All posts by Jack Robertson

Three letters to the Canberra bubble and a Wilkie leak update

Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s ‘Meeja Watch’ columnist. He has reported previously on his long quest for the truth of the anti-Wilkie leak in Andrew Bolt: I did ‘go through’ leaked top secret report by WilkieWilkie, Bolt and ONA at odds over top secret report and Wilkie: Blame ‘outrageous’ PM, not top spies.



A Meeja Watch salute to Tom Allard, who obviously still understands that only reporters can SET news agendas; and with a sympathetic shrug for News Wimited�s Malcolm Farr, who of course we fully understand must be under enormous pwessure fwom Uncle Wupert not to investigate Abu Ghwaib-gate too cwosewy. Poor widdle Pwess Gawewy Pwesident.

From the One Letter to the Past � Salute to a Lemming Pack


Dear Mainstream Australian Press, circa early 2003,

You got to write the mainstream newspaper columns. You got to ride the airwaves on talkback radio. You graced our television screens on shows like Meet the PressThe Insiders and Sunday. You composed our broadsheet leaders, you selected what opinions about Iraq were aired in the Op Eds, and you decided what pre-war questions our elected leaders were asked, and how persistently and pedantically and impolitely.

Which was �not very�, on all three counts.

As Mr Phillip Knightley, one of the great war and security issue reporters, recently reminded us all here at Webdiary in principle, and as Mr Allard is showing us in practice now: only news reporters can set the news agenda, only stubborn and persistent footsloggers can MAKE the wider public �interested� (or �uninterested�) in the stories that count.

The Lance Collins story, say – or the Andrew Wilkie one (or that of any of the other Iraq war whistleblowers, back then in early 2003 when it really mattered). Only you get to sit up the front in the high-powered press conferences, Laurie Oakes. Only you got a one-on-one interview with the most powerful man in the world, Paul Kelly. You�re among the very few Australians who get to know our politicians� spin doctors, Michelle Grattan, who hear the inside stories and the hot gossip, Kerry O�Brien, who catch a glimpse behind the scenes, Matt Price and Mike Seccombe and Karen Middleton and David Penberthy.

Unlike us angry, impolite, untrained amateurs, you journalists get to carry a press card. You get to go to the Press Club lunches. You get invited to the politicians� end-of-year knees-ups, and some of you, like your Press Gallery President Malcolm Farr, even get to hang out at the PM�s private barbeques. (Way to get a scoop, Mr Woodward – STOP THE PRESS: MAN OF STEEL PREFERS MUSTARD, NOT SAUCE, ON HIS T-BONE!!! Malcolm Farr reports exclusively from the frontline.)

You �professional� reporters get special passes and privileges and protection in war zones, seats on the politicians� aeroplanes that take you there for Anzac Day, and access of all sorts to faraway centres of global power, giving you a close-up look at the people whose decisions can end up killing and maiming us nobodies. You�re our eyes and ears and, during question times, especially our very blunt tongues, and we expect you to use those �free press� privileges to help ensure that when we and our nobody loved ones do waltz off to fight yet another �war to end all wars�, there really is no other option. It really is a �last resort�.

Most of all, when it goes a bit wrong (as wars always do), we expect you to be there to ensure that our soldiers ARE given moral, legal and political top-cover by the politicians who sent them, not left to flap about in the breeze of the Senate Estimates Committee-room as Prime Ministers and Defence Ministers cut and run for cover.

Once again, precisely as we here at Webdiary predicted would happen, eighteen months ago.

Don�t let it happen, Canberra Bubble. Do NOT let our soldiers down again. Do NOT allow a few sundry Lieutenant-Colonels or Grade Five public servants alone swing for this shameful abnegation of Ministerial responsibility. It�s up to you to force the Australian public to understand what is happening (again); to thrust the political buck-passing and bum-covering now going on over Abu Ghraib abuses repeatedly into the public consciousness, until we citizens start fulfilling our democratic responsibilities too, whether we like it or not. It�s our collective civic obligation; we don�t have the luxury of �choice� anymore, because the Iraq War is every last Australian�s war now.

Pro-war, anti-war, or dumbed-down by Reality TV & grasping materialism into stupified oblivion. Oh dear me, do excuse moi for not kissing the �ordinary Australian�s� lazy, ignorant butt. There goes my shot at elected Australian office! Boo-hoo-hoo.

Unlike modern politicians and �small target� pollsters and billioniare media barons and millionaire talkback toffs and condescending, Quadrant-editing, right-wing columnists, serious news reporters and news editors are NOT there to suck up to the filthy masses. If you privileged Canberra Bubblers won�t embrace the responsibility that comes with being a part of Australia�s intellectual leadership – for fear of being called an �elitist� by Piers or Bolt or Devine – then kindly step aside and let ME have your bloody column on the Op Ed page, Paul Kelly. Let ME compose your vacuous autocue wafflings, Barrie Cassidy. Let us amateurs who will gladly do it for free have a go at asking awkward questions in press conferences. Frankly, we can�t mess it up any more than you �professionals� have thus far.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq wasn�t remotely scrutinsed by the �free� press when you all had the chance, and that a smug, sniggering ABC regular like Farr is your Press Gallery President is supremely symptomatic. It�s time you Canberra Bubble lemmings started to examine � very publicly, in the scarce public forums you so lazily occupy – how badly you failed us, why exactly you failed us, and what you now intend to do about it.

Where are all the mainstream mea culpas? You lot were suckered over this war almost to a man and woman, and no amount of ironic sophistication there on the Insiders� couch next Sunday can disguise that fact, Malcolm, Barry and Co. D�oh!


One Letter to the Present � Anatomy of (Another) �Un-newsworthy� Story

Dear Mainstream Australian Press, circa mid 2004,

OK, so Loony-Left �told you so� rant over. What can you do about it? Need more encouragement from us, the public who desperately want to support you? Need any hints about what we might regard as the �public interest�?

Try this, say: the Wilkie-Bolt Leak remains of great interest to us. It�s a news story. If you want it to be, that is. It�s up to you to make it one, though; not me (I�m an amateur wannabe), and not Wilkie (he�s got a partisan Green agenda now) or any other whistle-blower, either. As Knightly says, only new reporters can set the news agenda; and then only if they want to. But you have to start asking the right awkward questions of the right powerful people, instead of tamely sitting back and waiting for the next press release or leak or blown whistle.

It�s not that hard, Malcolm. Like I said, even us amateurs can do it. Or have a clumsy go at it, at least. Laurie? Paul? Michelle? Hullo? Hullo, Canberra Bubble?



From: Jack Robertson. To: The Prime Minister’s Office. Date: 29 April 2004

Attention Prime Minister’s Press Officer Willie Herron

Dear Mr Herron (sic – Willie’s a woman),

I write a Meeja Watch column for Margo Kingston’s SMH online Web Diary. I’m currently preparing a story for the website regarding the alleged leak of a Top Secret ONA intelligence analysis in mid 2003 to journalist Andrew Bolt, who allegedly referred to information it contained in a Sun-Herald article of 23 June. The story is based upon new claims made by the report’s primary author, former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie. Mr Wilkie has made the following claim on record, which I intend to publish on Margo Kingston’s website:

“I know for sure that it’s on the record in ONA that – [deleted for Webdiary to avoid compromising the AFP investigation] – asked for and received an additional copy of that report only days before the Bolt article.”

I now respectfully seek the Prime Minister’s written response to the following question:

1. Did the Prime Minister’s office ask for and receive an additional copy from ONA of a Top Secret report concerning humanitarian aspects of an invasion of Iraq (compiled by Andrew Wilkie and first issued in late 2002/early 2003) some time in June 2003?


From: Jack Robertson. To: The Prime Minister’s Office. Date: 4 May 2004

Attention Prime Minister’s Press Officer Willie Herron

Dear Mr Herron,

I refer you to my respectful emailed request for a written response from Prime Minister Howard submitted last Thursday 29 April as per below. I note that I have yet to receive a response from Mr Howard, and respectfully re-submit my request now.

Jack Robertson


From: Willie Herron. To: Jack Robertson. Date: 4 May 2004.

Dear Mr Robertson,

Apologies for the delay in responding to your email. My response to you is “The AFP are investigating this issue so it is inappropriate to make any comment”.

Regards, WH



From: Jack Robertson. To: The Foreign Minister’s Office. Date: 29 April 2004

Attention Foreign Minister’s Press Officer Chris Kenny

Dear Mr Kenny,

I write a Meeja Watch column for Margo Kingston’s SMH online Web Diary. I’m currently preparing a story for the website regarding the alleged leak of a Top Secret ONA intelligence analysis in mid 2003 to journalist Andrew Bolt, who allegedly referred to information it contained in a Sun-Herald article of 23 June. The story is based upon new claims made by the report’s primary author, former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie. Mr Wilkie has made the following claim on record, which I intend to publish on Margo Kingston’s website:

“I know for sure that it’s on the record in ONA that – [deleted for Webdiary to avoid compromising the AFP investigation] – asked for and received an additional copy of that report only days before the Bolt article.”

I now respectfully seek the Foreign Minister’s written response to the following question:

1. Did the Foreign Minister’s office ask for and receive an additional copy from ONA of a Top Secret report concerning humanitarian aspects of an invasion of Iraq (compiled by Andrew Wilkie and first issued in late 2002/early 2003) some time in June 2003?



From: Jack Robertson. To: The Foreign Minister’s Office. Date: 4 May 2004

Attention Foreign Minister’s Press Officer Chris Kenny.

Dear Mr Kenny,

I refer you to my respectful emailed request for a written response from Foreign Minister Downer submitted last Thursday 29 April as per below. I note that I have yet to receive a response from Mr Downer, and respectfully re-submit my request now.

Jack Robertson


From: Chris Kenny. To: Jack Robertson

Date: 7 May 2004

I have responded clearly and directly to you in a phone call. *

Chris Kenny, Media Adviser, Minister for Foreign Affairs

* In our telephone conversation (29 April) Mr Kenny told me that it was not appropriate to comment on the issue since it was the subject of an AFP investigation, and also that �these rumours� had been around for a while, and it was �old news�.



From: Jack Robertson. To: Mr Peter Varghese. Date: 30 April 2004.

Dear Mr Varghese,

I write a Meeja Watch column for Margo Kingston’s SMH online Web Diary. I’m currently preparing a story for the website regarding the alleged leak of a Top Secret ONA intelligence analysis in mid 2003 to journalist Andrew Bolt, who has recently confirmed to me that he referred directly to a copy of that report while writing an article for the Melbourne Herald-Sun which was published on 23 June. The story is based upon new claims made by that classified ONA report’s primary author, former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Wilkie has made the following claim on record, which I intend to publish on Margo Kingston’s website:

“I know for sure that it’s on the record in ONA that – [deleted for Webdiary to avoid compromising the AFP investigation] – asked for and received an additional copy of that report only days before the Bolt article.”

I respectfully seek an ONA written response to the following questions:

1. Is it on the record in ONA that – [deleted to avoid compromising the AFP investigation – asked for and received from ONA a copy of Andrew Wilkie’s December 2002 analysis of humanitarian aspects of an Iraq invasion at some time in June 2003?”

2. Since 23 June 2003, have you or any other members of ONA been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police in relation to an alleged leak of this report to the journalist Andrew Bolt?

3. Has the AFP team currently investigating that alleged leak to date sought and been given by ONA full access to the ONA records regarding all movements of this report in June 2003?


To: Mr Peter Varghese, Director-General. Office of National Assessments. Date: 4 May 2004.

Dear Mr Varghese,

I refer you to my respectful emailed request for a written response from ONA sent last Friday 30 April as per below. I note that I have yet to receive a response from ONA, and respectfully re-submit my request now.

Jack Robertson



From: Jack Robertson. To: Ms K—-, AFP. Date: 30 April 30, 2004.

Dear Ms K—-,

As per as phone conversation of this morning, below please find a copy of the email I sent to the AFP National Media Centre this morning. I would be grateful if AFP were to provide a written AFP response to the questions below. Naturally I understand that with regard to the security and privacy aspects of any on-going investigation, the AFP may be unable to respond as fully as I might like. Not-with-standing the specific queries below, however, I would be very appreciative – especially with a keen view to helping ensure AFP retains the high level of confidence the public has maintained in it as an investigative body since the excellent Bali bombing results – if AFP could provide me with as full an update on the status of the alleged Bolt leak investigation as is possible.

Ms K—-, thank you very much for your time and courtesy,

Jack Robertson


From: Jack Robertson. To: National Media Centre, Australian Federal Police, via public website national media contact email address. Date: 30 April 2004. Attention Ms Jane O’Brien, Co-ordinator Media Manager (Canberra Head Office). Attention (subject): Enquiries regarding the AFP investigation into an alleged leak of ONA material to journalist Andrew Bolt in 2003

Dear Ms O’Brien/to whom it may otherwise concern,

I write a Meeja Watch column for Margo Kingston’s SMH online Web Diary. I’m currently preparing a story for the website regarding the alleged leak of a Top Secret ONA intelligence analysis in mid 2003 to journalist Andrew Bolt, who has recently confirmed to me that he referred directly to a copy of that report while writing an article for the Melbourne Herald-Sun which was published on 23 June. I understand that an AFP investigation into this alleged leak is on-going.

In light of new allegations about the ONA record of the handling and distribution of copies of that report in June last year, recently made to me on-record by the report’s primary author the former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie and which I intend publishing on Margo Kingston’s website, I respectfully seek an AFP written response to the following questions:

1. Has the AFP team investigating the alleged leak of the report to date interviewed the journalist Andrew Bolt about the leak?

2. Has the AFP team investigating the alleged leak to date sought and been granted full access to the ONA records covering the distribution and handling of the report in June 2003?

3. Has the AFP team investigating the alleged leak to date interviewed any staff in either the Prime Minister’s or Foreign Minister’s offices?

Jack Robertson


From: Jack Robertson. To: Ms K—-, Australian Federal Police. Date: 4 May 2004.

Dear Ms K—,

I refer you to my emailed request for a written response from the AFP sent to you for forwarding to Ms Jane O’Brien (or whom it may other concern) last Friday 30 April as per below. Ms K—, I note that I have yet to receive a response from AFP. I note also that you are not directly responsible for providing me with a response and apologise for troubling you again, but beg your kind indulgence in respectfully re-submitting my request to the appropriate AFP media officers.

Yours sincerely, and with warm thanks for your trouble,

Jack Robertson


From: Ms K—-. To: Jack Robertson. Date: 4 May 2004.

Hi Jack,

I haven’t forgotten you. I will attempt to assist you with your enquiry as soon as possible, and hopefully get back to you tomorrow. Kind Regards

Ms K—-, Australian Federal Police




From: Jack Robertson. To: Ms K—-, AFP. Date: 7 May 2004. Information copies: The Honourable Phillip Ruddock, MP, Attorney-General, Mr Kevin Rudd, MP, Opposition spokesperson for Foreign Affairs

(NB: Information copies via email; see exclusion note below; NB: I also note for the record and with my warm thanks the courteous and professional assistance AFP public servant/officer Ms K—- has to the best of her ability and sphere of responsibility provided me so far.)

Dear Ms K—,

I refer you to my emailed request for a written response from the AFP sent to you for forwarding to Ms Jane O’Brien (or whom it may other concern) last Friday 30 April, and resubmitted via you on Tuesday 4 May as per below.

Ms K—-, I note once again that I have yet to receive a response from AFP. Once again I note that you are not directly responsible for providing me with a response and apologise for troubling you again, but respectfully re-submit my request to the appropriate AFP officers. I also now further request advice ASAP from the AFP regarding the following:

It is my intention to publish on Margo Kingston’s Webdiary at some point in the future the following allegation that may relate to the alleged ONA leak, one that has been made to me on-record by former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie. I am currently seeking a response to this allegation from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and ONA. Mr Wilkie has told me (the substance of this allegation has been OMITTED from Mr Ruddock’s and Mr Rudd’s information copies):

“I know for sure that it’s on the record in ONA that — [deleted for Webdiary to avoid compromising the AFP investigation] — asked for and received an additional copy of that report only days before the Bolt article.”

Ms K—, I would be grateful if you could advise the relevant AFP officers that I am determined to publish this allegation in the public interest if I am unable to assure myself as a citizen that the investigation into this leak is being pursued by AFP with full vigour. however, I am also anxious not to compromise the AFP’s on-going investigations in any way. To that end, not-with-standing my other outstanding queries below, can AFP please advise me as a matter of priority of their response to the following two questions:

Question One: Will it compromise the on-going AFP investigation into the alleged leak of the Top Secret ONA report to journalist Andrew Bolt if I publish on Margo Kingston’s Webdiary Mr Wilkie’s allegation as above?

Question Two: If so, does the AFP formally request me NOT to publish the allegation as above at this stage?

Ms K—-, please advise the relevant AFP officers that in the interests of not compromising any on-going investigation I will readily comply with any explicit AFP written request regarding this allegation at this stage, but that I also reserve the right to make public note – without divulging allegation details – on Margo Kingston’s Webdiary of any such request from AFP.

Ms K—, please take care to advise the relevant AFP officers that I have also forwarded information copies of this email (LESS allegation details) – to Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock and Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Kevin Rudd, the latter of whom I understand from recent media reports has also recently written to AG and AFP expressing his concern at the lack of progress of the Bolt leak investigation.

Finally, Ms K—-, please accept my apologies again for communicating with AFP via your email address and for taking what you may regard as the liberty of placing on the record (via information copies) with both Government and Opposition my on-going pursuit of some – any – information from AFP regarding this matter. I am well aware that you are not directly responsible for this matter, but I am anxious to ensure that my various requests are dealt with appropriately and promptly.

Yours sincerely, and with warm thanks for your trouble again,

Jack Robertson


From: Ms K—–. To: Jack Robertson. Date: 7 May 2004

Hi Jack,

Many thanks for your enquiry. Unfortunately the only comment I’m able to provide is: “As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to make any comment about the enquiries being conducted or provide any other information relating to this investigation”.

