Saturday 14th of December 2019

Strategy

This is an idea for a strategy for Your Democracy. I'd love it if people have a careful look at it and then comment profusely. If we take up this plan it will be the basis for our priorities in software development for the site, and will begin to define who we are beyond an alternate media discussion board.

I'm keen for us to begin the development of Pollie-Watch with Senators. Senators are not only a smaller target for us to begin with than Lower House MPs, but in the coming political season they will be stategically paramount. With Howard only just controlling the Senate, every Senator's view is relevant, from issue to issue.

Both as a spearhead issue and as a model-builder for the future, I think we should start with the issue of cross-media ownership, and we should ask every Senator to make their views known on this issue in The Dome of Conscience. Meanwhile, we develop a blog about each Senator, with a basic profile, contact info, and a log of activities, media statements and communications with us. Of course we would correspond with these Senators, publishing any replies as, say, Citizen Journalists of Your Democracy.

If we can develop the technique and the software, the same strategy could be used for any other issue where our only chance is to pick off individual senators in the coalition ranks. At the same time we have to keep an eye on individual Democrat, Green, independent and Labor senators, as even one person crossing the floor on any issue is decisive.

The dream is to extend Polly Watch to every MP, but the Senate is a good smaller target for us to develop with, and a strategic one.

Have a good look at the Dome of Conscience, if you haven't before. It has simply not taken off, as so far it is mostly Democrat and Green MPs voting in it consistently. But I think we could work with it as a campaign tool, and political pressure will get MPs to use it on given issues, especially if we get their opponents to do so (candidates can also vote).

And tell me what you reckon.

My $0.02

The idea is good, in principle.

An assemblage of data on Senators could be an adjunct to the work (and responsibilities) of the Parliamentary Library. All the official words, spoken or written, of senators is compiled there, but maybe not available to the public in the form envisaged by Hamish. The Hansards are searchable to an extent. It may be possible to drill by person, period, topic and venue. The Parl'y library staff may have something like that, so it would be worth talking it over with them.

OTOH, any attempt to portray significant public figures would be risky. I guess an individual journalist could do it, under the code of the craft. But the log would have to be up-to-date and complete, otherwise it would be biased. I do not think more than a minority of senators would jump at the opportunity to voluntarily contribute.

What could be included, apart from extracts from Hansard? I guess, doorstop pronouncements, TV interviews, interviews for State and regional newspapers, but copyright comes in there. There's a danger that enthusiastic amateur reporters may try to catch senators at home and play. It may be very entertaining to know what they say in the Safeway checkout, in the massage parlour, after six gins in the members at the races, but all that is off limits. A well-documented episode of, say, shoplifting or shirtlifting a minor that's captured on good quality tape would not be given away for free, even by a generous journo.

Without knowing what is available, the first thing is to be able to assemble the parliamentary data in a useful format. Which comes back to the Parl'y library. There will be commercial applications for searching and sorting documents. So, maybe a bit of research first, to find out the brands of the software, and try to find out what the senators are using themselves.

Over all that, such a collection of data would be part of the political process, and subject to some federal laws, wouldn't it?

Dome and strategy

Hey Hamish, I hadn't heard of this site so went to have a look. It looks a good idea and would be a good tool to use.

I have some questions of course which I couldn't find on the site :

Who runs it? There's no info on the site about this and the contact info consists of a generic email address link.

As you have said there is little action there although it started in 2002. Also I hardly knew any of the names of people responding as many named themselves as candidates.

They are mostly minority party people who readily state their views and seem happy to contribute to that site, although perhaps they are keener around election time than other times.

I suppose I am wondering if the site is likely to continue given the lack of activity. The larger countries listed there would probably ensure that but I think we would need to establish a relationship with the site owners first, explain our standpoint and that we would like to "encourage" Aussie MPs to get involved.

It would be devastating if we did do all the work required to record and track our pollies only to see the Dome site fold it's tent or similar. Know what I mean?

I do agree with you about the strategy of targetting individual MP's and using a site like The Dome as a way of getting them out of their closets. I think that has great possibilities. Particularly given the way Howard/Abbot/Costello are apparently driving policy on dollars alone with no consultation even with Liberal MPs (re the IVF issue).

