Sunday 14th of July 2024

archive's blog

Maintain the unhappiness! (Wanieta Young)

HI! Have just about finished your book and loved it. I am so happy that there still seem to be people who have a passionate interest in these things. The book was recommended by a friend and in turn I have recommended it to many more. Unfortunately one still has so many fears - mainly about the apathy that I know so many people still have and also the fact that even if there is a change in government [I fervently hope there is] we still have to keep the bastards honest!

I can't believe, for example, the proposal of US training facilities in Australia - what is going on!??? I will be doing my best as a citizen to maintain the 'unhappiness'

One of the thing about which I was heartened on reading your book was the number of ordinary people who do so many things, big or little, to investigate and help others. I feel also that its no small thing [at any time, but especially in the current climate] to just be aware of what is going on in more detail. Thankfully my family

How much do you care? ()

We feel energised by all the feedback we hear on NHJ. We can tell how much Australians care about our democracy. We have had many ideas from you and we have some ideas of our own. I'm leaving Switzerland tonight, bound for Australia. I'm coming home to work for Australia. I'm not sure for how long but I'm excited. That's the power of NHJ for me! We have a lot of work to do and the more that pitch in, the easier it will be.

Last weekend I set up Check it out. An easy example of how you too can become an activist! Activism in defence of free speech and Australian democracy is something we should all be proud to be a part of, regardless of our political colours.

People fighting back ()

NHJ seems to be finding new examples, almost daily, of citizens who are sick and tired of their governments restricting the flow of information about important issues. As ever, America is leading the way in progressive ideas and websites. Today, a few examples. Anybody keen on starting something similar here?

Media Matters is a Web-based organisation dedicated to monitoring bias in the US media, through campaigning, emailing, letter writing and public awareness programs. They have just launched Activism Network, a hands-on campaign designed to tell media outlets about their flaws, omission and bias. Media organisations will certainly respond positively when contacted by enough people with the right message.

Another new addition is Outraged Moderates, a one-stop shop for hundreds of government and court documents, many of which

Where's democracy now? (john augustus)

I am prompted to write after reading 'disappointing goes nowhere does nothing and is hardly left'. I am a regular Webdiary reader and occasional contributor, and my view on the book is completely different. NHJ documents carefully how the Howard Government unravels the true democratic process. It is clearly written, extremely well referenced, sometimes funny and often very very disturbing. It is a valuable permanent collection of the many lies and distortions that usually get lost in the fog of time.

It revolves around a basic definition that jumps out at you on page 321: 'democracy's bedrock promise:that each citizen shares equally in political power'. It highlights crowd control by ignorance and fear. It is neither left nor right, but idealistic to the point of frustration!

The human condition seems unable to manage such propriety as true democracy demands. This book is a must read for anyone interested in good government, the principles of democracy, and who love

Blue Mountains event ()

G'day. My next outing for the book is at the Springwood Civic Centre in the Blue Mountains at 2pm this Saturday, July 24. Former federal liberal party president John Valder - now an activist against the Iraq war and for human rights - will join me for a chat on the state of Australian politics and what we can we do to defend our democracy? Everyone is welcome.

Disappointing: Goes nowhere does nothing and is hardly 'left' (Ben Woods)

I couldn't finish this book and I usually push through ALL books. I noticed another reviewer remark that the book does not address what the Howard government has done to education and health. Indeed, and I'm sorry any talk of the worth of Menzies and Paul Keating can hardly come from someone with genuinely left-wing views. The problem with all this is that Australia will hardly change greatly under Latham (another globalisation apologist), I hope he gets in and, 'one thing at a time' and all that, but the world ( yes not just us little patriotic Australians ) will not become a more democratic place until the power of corporations is severly restricted and more power truly is with the people. The ideas do not flow too well either, perhaps the book was put together quickly? The last Australian non-fiction work I read was Clive Hamilton's book 'Growth Fetish'. In my view this book presents more ideas for real progress than 'Not Happy John'.

Mainstream press wakes up ()

With nearly one month since the release of NHJ, and the book still riding high in the Top Five of the national non-fiction chart, the mainstream press appears to be finally waking up to this best-seller. The Herald profiled Margo last Saturday and a review is supposedly pending.

The Age reviewed NHJ last Saturday. Written by Katherine Wilson, co-editor of the literary journal, Overland, there is no link available, but below are some highlights:

'The book's strength is that it investigates those in power through the lens of liberal democratic ideals rather than any ideological prism.'

'...Kingston gives a breadth of detail not available in the mainstream media, and a fascinating insider's perspective of the ways Howard and his minders reward compliant journalists and stonewall inquisitive ones.'

'NHJ will appeal to general readers of any political stripe, especially those who see themselves as moderates. Yet while it emphatically distances itself from

Despondence turned to hope... (Terry Murphy)

As an avid Web Diary reader and sometime (unpublished) contributor to Web Diary discussion, I waited with bated breath to get hold of a copy of NHJ. It was almost everything I expected, yet left me with a discouraging sense of powerlessness - the 'actions' at the end seemed so small to throw against such a huge problem.

But reading these reviews and the comments on the actions page does provide hope. It is empowering to discover that I am one of thousands(?) who are upset at what has happened to our country.