Kind Regards

Ms K—–, AFP



From: Jack Robertson. To: His Excellency Mr J.T. (Tom) Scheiffer, Ambassador of the USA to Australia. Date: 4 May 2004. Attention: Press Officer(s), US Embassy Canberra

Your Excellency,

I write a Meeja Watch column for Margo Kingston’s SMH online Web Diary. I’m currently preparing a story for the website regarding the alleged leak of a Top Secret Office of National Assessments (ONA) intelligence analysis in mid 2003 to Melbourne journalist Andrew Bolt, who allegedly referred to classified information it contained in a Sun-Herald article of 23 June 2003. My story relates to new allegations that have been made to me on record, which may have some bearing on the circumstances and nature of the alleged leak, and which I intend to publish on Ms Kingston’s website this week.

Your Excellency, I understand that as this matter is the subject of an on-going Australian Federal Police domestic investigation the American government may prefer not to comment specifically on it. Never-the-less, since the alleged leak may be of some importance with regard to the on-going security and intelligence relationship between the United States and Australia, I respectfully submit the following questions and would be warmly grateful for any response Your Excellency is able to provide.

1. I understand that under the terms of the ANZUS alliance, American and Australian intelligence agencies routinely ‘share’ sensitive information, and that as such, it is possible that the alleged leak of the ONA report represents a potential security breach not only for Australian intelligence agencies but for those of the United States as well.

Question: a) does the American government view with concern the alleged leaking of the ONA report into the Australian public domain last year, and b) if so did the American government formally convey that concern to the Australian government last year when the leak first came to light?

2. Last week the Australian Opposition spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Mr Kevin Rudd reportedly (Sun-Herald, 2 May) wrote formally to the Australian Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock expressing his concern over the apparent lack of progress the AFP is making in the investigation of this alleged leak.

Question: Again given the on-going nature of the ANZUS alliance intelligence-sharing arrangement, does the American government share Mr Rudd’s concern at this apparent lack of progress?

3. Can the American government assure the Australian people that a failure of the AFP investigation to trace and prosecute to the full extent of Australian domestic law the person or persons responsible for this alleged leak will in no way have any future detrimental impact on the breadth, scope, timeliness and security classification of that sensitive information currently made available by American agencies to Australian agencies under the terms of the ANZUS alliance, and particularly any such future information relating to potential terrorist threats on Australian soil or against Australians citizens overseas?

Your Excellency, with warm thanks for your time and expressions of ANZUS goodwill to your nation’s soldiers currently serving alongside ours in Iraq.

Jack Robertson


Webdiarists NB: I�ve decided not to publish Wilkie�s information just yet, even though the AFP were not even prepared to advise me of whether or not this would actually compromise their investigation. (This is supposedly why the Senate Estimates Committee didn�t press ONA boss Peter Varghese on the ID of the report recipient in February this year; it�s now nearly four months later, and you�ve got to start to wonder at what point we�re going to be allowed to know.)

Wilkie will publish his claim fully himself in his forthcoming book Axis of Deceit (PanMacmillan, June/July) – so keep in mind when he does that the Prime Minister�s office, the Foreign Minister�s office, ONA, the Attorney-General and Mr Kevin Rudd, and the Australian Federal Police will have ALL known of that information since at least May. (In the case of ONA, they�ll have known all along of course, and as for the PM and Mr Downer, I find it impossible to believe that the ONA internal record wasn�t one of the first places they checked way back in late June 2003, when Bolt�s article appeared.)

So when the �mainstream press� Canberra pundits express their �shock and horror!� at Wilkie�s next revelation (and when Mr Howard and Mr Downer say: �Oh, but I wasn�t told!� yet again), direct everyone in the Canberra Bubble to this website, and ask senior media leaders like Kelly, Shanahan, Grattan and O�Brien WHY none of them kept at this AFP investigation story long enough to elicit the information all by themselves, way back in September 2003 when the �SCANDAL!!!� first broke.

This is what Knightley means when he says: “It was big news and now it�s tapered off and disappearing. Newspapers lose interest…”

But perhaps that�s not quite the whole story here, either. Oh dear, here I go getting all Loony-Lefty conspiratorial again. Then again., as Margo wrote earlier, pretty much anything is possible in these crazy days.


One Letter to the Future � Mr Glenn Milne�s Curious Reminiscences

Dear Australian Mainstream Press, circa tomorrow, next week, some time soon (I hope),

On 29 September 2003, one of your senior leaders – Glenn Milne, political writer for The Australian(and until recently Channel Seven) – wrote a very curious Op Ed piece on Tasmanian Governor Richard Butler. I�ll reprint the relevant Wilkie bits here (unfortunately it�s not archived online anywhere free):


Canberra ready to open the door on Richard Butler�s Past

JIM Bacon has a problem coming down the line he probably doesn’t even know about yet.

The Tasmanian Labor Premier’s decision to appoint one of the ALP’s favoured sons, former chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler, as governor of the island state was always fraught. How fraught, Bacon may be about to find out. According to senior federal Government sources, Butler is now the subject of a series of freedom of information inquiries from media organisations (including The Australian) regarding his behaviour during his often controversial career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The department will, of course, comply strictly with the terms of the relevant act in deciding which documents to release. But such decisions are always informed by the attitude of the government of the day to such FOI requests. And this government is of a mind to have as much information on Butler as it can in the public domain …

The third factor counting against him in Canberra is that many officials in DFAT believe Butler was afforded special protection and preferment during his time in the department, largely under the Hawke-Keating Labor governments. As well as being Gough Whitlam’s former principal private secretary, he was also married, at one stage, to Hawke’s education minister Susan Ryan. His son’s second name is Gough. The Government’s stance has also hardened in the wake of Opposition demands for police action against the leaker of the so-called �Wilkie memo�.

This concerns Andrew Wilkie, the Office of National Assessments’ analyst who resigned in a blaze of publicity claiming Howard was joining the invasion of Iraq under false pretences. A memo Wilkie wrote on Iraq was subsequently leaked to conservative Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt who openly referred to the top-secret document in his Herald Sun column. A police investigation, egged on enthusiastically by the Opposition, is under way. Clearly, Labor believes the source of the leak will be found in the offices of either Howard or Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. The Opposition, however, was calling for no such investigation when, in 1999, then foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton was leaked a Defence Intelligence Organisation briefing that revealed the Indonesian military was collaborating with pro-Jakarta militia in East Timor …

In short, neither Downer nor some elements of DFAT are well disposed to Labor on questions of principle. And this is at a time when they are considering the FOI requests regarding Butler’s behaviour.

The FOI requests are understood to relate to two particular episodes in Butler’s career, which prospered after a period in the doldrums with his appointment by then foreign minister Bill Hayden as ambassador for disarmament. While in that position, Opposition MPs demanded the government table the cost of the post. It turned out the then Labor government was spending almost $800,000 a year maintaining Butler in Geneva, including domestic servants costing $1800 a week. The embarrassing revelations helped ensure the post was scrapped only five years after it was established. In total, Butler and his support staff cost the taxpayer millions of dollars. There are many within DFAT who have always darkly hinted there was much more information available regarding Butler’s expenses, if only you knew where to look.

The second area subject to FOI requests is believed to be Butler’s term as ambassador to Thailand. This is, potentially, a much more damaging period. While there Butler faced allegations of sexual harassment…

Time to ask some more awkward amateur questions. This time of the �mainstream� press:

1. How are those News Limited Freedom of Information requests going, Glenn Milne (or Dennis Shanahan or Paul Kelly or Michael Stutchbury or any other senior News Limited journalist)? Do you Murdochians plan to tell us about Butler�s �dark� past any time soon?

2. Or were you only hinting at those FOI requests, Glenn, as part of a �friendly message delivery service� on behalf of some government player inside the Canberra Bubble, who�s a bit worried about being done for busting the Crimes Act?

3. Is this why the Bolt leak is running dead as a story, senior members of the Australian Press Gallery? Is it that you and all the most senior politicians in Canberra on both sides know that there�s been so many skeletons dumped in so many closets across the last two decades of incestuous games, covers-up, back-scratching, leaks and inside dealings that nobody wants to set the house of cards tumbling?

4. Is it true that ever since some of you senior journalists helped Bob Hawke knife Bill Hayden way back in 1983, those incestuous games have been growing gamier in smell? Is that why none of you want the Bolt leaker to get �done�? Because then the Brereton leaker would get �done�, too, and then maybe Butler would get �done�, and he�d take half of Keating and Hawke�s Cabinets down with him, too – including dear old Richo, who of course is in a bit of strife elsewhere just now, too, and he knows where just about every skeleton in Australia is closeted? Including those that might rattle all you �senior political correspondents� right to the professional eyeballs? Is all that about right? Or close, Glenn? Were you simply warning Labor (and everyone else who�s anyone in Canberra) off the story on behalf of your government sources and contacts?

No? Just me being conspiratorial again? Fine. Then let�s hear all about Governor Butler�s �dark� past in your very next column please, Glenn Milne. What was that about Thailand again? What was that about all those FOI requests, Rupert?

Come on, then. We�re waiting. (We�re VERY �publicly interested� in Governor Butler�s past). Oh, and let�s also have someone senior and influential in the Press Gallery � Malcolm Farr say, since he�s not terribly busy just now, apparently – pick up the phone tomorrow, next week, some time soon in your collective journalistic future – and impolitely ask Mr Howard, Mr Downer, Mr Varghese, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, Attorney General Ruddock and Kevin Rudd, MP, when we, the Australian public who pay them all, can expect to hear a PUBLIC progress report on the Bolt leak investigation that is a little more information-rich than: �Since this is an on-going investigation, it is inappropriate to comment at this stage.�

It�s almost a year now since someone inside the Canberra Bubble smashed the Crimes Act and breached national security at exactly a time when my little brother was on a battlefield getting shot at in the name of �national security�. That person was almost certainly the authorised recipient (or someone acting as proxy middleman for them) who asked for and received a copy of Wilkie�s report just a few days before 23 June. An �authorised� recipient means a senior government, military or public service official with a TOP SECRET, AUSTEO security clearance, and I�m sorry, but there just ain�t that many who fit the bill if you can narrow down what part of the Canberra Bubble they work in.

That person�s name is also written down on a piece of official paper inside ONA.

So I now want to know who that person was, Australian Press Gallery. The AFP has had a bloody year to investigate, and I�m fed up with waiting for a progress report. I want to know who asked ONA for that single copy. I want to know why they needed a six-month out-of-date, pre-invasion report in late June 2003. I want you � the �free� press – to find out who then leaked it to Andrew Bolt, too.

Then I want someone�s head to roll. For once. I want our honourable military, public service and especially our intelligence professionals protected from security breaches, political exploitation, buck-passing, can-carrying and general anti-democratic abuses of this Canberra Bubble game-playing kind. How about you, Glenn Milne? You�re the one who seems to know which Manuka swillhouse dunnies the gobbier Deep Throats hang about in these days.

It�s decision time, Australian Mainstream Press. At Webdiary we media nobodies have been bashing out heads against your Canberra Bubble for four long years, and often over mouse poo like phone cards and budget leaks and polly perk rip-offs – but this time our weak leaders got us drawn into an involvement in an illegal, immoral, unnecessary and possibly unwinnable �war� that you could well have helped us (and them) avoid if you�d only done your jobs properly. You all need to stop excusing your professional inadequacies and failures with ironic chatter and knowing Boomer sophistication, and start doing something about them.

So I�ll end my latest open letter appeal by asking the senior, more cynical among you � who just might remember such late colleagues from your own idealistic youths � a question I first posed way back in November 2000:

I urge you all to think about Greg Shackleton�s last report from Balibo at least once every day of your increasingly-complex working lives. My heart swells with pride at being a Human Being every time I watch it. As a Reporter, where do you stand in relation to it?

Yours sincerely,

Webdiary Meeja Watch

Meet the Carlyles, Australia

G’day. The untruths they keep telling us, eh? The defence force, the defence department, the government. Now we’re supposed to believe that the government knew nothing about American war crimes in Iraq jails until April, when the pictures surfaced. This despite our man in Baghdad HQ Major O’Kane and his superiors knowing all about it from November. This despite O’Kane inspecting Abu Grahib several times, advising on the acceptability of intrrogation techniques and even claiming that the torture exposed by the Red Cross wasn’t really torture! No wonder Hill banned him from giving evidence to the Parliament. The truths he might tell!


If we believe that a matter so serious was not put before government then we’re forced to believe that bureaucracy and the defence force lost their collective minds or knew that, yet again, this would be something the government would not want to hear. But why mislead Howard and Hill until the deception was exposed by the Herald? Could it be that Australia actually condoned the torture? One thing we know after long months of revelations of the bad faith of Iraq’s invaders is that anything, ANYTHING, is possible. It’s that scary.


The Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Allard deserves a Walkley for his courage and persistence on this story. But what does he get? On the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, compere Barrie Cassidy tossed his story aside with a smirk and a smug president of the Canberra Press Gallery, Malcolm Farr, guffawed that he couldn’t understand what it was all about, except that some journos still followed the Carl Bernstein/Bob Woodward style of journalism – “What did they know and when did they know it”.

How terribly old fashioned of them. Much better to have a chat about the polls and who’s on top and when the election date might be.

How sad most the mainstream media is these days. How bloody sad.

Today Jack Robertson, a Webdiary columnist who argued the case before the war that it was all about oil, introduces us to the Carlyle Group, one the most powerful, best connected outfits in the USA, and how they do business with government. It’s stuff we need to know, because pollies here are fast becoming like their American counterparts – mere salesmen for the money men, the real power in our post-democracies. Check out this week’s Time magazine, for example. American Vice President Dick Cheney personally shepherded through a no tender Iraq contract to Halliburton, which he used to chair. Conflict of interest? Nothing wrong with that in the US military industrial complex. Halliburton is the company that’s overcharged the Pentagon for fuel and lots more besides, and cancelled an Australian company’s contract in Iraq allegedly because it refused to pay bribes to Halliburton. What’s the difference between bad old Saddam and good old America again? Seems like we, the people, have two enemies – the Islamic fascists and the Western fascists.


Meet the Carlyles, Australia

by Jack Robertson

“It doesn’t take an Einstein to recognise why Iraq is suddenly so important. A unilateral Saudi cut of even a few million barrels a day now – or the total overthrow of the government by extremist Muslim students and clerics, a revolution of the kind many current Bushies experienced up close in the friendly oil pump of Iran back in 1979 – would be globally, economically catastrophic.”Loony-Left anti-American Conspiracy Rant, Webdiary, 5 March 2003

“Oil Price Quakes as Hostages Killed” Loony-Left anti-American Conspiracy Headline” – Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 2004.

Saudis, oil, war n’ terror, lawyers, guns and money

Now that the mainstream media has caught up and it’s permissible to chat about the reason for the Iraq invasion – which has always been oil – we loony lefties at Webdiary might get away with talking about groups like The Carlyle Group without being labeled conspiracy theorists or Western self-blamers. Since an Australian was killed in the Saudi Arabian hostage tragedy, probably not, but let’s try anyway.

If you’re so inclined, the story of the Carlyle Group has everything any self-respecting Larouchian could wish for: money, arms, oil, political connections, involuntary taxpayer largesse, bloodied old warmongers, blown-out defence contracts, terrorist dynasties, corrupt Gulf Royalty, cold and blue-blooded Ivy Leaguers, the odd scheming cosmospolitan Jew, etc, etc, etc. But I’ve never claimed that there’s anything conspiratorial about the oily corner we Westerners have bowsered ourselves into over the last sixty-odd years. It’s just the way the big energy and arms businesses have developed in an commercially opportunist era and region.

The long overdue mainstreaming of the role of Saudi Arabian oil in the ‘war on terror’ will get a big boost from Michael Moore’s new film, but it should really begin with every commercial TV channel on the planet running this more measured documentary from the Netherlands, from mid-2003. (The January 2004 version is here.) Since the chance of that happening is roughly zero it’s worth watching online, even if it’s partly in Dutch. You can also check out the Carlyle Group’s website atthecarlylegroup.

All very respectable, isn’t it? ‘Global vision, local insight: Our mission is to be the premier global private equity firm, leveraging the insight of Carlyle’s team of investment professionals to generate extraordinary returns across a range of investment choices, while maintaining our good name and the good name of our investors…’

The defining point is that what Carlyle does is ‘legitimate’. Theirs is not some Enron or Worldcom-style transgression of the West’s ideal of globalisation, but its quintessential mode. To paraphrase Gordon Gecko: Carlyle is Good. Its executives don’t believe they are doing anything wrong. They make big profits for their investors. They break no laws outright. No doubt many Carlyle firms are even doing good things now in Iraq, too. Rebuilding, revitalising, providing employment, training, channeling trickle-down wealth, fostering new links with the West at microeconomic levels. Perhaps.

Because the problem is it didn’t work out quite that way in Saudi Arabia in the long-run. Nope; the Carlylian version of the West’s ‘free market economy’ was in fact what ushered in the new age of terrorism in the first place. And that’s the point – the Carlyle Groupers and their grubby mates might be about to do it all over again in Iraq.

Is Carlyle’s manner of doing business legal? Yes. Is it profitable? Very. But is it fair? No. Is it moral? Absolutely not. (Is it stupid? Yes – see Khobar.) And so what does that say overall about the newly fluid relationship between public policy (taxpayer investment), and free market enterprise (private profit-taking)? Answer: it’s one bloody great insider trading rip-off, and nothing better demonstrates this than the particularly loaded globalisation dice rolled by Carlyle. There’s little mention of George H.W. Bush himself in the Carlyle glossies anymore except to say that he stopped being a consultant in late 2003, but here’s just some of their team and what they do for Carlyle:

James A. Baker III: Former U.S. Secretary of State; Carlyle Senior Counselor. Mr. Baker gives strategic advice on Carlyle business matters and gives speeches at Carlyle events.

Frank C. Carlucci: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense; Chairman Emeritus of Carlyle. Mr. Carlucci provides strategic business advice to Carlyle management and investment professionals.

Richard G. Darman: Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Senior Advisor and Managing Director. Mr. Darman advises Carlyle senior management on strategic business matters; works on a range of venture capital and energy investments; and advises Carlyle investment professionals worldwide on venture capital activities.

William E. Kennard: Former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission; Managing Director in the Telecommunications & Media Group. Mr. Kennard works on telecommunications & media acquisitions and advises Carlyle investment professionals worldwide on telecommunications buyout and venture activities.

Arthur Levitt: Former Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Carlyle Senior Advisor. Mr. Levitt advises Carlyle management on strategic business matters.