It's like wedge politics only turned back on the members and I like it. It's just a tad more subtle than my tendency to want to ram it down their throats, just a tad (joke), but it does appeal on similar lines to my own feelings about trying to attack the political party solidarity.

Forgive my cautious nature as you may have already had contact etc but I think that needs to happen before we move ahead.

I would contact them myself but I think it needs to come from the site owner/editor at least initially to arrange potential cooperation/linking etc.

On a positive note, I can see how powerful such a site may be but I can't see Johnny or any of that sort actually making a commitment to anything in black and white as it would leave him no wriggle room. Maybe that too would be good if all the MP's with the ability to decide for themselves would make the absentees conspicuous by their absence.

Of course Johnny could say someone stole his user ID! Or blame Labor for entering his vote.

Who Runs The Dome?

You've made a lot of thoughtful comments. Immediately, as to the important question of who manages The Dome, I'm making investigations, but does anyone know?

I agree with you that assurance the site has a long shelf-life is important, and that we (ok, I) should contact the management about our thoughts. It may be just the shot in the arm they need, as well as a great tool for us.

Reply to TG

TG, thanks for your feedback.

The suggestion to investigate what the Parliamentary Library has available is an excellent one. I'll be doing so.

To what could be included. I agree we would need a written code of journalistic behaviour for anyone participating in this scheme, and that details of private life should be as sacrosanct as it (mostly) is for the mainstream media.

But I'd also like to include (Commonwealth funded) travel, spending and corporate interests.

The heart of it would be letters sent to the Senator by us requesting clarification on issues, and any replies. If and when the Senator makes a view known to us, we will ask him or her to make it publicly known on the Dome.

The legal territory certainly needs a reconnaissance. Anyone?

Strategy Models

A recent example of note:

The EFF Action Alert lets you send a standard or personalized email to your Senators about the efforts to pass the National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005. RE: Dear Congressman _______: Blog With Us - The EFF Model

Jozef

Ralph McKay, founder of the Dome of Conscience

Greetings Hamish, I gather that you do not have to look too far for this contact as Margo might have his email address.

Extract from Webdiary :

Today Peter King, the sitting member for Wentworth, voted in the Federal Parliament's Dome of Conscience and committed to keep voting if elected. It's a transparent online conscience voting chamber just for elected officials, and until October 9th all federal candidates can join the vote. It operates through the website domeus. 128 other federal candidates have voted in the last seven days with many more joining every day.

King said: "By committing to vote regularly in the Parliament's Dome of Conscience I am saying to the people of Wentworth that you will always know where I stand on the big issues and which issues rate foremost in my mind at the time. It's a guarantee for honesty and now that this technology is available all candidates should use it."

"This is a very interesting idea that will produce an integrated voice of the Parliament in the form of a live issues scoreboard, never before seen. In this forum all parliamentarians have an equal voice and I will use it to give Wentworth voters a stronger voice."

The Dome encourages creative thinking in the parliament. Anyone can float an opinion placard on a new idea at any time but the author of the new opinion is suppressed. It means that new ideas floated in the Dome do not belong to anyone and this takes the politics out of the debate. It's a polling invention that works like a continuous, transparent and competitive "Opinion Market" - an idea inspired originally by the way financial markets work. There are no questions, surveys or pollsters. Any federal candidate can float a new opinion in the virtual voting chamber any time. Opinions are expressed as concise single line statements called "placards". All opinion placards compete continuously for votes from candidates and are ranked live in a leaderboard for all to see. Each placard also has a separate dedicated debating forum where candidates can post comments and speeches.

Voting is fully transparent. The Dome shows the collective voice of all candidates, the Parliament as a whole, the Senate and House of
Representatives separately, as well the vote count of each party and each candidate.

Ralph McKay, founder of the Dome of Conscience, at October 6, 2004 3.17pm.

Jozef

IVF strategy

Hey Hamish, Thinking about the potential use of the Dome site it struck me this morning that we have an opportunity right now to confront all Federal MP's with a decision.

