerry Nettle vote to incarcerate small children in concentration camps in the desert?

3. Did Bob Brown or Kerry Nettle defend the human rights of two Australian citizens who don’t seem to be guilty of one damn thing?

4. Just how many votes did Brandis get – he merely filled a casual vacancy in 2000?

5. How many Liberal senators and members did the scrum contain which held back big, mean Kerry Nettle from giving Bush a letter?

Fair dinkum, anyone listening to Brandis would have been forced to believe that Bob had invaded Poland at the very least. These two democratically elected Senators, unlike Brandis nominated by the Liberal Party, merely spoke for tens of thousands of Australians in our Parliament.


Peter Fimmel

Having read most of the piece on George Brandis’s diatribe in the Senate one can only conclude that this unelected Senator from Queensland must be an intellectual midget.

How does he expect anyone to take him seriously when he accuses of being a Nazi someone who is prepared to stand against the tide of Coalition ideologues in drawing to everyone’s attention the plight of two Australians locked up in a 21st century concentration camp. His logic escapes me.

The Senator seems to be trying to raise to the status of high art the substitution of animal chatter noises in place of reasoned argument in political debate.


Carolyn Kollosche

Margo, I thank goodness for your column, where the truth is written about things that are going on in our ‘democracy’. Who is George Brandis to talk about democracy – ha! We don’t have one anymore, and it started slipping when the current government forced the peaceful Falun Gong protestors to remove their signs and music when there was a visiting Chinese politician a couple of years ago. This insult to our ‘democracy’ was the beginning of my passionate political views, and it is all just being compounded in the last twelve months, culminating in the events of last week. As for the Greens being Nazis, look in the mirror, George Brandis.

At the next election, many of the disaffected members of our (former) democracy will be voting for the Greens, in support of their courage not to destroy our democracy and put forward the view of ordinary Australians (or, have you forgotten them?)

PS. I find it highly amusing that the devout supporters of our government can only criticise Margo and Webdiary by resorting to crass insults. Thank you Bob Brown and Margo Kingston, for allowing us a voice.


Peter Funnell in Canberra

What rock did this Brandis fellow crawl out from under? I was amazed at his outburst against Brown – Howard has certainly collected quite a team of attack dogs. Truth and decency are no obstacle at all. There is a real menace about these people.

On another matter – I really think the Iraq situation has reached a critical phase. The bombings are the visible sign, but it’s the nature of the targets that reveals the breadth of the problem. The US is keen to get out quickly. The UN might have passed the last resolution on Iraq, but noone is obliging the US by rushing to assist.

Can you blame them? It reminds me of Vietnam (remember Vietnamisation) and the only thing missing now are suggestions of an “honorable peace”. The reality is that the war is not yet over. It has just gone into a new phase.

To counter this phase – close to what used to referred to as counter revolutionary warfare – a lot more troops are needed. That is not what the US want to do, and we are nowhere to be seen and simply don’t have the capability available.

I am still amazed at the paucity of planning by the US authorities. Just amazed. It’s much more than intelligence failure, to fail to predict likely outcomes.

Iraq could easily be delivered up to an even greater mess than under Saddam. The sadness is that things won’t get much better until the war is won. There is no way around this one. If possible, it would be good to get some informed observations on this matter.


Jenny Green

Thanks again for the amazing job you’re doing of keeping us (those who choose to be!) as informed as possible about the scary, scary times we live in. You’re really brave – yours is almost the only journalistic voice game enough to even start a commentary on this stuff, let alone such an open-minded one – and that must be frightening for you at times!

Who is Andrew Bolt? I have never heard of him. Can you tell me something about his background? (Margo: He’s a rabid right wing commentator who gives speeches at Liberal Party functions and was the person chosen to leak the top secret Wilkie report to in order to smear and discredit Wilkie’s testimony to the British WMD inquiry.)

My head fell off reading his articles – such cunning pieces of propaganda, a small handful of concrete facts twisted to suggest that the Nazi regime was a direct result of loving care of and attachment to the earth. Goebbles would be proud – this Bolt person manages to get away with stopping the story there – aside from the briefest mention of the state of Germany after Versailles. He makes Greens sound like members of a satanic cult.

I don’t believe that his articles are an outpouring of heartfelt conviction. They leave out information I was familiar with by the age of ten. They’re well-constructed propaganda. And as a jew, his link between the Green party and the Holocaust is unforgivable.

I’ve been away for a week or so – had to read all the webdiary stuff since 21/10 in a row. Like Steve Wallace I was certain that Iraq had no WMD, if for no other reason that the country itself was in an increasingly wretched state post Gulf War 1. And I’ve never seen much to convince me that Saddam put any resources or funds into anything but preserving his own and his associate’s personal lifestyle and interests.

I argued and argued and argued with friends and family – yes, I’m the loony leftie in the family – but the only way I could make them believe that I was serious was to have a bet with all of them that 6 months after war was declared the Coalition would not have found WMD. I won.

You know, when this whole thing started with 9/11, I was convinced that I had seen this stage of the history cycle before. (I did archaeology and ancient history at uni.) I was convinced we were seeing the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire – that the white west was growing sterile and complacent and would therefore begin to crumble under fresh pressure. All the art being made seemed to confirm this too – nowdays everything is either decadence or propaganda.

After Iraq, and the amazing lack of response from the majority of Australians (HOW can John Howard not have suffered like Blair over this? Would it take Andrew Wilkie committing suicide, God forbid??)

I reckon that we’re in the last days of the Roman Republic about to usher in the era of dynastic empire. The lineage may be one of political affiliation rather that of blood, but empire nonetheless. I hold out some hope for Old Europe though – I reckon they’re Greece/Byzantium – head down, internally building up power, fostering scholarship.


Don Wigan

Senator Brandis’s ravings should be too contemptible to need a response. He was just doing a hatchet job for his party, the same as he did during the Certain Maritime Incident inquiry.

But his and his party’s astonishing hypocrisy demand some sort of reply. In the attack he quotes from that acknowledged crusader for human rights, Andrew Bolt. So fiercely independent is this hack that he was entrusted with the leak of classified material in a futile attempt to discredit Andrew Wilkie. Senator Brown was the first to demand the AFP investigate this crime. Perhaps this attack was payback time, the same as happened in America to the spouse of the person blowing the gaff on the Uranium from Niger fraud.

Nazism? Fascism? And they’re accusing the Greens??? Let us remember:

1. This party’s leader avoided parliamentary debate about the commitment to invading Iraq by pretending that he hadn’t yet made up his mind (even though troops had been despatched) and therefore would not discuss hypothetical.

2. This reluctance did not prevent him at every opportunity heating up the warnings about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the threat they posed to the rest of the world, especially if given to terrorist groups. We now know there was no buildup of WMD and that the propaganda about this was essentially lies and distortions.

3. When no WMD were found, the invasion was rationalised as ‘liberating the Iraqi people from an inhumane despot’. On this, they were on firmer ground. Despite the chaos and panic shootings there at present, Robert Fisk confirms the Americans are not in the same league as Saddam Hussein’s thugs.

However, a concern for the Iraqi people is less convincing when no count is kept of the Iraqi killed and wounded, when innocent unarmed civilians and children are killed in dumb onslaughts attempting to assassinate Saddam Hussein, when depleted uranium weapons are used, when cluster bombs are used on civilians – not to mention Shock and Awe. You don’t use weapons of terror on people you are intending to liberate.

4. The Guantanamo Bay prison fiasco makes the Bush and Howard and their followers the most obscene hypocrites when throwing around allegations about their opponents hating freedom. People are held without trial and even without charge. Leaving aside totalitarian dictatorships, the last country notorious for this abuse was Apartheid South Africa. It was rightly condemned in the free world, leading to sanctions and boycotts. Interestingly, Mr Howard opposed such sanctions at the time. And the current US Vice president, Dick Cheney, won notoriety by opposing calls for Nelson Mandela to be released from prison. Funny how the same players keep cropping up.

I hesitate to compare any regime with Nazi Germany, and I do regret Senator Brandis sinking this low. I will say this about the Bush, Howard and Blair administrations. There are disturbing resemblances between their behaviour, especially when their spin doctors are involved, and Orwell’s 1984.

I hope there are enough democratic forces among the lower political ranks and among some of the media to pull them back from the ugly extremes of the past few years.

Kylie’s statement


Kylie Russell

Text of the letter Kylie Russell sent to The West Australian newspaper on Friday night, the day after the Prime Minister snubbed her.

Despite ones opinion of George W. Bush and his visit to Australia, he is the President of the United States and as such it is a great honour for me, my daughter and our family for him to honour my husband SGT Andrew Russell in his speech to Parliament and at the National War Memorial. His visit to the war memorial should be viewed as an honour to all those fallen in the name of freedom. It is a shame that the leader of our own country has not shown this same honour to our veterans and widows. This outspoken widow has far from finished the campaign to improve veteran entitlements, and therefore will continue to be ignored by our own government as a result.


