Talking about the Chatham House Rule

Jackson Harding writes: Re. “Alan Jones, without ads, has time to pick on the ‘cyber-terrorists’” (yesterday). The piece on the ongoing Alan Jones saga makes one of the two classic mistakes about the rule. The first is to refer to “Chatham House Rules”, but the message seems to have finally reached the Crikey bunker that there is just the one rule.

As for “not publishing” that’s not in the rule. The actual Rule (from the Chatham House website) is:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

There is no bar to publishing the information passed at the meeting, but under the rule technically it should not have been attributed to Jones. Both Chatham House, and the relevant Wikipedia page state:

“Care needs to be taken not to invoke the Chatham House Rule where what is intended is that the views discussed be kept confidential. The Chatham House Rule is intended to promote public discussion of the views expressed at a meeting, but without attributing those views to any individual or organisation.”

I would suggest that the Liberal Club actually wanted their meeting to be private and confidential, not under the rule. There is much that is disturbing about the University of Sydney Liberal Club, the fact is that it is undoubtedly full of the pupal forms of future lawyers and politicians who all seem unaware of what the Chatham House Rule actually is seems to be one of the least of these, troubling as it may be. The notion that they wanted to promote public discussion of Jones’ views on the PMs late father seems rather far fetched, they seem to have more than their fair share of ratbags, but I doubt they are that daft. Thus despite what might have been claimed at the meeting, their obvious intention was that it be a confidential meeting, not one under the Chatham House Rule. In this case then neither the journalist who then revealed what had transpired at the meeting or his source is breaking the Chatham House Rule, but merely following the time honoured traditions of good investigative journalism and releasing confidential information that is clearly in the public interest.

The fury of female politicians 

Philip Huzzard writes: Re. “Jane Caro: why Margie Abbott is bloody revolutionary” (yesterday). To suggest that the Prime Minister has been treated unfairly based on gender is a very long bow. Her elevation to office was met with general approval and seen as only mildly notable by the vast majority of Australians (certainly not just women). Since then, most of the criticism of Gillard (with the exception of some by Alan Jones et al) has been fairly well-earned.

To also suggest that Australians had unrealistic expectations of the PM because she was a woman is a nonsense. I seem to remember us just wanting something more functional than the Rudd disaster. OK would have been fine, thank you — especially given the hung parliament.

Finally, to opine that being a feminist is somehow a pre-requisite for federal office is simply reverse sexism and should be seen as a brand of chauvinism we can do without. And while I defend Jane Caro’s right to be sexist, I just think it poor form of Crikey to provide the bandwidth for such facile “opinion”.

Crikey, we deserve better. It’s time to be more critical of some of the tripe that you occasionally masquerade as “opinion”.

Richard Barlow writes: I bumped into a conservative state politician friend of mine and without prompting he started with a spray at the Greens and finished by complaining that his workplace had changed since more women got elected and started asking for things like childcare. He has a lot of strong women in his life too.

Peter Fray

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