As you will be aware Howard/Abbott/Costello are proposing to reduce access to IVF through Medicare limitations.

Also you may have read about the group of Liberal MP's etc that have banded together and publicly stated their opposition to that cut. Today's newspaper headlines make it clear that Howard ain't gonna change for a bunch of women (not my opinion!). I'd rather have all politicians female as they seem to be able to work together better than us males. Less ego maybe?

I see an opening where we might write to all MP's, Federal that is, introducing ourselves and our overall aims/goals whilst asking them to be brave and state their position on the Dome's website.

What do people think? Worth a go, or too early?

I'd be happy to try drafting up a document which you could slash and edit until we get something useful if you would like. I could do that probably by tomorrow if you see it as worthwhile.

It would also be an apportunity to demonstrate that we are serious and give visitors to YourDemocracy an idea of what we might be able to achieve, even with low numbers due to the infancy of this site.

If nothing else it would somewhere to start rather than all of us pondering away and seeing it all as too hard.

Righto Pegasus

Draft the letter Pegasus. You're enthusiasm is inspiring and you're right - we've got to take opportunities as they come, and we've got to start somewhere. If people like the idea, I think we should post the letter to every Federal MP, not just Libs, and get a friendly Senator to post a placard on the Dome (if there's not already an appropriate one to promote). What do others think about this idea?

Also thanks Jozef. I got onto Ralph McKay and he's keen to work with us.

The DOME is ready

This is Ralph McKay the founder of the Dome of Conscience. I have just read the comments on this site. Yes, Your Democracy can certainly use the DOME to harvest opinions from lawmakers and candidates and make their views transparent. I notice the people contributing here are very astute and have seen how it has the potential to change the dynamic of the Parliament. It will be very powerful when the public and media expect lawmakers to be seen in the DOME.

The home link on www.domeaus.com does explain the DOME's history. It can also be accessed directly from the home page www.domevote.com.

Yes the idea was launched in 2002. At this stage we have only demonstrated its potential. 147 candidates did participate in the leadup to the 2004 General Election. However if the DOME is to really work is needs someone to motivate many more parliamentarians to use it regularly. In my discussion with quite a few parliamentarians it appears the only reason most are not using it is that they don't see their colleagues using it or the media reporting it. Yet many elected officials do think it's a great idea and have said so publicly.

We have been waiting for others better placed to promote the idea to come along and challenge lawmakers to use it. Apparently YourDemocracy is about to meet this challenge.

Note the main forum in the DOME is the permanent All Opinions, Big Issues Opinion Market. We can open single issue forums any time as called. For example someone mentioned IVF.

Something exciting is expected to happen in the UK soon too. In fact the UK DOME at www.ukdome.com has already started in a small way with 48 candidates joining in the last five days. Here is my April 05 letter to UK candidates.


OPEN LETTER TO ALL UK CANDIDATES FOR PARLIAMENT

Dear MPs and Candidates for Parliament,
Which MPs and candidates have an online conscience?


All candidates in the upcoming election are invited to start voting immediately for opinions in the UK DOME of Conscience. In the few days since its launch 48 candidates have voted in the Dome of Conscience with more joining every day. It’s an online voting chamber that operates like a transparent “Opinion Market

Second Thoughts

Hi again Pegasus. I've been thinking further.

It's not too early to begin in the way you suggest, I reckon, especially as we now have a clearer relationship with Ralph McKay of the Dome.

This simple idea for a campaign beginning also puts on hold most of TG Kerr's proper concerns. We don't need to build webblogs or databases, or worry about the ethics of amateur journalists or the laws about disclosing information. We can start with an issue and write a letter to MPs asking them their views on the issue and for them to make those views public in a neutral space - the Dome.

I still think you should draft your letter, but I'm going to draft one myself about the cross-media ownership laws, which I'd prefer to lead with, subject to feedback. A while ago Anthony Cole suggested this as a launching pad, and the discussion was positive.

