Manifesto for @NoFibs

Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston – Photo credit Sarah Gross Fife

By Margo Kingston
March 1, 2013

It’s a funny feeling to be writing an introduction to the ebook of Still Not Happy, John!’, because after so many years in retirement I’m now back doing what I love – writing for and editing a citizen journalism website.

Back then it was with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Webdiary, created in 2000 and the inspiration for my 2004 book, Not Happy, John!. The book saw Fairfax turn its back on my work, and after a gruelling struggle to save Webdiary, I retired hurt in December 2005. A community-supported Webdiary finally closed last July.

Its successor, thanks to Twitter, is Australians for Honest Politics, created in December 2012 by former Webdiarist Tony Yegles, my AFHP co-publisher.

After seven years as an internet refugee, I’m now a Twitter obsessive, and surprised I’m still up for it. For me it’s ground hog day, but with the bells and whistles of technology making the process easier and more fun. And I’ve been given an armchair ride on Twitter due to the support of many former Webdiarists who’ve since become internet writers and activists.

What brought me back was a compulsion borne of amazement that the media had let Tony Abbott get away with claiming the AWU slush fund saga was a question of character for the PM (‘Australians for Honest Politics’ is the name Tony Abbott gave his own slush fund, detailed at length in the book).

My first piece back in action – which only Independent Australia would publish – was about Tony Abbott and his slushy character question.

Only Michelle Grattan, now a fellow escapee to online new media heaven, had the class to acknowledge a collective lapse in memory in the Press Gallery. No one took up my challenge to push Abbott on his unanswered slush questions, despite their ferocious pursuit of Julia Gillard on hers.

Having put history as completely back on the record as I could thanks to The King’s Tribune and New Matilda, I was set to resume my new life until I noted with alarm the extraordinary lack of mainstream media interest in the implications of the Ashby judgement. I wrote of the resonance between the old Abbott slush story and the Ashby scandal, then howled with dismay at the lack of Ashby follow-up.

Now, damn it, I’m hooked on journalism again.

Several tweeps asked for an ebook of Still Not Happy, John!, and Penguin has kindly obliged. I feel it’s worth a read, or a re-read. Here’s why.

It embodies Webdiary’s vision of collaboration between journalist and reader, which I feel is the only way journalism can survive. Two lay Webdiarists, Jack Robertson and Harry Heidelberg (a nom de plume for David Davis), wrote chapters. I also commissioned chapters from two working journalists, Antony Loewenstein and Paddy Manning. Paddy’s chapter on the Howard Government’s attempts to muzzle NGOs via the Institute of Public Affairs is relevant today, because the IPA is now ubiquitous in newspapers and on the ABC without any acknowledgement that it is secretly funded to represent certain big business interests.

The book documents, particularly in the chapters on Abbott’s slush fund, the Iraq war (the first a government entered into without the support of the Australian people) and the extraordinary, largely unreported Howard-endorsed takeover of our Parliament by President Bush and President Hu, the efforts of citizen journalists to get the facts and tell the story the mainstream media did not tell.

Iraq War Demonstration Sydney

Iraq War Demonstration Sydney

This documentation of citizen journalism provides an historical context to what will be, in 2013, the first federal election significantly shaped by social media.

When I covered Pauline Hanson’s election campaign in 1998, documented in Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson Trip, I experienced the shock of One Nation geek Scott Balson recording the media and posting comments about us. This election, citizen journalists will be active in reporting the news and reporting the media getting the news. It has already begun, and it ain’t pretty.

Two chapters describe Fairfax values (which still live on in journalists, if not in the doomed shell that is Fairfax today), and how Fairfax journos fought to protect them against attempts by the Howard government to meet the demands of Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch. Both political parties have played with these devils, and I strongly believe that the Abbott-Murdoch partnership will, if it triumphs at the election, destroy what is left of the fourth estate’s capacity to hold the powerful accountable to the people.

It is also useful to look back on what is now seen, apparently, as the ‘golden’ Howard years, and to remember his government’s record. And to notice that, compared to today’s Liberal Party, John Howard’s crew was benign. The moderates, seriously wounded under Howard, are now dead. The hard right has taken over, and Cory Bernardi is its talisman.

People say to me:

‘Why bother? Who cares?’

My reply:

‘Well, all a journo can do is put out the information, and if people don’t want to read it then at least they’ve had the opportunity!’

Thanks to Penguin, here it is.

Me, I feel relaxed and comfortable sitting outside the system looking in. In my day, I was the first highly paid mainstream ‘blogger’, regularly on radio and TV. The nasty right, exemplified by Tim Blair, were the volunteer outsiders. Now Tim is ensconced in News Ltd, Andrew Bolt is the most-read mainstream blogger, and I’m the volunteer ignored by the MSM.

Times change. I like where I am more than where I was. Because I’m free.


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

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  1. I appreciate everything you do for our ‘democracy’ Margo. Thankyou.

  2. Robert Bettinzoli says

    Thank you Margo [and Tony] for coming back,we need all the help we can muster to defeat what appears to be a growing number of people brainwashed by the constant misinformation peddled by most aspects off journalism,including I am sorry to say the ABC
    I hope enough people catch on to what is really happening come September,
    Thank you and good luck.

