Labor MP Michael Danby may be facing a real challenge in his seat of
Melbourne Ports at the upcoming election and now he’s come out against
anti-Howard journalist Alan Ramsey. What’s going on? See
how the story unfolded in Crikey’s sealed section:

Alan Ramsey – “journalism theft raised to a lifestyle?”

Sealed section – 26 May

Is Alan Ramsey “the greatest journalism fraud in Australian media
history?” Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, thinks so, and
he told the world in parliament yesterday.

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While Crikey was drawing attention to Ramsey’s habit of filling his
columns with other peoples’ thoughts, Danby was turning his own searing
blowtorch on the Lounge Bar Bore’s recycling habits.

He devoted his grievance debate speech to a seismic attempt to crush
Ramsey’s unblemished reputation for first class reportage. Danby was so
fired up, we dare only quote directly for fear of stepping over the
defamation line. Here are some choice cuts:

“No other journalist – if indeed he can still be called that – has been a greater thief of other people’s work than Mr Ramsey.

“For at least the past three years Mr Ramsey’s weekly column in the
Sydney Morning Herald has seen him indulge in the theft, not just of an
occasional phrase, sentence or paragraph, but of huge chunks of other
writers’ words.

“This is not an occasional lapse on a slow week. Rather it has been journalistic theft raised to a lifestyle.

“What we see in Mr Ramsey’s columns is not strictly speaking plagiarism – it is grand larceny.

“How does Mr Ramsey get away with this? Why do his employers at the
Fairfax press tolerate such lazy journalism, such padding of what is
supposed to be a serious contribution to national debate, in a quality
newspaper? Why do they put up with such blatant theft of other people’s
work? Why is Mr Ramsey paid a six-figure to do what amounts to a
cut-and-paste job every week?”

CRIKEY: To which we add our own questions: is this the most vicious
tirade by a pollie against a journo ever? After all, it is not as if
Ramsey doesn’t disclose whose long extracts he is running or where he
gets them from. And where did all this Danby anger come from all of a
sudden? Our sources say it wasn’t a specific issue the Melbourne MP had
with the Press Gallery pundit – more a gradual accumulation of bile. Is
it because Ramsey is no friend of the Israel lobby which Danby leads in

Suggestions to our man on the Hill of Bile,

Check out Danby’s demolition of the man he calls “Alan Scissorhands” here.

How stupid is Michael Danby?

Sealed section – 27 May

Subscribers have been unanimous in the view that Michael Danby is a
complete fool for defaming Alan Ramsey in one of the worst abuses we’ve
ever seen of Parliamentary privilege. This is what some of them think:

“I might be naive and I don’t read Alan Ramsey much but I get the
impression from you that he’s pretty anti-Howard in his commentary. Why
is a Labor backbencher attacking one of the Labor friends in the
gallery? I reckon if he’s got an issue he’d do a favour for his Party
by holding off on this until after an election. Why go public with a
vicious attack on friendly media?

We won’t see a Howard Backbencher, or a Costello one for that matter,
attacking Piers Akerman or Andrew Bolt before the election will we.
Part of being a professional. I reckon Danby’s a fool.”

Another journalist writes:

“Geez Michael Danby is an idiot. Really, who does he represent? Here we
have Ramsey, week by week pulling the wings off Howard’s Government and
Danby wants to attack him. He’s far more interested in his increasingly
radical lobbying on the Middle East than he is in the ALP or his

CRIKEY: The other hypocrisy is that Danby is someone who has used
Australia’s notoriously anti-free speech defamation laws to sue Channel
Seven and others, but then he turns around and hides behind
parliamentary privilege in Coward’s Castle. One rule for the pollies
and another for the rest of us, it seems. If you’ve missed it so far,
check out the Danby rave here. And check out his spot on the national
defamation list here. The entry reads as follows:

“Michael Danby: the Federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports
successfully sued Channel 7, Sky News and Glenn Milne in 1998 for
alleging he engaged in domestic violence. Will Houghton QC acted for
Seven but never thought the matter would actually get to court.”

Ramsey vs Danby – the origins of the feud

Sealed section – 27 May

A journalist writes:

Michael Danby, the former editor of the Australia Israel Review, did
not mention this in his defamatory Alan Ramsey spray but I suspect it
was probably motivated by a column the Lounge Bar Bore penned two years

In this particular Saturday spray, Danby was described as “unarguably
the Australian Parliament’s most unambiguous and insidious defender of
the Israeli Government”.

Ramsey also regaled all and sundry with Danby’s shenanigans as he went
into overdrive to stop Julia Irwin’s parliamentary motion calling on
the UN to intervene in the West Bank and supporting recognition of the
state of Palestine.

Danby wanted it withdrawn and harangued all and sundry to stop it
(funnily enough, Ramsey recounted how Danby was supposed to be on the
committee deciding what motions got up for debate, but missed the
meeting because he was having lunch with Richard Butler!). When that
failed, he even tried cosying up to the very pro-Israel Christopher
Pyne asking for one of the Liberal slots in the debate!

Toss in some pro-Hanan Ashrawi columns and Ramsey is naturally a target
for the Israel lobby which regards him as an anti-Semite.

CRIKEY: It will be interesting to see what sort of defence Fairfax CEO
Fred Hilmer and his notorious spindoctor Bruce C Wolpe make of Ramsey
in the face of this attack given that both are Jewish. Wolpe even
writes occasional columns for the very anti-Ramsey and pro-Danby
Australian Jewish News.

Meanwhile, the feedback has been running hot and you can read it at the bottom of the original Danby spray here and in Yoursay.