Philistines no longer at the gates: final word from QUT lecturer

Video: Laughing at Aborigines? – Tough Questions for QUT…

Dear Friends

This is to notify you that John Hookham and I have reached a settlement with the university. The details of the settlement are confidential but the upshot is that I have resigned from QUT. I had intended to accept the university’s first offer which we had reached as a settlement of the Federal Court proceedings. That settlement awarded me $100,000 dollars in damages plus costs. The findings of the misconduct tribunal conducted by Barry Nutter were also set aside and my suspension was lifted.

I wished in those circumstances to fulfill my promise to my students to return to work. However on Friday afternoon when John Hookham and I went back to Kelvin Grove Campus to get some personal belongings, we were refused entry. In what was the ugliest scene of my professional career a young post graduate student slammed the door against me. Fortunately I was not injured. I am 65 years old. I have a bad back and am being treated for a serious heart condition. The young man who endeavored to ram the door against me was not alive when I began to teach at Kelvin Grove Campus. I wish to say that my career at QUT spans four decades. I have worked for principals and directors who never agreed with my politics and who no doubt regarded me as a nuisance. But to be fair to them they respected my right to dissent. Moreover they would never have tolerated the kind of vigilantism that I was subjected to on Friday.

I hold no enmity against the post graduate student who attacked me, but his actions brought home very forcibly to me that I was not safe at QUT and accordingly I yielded to the urgings of my doctors and my lawyers and I resigned.

I wish now to thank you for your support. I and my family have endured dark hours in this struggle. At times it looked like John and I would be crushed and driven into penury. But thanks to your help and the courage and tenacity of my wonderful and brilliant lawyers Stephen Kerin and Susan Moriarty, I and John have survived. I thank you all again from my heart.

It is a terrible thing to pick out a few from the many people who have walked with me through these dark hours. I wish first to name those former colleagues Hugh Childers, Noel Preston, John Bisset, Merv Welch, Graham Bruce and Nea Stewart-Dore. The warmth of their support was a bitter sweet reminder to me of what teaching at QUT used to be like. In this context I wish to mention my personal and professional debt to the late Basil Shaw, Ken Leask and Clem Young. They were great educators, whose example and spirit were always with me in the decades that I have worked at QUT. From them I learned that any leadership in education which is not based on ethics and morality will be as nothing.

I cannot name all those current staff and students at QUT who have given me support for obvious reasons. But I can and will express my deepest thanks to Alan Jones from 2GB. He and I are from different ends of the political spectrum, yet when I sought his help he did not hesitate to put my case to his audience. For that decency I can never thank him enough. He will always have my prayers. I also wish to mention my old and honoured friend Mildred Grant whom fate and the powers have given to me as a gift and an inspiration. For over 12 years we have met every Sunday to read our Shakespeare and, when I can prevail upon her, my beloved Dickens. She is now in her tenth decade and is very frail but she has been with me always in the worst times. I wish also to speak of the brave Adrian Strong whose videos on < > have documented our struggles and agonies.

I must say a special thanks to those members of the disability community who expressed to me and John their support and thanks. I offer as well a special thanks to my good comrades- Lou Proyect whose Marxism list is a bright light in a dark world; Sam Watson -Indigenous Activist extraordinaire; Ciaron O’Reilly of the Catholic Workers, and Jim McIlroy of the Socialist Alliance.

In addition I give thanks to Brian Laver who has endeavored over the years to explain to me the necessity of speaking truth to power as well as to domination and who did not betray those ideals as he stood by my side in person, with spirit and at court against the might of QUT. I must make mention too of the fearless historian Ross Fitzgerald who spoke out for me and John, though I have been critical to the point of cruelty of him in the past. But he is a good man whose commitment to free speech is non-negotiable and he has acted accordingly, although he appears to have paid a great price for speaking out in support of John and me. To my family in Ireland, America and here in Australia I return fully the love you have given me in such abundance.

I ask you all now to know that I have survived and am well.

Gary MacLennan
1st November 2007

53 thoughts on “Philistines no longer at the gates: final word from QUT lecturer

  1. I have received criticism today that by putting Gary (MacLennan)’s letter in the context of the You Tube video shown above that I am just using May (the Murri woman depicted in the film by Michael Noonan) to justify (MacLennan and Hookham’s) unjustifiable attacks on Noonan now that their disability concerns have been shown to be wrong.

    I think that this criticism misses the point.

    It is Ted Watson’s view in the You Tube video above that I support. Ted Watson describes Noonan’s film from a different perspective to that of QUT.

    For one, Ted Watson is not a full-time academic and he does not have large resources of an institution like QUT at his disposal.

    The QUT has devoted large resources to get rid of two teachers. If today’s report “Suspended academics quit” in the AUSTRALIAN is anywhere near accurate the QUT has spent over $1 million dollars (legal costs, payouts, settlements, HR resources) to get rid of MacLennan and Hookham.

    Two teachers went public on an issue of ethics, they were suspended without pay.

    BushTelegraph has the right to support these two teachers who were treated unfairly by their employer, QUT.

    Equally BushTelegraph has the right to support Ted Watson’s views on the lack of ethics shown by the QUT in its support of the film shot in Boulia.

    I say this to the critic.

    Ask yourself why QUT would spend so much money defending such a film?

    Also ask yourself what led QUT to support a film about searching for Min Min lights and picking up women in pubs?

    Now that they have quit, who is going to replace these two teachers?

    Will ethics be a criterion in QUT’s selection of replacements?

  2. Following is the full letter to Ian.

    Here is my overview of the whole affair

    John Tracey

    Hello Ian,

    I will not respond to Gary’s letter on BT but will soon have an article on P Oz.

    Regarding the Ted Watson youtube. I had a meeting with Ted, Noonan and John Hart. Noonan produced to Ted (and me) signed releases from May and her husband. The signatures on the releases were the same as the signatures on the documents that Ted had from Boulia. Obviously May is upset about the situation and has either forgotton she signed the releases or was not properly aware of what she was signing. However Ted’s claims that nothing was signed is not the case.

    Noonan is honestly upset about May’s reaction and has apologised to her.

    May’s issues have nothing to do with G&J, they have never spoken up for her and did not mention her, except for callling her a drunken mauler and a threat to “the disabled”, in their attack on Noonan and QUT.

    By putting Gary’s letter in the context of the you tube you, like G&J, are just using May to justify G&J’s unjustifiable attacks on Noonan now that their disability concerns have been shown to be wrong.


  3. I am happy to answer your rhetoric questions on behalf of the “critic”.

    QUT defended it’s self at great cost because Hookham and MacLennan were attempting to dishonestly and maliciously defame QUT as an immoral organisation. They were also standing up for the rights of their student to conduct research and voice an opinion, despite them being different to that of Hookham and MacLennan.

    The film was never about min min lights and picking up women in pubs, and that is as much a misrepresentation as the views of Hookham and MacLennan. Maybe start by reading the supporting documentation from Noonan’s original presentation.

    Who will replace these teachers?, hopefully someone with an ability to see beyond their own bitterness and arrogance who can provide a positive learning experience to students.

    And hopefully ethics with be a selection criteria, because this has not obviously been a criteria in the past for senior lecturers.


  4. To IW (Ian White),

    You state that “They (QUT) were … standing up for the rights of their student to conduct research and voice an opinion”

    If the film was not about Min Min lights why didn’t the filmmakers tell the person they sought to interview in the Boulia pub, Richard Saunders, that it was not about Min Min lights but was “to empower the disabled, to give them a voice through comedy” (excerpt from Noonan’s PhD documentation)?

    Why did the filmmakers ask about single free women in the town if it was not about picking up women?

    Why did the filmmakers interrupt Saunders saying “that is a good shot” and focus their camera on May hugging James if it was not about picking up women in a pub?

    Why didn’t the filmmakers respect the protocols set down by the Aboriginal people in Boulia as outlined by Ted Watson? Why did they show so little disrespect to an aboriginal elder?

    Why did they adhere only to form and not substance in obtaining consent to film under the pretext of looking for Min Min lights?

    The QUT has continued to claim that it acted ethically, so why has it not ensured that its own protocols about obtaining consent in research projects were observed?

    If the QUT were blameless why was the QUT so keen to prevent the matter from returning to the federal court for arbitration?

    If the QUT is blameless as you assert, why did the QUT pay out-of-court punitive damages to aggrieved teachers?

    If the Philistines ruled Palestine for a relatively short period, how long will the Hypocrites run liberal institutions like QUT?

  5. Firstly, what is wrong with a movie that involves searching for a girlfriend and the Min Min lights?

    The repressive attitude and morality that desuxualises disabled people is, I suspect, the basis of concern about this movie, or at least it was until May’s concerns were raised very late in the campaign.