John Major: Former U.K. Prime Minister; Chairman of Carlyle Europe. Mr. Major provides strategic leadership and business guidance to Carlyle Europe’s investment operation, including buyout, venture, and real estate activities.

Thomas F. McLarty: Former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton; Carlyle Senior Advisor. Mr. McLarty advises Carlyle management on strategic business matters.

Charles O. Rossotti: Former Commissioner of Internal Revenue; Carlyle Senior Advisor. Mr. Rossotti advises Carlyle on information technology-related buyout and venture investments.

Luis Tellez: Former Mexico Secretary of Energy; Managing Director and Co-head of Carlyle Mexico Partners. Mr. Tellez conducts investment activities in Mexico.

This barely scratches the surface. European ex-treasurers. Phillipines ex-Presidents. Prime Ministers. Chancellors. Energy Commissioners. Central Bank managers. Political leaders from South Korea, Thailand, the Middle East. All the ex-politician bases are covered by the Carlyle Group. And these bespoke-suited operators have the nerve to wonder why we highly-strung Lefties are up to our eyeballs in conspiracy theories?

What matters is not anyone’s grubby personal stake, but the grim fact that this might be what the future of globalisation looks like for the rest of us. Private wealth, public killing. To put it deliberately in its nastiest anti-American form, does being an ANZUS ally in a neo-conservative, free market age mean that our brave diggers must fight alongside white-trash Americans so that the cell-phone company in which the Carlyle Group has invested is the one that gets to turn Baghdad into Arabic text message central? Or re-build the roads? Or guard the Oil Ministry?

Or defend the Iraqi government against the inevitable attacks by its own angry people – just as Carlyle sub-subsidiary Vinnell has helped the Saudi National Guard defend the repellant corrupt Royals against their own people for years?

But maybe I’m being too conspiratorial. Maybe all these public money defense contracts actually do get awarded strictly on merit. Maybe the Carlyle’s serendipitous investment eggs come before the chickenhawks make their policy moves. But who can tell anymore, and how? The whole point of Eisenhower’s premonition about the convergence of political defence policy and the commercial defence industry was that once the relationship had past a certain symbiotic point-of-no-return, you could never hope to define where legitimate strategic business advice ended, and policy-shaping inside dealing began. It’s no conspiracy, but it’s a hell of an anti-democratic tangle to unpick – if, like me, you’d very much like American voters to try, that is.

Not that they weren’t warned.

What sort of ANZUS do we want to be part of?

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell speech, 17 January 1961 .

The brain of man may devise wonders and the hand of man execute them, but they will all fall into evil and harmful uses unless the heart of man – the guide of conduct – is sound and true. The question we need to put to ourselves most frequently in these days is, ‘What do we believe in?’Robert Menzies in 1942. Menzies signed up to ANZUS, effective 29 April 1952.

The other night at the Institute of Public Affairs Mr Howard spoke about ‘seeing it through’ in Iraq. He talked about a battle of ‘wills’, of ‘values’, a fight to the death between ‘them’ and ‘us’. He was right, but he wasn’t speaking for you and me when he argued in support of the West, any more than Osama bin Laden is speaking for ordinary Muslims when he delivers his regular battle cries against us. Our Prime Minister was really only speaking for men like those at the IPA dinner, and like the men who run the Carlyle Groups of our globalising world.

Have a breeze around the IPA website and the Net to learn of its supporters’ views on the optimum free market relationship between economics and democracy, and the IPA’s intellectual debts to influential American think-tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and our old favorite theProject for a New American Century. IPA’s free market ideologue-in-chief Gary Johns will take you to the AEI, where he gave a speech on NGO’s in June 2003; it’s an easy step from there to PNAC. Or Carlyle. Or Halliburton. Bechtel. Kellog, Brown and Root. The Weekly Standard. Rummy. Cheney. Perle. Iran-Contra. Kissinger. Schultz. Vinnell. BCCI. The bin laden family

Yes, you can play conspiratorial games forever, but the less sinister reality is just that a lot of these wealthy businessmen and business groups have similar ideas about the way the world should (be) run, and a lot of them are quite naturally mates. So too the IPA simply believes strongly in a Carlylian vision of globalisation. Deregulate. Decentralise. Privatise. Reduce tax. Contract out. Minimise public scrutiny. Minimise checks-and-balances. Position yourself at the interface between politics and business. Schmooze. Make contacts. Grease the wheels of power. Keep the public at arms’ length. Use your influence quietly. Lobby behind the scenes.

Nothing illegitimate in any of that in itself. It’s what business people do.

But that our elected leader Mr Howard chose to update the Australian nation on the state of progress in Iraq at an exclusive, paying-guests only speech sharing such men’s hospitality is illegitimate, in my opinion. The IPA charged well-heeled insiders $4,000 for a public ‘product’ that rightly belongs to all of us: our Prime Minister’s honest and open update on a war our fellow Australians are fighting. You can’t ‘sell’ that information to a private audience. It’s not Mr Howard’s or the IPA’s to sell. That nobody so much as blinked an eye at this arrangement – one that Menzies would have despised – is a key to how far the corrosive, Carlyle-style symbiosis between politics and business has already developed under this allegedly traditionalist, Liberal PM, and where it will no doubt go if he wins the next election.

Could you afford one of those $4,000 top table tickets? Nor me. And were you at the PM’s 30th anniversary party at the Hordern Pavilion the next night? Neither was I. Ignore all the Menzian window-dressing at that ‘Westminster’ bash; like every other social conservative line trotted out by Mr Howard’s team these days, it’s simply convenient camouflage.

So at this next election, I think that Australia has to ask itself what sort of globalised future it wants to help America build. Which ANZUS ally do we want to be mates with? The America of the Carlyle Group? Or the America of those idealistic 800 plus GIs who’ve died so far in Iraq – who for all the responsibilities that must come with killing – are still closer to the America of Jefferson, Kennedy, Luther King, Spielberg, Springstein, Brubeck, Bart Simpson, Chomsky, the NYFD and Bill Gates. Theirs is the America I love; theirs is the America I want to be allied with.

Mr Howard on the other hand has put his ANZUS trust in the newer America, this not-quite-right convergence of political and corporate power to the exclusion of the wider citizenry. So as we sympathise with the grieving relatives of the hostages killed in Saudi Arabia – as we hear yet more condescending cant about why the terrorists murdered them (because they ‘hate us’) – just keep the Carlyle Group in mind. For all his exclusive bluster to the IPA the other night our own PM still hasn’t done his voting constituency the courtesy of explaining what’s going on in Iraq. And those $4,000 top table guests probably know more about Iraq than the average Liberal Party backbencher, too; just as almost no-one in the US Congress wants to mention the Carlyle Group, neither does anyone else in President Howard’s Rubber-stamping Department care to mention the Iraq War anymore.

We’ve moved on. It’s budget and election time. No doubt the PM and his neo-conservative hosts had a private chat about that the other night, too. Not to mention the obvious campaign fundraising whip-around. Money and politics; politics and war; war and money. And politics and war and money and politics and war and money. Honest John: meet Australia’s Carlyles. Aussie Carlyles: meet Honest John.

This is how you build an iron triangle. And it’s not a good look for Australia.

Go tell it to the Marines, lying John

Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s Meeja Watch columnist. He is a former helicopter pilot in the Australian Defence Force.


What makes me despair about history like this?

Q: Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?

A: Higher command. We were told to be on the lookout for the civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government.

Q: What kind of firepower was employed?

A: M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns.

Q: You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out?

A: Oh, yeah. Well, I had a “mercy” on one guy. When we rolled up, he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. I saw him and raised my weapon up, and he put up his hands. He ran off. I told everybody, “Don’t shoot.” Half of his foot was trailing behind him. So he was running with half of his foot cut off.

What makes me despair are premonitions like this from fiteen months ago, warning of the brutal butchery this ex-Marine will live with for the rest of his life:

Let’s say ten invading LAV-25s roll into an Iraqi town. A twenty-year old Iraqi hothead takes exception to his aged parents being frightened by all these foreign soldiers, and waves his AK-47 around a bit. Who exactly is threatening whom here? What would the young GI in the LAV-25 turret be doing himself if this was occurring in Baton Rouge, with roles reversed? How will that same GI see things five minutes later, if and/or when he is surveying thirty dead men, women and children from his LAV-25, because the ‘stupid’ Iraqi squeezed off a frantic round or two, and the US commander, rightly not wanting to endanger his own troops unnecessarily, had everyone open up, and the situation descended into a one-sided blood-bath? Is this self-defence? Is this a war crime? Is it just bad luck? And is it the Iraqi kid’s own stupid fault, really? What would you do, Harry? Surrender obediently to an invading soldier who has vowed to overthrow your government, however much you might (or might not) hate it yourself? It’s not as if the kid’s got anywhere else to go. Regardless of the legal niceties, the GI will have to live with his actions forever, and uppermost in his mind will be the knowledge that his actions occurred in the context of a US invasion that even a great big wedge of his own countrymen simply didn’t support, not a ‘peace-keeping mission’, or a ‘defensive insertion’, or a ‘humanitarian aid project’.

That was from a Meeja Watch piece on 25 January 2003 called ‘White House Anti-Americanism, Australian Patriotic Blackmail’, and it’s exactly how things have panned out. Right down to the sense of moral betrayal this guy feels.

Go and read the whole interview with Staff Sergeant Massey, and weep for the brave men and women who the cowards in the White House have screwed. (But do make sure you weep much, much harder for the butchered Iraqis civilians on the other end of Massey’s .50 cal. He was a volunteer, after all, and millions of people worldwide did try to point out his President’s lies before he’d killed any Iraqis, when it mattered. Also he got to wear a flak jacket and ride in an armoured vehicle while doing so. Also, he had a nice home town to go back to when his outraged soul had had enough. Lest we start to forget who the truly betrayed victims of all this are.)

Q: Did the revelations that the government fabricated the evidence for war affect the troops?

A: Yes. I killed innocent people for our government. For what? What did I do? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I’ve had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it.

Q: I understand that all the incidents – killing civilians at checkpoints, itchy fingers at the rally – weigh on you. What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them?

A: There was an incident. It was right after the fall of Baghdad, when we went back down south. On the outskirts of Karbala, we had a morning meeting on the battle plan. I was not in a good mindset. All these things were going through my head – about what we were doing over there. About some of the things my troops were asking. I was holding it all inside. He didn’t like that. He got up and stormed off. And I knew right then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding officer.

Q: What happened then?

A: After I talked to the top commander, I was kind of scurried away. I was basically put on house arrest. I didn’t talk to other troops. I didn’t want to hurt them. I didn’t want to jeopardize them. I want to help people. I felt strongly about it. I had to say something. When I was sent back to stateside, I went in front of the sergeant major. He’s in charge of 3,500-plus Marines. “Sir,” I told him, “I don’t want your money. I don’t want your benefits. What you did was wrong.” It was just a personal conviction with me. I’ve had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the U.S. It’s not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.

Are you listening to stories like this, Prime Minister? Are you spinning the rich, friendly neo-conservatives of the Institute of Public Affairs stories of Iraq right now, this evening?



The Hon JOHN HOWARD Prime Minister will address The IPA CD KEMP ANNUAL DINNER in Melbourne Wednesday 19 May, 6.15 pm.

IRAQ: THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEING IT THROUGH – The Prime Minister will focus on a description of the current situation in Iraq and make a comprehensive statement of the Government’s response.

RSVP essential by Monday, 17 May 2004

$175 members, per seat

$190 non members, per seat

Premium Corporate tables of 10, $2250

Some seats remaining at Head Table $4000 each


Then why not choose Staff Sergeant Massey’s ‘description of the current situation in Iraq’ as your speech template, Prime Minister? Instead of painting us nice friendly ANZACs a conveniently ‘cuddly’ and more ‘ethical’ shade of desert khaki than those crazy, trigger-happy Yanks. Because I can assure you that if you want stories of good old Aussies slaughtering Iraqis, my brother will gladly oblige. It’s a war, John – yours, and George’s, and Tony’s.

So why not help our ANZUS allies out with the ‘moral heavy lifting’ too, by reading out loud to the IPA just how Staff Sergeant Massey feels about your war lies now. Why not embrace his personal war as yours, too? Saying, to all the rich men at your table who paid $4,000 to bask in your warm Churchilllian glow: “Look – I did this! I lied and lied and lied, and I made Staff Sergeant Massey butcher innocent civilians. I pulled the trigger. And all of you supported me, with your money and your power. And so together we must take full legal and moral responsibility for Staff Sergeant Massey’s predicament.” You won’t, of course, Prime Minister Howard. You and your respectable business mates never own up to the wars you make happen. Cowards.

Iraq: the importance of seeing through you, Lying John. As they say in America: take your f***king speech and go tell it to the Marines.

Wilkie: Blame ‘outrageous’ PM, not top spies

Former ONA strategic analyst Andrew Wilkie says that the government rather than the nation�s top spies should bear the most criticism for �politicisation� of Australia�s key intelligence agencies.


Wilkie was strongly critical of the Prime Minister�s role in exposing the nation�s leading spy organizations to growing public concern about their independence, pointing to Mr Howard�s decision in December last year to promote his own senior advisor on international affairs directly into the Director-Generalship of the Office of National Assessments (ONA) as an �absolutely outrageous� example of his �arrogant decision-making� on national security issues.

Wilkie said that he was anxious to avoid his criticisms being seen as any reflection on Mr Peter Varghese personally or professionally, but that growing perceptions of government interference in the intelligence community�s activities meant that such a career progression for a public servant � from Mr Howard�s personal policy team direct to atop the nation�s peak intelligence analysis agency � was unacceptable given the current security climate.

�To appoint a member of your personal staff to head ONA in these times is outrageous, it�s absolutely outrageous,� he told Webdiary. �It�s not sensible, it�s arrogant decision-making.�

�…regardless of how good or bad Mr Varghese is, at a time in our history where there are so many concerns about the honesty and the accountability of government, and the performance of intelligence agencies, and the relationship between the government and the agencies, it is just wrong to appoint a man from the PM�s staff. It�s just wrong.�

Wilkie worked as an ONA analyst under Varghese�s predecessor Kim Jones before resigning in protest in March 2003 over the government�s public �exaggerations� of the intelligence community�s pre-invasion assessments of Iraq�s WMD capability and links to al-Qaeda.

He said that especially in a time of high risk and security anxiety, every aspect of a government�s management of its spy agencies had to be �squeaky clean�, or else � as they had under the Howard government � they would sooner or later become politicized. But he said that when it was recognized that such an �unhealthy� development had occurred it was also important to ensure that the fiercest criticisms were aimed towards the politicians, and not the senior intelligence professionals.

�I�m the first to acknowledge that the intelligence agencies let us down over Iraq, but I also heavily qualify that by saying it was a limited failure, versus a major failure by the government. I�m also the first to acknowledge that one of the problems in the intelligence agencies is that they have become politicized. Not like in the US, where we heard stories of [Vice President] Cheney going out to [CIA Headquarters] Langley and looking over analysts� shoulders � it hasn�t reached that stage. But [here] it�s politicized none-the-less, for a wide range of [reasons but]…in essence, [the problem] is that the senior management of intelligence agencies are not inclined to confront the government, and they�re too inclined to second-guess the government – to conform to the government�s policy line, to run with it.�

But Wilkie suggested that a key factor in this lay in the way the Howard government appointed its senior public servants. �You don�t get to be the head [of an agency like ONA] � the equivalent of a [departmental] secretary, a four-star [general] � unless you have a career track record of not getting the government off-side.�

Wilkie cited his former boss and Varghese�s predecessor Kim Jones as an example of a career diplomat who, despite the Iraq war differences which led to Wilkie�s protest resignation, had never-the-less always impressed him as possessing the right blend of intelligence acuity, public service experience, bureaucratic skill and leadership.

�Despite the fact that he was involved in the government�s attacks on me [after I resigned], I remain loyal to [Kim Jones]. I still have enormous respect for him, even though that respect�s been a bit tested lately when I think of the problems ONA had that happened on Kim�s watch, and [for which] Kim ultimately must accept some responsibility. And I bet he does – he actually is a leadership figure, and I suspect he�ll be heartbroken by what�s happened [at ONA] on his watch. But on balance he always impressed me. Although he was a professional diplomat, he had a keen eye, a sharp eye and a good understanding of the intelligence agencies.�

While the government naturally denies that any �undue� interference comes down the line from them, recently the public was given a rare insight into how Mr Howard and his ministers have applied pressure to the nation�s spy chiefs in the past.

Last week The Bulletin published In-Confidence interview transcripts that reveal how Foreign Minister Downer was so angry about the leaking of �Secret� Defence Intelligence Organisation material to the Opposition and the press in 1999/2000 that he rang DIO Director-General Frank Lewincamp and berated him for running an �awful� organization.

Mr Downer conceded on ABC radio that he had got �pretty heavy� with Mr Lewincamp, even though Lewincamp’s agency had not been the source of the leaks. It’s not known if the Foreign Minister exerted greater pressure on Lewincamp�s peer, the ONA’s chief Kim Jones, following the leak of Wilkie�s even more sensitive (�Top Secret�) report to Bolt in June 2003.

The Bulletin transcripts of interviews conducted by RAN Captain Martin Toohey as part of his investigation into the Redress of Grievance of Army intelligence whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins also reveal that Cabinet had wanted to close DIO down altogether over the leaks. In Mr Lewincamp�s interview the DIO supremo tells Captain Toohey that during the leak crisis “we were under enormous pressure from government at the time”.

“You know, Cabinet was on our backs, we were on the nose basically over the leak, it was all our product over all of the national papers.”

That �product� was highly-damaging to Mr Howard and Mr Downer, showing that contrary to its public stance throughout 1999 the Australian government was aware of the Indonesian Army�s sponsorship of pro-Jakarta militia violence during the independence transition. The leaks became the subject of a hunt by the Federal Police and ASIO which was so intensive that it sparkedaccusations that the investigating team had sought foreign intelligence agency assistance and asked Defence Signals Directorate to conduct electronic surveillance of Opposition MP Laurie Brereton.

