Howard’s blueprint for Abbott to stifle dissent

Artist Martin Davies.  More works and info on Martin at:

Artist Martin Davies.

By Margo Kingston
March 12, 2013

This chapter from Still Not Happy, John! (Pengiun, 2007) is required reading for activists and people in non-government organisations which advocate for change. John Howard’s government systematically sought to stifle democratic dissent with the help of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Believe it or not, the Howard government funded the secretly funded IPA to produce a report saying groups who did not reveal their funding should not get government funding. Pressed to justify this hypocrisy, the IPA promised to disclose its donors but it never did.

As the likelihood of a government led by Howard’s political son grows, I feel citizens need to ask detailed questions of the Coalition on their intentions this time round. None of the dissent stifling measures discussed here were ever revealed prior to election.

I commissioned journalist Paddy Manning (@gpaddymanning) to write this chapter and he did a fine job.

‘Still Not Happy, John!’ is published by Penguin. You can download it as an ebook here:

Still Not Happy, John!

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  1. Reblogged this on auguries14 and commented:
    A Must Read

  2. Reblogged this on iheariseeilearn.

  3. Reminded of this article by Margo Kingston at The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 2003:

    Howard’s roads to absolute power

  4. Joy Cooper says

    Had forgotten about this despicable, shameful act of the Howard government in their attempts to nobble the NGO’s ability to lobby for the people they represented, particularly those in need. Big business wasn’t affected by this which was particularly outrageous. Thank you for reminding us of this as the present Federal Opposition contains many who were party to this act of political bastardry.

    Incidentally has anything changed for the better with this situation or have these NGOs been forgotten?

  5. Awesome writing, specifiying exactly how changes caused suffering for down trodden and poor of society. I remember many times where reports where sent back numerous times to be ‘re-drafted’ as it shone a unflattering light on the Government.
    The same was happening with health, where funding was threatened if abortion was offered by groups/organisations, as family planning option.

    Governments should be big and confident enough to stand by their actions, not stifle opposition by stealth, or threats of funding. The underlying resentment at the time was pulpable, where Immigration, Health, Social departments had spin doctors putting out spot fires, when criticism made its way into the public realm.

    Sad thing will be that Abbott was one to the group doing it, where he pines for the ‘Howard Years’, hoping to bring it back to the future.

  6. “@margokingston1: Abbott to clamp charities whose free speech he dislikes Howard:” what next?