As we develop this campaign protocol, I think members should be able to use it for any number of issues, including ones the site-admin doesn't agree with. And the reason my first response was, "yep, why not?", was that utilising this technique and garnering participation in it will be furthering our democratic institutions anyway. But my argument is that a clear 'democracy issue' would be the best with which to develop participation.

I do think this use of the Dome could also make it very difficult for the coalition to close ranks around reducing women's access to abortion, which Lewisa and others spoke of pursuing, or to sell Telstra, or any number of other issues of intra-coalition controversy. If we can get it to work, and build a fairly broad base of participation and awareness, anyone will be able to do this, not only regardless of the site's admin, but regardless of this site.

This strategy is slightly desperate in a way, and is an attempt to adapt to the conditions of Howard owning a very slight majority in the Senate. His only check on power will be the possibility, issue to issue, that an individual will cross the floor.

We have until July 1 to get this going in some way that can be built upon. You draft your letter, I'll draft mine. We'll see what other people reckon.

Drafts

Hi Hamish, agreed. Will draft away and hopefully it will be presentable enough to publish here for all others to comment on before anything else happens.

I haven't commented on the cross media issue because, to be frank, I don't understand it. Are you able to point me to some articles or sites where I can educate myself? I think I know what it's about but won't embarrass myself by stating those thoughts here.

The reason I picked IVF is really one of timing Hamish. Howard and Costello are fighting, the female Libs are up in arms and ready to revolt (we hope) and of course all Labor are opposed to the plan to restrict access to IVF. It's something we can use right now while it's a hot issue.

What could be a more democratic issue than restricting health care based on what Abbott has announced as "not being a life saving procedure"? He's opposed to abortion and seemingly opposed to creating life as well. Wedge him!

I think it's an issue that is understandable and most should have an opinion on it. If people do agree with restricting IVF they would then need to justify that in the face of Howard's concerns about population growth etc. As well as face the prospect of Medicare ONLY looking after live saving procedures. I learnt that about 1 in 30 Aussie kids are now born through IVF. That's a lot.

I was initially thinking it sounded reasonable to restrict the number of times IVF could be used with public money but, having listened to the opposing views, I see it as a huge infringement of public rights.

Just having a bit of a rave really. Both issues of course present opportunities and we should take them. Who cares if it's desperate or not? The idea is to try and attract the attention of those MP's with a brain and maybe a conscience isn't it? How we try and do that I don't think is relevant if we can achieve something.

Cross Media Ownership

Pegasus, on cross media ownership laws, a good place to start is Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Margo's book Not Happy, John! - Defending our democracy. She has published these in full on Webdiary as Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, Closing the Door on Your Right to Know and Unholy Alliances. The guts of it is that the only thing standing in the way of complete monopoly in the media is a piece of legislation saying you can't own a television station and a newspaper in the same city. This stops Fairfax being bought by Murdoch, which allows the Herald, and the Age to remain as a mainstream voice in print with a degree of independence, and it shows. In print they're the closest thing to the ABC we've got. Howard has tried to get rid of these laws (and hence the Fairfax group) before, and was barely blocked.

Your arguments are good and I'm open minded. I'll keep asking: What do people reckon?

I think this is a good idea & definitely a wedge issue

Except unfortunately, and in a rare instance, I entirely agree with the proposed restrictions to IVF funding. The IVF funding cutoffs are proposed only for couples who have tried multiple times without success, or for those who have been medically advised of an extremely low chance of success.

My fundamental issue with IVF is that the bottom line is that some people simply aren't meant to have children. By meant, I mean anatomically equipped, no judgement statement on their fitness as parents. This is basical biology, the luck of the draw - we all get some assets and soem weaknesses from our DNA.

Yet we live in a gratification society that says children are an entitlement, and we will pay millions as a society to help unfit bodies have children they are not equipped to have them, rather than say, foster acceptance of this as a society and encourage adoption.

The results of IVF are far from ideal. Beyond the societal reinforcements of the "right to a child" and the reinforcing of the patriarchal model of women only truly having any worth through child rearing, IVF also skews badly towards twins & greater multiple births, and has an 80% higher chance of producing boys, creating a sex ratio imbalance as well. IVF babies also have much higher rates of birth abnormalities, risk to the mother during pregnancy and birth, and gerater health problems through life.

