September 29, 2005
Margo: Mark, I thought I’d start with a few questions from Webdiarists.
Margo:The first is from Craig Warton and he’s asked, if you could turn back time would you have pursued the path of politics to try and achieve your goals for Australia, or would you, perhaps, chosen another path?
I know it’s futile. I guess the point is -
So you’re really going, okay, the only way to achieve social democracy in Australia is bottom-up. You cannot actually do it by entering a mainstream political party and doing it from the top-down. That’s, is that -
Well, this is a question from me, you say in your Introduction that this book is my exit from all forms of politics, yet reading the Introduction, it seems to me that the only way to achieve social democracy is to engage in politics at some level. So I was just wondering if you really meant ‘organised politics’?
So you’re trying to, through this book, say to the Australian people there is another form of politics and it’s really important that you get involved at its community level – and then what? I mean how do you bring that together?
One of the things that I found most interesting in the Introduction, and Mark that’s all I’ve read because I’ve been running around on my own thing but I’m definitely intending to read the whole thing -
You talk in the Intro about the two options for Labor reform, the first being independence from the unions, not possible, you’d split the party; the second being forming a mass political organisation – too difficult. Would you think there’s any chance for a mass political organisation that actually wasn’t part of the major parties, that was, I don’t know, a movement which could take in a lot of Australians who are disillusioned with mainstream politics however they vote? I suppose I’m getting to this thing that you did, that Internet Democracy experiment, and I’m just looking for what – can you imagine possibilities utilising the net as a means for Australians to rescue the system so that they have got a real alternative again, to get the debate moving?
This is a question from David Eastwood. He asks, do you really believe that in 3 years time you’ll be a house dad to the exclusion of being active in politics, however defined, to keep going with your vision, I guess, for Australia?
Okay. Another question from David Eastwood. How do you reconcile your exposure of others in this book with your pleas for privacy and respect for your family and your personal space? I mean, I got a pretty clear idea in your Author’s Note that you wrestled with this, so what, how have you grounded yourself in this?
Well you’ve got no argument with me there, Mark, I assure you.
Sure. Well I guess what I’m talking about is your disclosure of conversations which, say the Paul Lennon thing, which he would have assumed to be private. It’s more getting down to that. I mean you say in the book that for several reasons some things were left out etc, but many of your colleagues, as you know, would think that you’ve disclosed stuff that was said in confidence.
Yeah I guess one thing that arises, and you grapple with this in your Introduction, is it sounds as though you always thought of your diaries as an official record, an in-the-moment record I suppose like my first book on Hanson, and then you had to make the decision whether you’d wait until the heat died down like Blewett’s diaries, so it didn’t really matter any more – or go now. Now I get the feeling, you know, underneath everything that’s said, that the feeling about going now is that you really are trying to open up the public discussion on this and almost sort of burst through the media silence and the media framing. Could you just talk me through a bit about why now?
Okay. Question from Webdiarist Margaret Morgan. Which organisation do you hold in more contempt – the ALP or the Liberal Party?
This is a question from Webdiarist Kerri Browne which is, she’s looking for something from you on your analysis of power; what forms of power there are and whether, in fact, your ordinary backbencher or even your political leader doesn’t really have much power and one of the tricks of the modern process is to pretend that they do, so, I know that’s a difficult question, but -
Just from Crikey, it looks like you predicted the Stokes’ explosion that’s happened yesterday.
Kerry Stokes’ evidence.
Well we’re talking here about an insider, I see similarities here, an insider blowing the whistle as far as he’s game anyway, on the real, the real power, which is the power of the, well, according to Stokes’ evidence, really the power of Murdoch – even James, even the Packers say yes to Murdoch. Now how do Australians keep themselves informed given this incredible concentration of power in media? Do you have any suggestions, and, I suppose I’m saying, if someone like Stokes is going to get in there, Telstra’s starting to get in there too, do you think we might be approaching some sort of tilting point, to use Howard’s phrase?
I don’t know if you’re following the mainstream media these days, but I thought it was really interesting head-to-head polls that two print groups today – the Fairfax going on ‘it’s a long-term slide for Beazley’ and Dennis Shanahan going on ‘Latham Ruins Beazley’s chances’ – same poll data – I just wondered if you’ve had a look at that stuff and whether you had a theory about it?