Correction: In Snub for war widow I said that The West Australian had run quotes from Kylie’s letter to the editor in their Monday scoop that the PM would apologise to her. In fact, The West Australian’s Daniel Clery, a member of the Canberra press gallery, conducted a telephone interview with Kylie on Sunday, and the quotes cited are from that interview. The paper did not publish her letter. Kylie has not been available to the media for comment since that telephone interview.

PM’s apology progressWar widow’s long wait for PM’s apology.

Kylie’s activismWhy SAS widow’s quarrel is a matter of honour.

Howl of the despondent historian


Building bridges, by Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com

Jane Doulman is completing a Phd in history at the Australian National University (ANU). Her subject area is the history of Australian foreign and defence policy.


Never before in my life have I felt compelled to write to a paper or to a journalist or a forum such as Webdiary. Like so many, I am beyond fed up with an inert, intellectually lazy, nepotistic ALP that refuses to grasp the dangerous long term implications of the current government.

I recently decided to vote Green in the next election. It was a profoundly sad decision to make, as I have voted Labor all my adult life.

Where do I stand on Bob Brown’s behaviour last week? We have a Westminster system of government, and anyone who stands and speaks before it must understand that interjection is the Australian way. Long may it prevail.

As for last week’s short-lived US Occupation of Canberra, well it was ‘interesting’ – as in the spirit of the Chinese curse! One can only imagine what living in Baghdad must be like.

On the state of the nation, our decaying democracy and the false projections of fascism onto the Greens by another Howard headkicker, where does one start? I sit at my desk piled high with books and journals and notes on Australian history. Outside, it’s one of ‘those’ Canberra mornings: the magpies swoop and warble with their usual irreverence, the sky is that unmatched, opalescent blue that haunts and defines the memories of the expatriated and exiled.

And then there are the snow gums; to touch them is to know this land is profound beyond imagining. Physically, Australia is so beautiful, and yet, for some time now, I have privately questioned the hearts and minds of its people and the intentions of its leadership.

I look out my window and think, why do I feel so troubled? Why this sense of foreboding? Why am I, quite frankly, afraid for my country? Why has Brandis’ speech struck a vein of fear in my being that I never thought existed? Why am I thinking, as a once passionately proud 8th generation Australian, I am ashamed of this country, I don’t like what it stands for anymore. Why, for the first time in my life, am I thinking perhaps, when I finish the Phd, we should leave?

Yes, Philip Gomes’ citation of Mussolini is correct. Fascism is about corporatism and the slow, sly, insidious subversion of the democratic process, which you have very capably written about. Yet most historians will tell you that, unlike capitalism or communism or socialism, as an ideology fascism is notoriously hard to define. It’s vague and conveniently malleable. Yet there are certain defining characteristics, many of which have disturbing parallels with the way this government plays its politics.

The George Brandis speech, and its attempt to undermine the Government’s (now) most potent threat by projecting onto it Howardism’s own malignant tendencies, was a popular Nazi tactic. It’s a classic tool of collective psychology and mass manipulation. Goebells perfected it. You say what once seemed unsayable, you let the proverbial fly, the leader – seemingly benign – disassociates himself, meanwhile the seeds of doubt are sown, and the headkickers party on…

The parallels between the Howard Government’s modus operandi and the German and Italian fascists are numerous. Let me identify a few.

Recently a joke did the rounds in Canberra – I think the wonderful, lapsed liberal Hillary Bray (crikey.com.au) started it – that the PM must have been sorely disappointed when the Ship of Death eventually landed in Eritrea, because he lost an opportunity to be dockside and welcome home our ‘heroic’ sheep. As Homer Simpson says, ‘Its funny cos its true’.

No doubt about it, Howard loves those photo ops with the khaki set. Don’t be fooled, this is not the self-indulgence of a wannabe. One of the most notable features of fascism is militarism and the manipulation of the past – the military and therefore ‘heroic’ past – as the underpinning of an acceptable nationalism.

Howard’s repeated invocation of the Gallipoli/ANZAC myth, his almost pathological obsession with worshipping at the Australian Altar of Mars, his exploitation of our military history to serve his own political ends, is nothing less than a cynical propaganda exercise in the best fascist tradition.

It taps into a fundamental weakness in the Australian collective psyche: the naive, deluded, populist belief that Australia is the nation of ‘good blokes’ who only fight in ‘good’ wars, for ‘good’ causes. When those ‘bad’ others attack, its not because of what we have done, its because of ‘who we are’. Vote for me, your ‘good mate’ ‘Honest’ John, and by association you are part of this myth. You are are a ‘good Aussie’.

Hitler did it too. Vote for me – yes folks, they voted for him – and by association you are part of Valhalla. Mussolini invoked the glories of Rome. People just love to believe this self-indulgent, vicarious and usually erroneous guff.

The truth of the matter is, Australians are like any other people. There are the good the bad the indifferent and the downright bloody ugly. In our short history our soldiers have had their moments in the sun, and they have had their less proud moments. Ask Lee Kuan Yew for his most salient memory of the Fall of Singapore and he will tell you it was the sight of Australian soldiers running away – but we don’t hear about that, do we?

This constant harping on a very narrow aspect of our history and the myth that the digger is the definitive Australian icon due to some kind of innate purity is used by Howard not only as a way of flattering Australian sensibilities, but also to cancel out those other aspects of the past the average Alan Jones listener prefers to deny: convictism, the frontier conflicts and their aftermath, and even the long-forgotten fact that in the late 19th century Australia was universally regarded as a paragon of social and political progressivism and a model society.

In the great tradition of 20th century fascism, Howard and his advisors are the penultimate collective psychologists: they know what Australians love to hear about themselves. Joe Goebells would indeed be proud. The creation of linkages between a heroic past to justify the present is pure fascism.

But wait, there’s more! Another key characteristic of fascism, particularly in the German model, was the glorification of the body beautiful, sport and the ridiculing of intellectuals. Like Hitler, Howard is, physically, the ultimate concave-chested weed. But as we know, Howard never misses the photo op with whichever athlete is the golden boy or girl of the Australian media.

Note the presence of those good blokes, golden sons of Oz John Eales and Mark Taylor at the Bush barbie. Note Howard opening the Rugby World Cup. Note Howard at Wimbledon whenever he can get there. Sport is used as a tool for defining so-called Australian nobility of spirit.

Marx once said religion was the opium of the people. Well in this country it’s sport. It’s a form of social control and Howard knows it and uses it magnificently.

As for the role of intellectuals in the Howardist paradigm, the fact that Windschuttle won the PM’s prize for Bullshit In Service Of The State sums it up. One can only hope that in a hundred years or so Australian historiographers will look back and interpret Windschuttle’s work the way Nazi art is seen now: vulgar, lacking in intellectual rigour and emblematic of a coercive nationalism based on self deceit, lies and exclusionism.

Of course, as you know Margo, Howard is a consummate media player. It’s not polite to mention this around PR types, but Goebells wrote the course for Spin Doctoring 101 and Howard’s use of tox jocks to disseminate ‘the message’ is as if he never leaves home without the textbook. Go for the lowest common denominator, never underestimate the gullibility of the public and, of course the number one principle of fascist propaganda management: THE BIGGER THE LIE THE MORE PEOPLE BELIEVE IT (Children overboard is a case in point.) Bolt, Albrechtson et al perpetuate the deceit.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this howl, Howard’s use of Brandis (and the Grand Inquisitor himself, Tony Abbott) to articulate and apply the gutter aspects of his politics and ideology, and his strategy of distancing himself from such statements mimics Hitler himself.

Bob Brown is not a fascist, and he is not a Nazi. These are words with the darkest of implications. For any Australian with an understanding of what they mean, the most frightening thing is that the accusers are the guilty ones, and they have the power.

Never, ever, did I think I would feel so profoundly sad and worried about the direction of Australian politics. My only hope is that Australians will finally see that the Emperor has no clothes and that, sometimes, there are more important things in life than a tax cut and a first homebuyers grant.

Nazi Greens an enemy of democracy, government decrees


Rats at the feast. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com

“I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis.” Liberal Senator George Brandis launches a government campaign to destroy the Greens as a political force.

George Brandis is a Queensland Liberal Senator. The Government chose him to conduct the tactics for and lead a front-on Parliamentary attack on the Greens which asserted that the party was an enemy of the State. The speech responds to a Greens’ motion for an inquiry into procedures for joint sittings of Parliament. Senator Brandis’s political biography is at the end of his speech.


28 October, 2003; Senate Hansard

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland) (3.59 p.m.)

