Alan Jones is no longer just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of radio, and the Crikey Bird Watching Team is keeping an ear on what Australia’s most powerful shock jock has to say and he’s not a happy Parrot at the moment.

Gloria has not been a happy parrot in the last week or two. Perhaps it’s the falling ratings. More likely it’s the fact he’s been played for a mug on more than one occasion in recent weeks.

Hillary’s bird watchers were astonished last week as he launched a spirited defence of the Carr government and its Fisheries Minister Eddie Obeid. As the state Coalition launched into the Carr government, accusing it of soliciting for bribes over the controversial Oasis development, Gloria found himself torn between defending the project he has expressed so much interest in, or joining in and putting the boot into the Carr government.

Oasis was a “wonderful project” and there could be no question of corruption involved. Not surprisingly, he did not mention that he once led an Oasis delegation to Premier Carr. Gloria admitted that there were many things he was unhappy with the Carr government about, but corruption was something he just could not believe. And then, the coup de grace, he dubbed the opposition’s accusations as “scraping the bottom of the bird cage”.

Thank goodness Hillary’s team was watching from outside the cage that day.

But then, even Gloria’s great and powerful friends in Canberra played him for a mug. As we reported a fortnight ago, one of his many campaigns on behalf of the battlers from struggle street has been to have the very expensive anti-leukaemia drug Glivec made available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Sick list

On September 10, the Prime Miniature was a guest in the aviary and announced Glivec would be made available to sufferers. As Parrot Droppings reported at the time, it was a very strange interview, as the Prime Miniature, not sure when the drug would be made available, was promptly told the date by Gloria. Obviously there had been a kiss an make up since the famous harangue over respite care funding earlier this year.

But, oh dear, it looks like the Parrot has fallen for the old mirror trick. On comes the PM armed with a mirror, and a greying parrot cannot help but stop and preen. And amidst all the cooing and stroking and fluffing of feathers, Gloria almost forgot to check the fine print.

Well, the fine print has been checked since, and boy, didn’t the government get a spray on Tuesday.

“Well I can’t believe it would be intentional. But it appears as though the Government has perpetrated a gigantic fraud on the sufferers of chronic myeloid leukaemia.

“I have been at the Government for some time about making available to these people, what to them is a wonder drug, Glivec.

“Now the long and the short of it is, following considerable representations, on September 10 the Prime Minister appeared on my programme.

“And he said ‘I’m very pleased to tell you that later this morning Kay Patterson, the Health Minister, will be putting out a statement indicating that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council has recommended the listing of Glivec for the early stage of treatment, and that recommendation has been accepted by the Government.’

“Pretty straightforward language.

“Well, the Health Minister did put out a statement.

“Its opening paragraph said, ‘Sufferers of chronic myeloid leukaemia in the chronic phase of the disease will have access to Glivec on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from October 21, the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing Senator Kay Patterson announced today.’

“There were no ifs or buts. No qualifications.

“And I now discover that there are.

“Because now the Government is saying that they accepted the recommendations of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and that that committee advised that ‘the extended listing of Glivec should be limited to those patients who are unable to respond satisfactorily to the current standard of care, a drug called Interferon Alpha.’

“The Government are now saying that the Federal Government didn’t impose any rules on the listing of Glivec, the PBAC sets the prescribing restrictions, not the Government.

“And that ‘The Therapeutic Goods Administration which grants approval to market drugs in Australia based on consideration of a drug’s efficacy, safety and quality has not approved the use of Glivec as a first line therapy for sufferers of CML in the chronic phase of the disease.’

“Well that is the exact opposite of what the Prime Minister assured me on my programme.

“And the exact opposite of the very opening paragraph of the press release by the Health Minister, which on September 10 said ‘Sufferers of chronic myeloid leukaemia in the chronic phase of the disease will have access to Glivec on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from October 21, 2002.’

“No qualifications.

“The Government has got some answering to do.”

But that wasn’t all. The Parrot’s distant past was revived with Seed for Squawks allegations turning up yet again, this time in the Australian. Tuesday morning saw Gloria stick the beak into the Australian’s Geoff Elliott for daring to suggest that Telstra’s sponsorship of his 2GB morning program was a return to the bad old days. Nothing of the sort, screeched Gloria accusing all and sundry of telling porkies on the issue.