The leaks also caused DIO to upgrade the security classification of information sent from East Timor from �Secret� to �Top Secret�, saw raids made on Army and intelligence officers� homes and involved the �counter-leaking� and publishing in the Sydney Morning Herald of a search warrant list naming source �suspects�, which included Lieutenant Colonel Collins�s name.

His home, however, was never searched.

The latest Bulletin transcripts � themselves yet another leak to the press of sensitive intelligence community material (albeit this time not classified) – are bound to fuel further the accusations that undue political interference by government is hampering the proper functioning of Australia�s intelligence community. They also reveal the full extent of the personal and professional pressure placed upon Lieutenant Colonel Collins after he began challenging official DIO intelligence analyses on East Timor.

Like Andrew Wilkie, his mental and emotional stability and his professional credentials have been attacked, his intelligence career effectively ended and his personal life strained.

Collins, who at his professional peak was the Army�s top on-ground intelligence officer throughout the most intense period of the INTERFET operation, recently wrote a blistering letter to Prime Minister Howard informing him of �the failure of the institutional controls over the Australian intelligence system,� and urging the government to �appoint an impartial, open and wide-ranging Royal Commission into intelligence�to do otherwise would merely cultivate an artificial scab over the putrefaction beneath�.

The Prime Minister has rejected his call, saying that the enquiry currently being conducted into Iraq war intelligence by Phillip Flood will be sufficiently muscular to frankly and fearlessly identify any problems arising from either the �politicization� of agencies such as ONA or the influence of what Lieutenant Colonel Collins has called a �pro-Jakarta lobby� at DIO.

Mr Flood is a former ONA Director General and a former Ambassador to Indonesia.

Mr Wilkie also made new allegations about internal ONA distribution records that may cast fresh light on a stalled Australian Federal Police investigation into the leaking of a classified ONA report last year.

The leaked copy of the Top Secret report, which Wilkie prepared in late 2002, was used in June by the pro-Howard Melbourne journalist Andrew Bolt as the basis of a Herald-Sun article ridiculing the former analyst�s intelligence credentials. The Opposition suspects that the government leaked the report as part of its campaign to neutralise Wilkie�s now vindicated criticisms over its Iraq policies.

Mr Howard�s, Mr Downer�s and Mr Varghese�s offices have each refused to comment specifically on Wilkie�s new claim of potential importance to the Bolt leak investigation, which relate to what the ONA record shows with regard to the issuance of a single copy of his Top Secret just a few days before 23 June 2003.

The AFP has said only that: “As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to make any comment about the enquiries being conducted or provide any other information relating to this investigation”.

Wilkie, Bolt and ONA at odds over top secret report

This is Jack Robertson’s second report on the leak of Andrew Wilkie’s top secret ONA report to Andrew Bolt. His first report is at Andrew Bolt: I did ‘go through’ leaked top secret report by Wilkie. More to come.


Andrew Wilkie, the former ONA analyst who was the primary author of a top secret report leaked to Melbourne journalist Andrew Bolt last year, says that the Herald-Sun article Bolt published after reading the report was a �very mischievous� misrepresentation of its contents and its purpose.

The intelligence veteran�s description of Bolt�s June 23 article, which sparked an on-going Federal Police investigation into the leak, contrasts with Bolt’s insistence that he presented an �accurate� portrayal of the report�s contents.

The Office of National Assessments has to date said only, of Bolt�s article about the leaked report, that ��it [did] not contain any specific comment on intelligence material�.

The row between Wilkie and Bolt comes amid growing calls by the Opposition for a Royal Commission into the state of Australia�s intelligence agencies, after accusations that the Howard government is misusing intelligence material for political purposes, and also as the Opposition expressed frustration at the slow progress of the Bolt leak investigation. Last week Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Kevin Rudd wrote directly to the Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock questioning the apparent lack of action

Andrew Bolt maintained that ��my [article] is accurate, and I�d like [Wilkie supporters] to deal with the revelations it [contains] that go to the credibility of Mr Wilkie.�

But Wilkie – who compiled the report in late 2002 – vigorously disputes Bolt�s defence of his article, in particular rejecting its explicit suggestion that the pre-invasion risk analyis the still-classified report contained, and which was circulated widely throughout government departments as part of Australia�s pre-war planning phase, amounted to little more than an ONA �fairytale� about Saddam Hussein�s Iraq.

Wilkie told me last week that the leaking of the report to Bolt, and what he said was the journalist�s misleading use of its contents to ridicule his analytical credentials was part of a concerted campaign to neutralise his criticisms of the government over the invasion of Iraq. At the time Bolt�s article appeared, Wilkie’s critique was receiving considerable local and international attention.

Since resigning his ONA post in March 2003 Wilkie has argued that from late 2002 – as the war issue came to a head – John Howard and his media backers consistently and knowingly exaggerated the intelligence community�s threat assessments regarding Saddam Hussein�s WMD and links to al-Qaeda in order to sell the invasion to a sceptical Australian public.

The Opposition suspects that the government leaked a copy of the top secret report to Bolt some time in June 2003 with the express purpose of Bolt using it to discredit a plausible expert who was becoming a vindicated critic of John Howard�s decision to go to war.

Last year Kevin Rudd repeated pressed Mr Howard and Mr Downer over what he described as the government�s �motive� for leaking the document, arguing that the six month delay between the report�s initial issue and the Bolt article made the question of whether or not any government Minister had sought an extra copy of the report immediately prior to 23 June a matter of public interest.

It is on the record that a single copy of the report was sought from and released by ONA to an �authorised� recipient in June, over six months after it was first issued. In a Senate Estimates Committee session on 16 February Senator Robert Ray asked newly-appointed ONA Director-General Peter Varghese (formerly John Howard’s foreign affairs adviser):

Senator Robert Ray: Was a copy of this document issued to anyone in the week prior to 23 June 2003?

Mr Varghese: The records here of the document’s circulation do have a reference to a document being circulated in June, but can I just make the observation that since this matter is the subject of an incomplete –

Senator Ray: Don’t anticipate the next question. You can answer the question so far and you can assume that I will be smart enough not to ask you the following question – or you can refuse to answer it. But my question is a legitimate one thus far.

The Committee did not pursue the question of to whom the report was released, nor for what purpose such an apparently redundant, pre-invasion analysis might have been required.

Last September Labor Senator John Faulkner told Parliament that he believed the copy had been leaked by someone inside government with the sole aim of discrediting Wilkie.

On the matter of the relationship between Bolt�s article and the contents of the actual report, now the subject of fierce dispute between Bolt and Wilkie, the only public view ONA has expressed to date has been via Varghese�s predecessor Kim Jones expressed to the Prime Minister last year, which Mr Howard then revealed in Parliament. On 9 September Mr Howard responded to a question on the matter from then Opposition leader Simon Crean:

Mr Howard: The other information I can provide to the House is that, in its request to the AFP, the Office of National Assessments has stated that the Bolt article – that is, the Melbourne Herald Sun article – does not contain any specific comment on any intelligence material.

This view is at odds with ONA�s immediate referral of the leak to the Australian Federal Police and ASIO as a possible breach of national security, and also with Bolt�s confirmation that he had obtained the report.

Wilkie said Bolt selectively quoted sections of his report. “�Bolt was very mischievous when he quoted that [ONA report]. He quoted [it] as though: �Wilkie said the following things would go wrong, they didn�t go wrong – hence Wilkie�s judgement is discredited�. That was the essence of the attack.�

The report�s aim and context was in fact far more nuanced, Wilkie said. He was asked to prepare through late 2002 – for what might ultimately be Cabinet war-decision purposes – a wide-ranging examination of all the many potential humanitarian dangers associated with the government�s developing invasion plans. Wilkie, an intelligence veteran with more than twenty years experience, said:

“I didn�t say anything �would� happen [in that report]. I said the following things �could� go wrong. The essence of the paper was the possible humanitarian implications. The aim was to inform the government of all the things that could go wrong, so that they were well-informed when they made their decision to go to war.”

Bolt, he said, seized only upon those �potential� invasion dangers Wilkie had examined which did not in fact transpire – or had yet to transpire by June 2003 – and then presented them to his readers as solid predictions which were hopelessly wrong.

“Now, some things did go wrong. Some things didn�t go wrong. And some things are now going wrong. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I�d write much the same paper.”

Last week Bolt denied that his article was motivated by anything other than his responsibilities as an opinion columnist to help foster balanced debate. Having had the opportunity to �go through� Wilkie�s Top Secret pre-invasion assessments, Bolt said his interest in writing the piece lay “… in the fact that Andrew Wilkie was making wild claims that traded on what he has promoted as his superior knowledge of Iraq”.

He maintains that Wilkie�s credentials to speak with authority on Iraq issues have been over-inflated by invasion opponents too inclined to give credence to anyone who shared their opposition, and defended his June article as providing valuable counter-evidence at a time when Wilkie�s media profile was climbing.

Bolt said that those who accused him – and the source who leaked him the Top Secret report – of �misusing intelligence material for political purposes� could and should just as easily �..ask themselves why Andrew Wilkie has used his intelligence knowledge for political purposes�.

He said he expected Wilkie to exploit his intelligence background in the upcoming election campaign, during which Wilkie will be standing as a Greens candidate in the Prime Minister�s seat of Bennelong.

Of Wilkie�s accusation that his article was not a fair reflection of the report�s content but a �mischievous� distortion designed to discredit its author, Bolt said: �That�s the first time I�ve ever heard anyone make that allegation. I haven�t heard it from Andrew Wilkie [before]. In fact, he [said at the time] that he recognised this description of his report.�

“If [Wilkie] has any evidence to back up these claims – which are as ludicrous as many others he�s made – I would look with interest for him to present such evidence.”

Testing the two conflicting descriptions – of both Wilkie�s report and Bolt�s article about it – is impossible while Wilkie�s report remains classified.

The Australian Federal Police are yet to respond to my inquiry last Friday as to the status of their investigation – including whether or not they have yet interviewed Bolt about his source – but last Tuesday Andrew Wilkie said that since his own AFP interview in late 2003 he had been made aware �for sure� of some �interesting� new information on one potential avenue of further investigation that may yet inject police enquiries with renewed optimism and urgency.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, and the Director General of the ONA have also yet to respond to Wilkie�s new claims, which relate to internal records of the movement and handling of copies of Wilkie�s report for June 2003, and which I forwarded to their offices last Thursday and Friday respectively.

Crucify God, resurrect art

�In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.�


The Apostle John, who – like Harry Heidelberg, Homer, Socrates, Shakespeare and Professor Bunyip today – could simply have been some clever chick with an elegant creative quill, for all anybody really knows.


One of the greatest gifts the internet might yet prove to bequeath Humanity is a realistic shot at fisking into permanent oblivion the sacrilegious trinity of Yahweh, Allah and God, an anti-Artistic Celebrity Triple Act which has stunk up the concrete human world for several Millennia now, proving along the way to be the most hateful, destructive, divisive and sub-human fictional triptych ever written by the hand of some genius guy (or, like I said, chick).

Bathsheba was the original trouble-making J-writer, the way Harold Bloom sees it. But then men tend to blame women for everything.

�The West�, which is where I learned to read and write, claims to base its �values� on the Judeo-Christian tradition (which sanctifies firing rockets from helicopter gunships into mosques nowadays – very scripturally helpful of Yahweh and God, I must say, although since Allah equally approves of killing Jews and Christians in their places of worship, I guess we can call Monotheism Thus Far a three-way tie in the satanic self-absolution stakes).

Since we Westerners are all about to head off for some Easter spiritual contemplation, and since Webdiary has been on a pretty wild old Robert Bosler-inspired head trip this week, I thought I�d have a tentative go at the Mother of All Meeja Watches: grappling with The Written Word itself, the human medium which begets all others, including this one here.

For those of you who delight in taking the piss out of twee elitist rhetoric and girly artistic conceit, I guess you�d better sharpen your keyboards now. (By the way, Helen Darville – see Latham tunes us into Iraq � is the hand that signed your anti-intellectual missive itself graced by good honest workers� dirt, these days? If not, don�t patronise Australia�s plumbers and garbos, dear, it�s most unbecoming in an artist. Transparent and tedious, too, cringe, cringe. Artists are special, because they produce art. Hamlet or a flushing dunny? If you need more than a second to choose, you�re a monkey at a typewriter, and I mean no cheap disrespect.)

Bet I�m in trouble with the Webdiary chicks, now.

Margo, hang me some slack here – Helen�s no wimp and with luck she�ll wind up and go me in response. Don�t know quite why, but I�ve been a bit perplexed by the gender stuff this week, as well as being dismayed by the cyber-wide savaging Robert Bosler received, so I�m throwing all caution to the wind myself, too, just to see what this website can do.

In fact as we�d discussed, Margo, I was planning to write a more mundane overview of the media �State of Play�, in particular with a view to predicting how the conservative, fervently pro-invasion press would deal with the worsening situation in Iraq. But as I started plucking all the naughty hidden agendas from the latest columns of writers like Miranda Devine and Chris Pearson and Andrew Bolt, I was overwhelmed by a sense of futility and self-disgust.

Is anyone else at Webdiary – or in the blogosphere for that matter – as bored as I am with constantly trying to have the �last word� in these endless tit-for-tat cyber-battles? Trying to �out-ironise� each new level of knowing irony? I suppose I�ll find out soon enough.

I think that most of us who�ve been writing in cyberspace for a few years now would probably recognise what you could call �Fisking Fatigue�. Since September 11, it�s fair to say that The Written Word has become more of a destructive weapon than a creative tool than ever before.

The betrayed, outraged, scarified post-WW2 impulse to pull words and sentences themselves to bits, in a desperate attempt to find out how the lying bastards duped us into the bloodiest disaster in human history, has now become shackled to this lightning-fast publishing technology, and also been thoroughly democratised, to the disastrous point where any literate person with a modem and a nice line in reactive bitchery can chuck their two bobs� worth into what�s now become the collective paralysation of the creative progress of woMankind.

If Shakespeare was writing now, she wouldn�t even be writing soap opera scripts; she�d be too busy churning out pre-emptive, defensive, ironic �self-reviews� to write actual meaty human drama, with stuff like fresh characters and majestic dreams writ large.

Art can�t be art without the audience�s willing suspension of disbelief on the medium�s intrinsic terms, so if your medium happens to be writing, the internet now makes art impossible, evidently. One single cyber-heckler can prick the bubble for every potential reader on the planet. One cynic can destroy a million idealists.

Or, to burrow back down to those J-Word first principles and return to the Godly theme of this Webdiary suicide run, as Helen Darville could no doubt confirm all it takes is for one determined writer to taint a fellow writer convincingly as anti-Semitic, and they can�t possibly write with quite the same open, creative heart again. What is The Written Word if not the greatest useful legacy of Monotheistic Certitude we humans have at our disposal?

God writes, therefore He is. Here I stand, with the emphasis on the masculine �I�, except that the true amplifying trick of �The Written Word� as a creative tool, rather than a destructive weapon, is to keep in mind that for all Harry Heidelberg knows, that priapic �I� I just wrote might well in fact have been tapped into my keyboard by the tender hands of a fourteen year school-girl.

Anyone can post a fake picture on his Webdiary column. Margo�s met me, of course, but then how do you know I haven�t been employing an actor all along, M?

Anyway, the original point that somehow got lost in there was that a WOMAN artist composed the original Word of God, guys. That�s right, a chick. Probably. Maybe. Or – who knows? But someone did � someone sat down and wrote out the sentence �God commanded: Thou Shalt Not Kill� for the first time in human history, and it wasn�t God, it was just some Jewish hack. Great message in itself, but think about the fact that � just like every word Shakespeare ever wrote � that writer took huge care to ensure that, hundreds of years down the track, there�d be no way for readers ever to know for sure who (s)he was.

There-in lies the true ironic power of the Written Word � and it�s creative, not destructive. �In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was God�. Well – no it wasn�t, that sentence was some writers� recorded sentient thought, and idea, a cunning, cunning plan. But the fact that (s)he kept themself deliberately anonymous is both an indication of a) why the Judaic �One God� riff took off (then spawned two competing franchises, bit like the way Dan Brown�s da Vinci Code has launched a thousand clones all deconstructing how religions work, including this one here), and also b) a fair hint that the J-writer who invented God probably was indeed a chick. (Men generally want to be SEEN to be changing world even if they�re not, while women prefer to stay off the Celebrity Radar, the better to Get Shit Done behind the scenes.)

One God as The Written Word � how brilliantly slick a marketing trick is that? And how fertile, how creative, how damned interesting it is, to think that 3, 000 odd years ago somebody took the trouble to set up that fictional lever as a new tool for the expression of our infinite capacity for Human grace and majesty and wit and sheer joi de vivre?

Conversely, what – over and above (yet fundamental to) the unprecedented industrial butchery of the passing epoch – was the Holocaust, if not the closest Humans have yet come to rendering that same grand Judaic legacy permanently sterile? The ironic sentence �Arbeicht Macht Frei� didn�t in the end destroy World Jewry, but if Third Millennium writers don�t get back their angry confidence in the power of expressed abstraction to provoke and inspire and determine our real world actions (just like written scripts tell actors what to do), and get it back soon – before Generation Y or Z forgets forever that destructive irony isn�t the only kind that words can carry – then it might as well have.

In the beginning was The Hand That Wrote The Words �The Hand That Signed The Paper�, and it was connected to an artistic sensibility that took the creative risk of trying to get inside the head of a real character in history who, if he�d had his way in that real world, might have destroyed forever the creative wellspring of precisely the curious human impulse that did, eventually, inspire Helen Demidenko to try to backtrack over time and fictionally humanise him.

It would have been just as artistically self-defeating for Helen Darville to contemplate embracing that fictional conceit as it would have been for the writer who wrote �This is the Word of God� to then sign it with her name. The difference is that Darville got sprung, and any hope of THTSTP remaining a live fiction was lost. The truth is � and it�s one we�ve lost sight of in this age of celebrity � that the more ambitious is the fictional theme you want to create believably, the more anonymous your own authorial presence must be.

I think it�s a great pity that Helen Darville was blown so ruthlessly out of the fictional game by her HTSTP experience, and only hope that she�s long since bodged up a new fictional shop front, and kept it off the public scope since. �J.K Rowling� is a very nice thought, and there�d be a lot of justice in that, too.

Then again, Helen could be Harry Heidelberg for all I know. And Robert Bosler, too.


