November 26, 2003 | Graham

Reporting my own demise

In a short biog I once described myself as an “inside observer” of the Liberal Party. While the term hadn’t been invented then, I thought of myself as being in some respects an “embedded” journalist. As we have recently seen, embedding brings its ethical challenges. One of those challenges is to ensure one’s integrity as a writer is not compromised, at the same time as one does not compromise the ultimate security of the organization that one is reporting.
One stream of advice to me at the moment is that I should stop writing about the Liberal Party for the duration until my case is finally decided. That’s not possible. From the point of view of the accusation, if I thought I should stop commentating it would be an admission that I shouldn’t have commentated in the first place. From the point of view of my readers it would be a complete breach of faith because it would indicate that I do not call things as I see them and that party and personal advantage can compromise me.
I have always accepted that there were limitations to what I could actually write about. I couldn’t write about matters that I knew courtesy of any privilege conferred by an elected position I held in the Liberal Party. On the other hand I could write about things that I came across in a way that a non-member or a journalist could have. The only elected position I have held in the party for the last two years has been branch treasurer, and in that time I haven’t been to a branch meeting, so there was nothing that I came across through privilege.
The other issue is what one carries in one’s head that is privileged information from a time when one did have privileged information. That is a delicate question that all those who chronicle parts of their own life and times have to confront, and I think the general rule is that the further you get from the event the less privileged the information is. Again to date I have rarely had to answer that question because my analysis has seldom relied on decisions to which I was a party.
Of course, sometimes events take on a life of their own which you cannot avoid but which do not necessarily help your position. Yesterday in the Queensland Parliament Peter Beattie used this issue to throw a barb at the Queensland Libs. This is predictable, not something I can do anything about, nor something I caused. However the people who have created this situation will no doubt blame me for the fact that they gave Beattie an opening and use it to press their case further.
They’ll also be interested to read John Mickel’s comments posted to this blog yesterday – apparently he’s using my plight to try to flog copies of a book he is having printed up on the misdeeds of the Queensland Liberal Party. I can honestly say that I am jealous of John Mickel. He’s a Labor MLA, but with all my natural “embedded” advantages I often have to read his speeches to get up to speed on what is really happening in the Queensland Liberal Party. But it would be a pity for the party if the only material the public could read about it was written by its enemies, just as it would have been a pity in Iraq if we had been forced to rely on “Comical Ali” for reports of what Coalition forces were up to. Or for that matter even Tommy Franks.

Posted by Graham at 10:36 am | Comments Off on Reporting my own demise |
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