I do not want to play into the conservative frame of a "culture of life", where using science to promulgate the view that fetal / newborn life is worth more than a woman's and certainly a woman's right to choose, and it is reasonable to ignore a woman's anatomy & physiology and push it to the limits through artificially created and maintained pregnancy - and tell her this is absolutely the right thing to do.

In sum - if this is to be used to wedge (and wedges are good), IMHO it would need to be done in a way that doesn't buy into the conservative values frame.

Welcome back Myriad

Welcome back Myriad. Haven't heard from you for a bit.

I'm interested in your perspective on cross-media ownership laws in terms of framing. As Pegasus indicated, it's not self-evident what cross media ownership laws are about, which is not a thing in favour of a public campaign. At the same time it is a very important campaign. Even if we fail to stop the complete monopolisation of Australia's print media, it will become more important than ever that people understand that Australia's 'democracy' simply does not have the equipment of an independent press.

Jeremy Hardie on Intuition and Accountability

Could the next George W Bush or Tony Blair learn to make decisions that are accountable and transparent as well as quick? Jeremy Hardie on the missing element of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink

Which issue?

Hey Myriad and Hamish and others, first I'd just like to say I would like to see more discussion from other members. AND SOME OF THOSE GUESTS OUT THERE. Come on in. There's 4 of you reading as I write.

If there's only half a dozen of us discussing strategy and issues we might as well meet in a phone box! On the other hand if no one else jumps in and has their say then we must assume that what is discussed is not disagreed with. We can't just sit and wait for all members to join in as they may not have an interest in this part of the site or the issues raised are not ones they wish to comment on.

That said, I have read up a bit on cross media. It was what I thought but I couldn't have written it briefly. Basically we are trying to oppose the big boys taking over all media, Yes? I can't see any reason to disagree with that at all and have certainly had my say without really understanding how basic it is. There is also the potential horror of government taking over as well (1984 again).

As we know media is very powerful and does influence many. Fortunately newspapers are a dying commodity (don't tell Margo!) but of course they are just slowly being replaced by web versions so the issue is the same.

With one exception, being that anyone can publish whatever they want on the net and that hasn't been possible in the world of newspapers and print. Attracting visitors to the site is the issue there and, as with all media, big dollars will allow the most advertising and therefore the most visitors.

I have read Margo's three chapters on this issue and what it does is just confirm how dirty and underhand politics in our country is. How many politicians actually represent their electorates at all? Sounds like zip doesn't it.

For Myriad, I have picked IVF for the reasons stated earlier, timing and there are known MP's already opposing the issue from within the government. As well as the potential split over leadership. Cross media may have the same effect as an issue.

Until a few days ago I tended to also think it sounded reasonable to restrict the number of uses of IVF due to the expense. And as you rightly point out it is at least partly based on medical evidence that women of certain ages are more likely to have problems (mild word) with child birth etc.

However the issue that concerns me is that this decision is being made on financial grounds, not medical advice. Until now the medical advice obviously wasn't taken so why has that changed? One reason only - the blowout in the Medibank Safety Net. No other reason.

My partner and I became parents (again) at age 43 and we now have 4 between us. We didn't use IVF but having experienced the joy our youngest daughter has given us at our age I couldn't deny someone else the same happiness, particularly if it was to be their first and maybe only child. We're lucky, she's perfectly healthy.

That's a personal aside so ignore it. The other part of the IVF issue is really not IVF related at all.

I don't know if you heard or read what Abbott said (I think last Thursday) as to how he justified the change. He stated that it was too expensive and, as it wasn't life saving surgery, he couldn't personally justify it.

In other words medical decisions are to be made on a financial basis rather than human or medical. If we let this one pass as well as the increase in the Safety Net, where does it end? Hip replacements are not life saving so can them as well? Will we need to undertake a financial interview before we go to hospital as in the US? I don't want that and I don't know anyone who does.

This sort of approach is becoming more and more common in Australia in mainly the last couple of years. Wedging minority groups that is.