I think it�s time the Written Word overcame the profound artistic caution that is the still-lingering legacy of the Destruction of the European Jews.

The long-term impact of the tenaciously fashionable anti-creativity inherent in Helen�s current day stamp of ironic mistrust – of ideas and art – is a kind of universal triumph of the mediocre.

It�s not dumbing-down, but the precise opposite: these days we�re all far too smart to be smart enough to be stupid enough to believe in our own fiercely hopeful fictions as we weave them � much less to believe them so long and so hard that they become true, like our stories of Yahweh and God and Allah have done over the centuries.

The problem with those established religious fictions is that they are now increasingly destructive ones, since the world�s artists and intellectuals copped out of believing in God�s stories long ago, leaving the zealots and power-players unchecked, free to twist them into real world horror stories.

What we need is for more smart people to start believing in God, and if like me you can�t stand any of the Big Three, then you ought to pitch in and help people like Bosler invent a new one, rather than knee-capping his tentative efforts.

The more people who help invent a new belief, the more chance there is that it�ll become believable, and thus useful in more than the abstract world.

Alas, the internet as it stands kills all hope of this gauche game � let�s call it trying to get idealism to fly – as massed cynicism has always eventually done, certainly, given enough time and the inevitable gravitational imperatives of harsh reality.

Only now the destruction of idealism happens almost instantaneously, and we can witness and record this, our own on-going creative-death-by-sophistication, in self-accelerating real time. �Self-accelerating�, in that even writing a sentence like that last one simply digs me deeper into the anti-creative abyss. And that one. And that one. Blah blah blah. Fisk fisk fisk. Yada-yada-yahweh.

God certainly knew what she was doing when she wrote the story about the Tower of Babel.


And yet.

We�ve now spent an awfully long time putting the Babel bricks back into place, and with Web-Google-English creeping its way towards some approximate facsimile of linguistic and informational universality, it�s probably time we started asking what the hell kind of hymn we intend singing next time we do get the monolingual chance. Will we use a six billion strong massed choir to fling a harmonious invitation across the galaxies, or just create even more sound and fury, signifying even more nothing?

Me, I vote for a formal cessation of Fisking Hostilities. We all know now that each of us cyber-Human Beings is smarter than the next guy and that each of us, provided we get the last word in, will be able to make a mockery of her next written post.

Let us thus pre-emptively propose a voluntary end to intellectual cyber-dispute and cyber-differentiation. Let�s agree that no writer in history has ever written an article or a story so good that it couldn�t be pulled to pieces by another writer sooner or later, usually a far less capable one.

Let�s agree that the internet revolution has stalled a bit; that as things stand, we�re all of us trapped in a mutual, cyclic purgatory-of-endless-deconstruction.

Maybe it�s the rotten intellectual fruits of the Boomers� premature storming of the artistic and intellectual heights, given that if you make your name, career and fortune by twenty years of age via the brattish act of tearing down every last concrete thing that strays within range of your iconoclastic word weapons, chances are you�ll never really learn either the value or the trick of creating something concrete from said-same words. (Their lifelong Celebrity has a lot to do with the deadness of the work of the top Boomer fiction writers, too.)

But whoever is to blame, what�s been missing from public debate � for decades – is the understanding that, if we all do insist upon a strictly adversarial, stand-off, tear-down approach to the interaction of our individual words, then the expressed totality of abstract Human majesty can only end up being less, not greater, than the sum of all our constituent contributions.

Mark Latham can fisk John Howard in Parliament. John Howard can fisk Mark Latham right back. But they changed the pollies Superannuation rules only by working as an interactive ensemble, making something bigger than the sum of their individual abstract contributions where it counts – in the concrete world (even if it was accidental, and even if I bet they�ll never do it again.)

Our pollies changed the world, and made it better, and for no other reason than that Mark Latham threw out a Bosler-esque crazy idea, John Howard felt moved to respond in kind � rather than sneer it down � and LO! Free. Human. Will. Controlled. Our. OWN. Human. Destiny. Not Yahweh. Not God. Not Allah.

So, Helen D, I thought what Rob wrote was terrific. I liked it. I loved it. I loved it so hard I�m writing in to help keep it believably alive. I want more, Rob. I want better. I want wackier. I want cleverer. I want big words, absurd ideas, pretentious rhetoric and unlimited, arrogant, Godly artistic vision. If we can�t attempt it in words, then we�ll never pull it off in real life.

I think that this Easter (or soon) we Humans need to crucify God and resurrect Art. We need to make ourselves dumb enough to be smart enough to seize the brilliant opportunity presented by the fertile temporary concatenation of global technology, Millennial angst, epistemological anarchy (a new cyber-cosmic soup, if you like), Luddite World power-political uncertainty (or vulnerability) and universal spiritual hunger, and finally figure out a way to transcend the triangulating neutralisation inherent in the Big Three religious narratives.

If we do insist on giving expression to our higher yearnings by way of a �One God� story, then let�s at least bodge one up in cyberspace that everyone can agree upon.

Norman Mailer once characterised the Big Three thus: Judaism�s defining strength is its rationality; Islam�s its egalitarianism; and Christianity�s its compassion. Sounds like a pretty hot Holy Cyber-Trinity for the Third Millennium to me, especially if you give it a pastel Green hue and deify nothing more apocalyptic than Good Mum Earth.

Call the Written Word�s new creative lever Konfucionism, say, and you�re giving a sly sequential nod both backwards to the J-writer and forwards to the inevitable, looming Project for the New Chinese Century.


In order to pull something like this off over the next fifty-odd years, we the six billion New New Gospellers, would have to start small, first of all by convincing ourselves � and our kids ad nauseum, since this religion thing always takes many generations to bed in � that we weren�t being supreme existential tossers by even imaging that a convincing and ever-lasting One God really can be bodged up out of nothing more miraculous than The Written Word.

It�s odd that writers would ever doubt this for a second, since �John-the-Apostle� actually makes it explicitly clear with that give-away quote what God really is � three little letters written by a single human hand � but human beings are nothing if not monumentally obtuse.

And, like Meeja Watch writers, we�d much rather believe in Grand & Inexplicable Human Mysteries – conspiracy, miracles, hidden agendas, the man on the grassy knoll � than the bleeding bloody obvious.

Which is:

In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with Allah, and Allah was Yahweh was God was The Word. Osama bin Laden is God. Adolph Hitler is God. Jack Robertson is God. All Muslims are terrorists. Microsoft, Nike, McDonald�s and Starbucks are solely to blame for every suicide-murder in Gaza. The West deserves to lose the �war on terror�, for we are greedy, arrogant and lacking true pious humility. They want to kill us because they hate our �values�. George Bush is the greatest President the United States has ever had. I admire John Howard for his strength, courage and political conviction.

Abcdefghij lmnopqrstuvwxyz.

The mundane Word on God is and always has been that Human hands can choose to arrange those 26 (or whatever) letters in all and any kombination we like, and as soon as someone clever enough writes the right computer program and cyber-links enough microprocessing power together, we will no doubt do just that.

And then what? When every single Written Word in all human history is down-loaded onto the internet, when ever single possible combination and permutation of letters has been electronically typed out in the ether by the Pentium monkeys, when all God�s possible Names have been printed, when you can Google up a strong, credible, authoritative set of �proofs� for every Human opinion or idea every argued thus far – The Holocaust did happen (208,000 sites and falling); The Holocaust Didn�t Happen (128,000 sites and climbing) � well, then what clever, cynical cyber-words will be left to throw at each other in tit-for-tat turn, my fellow cyber-motormouths? Blah blah blah? Counter-Blah? Counter-counter-blah? Counter-counter-counter-blah? He-said-she-said-he-said-she-said?

Me, I�d rather hear a dumb new creative story than a clever old destructive one any day.

So my advice is that we should all take the next few years� worth of cynical blog-debate �as read�; accept that every last writer in cyberspace is effectively already as clever, sharp, fast, wry, witty, educated, well-informed, eloquent and feisty as the total sum of all Human knowledge written down since the J-writer wrote; acknowledge that Judaism, Islam and Christianity are thus effectively exhausted as creative levers as a result; and set about collectively charging a single New Millennium �necessary fiction� with the kind of interesting creative power that the Torah, Bible and Koran have carried thus far.

We don�t even have to create the new fictional script(ure) ourselves. All we have to do is act it out in the real world, believe in it long and hard enough until it becomes just as true as the wholly-fictional �One God� in whom, in barely discernible but deadly ways, three different kinds of religious zealots all believe so absolutely, after several thousand years of practise, that they are prepared to kill each other in the concrete world to prove it.

Stuff �em. I say let the new Written Word of God go like this:


to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.


Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.


No reason why not, is there. They�re just Written Words, too. Probably once again bodged up by some clever chick with an elegant quill, quietly pretending she never existed.�Untold sorrow to MANkind�?

There�s your give-away right there, boys. Clever bitches.

The most memorable person in 2003: the spin doctor


Martin davies image.


Martin davies image.
“We read Him here, we hear Her there, We chase those true lies everywhere, Whispering scribe of the story we’re in, That devilish, dastardly Doctor of Spin!”

Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s media critic.
We read Him here, we hear Her there,

We chase those true lies everywhere,

Whispering scribe of the story we’re in,

That devilish, dastardly Doctor of Spin!
The Meeja Watch Most Memorable Person Of 2003 is ‘The Spin Doctor’.

Yes, it’s been a year without peer for these fickle, feckless, flighty, flitty, flirty and only-ever-fleetingly found creatures of metaphysical manipulation. Whereas last year we embraced the ‘Ordinary Australian’ (Person of the year: The Ordinary Australian, that contrived electoral un-person who was publicly everywhere but not really there at all, 2003 has been dominated by precisely the opposite political phenomenon: The Man Who Is Nowhere To Be Seen But Has His Inky Digits All Over The Shop.

The Spin Doctor, that Scarlet Pimpernel of Public Debate.

The Spinner is vocationally-bound by his Guild Rules to remain faceless and nameless, but ego gets to the best of us in the end, and thus The Spin Doctor featured prominently in 2003, especially in the selling of the Iraq invasion ‘ perhaps too prominently for his own survival.

Both here and overseas, he simultaneously attained new depths of ignominy and heights of publicity, during such inglorious episodes as the suicide of British whistle-blower Dr David Kelly, the ‘outing’ of active CIA agent Valerie Plame (payback for her husband’s querying of the Niger uranium claims), and the attacks on our own Andrew Wilkie (via prime minster’s office innuendo and alleged leaks to Tame Media Spin-assister Andrew Bolt).

It was over Iraq that The Spin Doctor finally showed us both the sharpness of his teeth and the grubbiness of his knickers. Never more so than in the tactics uber-Spinner Alistair Campbell deployed in ‘selling the war’ to Britain, and then in later ‘damage-control’ after Kelly killed himself, itself the result of his Spun ‘no-names’ outing by Tony Blair’s government.

The Spinner’s vileness was revealed fully in Campbell’s diaries, testimony and general obnoxious demeanour during the Hutton Enquiry, laying bare his contempt for democracy, his ugly language and his ‘whatever-it-takes’ mentality, characteristics only ever rampant in someone who believes he will never be called to public account for them.

We read the sly emails that flew to and from the Number Ten Communications centre, directing the secondary and tertiary Spin; heard about the Lobby briefings, the way in which Kelly was unmistakably identified but not technically ‘named’; saw the buck-passing and fire-walling over his death by Blair and Hoon and their elected ilk; and were able to watch, in real time and as predicted by almost everyone, the Hutton Enquiry become Strategic Spin itself, distracting debate from the over-arching issue (Blair committing a reluctant population to an unnecessary war based on endless lies), and focussing instead on the containable specifics (who said what, when; that ‘sexed-up’ dossier; who leaked Kelly’s name; the BBC’s role, Gilligan, etc).

All in all, it was a rare public exposure of how The Spin Doctor works, and how much he poisons the democratic franchise, too.

The entire war was, of course, a tour de force of Spin. Since we’ve flogged the lies to death already – and since, in the happy wake of Saddam’s capture, to reprise them fully yet again is doubtless to invite more abuse as ‘whining appeasers who would prefer that he were still in power’- we need only recall the Big Two in glancing pastiche (the Spinner’s preferred mode, anyway, since concrete statements are too easily discreditable).

This is more or less how the war was Spun, in particular by various quasi-official Spinners working in their ’embedded’ intelligence groups in the Pentagon, their think-tanks, and the Rupie press:

1. Saddam and WMD

Iran, Gulf 1, Niger, 45 minutes, tubes, centrifuge, gassed Kurds, anthrax, drones, Frog nuke parts, Russian AT missiles, Scuds, chemical suits, fridge vials, dirty bombs, Richard ‘Rent-a-mouth’ Butler, blabbing defectors, all hidden, all buried, well-he-would-say-they-were-destroyed-wouldn’t-he’, prove a negative, he kicked out the inspectors!, they were spies anyway, Scott Ritter = internet prowler, Wilkie’s a lefty nut (busted marriage), Kelly was a wacky Buddhist, ONA ‘assessments’, UN records, chemical factories, bugger Old Bailey proof, SADDAM-APPEASERS!!!, Pearl Harbour, worst nightmare, profound conviction, terror nexus, Saddam has WMD, let’s roll..

2. Saddam and al-Qaeda

Prague meetings, airline mock-up, terrorist training camp, Afghan al-Q veteran with busted leg in Baggers, Dick Cheney says so, Saddam and Osama, financial trails, Sudan, Palestinian suicide bomber payments, Ansar al-Islam and Iraqi intelligence, Osama and Saddam, ignore the terrorist experts, Guantanamo interrogations, Stephen F. Hayes says so, SADDAM-APOLOGISTS!!!, al-Qaeda with a nuke, Greg Sheridan says so, Winston Churchill, worst nightmare, profound conviction, terror nexus, Saddam has links with al-Qaeda, let’s roll.

We can all rejoice at the sight of Saddam in chains, and congratulate the soldiers who caught him. But we should also congratulate their Spin Doctors. In January they sold the line that toppling Saddam did not alone justify invasion, but disarming him of WMD did. In December they sold the line that Saddam turning out to be disarmed of his WMD already didn’t make the invasion unjustified, because Saddam had now been toppled. Spin Doctoring at its finest, where what was said yesterday no longer exists. Oh, except that they do keep reminding us anti-invasion types that we’re all still appeasers. You figure it out.

But the war gave us an even clearer glimpse of The Spin Doctor as Kafka, when the role was taken to illuminating extremes by Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.

His TV assurances about the absence of US tanks in Baghdad even as they practically poked their barrels into shot behind him (proving that WMD delusions are not a Western monopoly) might have been cause for much merriment among pro-war types, but such transparent spin-lunacy was only barely more laughable than the extended Jessica Lynch fantasy, still merrily Spinning its way to ever-more surreal extremes of only-in-America unreality, including the Hollywood make-over, the requisitely-controversial best-seller (has she really forgotten that rape, or did it never happen and it’s all just marketing spin’), and the inevitable anti-Jessica spin backlash. Both Lynch and Saeed al-Sahaf have about the same number of dedicated websites too, whatever that tells us.

And remember Tony Abbott’s stubborn insistence to Kerry O’Brien that Terry Sharples’ legal costs were not, technically, ‘money’.

Or Trevor’s Kennedy’s heartfelt insistence that he donated his chunk of ‘un-money’ to Abbott’s Hanson-nobbling Slush Fund solely because he hated to see taxpayers being ripped off by anti-democratic frauds, only to be revealed himself a few months later via Offset Alpine as – well, you fill in the Spin yourself.

Then Hanson’s Spin on Abbott, then Bishop’s Spin on Beattie, which got Emerson Spinning on Bishop while Beattie Span it back to Howard, who tossed it, via Carr, back to anyone who wanted it, which certainly wasn’t the Australian Electoral Commission. Then Hanson’s conviction was overturned, and suddenly no-one wanted to play either Go in or Get Out, Spinner at all.

Or what about Steve Irwin’s Spin on the PM ‘ the best leader on the world’ Oh really, Steve’ Or is it what a Spin Doctor calls $175, 000 of the advertising budget very well spent’

And so on. Well may we laugh at Saddam & Co’s nuttier delusions in 2003, but there were just as many transparent Spin Doctor self-implosions in the Anglosphere, too, and while it was the year of his greatest triumphs, 2003 may also prove to be the one he finally ran out of rotational traction. As they say, the wrong ‘un is only a wrong ‘un to the bunny who hasn’t yet lifted his bat and been clean-bowled by it. So exhaustively now has the Spinner trotted out his assortment of orthodox off-breaks, leggies, top-spinners, googlies, flippers, sliders and straight balls that it’s hard to see what tricks he might have left for next season.

Truly those wiles were on show everywhere in 2003. In Government – plasma TV, Manildra, Tuckey, all the PM’s interviews. Other politics ‘ Bob Carr’s realm where everything is Spin, ruthlessly controlled by his team, Australia’s Princes of Spin; the leadership tussles, with all their usual inane Spin games until POW!

Latham reminded us all how great un-spun politics can feel; Hollingworth’s failure to out-Spin both his own offensive Spin and the tightly-wound Rent-a-Top death-rolling of Hetty Johnson. US politics ‘ the Democrat race, where (Howard Dean aside) candidature Spin on their ‘current’ positions on Iraq has given words like ‘tortuous’ and ‘fluid’ new meaning; the election of Arnie S. in California after a campaign bereft of anything but Spin.

The Corporates ‘ how else but with Spin can one explain to an AGM those still-rocketing CEO salaries in a flat market year’ Celebrity ‘ where ordinary Australians chose Spin over The Real Thing ourselves, voting for Guy, Shannon, What’s-Her-Name and only then Paulini. Even in journalism, where The Australian’s collective defence of Janet A outdid the New York Times’ Jayson Blair in the Spin Doctoring-as-serious-reportage stakes.

But by far the lamest-but-still-successful outing, the supreme moment in Spin Doctoring for 2003, came in Sport, when that Dual Exponent Shane Warne dribbled out a few pathetic long-hops to Ray Martin back in February ‘ and got away with it. Best moment’ When the Self-Employed Spin Doctor claimed that he took diuretics simply because he was ‘stupid’, for even at this very early stage of 2003, we see the craft in its representative prime.