    The Pitta Pitta elders (Boulia traditional owners) I have spoken to seem happy for the white Min mIn light myth to be used as a tourism gimmick for Boulia, some chose to participate in it and some do not. There is indeed an Aboriginal perspective on the min min which is rarely spoken of and kept separate from the tourist myth. But the gullibility of white people is seen as an economic advantage to the country.

    There are indeed serious issues of Aboriginal protocol and representation involved in this particular film as well as the general education of white film makers in QUT, and it seems anywhere where this art has been academicised. The indigenous film industry itself has some well developed protocols but they have not been tackled by media academics. (The Lester Bostok link is the authoratative document)

    However the forum for complaints on behalf of May was academic bodies and the ethical standard appealed to is the National Health and Medical Research council’s protocol on research involving humans, which is a health research template that does not fit the needs of the media industry at all and is incapable of facilitating the interests of May or giving leadership on media policy. (As May was an extra in the movie and not the subject of the research the research protocol is not applicable to her, that makes sense in health research but not media)

    A key aspect of the media industry’s indigenous protocol is to deal with problems when they arise rather than legalistically clinging to white law rights inherent in a signed contract. In this regard Noonan has followed protocol since being informed of May’s concerns.

    However the process of dialogue, reconciliation and cultural learning inherent in indigenous protocols were totally undermined in this case because the conflict was located firmly in the context of white adversarial legal manouverings of two white academics. – a process continued by Bush Telegraph.

  6. The Murdoch press could not restrain itself from publishing what the AUSTRALIAN’s Higher Education Supplement columnist ‘Snitch’ calls a “good riddance” note to Hookham and Maclennan..

    This shallow invective further underlines the populist, sexist and racist nature of this QUT supported PhD project.

    To John Tracey


    There is nothing wrong with searching for myth.

    Min Min lights have been clouded in superstition, they struck fear into the hearts of past generations.

    Some old timers say you will never find Min Min lights at Boulia, least of all at the Australia Hotel in Boulia.

    Yet the same old timers swear their grandmothers living out west were terrified by these lights.

    But where in the QUT-supported PhD film shown above do we see any serious (or comic) treatment of Min Min lights?

    In the making of the film there is certainly disrespect of an Aboriginal grandmother made ‘cool’ by a project on disability.

    Who bears the responsibility to counsel against racism and sexism?

    Fellow Students? The University (the QUT)? The Media (THE AUSTRALIAN’s HES)? Past supervisors (Hookham and MacLennan)? A new-found supporter at Paradigm Oz?

    Out of this list, only Hookham and MacLennan and some students have stood up. And these have been villified, attacked and driven out of the QUT by supporters of a dumbed down education system.

  7. Ian,

    I shall resist a discussion of the truth of the Min Min, however I draw your attention to the fact that next to sheep and cattle the Min min is the biggest economic asset of Boulia. It has a multi million dollar “Min Min Encounter” centre that runs daily animatronic sessions which include stories from local Aboriginal elders. (but is still a colonial narrative)

    Boulia is marketed by the council and by Tourism Queensland as the home of the Min Min. Every day tourists pass through the town asking stupid questions about the Min Min. A documentary about visiting Boulia could not avoid the Min Min Myth. Given that “Darren and James Downunder” is a comedy I think it would be inappropriate for them to undertake a “serious treatment of Min Min lights”.

    As for bearing the responsibility for counsel, Except for Baganan (Pitta PItta) and myself continuing a dialogue with Noonan (and John Hart) and a brief meeting with Ted Watson, as far as I am aware nobody else has considered counsel against racism (I dispute any sexism in the clip) as relevant. Those who have “spoken out” including BT have been focused singularly on demonising Noonan, which is a different paradigm altogether from counsel or resolution of the issues.

    Noonan has been used as a whipping boy, in the first instance on disability and then on Aboriginal representation. He is barely relevant to the truth of the matter – a struggle between Mac/Hook and QUT. Noonan, like May, has just been used as a weapon in this struggle.

    Speaking out to fuel a witch hunt is one thing, speaking the truth is another. The criticism of Noonan on disability issues was obviously untrue, yet to this day Noonan’s critics still delude themselves that Noonan has exploited disabled people. There is indeed truth in the issues of representation of Aboriginal people, and more urgently for Noonan to deal with May’s issues, but the witch hunt, demonisation and overriding QUT agenda has prevented a real resolution from occuring. To use the truth as a pillar to prop up untruths does not do justice to the truth.

    It is not just the education system that has been dumbed down, the absolute lack of discussion of the issues of this campaign, in particular disability which was the focus of the campaign and the emotive ignorance of the facts that was the substance of most of the campaign – truly a low point of “the left’s” critical and intelectual capacities.

    Just as well there are honorable media outlets such as BT and Alan Jones to “speak out”.

  8. John,

    Comedy often gives most insight.
    One exception is when it comes from the mouths of politicians – for example, the claims of jocular comment by Peter Garrett about Labor’s environment policy

    In the rushes of the film that I have seen there is little comedy and little insight into any topic.

    However there is disrespect of an aboriginal person both in the means the footage was obtained and the manner the stereotype was represented by Noonan as being ‘fun’. The video above suggests that only Michael Noonan saw it as being fun.

    The treatment of that aboriginal person was raised from the outset by MacLennan (he raised it with me in a conversation on May Day, a conversation that I told you about) but his employer, the QUT wilfully ignored him and his colleague.

    As for counselling Noonan, I did ring him and had a conversation about his film particularly about the dangers of supporting an employer that would do anything: intimidate, scheme, lie, and pour HR resources into preventing criticism, in the name of protecting its bottom line i.e. making profit for the QUT.

    Michael Noonan has chosen to use BushTelegraph on several occasions as a means of putting across his message. So have his supporters and friends. For example, over 80% of all comment on BushTelegraph about this subject has been made by you.

    Ian Curr
    8 November 2007

  9. Ian,

    You previously closed the comments section of an article on this topic because, as you stated, “the main aim of BushTelegraph is to promote worker solidarity. Focus is on the collective rather than on the individual.”

    Yet you continue to attack me as an individual and to criticise my work.

    Your description of my unfinished project — its lack of insight and comedy — is highly disrespectful. I have shot more than 50 hours of footage for the “Darren and James: Downunder Mystery Tour” project — yet you feel the need to judge me on less than 15 minutes of unedited rushes.

    I invite you to watch my finished work “Unlikely Travellers”, which will screen on the ABC over three weeks from 8pm on Monday, November 19.

  10. Michael,

    For over 30 years, tertiary institutions in Queensland like the QUT have tried to suppress criticism and dissent.

    You and your films have only arrived on the scene recently. It may come a surprise to you that i have been a critic of Gary MacLennan’s politics for 30 years but that does not mean I would side with an employer (previously, both his and mine) against a fellow worker.

    My criticism of the rushes I have seen of your film is not personal nor does my critique attack you as an individual or your personal motives save to find fault with your “Good Riddance” email as callous and without respect to MacLennan and Hookham referred to above.

    I cannot and do not judge unseen footage, I can only comment on what I have seen which shows disrespect to an aboriginal person and is sexist.

    For the most part I reserve my criticism for the institution and its management that has so effectively attacked any show of solidarity among teachers and staff at QUT.

    As I stated when I closed the previous topic “I am saddened by the effect this matter has had on the protagonists.”

    That includes you.

    At the time I closed the previous comments, I was especially concerned about the deterioration in the health of MacLennan and Hookham.

  11. pthomas66 says:


    In a less spivvy world than ours, or a less vile university than yours, you’d be your own worst enemy. As it is, you go from strength to strength. This appalling gloating email of yours – not satisfied with ending their careers at QUT, you have to rain spleen upon their retreating backs. Nice one. Now the QUT community’s support has been unwavering, but earlier you complained H&M had stirred people up against you so that you could hardly come to campus without copping an ear full. What’s changed? Are we talking about different QUTs, or are you, in the glory of your current ascendancy, just done with casting yourself as a victim? Above you take issue with Ian and his interest in workers’ solidarity because there doesn’t seem to be much in it for you just now. Well Jack, with protectors like Coaldrake to be proud of, you’d be alright anyway. You say you regret the tax payers’ money sunk into the proceedings and settlement, but these are just 2 sides of the same coin – if the disciplinary proceedings hadn’t been so blatantly unfair and the sentence so over the top, QUT wouldn’t have needed to flush $1M getting out of it. 2 sides of the same coin – just like courting controversy and offense and receiving it are. If you want one you should be ready to accept the other.