I move:

Omit all words after That, substitute the Senate:

(a) condemns the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle during the address to the joint meeting by the President of the United States of America (the Honourable George W Bush) on 23 October 2003, in defying the order of the chair and the proper direction of the Serjeant-at-Arms;

(b) considers the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle to have been grossly inappropriate, discourteous, lacking in good manners and reflecting poorly upon the Parliament and Australia; and

(c) in light of the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle, asks the Procedure Committee to consider what steps should be taken to ensure the proper conduct of joint meetings to welcome foreign heads of state.

Copies of the amendment have been circulated at least to party leaders and have been given to the attendants.

When the people of Australia last Thursday saw the antics and the predetermined sideshow of Senator Brown and Senator Nettle during the course of President Bush’s address, I think most people – I dare say more than 90 per cent of the people of this country – thought that Senator Brown and Senator Nettle were responsible for an insult to the President of the United States and to the American people. Of course they were, but they were guilty of much more than that: they were guilty of a contempt of this parliament.

In the name of free speech, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to deny the freedom of speech of the invited guest of the Australian people – sought to prevent the Australian people hearing what President Bush had to say. In the name of parliamentary democracy, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to suborn parliamentary democracy.

And now they come to this chamber, bleating, awash with crocodile tears and pretending to be the custodians of free speech – pretending to be the custodians of this institution. Their own conduct last Thursday in belittling this institution – in denying the freedom of a foreign head of state to be heard by the Australian people and by the representatives of the Australian people – demonstrates the hypocrisy of their position.

Let us remember what it was in this premeditated, preordained and orchestrated stunt that Senator Brown and Senator Nettle contrived to do. First of all, they interrupted the President three times. Then, in response to a lawful direction by the Presiding Officer, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, operating under standing orders that this chamber had agreed to, they refused to abide the lawful direction of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Thirdly, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives lawfully and properly directed the Serjeant-at-Arms to escort Senator Brown and then Senator Nettle from the chamber, they refused to obey that lawful direction. So it is not merely a question of bad manners, Senator Brown. That is offensive enough, but it is the least of your offences. It is the premeditated contempt shown by you and your colleague Senator Nettle for the procedures and the standing orders of this chamber, as agreed to by this chamber; the defiance of its presiding officer; and the defiance of its officer the Serjeant-at-Arms. To this day, you have not had the decency to apologiseto purge your contempt of this parliament.

I think until fairly recently the Australian people tended to divide the Greens party into two camps. There seemed to be two points of view about the Greens party. There were those Australians who thought that the Greens were a collection of well-meaning oddballs – and there was certainly a degree of evidence to give comfort to that view.

There were others, I think, in Australia who regarded the Greens not so much as well-meaning oddballs but as a mob of scruffy ratbags. There was certainly plenty of evidence to give comfort to that point of view. But, as their behaviour last Thursday demonstrated, the Greens are not well-meaning oddballs and they are not scruffy ratbags; they are something much more sinister than that. They have introduced into our democracy – one of the world’s greatest and most successful democracies – a new and sinister element. The journalist Andrew Bolt, in a very perceptive piece published in the –

Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening carefully to what the member has said, but I would ask you to be careful to defend the standing order which states that he shall not reflect on a member and to be very careful about the quotation he is about to make, whether or not it is made.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Which standing order are you basing your point of order on, Senator Brown?

Senator Brown: The standing order which says that he shall not reflect on a member.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT There is no point of order.

In a very perceptive column syndicated throughout Australia in last Sunday’s newspapers, the journalist Andrew Bolt pointed out the striking and very dangerous antecedents of the fanaticism of contemporary green politics in this country, and its commonality and common source with the views that inspired the Nazis in prewar Germany.

In an earlier piece, published in July, Mr Bolt directed our attention to two studies that have been written of contemporary green politics – and I have read them in the last day or so; they make chilling reading – which go all the way to explaining the modus operandi of the Greens last Thursday. The first, by an American scholar, Professor Raymond Dominick, examined the common source of the fanaticism of contemporary greens with the nature worship practised by the Nazis in the 1930s. The book is called The Environmental Movement in Germany.

Senator Brown: That is a clear –

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brown, are you rising on a point of order?

Senator Brown: Yes, I am.

Honourable senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Are you rising on a point of order, Senator Brown?

Senator Brown: Yes, I am. If you will control the house, you will hear me say that, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am referring to standing order –

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I will control the house, Senator Brown, not you. What is your point of order, Senator Brown?

Senator Brown: My point of order relates to standing order 193

Senator Boswell: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order.

Senator Brown: You can’t. Sit down.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Boswell, I will take your point of order after I have heard Senator Brown’s point of order.

Senator Brown: On the point of order, you can see under standing order 193, ‘Rules of debate’, that a senator ‘shall not use offensive words’ against either house or against members or officers. It also mentions ‘personal reflections’. The senator on his feet has been making references to a very obnoxious regime, and to writers. That goes all the way to the behaviour of Senator Nettle and me last Thursday. That is an objectionable reference; it cannot be countenanced and I ask you to have it withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I understand that Senator Brandis is quoting from a media article and, unless I have advice to the contrary, I intend to allow those quotes.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, in speaking to the point of order, may I also observe that the sentence of my speech to which Senator Brown took objection was a remark about contemporary green politics; it was not specific to an individual.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I listened intently to what Senator Brandis had to say. I understand that he was not reflecting on the Senate or on the senators and therefore there is no point of order.

And I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I was referring to the book by Professor Raymond Dominick, The Environmental Movement in Germany, but even more illuminating is a work by a person who is known to be on the far left of green politics in Europe, Professor Peter Staudenmaier, who wrote a book four years ago called Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. He, too, drew the comparison between the political technique of the Greens in contemporary Western societies and the political technique of the environmental movementor the naturalist movement, as it was then knownin Germany in the 1920s and the 1930s. The work of both of those scholars caused Patrick Moore, a former head of Greenpeace International, to say: “In the name of speaking for the trees and other species we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism.”

The commonalities between contemporary green politics and old-fashioned fascism and Nazism are chilling.

First of all – and this is the most obvious point of the lotis the embrace of fanaticism, the embrace of a set of political values which will not brook the expression of legitimate difference. So, as we saw from Senator Brown’s and Senator Nettle’s behaviour in the House of Representatives chamber last Thursday, they are unable to listen to somebody whose political colour they dislike, whose political views they disagree with, without screaming at them. They will not even brook the legitimacy of alternative points of view. The zealotry – the fundamentalism – we saw from Senator Brown and Senator Nettle last Thursday identified them as true fanatics.

The second feature that we see is so much a common feature –

Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I thought that standing order 193 had been made apparent to you. I ask that that comment be withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brandis, perhaps I should invite you to withdraw the term ‘fanatic’ or ‘true fanatic’.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, I am unaware that the word ‘fanatic’ has been ever considered to be in breach of standing order 193 and I invite you to rule that an allegation of fanaticism, which is merely an allegation that somebody holds a political opinion with unreasoning zeal, is not a reflection upon the person but merely a comment on the intensity of their view.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, that seems to be a discriminatory term and when applied to a senator it is unparliamentary. I would ask that you consider withdrawing it.

Senator BRANDIS: I abide by your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT :You should withdraw, Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: I withdraw.


The second feature of contemporary green politics which bears chilling and striking comparison with the political techniques of the Nazis and the fascists is not merely their contempt for democratic institutions but a very cynical willingness to use those democratic parliamentary institutions to achieve antidemocratic ends. Let it never be forgotten that the Nazis came to power in 1932 when they won a majority in the Reichstag in free elections.

Senator Robert Ray: They didn’t win a majority.

When they won control of the Reichstag – thank you, Senator Robert Ray – in free elections. The mechanistic use of democratic institutions – the invocation of the good repute of democratic institutions by those who wish to destroy those institutions – is a hallmark of contemporary green politics, just as it was a hallmark of those who were their antecedents.

The third feature which we see in common between the Greens and the Nazis is a kind of ignorant nationalism, as reflected most obviously in their hatred of globalisation. Professor Staudenmaier, in his book about ecofascism, tracing those values back to their philosophical antecedents, their philosophical roots, writes: “At the very outset of the nineteenth century the deadly connection between love of land and militant racist nationalism was firmly set in place.”

Yet again, another connection that we see between the values which Senator Brown represents and the values which were the antecedents of European fascism is commented on by Professor Staudenmaier and found in the writings of Ernst Arndt and Wilhelm Riehl. Wilhelm Riehl, in a 1853 essay ‘Field and Forest’, said –

Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. The imputation that my values are the same as precursors to Nazism is abhorrent and should be withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brown, as far as I was able to ascertain, and I listened intently, Senator Brandis did not refer to you. He did refer to the Greens, but I do not recall him referring to you since the other point of order.

Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I invite you to look at the Hansard, because he referred to me by name. You were not listening carefully enough, if that is the case. No member of this parliament – whether it be Senator Brandis or I or anybody else – should have that sort of reflection on them in this place. It is against standing orders and he should withdraw.