First, there is Warne’s steely-cool willingness to publicly admit that his employer (in this case himself) is a screaming idiot, if there is no other way to avoid more damaging accusations. How often was 2003 to see this wily tactic deployed!

‘Mr Tuckey was not corrupt, he was just stupid’; ‘the junior staff member was stupid to call Andrew Wilkie crazy’. ‘I was stupid to imply that the fourteen-year-old raped that helpless priest’. Bravo for setting the year’s tone, Shane! (And the ‘plausibility’ of that alternative explanation, too – who would not concede the chance, at least, that Warne is not a lying, drug-taking cheat at all, but simply thick as pig-shit’)

Then there are all the classic Australian Spin Doctor trimmings at work, here: Warne’s ‘straight-talking’ delivery that disguises what is actually total obfuscation; the wheedling hurt tone and plaintive voicing via which he proclaims his underdog status, even though he has more power, popularity and patronage than any other Player in the Game; the quivering-lip hints of emotion simmering beneath that buttoned-up ordinary Australian exterior, the manufactured ‘profound convictions’ ‘ why, darken the blonde tints, thicken those eyebrows, whip out the diamond stud and bung a Slouch Hat on his head, and Warney could probably even sell a tough line like: ‘No, I assure you I’m not remotely worried about Mark Latham in 2004, Kerry.’

Finally, that definitive early moment in the Year of the Spin Doctor incorporates what would prove to be the most crucial ancillary element of all in this victory: The Tame Journalist.

Marvel at Warney’s fellow Packer-Lacky Ray Martin, in the guise of ‘reporter’, as he pokes a respectful dead bat defensively at every lolly-pop from Kerry’s other Big Investment. With that kind of journalistic self-discipline and lack of scepticism, Ray could easily become a Fox News war correspondent or a Daily Telegraph columnist (although this interview clearly reveals Martin as irretrievably embedded in ‘ sorry, with – another mighty mogul, already).

Still, without the ceaseless efforts of these unsung heroes, The Spin Doctor would have a much tougher time of it, so a nod to Ray Martin, too, as representative of all the other meek, simpering, domesticated journalists who helped make 2003 his most triumphant.

But farewell, too, to the Daddy of them all, for 2003 also saw Alistair Campbell un-quietly retire after Hutton had wrapped. It was lovely getting to know Alistair in 2003, and perhaps in 2004 we might become just as intimately-acquainted with the Australian Guild Leaders too ‘ astoundingly well-paid Professional Public Liars such as Tony O’Leary ($”’, ”’, Howard), Walt Secord and Amanda Lampe ($178, 000 and $158, 000, Carr), and the spectacularly-inept Andrew Reynolds ($200-$300′ per hour, Hollingworth), who’ve all been working so hard for so long, without any public credit from us taxpayers at all. Let’s hope that next year our journalists give them the level of personal attention they deserve.

Alistair Campbell’s finest hour as Liar-in-Chief of The Spin Doctor Guild’ Well, the many filthy examples-of-the-craft he leaves behind as the legacy of his long time as the Dark Prince of Bullshit Castle are none of them as instructive as the deeper belief he reveals by his leaving of it when he did: that The Man Who Is Nowhere To Be Seen But Has His Inky Digits All Over The Shop ‘ The Spin Doctor, the Meeja Watch ‘Most Memorable Person of 2003’ – is utterly, utterly useless to his elected-politician King, once he has become The Man Who Is Seen Everywhere.

Which is why we hope The Spin Doctor will end up winning this award two years in a row.

His lie-master’s apprentices


Martin Davies.

‘A growing proportion of the media are behaving as propagandists, not as journalists.’ Margo Kingston, in HQ Magazine. ‘And Margo would know.’ Amanda Meade, inducting Margo into The Australian’s Media Diary ‘Talking Turkeys’ hall of ignomy, November 20. Welcome to a Jack Robertson Meeja Watch special.

�A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Lenin


�The Great Teacher.� Rupert Murdoch�s description of Lenin while a student at Oxford University, where he also kept a bust of Lenin on his dresser.

�A growing proportion of the media are behaving as propagandists, not as journalists.� Margo Kingston, in HQ Magazine.

�And Margo would know.� Amanda Meade, inducting Margo into The Australian�s Media Diary �Talking Turkeys� hall of ignomy. November 20.

Well now. At the risk of us all disappearing up our own bums in a frenzy of postmodern media introspection, let�s just see if Meeja Watch can expand, for Ms Meade�s benefit, what Saint Margo of the Sisterhood of Serious Independent Journalism was on about. Margo, of course, was far too well-bred to name names in her quote, but since Rupe�s information war foot-soldiers have sprung into defensive action � and you�d have to say there�s just a hint of protesteth-too-much in Amanda�s dig � we here at Meeja Watch feel moved to do likewise.

Regular Webdiary readers know me: always with the icky urge to go on the attack when Our Great Leader is professionally-slighted. Don�t be alarmed, Margo, I swear I�m not the obsessive weirdo type. And I know you�re busy with a book just now, but it�s just that Uncle Rupert�s Luddite snipers are starting to piss me off. The humungous puffs for Paul Sheehan�s �Electronic Whorehouse� assault on all of us meeja amateurs here in cyberspace were bad enough, but this latest little direct attack means all-out information war, mate!


From: Jack Robertson, Webdiary Meeja Watch

To: Rupert Murdoch (via Tom Switzer, Opinion Editor, The Australian)

Date: 20 November 2003

Subject: The �missing link� between Rupert Murdoch and the neo-con propagandists?

Dear Tom,

Hiya mate. My name is Jack Robertson, Electronic Whore Supreme – I write an amateur media-watch column for Margo Kingston�s on-line Webdiary. I�ve written an analysis of The Australian�s Monday feature extracted from the Stephen F. Hayes Weekly Standard piece, which was on the supposed �proof� recently revealed, via the leaked Doug Feith memo, of operational links between Saddam and al-Qaeda. I�ve attached my piece, which as you can see also includes this �embedded� email to you, and although she�s busy with a book just now, I hope Margo�ll run it in the next day or so. I�m not after a reply myself, Tom � like Amanda Meade, I�m just a lowly foot-soldier in the information war, too – but I�m sure Margo will give you Luddite Murdochians all the Electronic Whorehouse right-of-reply space you may desire.



As you can see if you wade through my analysis, it�s my assertion that your editorial team ran the Monday extract � a whopping two page spread � knowing full well that the US Department of Defence had issued a vigorous rejection of the Hayes conclusions on the same day it appeared in Washington (Saturday 15 November); that is, a couple of days before you republished it �almost� unqualified.

My own conclusion is that this is quintessential Murdoch modern propagandising-in-action, probably in content but more importantly in methodology, too: namely, re-publishing from another Murdoch source what was originally (and remains) at best loaded, agenda-driven speculation, and doing so in the guise of factual reporting, solely to add to the retrospective global misinformation mix �justifying� the invasion, which of course almost every News Corps outlet famously supported.

You�ll obviously disagree, but my �counter-propaganda� is all here if you care to read it, anyway. Maybe you could pass it on to Chris Mitchell your Editor-in-Chief, or better still, Rupes himself. (Also, can you chuck it over to Amanda at Media if you�ve got time? Third Millennium Propaganda 101, lesson one, if you like. Ta.)

You may of course be disinclined to actually read the whole thing yourself, because it�s hellish long, I know you�re busy, and of course as a feature the Hayes extract may have been outside your Op Editor orbit. On the other hand, you�re a regular at the editorial eleven o�clocker, so below are some briefer questions which should give you the thrust of my analysis, and which maybe you could put to whoever did shot-gun the Hayes thing to Oz re-fruition.

Yeah, yeah, I know I�m coming on like a presumptuous little tosser, not to mention a wannabe Dandy Marr, but I�m happy to risk making a nong of myself publicly in order to stop people like Chris Mitchell propagating bulldust about this �war on terror�.

You could say I�ve got a vested family interest in nailing those who insist on telling lies about where the Islamofascist threat really festers, Tom. Whatever the links between Saddam and Osama do eventually turn out to have been, Iraq was never remotely close to being his most important �state sponsor�, and you know it. It pains me to see any public muddying of the waters as to where our true �war on terror� enemies hang out, and I�ve been particularly interested in querying Australians who tell fibs about these links ever since I heard the PM doing just that on 3AW back in March.

On the other hand, my spin on Hayes may well be completely wrong, too – it has been known to happen before! So as part of the joint Luddite-Cyber �Information Revolution� process of finding out either way, maybe you could put the following specific questions to Rupert via Chris and/or whoever made the call to run this piece of still-speculative junk as it appeared in nation-wide hard-copy on Monday?

1. Was The Australian aware, prior to its re-publication of the Hayes piece on 17 November, of the US Department of Defence Press Release of 15 November describing as �inaccurate� the key claims he makes in it?

2. If so, why did The Australian decide to describe the piece as a �report� without any mention of the DoD denials, especially given the stark divergence of the Hayes description of �much of� the memo annex �evidence� as �detailed, conclusive and corroborated by multiple sources�, and the DoD counter-description of the same (whole) annex as �not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions�? Was it a reasonable editorial call to describe the Hayes piece as a �report�? Was it at least worth mentioning the DoD rejection somewhere? As I read things, it was in the public domain the same day as the article.

3. If you were unaware of the DoD denial, why then did The Australian editorial team decide to soften small but crucial presentational elements of what was, copy-wise, a completely-unambiguous piece? Why place the word �proof� in the article headline in those safety-buffer �quotation marks�, and frame the front-page teaser as a question? Why the need for this tiny but significant editorial �distance� from the Hayes thesis, since he himself finishes the piece on that resolute �no longer any serious argument� line? Was it your editorial intention to present the Feature to unknowing Oz readers as a news report, opinion, or a sly, hazy, propagandising little mixture of both?

4. Will The Australian be giving equal prominence in future editions to, or indeed including ANY antipodean coverage of, that DoD Press Release and the debate in Washington that the Hayes feature kicked off? It�s now Thursday, Hayes�s means and thesis has been (at least) seriously discredited in Washington, and The Oz has not said another word about it. Not one, mate. Nada.

Thanks, Tom. Look forward to reading your boss�s response in Webdiary. And Amanda�s riposte in next week�s parish pumper, too! Maybe that �Saint Margo of the Sisters of Serious Independent Journalism� line of mine is a starter for Talking Turkeys? Or maybe it, like her HQ quote, is not so very wide of the mark after all.

Onward to the Whorehouse Information Revolution, Comrade! Isn�t the Internet just the cutest little media-watching thang you ever did see?

Jack Robertson BALMAIN NSW 2041 02 9810 6816



Monday�s Australian ran a long feature on the on-going saga of the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. It was stunning in detail, depth, intricacy, scope and plausibility. Complete bullshit, too, or at very best cynical and disingenuous in its Australian presentation. In fact, it just might be a magnificent reprised example of how Rupert helped spruik up the invasion of Iraq in the first place. Here�s the opening few grafs:

US �Proof� of Saddam�s al-Qaeda link � The Australian, 17 November 2003

Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks and Iraqi financial support for al-Qa’ida � perhaps even for September 11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta � according to a top-secret US government memorandum. The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from the US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith, to senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, who head the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into pre-war intelligence claims made by the Bush administration.

Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al-Qa’ida terrorists and Iraqi officials. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of the US’s most determined and dangerous enemies. According to the memo � which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points � Iraq/al-Qa’ida contacts began in 1990 and continued through to mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq war began.

The feature goes on to cite and expand grandiloquently on dozens of those 50 numbered points; specific meetings between Saddam�s men and al-Qaeda, specific interactions, specific training links, specific planning and funding links, specific statements by captured al-Qaeda and Saddam personnel, and so on. It is the concreteness and precision of these citations that make the writer�s own authorial expansions of them, his interspersed cross-references to other media reports and Administration statements over the last few years, and especially his overall conclusions, so compelling. That author is Stephen F. Hayes, an American who titled the original from which this Oz article is extracted �Case Closed�, and who leaves us in no doubt of what he meant by that, with this unambiguous finishing flourish:

Critics of the Bush administration have complained that Iraq-al-Qa’ida connections are a fantasy created by White House warmongers to fit their preconceived notions about international terror. Yet one of the most interesting things to note about Feith’s memo is that it covers only a fraction of the evidence that will eventually be available to document the relationship between Iraq and al-Qa’ida. For one thing, both Hussein and bin Laden were desperate to keep their co-operation secret. Feith’s memo is best viewed as an outline of the relationship. It contains the highlights, but it is far from exhaustive. But there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Hussein’s Iraq worked with bin Laden and al-Qa’ida to plot against Americans.

Now, it�s not remotely possible to Fisk the thing, because the source document is top secret and each citation impossible for a terrorist-intelligence nebbish like me to check factually. It may one day turn out that some, or even many, of the individual bits and pieces Hayes stitches together into his grand narrative are indeed solid fact. But Hayes presents them all as already-established solid fact, leaving me the layman reader no room to do anything but a) accept the whole piece at face value, or b) ditch the whole thing as just more Rupert propaganda. For various reasons, including Rupert�s past record on the Iraq/al-Qaeda �link�, my natural scepticism, and external reasons that will soon become crystal clear, I�m not remotely inclined to extend Stephen Hayes the journalistic courtesy of the former option.

But fortunately, I don�t need to simply flounce darkly about in an ill-defined, anti-Rupert conspiracy huff either, because the US Department of Defence has already come to our assistance, issuing a Press Releaseon the same day of the original Hayes publication in Washington (last Saturday, 15 November), advising me the layman reader why he might best at this stage treat this entire piece as � well, Hayes himself said it perfectly: yes, a �fantasy created by White House warmongers to fit their preconceived notions about international terror�. The bold is mine.

DoD Statement on news reports of al-Qaida and Iraq connections � 15 November 2003

News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate. A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community. The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the Intelligence Community. The selection of the documents was made by DOD to respond to the Committee�s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions. Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.


Just to be crystal clear, then: Stephen Hayes writes of the DoD Annex information: �Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive and corroborated by multiple sources�. The DoD, which wrote and compiled the annex, counter-describes it thus: The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions.

OK, so perhaps Stephen F. Hayes is just an outright fantasist-on-the-written-record. Briefly, here�s what�s happened so far: Douglas Feith, one of the key neo-conservative architects and champions of the invasion, testified before the Senate committee, making reference in his testimony to many reports regarding the so-called links between Saddam and al-Qaeda. The committee afterwards wrote to him asking for a list of those reports. The DoD compiled the list, presumably at Feith�s direction. Feith wrote his memo, attached that list of reports, and sent it back.

Someone � and it�s hard not to suspect Feithian neo-con allies, or maybe even Feith himself � then leaked that memo to Stephen Hayes. Hayes then bodged the various specific bits of intelligence date on that raw annex list of reports up into a thesis that represented the whole thing as a �top secret government memo� proving that the links between Saddam and al-Qaeda were, according to the Department of Defence (and the FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA, et al) now a matter of �case closed�.

Ten out of ten for chutzpah, the cheeky little grub.

However, what�s more relevant for us down under is The Australian�s decision to re-publish this dubious-from-day-of-publication piece without so much as a squeak about the DoD denials. That Press Release was put out two days before re-publication down here. And, if at best the time zone/deadlines were against them for Monday�s issue, why hasn�t The Australian given equal prominence to the DoD rebuff in later issues this week? It�s hard to be sure from this distance, but the Hayes thesis seems to have been killed off in Washington almost straight away. Will that two-page screamer of a scoop as it was translated by Uncle Rupert-Lenin down under � Is this the �PROOF�!? � simply now be dropped quietly, and thus allowed to fester away out in reader-land as �kind of�, �sort of�, yeah-OK-case closed?

If so, then to me this is a perfect example of how Rupert Murdoch and his neo-conservative patrons-cum-beneficiaries use each other in the global misinformation relay to help prosecute their mutually-advantageous agendas. Since Hayes, The Weekly Standard and The Australian were all routinely right at the centre of the pre-war propaganda too, let�s deconstruct exactly how this modern version of Lenin�s Game of Repeated Lies works, to remind ourselves of how, together, these guys sold the world the invasion. It�s always most illuminating to nail propaganda in real time if you possibly can.

1. Who are all these naughty little boys?

Firstly, we need to check out the principle players. The Australian�s article is an edited version of the Stephen F. Hayes original, written for the US Weekly Standard. Here�s how The Oz leads into their reprint (my bold):

�Under the headline �Case Closed�, US news magazine The Weekly Standard reported yesterday that the Bush Administration has conclusive proof of links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Following is an edited version of the report by Stephen Hayes.�

At the very end of the edited extract, the Oz editorial team advises us that �Stephen Hayes is a staff writer on The Weekly Standard�.

A couple of things need to be said, here. For starters, to describe The Weekly Standard as a US news magazine is like describing Fox News as a US news television station. The Weekly Standard is in fact (or rather, in my subjective opinion) a purpose-built Murdoch propaganda rag with a small but highly-influential Washington political readership. It was launched in 1995 and reportedly runs at a loss, if so one Rupes appears happy enough to bear to give himself a voice at the Executive heart of US politics. Everyone in the Washington Beltway (= our �Canberra Bubble�) from Dick Cheney down reads the Standard, apparently.

To give you a better idea of how �straight newsy� this �news magazine� is, co-founder and editor William Kristol also just happens to be the Chairman of the Project for the New American Century, the spiritual and intellectual driving force behind the Bush Pre-emptive Revolution; co-founder and Executive editor Fred Barnes has been a political commentator on Fox News since 1995; and the list of contributing editors includes many important neo-conservative/Murdochian power-pundits � Max Boot, Robert Kagan, John Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer, Brit Hume, Irwin Stelzer, Tod Lindberg and more. When us wacky feral conspiracy-theorists prattle on about naughty cabals of neo-cons in Washington, these are some of the guys we�re talking about, and this type of Weekly Standard �misinformation episode� is exactly what we mean.