    Maybe you think QUTs efforts have been because they like you a lot, or some reverent attitude they hold regarding their candidates’ work. *Ahem*, I would beg to supply an alternative explanation – this is about people knowing their places. H&M didn’t accept the shrugging off of their concerns at your seminar, nor the repeat of this, save for 1 word, in the review they were able make happen. Not accepting that they and their views didn’t count, they went outside the institutional route that they thought disempowered them, and wrote the HES piece. This was a gross error from several perspectives. Firstly, their singling you out as the exemplar of their concerns about CI disgusted nearly everybody- check Dead Roo, Home Cooked Theory and LarvatusP, they all either defend you or attack H&M. Later, when H wrote to Visible Evidence, this happened again. Their previous analysis of CI was much better received, but their attack on you was so distasteful that there was little discussion on any other aspect of the article- then. *Did you not know this when you issued your complaints?* But they were out of line – they sought external support for an internal powerstruggle against people more senior than themselves. The manifest failure of their efforts seems not to have effected the institutional kickback against this minor mutiny. Your complaint was approved and the charges issued, and that’s when the fun really started – the blogging against you, the student activities, the expanding press coverage. Bush T’s first blog on the topic is from then. Things escalate further when the sentences are announced. Why were the QUT student blogs discussing the situation in May wiped, if not that it was not the students’ role to discuss and consider the actions of the university hierarchy? Least of all to find fault with it.

    You seem baffled with Ian’s workers’ solidarity stuff. Well, QUT (not uniquely) is a stony place where such ideas find little purchase, but if you go the front page of the blog you’ll see at the top that one of the 2 issues the blog is to be about is “the Master/servant relationship”. Your actions in seeing H&M drummed out of CI have long been against a straightforward idea of your own interest- they had no success in interfering with your project until you yourself put their jobs on the line. Then, at your behest, QUT engaged in a disciplinary proceeding brutal enough that they were prepared to shell out some $1M rather than see it tested in court. In ordinary circumstances, these would be own goals, an ongoing SNAFU, the last thing in the world you or anyone in your camp wanted or needed. But it has been a great success in making clear the inescapability of the master/servant relationship. They have been drummed out and will not return, if it took someone to get physical with them on campus, this is not a cause for shame or embarrassment, just another thing for you to be proud of. You can be proud of Coaldrake, maybe he is proud of you, certainly you’ve been of service. QUT’s campaign against H&M was not about you, you were just the occasion – it was about *discipline*.

  12. pthomas66 says:

    With the exception of the threesome/twitch scene, I’m not sure who has been bagging UT. For their part (whatever you might think of it) H&M specifically exempted UT from their objections to Downunder Mystery Tour. The mis-identification of the scene starts with H&M, but it’s understandable as the ribald humour and chick-chase theme connect it to DMT. For some months now there has been an ongoing gambit to protect DMT from criticism by citing UT and claiming that they’re just the same. In the absence of the opportunity to check this, this gambit is just an appeal to trust. It must seem hurtful and anomalous to Noonan that not everyone was going to take his word for it. Maybe he should consider that most of the attention his work has got has been in the shadow of QUT’s toe-cutting, to which he was an active party and sometime standard bearer. There are better character witnesses to have.

    Maybe you can show me where I have said that the film/s are rubbish and wicked, but so far as I can recall what I’ve been doing is arguing the toss about the issues the fracas has raised and the quality of the ideas attached to it – which is what you have been doing John, and for some time neither of us had seen any of Noonan’s work that was not on U-toob. For a substantial period what debate there was was obliged to be abstract: the guardianship argument coming from H&M v. the, at its frequent extreme, neo-liberal argument coming from you. Noone had seen anything much of the work.

    at this time the utoob blogging was somewhat furious, and there were a set of bloggers under aliases like ‘goforgoals’ and ‘ceereason’ determinedly defending Noonan. One of their recurring themes (echoed by Noonan himself in his rare contributions) was that everyone should shut up as they hadn’t seen the work. At this point I was arguing chiefly that the disciplinary proceeding was a sham, on the procedural ground that defendants in vilification/libel type cases ought to have the opportunity to defend themselves on the grounds of truthfulness – whether this would exonerate them or not. This is a legal norm, but, according to these jokers, i was out of place for raising this because I had not seen the film/s. Some of this crew more recently heckled Ted Watson in a thoroughly nauseating exchange, but back then they got stuck into me and others for any number of things, frequently betraying their closeness to Noonan’s projects, some are apparently his co-workers on the production. One thing I was needled about was saying that DMT was a tv programme aiming for broadcast, and I was deemed a paranoid, arrogant moron at this point for saying such things. Isn’t it just the news now that DMT, an unfinished work about which nothing can be known (I keep hearing), has been sold to the ABC? As what, a bookend?

    yes, critique tends to improve with contact, even for you John. I remember you had some new things to say when the DMT clips went up (which I agreed with, btw, the stuff about coded racism of the white locals). But it’s a bit much trying to humiliate us all with the above comment – the unavailability of the work didn’t stop us all arguing the toss, not you, not me, nor should it have done. Unintentionally or not so, the unavailability of the work became a long term gambit to shut up detractors of any stripe- those disturbed by the possibility of exploitation of the vulnerable (many people can be vulnerable, including ones with intellectual disabilities), the gutting of Higher Ed of near anything worth learning, or witnesses to the increasingly brutal managerial antics of academic administrators.

    If the quality of the debate has not been so great, you cannot blame H&M’s clarion call to guardianship alone, the tactics and contribution of the pro-Noonan camp have done little to inspire confidence. Deliberately or not, the maker himself obliged the debate to be substantially uniformed. But it has hardly been worthless, just hamstrung. With your expertise on disability provision, you quickly saw that that the production was structured around the contemporary norm of collective sovereignty, and with my knowledge of libel law I spotted quickly that QUT had taken the short way and was now quite vulnerable. I don’t remember anyone blogging that you should shut up because you hadn’t seen it, but a substantial amount of energy went in to telling me butt out.

    This is hypocrisy.

    This fracas could have been a good occasion for an important debate, as John has pointed out. That the Noonan camp’s ideal for the situation was that everyone but themselves should shut up is one of the reasons. DMT has been twinned to the Coaldrake factor in QUT, this is why even criticism of the disciplinary tribunal was unacceptable. I’ve not noticed Coaldrake being particularly keen on debate, apparently preferring diktat and PR. Noonan has become part of that PR, most recently in the gloating email above.

    If it’s debate you want John, I suggest you find some different running partners.

  13. pthomas66 says:

    The chronology is something that I knocked up to keep track of events and web pages. I had initially intended to stick it up where people could see it, but, as one thing I can’t remember getting a sensible response to were posts that cited the order that events had happened in, I lost interest in that and only put it up later when a friend expressed interest in the fracas. Typos and all, you can at least see the transitions in the scale of interest in the debacle.

  14. Peter,

    Much of the criticism of Noonan related to the vulnerability and lack of consent of Darren and James, who are in U.T. – which is a part of the “Laughing at the diabled” PhD thesis, which was the focus of the criticism – for its misanthropic and amoral nature.

    The opinion of Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini was sought to justify the criticism. He said, amongst other things ” It would also appear that the participants lacked the capacity to understand the project and hence lacked the capacity to consent to it.”

    A latter comunique from Hookham and MacLennan states “We have throughout been motivated by nothing less than a horror of what you have done to the disabled. ”

    U.T. proves that Darren and James are not the mindless vegetables that they have been portrayed as. It also proves a deep, compassionate and innovative attitude to disability by Noonan, John Hart and Spectrum. Yes, I say have faith in Noonan on the basis of this work – it is brilliant .

    Darren and james are co-writers and co-editors of the Mystery tour and I am sure it will be even more briliant than UT. Far from being manipulated, mindless puppets of an exploitative film maker, the involvement of disabled people in the media as producers, not just on-screen subjects, is a major breakthrough which should be applauded and supported.

    It is clear that Noonan, Hart, Darren and James have been misrepresented from the beginning, a fictional image of them has been created and this fictional image has been the focus of all the attacks. Ciaron Oreilly on Irish indymedia and Mike Oconner in the Courier mail are still insisting that there is a movie called “Laughing at the disabled” which has been repressed by the debate.

    People have projected their own anxieties onto Noonan and protested against that.

    Peter, I am curious as to why your chronology makes no direct reference to the Ted Watson youtube.

    I have met Noonan and Hart and have no doubt about their personal integrity. I facilitated a meeting between them and Ted.

    I saw the racist heckling on Ted’s youtube and dont know who that was. It does indeed indicate a vile racist element that has chosen to identify with QUT, and unfortunately for Noonan, his project.


  15. pthomas66 says:

    Hi John,

    starting at the end, the reason that there is no reference to the heckling of Ted Watson is that there isn’t any commentary on the character of the blogging for some time time prior to that. As I said, when I started it I had the idea to make it public, thinking that it would be of interest to the various digital cyphers putting their 2c in. After a bit I decided that this was probably not the case, and discovered that I just didn’t have the time to keep it up. After that it is mostly notes and links. There is a link to the Ted Watson video post, I thought that was pretty direct. See 26 Sept. Now that it’s been publicly linked to, if you have things to add, please send the stuff to me with links and minimal, fairly neutrally-toned blurb.

