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October 4, 2022

Corruption? Let’s remind ourselves of Joh

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Margo Kingston

As a Brisbane teenager in Sir Joh’s stifling, authoritarian, corrupt police state, I’d buy a Nation Review each week to read Mungo on federal politics.

His dark humour grounded in passionate belief gave me a way to see a Queensland politics that had hope in it.

When I mentioned this on Twitter after Mungo died, several Tweeps said yep, that’s what they did and how they felt too.

My big cause now is the urgent need for a strong federal ICAC.

There’s only one way to make it happen, citizens in Coalition seats need to insist their MPs support the bill by Indi independent Helen Haines (now backed by Labor, the Greens and every cross bench Senator and MP except One Nation).

The Fitzgerald Royal Commission delivered Queensland from our Trump, contemptuous of media, promoter of fake cancer-cure gurus, jackbooter of opponents through his police.

His Country Party ruled by outrageous gerrymander for 23 years without any serious impediment to his government’s rampant corruption, law-less police force and stacked judiciary.

Our media was complicit.

My little story: Police misbehaviour became so grotesque Sir Joh set up a Police Complaints Tribunal led by a mate, District Court judge Eric Pratt. He never found a cop guilty and his findings were unreported.

Thanks to a gutsy chief of staff at The Courier Mail I reported a gob-smacking not guilty finding detailed in the Queensland Law Society Journal.

The police reporter’s ‘get off my round’ note landed on my desk.

I reported another gobsmacking innocent finding, and Judge Pratt invited the editor and the police reporter to the Tribunal off ice and, I was told, proved to them there was nothing amiss.

End of coverage.

When the Sir Joh for PM movement took off , The Courier Mail sent reporters all over the State for reaction.

I went to the North Queensland town I grew up in, Mackay, and found that my ballet teacher and the pieman who sold us kids pies ’n peas and a bottle of Coke for lunch at school thought he’d make a good PM.

They knew nothing about the reality. They just liked him.

The paper’s Phil Dickie tried to break open the overt prostitution and illegal gambling rackets operating under police protection in the Valley in Brisbane, but his work was legalled into an incomprehensible mess.

The uber-corrupt minister for everything, Russ Hinze, said there was no prostitution or illegal gambling in Queensland and that was that.

But when the ABC’s ‘Moonlight State’ documentary definitively proved the big lie, while Sir Joh was overseas, his deputy called the Fitzgerald Royal Commission.

Tony Fitzgerald slowly, transparently opened Queenslanders’ eyes and took us all with him – including my ballet teacher and the pieman – to transform our State electorally, and politically, with a Crime and Misconduct Commission, because he earned our trust and became the most admired man in our State.

He paid the price. Of course he did. He lost his precious privacy, and his destiny, to be a High Court judge, was thwarted owing to National Party animus.

The current federal government is deeply corrupt, and everyone who takes an interest in politics knows it.

Take a look at Scott Morrison’s sorry excuse for a federal ICAC bill, published under extreme pressure from Helen Haines’ campaign late last year.

It’s a protection racket for politicians and public servants, yet another #ScottyfromMarketing scam.

I was going to write about all that, but a day after agreeing to write for The Echo, the world watched the humiliation of America’s deeply corrupt democracy.

I was in our Parliament as a reporter in 1996, when renegade protesters at an ACTU rally forced their way through the front door.

It was frightening – 90 people injured – but they were never a chance to enter the Parliament or MPs’ offices. They didn’t get past the public foyer.

Yet this ‘mob’ from the US – which included GOP state MPs, off duty police officers, defence force veterans and company executives – stopped certification of the presidential elec-tion, trashed the Speaker’s office, occupied the Senate Chamber, and defecated in the seat of power in the world’s most powerful nation.

America was unmasked.

It was one of those days, like S11, when you’ll remember where you were when the world changed.

I’m still in shock. America is in free fall as its viciously authoritarian rival for world leadership spreads its wings. Scary times for Australia as we face climate change horror.

Queensland had its Trump, and we emerged and thrived owing to the ABC and a Royal Commissioner we trusted and empowered.

We cleaned up our system and became a real, vibrant democracy.

If Australians believe democracy is the best way to survive the dangers ahead, we need to clean it up. We need to elect people to federal politics who want to serve the public interest, not themselves. We need a federal ICAC led by a person we trust. We need a strong ABC.

Only we can make it happen.

Politics as entertainment is over. Time to get serious. As Mungo always, always, was.

The Echo presents political writer and author Margo Kingston.

In her own words, ‘[Margo] was a mainstream (MSM) journo, who thrived till she didn’t’. She now describes herself as a ‘citizen journo and climate change activist’.

She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary.