And as for the article�s writer, as well as being a Standard staffer Stephen F. Hayes is currently a Lincoln Fellow at The Claremont Institute. Again, nothing at all sinister about this. However, we as readers of his extracted Oz �report� do need to factor in the knowledge that the Claremont Institute is � yawn – yet another one of those tedious, quasi-academic, conservative/neo-conservative �think tanks� whose sole raison d�etre is apparently to churn out the reams of updated Cold/Terror War tripe about �re-embracing American values� and the �looming totalitarian menace� that now masquerades as scholastic primary research in so much contemporary American debate. Check out some of their kookier �projects�. (I particularly like �Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership�.) Now, the intellectual sludge all these wannabe Beltway pundits and dewy-eyed post-grads produce in think-tanks like this, as a kind of Republican junior-apprenticeship, gives you a good idea where the West�s modern-day lurch back to the social conservative hard Right gets its supposed intellectual momentum from.

Oh yes; every Miranda Devine column rabbiting on about a �new American study� that �proves� how much kids need book religion or corporal discipline or family values hard lovin� in their precious formative years very probably has its �academic� origins in a yabber-shop like Claremont.

So the key post-modern point is that this Hayes article on Saddam and al-Qaeda was NOT originally written by a news reporter, based on his independent investigative research and then published in a �news magazine�. It was carefully-crafted by a neo-conservative Republican fellow-traveller with a strategic agenda based on a leaked memorandum written and compiled by a neo-conservative Republican Administration heavyweight with a very strategic agenda and published in a neo-conservative Republican magazine with a very, very strategic agenda.

The original article�s text and especially its conclusions were thus a mixture of a) writerly fiction � that is, the authorial construction of a loaded �grand narrative� involving Saddam and al-Qaeda; and b) selective and deeply-misleading citations of specific bits of harder information from that Feith memo�s DoD-compiled annex. Those bits of harder information, gaily plucked from the annex like Christmas decorations for the as-yet threadbare Hayes tree-thesis, remain never-the-less still highly-ambiguous, according to those who compiled it.

All those hard numbered bits that look so precise and factual to us in The Oz re-print way down here are in fact simply taken from a list of reports, chips and chunks of unanalysed intelligence community data of unknown and doubtless wildly-varying provenance, value and pedigree, the sum total from which the DoD officially said – two days before Oz re-publication – that no conclusion at all had been drawn.

And yet that combination of fictional fantasy plus bits and pieces of unqualified specifics was published in hard journalistic copy in the Weekly Standard and duly republished in hard journalistic copy in The Australian� the former a mag read by everyone who�s anyone in at least Washington, the latter a national broadsheet read by everyone who�s anyone, everywhere in Australia. The subject matter of the fantasy was the operational terrorism link between Osama and Saddam, and the thrust and twice-propagated title was �Case Closed�.

In other words, Lenin�s Lie is written down for the first time somewhere, in very elegant, plausible and convincing detail, and then almost immediately written down again elsewhere practically-verbatim (that is, merely edited-down), despite having been already categorically denied by the originating source of the piece�s definitive contents.

And a lie told often enough becomes the truth. Don�t forget it. Rupert sure hasn�t, apparently.

2. The propaganda leverage of Rupert�s satellite publications.

Now if the original Hayes piece of itself had just come out, been blown away, and then died, there�d be nothing much wrong with it. Everyone who reads the Weekly Standard knows where it�s �coming from� only too well, and everyone in Washington is well aware that there is a serious information war going on just now between the Bushies and much of the US Professional Intelligence Establishment.

I�ve said before that I support a full removal of all media ownership laws, an �opening up� of the media floodgates to allow the �information level playing field� to prevail as it will. Free speech must be just that, and thus I cheerfully concede that Stephen F. Hayes has every right to bodge up his big picture view of the world however he sees fit, and if he can get it re-published in Rupie�s grander newspapers worldwide as �fact�, then good luck to him.

Furthermore, for all I really care, he can chuck as �fact� into his big picture view quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the collected speeches of Princess Diana and all the lyrics from Steely Dan�s Greatest Hits too, if he really wants. Indeed, what I am doing right now and right here is no less than what Hayes himself did � giving my view of the Way Things Trooly Are. Maybe Tom Switzer or Chris Mitchell will tear my analysis of what they did with the Hayes piece to bits even more effectively than I�m trying to monster their methodologies. In a battle of information, which is basically words versus words, there�s no way any raw ammunition can be �illegitimate� as such. It�s the means and leverage of the information delivery that constitute the propagandistic element, and here is where Rupes is King.

As Lenin�s quote implicitly tells us, a lie is just a (harmless) lie. But a lie repeated ad nauseam can easily become something else altogether. At this stage in the battle for �Saddam/al-Qaeda link� word-spin supremacy, in my arsenal I�ve got that US DoD Press Release, truth, logic and scepticism (I reckon), and my little glass-fronted cubicle in Margo Kingston�s Electronic Whorehouse from which to flash my wordy wares.


The Australian push has Stephen F. Hayes�s elegant source fairytale, other PNAC & Co types and indeed all the rest of Murdoch�s global outlets on theirs. We�re both using what we�ve got to fight as best we can, in the hope that our analyses prevail in the long run. It�s no conspiracy. It�s just words, information and the way both work their way out into the real world of human beings.


Still, down this way, given Rupert�s unchallenged Luddite media firepower here, the dice are loaded far more heavily in his favour than they are in Washington, since the diversity of mainstream assets in the US means that the counter-propagandists can better counter-attack against such probing sallies as what I shall hereby call that Weekly Standard �Lenin Lie�.

For example, the Washington Post and others noted DoD denials, along with bit of disapproving Op Ed chatter. No-one has really run with the story; there�s a fair bit of on-line yabbering, but strictly along partisan blog lines. Maybe no-one�s sure what to make of Hayes�s thing yet. Maybe they all think he�s too hopelessly-compromised to bother with. The latter is certainly my stance, but again, it�s less about Hayes than how The Australian received him.

Because of course it�s a very different Luddite landscape here than it is in Washington, just in terms of outlet numbers for starters. Furthermore – local neo-cons, US politics junkies and Net addicts aside – the arcane subtleties of Beltway internecine warfare and the dodgy �news magazine� pedigree of The Weekly Standard are hardly common knowledge down here. The Australian is our single national broadsheet, and highly-credible. So the re-publishing of this article as a feature �report�, with no real qualification except some crucial minor stuff we�ll come to in a moment, coupled with no follow-up coverage of the DoD denials, makes it very influential.

And this is what truly makes running the piece rank propaganda down here, rather than just plain old fibs and/or misinformation. As the DoD and I have shown, Lenin�s Lie is in itself easily identified and defused at source, and in the US duly appears to have been, just so. Only when Lenin�s Lie is told again elsewhere (isolated from that source), and only then in a way that disguises the nature of that source, can it really begin to work its black magic. And in the Hayes case, that�s exactly what�s happened.

The original Lenin Lie was on-published faraway from Washington and the DoD rebuttal not as a �speculative neo-con fantasy�, or even as an �opinion piece from a pro-invasion writer extracted from a pro-invasion magazine�, but simply as a �report� from a �news magazine�. And it was on-published in this way even though we know that the on-publisher � The Australian – knows that it is not a �report� at all. And how do we know this? Well, the giveaways lie in the two tiny editorial escape routes Mitchell and Co leave themselves.

Firstly, The Australian puts those �quotation marks� around the word �proof� in the main headline. It also runs a front page tease-line to the article that asks: �Is this the evidence of collusion between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?�

Since the article originally carried the title �Case closed�, and nothing in the �report� from the faraway �news magazine� indicates the tiniest doubt in the �reporter�s� mind about his unambiguous conclusions, there�s absolutely no reason for this ambiguity � unless, of course, Mitchell was re-publishing that �report� in very bad faith, having got wind of an external cause for such editorial caution. Er, like that DoD Press Release, say. Or, er, his knowledge of what the Weekly Standard really is, which is not a �US news magazine�, but an unapologetic Murdochian and neo-conservative Lenin Lie factory. In my subjective opinion. But go and have a Google for yourself.

And yet crucially, apart from those two telling editorial fudges, everything else about The Oz re-print, from the verbatim (albeit edited-down) running of all Hayes�s most concrete and eye-catching conclusions; to the pictorial essays-in-linkage that The Oz (independently) bodged up to accompany it (huge pictures of Saddam and Osama side-by-side, and intricate little pictorial terrorist-webs); to the �hard fact� stand-out quotes with which The Oz (independently) chose to pepper those two Feature pages; and indeed to the very act of The Oz (independently) deciding to dedicate two national broadsheet Feature pages to the article in the first place – everything else Chris Mitchell�s �newspaper� team has done with that original Lenin Lie, save those two little editorial safety valves, screams:


That�s why it�s rank propaganda � the critical leverage that is given to Hayes by the global Murdochian process of repeating the first Lenin Lie as, essentially, truth. Why does Mitchell bother with those two little editorial give-away fudges at all, then?

Well, a number of reasons: he�s a newspaperman running an allegedly respectable mainstream newspaper, and even an old McCarthyite Lefty-basher like him doubtless baulked at stripping away the last of his self-delusions regarding his own media professionalism.

Also, this is a free speech democracy, the internet is available to all of us, and you always need those safety escapes when tedious dandy-pedants like David Marr are sniffing about.

But you can just about imagine the edit head-shed sitting around the News Corps editorial table at eleven clock on Sunday (or whatever), deciding what to do with this piece. Let�s be uber-generous, and presume General Chris Mitchell and his assembled Staff Officers really were blindsided at a late stage. It�s all slotted in for Monday, ready to go, just say. Then some dopey News Corps sub-editor who�s usually more at home cruising porn on the internet comes in flapping that hard-core Department of Defence rejection, hot off the Whorehouse cyber-presses. What do you do? Well, you bung a �quotation� around that �PROOF� and a �?� on the front page link. And then you fire-and-forget. You publish the Lenin Lie as vague newsy-truth and plan to say nothing more about it (unless the source-story rolls on overseas), knowing full well that the majority of your readers will take it all on board as pretty much just that � news and/or truth. With three little grammatical inserts, end of potential editorial credibility problem. If you get nailed, you just point out that you made it �perfectly� �clear� that �it� was �not necessarily� either �news� or �truth� at all. Did you misinterpet�?� Oh dear.

How will Chris Mitchell respond to this email, then, this Electronic Whorehouse piece of mine trying to ping him? Ignore it completely, I�d say. Why would you waste and/or risk your time engaging with a pipsqueak who might have a point? Maybe if something new turns up in Washington on this episode, The Oz might pick Hayes up again, maybe even use said new information to flame my sorry amateur ass.

But I doubt that, too. The first rule of any war, and especially an information one, is never to engage on any ground but that of your own choosing. You can see this in the way The Oz handled the Albrechsten matter.

Rather than fight it out on the doomed quagmire (for his newspaper) of the key issue, which was that one of his highest-profile columnists grossly and knowingly misquoted � lied about – foreign academic research to make it �support� her infamous Muslim rape column, Oz daily editor Mike Stutchbury instead unleashed the full offensive force of his Luddite information assets.

These included the very-heavy artillery of his own personal by-line AND The Oz�s own in-house Media-watch forum, and he used both and more in an information counter-blitzkreig designed solely to skew that unwinnable tactical fight onto strategic ground on which The Oz at least stood some vague chance of not losing. (Namely, a bit of standard News Corps lefty/elitist-bashing.)

Rupes and his Luddite Generals know all too well that truly engaging with your critics, and especially your nobody cyber-guerrilla critics, is unwise. You just never know where it might end up leading your whole damned information army!

So where does that leave us on the Hayes thesis? Well, the Hayes thesis is not really the point here. Whether or not parts or even all of the original Lenin Lie are eventually confirmed as true is largely irrelevant to this analysis, which is less about content and more about its propaganda mode of delivery. The conclusion: as best I can ascertain in good faith (mostly from internet surfing) as to where things now stand in Washington with the original Hayes piece, The Australian�s treatment of it on Monday, especially its failure to mention the DoD response then and its utter silence on the whole Feature since, can surely only be described as fundamentally dishonest, anti-journalistic, propagandistic.

Maybe I�m being harshly anti-Rupes, but I personally have little doubt that The Oz team recognised, well before re-publication, the thoroughly-disingenuous nature of the Hayes piece, knew exactly what they were doing when they went ahead and ran it as they did anyway, but simply didn�t then and don�t now give a blind journalistic shit about lying to every last one of their own readers.

And thus, Amanda Meade, there is simply no other word for what the neo-conservatives and Murdoch�s Australian engaged in here but �propaganda�, I�m afraid. The Macquarie Dictionary says it best:

a. The systematic propagation of a given doctrine. b. The particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement. c. Dissemination of ideas, information or rumour for the purpose of injuring or helping an institution, a cause or a person. d. Doctrines, arguments, facts spread by deliberate effort through any medium in order to further one�s cause or damage an opposing cause. e. A public action or display aimed at furthering or hindering a cause.

Which makes my piece here equally propaganda, note. Which leaves you all left to choose whichever doctrine, cause, organisation, movement, institution or person you prefer to embrace: those my Hayes propaganda is promoting, or those Rupert�s Hayes spin would have you support.

3. Pedantic, tedious, moot, smart-arsey – but this MUST be worth doing.

Right throughout this Iraq debate, then, Stephen F. Hayes, the Weekly Standard and all of Rupert Murdoch�s other global media assets have repeatedly pushed and hyped and circulated lying words in exactly this way � in this example, accusations of links between Saddam and al-Qaeda they know to be at best still speculation disingenuously dressed up as news, reportage, fact, truth.

Even though they got their invasion, they continue to push the same lines and lies in the same way, now. Me, I suspect they are growing evermore desperate to retrospectively �justify� their war, as the fruits of it grow more tragic, disastrous and perhaps even strategically-catastrophic for America.

It�s pretty clear now that serious WMD are never going to turn up in Iraq, and not even Rupert can spin up a convincing lie about something as concrete as 5,000 gallons of VX or a dozen nuclear warheads �suddenly discovered just outside Baghdad�.

But links to terrorism are a far more abstract and malleable proposition, and so perhaps this is why we are now seeing the other half of the neo-con �Iraqi terror nexus� Lenin Lie intensify instead: Saddam and al-Qaeda were operationally linked. Saddam and al-Qaeda were operationally linked. Saddam and al-Qaeda were operationally linked. Saddam and Osama. Osama and Saddam. Saddam and Osama.

Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. All over the Murdochian world.

But if we let this go on without getting right up in their faces and challenging them in every way we can, loudly and aggressively and repeatedly, then the words they insist on misusing like this will gradually cease to mean anything real at all. Intelligent, nuanced human interactions based on the give-and-take exchange of shared language and meaning will become impossible. Our public discourses will deteriorate into just these kinds of long, tedious, �information war� stand-offs. My occasional cyber pot-shots fired back at Rupert�s continuous Luddite barrage, as here-in – but to what end if each side just keeps ducking the others�, before going on firing the same unchanging shots, over and over again?

Endless Fisking, cyber-sniping at Luddite journos, lofty Luddite disdain for us cyber-nobodies, blogland rants, mainstream Op Ed warfare of the current Sheehan-Manne kind, the infinite introspection of �media-watch� self-analysis, Boomer opinion writing as both on-going vanity publishing and retrospective reputation defence � all this is not the way of the public debate future.

It can�t be. It�s dull, time-consuming, moot, an interminable �he-said-she-said� chatter-fest that can�t possible do any of us who care about ideas-as-interactive-evolution, whether Professional Luddite High Class Escort or Amateur Electronic Whore, the slightest bit of human good.

Who�ll win such an information war? Well, undoubtedly the sheer Luddite firepower of a dude like Rupert gives him a short-term advantage. But more and more people are jumping on the Net and chasing their own preferred and isolating �news niches� every day. Don�t like Rupert�s spin on Hayes? Fine, stick to Margo�s Webdiary and mine. Think I�m a hysterical anti-Rupe Margolian? Read Tim Blair or Professor Bunyip exclusively, instead.

None of this self-selectivity can possibly be healthy in the long human run, because as an information-consuming community that never-the-less will always live in the concrete world, we rely for social stability and workability on all of us embracing certain abstract, but mutually-conceded, information benchmarks. One plus one equals two. Black is black, not white. This is called an �apple�. A weapon of mass destruction is just that: a weapon � a nuclear missile, a VX artillery shell, a drone-borne anthrax spore delivery system. NOT a �WMD program�, a �terror nexus threat�, a �Hitleresque bogeyman�, or a tossed-off Madison Avenue marketing riff.

And an operational terrorism link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda means exactly what those words describe, too. In literal fact, in spirit, in good faith, in mutually-understood and thus usable meaning. It�s called sentient human communication, and at this transitory juncture in the information revolution, I�d say we�re all in danger of overlooking just how buggered we human animals are if we forget how it�s supposed to work.

And besides, if our public debates do become no more than exercises in post-modern �competing narrative� warfare, then the first and biggest losers won�t be shit-stirring Whorehouse anarchists like me, but those mainstream Luddite journalists � men like Tom Switzer and Chris Mitchell, in fact � who still rely absolutely on the principle that written words can be trusted to describe what happened yesterday, in a cheap, accessible and universal forum where many different readers can and WILL happily meet on common readership ground.

In an information world in which any one of us out here can bodge up a Stephen Hayes-ish �Lenin Lie� single-handedly, and then spruik it to the farthest ends of the blogosphere by doing no more than hijacking comments boxes and chat rooms, the definitive essence of a newspaper like The Australian, which should be its editorial credibility, becomes all the more precious.

These Murdochians are supposed to be the professional wordsmiths, right? All the rest of us are just mucking about cheekily in cyberspace. Me, I�d trade my Meeja Watch opportunities for a regular hard-copy column in a flash. Well, maybe not, but those Luddite writers who misuse their niches � two whole Oz Feature pages for that piece of speculative junk, dammit – break my envious heart, anyway.

Lenin said that all you had to do to make a lie become truth was to repeat it often enough. What he forgot to mention was that if you performed this ugly, brute-force feat of industrial word-engineering with real world success too many times, sooner or later the word-tools you used to do so would crumble, wear and break into useless pieces.

When he was at Oxford, Rupert Murdoch, who without usable word-tools can maintain no global empire at all, used to call Lenin �The Great Teacher�, anyway.

At first glance, perhaps both master and pupil � both the great Communist propagandist and his prot�g� the great Corporatist propagandist – would be proud of the work Chris Mitchell and The Australian have done with the Stephen Hayes piece this week. At second glance, maybe not.

