June 24, 2007 | Graham

Queensland Liberals set to punish freedom of speech

Spot the odd man ought – Dean Mighel, Joe McDonald, Graham Young.
Not too difficult. The first two are union leaders who have been sprung threatening and standing-over employers, the second is Chief Editor and founder of innovative online journal On Line Opinion which last year was Australia’s most popular politics site.
So where’s the twist? Well, apparently I do have something in common with Mighel and McDonald. Their party, the Australian Labor Party, thinks their behaviour warrants expelling them. My party, the Queensland Liberal Party, thinks that my behaviour warrants expelling me as well.
I learnt this afternoon that I have been referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the Queensland Liberal Party for remarks that I made in the article State of Disarray written by Bulletin Magazine journalist Chris Hammer.
This action demonstrates just why the Queensland Liberal Party is a bigger threat to John Howard’s chances at this election than even Kevin Rudd.
At a time when two of the Queensland Libs’ federal parliamentarians appear likely to face charges for misappropriation of their electoral expenses; when the government is successfully demonstrating Labor incompetence and disunity by forcing them to serially sack union chiefs; and when Howard’s move on Aboriginal welfare gives him a chance of seizing back control of the values debate; pursuing me is a strategic and tactical diversion from their biggest opportunities and threats.
And to what end? Analysis and commentary is how I make my living. I’m a Liberal Party member, but apart from a branch Christmas Party late last year I haven’t been to an official party meeting in years. I hold no office in the party, and the information that I am privy to is information that any other competent well-connected journalist could get. Expelling me from the party will make no difference to my analysis, just give it a sharper point. But it will send a damaging message about the Liberal Party’s attitude to free speech and democracy and its capacity for self-awareness and analysis.
It will also remind people of the original article and give its analysis greater force, as well as proving that disgraced former minister Santo Santoro is still largely in control.
I have not breached the party’s rules, nor have I brought it into disrepute, which is the major grounds that the party has available to it for an expulsion. Some of the people who have brought it into disrepute are in the article. Their names would sit much more comfortably next to Mighel’s and McDonald’s than mine.

Posted by Graham at 10:42 pm | Comments (19) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. That’s will be their loss, and if they do throw you out, it will be to their shame. After all isn’t a healthy democracy, when you can stand back, look at it, comment on what you see going wrong or right. Criticism can be a good thing some times.
    I have mostly found you fair and balanced, even though we will probably voting differently election day.

    Comment by aj — June 25, 2007 @ 12:33 am

  2. your continual deriding of the party in public is not helpful. if you were truly committed to the party’s cause you would participate and not throw stones.
    your referral for discipline wasn’t even based on along factional lines. everybody agrees you were way out of line with the bulletin article.
    what comes first? your loyalty to journalism or your loyalty to the party. if journalism comes first then i might suggest you resign and save yourself the blatant conflict of interest.

    Comment by furious — June 25, 2007 @ 8:31 am

  3. What about the mantra that the Liberal Party is a ‘broad church’, and that, unlike those yucky Labor guys, the Liberals encourage diversity of opinion in the ranks?
    The comment from Furious strikes me as more damaging than anything Graham has said. As a journalist his priority is supposed to be truth, which apparently conflicts with his party membership. That’s not a very nice thing to say about the Liberal Party.
    Honesty or membership – choose one because you can’t have both.

    Comment by Lyn — June 25, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  4. The remarks by “furious” simply display all that is wrong with the English type of politics. The “party” (whatever that is) comes first, second, and then you must consider the “party.”
    This stupidity goes right through our parliamentary system. The result is that 50% + 1 equals “control” that 50% – 1 equals opposition. That is not what we vote for. We vote for a parliament representing the whole face of Australia not one litttle corrupt section.
    Parties should be outlawed. They are only power seeking machines.

    Comment by David Brooks — June 25, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  5. What was it that Linus said about Charlie Brown? Oh, yes…”There is nothing so sad as a rudely clobbered belief!” (said when the Great Pumpkin failed to appear and distribute largesse at Hallowe’en, I think.)
    I’m with David Brooks here. The parliamentary system doesn’t need political parties – they merely allow an increasingly small number of people to gain unwarranted power.