Can I get back to, I remember, I think it was years ago, it might have been when you were on the backbench after 98, you experimented with electronic democracy in Werriwa and you mentioned this in your Introduction. Have you developed any ideas about how this could work and actually have an impact, a significant input into public debate, public discourse?
There seems to me, Mark, to be sort of an internal contradiction in what you’re saying in terms of you’re saying there’s no hope for the Labor Party in terms of, you know, the goal of furthering social democracy, so that we get back to the There Is No Alternative. How do we break through this impasse, or are we – you seem to be implying that we’re on an inevitable slide away from social democracy and there’s not much that any of us can do about it, like given that Labor’s got no hope. Surely you’ve sort of thought through for a more optimistic message?
I’m sort of more looking at where you are now, like obviously you’ve put a huge emphasis, and always have since you had your first son, on the family and I keep thinking, well, given that you’ve got a bleak prognosis and given that, you know, having children is about, you know, working for their future, isn’t there any way you see that you could somehow participate in public life to try and secure their future?
Yeah I don’t disagree with you about the balance that you’re seeking. I suppose one of the reasons I’m asking this is I read some quotes from Inside Edge Melbourne, The Melbourne Age Business Section where you said that if you ever became a newspaper columnist that you, someone was to push you off a cliff or something like that! I just thought well why wouldn’t you want to have your voice in the context of a regular column, like just to sort of participate in the public process?
So this, Mark, you said in that interview too that you didn’t mind the media because this was the way for you to have deliverance almost, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So it’s almost as though -
Mark, and I know this is a terrible question to ask and you mightn’t want to answer and that’s fine, but, is your health okay? Like, I mean, your physical health.
It’s a survival decision isn’t it. I mean it’s just so simple. Because you’ve got two kids for a start and a wife.
Mmm. Okay. So can I say this – that getting the balance right means that there is every likelihood that you can, you know, live to a proper time, like, you know, you can see your kids grow up?
One of the, you know, many worries I have in reading the Intro and stuff is that given the state of organised politics and, you know, my view anyway, like its co-option by the media, like Michelle Grattan said recently there’s so much sound and fury signifying nothing yet we all take up 24 hours of airtime and then move on, and you know, it’s like -
Yeah I guess what I’m trying to get at is, given the state of organised politics and what you have to go through to get there and the fact that you haven’t got much power at the end anyway, how can Australians turn this around? I mean do you, how can Australians get to vote for people of quality regardless of party? How can we get decent people into politics? How can we turn this around? Should we start voting for Independents? What mechanism have Australians got?
[End of Side 1 of Tape]
I was just thinking about that, was it your seat where the insiders got rid of the Mayor of Campbelltown as the frontrunner because they said he defended a pornographer?
Yeah I know, that’s what I mean.
Oh I know it was outrageous -.
Yeah, what I’m getting at is that that guy, who sounds like a pretty good guy to me, he’s trying bottom-up through being a Mayor which is the way you started, but there is a limited thing that you can do, things that you can do as a Local Government with, you know, with all sorts of Trade Agreements being signed, Investment Agreements, I mean how can Local Government look at, you know, junk food advertising in kids’ time, all that stuff.
Yeah I guess what I’m getting at is what say that guy had have stood as Independent Labour, you know, the movement towards sort of local Independent in the bush and the regions particularly. Is that a way for Australians to react, to sort of, just almost do a Hansonesque thing and just toss the powerball in the air and give Independents and the minor parties the balance of power in the Reps? I mean is there anything, you know -
Okay, well that’s about it from me, unless there’s any other question you want.
Thanks Mark. Can I ask you one question before we go off?
Well Mark, as I said, I haven’t read your actual diaries yet, but my memory is that it was The Sydney Morning Herald who first reported as fact that buck’s night thing.
Well, you know! That doesn’t make sense. Did she report that as fact without confirmation and without sourcing?
Alright, last question, is it okay if I run your speech tonight on Webdiary after delivery?
Okay fantastic. Good luck and I’ll be there tonight and I’m just hoping for a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. This “bleak stuff”, I mean, you know, you can’t just throw us that and then just go bugger you!