Senator Robert Ray: I rise on a point of order. Every time that Senator Brown interrupts Senator Brandis, he gets his second wind and he can read his notes again. He is running out of puff. Can we just hear him finish his speech?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I would be delighted to so rule, Senator Ray, but I have a procedure to follow.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, I was merely quoting from a learned text and I was making the point, which I would submit to you is not against standing orders, of identifying the common roots of different ideas.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I think the point is, Senator Brandis, that if you mentioned Senator Brown by name then you should withdraw. If you mentioned ‘the Greens’, I understand that term is not unparliamentary. It may be unsavoury to some people but it is not unparliamentary. I ask you to withdraw if you mentioned Senator Brown by name.

Senator BRANDIS: To that extent, Mr Acting Deputy President, I withdraw.

Senator Faulkner: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. With your extensive knowledge of the standing orders, could you inform me if there is a standing order against pomposity?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, Senator Faulkner.

I want to quote to the Senate a fairly long extract from Professor Staudenmaier’s book Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. He identifies the antecedents of those views in the writings of Arndt and Riehl. He says this:

“Riehl, a student of Arndt further developed this sinister tradition. In some respects his ‘green’ streak went significantly deeper than Arndt’s; presaging certain tendencies in recent environmental activism, his 1853 essay Field and Forest ended with a call to fight for the rights of wilderness. But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully … Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly antisemitic glorification of rural peasant values and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism.”

These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the volkisch movement; a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with nature mysticism. At the heart of the volkisch temptation was a pathological response to modernity. In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, volkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature’s purity. The mystical effusiveness of this perverted utopianism was matched by its political vulgarity. While the Volkisch movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit, it pointedly refused to locate the sources of alienation, rootlessness and environmental destruction in social structures, laying the blame instead to rationalism, cosmopolitanism, and urban civilization. The stand-in for all of these was the age-old object of peasant hatred and middle-class resentment: the Jews.

Reformulating traditional German antisemitism into nature-friendly terms, the volkisch movement carried a volatile amalgam of nineteenth century cultural prejudices, romantic obsessions with purity, and anti-Enlightenment sentiment into twentieth century political discourse. The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the fateful chain which bound together aggressive nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections.

That is the text to which the journalist Andrew Bolt referred in his article last weekend and in his earlier article in July. It is, as I said earlier in the speech, a chilling reminder of the common antecedents of late 20th/early 21st century Green politics and early 20th century German fascism. The antirationalism, the perverted mutated naturalism, the mysticism, the hostility to cosmopolitanism, capitalism, global structures and to the global economy are all there to see.

It is time that somebody in this country blew the whistle on the Greens. The Greens are not the well-meaning oddballs we thought they were. The Greens are not the scruffy ratbags we thought they were. The Greens are a sinister force in this country inspired by sinister ideas, wrapped up in a natural mysticism – which is hostile and which sets its face against the very democratic values which this parliament represents and then cynically uses the procedures of this parliament in order to give itself political cover so that the sinister and fanatical views represented by Green politicians can grow and gain strength under the cover of democratic forms.

As well – and I will not go too much further into this – we see other common features. We see the very clever use of propaganda. We see the absolute indifference to truth. We see the manipulation of bodgie science in order to maintain political conclusions. We see the hatred of industrialisation. We see the growth of occultism built around a single personality. We see a fundamentalist view of nature in which the integrity of the human person comes second to the whole of the natural system.

My point is that the behaviour we saw from Senator Nettle and Senator Brown last Thursday was not just a publicity stunt. It was not just a random event. It was the very mechanical prosecution in this parliament of a profoundly antidemocratic ideology having deeply rooted antidemocratic antecedents. To hear Senator Brown – and no doubt Senator Nettle in a momentstand up and seek to claim democratic cover for their actions and for their ideology should shock us. It should alert us to their game and it should send a message loud and clear to the Australian people – not just to the 90 per cent of Australians who condemned their behaviour last Thursday but to 100 per cent of Australians – that this is the kind of crypto-fascist politics we do not want in this country.


Senator BRANDIS, George Henry

Senator for Queensland

Liberal Party of Australia

Parliamentary Service

Chosen by the Parliament of Queensland on 16.5.2000 under section 15 of the Constitution to represent that State in the Senate, vice the Hon. WR Parer (resigned).

Parliamentary Positions

Temporary Chair of Committees from 18.9.02.

Committee Service

Senate Standing: House from 8.6.00 to 19.3.02; Regulations and Ordinances from 8.6.00 to 1.7.02; Senators’ Interests from 8.6.00 to 19.3.02; Procedure from 1.7.02 to 25.3.03.

Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing: Community Affairs: Legislation Committee from 8.6.00 to 11.2.02; Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education: Legislation and References Committees from 8.6.00 to 11.2.02; Employment, Workplace Relations and Education: Legislation and References Committees from 13.2.02 to 19.3.02; Finance and Public Administration: Legislation Committee from 8.6.00; Economics: Legislation Committee from 13.2.02 (Chair from 14.2.02) and References Committee from 14.2.02.

Participating member, Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education: Legislation Committee from 31.8.00; Participating member, Economics: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01 to 11.2.02; Participating member, Finance and Public Administration: References Committee from 8.3.01; Participating member, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01; Participating member, Legal and Constitutional: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01.

Senate Select: A Certain Maritime Incident from 11.3.02.

Joint Statutory: Corporations and Financial Services from 14.2.02.

Joint Standing: Electoral Matters from 28.8.02.

Party Positions

State President, Young Liberals (Qld) 1981.

Chair, Constitution and Rules Committee, Liberal Party (Qld) 1993-94 and 1999-2000.

Chair, Agenda Committee, Liberal Party (Qld) 1993-95 and 1997-99.

Vice-President, Liberal Party (Qld) 1994-95.

Chair, Ryan Federal Electorate Council 1996-99.

Life Member, Young Liberal Movement.


Born 22.6.1957, Sydney, NSW.


Qualifications and Occupation before entering Federal Parliament

BA(Hons), LLB(Hons) (Qld).

BCL (Oxon.).

Barrister from 1985.


Liberals face the future: essays on Australian liberalism (with T Harley and D Markwell), Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Australian liberalism: the continuing vision (with Y Thompson and T Harley), Melbourne: The Liberal Forum, 1986.

Source: Parliamentary handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia

War widow’s long wait for PM’s apology


Snubbed war widow Kylie Russell could have to wait several days for her written apology from John Howard, after he failed to phone her or send it by express post or courier. (Snub for war widow.)

Mr Howard’s office used a standard stamp on Monday, meaning it could take up to four days to receive her apology.

Mr Howard did not invite the widow of SAS officer Andrew Russell, the only Australian to die in combat in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, to a wreath laying ceremony by President Bush in honour of her husband last Thursday. He also failed to invite her to watch the Bush speech thanking Australia for its sacrifice, or as a guest at his barbecue for President Bush. She learned of the ceremony after it had taken place while doing her shopping in Perth.

Mr Howard’s office said at first that Mr Howard had not known about the wreath laying ceremony for Mr Russell before Mr Bush mentioned it in his speech to Parliament, then claimed that the omission had been “an oversight”. Mrs Russell has been a public advocate for better entitlements for the families of SAS officer killed in training or combat.

Asked how the letter would be delivered, Mr Howard’s most senior spin doctor Mr Tony O’Leary said: “We just put it in the mail.” Asked why the letter had been sent by standard post, Mr Tony O’Leary replied: “What do you suggest?” When I suggested express post, Mr O’Leary replied: “It will be there shortly.”

I opened our conversation by saying I had some questions on the apology to Kylie Russell.” He sent it to Kylie Russell – why don’t you ask her? We’re not answering questions about the letter until she gets it,” Mr O’Leary replied.

I asked whether Mr Howard had explained the oversight in his letter to Mrs Russell. “Wait until she gets the letter then ask her,” he replied.

“How did that oversight occur?”

“I’ll inquire how it occurred,” he replied. On Monday I asked a junior Howard spin doctor, Mr David Luff, for an explanation of how the oversight occurred. He failed to get back to me as promised.

I asked if Mr Howard was conducting a review of procedures to ensure such an oversight would not happen again. “I don’t know,” Mr O’Leary replied.

Debating our democracy, by Webdiarists of all colours


Spoilt cake, by Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com

G’day. Tonight, the full text of the letter from Mrs Habib to Bush and Webdiarists debate the sort of democracy we want and what we want its values to be. It’s a debate beginning to take off around Australia, despite the indifference of most media.

I’m in Canberra listening to the Senate debate on Bob Brown’s motion to refer the procedures at joint sittings to a Senate inquiry. Queensland Liberal Senator George Brandis has just accused the Greens of using the tactics of the Nazis and being a crypto-fascist party. Brandis endorsed this week’s Andrew Bolt column Bob Brown a dangerous fanatic. Andrew has run this line before – see his July effort Hitler: green guru.

