Smithy will probably never speak to Crikey again for running this combined piece by Frank Flak and Wendy Wedge about his relationship with Natasha but the issues are legitimate and should be debated in the media.
Over the past century there have been some notable exceptions. With typical ruling class ruthlessness those purveyors of fair play and games the Brits successfully trashed the reputations of Parnell and Casement when the requirements of empire made it necessary. But generally the sexual habits and proclivities of everyone from Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy et al were off limits. For those innocents who aren’t aware of just how extensive and exciting this subject can be, Wendy is happy to provide a bibliography at a later date.
In more recent years the curtain has been lifted a bit normally on the grounds of the need to address issues such as “character”. Bibliography also available here if required.
For the media in Australia today the difficult questions about what is legitimate to print are being raised once again by the alleged relationship between Democrats Leader, Ah Satan, and Gavin Anderson head flak, Ian Smith, who have just jetted off together to the World Economic Forum in New York.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
But back to that in a moment. Whenever Wendy raises sex she gets lots of angry emails. Frank of course simply regards it as something else to be covered up when necessary. So perhaps before we get down to it with Ian and Natasha some principles and history might just be in order.
Rumors about pollies are assiduously spread by friends and enemies. The Libs accused Paul Keating of having affairs with Janet Holmes a Court and Geoffrey Tozer. After he was seen having coffee with his son Sydney was awash with “authoritative” reports that he was a paedophile. It was all a load of baloney.
The Prime Minister was accused of having an affair with Pru Goward much the most interesting thing many people had heard about him. Poor Cheryl Kernot was linked by malicious and inaccurate rumor with just about everybody except Kim Beazley and Bob Ellis.
The vast bulk of such rumors are quite untrue and motivated by Freudian projection more than anything else.
Then there are the notable cases in which family values campaigners get caught being caned in gym slips or soliciting Guards troopers in parks. This is generally a British phenomenon although a few notable Australian campaigners for family values had interesting personal lives.
The most notable recent case of media agonistes about sex was of course dear Bill Clinton. As the great polemicist Christopher Hitchens pointed out in his book about Bill No-one left to lie to the media and Republican obsession with what Bill did with Monica was not the story.
The story was really why the left never recognised that Clinton was a small time crook who bombed the shit out of Iraq and destroyed what little there was of the US welfare system; and, why the right hated him so much when he was actually one of the most right wing presidents of recent years.
Wendy and Frank also generally think sex is off limits it’s probably just too primeval to be a guide to character. Moreover, we have no objections at all to most of the many variations on sexual behaviour drawing the line at only two practices bestiality and sleeping with politicians.
With bestiality it is a simple philosophic objection about informed consent. For instance, if a National Party member and a sheep have intercourse how do we know if the National Party member had sufficient consciousness and intelligence to consent to the sheep’s advances or not?
With politicians it’s simply aesthetic having sex with the narcissistic is strictly for mugs.
We’re a bit the same with alcohol can’t see the problem with too much although we draw the line at teetotallers (particularly as Frank has always been happy to work for the liquor industry).
But even here the media pussyfoots around as well. For instance when George Dubya choked on a pretzel, fell off the sofa and gave himself a shiner a few people in the Washington media asked publicly whether he was back on the booze or not. They didn’t ask whether he was back on the coke lines but then that’s another story too.
Now why a war leader needs to stay sober just mystifies us. Churchill was drunk for much of the Second World War and seemed to do all right despite that. When someone told Lincoln Grant was a drunk who imbibed too much whisky, Lincoln asked if the complainant could tell him what brand so he could send it to all his generals.
Indeed, we rather favour the alcoholic fog version of history as much more fun than either the black armband or the white blindfold versions. It doesn’t go too well with the Blainey see saw version as developed by Max Gillies as a fusion of the two leads to serious disorientation.
So with all that preamble what about Smithy and Ah Satan?
Neither Wendy nor Frank knows what has transpired, is or may transpire between the self-promoting duo beyond the fact a relationship seems to exist.
We also know that thanks to Christine Lacy at the Financial Review they are off to WEF and that Smithy is “close to the telco” and aims to get the T3 work after winning T2.
Well that’s half true. Smithie is after T3 but has not been close to the telco since GA stuffed up the launch of the PCCW deal. Why they were even working for the company after dodging backwards and forwards between Optus and Telstra is a bit of a mystery as well.
But experience, if not success, is always useful. Selling the shares at $7 plus and then helping promote the deal which was a major contributor to slashing 25% off the price is certainly an experience.
In the grand days when Sue Cato and Ian Kortlang had a relationship the company did do much for Telstra. Sue boasted to all and sundry that she had developed Telstra’s multimedia policy and Kortlang just boasted. Eventually the company got the shove and raced off to Optus in the same away they raced backwards and forwards between GIO and AMP.
In recent years privatisation has been important to GA as a staff exodus and the loss of some clients have put the days of the superprofits in the past.
One of those privatisation clients has been the Sydney Airports sale even though GA also worked for just about everybody else in the airline business except of course the most successful, Qantas.
Now Smithy has an interest in adding to all the privatisation experience by winning T3.
And there’s the rub.
To win T3 he needs to overcome two prior conditions: getting someone in the Senate to vote for it; and, then winning it through the tender process.
And, of course, Ah Satan is one of those someones who will have a say in one of the outcomes.
This may not be a problem of course. Smithy is a flak and, as Frank says, by definition a flak is a person of fierce integrity who would never dream of using a personal relationship for profit.
Ah Satan is a distinguished statesperson whose vision and integrity are unimpeachable. As a feminist she knows that the personal is political but then that’s all about victims not statespeople.
So it probably doesn’t matter what they talk about together as they busily elbow each other away from any available mirrors wherever they are staying in New York. (That’s a bit harsh. The editor once lived with Smithy and he’s not notably vain – Ed.)
The fact that something might just come up has to be of some relevance to both the gallery and the business media. Frank argues that as it’s only about legislation and taxpayers money, it is totally illegitimate for the public to want to know anything at all. But Wendy is not sure if only because it may not be good politics to ignore it.
What is going to be interesting, however, is how the media deals with it and how two such attention-getting hounds manage to decide whether they keep it private or go for the front cover of New Idea.