A must MUST read! (Brendan Clarke)

I've just finished NHJ in less than 24 hours. Thank you Margo for writing this book because although I found it quite depressing and disturbing, I realise that it's not too late to save our country and our democracy, I think like a lot of Australians, I'd almost forgotten that it is OUR country. I will be making sure that as many people as possible read this very important book.

Idea - Develop a list of questions to be addressed to all candidates at the election (Terry Murphy)

So much of NHJ is about Howard's subversion of the parliamentary standards of accountability. I would like to propose that a list of questions addressing prospective responses to those issues be addressed to all candidates and their responses published.

For instance, 'What steps will you/your party take, if elected, to restore the convention of Ministerial responsibility?' and 'What steps will you/your party take, if elected, to depoliticise the Commonwealth Public Service?' and so on.

NHJ (AL): Terry, this is a really good idea. If pollies feel like they actually have to answer to their constituents, they may actually feel more confident in shifting from the party line. We've seen this recently with the government's shift in refugee policy. It's far from enough, but reports suggest that a number of Liberal backbenchers, due to concerns in their electorate, were quietly pressuring Cabinet and Howard to soften policy.

If Terry puts together a list of poss

They Work For Us - Auditing Politics ()

Speaking of Public Record Geeks (PRGs) like me, Hansard, and all that lies within (in every sense of the phrase), NHJ! correspondent David Short sends in this utterly stunning (to me) website, which is the most user-friendly instance of democratic 'value-adding' I've seen in a long, long time. Dave writes:

I thought you might have an interest in this UK site: They Work For You. It's a system for crawling through parliament logs, keeping reference and forming a database. A person accessing the site is able to then search through the logs in a sensible fashion, seeing when their representative was last in parliament, what they've voted on, how they voted, etc. It links to registered interests and other articles so that following how well your member has been representing you is made viable.

Effectively it enables a person to evaluate how well they're being represented. Well - in my not so enlightened opinion it does..

It's only natural. (Michael Ray)

Nearly finished reading the book. Congrats, Margo. Disturbing. Yes, but also enlightening. I had one of those cathartic explosions by the time I hit the end of the Pauline Hanson section - and I'm by no means a Hansonite. It's all about information.

Begin with faith in people and then add full disclosure and access to information, and it would seem impossible to have any government but a fully and naturally democratic one grow from that happy circumstance. Or am I being naive?

People aren't stupid but they are self-interested. I know I am - self interested, not stupid. And it's self-interest surely that democracy relies upon. In a good way; the good kind of self-interest. I make decisions that will be good for me and mine, and if enough of us make the same decision, we become the democratic majority and society veers onto that course. And if it didn't and our elected representatives weren't being responsive to our decisions, we'd know because, in my fantasy, the informati

Sales Figures? (Rodney Sewell)

Short question: How's the book selling? Regards and thanks for keeping the home fires of democracy burning.

NHJ! (JR): Figures are difficult to peg precisely at this early stage, Rod, but the short answer is: very well. MK's still highish on most bestseller lists as of this weekend, with, for example, Dymocks inhouse sales tally recording NHJ! at number four (non-fiction), and Neilson Bookscan (the industry-wide marker) putting it at number five on the non-fiction list and number thirteen overall. Penguin's done at least two reprints so far, and while accurate sales take a while to be confirmed, with I think somewhere between twenty and twenty five thousand copies now in print and many outlets reportedly 'out of stock', it's fair to conclude even at this stage that the book has found a remarkably solid audience. We'll keep everyone updated as more definite numbers come in.

Bullshit does baffle brains if you let it happen (Rod Power)

My son gave me your book for my 54th birthday on 12.7.04. It was a great present as I have not been able to put it down. However, I am only up to the final chapters where you talk about the attack on NGO's.

Your book is a credit to your profession and to you. Unlike the likes of Piers Ackerman, Andrew Bolt, Paul Kelly, Malcom Farr etc., you do your job. You are not sickening as no one pulls your strings, like the others. I do not read the 'Tele' or the Australian. The SMH is the way to go as long as it has writers like you and my favourite, Alan Ramsay. Betcha he could write a book or two.

There seemed to be a void in facts to highlight the wrongs of this government. The ALP has finally got some guts with Mark Latham. He is hamstrung by the fact that most Australians are bored by politics and get most of their info from the 'bloody Tele' or the papers owned by Murdoch.

They do not know how a our democracy should work - Howard is not going to tell them. Few know

Idea - Local Electorate scrutiny committees? (Douglas Winn)

I am an active self-funded retiree like others fed up with the sort of events you have portrayed. We got tired of hearing, 'What can we do about it'. You have to start somewhere.

We feel that every sitting member of the government needs to be accountable to a non-party local electorate committee which constantly monitors his/her performance and gives feedback as to voters' feelings. We feel he should regard us as the boss, not the prime minister. We feel the average government pollie is just there to distribute funds in his electorate in response to every request in the expectation that they will vote for him next time. Our bloke boasts of distributing $29 million since elected less than 3 years ago. Is this various grant money from assorted federal and state departmental accounts? Could it possibly be a local slush fund budgeted by the government specifically for his purpose, in the guise of meeting local electorate needs?

Pollies seem only to reflect back to

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