Northern Territory Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion accused the Greens of “political terrorism”. Wild! Nigel was involved in the human shield (see photo on right hand side of Webdiary) and another melee activist, WA Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot, chaired the Senate meeting discussing the issue! I’ll put the speeches up tomorrow. It’s a great debate.

American reader Joshua Boldt writes: “I would like to thank the Australian people for protesting against George W. Bush’s visit to your country. The American press no longer reports any dissent in our country, so it is nice to see some kind of protests being acknowledged. Please realize that not all Americans agree with this war-monger. There are people in America who despise everything that GW stands for. Please do not forget us, and please realize that we are trying to fight for our country.”

Journalist Robert Milliken writes: “Margo, congratulations on Howard’s elite – the official list. But why the hell didn’t the SMH itself dig into this and run it in the paper – along with your piece about the war widow snub and the revelation of Bush’s visit being a “government” one instead of a “state” one? As a fellow journo, I’m pretty horrified at how mute the media organisations have been over how the government stage managed the visit and kept Australian media shut out. At least Media Watch last night had a go at it. Anywhere else they’d be screaming blue murder.”



This is the text of the letter to George by Mrs Habib which Liberal Senators stopped Senator Kerry Nettle giving to him last Thursday:

October 22, 2003

Dear Mr President,

America is the country that leads the civilised world with its system of democracy and justice. It is well known for its defence of human rights all over the world. It is the country of liberty, freedom, justice and dignity. As you yourself have said, it is “a country that values human life”.

My husband was arrested in Pakistan two years ago, and is currently a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. He has not been charged with any crime – not under American law, Australian law or any law. In his two years of imprisonment, I have not been able to speak with him. How are his rights being protected by the United States? It is beyond any understanding how he could have been caught up in all of this. He is an innocent family man who only had the best interests of his family and children at heart. Because of his unjust incarceration, I have been left to look after four children. The youngest, who has only just turned three, does not remember her father.

Mamdouh has never broken any law of the United States or of any country. He is a decent and loyal citizen of Australia, where he has lived for 19 years, and was in Pakistan on family business. In fact, his only crime was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the United States government considers that he is a threat to its security, then please inform us of his crime and press charges against him. If not, then please return him to his family and his country.

Thanking you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

Maha Habib, Wife of Mamdouh Habib

The Senate today passed this motion, to be given to the government to pass to the US authorities:

The Senate

A. Notes

i. That Mamdouh Habib is currently incarcerated at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charge.

ii. That Mr Habib’s wife, Maha Habib, has attempted to communicate her concerns regarding her husband’s status to the United States Government.

iii. That Mrs Habib wrote to the US President that her husband:

“… has not been charged with any crime – not under American law, Australian law or any law. In his two years of imprisonment I have not been able to speak with him. How are his rights being protected by the United States? It is beyond understanding how he could have been caught up in all of this… If the United States Government considers that he is a threat to its security, then please inform us of his crime and press charges against him. If not, then please return him to his family and his country.”

B. Calls on the Federal Government to convey the Habib family’s request to the United States Government as soon as possible.



For more on war widow Kylie Russell’s campaign for improved SAS entitlements, Polly Bush recommends a piece by my sister Gay Alcorn back in February – Why SAS widow’s quarrel is a matter of honour. Gay writes:

As 2000 Australian troops prepare to risk their lives on behalf of their nation in a war in Iraq, Ms Russell, 29, a petite, pretty woman with a sandy-haired one-year-old baby on her knee, has chosen not to play the silent heroine but to prod into the politics of war. Most uncomfortably, she speaks of one of the least glamorous byproducts of war – what a nation owes to soldiers who return hideously injured or to the families of those who don’t come back at all.

She argues, and few disagree, that the $187,000 she was offered as a lump sum compensation was grossly inadequate. The pension she chose instead – just over $13,000 a year, tax free, for life, as well as other benefits – is insulting compared to the $50,000 the spouse of a federal parliamentarian receives upon his or her death, or the estimated $300,000 lump sum the partner of a killed police officer or fire fighter gets, she says.

“Everyone knows John Howard only comes to Perth when the SAS are going away or when it’s an election,” she says. “He uses those guys extraordinarily to aid his political agenda, and he promises them all when they go away we’ll look after your families, and as soon as anything happens he doesn’t want to know about it.”

Chris Montemayor: “You ask ‘Who is Andrea Ball?’ (Howard’s elite – the official list). Andrea Ball – Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, member of the Republican Party of Texas.”

Chris Gentle: “See results.guv for details on Andrea Ball. “Andrea Ball – White House Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady. From 1995 until her current appointment, Andi Ball served as Chief of Staff to Laura Bush, First Lady of Texas. Previously, Andi served as Arrangements Director for the Texas Inaugural Committee. In addition, she was the Office Manager/ Convention Coordinator for the Republican Party of Texas for seven years. Andi has an Associates Degree from Alpena Community College in Michigan.”

Ben Evans: “It is true that James Kelly is a White House man, although I am left to wonder how ‘Howards spin doctor’ can only guess as to the identity of a man who attended his boss’ party. Shouldn’t he be more informed? Although, I should not be surprised after all the ‘oversights’ that occurred last Thursday.”

Gay Alcorn (former Washington correspondent for The Age and the SMH, my sister): “James Kelly is the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (he was when I was there anyhow). He deals with Australia, so he should have been at the BBQ.”

Jack H Smit: ” James A. Kelly is Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Term of Appointment: 05/01/2001 to present. From 1994-2001, Mr. Kelly was president of the Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) of Honolulu. The Pacific Forum has analyzed and led dialogue on Asia-Pacific political, security, and economic/business issues since 1975. It is the autonomous Pacific arm of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.”

Russell Dovey in Canberra recommends Targeting Diebold with Electronic Civil Disobedience. He writes: “The link leads to evidence of endemic security flaws in the electronic vote counting systems used in 37 states for the United States presidential elections, including Florida, as well as direct evidence of tampering using those flaws. This is dynamite stuff, indictable stuff! It is required reading for those concerned about vote-fixing in the US, and possibly in Australia.”


Censoring the net

Malcolm Street

Just when you thought information management couldn’t get any worse or more all-encompasing, along comes siliconvalley.

Robots.txt files are used to discourage search engines from indexing particular parts of web sites. These generally include, say, personnel or other confidential material or odd dynamic parts of a website that may get a search engine into an infinite loop (been there, done that!). Compliance with the robots.txt file is voluntary, but most search engines do recognise them.

So why does the White House web site have a robots.txt file that includes exclusions for just about everything to do with Iraq? Is it to stop search engines detecting changes to documents, or just to limit the ability of the public to find these documents?

The robots.txt file can be accessed at siliconvalley It’s 59 k (huge for this type of file) and nearly every second line includes an exclusion for topics that include “iraq”.

There’s a debate on the link I’ve quoted with the usual US culture wars going on. The following comment is a welcome dose of relevance:

“As an outsider you Americans are an interesting bunch. Dan here raises an issue for possible concern, one that may be attacking your ability to be informed. One could even say that given the litany of lies used to justify recent wars that have killed thousands of innocent children it might be one of your most important tools (being informed of the truth). Yet much of the dialog I see involves endless debate questioning each others abilities and motives. Whilst you argue with one another your freedoms reduce each year, your media consolidates a bit more and your government steps a little further away from accountability. Why not focus back on the original question of how to retain your sources of information – WHATEVER the reasons for them being taken way.”

The article is also being discussed on Slashdot under the heading “Your rights online: White House website limits Iraq-related crawling”, although being Slashdot it will probably just degenerate into a political flame-war 🙂


Jack Thomson

Here are some extracts from George Bush Senior’s book A World Transformed, written five years ago. It was co-authored with his former national Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft.

Bush Senior wrote the following to explain why he didn’t go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War:

“Trying to eliminate Saddam… would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible…. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq…. There was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see … Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

Perhaps George Junior has not talked to his father about this event. Perhaps he doesn’t – or can’t – read, as Michael Moore says! In any case, if only …

Many thanks for your outstanding writing in the “Herald” and in your “Web Diary”. You are an inspiration in these dark days of Australian history.

Another thought. I am finding it amazing to see how Joseph Heller’s fiction Catch 22 (first published in 1962) is becoming reality. Yossarian’s worst nightmares are coming true in Bush’s USA and Howard’s Oz. Talk about life imitating art.

Margo: I watched Peter Sellers’ Dr Strangelove the other night. Eerily contemporary. ‘Bob Roberts’ is worth another look, too, the story of a US Republican Congressional candidate against the backdrop of Bush Snr’s Gulf War.



Terry O’Kane in Melbourne

As a former ALP voter (now Greens) I have been reading with interest the Webdiary articles by Carmen Lawrence. I find myself agreeing very closely with Carmen’s sentiments and that is why I was very disturbed to read in a recent article in The Age that she voted for Kim Beazley in the leadership contest with Simon Crean.