And perhaps Amanda Meade � another professional wordsmith for whom life without usable words would be grim – might like to urge Chris Mitchell to explain to Webdiary where exactly he thinks he is taking this country�s solitary, and once impressively credible and nationally uniting, national broadsheet.

As she implied, when it comes to the long-term dangers of propaganda-as-journalism, Margo would know. But does your Editor-in-Chief, Amanda?

Eddie Mabo proclaims great southern rainbow republic


Martin Davies image.

“John needs to be a bit careful which bits of Australian waterfront property he shitcans, otherwise he might have to shift back to the bloody Lodge himself! And we all know what Janet would have to say about that.” Jack Robertson

Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s media critic. His archive is at Jack.


MELVILLE ISLAND, ANTIPODEAN STANDARD DREAMTIME: The eternal spirit of Eddie Mabo officially proclaimed the the Great Southern Rainbow Republic of Antipodea late today, in a small ceremony on the island formerly known by British Colonial Office bureaucrats as �Melville�.

The ceremony was attended by over a dozen spirit generations of �Australians� of all nationalities, races and creeds, along with countless numbers of the island�s original inhabitants, stretching back beyond all recorded White Man�s time.

The unexpected but proud declaration by Mabo of the world�s newest sovereign territory, one which has yet to be recognised formally by the United Nations, came after the Australian representative of the British Caretaker Government, Mr Howard, finally surrendered his long struggle to claim ownership of the various islands to the �Australian� mainland�s north on behalf of his Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.

Mr Howard, who has spent much of his long political career championing �traditional� British concepts such as the �rule of law� (including the illegitimacy of retrospective legislative change, such as that inherent in an earlier Mabo proclamation), is understood to have finally conceded the pointlessness of fighting to retain British sovereignty over the islands.

According to a senior government Minister who could hardly stop laughing at the absurdity of recent events, Mr Howard last weekend decided to rid himself of the problem of �all those pissant little specs of dirt up there� altogether, including Mr Mabo�s own ancestral home of Mer Murray) Island, by simply �chopping the bastards off the Aussie map� and declaring them �terra nullius� again.

This in turn allowed Mr Mabo�s spirit to take possession of the islands and re-assert a newly-independent sovereignty.

It is understood that a Rainbow Republic legal delegation is already in New York seeking formal recognition of the new country, and membership of the United Nations. Enthusiastic sponsorship and support for the ratification of the Great Southern Rainbow Republic of Antipodea is understood to be forthcoming from those 188 countries who did not participate in the recent trilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Said one senior diplomat, the UN Ambassador for a permanent member of the UNSC: �Mon dieu, we are tres keen to give zese new blokes a go. Obviously Australia herself, she have � how you say – �blown off� zee UN completement, so oui! We are happy to have someone down zere who is serious about zee international co-operation, zee human rights and zee consistency in matters of international law. Tres bon, tres bon! Also, we promise never to bomb zee new southern island nation with zee nuke, non? Viva la Republique!�

Senior members of the British Government and the Crown are understood to be �concerned and alarmed� at what some in Whitehall are describing as an �abject surrendering of hard-won British Crown Land to certain European Powers and International Bodies which have long had their eye on such Pacific prizes.�

But Mr Howard was insisting that his recent abject flip-flop on the issue of White Man�s Land Rights had not made him, and Australia, look like complete idiots in the eyes of the international legal community. Asked to comment on the proclamation of Australia�s newest sovereign neighbour, Mr Howard said from his cubicle in the British Colonial Office in London today: “It’s quite irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter.�

When told that the Southern Rainbow Republic had flagged its intention, if granted status at the UN, to abide rigorously and conscientiously by all International Covenants and Conventions on the Environment, Arms Control and the Proliferation of WMD, Security Council Resolutions, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1951 Convention on Refugees, Mr Howard said:

�That is why the act of excision was so important and that is why the Labor Party’s opposition to excising those islands means that the Labor Party is against our policy of deterring illegal arrivals.�

Other members of the government, however, are understood to be less confident. Contacted for comment in the Treasurer�s office, one very senior Minister who certainly did not want to be named, smirked: “John needs to be a bit careful which bits of Australian waterfront property he shitcans, otherwise he might have to shift back to the bloody Lodge himself! And we all know what Janet would have to say about that.�

Newly-elected President of the ALP, Carmen Lawrence, cautiously welcomed Mr Mabo�s proclamation, congratulating the Great Southern Rainbow Republic of Antipodea and wishing it well at the UN:

�If the world�s newest nation does indeed succeed in being recognised in New York, the Labor Party will certainly look forward to forging a strong, friendly and productive relationship with her.�

�In fact, I�ll be arguing passionately and idealistically that, once we take government, rather than using the GST budget-surplus for a tax cut, we should use it to build a mighty bridge to the Southern Rainbow Republic, clean across all the various cultural divides that have widened between John Howard�s older ideas of Australia, and her newer ones. And then the new government and the new opposition could take a bipartisan �spirit-walk� across the bastard. Maybe try to join the very best of both worlds together, as one young, green, forward-looking, third millennium nation again. I think a leader like Peter Costello might just come at that. And I think that maybe �it�s time� again, too. Australian Dreamtime, so to speak.�

One Green nation: public call for private donations

Webdiary Meeja Watch announces the informal establishment of the Australian Alliance for an Honest Fair Go in Politics Public Trust Slush Fund. Citizens wishing to donate funds in accordance with the Trust Fund terms and conditions should contact their nearest main party Elected Representative to make their private pledge. For a fuller amplification of these terms and conditions, and information on the history, guiding principles and philosophies of this informal Public Trust Slush Fund, go to onegreennation.

S.J Robertson, Founding Trustee

* * *

1. Third call for a public donation from Mr John Howard, private citizen

From: Jack Robertson

To: The Honourable Tony Abbott, MP, Leader of the House

Date: 7 September 2003

Subject: A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Part III

Information copies: All Australian Senators and MPs (via email)

The Parliamentary Press Gallery (via Webdiary)

Dear Mr Abbott,

As a proud Citizen of Australia, I write to applaud the Liberal Party of Australia for its civic-minded and selfless defence of our beloved fair go, following recent public revelations that your party welcomes the existence, as part of the Public Polity, of a private Trust Fund called ‘Australians for Honest Politics’, one reportedly designed to protect and nurture the vibrancy of our democracy. I am particularly inspired by the example of the various Private Citizens who, apparently out of nothing but their own well-developed sense of civic duty, contributed large sums of money to make this Trust the magnificent instrument of Public Empowerment that I understand it to be. As I have been unable to establish via the Australian Electoral Commission the precise identity of these fine, upstanding Citizens, I would be grateful if you were to pass on my warmest thanks to each and every one of them on my personal behalf.

Mr Abbott, I would also be grateful if you would advise the ‘Australians for Honest Politics’ Trust Fund benefactors that their shining Citizenly example has inspired me, with an almost religious fervour, to open up my own heart – and my wallet – in similar defence of Australia’s majestic democratic system. Oh, it makes me deeply proud, Mr Abbott, to attach for your consideration below: A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Parts I and II, and re-iterate those challenges now to your leader, Mr Howard, a third time.

Mr Abbott, like Mr Dick Honan and many, many, many other Australian Citizens who have donated money to our major political parties expecting nothing whatsoever in return but the warm inner glow that comes with doing one’s civic duty, I am very, very, very keen to give money to the Liberal Party. To that end, could you personally please ensure that your leader, who is obviously so busy defending our democracy that he has not had time to accept my donation so far, sees this now thrice-reiterated personal challenge with his own eyes this time? And then urge him to take it up, thus showing the nation by personal example – in this rapidly privatising world where all the rest of us have now had our retirement financial security placed, by successive governments, in the hands of Market Forces – that he personally has as much faith in the Free Market revolution he has helped bequeath to the ‘rest of us’ as that which the ‘rest of us’ are now expected to embrace with Citizenly enthusiasm?

Thank you very much, Mr Abbott. And keep up the good fight defending our democracy!

Yours sincerely,

Stephen John ‘Jack’ Robertson

Citizen of the Commonwealth, and consumer of the common wealth, of Australia

2. First call for a public donation from Mr Simon Crean, private citizen

From: Jack Robertson

To: Mr Mark Latham, MP, Leader of Opposition Business in the House

Date: 7 September 2003

Subject: A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Part III

Information copies: All Australian Senators and MPs (via email)

The Parliamentary Press Gallery (via Webdiary)

Dear Mr Latham,

As a proud Citizen of Australia, I write to applaud the Australian Labor Party for its civic-minded and selfless defence of our beloved ‘honesty in politics’, following recent public revelations that your party welcomes the existence, as part of the Public Polity, of a private Trust Fund called the ‘Fair Go Alliance’, one reportedly designed to protect and nurture the vibrancy of our democracy. I am particularly inspired by the example of the various Private Citizens who, apparently out of nothing but their own well-developed sense of civic duty, contributed large sums of money to make this Trust the magnificent instrument of Public Empowerment that I understand it to be. As I have been unable to establish via the Australian Electoral Commission the precise identity of these fine, upstanding Citizens, I would be grateful if you were to pass on my warmest thanks to each and every one of them on my personal behalf.

Mr Latham, I would also be grateful if you would advise the ‘Fair Go Alliance’ Trust Fund benefactors that their shining Citizenly example has inspired me, with an almost religious fervour, to open up my own heart – and my wallet – in similar defence of Australia’s majestic democratic system. Oh, it makes me deeply proud, Mr Latham, to attach for your consideration below: A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Parts I and II, and re-iterate those challenges now to your new leader, Mr Crean, for the first time.

Mr Latham, like Mr Dick Honen and many, many, many other Australian Citizens who have donated money to our major political parties expecting nothing whatsoever in return but the warm inner glow that comes with doing one’s civic duty, I am very, very, very keen to give money to the Labor Party. To that end, could you personally please ensure that your leader, who is obviously so busy defending our democracy that he has not had time to accept my donation so far, sees this now thrice-reiterated personal challenge with his own eyes this time? And then urge him to take it up, thus showing the nation by personal example – in this rapidly privatising world where all the rest of us have now had our retirement financial security placed, by successive governments, in the hands of Market Forces – that he personally has as much faith in the Free Market revolution he has helped bequeath to the ‘rest of us’ as that which the ‘rest of us’ are now expected to embrace with Citizenly enthusiasm?

Thank you very much, Mr Latham. And keep up the good fight defending our democracy!

Yours sincerely,

Stephen John ‘Jack’ Robertson

Citizen of the Commonwealth, and consumer of the common wealth, of Australia

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3. A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Part I

From: Jack Robertson

To: All Federal Senators and MPs, the Parliamentary Press gallery

Date: 24 July 2001

Subject: A Challenge to our Political Leaders

Dear Elected Representatives,

Attached please find a challenge to Mr Howard and Mr Beazley. With thanks for your time

A Citizen


Dear Mr Howard and Mr Beazley,

Like many Australians, I regard the current state of politics with considerable frustration and despair. With both your political groups apparently intent on tackling the upcoming election campaign with the usual mix of muck-slinging and dissembling, I am finding it increasingly difficult to justify a personal Civic Investment in the future of Australia. I understand the conflicting pressures you are under, and the compromises politicians must make, yet I believe that ultimately, the vibrancy of democracy depends mostly on personal leadership by example. This is especially so right now, in a political climate in which all party groups seem captive to the same dreary, economics-driven agenda. I, for one, don’t want any part in creating a future for our kids in which the Almighty Dollar is the only surviving ‘god’.

To that end, I issue the following challenge. I understand that Peter Andren, MP, has been developing a member’s bill that would radically reform your Superannuation arrangements, in particular offering politicians the choice of voluntarily ‘opting out’ of the more generous (and inequitable) entitlements. As an ex-military officer, I am also entitled to a (largely tax-payer-funded) Super sum, worth about $110,000 – fully-indexed, but locked up until I’m 62.

In the interests of demonstrating by example that none of us are automatically beholden to the so-called ‘forces’ of economic self-interest, I challenge either of you to throw your personal weight very publicly behind Mr Andren’s proposal (and not any watered-down version, either). I promise to donate my lump sum to the party of whichever of you does. It won’t be until 2027 – unless you change the rules so I can get at it earlier (like you guys) – but if there is still at least one real democratic party in existence then to accept it, it will be well worth it.

We’ve got to give our kids something more than easy words to believe in. And the only way to do that is for all us grown-ups to start putting our bloody money where our loud mouths are, in my opinion. Come on, you guys – knock some bloody Oz perspective back into us all.

For your consideration, anyway.

A Citizen

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4. A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Part II

From: Jack Robertson

To: All Federal Senators and MPs, the Parliamentary Press gallery

Date: 8 August 2001

Subject: A Challenge to our Political Leaders – Part II

Dear Elected Representative,

Attached please find my repeated challenge to Mr Howard and Mr Beazley. With thanks for your time.

A Citizen


Dear Mr Howard and Mr Beazley,

I note your recent, shared public enthusiasm for the lowering of the tax burden in this country, tactics likely to dominate the upcoming election. I can only assume that you and your advisers share fairly bleak assumptions about the role of voter economic self-interest in winning elections. You guys have smarter pollsters than me, I guess. Don’t you?

However, if your opinion-crunchers have convinced you that our hip pocket nerves do hold the key to the campaign – and given the dismissive snickering now inspired by any politician’s promise on tax – surely a far more successful way to exploit the Australian Public’s grasping base instincts would be for a potential Prime Minister to embrace the challenge on MP Superannuation outlined in my last appeal?

I repeat that challenge – I’ll donate my military superannuation to the party of whichever of you wholeheartedly throws his full support very publicly behind Peter Andren’s bill. All this bill proposes is that current MPs get the option of opting into a fairer set-up, so I’m not even [necessarily] asking anyone else to put their own financial future where their gobs are. It’s about defending the long-term credibility of our Parliament. (Frankly, it’s cretinous to pay yourselves peanut base salaries, attracting far too many monkeys, then compensate with gobsmacking Super so that we all think you’re greedy monkeys, anyway. Do yourselves a few favours, you dills!)

My thanks to those elected Reps who bothered to reply to my last email. Senator [MAIN PARTY] fairly pointed out that an ‘anonymous’ challenge is a bit wussy (although you went a bit quiet when I gave you all my details, Senator!). [Staffer MAIN PARTY], I haven’t heard from Senator [MAIN PARTY] yet, mate, and [staffer MINOR PARTY], likewise re: Senator [MINOR PARTY]. Senator [MINOR PARTY], Senator [MINOR PARTY] hasn’t advised of the [MINOR PARTY] ‘position’ on this issue as yet, so I hope you’ll understand when I place all those nice things I said about how you and Senator [MINOR PARTY] are trying to inject some meaning back into politics ‘on reserve’ for now, OK?

This is a genuine challenge. I know it sounds like high moral ground grandstanding, but consider the powerful ‘trickle down’ effect of leadership by example, in this babble-drenched and economically-cleaving age. One [mainstream] pollie – one – could spark a profound social shift (and, what’s more, win the election with a single soundbite.)

At least think about it, you guys?

A Citizen

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The Australian ‘honest fair go’ means, in the end, nothing more than this: that we ALL play by the SAME rules. As far as the unknown and unknowable future of the ‘New Economics’ revolution goes, that it turn means this: if the living standards of you and I and the ordinary Australian down the street are now going to ebb and sway, in our future retirement, with the vicissitudes and variations of the global ‘Free Market’, then the individual men and women who have remade our Australian society in this way over the last two decades MUST place themselves personally in exactly that same financial boat.

It’s NOT good enough to change the Parliamentary Superannuation scheme so that only TOMORROW’s elected officials will join us in that increasingly-rocky retirement vessel. John Howard and Simon Crean – along with most of the senior leadership figures now running both main parties – have been members of successive Executive governments directly responsible for these radical, largely-bipartisan economic changes. It was all a fait accompli? There was no alternative? Fine. But let’s see either, or preferably BOTH, of these publicly-elected and publicly-paid leaders – for I’ll happily split my miserable $110,000 lump sum between both main parties – now PERSONALLY demonstrate their continuing PERSONAL confidence in those radical economic changes they PERSONALLY helped usher in, by PERSONALLY opting out of their own now ludicrously-disparate, anachronistic PUBLIC schemes, and into PRIVATE ones of the kind the rest of us will have to make do with in our dotages.

Through boom and bust, with growth and ‘negative growth’, for Market better or Market worse.

If our Parliament’s main party leaderships want or need to vote our Federal politicians a huge pay rise and/or up their electoral allowances markedly to make this fundamental systemic change financially feasible for those who may have all sorts of commitments predicated on whopping Super, then I will support them to the hilt. Me, I happen to think we pay our pollies contemptibly low basic salaries, anyway. Me, I happen to think that even a lowly backbencher should be pulling in about two or three hundred grand a year as a very minimum. But what is crucial now – as the strategic economic outlook grows less and less readable – is the principle of manifest systemic equality. What is especially crucial, in a new and uncertain private-public economic paradigm that is only now starting to bed in and bite down on the old Australian certitudes, is that those leaders who rammed those paradigmatic changes upon the rest of us must manifestly embrace their long-term consequences right alongside the rest of us. This, in turn, now urgently requires leadership by personal example far beyond platitudinous inanities about ‘free markets’ and yet more requisite ‘future-securing’ reforms.

A fair go, John Howard? Honest politics, Simon Crean? Maintaining Australian trust and belief in stable, mainstream, two-party Parliamentary Democracy? Trust between voter and voted-in, trust between the private benefactors and the public citizens?

Fine words. But in the end, bullshit walks, money talks. Get your wallets out, boys. I haven’t even got a secure, fulltime job, and I’m itching to lob over a hundred grand into your future Main Party democratic fighting coffers – via this somewhat roundabout, dodgy and informal, ‘fringe party’ backroom funding mechanism I’ve called ‘The Australian Alliance for an Honest Fair Go in Politics’ Public Trust Slush Fund, with a labelling nod to you both. (We Citizens can play ironic little word-games just as easily as your grubby spin doctors and smooth marketeers, y’know.) And I bet there’s other Citizens out here who’d chuck a few bucks your main party way, just for the fun of watching a politician do himself out of an unearned quid for a change, too.

But like all natural-born followers, I require a main party leader to lead the way first. John? Simon? Cabinet? Caucus? Party fundraising ball’s in your democratic court, boys and girls.