Indeed, he was a very tetchy Parrot:

“It is no wonder that some journalists are regarded no more highly than the bottom of a bird cage. I read at the weekend that I had a deal with Telstra for a hundred thousand dollars a year, and the story in The Australian newspaper went on to talk about Jones’ deal, and it kept making reference to the Jones deal.

“Well, I rang Michael Stutchbury a good fellow. He’s the editor of The Australian newspaper, and he was very good about this and told me he would get the journalist to ring me. The journalist is a fellow called Geoff Elliott. I did make the point that it would have been more helpful, had he rung me to start with.

“So, he rang. But writing today in The Australian newspaper, he continues the lies. I mean, the bloke must be a dyed in the wool liar. He says, The Australian asked Jones to clarify his comments. Not so. I made a comment yesterday that this was rubbish. The Australian made no attempt to seek clarification. I rang them.

“So, Elliott, who lied at the weekend, lies again today. And his answer, oh well, Telstra advertise on 2GB. So, that’s the deal. Well, so do Franklins. I just read an ad for Franklins. Does that mean I get my groceries for nothing?

“I mean, this bloke presumably thinks his story is correct? I’ve nothing to do with advertising on this station, and nor should I. I’m not in receipt of a cent from any advertiser anywhere. I receive a salary for my work. And yet, quote, since Telstra’s sponsorship of Jones’ radio program is through 2GB itself, the deal is not declared on the 2GB website. I mean, this bloke can’t be serious. Telstra is but one of many advertisers on this station. What is the deal?

“I mean, a bloke can make a mistake. That’s fair enough. But when he hasn’t got the decency to admit he’s made a mistake, and persists in writing lies, you’ve just got to identify the bloke for what he is a dyed in the wool liar. And his name is Geoff Elliott, and he’s a liar. Who would want to employ such a person? I’m damned if I know.

“I don’t have a sponsorship deal with Telstra, or with anybody. End of section.”

What Gloria does have is a significant shareholder in 2GB as part of his package and, as Elliott pointed out in the Media section “a share in any sponsorship and advertising dollars 2GB wins and, as result, the profits it makes.”

Spurned by the mainstream

Well, after being spurned by the mainstream, the Parrot turned to someone more appreciative of his economic literacy. Gloria turned off his credulity meter, and invited on for a discussion of tax policy none other than John McRoberts.

John who? Readers will be forgiven for not knowing his credentials as an expert on public finance and tax policy event though his ideas have previously been adopted by a significant Australian political party.

John McRoberts was the man behind the strange two per cent ezi-tax that was somehow adopted by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation as its panacea for tax reform in 1998. And didn’t that tax go down well.

Readers will remember that Hanson had enough on her plate ranging from the two Davids to Margo Kingston staging sit-ins at her launches but that the ezi-tax proposal even failed to sell down in Whackosville. Her biggest fans were left scratching their heads in their bunkers.

Despite this record, the Parrot gave McRoberts a nice easy 5-10 minute interview on the benefits of his tax scheme, which would abolish income, goods and services, company and capital gains tax and replace them all with a simple two per cent tax on all transactions, whether they be goods, services or income.

And once was not enough for our Gloria. He came back to the topic later in the week:

“I see the Daily Telegraph editorialising today on tax reform.

“It talked about levies on sugar and milk and airline tickets.

“Wine and luxury car tax.

“And a possible levy to fund military operations.

“Now if you’re going to complete your tax reform agenda, you’ve got to tidy up the Tax Act.

“And the expenditure tax abolishes all the major taxes.

“There is an obligation upon government to investigate the kind of thing that John McRobert is talking about.

“We spoke to him yesterday and we’ll speak to him again.

“The editorial in the Telegraph is right.

“We have a messy, inefficient and costly system.

“Well it’s time to look seriously at it. “We might have to get rid of the lot of it.

“The trouble is, those presiding over the looking at it have a vested interest in keeping what we’ve got.

“They’re in cushy bureaucratic jobs.”

The Parrot should really by worried by people wasting time and (public) money by demanding our bureaucrats follow up every ratbag scheme that comes along. Still, we can’t wait to hear him interview the Treasurer on the proposal.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

The Crikey Bird Watching Team can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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