    A number of bloggers got fair stuck into Ted in a way that was as startling as it was horrifying. Some of them had already been serial contributors (as had I) on Adrian’s earlier video posts. The earlier bloggers that I pegged (rightly or wrongly) as being close to Noonan were verbstube, leisurepirate2 (with whom I had a long exchange), ceereason (an alias pattern that turned upon other blogs) and alwaysgoforgoals. All of them except lp2 put in on the last video post, ceereason said little but was bizarre and distasteful, most of the really bad stuff came from verbstube. Except for verbstube, the others all wrote earlier that they had been at Noonan’s conf screening. The blogs are archived out of order and I think they’re incomplete, so this is all that I can cite at the moment. Most or all of the aliases were registered just when the blogging first started.

    Yes, the vulnerability thesis/guardianship issue. This has got a lot of play, and much of the dispute has been a competition between discourses of victimhood. Is Noonan the victim, or H&M, or the front men of DMT etc? I think it is months ago now I argued the toss with you about this on pOz-

    I’d like to point out that, with the above mentioned exception, this has not been what I have been blogging on – I blogged on the fairness and implications of the disciplining of H&M, and that I was unconvinced by Noonan’s thesis blurb for particular reasons. Of the latter, much focussed on the proper deportment when undertaking controversial and confrontational research.

    – we can all be vulnerable. Unless we are going to stand totally alone, then there has to be the possibility of other and even (G*d help us) institutions coming in. Informed consent is a tricky issue in itself, but at no point did H&M say that the the DMT leads were vegetables. They said that the film exploited their disability, and they speculated that the leads were lead astray by someone they trusted. This was a response to the footage, and, I would speculate further, a result of the way it was presented the only time they saw it. Back in May H&M, in their internal correspondence with QUT, insisted Noonan’s project was being retrofitted with a moralistic charitable character that had not been present before, some time after N’s main supervisor revised his staff description from moral outrage to moralism (a somewhat cowardly backflip in my opinion, and instructive). Months ago I raised the spectre to you of a Dickensian treatment of people with disabilities, I had the impression that you agreed with me that it was an unlovely thing. These are abstract categorical arguments, disputing possibilities regarding a particular thing. This was the way I came at it, insisting H&M had deserved the benefit of the doubt *in the QUT procedure*, and that whether or not their statements worked as a full philosophy of how to manage relations between the people of this world, it was conceivable that their description of this unusual film was correct. It’s a dog’s age ago now, but on the previous BushT thread I posted this N, who had recently contributed:

    “Michael, in the youtube clip you’ve put up from Unlikely Travelers, a seemingly significant intertitle says “His disability isn’t funny. He is.” Tell me if I’m over extending, but the drive of this is that the individual actor’s warmth, wit and persona shines through and is the source of the humour, not any visible signs of disability that there may be, not the existing stereotype of the “disabled” – he appears as an individual and not an undifferentiated member of the group marked “disabled”. The idea being that even prejudiced audience members will connect with the individuality of the actor through his humour, which would challenge and perhaps overcome such audience members’ propensity to lump all people with disabilities together as all the one (’inferior’, ‘unable’ etc) thing.

    “Conversely, if the comedy did come from disability not the individual, rather the opposite would be expected to occur? The individual would be submerged and silenced behind the prejudicial stereotype, the stereotype standing front and centre inviting the laughter of the assembled. Can we all agree that this would be a bad thing were it to occur? ”

    Needless to say, I never got a response. This was a provocation, but a provocation to engage. Having now seen the footage (which the CM only very recently deigned to take down), I still wonder about this. it’s not so much about what happened in front of the camera, but how things look on the screen. And I still think that, if N wants to make this big difference, the issue isn’t whether he or you like it, but whether it has a positive impact on 1) the people of this world who have a bad opinion of or otherwise write off the disabled and 2) the people who have sought to ally themselves with the much put upon disabled people of this world, even if a notion of guardianship is implicit or explicit in this. It’s an integrated mission, and blowing a fuse and calling down the wrath of admin does not cut it in any world I look forward to living in, tho it can be quite effective in this one (give or take $1M. But what is that to parties who have a spare million. Money talks, but are we obliged to listen?).

    I would point out John, that you had faith in N’s work etc rather before you’d seen it. You know, you’re the only blogger I’ve noticed to take N’s side at any length who isn’t connected to him, and indeed you radically shifted the pro-N ground from the sanctity of research to disability issues. I remember that you started out wishing to support H&M against QUT, but bring the camp around to a more defensible discourse on disability issues. I thought this worthwhile, which is why I blogged with you on pOz regarding the extremity of you rhetoric. You were making unlimited statements against guardianship and mutual concern. Tho it was difficult to believe that you went all the way with such ideas – which you eventually confirmed – your furious mails, which you continued with in this tone even after the week I put in to trying to beat out common ground between us, pretty much killed off the blogsphere, until Ted emerged. In the x years of the Howard government, I have rarely been so ashamed of being Australian as I was while Ted was being baited, but perhaps that was because so much of it was coming from within QUT, and I’m an academic from Brisbane.

    I don’t think it so odd that the racist element element was around or that it took the side it did. What is more disturbing is that the key bloggers in this were already associated with N before the Ted issue emerged – this was just the next thing they had to say. Back when I was disputing the de-regulationist, neo-liberal aspects of your argument, I raised the issue of ‘decorum’ with you, that you saw the decorum – sentimental, all ‘just so’ way of representing people with disabilities – as the enemy, and that breaches of decorum were in that light to be welcomed. I wasn’t against that per se, I just reserved the right to object to such breaches of decorum if they were rubbish. I figured you did too.

    Racism is a breach of decorum.

    This is not to say anything against N or his project (in regard to the above), just to reflect on the various sources or support he’s gathered. So you are now the character witness for N and John Hart, will you also be the character witness for Coaldrake?

    How many toes must a good work cut, before it sees the screen? And is this a contradiction?

  16. Peter,

    No I will not defend Coaldrake, and it is a bit of a cheap shot to suggest I would.

    My motivation in this debate has been my connection to disability, I dont care about QUT, it is an irredeemable institution like the other sausage machines.

    You said “Informed consent is a tricky issue in itself, but at no point did H&M say that the the DMT leads were vegetables.”

    The Philistines article says “It’s worth noting that William’s condition may make it difficult for him to understand the subtexts of social interaction” This is clearly not the case. James (william) chaired the questions from the floor at the BIFF festival – appropriately and effectively.

    H&M sought the aboveTonti Fillipini opinion and used that in their submissions to QUT and the court cases.

    As for guardianship, I am not at all against this concept. What I am bitterly opposed to is the office of the Adult Guardian wich is a Queensland government agency. In James and Darren’s case the proper and appropriate guardianship and advocacy structure is their families and support organisations. H&M disregared the opinion of D&J’s guardianship structure and appealed to an unaccountable totalitarian interventionist agency.

    I am glad you have acknowledged I have supported free speech and the re-instatement of H&M. I even turned up to speak at a forum at QUT which was likely to be broken up by the police/QUT security, but it didn’t happen.

    However, as per my comments on the other BT thread, free speech was never put forward as the main issue by the “solidarity committee”, it was very particular about the right to speak up for the disabled, in particular to object to Noonan’s PhD.

    This would have been O.K. if there were some disabled people who needed speaking up for, and there are many such cases, but the criticism of Noonan and his film and the assessment of Darren and james was wrong yet it remained as the central issue.
    Right up until the currrent issue of West End neighborhood News the campaign still insists that Noonan has exploited disabled people.

    The whole campaign lacked the essential ingredient of truth.

    This has been very dissapointing for me. Despite the factional and personality conflicts, the Brisbane left has inspired me for over 3 decades with its capacity for critical analysis and a bias towards freedom. Yet this campaign has been built solely on an emotive lie. There was never any exploration or discussion of the issues of disability – including what was wrong with Noonans films or PhD. It has just been an insisted, unquestioned given that exploitation had occured.

    Such uncritical, emotive, Alan Jonesesque political activism is the basis for fascism and it is most disturbing to see such a phenomenon develop in the left.

  17. The Catholics have admitted they got it wrong. Can the socialists do the same?

    The following letter to Ian White is a response to him contacting the Brisbane Archbishop about the ACDC condemnation of Noonan’s project.
    (Sorry for stealing your thunder Ian W. if you intended to post this)


    Australian Catholic Disability Council
    Secretariat for Pastoral Life
    T: (02) 6201 9868
    12 November 2007

    Dear Mr White,

    Your e-mail message dated the 31 October 2007 was tabled at a meeting of the Australian Catholic Disability Council held on 10 December 2007.

