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Drug Use in Parliament House

By 3 October 2005 5

NowUC have got an article about Mark Latham’s claims about drug use, and even dealing, by the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

One thing I’ve noticed about Latham’s book is that he tends to see his own traits in others, to a degree that seriously distorts his judgment. But having worked full time in the Gallery for a few years, and with a few readers of this site who’ve been there and done that, I thought this was a subject worth visiting.

The first thing is that I’ve never seen illegal drugs in Parliament House. Not once. Sure, I didn’t go looking for them. I should also mention that as a long term Canberran (as opposed to those who’ve just been flown in to work in the Gallery) I don’t socialise with the rest of the Gallery as some do. It’s not that they aren’t nice enough people, I just have other places to be and things to do.

Certainly I have caught a whiff of green in Parliamentary corridors from time to time (very rarely) but never anywhere near the Gallery.

Do some yellow-passers (the colour given to the media) use drugs recreationally? I can think of a few. But compared to comparable groups of professionals it’s very, very few. The hacks like to party hard and you still see the odd pissed journo around the place at Melbourne Cup time, or maybe Christmas.

But spend some time around the boys and girls in financial services, or healthcare workers, if you want to see a real culture of drug use.

Now if a member of parliament asked me to procure drugs for them I might well make a call to a friend of a friend and set them up. I wouldn’t call that dealing, as much as pursuing a very interesting lead, myself.

Is there an issue with members of Parliament using substances they have legislated to make illegal? Ruining the lives of otherwise harmless drug users who don’t have the same connections to stay out of trouble, or the financial resources to support the habit without further criminality?

I rather think there is. I’m not sure that hounding parliamentary drug users out of office would result in better laws. On the other hand when faced with issues of moral complexity I prefer to fall back to the bedrock of honesty, but that’s just me. As it is I know no names to publish even if I wanted to.

Is there an issue with media engaging in drug hysteria before they drop some disco biscuits themselves and head out to a party?

There might be, but the Parliamentary Press Gallery doesn’t often engage in that sort of reportage. Something Mark Latham might have reflected on, as it he who brought these things to the public attention.

(on a semi-related side-note Julie Burchill in The Times has a scathing take on the Kate Moss hysteria)

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5 Responses to
Drug Use in Parliament House
Indi 12:28 pm
04 Oct 05
#1

Direct references in the book to ‘alleged sordid affairs/encounters’ between certain MP’s and staffers won’t win Mr Latham any acquantances either – guess that really doesn’t matter when you have a comfortable pension and are a stay at home mumsy.

annie 2:30 pm
04 Oct 05
#2

The interesting thing about that NowUC story is the reaction of James Grubel to Mark Latham actually naming who these alleged drug suppliers in the press gallery are.

Part of what he said was that because journos aren’t elected and paid for by the public, you shouldn’t name names like that.

But aren’t journalists in a position of power nonetheless? Shouldn’t we hold them to a similar standard as we do our MPs? Maybe we do that by not listening or buying the paper, or whatever.

I make NO comment whatsoever about the truth or lack thereof of Latham’s allegations, because I am not in a position to know that.

But I do know that journalists – and I am one myself – get very touchy when you start talking about what they do in their private lives, about ethical standards and getting stories/facts wrong.

Noone likes to admit they’ve made a mistake, or as an industry are failing their public. Journos are definitely in this category. In my opinion, professional defensiveness explains much of the reaction to the Mark Latham diaries.

johnboy 10:14 pm
04 Oct 05
#3

Journalists are accountable to both their publishers and their readers every single day.

Politicians are accountable to a public they rob via taxation, and then spend the money deceiving with propoganda campaigns, once ever three years (six for senators).

The necessary disclosures are vastly different.

Greater regulation of media is the absolute last thing a free society needs.

We need more and more unregulated media so they can report on each other.

annie 10:47 pm
04 Oct 05
#4

Definitely agree about needing more media: there’s just not enough outlets broadcasting or publishing their own material these days.

But I’m not talking about greater regulation of the media, except to say that there needs to be stricter rules about the AMOUNT of original news broadcast/published in regional areas.

I’m talking about the tendency of journalists to apply vastly different standards to themselves than they do to the people they report on.

And when someone calls them on it, they say it’s irrelevant to the issue or story, even when their private lives may well have an influence on what they publish, or make them look like hypocrites.

If we’re going to lift our popularity rating slightly above that of used-car salesmen, we need to start being able to admit our mistakes, stop being so damn defensive, and start demanding the resources to do our jobs properly, if that’s at all possible.

It would also help if media bosses could start nurturing some talent instead of cutting newsroom budgets to within an inch of their lives, so that there are less fame-whores and more ethical story-chasers.

johnboy 11:39 pm
04 Oct 05
#5

the old model is decaying, but new models arise.

like I said, the press gallery is, if anything, too forgiving of the private lives of politicians.

a poor target for this particular attack.

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