At the time of the leadership contest I wrote a short comment to Webdiary proposing that Crean be given a chance, although I am as yet to see anything to bring my vote back to the ALP. I am probably representative of many former ALP voters (working class background, late university education) who no longer believe that the ALP holds to the ideals it was founded on and have lost faith. Surely there is a contradiction in voting for a man who embodies not only the right of the ALP but who failed so miserably on the Tampa issue and presumably would have done no better on Iraq.

Thus I would ask in all sincerity, that Carmen offer the former ALP leftwing voters such as myself some reason for her support of Beazley. Perhaps some insight into the workings of the party may clarify where the ALP is heading.

Margo: I’ve forwarded your email to Carmen and she’s agreed to respond. Here’s my assessment. Carmen said publicly that she supported Lindsay Tanner for the leadership, but he pulled out early. She didn’t want to vote for either of the two candidates, believing there was no difference between their policies or values. Yes, Beazley was the architect of the small target strategy, but Crean, as deputy and shadow treasurer, was the engineer. So given there was no choice on substance, I think Carmen would have voted for Beazley on the basis that he was more likely to remove Howard from office. Now that Crean is reliant on the left for his survival, he appears to have moved towards a more differentiated policy approach.


Daniel Jenkins: “What the hell has happened to Newspoll? The Creanites finally hit the front and suddenly the fortnightly readings disappear. Am I being excessively conspiratorial? Were the last two polls not commissioned and if so why not? But more importantly, were they commissioned and not published?”



John Boase, reading the SMH in Boston: “Anyone who could remember to invite John Eales to a barbecue could surely remember to invite Mrs Russell to a wreath laying. This effort is breathtaking, even for John Howard.”

Harry Heidelberg: “I’m totally shocked by the snub dealt out to a war widow. There needs to be a full explanation from the PM’s office. What is the reason for this? Surely it has to go beyond insensitivity? I am dumbfounded. That is one of the worst things I have heard of in a long time. Talk about wildly inappropriate. The difference between a state visit and a government visit is interesting but no amount of explanation can forgive that kind of behaviour. The man gave his life in the service and was honored by the President of the US and his wife was ignored. I want to hear more about this. Is there something I am missing? I can’t even be angry about this yet as it is so bizarre. What the hell is going on down there?”

Jason Helton: “When I was a little boy I got to be on TV with Santa. I asked for my gifts and then wished Happy Christmas to my parents and brother. I forgot my sister at home because I was so excited to be on TV with my hero Santa. John Howard did the same thing. Who cares about widows when he can be seen hanging out with his hero George W? He doesn’t care about the common people, he cares about his corporate friends and the famous people he gets to be seen with. Widows who aren’t supported after their husband dies for Johnny’s (or more probably George’s) whims? Who gives a damn? Not John Howard, that’s for sure.”

Christian Wesely: “From my perspective 12.000 miles off it makes perfect sense why Howard snubbed Kylie Russell and now adds now insult to injury by declaring it an oversight. If the war in Iraq had ended with striking success no oversight would have happened and Kylie would be an appreciated woman by now on planet Murdoch. As things stand Howard has every reason to minimise Australia’s infamous role in this ongoing conflict and the less people associate victims with it the less they will care – he hopes.” (Margo: Howard hurried up his apology yesterday – see PM sorry for widow’s absence – but still won’t explain his “oversight”.)



Ssg Stephen B Fuhr, US army, retired: “I read your article regarding Howard’s elite and wonder why they didn’t invite icons like my great mate Normie Rowe. He saved my life in Vietnam.”

Duane Kelly: “I thought the guest list quite reasonable. I was expecting much worse. You made no suggestion (except for Kylie Russell) as to who should have been there. I get the feeling you expected people like Bob Brown and other anti bush campaigners. That just would not make sense. Would you invite Howard to a function you were hosting? Before you answer, you would have no opportunity to grill him, tar and feather him or subject him to any form of torture. I get the feeling you are the Mike Moore of this country. I read your articles, as I do Mike Moore’s books, because they often contain interesting facts and anecdotes, but there is a great amount of bias there and certainly a lot of negativity. My advice to you would be to write something good about Howard and his government and restore some credibility. Surely there must be something. Granted, it won’t be found in his support of the Americans, but I don’t think he even sits comfortably with that, but you can see his logic. You really do come across as a Labour lackey which is ironic given your criticisms of people like Alan Jones using there media exposure to endorse their political opinions. I don’t think it is fair that someone who has their own newspaper column can use it to simply perpetuate their personal political views.”

Mark Alderton: “As already mentioned, even after all the exclusions the guest list was still heavily biased towards males. So what fair-dinkum, men of steel, rancheros would fail to invite a real cowboy – an Aboriginal cattle-man – to their barbeque? Without a hundred years of hard work done by black stockmen Australia wouldn’t even have a beef cattle industry. John and George are dangerously deluded wankers, I say!”(Margo: Did you notice the lack of an ethnic mix? All white European except Jackie Huggins, the indigenous invitee. )

Rawdon Lee in Sydney: “I think Steve Irwin was invited because he would be great company for G.W. Bush. Really, the man has come a long way and I’m sure he would prefer a good crocodile story to answering awkward questions about politics and dead husbands. I think it was quite considerate of Mr Howard to make sure there was one familiar face in what must be a frightening and stressful situation for the President, surrounded as he was by foreigners. It is time for the Australian media to ease up on “Dubya”, as I like to call him. He has described us as “The Sheriff” and mentioned something about trade, and I for one feel that our years of obedience have not been misspent. Most importantly he generously invited us to share in the glory of liberating Iraq from the Taliban, something which the “loony left” seems all too ready to forget.”

Jonathan Pagan: “Just a quick query: what is the “Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Biology”? I noticed that a representative of this organisation got a guernsey at the gathering for Hillary Clinton in 1996, as well as another rep, Prof Suzanne Cory, getting an invite to BBQ with Bush. Their website is almost completely uninformative as it relates entirely to the technical aspects of their work (understandably) and the history of those technical aspects. Let’s hope they keep getting these invites simply because they happen to be doing such a great job that anyone who knew of it would go out of their way to support them. Call me cynical, but knowing Howard, I find that a little hard to believe. Any idea why they keep showing up?” (Margo: Safe charity.)



Berry Nyman in North Adelaide, South Australia: “You were at your socialist best in reporting on the protest scene in Canberra for the US President’s visit (Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy). It is always easy to be negative in one’s comment. Would Ms Kingston care to write a positive piece on how she would have arranged things for the visit and, perhaps, coped with the disorder that may have followed?”

I replied: Good idea. I’m asking around to find an expert on normal protocols for the visit of a foreign leader who can write a piece for Webdiary.

Berry replied: “I was serious. You were scathing in your criticism of the security arrangements. I was challenging you to put your money where your keyboard is. You have now demonstrated your knowledge of the subject by assuming that an expert in protocol would know what to do. Protocal and security are two entirely different disciplines.”

I replied: Hi Berry. Security didn’t stop a Bush press conference. Hu had one, and journos needed a special security-cleared pass to get in, not just the press gallery pass. Security didn’t stop Australian journalists going to the BBQ to report the event for the same reason. Security didn’t stop Australian media filming or photgraphing inside the Parliament during the address either. I don’t know any security experts except Brigadier D’hage. D’hage did the security for the Sydney Olympics. Brigadier, are you reading? Can you help?


Patrick Donoghue: “Margo, it’s no wonder that SMH sales are dropping dramatically with writers like you – a typical armchair general. Society is full of fuckwits like you – moan moan moan but contribute noting youself. As long as you have someone else to blame you’re happy. Have you not realised the more cocooned clowns like you and Robert Manne hate Johnny Howard the more people like me and millions like me who live in the real world love him? Get a life you old hag.

Michael Casey: You gave a wonderful example today (Snub for war widow and Howard’s elite – the official list) of what a slimy fascist you are. Keep up good work – your true self just shines through.

Gary Woodman in Canberra

I am writing just a quick note to thank you for your fantastic article Living with Bush for a day: Canberra Webdiarist reports. Thank you for referring me to Peter Hartcher’s article, thank you for the “brown eye salute”(they are a bit keen on this type of protest in the Northern Rivers 🙂 and thank you for your Webdiary! It is a beacon in the self-serving soup of the modern Australian media, one that I regret I don’t study as often as I might.

I’m brimming with rage and frustration; amongst other things, we have the spectacle of the two most horrible men in the world, pissing in each other’s pockets right here in my home town, cranking up the terror with jets screaming overhead all night before and all day. I attended the beginning of the protest on the lawn well out of reach of a parliament protected with plastic barricades (how appropriate for Howard’s faux democracy) and the thin blue line of AFP, around 50 of them, while the guys in the shades and the buzz cuts guarded the entrance to the Houses.