  3. Pia Robinson says

    Why bother? I would have thought the answer to that is: YOU CARE.
    Well done, great piece (as always).

  4. I’m spreading this blog around as many people as I can, Margo. It horrifies me to see the lowest depths Scott Morrison, Eric Abetz and Abbott have resorted to with their recent demonising of bridging visa refugees. Shades of John Howard and the lies of the ‘children overboard’ scandal. And even worse, look at all the Australians who are willing to lay down their brains in defeat and believe the Opposition. Geez Louise! by the way, Margot, I’m glad you’re back and on fire. :)

  5. I’m sorry

    Are my taxes funding this site so you can plug your book, or some other reason?

  6. By The Consent Of The Governed says

    Ms Kingston, clearly you have the prerogative as a journalist to create your own website and promote it freely in what is still a relatively free and uncensored country. My objection is to the complete lack of balance you show in any of your writings. You are as determined to write your smear stories about any member on the right of centre as Dennis Shanahan or Greg Sheridan are to write their smear stories about those from the Left. The lot of you are a disgrace and do not serve the citizens of this country in any useful manner at all.

    Your support of Labor is, I suspect, deeply misguided. While you claim to have been lambasted by the Liberal / Packer / Murdoch conglomerate and, the failure of your Web Diary seems to be singularly the fault of the Fairfax organisation and, of course, none of the blame rests with yourself in any of your tribulations, it seems most odd to this writer that you seem willing and pleased to ignore your beloved Labor Party’s strengthening ties with China, the country most strongly opposed to journalistic independence and freedom of speech of its people. Just as oddly, you ignore Labor’s embrace for the values of the Chinese Communist Party which are being reflected in Labor policy and projects such as the NBN, Internet Censorship and an alarming increase in funding to ASIO presumably to monitor the online and offline actions of citizens of this country.

    I would support a web journal such as yours if I could see any semblance of objective and impartial journalism about it but your site does not present such an opportunity. It’s a real shame that journalists such as yourself are so conditioned to believe that either the ‘left is right’, or, ‘right is right’, that you fail to journal the blatant and obvious point that neither political party is representing, let alone serving, the will of the citizens of Australia. Both political parties collude behind closed doors and agree to misrepresent some form of electoral ‘choice’ to the Australian citizens. Some choice; two parties, same agenda, both parties being directed by the United Nations.

    Political journalism in Australia is now at an all time low which, considering that its stature has never reached much more than navel height at any time before, is a shameful indictment upon both the agenda, integrity and mental capacity of its professional members to recognise and divulge to the People that both political parties collude in order to deliver the instructions given to them by the United Nations, a global control machine run by the Zionist banking cartel which has, for decades, proactvely recruited the impressionable minds of politically aspirant university students the world over in order to bring forward its own agenda at the expense of so many global citizens. Between the free trade agreements and the environmental treaties, the UN has gradually ruined the sovereignty and independence of every first world nation on the planet, over the last 40 years while nocuously failing to acheive any of the primary objectives it set for itself over 70 years ago.

    Australia has not escaped its clasp. With Tony Abbott and his Jesuit education appended by his Rhodes scholarship and, then with Julia Gillard, initially influenced by her unionist father, succeeded by her tilt at university politics honing her extreme leftist, pro-communist beliefs (which she still maintains today), fostered and encouraged by the university socialist recruiters therein, it is clear to any objective observer that the politican situation in this country is dire and, resultingly, more than ever the Australian citizens need a voice of truth, a voice of clarity.

    No one is interested in political muckraking any longer (which is probably why your Web Diary failed). The People are however genuinely and deeply interested in knowing why their beloved country is being carved up and sold off to overseas interests and, why no political party seems to be willing to intervene on behalf of the people.

    The People are interested to know why both political parties refuse to consult with them, apart from at the obligatory triennial quest for endorsement where a mandate for such specific, important agendas are deliberately not sought, and why both parties are actively participating in the carve up and sell off of the country without having obtained the consent of the public, the source of the power for which these corrupt politicians rely upon in order to govern.

    Why don’t you write about that, Ms Kingston? If you call yourself a journalist and have any sense of personal dignity and loyalty to this nation and its People, you’ll know in your true heart then that it’s time to leave the insignificant, inconsequential, biased muckraking of your past behind and begin to provide an informative and objective opinion channel covering the real issues that are occurring which affect us as Australians and, that this is precisely what you should do. I do hope you will find the courage within.

    Remember, Ms Kingston, you’ve been done over too in all of their self-serving political ploys. Those politicians that you supported by your journalistic denigration of their opponents didn’t support you when you found yourself on rocky ground. You’ve not received more than lip service from those that you supported. They won’t remember you either when they’re out of domestic politics and living in New York or London working as an envoy or diplomat in their new, shiny-arse UN position. At the end of the day, you, Ms Kingston, are just like one of us Australian People, you too have been used and discarded. The question is, whether your strong political persuasions will allow you to recognise this fact, or not.

  7. Huh! LOL. I love it. The mad, outrage of those exposed. And your courage to post it. My story exposing blatant misquoting of a UN climate advisor and misinformaton about climate data in a pg 1 story in a major newspaper, which was repeated throughout the world as “fact”, was published, but not in the mass media sadly. Legal threats from the exposed were the final nail. It still infuriates me. Thanks Margo. You’ve been sorely missed.