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Discord is created by a clashing of harsh sounds. Jarring and unpleasant, it jangles the nerves. Our reflex action is to shut our ears.

Our country has become mired in discordant voices of fury, sexism, hatred and disrespect – and many Australians are deeply uneasy. They know and understand intuitively that a destructive and violent political discourse squeezes out the possibilities of rational and civil disagreement. They recognise that strong traditions of respect, tolerance, fairness and democracy are under pressure.

In a frighteningly short space of time, a series of interrelated, negative forces have come into play and are taking their toll – triggered by people with a “tear-down” mentality toward a legitimate government that happens to be led by the first woman to occupy the country’s powerful top job; and that also happens to have introduced the first national legislation to deal with greenhouse emissions.

Every call for a fresh election fails to respect Westminster principles that define and give stability to democracy. Abuse and threats hurled at the independent MPs who helped form this legitimate government from the hung Parliament, delivered by the people in 2010, further erode the democratic ethos. The lack of interest by large sections of the media in the legislative program of the minority government borders on disdain for democracy at work.

Advertisement The gendered attacks directed towards the Prime Minister are disrespectful – to her and women and girls generally. Levelling constructive criticism of government policies and decisions is one thing; relentless attack as has dogged the Prime Minister since her election is another.

Read the full article on The Age HERE:

Margo Kingston: building bridges

There is an old movie line I often recall: A life filled with activity suggests a life filled with purpose.

I have no hesitation in borrowing that line in applying it is an apt portrayal of well-known Australian author and journalist; Margo Kingston. I’ve been a big fan of Margo’s since her book Not happy, John hit the shelves in 2004, so I was chuffed to be granted an interview with her last week. I was to discover just how active and purposeful her life has been, and still is, and that there is far more to Margo than the book which first introduced her to me.

But first, a little background.

Margo, a Queenslander, graduated from university with a degree in arts and law and practised as a solicitor in Brisbane before lecturing in commercial law in Rockhampton. The move to journalism saw her working for The Courier-Mail and within a year moved to The Times on Sunday. She had since worked for The Age, The Canberra Times and A Current Affair before moving to The Sydney Morning Herald, where she worked until her retirement in August 2005. Her first book was Off The Rails: The Pauline Hanson Trip which recounted her experiences (as a journalist) on the One Nation Party’s election campaign in the 1990s. She is also known for her now defunct blog, Webdiary.

“Writing the book about the One Nation Party experience was a testing time for me and I vowed never to write another book again. I didn’t consider myself an author or a person willing to be one. A journalist, yes. An author, no” recalled Margo. At this point I was wondering why she later decided to write Not happy, John, however, a slight hesitation on my behalf gave her the opportunity to proceed with an explanation. “While I was working for the Sydney Morning Herald I was invited by Phillip Adams (from Radio National’s Late Night Live) to be on the discussion panel of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas. It was there that Phillip tapped me on the shoulder and said I needed to write a book about John Howard. Of course, the answer was an insistent ‘no’ but the response was “it’s your duty” and one thing led to another and before I knew it I found myself writing Not happy, John“.

It wasn’t long before the book put her on the outer with her employer.

“After a long-term Government everyone in the media seems quite happy with how the country is governed and so after many years of Howard the Sydney Morning Herald had drifted slowly to the right. The publication of the book was frowned upon and my run-ins with the SMH editor are now famous”.

I could sense that Margo is more excited about her post-SMH life, even though when she began her new incarnation she did so as an emotionally shattered soul.

“From the time Not happy, John hit the shelves I was battered from pillar to post at the SMH. They grilled me relentlessly because of the damage this could cause to Howard. I put up with this shit for a few months before I limped away in search of a new Margo Kingston.

Read the full article on The Australian Independent Media Network HERE:

Labor has lost the plot, and the narrative

If you’re inclined to take a long-term view of politics, the hand-wringing on whether Julia Gillard should stay or go is really just so much white noise.

Labor is in crisis, but not principally for the reasons that occupy the commentariat.

A party without a narrative is reduced to seeking your support as a lesser evil. Hence Labor’s focus on Tony Abbott. 
It’s not about a bitterly divided caucus, or political miscalculations such as the ham-fisted Nova Peris saga. It’s not even simply about policy missteps such as the creation of an impotent mining tax.

Labor’s problems are not nearly so managerial and technocratic. They are much, much bigger than that.

Advertisement Labor’s problem is ideological. It doesn’t really mean anything any more, and probably hasn’t since Paul Keating lost power in 1996. Sure, Labor has had its moments - most notably in its campaign against WorkChoices, which jolted its ideological memory and gave it a momentary reason to exist.

But this was no ideological revival. It was reactive: a political opportunity well taken rather than a world view reborn.

Only John Howard’s pro-business, anti-union zeal, unencumbered by any resistance in the Senate, made this possible. After WorkChoices, much as before it, what then?

This isn’t an optional, esoteric extra. Governments ultimately thrive on narrative. Voters are not merely electing a suite of set policies. They are electing a party that will respond to future, unforeseen policy questions. They therefore need to know what you’re about. That’s what a clear consistent story tells them.

A party without a narrative is reduced to seeking your support as a lesser evil. Hence Labor’s focus on Tony Abbott.

Read the full article on The Age HERE

The Watermelon Blog: Yes Prime Minister

Michelle Grattan, BusinessSpectator: The Greens’ make or break moment under Milne

• ABC Online, Tuesday: Gillard brushes off poll slump as Abbott surges

In a further blow to Julia Gillard’s leadership, a second opinion poll in a week has her trailing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister.

The latest Newspoll, published in today’s Australian newspaper, shows Mr Abbott has overtaken Ms Gillard as preferred PM for the first time in seven months.

Mr Abbott now leads Ms Gillard 40 per cent to 36 per cent.

Mr Abbott’s satisfaction rating remains on 33 per cent, while Ms Gillard’s has fallen six points to 30 per cent.

The poll shows Labor’s primary vote remains virtually unchanged at 31 per cent, while the Coalition’s sits at 47 per cent.

After preferences, the Coalition leads Labor 55 points to 45 points.

The poll has a margin of error of 3 per cent.

The results are similar to the Nielsen poll ( Here ) published last week.

ABC Online here