FESTIVAL: Former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg at Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra in February 2016.
FESTIVAL: Former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg at Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra in February 2016. MICK TSIKAS

Democracy on the stage at festival

POLITICIANS, commentators, journalists and former authorities will meet this weekend for this year's Byron Writers Festival.

Expect 'The Canberra bubble' to get their yearly dose of warm weather and sunlight when the who-is-who if the Australian political arena, and some who refuse to leave the sandpit, take on stage to tell us what is happening inside closed doors.

Tomorrow Friday, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will offer an insightful conversation about his time as PM with journalist Karen Middleton.

Middleton will also chair a panel with former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and former leader of the Australian Democrats Natasha Stott Despoja in the session 'What's Happened to Our Politics?'

On Sunday, Bangalow resident and veteran journalist Kerry O'Brien will be in the hot seat as he talks about 2018 his memoir Kerry O'Brien: A Memoir.

Some of the writers and commentators in this year's event are:

  • Paul Bongiorno

Journalist Paul Bongiorno has been reporting federal politics as a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Canberra for the past 31 years.

Bongiorno grew up in Ballarat, Victoria, and attended St Patrick's College and Drummond Street in Ballarat. He later became a Catholic priest. He holds a master's degree in theology from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

He is now married with two daughters.

  • Gabrielle Chan

Gabrielle Chan has had a career in political journalism that has spanned over 30 years. Her latest book is Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up.

In Rusted Off, she looks to her own rural community's main street for answers to the big questions driving voters.

Why are we so fed up with politics? Why are formerly rusted-on country voters deserting major parties in greater numbers than their city cousins?

Can ordinary people teach us more about the way forward for government?

  • Peter Greste


Peter Greste has written a compelling book called The Firs t Casualty, a reflection from his time in an Egyptian prison and global war on journalism.
Journalist and writer Peter Greste. TIM BAUER

Peter Greste is an award-winning journalist who spent 25 years with the BBC and Al Jazeera. He is now an academic and media freedom advocate.

On 29 December 2013, Greste and two other Al Jazeera English journalists, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were arrested by Egyptian authorities. On June 2014, Greste was found guilty by the court, and sentenced to seven years of incarceration.

On February 1, 2015, a month after a retrial of Greste, Fahmy and Mohammad was announced, Greste was deported and flown to Cyprus. His colleagues were released on bail on February 2015.

His book is called The First Casualty: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Global War on Journalism.

  • Sarah Hanson-Young

Sarah Hanson-Young was the youngest woman to be elected to the Australian parliament, taking office at the age of 26. She has been a Greens Senator for a decade.

She graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Social Sciences in 2002. While studying, she was Environment Officer from 2001 to 2002, and then President from 2002 to 2003, of the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide.

From 2004, until she took parliamentary office in 2008, she worked for Amnesty International as Campaign Manager for South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Her book is called En Garde.

  • Scott Ludlam

Scott Ludlam is a former Greens Senator for WA (2008-2017). He is currently a columnist for Guardian Australia and his first book on ecology, technology and politics will be published in 2019.

  • Karen Middleton

Karen Middleton is The Saturday Paper's chief political correspondent and author of Albanese - Telling it Straight and An Unwinnable War - Australia in Afghanistan.

  • Kate McClymont

Kate McClymont is an investigative journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald. She is a seven-time winner of journalism's most prestigious award, the Walkley.

Her book is Dead Man Walking.

  • Roman Quaedvlieg

Roman Quaedvlieg worked for the Queensland Police Force and went on to become Commissioner of the Australian Border Force. His new memoir is called Tour De Force.

The book charts the years in between, during which he truly sees it all: From policing on the beat to going undercover with bikies and gangs, to eventually running covert operations at the Australian Crime Commission, exposing major drug importations while working in customs services and leading the operation to turn back boats on international waters.

  • Leigh Sales


Leigh Sales
Journalist Leigh Sales. Contributed

Leigh Sales is one of Australia's most respected journalists and anchor of ABC's 7.30. Her most recent book is Any Ordinary Day.

Read our interview with Leigh Sales about her book here.

  • Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster. His books include Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and The Rise of the Right and No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

  • Natasha Stott Despoja


06/11/01  103053Democrats leader senator Natasha Stott-Despoya chats to Melbourne Cup watchers at the Kawana Pub yesterday.Photo: Tony Rodgers
Former Democrats leader senator Natasha Stott-Despoya in 2001.

Natasha Stott Despoja is Chair of Our Watch. She is a former ambassador, senator and party leader. She is among the global top 100 influencers in gender policy. In March, she published On Violence, where she said that that violence against women is "Australia's national emergency".

  • Mark Swivel

Byron Shire resident Mark Swivel is a lawyer, performer and writer. He runs a community legal clinic and is the founder of The Together Party. His book is Making Australia Slightly Better Than Average Again.

At Elements of Byron Resort and other locations from today and until Sunday. For details visit byronwritersfestival.com.