    The Australian Catholic Disability Council was concerned at the process of the granting of approval and supervision of the project. Certainly the material that was viewed ‘Darren and James: Down Under Mystery Tour’ (freely available over the electronic media) contained visual material which gave offence to many people living with disability. The sensitivity to the project as described and expanded by those film clips is understandable.

    Five members of the Australian Catholic Disability Council are living with disability in their families. All agree that the project has great potential to advance greater understanding and increase inclusivity of people living with disability in the community.

    It was the Council’s concern to advocate a positive direction for the project and to encourage wider consideration of issues relevant to research with people with disability. It is fair to say that Council’s concerns to Queensland University of Technology were not satisfactorily addressed in their response.

    I also wish to advise you that, following a review by the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, the Australian Catholic Disability Council has agreed to remove the media release from its web site.
    Yours sincerely,

    Michele Castagna Chair Australian Catholic Disability Council

  18. Graeme Walker says:

    On the Noonan-Maclennan debate: observation about the role of the media

    The words attributed to Michael Noonan in what has been dubbed his “good riddance” letter published in the Australian on November 7th seem gratuitous, although such words have not been uncommon from supporters of both sides during this debate. With a minimum of humility, Michael could instead have come out of this affair looking good, whether or not similar sentiments were shown by Gary MacLennan and John Hookham. He still could. Instead of the “good riddance” letter, a final comment about the “grey zone” in weighing up academic freedom against the right to criticize academic pursuits would have been impressive, and indicative of Noonan’s growth as a researcher.

    As a researcher myself, albeit in a different area, I understand Michael’s will to defend his project and the tenacity of his response to such a sustained critique of his work. But the phrase “a wonderful day for free speech”, in the “good riddance” letter, is hard for me to grasp. The exit of MacLennan and Hookham from QUT may be good for his free speech, but not that of MacLennan and Hookham. Obviously it’s not black and white. And how do we know the importance of Michael’s research if we are not academic peers? On the basis of media releases? Gary and John, with more than 60 years experience between them, didn’t seem to agree on the quality of the movie. So, again it’s not clear-cut. This research set out to challenge and offend. And it did. The two critics probably could also have proceeded with a more rigorous, more nuanced critique (admittedly I don’t know the exact details).

    The real point I want to get across is that the lack of tempered comments from both sides is partly due to the fact that the debate is being played out in the media. I want to understand this debate, but the emotionally-inflated point-scoring from some, on both sides, doesn’t seem to advance the discourse on disabilities, ethics and academic freedom, because many of the arguments are almost unbearably hyperbolic to the outsider. However understandable this is, because of the emotional history of the debate, it seems that we should think about the effects of mainstream and new media technologies on public discourse and academic research. Presumably this is part of what media academics would do. For instance, Michael’s movie is undoubtedly popular, but this may be precisely because of the media exposure. How does one tease out these competing influences? The movie’s popularity is not necessarily associated with its quality and importance, though it may well be ground-breaking. In a similar vein, Gary MacLennan’s use of the “attack-dog” Alan Jones simply reflects the utility of a different media technique. Jones typically uses simplistic emotion-based techniques to entertain his audience. But it’s OK if he supports your side of the argument!

    The new media are supposed to be opening up debate. But I find some of the comments in both the old and new media, far from enlightening me, often a turnoff. I apologise to Michael and Gary if I have misrepresented the letter in the Australian and the relationship with Alan Jones, respectively. But this is just the point. None of this would have happened had MacLennan and Hookham not chosen the mass media to exercise their “free speech”. The free flow of ideas is refreshing and the contribution of different media platforms to education and opinion-forming is fascinating. We would have a lot to learn from the two experienced, now retired, academics, and also from Michael Noonan. To say that either side should be completely disregarded would be ludicrous. But how to assess the arguments? Blogs and newspapers? I’m trying. Watch Michael’s movie? Or is there still a role for peer-reviewed academic publications, despite their deficiencies?

  19. Ian,

    The following email message was forwarded to me by a QUT staff member, who received it from John Hookham. It is a response to Hookham’s complaint against my project.

    In the email, the NHRMC writes that QUT (and, by extension, my project) “has acted in accordance with The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007)”.

    I expect this will be of interest to many of your readers.


    Michael Noonan

    On Jan 11, 2008 5:06 PM, <> wrote:

    Dear Mr Hookham,

    Thank you for bringing to the NHMRC’s attention your concern regarding the ethical review by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) of the project ‘Laughing with the Disabled: Creating comedy that confronts, offends and entertains’ .

    The Chief Executive Officer of the NHMRC, Professor Warwick Anderson, sought and received a satisfactory response from QUT which answered the NHMRC’s questions relating to the ethical review of this project. Professor Anderson is satisfied that QUT has acted in accordance with The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) .

    The NHMRC will not be pursuing this matter any further.

    Yours sincerely

    Tim Dyke

    Timothy Dyke

    Executive Director | Quality & Regulation

    National Health & Medical Research Council

    p : 02 6217 9280 | f : 02 6217 9175 | m : 0434 658 287

    e : | w :

  20. The National Health & Medical Research Council has investigated and dismissed the allegations against QUT’s ethical review of Noonan’s work. (including the allegations in Ted Watson’s video above).

  21. I refer to the letter at comment # 21 above sent by Michael Noonan for posting on BT. The same letter is the subject of John Tracey’s posting at comments #22 and #23.

    This letter is from the National Health & Medical Research Council [NHMRC] and relates to an ethical review of Michael Noonan’s project.

    The letter is not dissimilar to the one from from the Australian Catholic Disability Council posted on BT by John Tracey at comment # 19. The Australian Catholic Disability Council appears to be making a retraction of material posted on its website about the film ‘Darren and James: Down under’ and the Council’s concerns about responses received from the Queensland University of Technology [QUT] concerning the film.

    Critique of ‘Ethical Clearance’

    This letter by the NHMRC at comment # 21 makes no mention of the questions put to the QUT by the NHMRC or QUT responses to those questions.

    There is no discussion of responses provided by the QUT or reasons given for the ‘ethical clearance’ by the National Health & Medical Research Council.

    There is no mention or regard of the allegations made by Ted Watson in the video shown above.

    There is no mention of the treatment of the Aboriginal woman, May Dunne, depicted in Michael Noonan’s footage, parts of which are shown above.

    Similar shortcomings are evident in the letter from the Australian Catholic Disability Council posted at comment #19.

    At its core, Michael Noonan’s project highlights the need for respect and courtesy to be shown to people of different cultures and to workers in the workplace.

    In order to achieve respect, there must be openness.

    Ted Watson’s account in the video above is one such example of openness.

    Until the QUT and National Health & Medical Research Council respond to criticism openly there can be no respect for these institutions.

    To place reliance on such institutions, to trumpet their latest correspondence, conceived in secret, will achieve no good.

    Michael Noonan’s work in ‘Darren and James: Down Under Mystery Tour’, and the research work behind it, should be judged on the respect it accords indigenous people and the workers involved.

    Ian Curr
    16 January 2008

  22. Hi Ian,


    I have no “reliance” on the NHMRC findings. What I rely on is my own assesment of the footage and my own observation of the contracts that Noonan has and the letters from Boulia that Ted Watson had – which I saw at the same time – and the signatures on both documents were the same. Having gotten to know Noonan and Hart I also rely on my assesment of their integrity.


    As I understand it May’s issues were indeed presented to the NHMRC by her lawyer in conjunction with Mac/Hook’s matters. I believe that May’s issues were the focus of the NHMRC’s investigation as the criticism on disability ethics and Darren and James had allready been discredited in an earlier review of the ethical process.

    I agree that the approval of the NHMRC does not deal with issues specific to May Dunne and Aboriginal protocol. I have written on this issue at Paradigm OZ, pointing out that the clinical/medical template of ethical assessment that the NHMRA uses is grossly deficient to covering research in media disciplines.

    So, the question must be asked, why was the NHMRC used as the forum to pursue the rights of May and her husband? Why was not civil, criminal or human rights action launched against Noonan and Hart, especially in light of the serious allegation of forgery?

    The answer, it seems to me, is that once Mac/Hook’s criticism on disability issues, and the medico/legal opinion of the Catholic Churches official spokesperson on reproductive ethics, Dr. Nicolas Tonti-Filippini, was demolished, May and her husband were opportunistically used in the QUT squabble and their interests were never taken seriously. If Mac/Hook had no issues then their court action would have collapsed, costing them a fortune. They desperately needed May’s complaint for their own agenda.


    Continual connection of Aboriginal issues to the issues of Mac/Hook and QUT, including the youtube on this post is just continuing the opportunist misuse of Aboriginal interests in an ideological abstraction from the real issues of the real Aboriginal people involved.