My housemate was able to stay with the protest and joined them at the Lodge and the Embassy, where he, amongst others, was threatened by police. It wasn’t a big crowd; the visit was carefully contrived to offer as little opportunity as possible for protestors to attend. Nonetheless, I was inspired to see buses from Victoria and SA in the Triangle on the day (plenty from NSW of course, but that is not unusual here).

I am surprised that Bush and Howard relaxed their control sufficiently to conduct a self-aggrandising stunt in the House with an unedited guest list. With John Winston Stalin and his robots lined up to kiss arse, and Mr Nobody and his team of gutless parasites looking the other way, Bob Brown and his colleague Kerry Nettle are the nation’s conscience.

The point that Hartcher is making is fairly obvious, but I haven’t seen it laid out in such a comprehensive, compelling case. He agrees with my housemate, a very astute man (he grew up in wartime Balmain), who has been saying since Bush’s “election” that it’s the Fourth Reich. Bush and his gunslingers are committed to world domination at any cost. At Any Cost. And they will have us pay the cost, at gunpoint if necessary. But of course, to our eternal shame, that won’t be necessary in Australia.


David Mack in Macclesfield South Australia

I love your Webdiary; a great idea! I live in South Australia, and am starved of decent up-to-date newsprint thanks to Murdoch’s monopoly. I have been buying the weekend SMH (On Sunday) but find myself turning more and more to online content for its immediacy and ‘kick value’.

I’m a political philosophy student and a member of the ALP, Amnesty International and Community Aid Abroad. A long time letter writer to the OZ I now find I am unable to even open the right-wing rag, let alone contribute to it. But if ever there was a time for open political debate it is now!

At least most of the pollies have an email, but their replies in general remain trite and formulated, so I am more than greatful for the chance to contribute to public discourse. (Did you know Robert Hill still maintains there is no evidence to suggest cluster bombs were used in Iraq? At least that’s what he told me when I asked about their strategic significance.)

Yes, the Libs campaign slogan was ‘For all of us’, they just didn’t announce the small print rejoiner ‘And none of you’ till after the election. What a BBQ guest list – talk about ‘unrepresentative swill’.


Harry Heidelberg

Margo. whatever happened to your sentiment in Could we start again, please?

I agree with many of the things you say, but I have noticed that any semblence of balance disappeared long ago from Webd iary. Is this an effort to correct the overall balance (ie against big media etc)? Maybe that explains it becuase there is certainly no balance within Webdiary itself. What about item 8 in the Web Diary Code of Ethics?

Even the columnists have something in common. Like if you look at me and Daniel Moye (the Liberal and the Conservative), most of our content is anti-Howard. Then of course all of the others are as well.

I think John Howard has behaved particularly badly and of all the things he has done in the past couple of weeks, not inviting Kylie Russell was the worst. There can be no excuses for this.

I thought Bob Brown acted like a clown and wrote to you telling you so. I noticed that this did not get published and fear that a new form of censorship has crept into Web Diary. You are either anti-John Howard or you are for him………and only those anti, need apply.

The public conversation in Australia has died with the various groups retreating to their respective corners, snarling and growling. It’s clear I don’t always agree with the mainstream. I often find myself in the minority position and argue relentlessly for the things I believe in. I form my views on any situation based on my gut feeling rather than by thoughtful analysis. I’m still interested in alternative views though and that’s why a conversation is important to me.

I fear that Webdiary is at risk of becoming a mini-China. A place where only one viewpoint is allowed and a place where even the artist is employed to echo this viewpoint. You are becoming Chairman Margo!

I liked it better when it was your home for wayward boys and girls! At least as a wayward boy I felt like I would be able to stray off the path from time to time. Now it seems Webdiary is ruled by an iron fist and everyone has to fall into line. This is the scary thing. It happens bit by bit.

I become particulary scared of changes that happen bit by bit because you don’t notice it until it is too late. This applies to much of the Bush visit. It is so utterly depressing because its only when you compare it to the Clinton visit, you see how much things have changed. I trust my gut feeling and I have a terrible feeling about the direction Australia and the US has gone in.

Margo: Hi Harry. I lost a stack of emails last week, and yours was one of them. Even so, I probably wouldn’t have published as I had no time – was working on my own pieces in Canberra. I’m way behind on emails because I’m doing more reporting. Reader’s input guidelines haven’t changed. I’m sorry you’re not happy with Webdiary at the moment, but I’m pretty thinly stretched with mega-news happening as email volume grows. But that’s happened before – it usually balances itself out over time. As to ‘balance’, Webdiary is about the combination of my interests and views and the balance of contributions. I’ve made no secret of my concerns at the direction of Howard’s government and my fears for world peace.

An excluded guest’s story

An excluded guest’s story

Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com

Chin Jin is an Australian citizen. He chairs the Federation for a Democratic China, a group dedicated to the achievement of democracy in mainland China. dsgu@yahoo.com.

I am one of the Greens guests to Hu’s address to the Australian Parliament.

I was very touchy in reading your article published on 26 October in The Sun HeraldHoward corrodes our core beliefs (For more detailed information, see Howard humiliates our Parliament and betrays our democracy for Hu.)

I want to say that the occurrence in Canberra last Friday put the Australian Government and Chinese leader Hu Jintao on test and both failed. Not long ago, Hu said the CCP would not employ their traditional approach in dealing with opposition. Last Friday was a test to his words, Hu failed to keep his political promise and employed the same measures to pressure the Australian Government to ban three Greens guests access to his speech. That meant that what the Chinese leaders say is one thing, and what they do is another thing.

The Howard Government also failed the test. The principle and spirit of democracy could be thrown into garbage when confronting the lure of economical interests.

Senator Brown and his colleagues are great heroes of this democratic country. They stand up and speak up for the values of democracy, for those who are suffocated in China, including Tibet. His man of courage and principle had set me up a brilliant example to achieve democracy and freedom in China no matter how many hardships I will encounter.

I wish to read more essays like this you write.

Howard’s elite – the official list

How come Kylie Russell, the only Australian widowed when we fought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, didn’t get an invite to the Bush barbecue? How come crocodile man Steve Irwin did? Could it be because Steve said recently that Howard was the best leader in the world and Kylie’s been fighting for better compensation for SAS officers killed in training or combat?

John Howard chose the guests for George and its mix and make-up perfectly situates John Howard’s Australia. Who’s in. Who’s out. Us and them. With me or against me.

John Howard came to power on the slogan “For all of us” and promised to crush Keating’s elite and bring grassroots Australians into the power circle. He lied. His “us” is much narrower than Keating’s and more brutally exclusionary. Big business, close friends, big media personalities and lots of sportstars to help his image. No artists. Overwhelmingly male.

And the “them”? All the rest of us, including working journalists to observe and report the event for the people of Australia. That is, until the exposure of the lockout and the free access of the American media saw Howard deign to allow one writer and one photographer to attend. Despite this, and the unprecedented censorship and control of press gallery journalists during the visit, the head of the press gallery committee, Daily Telegraph political correspondent Malcolm Farr, accepted a late invitation. I’ll write more later on the crisis in the press gallery exposed by last week’s debacle.

Here’s the list of invitees, supplied late Thursday night after Howard’s office refused all day to oblige. According to Melbourne’s Herald Sun – Herald Sun press gallery reporter Jason Frenkel spent Wednesday ringing around famous people to uncover some guests – John Laws, Westfield billionaire Frank Lowy, Steve Waugh and former Liberal Treasurer Ron Walker were invited but could not make it due to the late notice. Howard’s office didn’t have the courtesy – to the guests or the Australian people – to include their positions in the list. Those I couldn’t find in Who’s Who or a web search I put to Howard’s spin doctor David Luff. He wasn’t sure about James Kelly, but thought he was a White House man. I haven’t placed Andrea Ball – can someone tell me who she is?

To end, memories from the last Presidential visit, and controversy over Mrs Howard’s idea of the women Hillary would like to meet. Bear in mind that the Clintons had many opportunities to meet Australians. With Bush, there was just one, the barbecue.



Howard’s family

Howard- McDonald, Mrs Melanie & Mr Rowan McDonald

Howard, Mr Richard

Howard, Mr Timothy

Howard’s staff

Varghese, Mr Peter

Nutt, Mr Tony

O’Leary, Mr Tony

Sinodinos, Mr Arthur

Howard’s politicians

Anderson, Mr John & Mrs Julia

Costello, Mr Peter & Mrs Tanya

Downer, Mr Alexander & Mrs Nicky

Hill, Senator Robert & Mrs Diana Hill

Vaile, Mr Mark & Mrs Wendy

Howard’s corporates

Triguboff AO, Mr Harry & Mrs Rhonda – head of Sydney’s biggest apartment developer Meriton

Campbell, Mr Terry & Mrs Christine – executive chairman of Were Stockbroking

Davis, Mr Leon – deputy chairman Rio Tinto

Gerard AO, Mr Rob & Mrs Fay – managing director Gerard Industries

Ramsay AO, Mr Paul – head of Ramsay Health Care

Howard’s sportstars

Eales, Mr John & Mrs Lara

Hewitt, Mr Lleyton

Taylor, Mr Mark & Mrs Judy

Howard’s media

Packer, Mr Kerry & Mrs Ros

Stokes AO, Mr Kerry & Ms Christine Simpson

Jones AM, Mr Alan – Howard’s favourite talkback king, found guilty of taking cash for favourable comment on companies without disclosure

Farr, Mr Malcolm – head of the press gallery committee, political correspondent of Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph.

