The Danby debate
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.
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 Canberra?
Suggestions to our man on the Hill of Bile, [email protected]
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 constituents."
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 ago.
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.