    You, like John Hookham, seem to be suggesting that the NHMRC is covering up for QUT. This, like the suggestion that the contracts were forged, is just a pathetic attempt to avoid the obvious reality that the criticism of Noonan was wrong. I in no way suggest that the NHMRC is the legitimate body to determine such things, but I am not surprised that it did not find any problems.

    The simple reality is that a good man working on a good project was falsely demonised, and despite the truth of the matter the demonisation continues to this day to justify the unjustifiable campaign against him and his work.

  23. The QUT and the discarded teachers, MacLennan and Hookham, agreed to settle their dispute with a clause that limits what they may say. BushTelegraph is not permitted to see the agreement but this much is clear: previously the court had recommended that the QUT settle. As reported on BushTelegraph previously Mr Justice Spender did not look too favourably on the attitude of the employer, the QUT, and its view of the role of the university.

    The National Health & Medical Research Council and Australian Catholic Disability Council have since weighed into this dispute between teacher and boss with their ethical pronouncements supporting the PhD student, Noonan, and his work.

    But what about the teachers, how are they to defend their reputations in ethical disagreement with Noonan? There have been many gratuitous slanders against them.

    Now they have been retired with a gag signed and sealed.

    The Australian newspaper refused to print MacLennan/Hookham’s reply to Noonan’s good riddance letter titled “Noonan’s last laugh” and full page spread in the Higher Education Supplement published for all to see.

    What other resources has Noonan at his disposal? Resources of the QUT? Is Noonan a party to the agreement that his university has with the two teachers, MacLennan and Hookham? It is unlikely that Noonan is a signatory to this agreement, so unlike MacLennan and Hookham, legally he can say what he likes.

    Are the QUT and their proxies to have open slather? Where is the ethics in that?

    The lawyers say that MacLennan and Hookham have beaten Goliath (the QUT).

    Their jobs are gone, their teaching careers ended …

    This much is true, nothing is settled, least of all between the worker and the boss.

    We hear men and women speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
    Yet there is no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
    It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
    Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
    It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
    Scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
    But we are [workers of the world]; and we have not spoken yet.
    Smile at us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

    — adapted from GK Chesterton. The Secret People, 1915.

    Ian Curr
    9 Feb 2008

  24. Ian,

    Your above comments are misleading.

    1/ “as reported on BushTelegraph previously Mr Justice Spender did not look too favourably on the attitude of the employer, the QUT, and its view of the role of the university.”

    Spender heard no evidence or submissions of fact. The comments were made during a procedural mention. There was never a hearing. Spender did indeed encourage QUT to settle out of court but he admitted his ignorant and biased comments were designed to send a signal as to procedure, not pass any judgement on facts that had not yet been presented. He covered his arse solidly after saying those things. To claim his comments as some sort of vindication is simply dishonest.

    The NHMRC and ACDC did not “weigh in” with their approval of Noonan’s work.

    The NHMRC just made a judgement on complaints that were made to it by Mac/Hook and Ted Watson on behalf of May Dunne..

    The ACDC were heavily involved in the campaign against Noonan’s work from very early on. Apart from issuing press releases in the Catholic media, one of their exectutive members, Lisa Bridle, was Mac/Hooks advocate in meetings with QUT and she featured in the youtube “Disability community speaks out against QUT”.

    The ACDC’s latest statement on the matter states support from all executive members, which I assume means Lisa, for Noonan’s work. The ACDC changed their mind after discovering the facts and corrected their mistake. They did not “weigh in”, they appeared to have thrown in the towel.

    As for your continued villification of Michal Noonan, a humble working class Catholic lad with a strange desire to do something positive in his PhD work……

    There is indeed a case to be made that QUT is a hierarchical state institution in a class society and the treatment of Mac/Hook is a tragic example of the industrial norm. Where ever you want to take this reality in terms of class struggle, what point at all is there in continuing to personally attack Michael Noonan?

  25. Hello John,

    I do not ‘personally attack Michael Noonan

    I have not attacked Michael Noonan personally or otherwise [See my previous comments at

    You say that “QUT is a hierarchical state institution in a class society and the treatment of Mac/Hook is a tragic example of the industrial norm.

    It is true, this is a class question.

    Noonan, MacLennan, Hookham, Darren and James are all workers.

    The working class are engaged in a political struggle with their employers.

    In the dispute between Hookham/MacLennan and the QUT, it comes down to which side you are on.

    I am on the side of the worker.

    Ian Curr
    11 Feb 2008

  26. Which workers Ian? The ones who used the Murdoch press, Alan Jones and Nicolas Tonti-filipini to publically villify other workers such as Noonan, Darren and James?

    A lot of people got hurt in this. A joyfull and liberating disability program was turned into a nightmare. The families of Darren and James were publically accused of abusing their children by letting Noonan exploit them. A high profile media ethicist, who got his profile commenting on abortion and stemcell research on behalf of the Catholic church provided a medico-legal assesment that challenged the families rights to make their own decisions and accused them of neglect, despite having never met them, an assessment that was used in a complaint to the Adult Guardian, a high profile court action and an international controversy.

    How would you feel if this happened to your family?

    I am on the side of Darren, James and their families and support networks. They are all workers.

    Mac/Hook mobilised the capitalist media and the institutions of the state such as the Adult Guardian to attack these workers.

    The staff/management disputes of QUT are neither the defining point or the epicentre of class struggle.

    The rights of some workers to engage Murdoch, Jones and Tonti-Filipini in a baseless attack on fellow workers cannot be justified by any superior claim to working class legitimacy.

    You have indeed said several times that you have not attacked Michael Noonan yet you repeatedly do just this right up to comment 26.

    While insisting that you want to avoid personalities, you repeatedly hold Noonan up as an example of the corruption of QUT.

    You cannot face the reality that the criticisms against him were unfounded and therefore the legitimacy of the brave workers speaking out against him was also wrong.

    You have a need to continue to demonise him otherwise the stand you (and many others) have taken on this dispute is exposed as incorrect and ridiculous.

    Get Real!

  27. Hello John,

    In the case of MacLennan, the dispute with his employer has gone on for over 30 years.

    He was working at the Kelvin Grove Teachers college [now part of QUT] when he was first arrested on 22 October 1977 at an anti-uranium demonstration.

    The irony is that you too, as a young student, were arrested during the ban on street marches — a ban designed to prevent workers from organising and claiming their democratic rights.

    What went wrong?

    Why have you been unable to reconcile your differences with MacLennan?

    I have assumed that you are on the side of the worker.

    Why have you become so strenuous in your attack on these teachers?

    Why is it a case of choosing one ‘humble working class Catholic lad’ over another from similar Irish Catholic origins?

    Are they not both workers — each capable of being imbued ‘with a strange desire to do something positive’?

    Why highlight the sins of one?

    Have you not realised that they have been gagged by their former employer [the QUT] and can say nothing in their defence?

    Ian Curr
    11 Feb 2008

  28. I have no doubt that Gary has been motivated by good intentions in his 30 year struggle with QUT. However, the attempts to use in the first insatance Noonan and then May Dunne as tactical focii of this struggle is where, in my opinion, it all went wrong. Especially when the critique on disability was so very wrong and May’s issues were only presented as part of John and Gary’s academic and legal agenda.

    I have always been opposed to the punishment that QUT meted out and, while expressing my disagreement with Gary and John, I was prepared to get arrested at forum at QUT (which despite a very brave call to action from Brian Laver, never actually happened).

    Everybody, especially academics have the right to be wrong. QUT should have demolished John and Gary by engaging in an academic debate on the issue rather than punishing them.

    Having said that, it was a low act for Gary and John to go outside of academia and publically attack a student, especially since they were so very wrong in that attack. Your ongoing assertion that Noonan is a dog because he complained about such treatment does not support the rights of workers in the workplace to take action against harrasment. As I have asked before, if it was sexual or racial harrasment would a worker also be considered a dog if they complained about such harrasment? Noonan has rights in the workplace too, rights to take action against workplace bullying and public defamation by other workers. Many workers have fought hard and long to institute such grievance procedures.

    Gary’s history in QUT and the Brisbane left is no justification for his attacks on Noonan and his work. If your working class heroes demand a blind and deaf loyalty in the face of oppressive and hurtfull action then this is the psychology of fascism and I want nothing to do with it.

    Ciaron has accused me of being an agent of the state and you accuse me of recanting my historical radicalism because I will not subsume my heart and my intelect to this sheeplike conformity masquerading as class loyalty.

    This “whose side are you on” mentality is just a cheap emotive trick to avoid dealing with the truth of the matter, that is that John and Gary got it very wrong. Peer group conformity and denial is no substitute for solidarity and collective power.

    Ian, do you think Noonan’s film work is ” misanthropic and amoral trash” that warranted the bypassing of academic structure in order to expose the abuse of disabled people that was being condoned by QUT?