    Comment by lesleym — June 25, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  6. Freedom of association is as important a right as freedom of speech. Any attempt to ban political parties would be a breach of a fundamental human right. Just as would any attempt to ban trades unions.
    I guess the party thinks that I can have my freedom of speech and they can have their freedom of association, but I don’t think that freedom of association actually works this way. Political parties ought to be open to membership to anyone who generally subscribes to their policies and supports them.
    Anyone who reads my stuff would know I qualify on both counts. Support doesn’t mean subservience! Your best friends are the ones who tell you the truth, not who let you standover them.
    Furious, are you prepared to tell us who you are – from what you say you must be a member of the Liberal Party’s State Council, otherwise you wouldn’t be in a position to make assertions about “everybody” agreeing. One of the problems with the Liberal Party is that too many people make off-the-record or anonymous comments on the public record.
    But some of them leave tracks you can read.

    Comment by Graham Young — June 26, 2007 @ 7:26 am

  7. in commerce: standover gangs
    in politics: parties
    as there can not be effective police supervision of the parliament, calls for the outlawing of parties are as puerile as calls for the belling of cats, by mice.

    Comment by al loomis — June 26, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  8. graham
    happened to my mother in law
    we apparently were asking too many questions (her background is 3+ gens of die hards)
    “the liberal party is dead-long live the far-right loony party

    Comment by gusface — June 26, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  9. Do a Greg Barns and join the Democrats! You don’t even have to come to the Christmas Party 🙂

    Comment by demobo — June 26, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  10. [1] Graham:
    “”I have not breached the party’s rules, nor have I brought it into disrepute,”” They really have lost the plot. In a robust democracy, criticism would be both welcome and rewarded.
    [2] Furious, you did say
    “”your continual deriding of the party in public is not helpful. if you were truly committed to the party’s cause you would participate and not throw stones””.
    Isn’t the party under discussion here the Liberal Party? I’m unaware of the NSDAP, CPSU or Hamas establishing branches in Queensland however if you have inside information to the contrary please feel free to share it with us.
    Sorry fella …. but it attitudes like yours that continue to make me decline offers to become involved with your confused Party ever again.

    Comment by Graham Bell — June 26, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

  11. My sympathies on this, but since I wouldn’t be voting Liberal anyway I can’t honestly offer to withdraw my vote in sympathy.
    However, can I pick you up on one thing. I’m not aware of any evidence of Dean Mighell “standing over” an employer, or threatening them with anything illegal. He admitted to tricking them in a clever tactical move and boasted about it indiscretely, but that’s not standing over. Macdonald I think is closer to the mark.

    Comment by feral sparrowhawk — June 26, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

  12. Everyone:
    If the Liberal Party expels every member who offers constructive criticism, disagrees with a decision, doubts the wisdom of a particular move or policy, stands by a specific point-of-view or speaks out of turn ….. then the Liberal Party can rightfully claim that its members are the loyalest, bestest members of any political party in Australia.
    Brilliant idea, eh? …. why, what’s wrong with it?

    Comment by Graham Bell — June 27, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

  13. If you’re a classical liberal, quit the national socialist Liberals and join the Liberal Democratic Party.
    Then find the most annoying Liberal representative you can find and run against them. 🙂

    Comment by John Humphreys — June 28, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  14. Why anybody would want to be a member of any political party in the first place is beyond me.

    Comment by Leigh — June 28, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

  15. Graham – the comments attributed to you in the article would earn you expulsion from any political party I can think of. At the very least, they bring your erstwhile party into disrepute.
    Also, you haven’t always exactly championed ‘freedom of speech’ on the On Line Opinion site, have you?

    Comment by morganzola — June 28, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

  16. One must not speak out, Graham. One must follow the party line, even if one is only a member when it suits one to be.
    By the way, whatever makes you think Howard is making ground on Rudd because of some bad language in Unionist ranks?

    Comment by Bannerman — June 29, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

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