Margo’s 2004 book Not Happy, John was republished and updated in 2007.

It inspired the ‘Not happy, John!’ campaign, of which she was a founding member.


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  1. Spot on Margo. I recall a bemused Joh after being asked what he knew of the “separation of powers” in the Westminster system.

  2. Riveting read, and cathartically written.
    The shoveling up of Qld’s dark past, is like a shocking distorted mirror image of our present federal govt. reality.
    We voters must act at every opportunity to cauterise the corrupt cancer, lest Trumpism gets a lethal hold here too.

  3. “We simply don’t know how quickly uncivil disrespect for civilised and civilising institutions will come to erode or deform them, and then deform us. It would be better if we never found out”. (Professor of Law Martin Krygier UNSW)
    Given the continuing and increasing distrust in politicians, government and its public service, including members of parliamentary staff, there is a need for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission which in design has bark and bite if our ‘privileged provincial liberal democracy’ is to be protected. It must be a Commission that has, in its design the intent and power to act and decide rationally, with credibility and not one that is deliberately designed to ensure, as Mungo warned that ‘democratic accountability can be made powerless’. Given what is at stake the proposed design, as applied to our federal politicians and public servants is poor. It sets a threshold of criminal conduct before any investigation, yet behaviours such as connivances, omissions, obfuscations, cover-ups of cover-ups etc. in all probability would not meet this criminal threshold. Furthermore, the draft design of the CIC provides for federal politicians and public servants to have any investigation of their ‘criminal conduct’ held in private i.e. no public exposure at all. If the the citizens of the state of Australia want transparency then they must put in a submission and demand a CIC that barks and bites.
    A google site worth viewing is Professor A J Brown, Griffith University . He has a wealth of data on the CIC

  4. OMG Margo haven’t heard from you for sooooo long. I am old enough to remember the litany of corruption & abuse of public office you so rightly remind us of. I am elated that you have joined The team on The Echo & Mungo would be proud. How we will miss him in so many ways. Margo you have been a shining light in a conservative /vested interest /corrupt Govt of the LNP for decades & you call a spade a spade , a rare personality trait these days. Your insights, historical knowledge & impeccable researching are sorely needed in these mad & unforeseen days of mayhem & disillusion. Never give up Margo….I think YOU are an endangered species.

  5. We at Rishikesh India had a lest we forget Mungo Meditation at Ram Jula on the banks of the Ganges Playing guitar sending flowers and with a candle symbolising the soul passing thru Samsara into Nirvana Mungo was a great Australian Hi can’t be contacted by mobile Hari Om

  6. Keep Margo Kingston on Echonet Daily. We all need her wisdom and knowledge – she has been around politics for many, many years and it’s a privilege to read her in our local paper.
    Good on you Margo – you are the best replacement for Mungo on the Echnonet.
    He would be delighted to read your story on the need for a Federal ICAC.

  7. Margo Kingston what a legend you are, I too read the Nation Review every week and loved Mungo, the ABC and listening to you with Phillip Adams on LNL.
    It comforts me in these terrible times to know that you are still there showing us the way and confirming that the people do have power and we should use it to ensure a Federal ICAC now!

  8. I too grew up in Mackay, a teenager in Joh’s era of blatant corruption and criminal misconduct.

    Morrison’s cartel and their malfeasance make Joh and Hinze and Terry Lewis look like amateurs.

    • ScamMO hand his team of hucksters, shysters and spivs have delivered us these recent gems of corruption and malfeasance – RoboRobberyDebt, SpRorts, Badgerys Creek Triangle , Vales Point Power Station. Why hasn’t the Governor General dismissed ScamMO and called for a fresh election?

      • ScoMo dodges issues better than Muhammed Ali could slip punches, dances around them like Fred Astaire, uses distraction like David Copperfield, and only grasps political issue with gardening gloves. He’s a 100% Clayton’s Prime Minister whose “government”‘s corruption leaves Holy Joh & Russ Hinze’s efforts floundering in the backstraight. How can Joe Public allow this sort of behaviour to continue? Will he? I guess we’ll find out later this year.

  9. Great to see you in the Echo. Thanks Margo

    Aussie’s think it could not happen here but Bjelke-Petersen showed it could and don’t worry there are enough dullards to allow it

  10. We in Australia will have little honest political leadership until we are free of the grip of the 1984 style Murdoch media monopoly. It is truly a foreign influence, a cancer on our democracy , metastasized across the whole nation. It promotes fascist ideology by polarizing and wedging the population for its business profit and political influence. Character assassination, fear and division is their practiced weapon.

  11. My first taste of Joh, After being asked a controversial question, Joh told the reporter,” If you want to keep your job, don’t bother asking that again”.


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