(2003 to 2005)

Not Happy, John!

Thu Jun 24 06:17:00 UTC+1000 2004


Dave found this excerpt from a new book by Margo Kingston. Everyone thought it was kind of interesting.

I think it's funny how people keep throwing the word democracy around like it actually means anything.



In late 2003 I returned to Canberra to watch the President of the United States pay Parliament his due respects as a democratic envoy from Australia's friends and allies, the American people. In the triumphant flush of Saddam Hussein's defeat, Prime Minister John Howard had invited George W. Bush to speak on the matter that had bitterly divided the nation. Our parliamentary representatives - every Australian- we'd voted into the House of Representatives and the -Senate - would hear the leader of the American -people thank the Australian people for the gravest decision any sovereign people can take: the decision to start a war against another -sovereign people.

As one of many citizens who'd opposed that war, I wanted to hear what the man who had led us into it would say, especially to those elected representatives who, on behalf of Australians like me, had refused to back him.
As a reporter, I wanted to see if he'd look them in the eye as he spoke.

Instead what I experienced on 23 and 24 October last year made me fear for our democracy's future.

I saw a Parliament on its collective knees before a condescending Imperial Caesar, led by a lame provincial governor of a Prime Minister so blind to the duties of his own democratic office, so unmoved by the issues still rending his own people, that he turned what might have been a healing thank-you visit into just another vehicle for his own ambitions. I saw him do so at the expense of Westminster traditions and norms of civilised behaviour that I'd thought were above partisan politics. I saw elected politicians - elected by us, the Australian people - shouted down, physically manhandled and viciously abused.

I saw a public service in ruins, reduced to mere caterers, lackies, careerists, political stooges.

And I saw a castrated press gallery largely oblivious to what was happening to our democracy right there before their eyes, on their own professional beat. A press gallery unwilling or unable to report it to a citizenry that urgently needed to know.

Copyright © 2003-2005 John Elliot