About 6 months ago there was the cry from talk back about refusing treatment to smokers as "they caused it". Even the doctors who started that line were horrified where talk back took the issue to that extent. What the doctors initially were saying was that smokers had a far greater risk from operating than non smokers and they really should give up smoking before and after a life saving operation. That morphed into the "let's deny smokers medical treatment bullshit" as soon as Laws and Jones got hold of it.

The same also started about overweight people. I heard talkback calls, and hosts supporting the suggestion that overweight people should also be denied medical treatment for weight related issues. More, they wanted the overweight to pay for two seats wherever they didn't fit into the provided seats.

That's what concerns me rather than strictly the IVF issue. It's a step at a time for Howard and the media. How much will they take before I feel the heat is his approach. He uses the financial line as that is all he thinks about, money but it does appeal to most who can then justify denying minority groups equal treatment. I say now on Medicare (I'm never sure of today's title for that authority so I mix it) before it is totally useless.

Bottom line though is that cross media is certainly a vital issue and worthy of our first toe wetting and I have no particular need to push anything on others. I simply would like to see us produce something soon.

IVF is government kite-flying

For none of the reasons canvassed in the discussion, I agree that IVF should be left alone.

I smell a rat.

There is no great saving from the proposed tightening of rules. There is plenty to be gained in a public arena where the government is hacking into the provision of basic human services - the latest reduction in the "safety net" is your latest example of a true withdrawal of human services - from a show of first pretending to want to deprive a middle class of a benefit which is most definitely seen to be a middle class benefit, eliciting a nice noisy, articulate and diverse reaction from within the government's ranks and then to make a nice showy display of appearing to have listened to the "protest".

I fancy Howard's office has begun the "relenting" already. I believe the spin is that Howard himself is "softening" on the issue. All too pat.

I am sure I needn't point out how much capital a government could accumulate in such a diversion for later bringing out to show what a caring lot of shits they are.

The thing reads like a classically "managed" media exercise.
It also has very few legs as a basic moral litmus test, because of the wide range of moral viewpoints which have already been displayed in Northern Christian attitudes to reproductive issues overall.

Here's to working out how to budge party line adherents in the Senate far enough out of the clutch of their parties so as to get them to register a Dome vote on anything. Maybe a question with crow-bar potential is How much consultation with your electorate do you consider is a minimum for you to call yourself a representative? or maybe how much of your parliamentary salary do you spend on consulting your electorate?

I can't get an answer out of my reps.

Kite is right

Hey Darky, I have no doubt you are right. Read today's Courier Mail article here for the beginning of Howard "changing his mind" in the face of all that valid protest.

How though did those Members decide they were opposed to the proposed change? Do they actually decide such things themselves or respond to people from their various electorates who may have prompted their own real feelings on a given issue.

All that means though is that if we do still express our opinion about the kite flying as a dangerous step down the wrong path that would fire a shot over their bows in respect of that area of government, in that case, Medicare.

From another perspective, if we assume all leaks are kite flying should be ignore them all and leave it to others to voice the protest? Or should we voice our objections after it has become law or passed through the Budget process? If nobody protests they push it through don't they?

Yet another perspective is if we choose our battle ground as something Howard cannot budge on and he has the numbers, which he will have, subject to Barnaby Joyce, come 1 July, what are our chances of any response at all?

Are you saying it is a pointless exercise to attempt anything at all? It may be but if we don't try we won't know will we?

I think the questions you would like to pose are what most of us feel like screaming at our politicians but those questions are cynical as there is no real response required is there? There is no vote to be had in either House on those questions, it is simply something that each and every politician can do the same as always, avoid, lie, deny and change the topic.

I would like to believe those questions would fall into place if we or any other process can force a change of thinking on at least some politicians. If we can change the approach of one it is a start, something to show.

Again I repeat I am not set on IVfF as a topic. It just seemed an excellent opportunity which may not come that frequently. I'm trying to say we should be ready to react to statements made by government regardless of the vailidity of their intent.

Media and Government

Pegasus, regarding the cross media laws, your statement that there is the potential horror of government taking over the media may have already happened.