    In Gary’s 30 year struggle against QUT, he was finally defeated because he got it wrong. It was his own wrongness that made him so vulnerable. Solidarity cannot change this basic historical reality.

    If our movements and campaigns are not underpinned by the truth then they will fail. This is the lesson of this campaign.

    A solidarity that legitimises and entrenches stupid mistakes is just the sort of solidarity the bosses need us to have.

  29. Hello John,

    I still do not understand why you and Gary MacLennan have fallen out so badly. I mean in the political sense not personally.

    Neither of you will cut the other any slack. You are both equally unrelenting.

    You ask: ‘do you think Noonan’s film work is ”misanthropic and amoral trash” that warranted the bypassing of academic structure in order to expose the abuse of disabled people that was being condoned by QUT?’

    Do not seek me out as some kind of arbiter about what happened here.

    There is no justice in the workplace, there is no resolution to the conflict, least of all in the grievance procedures and tribunals, in the courts, the anti-discrimination commission, not in the media, not anywhere.

    Those who think there is are living a lie. It is in the interest of the employer, the government – even the union – to pretend that arbitration in these forums is real or just.

    Workers are often unfairly treated and many dismissed for little or no reason by their employer. When they fight back as individuals they lose. Many workers and their unions do not understand this. Good unions fight because they believe in the worker concerned. But they are still caught up in this myth of fairness through arbitration, they typically go to a court or to an industrial tribunal and they lose everytime – even when they win by getting a payout, the workers lose, either because the lawyers have to be paid more than the workers win, or because they lose their careers (as happened in this case).

    The courts may dispense monetary compensation, that is the most that they will usually do. However there is no compensation possible for the disability of losing your your health, your employment, your place in society, your worth and esteem in the eyes of others and yourself.

    Michael Noonan was sadly misled in seeking refuge behind his employer, the QUT. I spoke to him about that.

    MacLennan and Hookham were never going to get much more than a handout by going through the court and the media.

    Noonan, MacLennan and Hookham all lost in their own way, they each lost sight of the collective and became caught up in individual grievance in much the same way you have. As for Darren and James and their families, I do not know how they have fared, but I suspect no better than any other worker caught up in this mess.

    Only the QUT came out on top, yet again, in their brave new world of ‘creative industries’ being sold to international students and their parents at such a high and unreasonable price.

    John, I do not wish to make this into a soap opera. So if you have something to say, by all means say it.

    But let us not go over and over this unless something positive can come out of it.

    Ian Curr
    12 Feb 2008

  30. Ian,

    Gary and I have never been “in” to fall out. It is true that I find his poetic moralism has little substance and his capacity to replace intellegent critique with personal abuse has long peaved me. Gary and Ciaron have more than their ethnicity in common on these matters. But my outrage at what has happened is not a personal matter as clearly described in my various articles and many comments on the matter.

    As you know, disability is a reality in my life and I have and will continue to speak out against ignorant conservative paternalism even if it is articulated by working class heroes.

    As you know, Aboriginality is a reality in my life and I have and will speak out against white people opportunistically manipulating the issues of Aboriginal people in order to fullfill white objectives and ideology.

    Ian, I am dissapointed that you are unable to make a simple judgement of whether or not you think Noonan’s work is “misanthropic and amoral trash”.

    I did not ask you to arbitrate, I asked your opinion. Are opinions not allowed in your notion of workers solidarity? I can understand that if you admit that Noonan’s work is harmless or even progressive then the illusion of righteous struggle collapses, but the truth is the truth.

    I am dissapointed that you are now trying to explain away Gary and John’s cruel stupidity by suggesting my criticism of the cruel stupidity is based on some unresolved personal matters between Gary and I.

    Face the truth, Gary and John fucked up and hurt a lot of people in the process. Gary and John got burnt for their mistake too. To sweep this under the carpet or to ignorantly justify it as you have is not workers solidarity, it is workers stupidity.

    If your workers movement can justify attacks on disabled people and not see the connections to disability issues then it is captive of ignorant and outdated consciousness that needs to be challenged not reinforced through dumb loyalty.

    At no time during all of this did John and Gary focus on their rights as workers, it was all about their motivation to speak up for the disabled. The Philistines article, apart from misrepresentative abuse about Noonan’s film work focused on the moral dangers of post modernism, not workers rights.

    The appeal was not based on workers rights, it was based on the legitimacy of John and Gary to speak out about the exploitation of the disabled. When that cause collapsed a new angle was desperately thrown together using the right to speak out about Aboriginal oppression to keep the court case alive. Because the whole campaign did not focus on workers rights but rather on standing up for the disabled and Aborigines, it failed. The arguments about both disability and Aboriginality were unsupported by the facts.

    The NHMRC complaints were all about ethical clearance protocols, not workers rights.

    ALL the movement propaganda focussed on the right to speak out againt Noonan’s exploitation of the disabled or of May Dunne. The support campaing tried to get Unlikeley Travellers removed from the BIFF festival and they leafletted the screening of the movie – what has this to do with workers rights?

    If Gary and John had of focused on industrial rights they may well have got support from the union and their colleagues to get reinstated. But that’s not how it was.

  31. Looking back over history, during the Joh years I was part of he anarchist movement which was different and often in conflict with the philosophy and strategy of Marxists such as Gary and yourself. While there was indeed a solidarity amongst thousands through the single common experience of getting arrested, there was never a confluence of politics back then. When Gary was in I.S. there were many arguments between the trots and the anarchists and one of the issues was this question of class. Anarchists understand the nature of class conflict but perceive both oppression and liberation in terms much broader than the workplace or economic considerations. People are not just oppressed as “workers” they are also oppressed as women, as an ethnicity or culture, as disabled, as tenants or homeless, as gay, and even as citizens under the control of the state. The anarchist line is that oppression is a matter of hierarchy, not class. Class is just one manifestation of the problem. The central problem, hierarchy, existed in all aspects of human relationships, not just economic ones.

    Given this historical ideological division, the different perspectives between Gary (and you) and myself are really quite predictable.

    I rarely call myself an anarchist anymore and I find the centrality of hierarchy in anarchist theory to be very shallow indeed, but that is another story. However, the attempts to remove Darren and James’ human right to make decisions about their own lives and the demand that Noonan’s film should be censored, and you are even (26) still calling for Noonan to be gagged, these things I find most objectionable.

    I tend towards an indigenist theory these days which thoroughly explains class, imperialism and social hierachy but it also explains dysfunctional consciousness especially of the working class.

    In Australia, like Northern Ireland, Fiji, Indonesia and many other places the migrant working class are the occupation forces of colonial society. The working class itself is the dominant agency of the dispossession and oppression of Aboriginal people in Australia. The Australian working class is of course a construction of international capital and exploited within the economy, but that is not the totallity of the working class reality within an indigenist framework.

    Did you see my post on Lefwrites? “the eurocentrism of australian socialism”

    Perhaps these things may answer your question…… “I still do not understand why you and Gary MacLennan have fallen out so badly. I mean in the political sense not personally.”

    Your false assumption is that we were ever together. This is just one of the many illusions inherent in your obsession with class. While Gary and I may fit together in your mind and your ideological framework, it has never been the case in reality.

  32. Ian,

    This site went quiet for a while after John Tracey wrote some very strong and rational words. What a shame you saw the need to stir it up again. Aren’t their worthier causes to fight?

    You claim that, like Hookham and MacLennan, I am “lost in my own way”. Let me assure that I am not lost. Nor are Darren, James and their families. None of us need your pity or your patronising assumptions about where we are in our lives.

    Unlikely Travellers screened to great acclaim on the ABC, won an IF Award. Its response was overwhelmingly positive. One viewer told me he could “feel the barriers breaking” as he watched.

    My PhD project continues and my resolve is stronger than ever to make programs that challenge the kinds of misconceptions MacLennan and Hookham stirred up in their very brave campaign against me.

    Darren and James: Downunder Mystery Tour is a wonderful show and I am very proud of it. As are Darren, James and their families. I look forward to its release, to your apology and to a better world for workers, people with disabilities and research students.

  33. Hello Michael


    If ideological notions of solidarity can allow a campaign supposedly sticking up for the rights of the disabled to treat disabled people and their families with such disconnected contempt, what sort of solidarity is that?

    If universal workers solidarity means disregarding human connection and compassion to workers (or the lumpen proletariat) outside of industrial struggle then the solidarity is an ideological construct every bit as much as religious solidarity or football team spirit and has nothing to do with any shared or collective humanity.

    I have often whinged about the Plowshares action at Jabiluka that proclaimed solidarity with the Mirrar and then defied their instructions on their land and then villified their representatives around the world including unfounded allegations of child abuse. – some kind of solidarity!