McDonald, Mr Donald & Mrs Janet – chairman of the ABC, personal friend of Howard

Mitchell, Mr Neil – Howard’s favourite Melbourne Radio host

Howard’s former rival

Peacock AC, Hon Andrew – Howatrd made him ambassador to the US after victory in 1996

Howard’s historian

Blainey AO, Geoffrey & Ann

Howard’s public servant

Shergold, Dr Peter & Ms Carol Green – head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Howard’s ambassador

Thawley, Ambassador HE Michael Thawley

Howard’s army

Cosgrove, General Peter & Mrs Lynne

McNairn, Brigadier Maurie & Mrs Richenda

Howard’s true blue

Irwin, Mr Steve & Mrs Terri – crocodile hunter

Howard’s lawyer

Leibler AO, Mr Mark & Mrs Rosanna – partner in Arnold Bloch Leibler, prominent Melbourne Zionist

Howard’s gesture to the community

Cory, Prof Susan & Prof Jerry Adams – director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Biology

Huggins, Ms Jackie – director of Reconciliation Australia

Stanley, Prof Fiona & Prof Geoff Shellam – Professor of paediatrics Unoiversity of Western Asutralia, Australian of the year

White House staff

Rice, Dr Condoleezza

Schieffer, Ambassador HE Tom & Mrs Suzanne

Card, Mr Andrew

Moriarty, Mr James

Kelly, Mr James


Ball, Ms Andrea



The guest list with a certain snub appeal

by Sheryle Bagwell

Australian Financial Review, 21-11-1996

The Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Janette Howard, will be there. So will the Federal Minister for Social Security, Senator Jocelyn Newman. Even the NSW Liberal Opposition Leader’s wife, Ms Dominique Collins, and Liberal MP Ms Kerry Chikarovksi have got a guernsey.

But the 30 “high-powered” women who have scored a ticket to the hottest women’s event of the year – a private audience with Hillary Rodham Clinton this afternoon – will not include such leading Labor female identities as Dr Carmen Lawrence, Mrs Joan Kirner, Dr Anne Summers, or even NSW Minister for the Status of Women, Mrs Faye Lo Po. Ms Susie Annus, wife of Federal Opposition Leader Mr Kim Beazley, has also been snubbed.

Mrs Clinton had requested a private reception with “women working at the coalface” in areas close to her heart, after she delivers a speech to 500 invited guests at the Sydney Opera House. But Labor has complained that the women Mrs Clinton would want to meet are absent from the “secret” guest list, said to have been drawn up by the Federal Government’s Office of the Status of Women, but heavily vetted by the Prime Minister’s office and Mrs Howard.

“I think that Hillary Clinton has a set of interests which have been very much the interests of what were the previous Labor Government, particularly as far as women’s affairs were concerned,” said Mr Beazley, smarting from his own bit part in the Clinton visit. “So, I guess I would have to say, in all logic, that an awful lot of our people would probably be better interlocutors.”

The Prime Minister’s office yesterday dismissed Mr Beazley’s comments. A spokesman said that among those invited were Mrs Helena Carr, the wife of the NSW Premier; Ms Catherine Harris, the head of the Affirmative Action Agency; Ms Lois O’Donoghue, the ATSIC chief; and Ms Kathy Townsend, the head of the Office of the Status of Women, proving that the guest list was “a broad church – without men”.

The kerfuffle over the private reception has caused some consternation in the First Lady’s camp. An observer said yesterday Mrs Clinton’s “people” were “amply aware” of the “political vetting” of the list.

“It is always a preference of Mrs Clinton in her travels to engage with women from all walks of life,” he said. “But there comes a point in discussions where you throw up your hands and say ‘This is the best we can get; let’s do the best we can’.

“This is politics. I can assure you that in Washington, President Dole would not have invited Gloria Steinem to the White House.”


Getting an entree to Hillary is a family affair

by Jodie Brough Canberra

Sydney Morning Herald 22/11/96

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s reception for prominent women yesterday proved one thing. It’s not who you are but who you know – and to know the Prime Minister’s family is a definite bonus.

Mrs Clinton had asked to meet prominent women working in her areas of interest, which include health, children’s welfare, law and discrimination, after her speech on women at the Opera House.

She met Ms Melanie Howard, law student and Prime Minister’s daughter, and a friend, Ms Miranda Biven, also a student at University of Sydney law school.

The list of guests is said to have been altered by the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Janette Howard, to include personal friends and political allies at the expense of her husband’s foes, an allegation Mr Howard’s office has not denied. Mrs Howard attended, as did her friends Mrs Janet McDonald, wife of ABC chairman Mr Donald McDonald, and Ms Carla Zampatti, wife of the Howard-appointed Ambassador to Paris, Mr John Spender. So did Howard Chief of Staff Ms Nicole Feely and NSW Howard ally Mrs Kerry Chikarovski.

Nine Coalition women politicians, staffers or wives went along. The Premier’s wife, Mrs Helena Carr, and a late addition, ALP women’s activist Ms Kay Loder, were the only Labor women. Attendees not on the guest list were Mr Peter Botsman (formerly of the Evatt Foundation) and the Clintons’ favourite Australian novelist, Jon Cleary.

The guests talked for about an hour and a half in the Opera House’s northern annex, dining on finger food such as smoked salmon on buckwheat pancakes and Vietnamese spring rolls.

The Democrats’ leader, Senator Cheryl Kernot, got a last-minute invitation. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill, contacted her at 9.20 am to express Mr Howard’s view that her exclusion was an “oversight” and to apologise on his behalf. Shortly afterwards, the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Reith – who recently cut a deal with Senator Kernot to pass the IR bill – rang Senator Kernot to say: “I hope it’s fixed.”

Senator Kernot said she was “happy to go as a corrected ‘oversight’ but this was meant to be about women and women’s ideas, and that spans the political spectrum”. She and the chairwoman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Miss Lois O’Donoghue, had talked to Mrs Clinton about Aboriginal art and intellectual property rights for Aboriginal artists “in anticipation of the Olympic Games”.

Some schools missed out on invitations to Mr Clinton’s speech at Mrs Macquaries Chair and Mrs Clinton’s speech because the number of places was cut back.


Row flares over reception guests

by Karen Middleton

The Age, 22-11-1996

The Prime Minister’s daughter, Ms Melanie Howard, and a university friend were among the carefully selected women who attended a private reception for the first lady of the United States, Mrs Hillary Clinton, in Sydney yesterday.

The hostess, Mrs Janette Howard, also invited her best friend, charity organiser Mrs Janet MacDonald, who is married to the ABC’s chief executive.

Bitter criticism of the guest-list led to some hasty last-minute invitations. The only female leader of a political party in Australia, the leader of the Democrats, Senator Cheryl Kernot, was invited yesterday morning.

But backbiting by the Opposition leader, Mr Kim Beazley, and others in the Labor Party did not sway the organisers. The president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ms Jennie George, was not invited. Nor were any other leading female Labor lights.

The guest list, obtained by The Age, was on the socially conservative side. There were no women from the arts. Ms Carla Zampatti, who is married to a former leading Liberal Mr John Spender, was the only prominent businesswoman.

The female advisers to the PM and Women’s Minister were there. So was Mrs Judy Fischer, wife of the Deputy PM.

The chancellor of Sydney University, Dame Leonie Kramer, and Federal Court Justice Catherine Branson were on the list. So was a director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Ms Eve Mahlab; the director of the Office of the Status of Women, Ms Kathy Townsend; and the Affirmative Action Agency’s director, Ms Catherine Harris.

Mrs Helena Carr, wife of the NSW Premier, was the only one linked to the Labor Party.

Besides Mrs Howard and Mrs Clinton, 35 women accepted invitations to attend the exclusive Opera House function which followed Mrs Clinton’s speech to about 500 guests. Another nine women sent their apologies, including Family Court Justice Sally Brown and Mrs Tanya Costello, the wife of the federal Treasurer.

Dr Anne Summers, the editor of Good Weekend magazine for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, yesterday said she would have loved to have had the chance to meet Mrs Clinton. “But it was Mrs Howard’s prerogative to invite who she chooses and I am not involved in public policy any more. I am a journalist, so I would’ve been pretty low on the list of people to consider,” she said.

Dr Summers said it was extraordinary that Ms George and the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Quentin Bryce, were not invited to the gathering given their involvement in issues “that go to the heart of Hillary Clinton’s known interests”.