John Wood at the Logie Awards had a shot at the State and Federal government that they should put some money back into the ABC. He delivered a political statement in front of politicians in the audience and as such could have been torn apart by the commercial media. The Logies is a commercial media show.

No, bloodletting happened. The media in fact were sympathetic to John Wood's call. Therefore the commercial media sees the cutting back of funds for the ABC as politically incorrect.

Another thing to be considered is that the statement should have been delivered by someone working at the ABC.

It should be asked why the ABC won't speak out in public. If the answer is "fear", we should all be afraid.

Some Pointers

Have been doing a lot of research today. I will write more soon, but here's some good material.

The Parliamentary Library has good factual information about the Cross Media issue.

www.xmedia.org.au has emerged from Friends of Fairfax, and is focussing on cross-media ownership. I haven't got through to them yet, but they are natural allies.

Friends of the ABC Victoria have launched their own Cross-media campaign. I spoke to their Campaign Manager Glenys Stradijot, and she is very keen to work with us and is having a look at the Dome. We should hear from her soon.

More soon.

Hi Pegasus, Darky, Hamish

Pegasus, I think you & others hit the nail on the head, and articulated better what I was getting at. IVF is definitely a kite. No I hadn't heard Abbott's reasoning, and I agree that across the board of health issues, fundamentally what is happening is that the Howard government is softening the country up for a a reframing of what is essential medical care that should be provided for by government.

And this is how we have to frame it: "The issue is not about IVF access: this government is trying to distract us with debate about a tiny percentage of the health budget while it continues to destroy access for ordinary Australians to basic medial services."

Ok, that sucks as a simple frame, but you get the idea.

If we were to go after this one, I would want to use the dome to ask individual members "do they agree that it is the role of government to guarantee universal health care for all Australians?" "Do you agree that access to essential medical services under a universal health care system includes hip replacements, dentistry, and other services that are essential for health and well-being, not just life-saving procedures?" (Again, these could be written a lot better, but you get the gist).

We have to tie this fundamentally to the failure of the Howard policy of pushing people into private healthcare insurance as the way to take the pressure of the public system. The research has shown (and I will go and find it) that this has utterly failed. It showed that private health insurance rebate has increased the pressure on the public system and on top of that, private medical insurance fees have continued to sky-rocket. This was revealed recently, and disappeared with hardly a blip - yet surely this is an essential conversation that Australians should be having!

Therefore I think we want to reframe this debate to get back to what government in Australia is meant to do - pour our tax dollars into a functioning, efficient public system for all, not subsidise the private sector, which then cherry-picks and increases the pressure on the public services.

If we used the dome, I think we could potentially not only exploit the split in the liberal party between hard-liners and those who are more fiscally conservative / socially responsible; and get Labour to sharply differentiate itself from the government by offering an alternative vision.

I'll give my 2 cents on cross-media laws in a separate post.

Cross media ownership

Hi Hamish, yep it's an incredibly important issue, and if nothing else as it's not self-evident from the title, it would be an excellent exercise for us to work together & with others to frame it correctly, and get it talked about.

Two things I can think of:

1) the recent survey by reporters without borders that saw Australia's press freedom rating plummet to 41st - link here and a more detailed one here.

2) I'm sure I heard or read something to the effect recently that the major commercial media players were actually quite happy with the current status quo, and not particularly interested in pursuing cross-media ownership. Can anyone help me out with this? It seems hard to believe given that we know Murdoch would love to expand further & Packer would love to own a major daily.

I think it would be great to work with Friends of the ABC - indeed the plethora of complaints and bullying of the ABC by the government through the build up and launch of the Iraq invasion.

Some links on health

Article in SMH

On the research I was recalling about private health insurance subsidy failing to reduce waiting lists etc.

Consumers Health Forum has lots of good info - here.

Reporters Without Borders

Thanks Myriad. The articles are excellent and I was looking for that exact bit of information. I surfed around and found the actual report, in the process discovering Reporters Without Borders, which I think might make it into my Your Democracy Top 10.

The Report itself is a critical piece of information, and I'm writing Australia's status as 41st in the world for press freedom into the draft of the letter to MPs.