    When solidarity is an ideological notion then we do not become connected to other people but rather to our own illusions, ideas, mythology and poetry. Those who we claim to be in solidarity with are interpreted within our own assumptions and world views.

    If workers solidarity makes you blind to the process of human liberation in non-industrial frameworks such as the humanisation of people with disabilities then your solidarity is an ideological and emotional sedative.

    Chris Hurley is a worker and the police union is perhaps the most militant union in Qld. – workers of the world unite! (or perhaps there are other things to consider too).

  34. See what I mean!

    “Solidarity” quickly dissolves to colonial arrogance when it is based on ideology and myth.

    Ciaron, You have said I have lost a couple of times now, I am most curious what it is that you think I have lost.

    You seem to share the same delusion as Gary and John’s lawyer that Goliath was defeated. This is bizzare considering Noonan’s films have been vindicated, the NHMRC dismissed all complaints against QUT, the ACDC withdrew their criticism and Gary and John lost their jobs. The lawyers got $2,000,000 so I suppose it could be said that they were the winners, also of course Noonan who was given a most effective publicity campaign for his films.

    But I really cant see where I lost anything and I really do believe that my criticism of Gary and John’s position has been proven right.

    Ciaron, I ask you the same Question I asked Ian, do you think Noonan’s film work is misanthropic and amoral trash?

    It is astounding that despite demolition of the lies and falsehoods that were the basis of the criticism of Noonan’s film work that people such as you and Ian so irrationally and defensevily maintain you commitment to those falsehoods. It is just sick that you and the lawyers can somehow claim any victory in total denial of the truth.

    You are in solidarity with your own egos and illlusions, not workers, Aborigines, or the disabled.

  35. If the Mirrar choose to run a national campaign with anybody including Foley you should respect it.

    Your attempt to demonise Foley to justify your own arrogant colonialism is disgusting, the same as what John Howard did to all Aboriginal men.

    Your hysterical claim that Foley is a “convicted rapist authoritarian” shows an absulute lack of respect for the Mirrar’s capacity to make their own decisions and assumes they are stupid people being manipulated. This was not at all the case and they built a solid national campaign using national Aboriginal leaders such as Foley.

    There are all sorts of questions here, statutory rape laws are often unjust and criminalise people for loving consensual relationships. Also, once a person has been convicted and punished for any offence they should not be demonised for ever.

    To arrogantly declare Foley a “convicted rapist authoritarian” and widely publicise his conviction, apart from showing great disrespect to the Mirrar’s campaign and their sovereignty, indicates a mean and nasty capacity for personal attack to fuel and justify your own illusions when they clash with, for example, the will of the Mirrar.

    When you belittle and dismiss Aboriginal culture and protocols as a “traditional smokescreen”, it indicates the depth of your racism and disrespect.

  36. For those wondering who JK is, Ciaron is refering to Jacqui Katona.

  37. Ian,

    In our movement forged in the fires of the anti-uranium and opposition to Joh struggles, what should we do or say about comrades such as Gary who have such a hurtful and oppressive attitude towards disability? What about comrades such as Ciaron who dismiss Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal leaders?

    Does the “workers” struggle mean you have to stand in solidarity with such bile as long as it is thrown up in the context of a workers struggle?

    Me, I say you have to speak out against it even if it means being called a class traitor or an agent of the state. How do you deal with it?

    Since one of the two stated focii of this blog is “The struggle of Indigenous People”, and Aboriginal people read this blog, I am most curious to hear what your reaction is to such racist sentiment as Ciaron’s being expressed on your blog.

    I am certainly not calling for him to be censored but I believe your own editorial silence will be perceived as an act of solidarity with the racism in the same way you stand in solidarity with Gary’s attitude to disability.

  38. Ian,

    I hope you don’t delete the comments. Racism in our movement needs to be dealt with honestly, not swept under the carpet.

    If this thread has nothing to do with racism then you should delete the Ted Watson Youtube also.


  39. p.s.


    We had this argument on Bartlett’s blog then you asked him to remove it.

    Now we have the same argument on BT and you ask Ian to remove it.

    How’s that for shifting the goal posts when you are losing an argument? If you don’t have the courage to stand by what you say then you shouldn’t say it in the first place.

  40. It looks like the final chapter in the sordid saga of Queensland University of Technology’s(QUT) PhD project Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains is about to be played out.

    The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has convened a hearing at 2.00pm Thursday 29th May at Level One; 189 Coronation Drive, Milton, Brisbane.

    My good friend, May, whom I have been representing will finally get to confront the film maker, Michael Noonan, who deeply shamed her by putting up film of her on the world wide web and showing it at his PhD confirmation at QUT.

    Noonan has been alleging that May gave permission to him to film her while she had too much to drink. May has supplied sworn testimony that this is not true and she is prepared to go to court to clear her name.

    The whole world applauded when Australia’s government apologised to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous Australians. QUT officially supported that apology, but it has stood by while one of its post graduate students vilified May.

    I invite all those who support justice for indigenous Australians to be present at the hearing to confront the racist university that has done this to May.

    I urge all of you to read the report below and also to click on to and view the film Laughing At Aborigines?

    Tough Questions for QUT.

    There I explain what happened to May.

    Yours in struggle
    Ted Watson

  41. Inviting the public to a mediation session is an interesting way to show good faith in the mediation process (thursday is mediation, not a hearing as Ted seems to believe). I wonder how HREOC will respond to this? it seems to me that the politicisation of the mediation process has exhausted its possibilities meaning a federal court hearing is now the only way the complaint can be addressed.

    It should be noted that QUT and Noonan offered to travel to Boulia to discuss May’s concerns with her but Ted has consistently rejected this course of action.

    The claim is an ambit claim naming QUT and the state of Queensland meaning that May is already up against the best legal machines and networks in the state.

    The release forms signed by May have been investigated and accepted 3 times to my knowledge including the NHMRC. As mentioned on other threads, Ted has seen the signed release from May, Noonan showed it to him (and me). May will now have to prove her integrity in court in order to proceed any action.

    Any academic debate or debate in the public interest is exempt from prosecution under the racial hatred act (inserted into anti discrimination act). The claim is fatally flawed in terms of the act. The footage was only published in the context of academic/public interest debate.

    For even the thinnest of cases against Noonan, Spectrum, QUT and DSQ it must be proven that the footage was contextualised in an abusive form, however Noonan describes May as loving and affectionate and defends the innocense of her portrayal in the public debate against the negative stereotype of her, in particular in Mac/Hook’s philistines article. The footage includes white people discussing the same issues so there can be no claim to racial selection in the footage.

    If this does go to court Noonan will again be vindicated and May will be humiliated.

    This whole thing gets sadder and sadder. It was sad that Mac/Hook sent Ted to Boulia to initiate these proceedings (Ted had not yet met May at that stage) as part of their own fight with QUT and, now that it is over, it is sad that May will bear the weight of the folly of this campaign. It is she who faces purjury charges if her affidavits are discredited, her that may have to foot the bill of QUT and D.S.Q’s Queens Council bills and court costs. And, if the claim is withdrawn before it gets to court, May who will have her expectations of compensation raised and then dumped.

    Perhaps the media release about mediation and the above email that has been distributed is simply an attempt to force an out of court settlement with QUT who may want to avoid any bad publicity (Hey, it worked last time!).

    I have read May’s original statement that Ted carried. She was particularly shamed by being used in a film that exploits disabled people She was told by Ted that she was used in a film that exploits disabled people. If she gives evidence in court of this she will again be discredited as MAC/Hook’s critique was discredited. The misinformation that Ted etc. are relying on will be exposed in the giving of evidence.

    I realise that obligations to May’s issues have to be fulfilled after she supported Mac/Hook’s issues. But I believe another great injustice is being perpetrated by putting May in the middle of a doomed and unfounded legal action where she and only she will bear the negative consequences of a failed action. Those who are to benefit from this action, Mac/Hook, have already got their reward and now May is left carrying the bucket.

    But the greatest injustice of all this is the assertion by Ted and others that there is something shamefull about an Aboriginal women drinking in a pub. This underlying principle behind the HREOC action and Mac/Hook’s critique is a reflection of mysogeny and racism, not a challenge to it.

    Aboriginal women have no obligation to present themselves as sober and respectable in the eyes of white people. This campaign and court action simply reinforces white dissaproval and stereotypes and imposes shame onto a person and activity that are innocent and beautiful.

    Those who choose to see ugliness in an image of Beauty, whether it be May and James in the Boulia pub or the Henson nudes are not a reflection of the image but of the ugliness that exists in some peoples minds.

    Aboriginal women are beautiful and should be affirmed as such – as Noonan did. Those who described May as a drunken Aboriginal mauler should be facing HREOC charges.

  42. Laugh at the powerful not the powerless! says:


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