Herald Sun
columnist Andrew Bolt is a man of many words. On Friday, after sending
him a brief email asking about the cash he makes from giving speeches,
we received a feisty 1,001-word spray in response, which you can read
in full on the site here.
On the specific question about how he handles the cash for comment, he wrote:

I do indeed have a policy regarding speakers’ fees, as I’ve
written to many who’ve written to me to enquire over the years. I
accept no money from political parties or charities I support, or from
people I will conceivably write about.

I don’t do political
fundraisers, and in the event that I do end up writing about someone
I’ve taken money from, I shall, if appropriate, declare it. And when I
speak for cash, I shall say what I want the audience to hear, not what
they want me to echo. But I don’t do any of this because my opinion can
be bought. Anyone who has followed my writings with an open mind should
be in no doubt that I write exactly what I think.

As a result, I
have criticised ATSIC, even though they flew me to Canberra for a talk.
I have criticised Derryn Hinch, despite being paid by 3AW. I have with
sorrow criticised Tony Abbott in several recent pieces, despite have
been flown to Sydney to give a (gratis) address for a man I like very
much.

Bolt’s charge-out rate with his newly appointed speaker agency ICM is
said to be $3,000 a pop and the question remains: will he disclose who
is paying him? For instance, is it correct that the Pharmacy Guild has
handed over the $3,000 for a recent speech, as a man with a penchant
for wearing white coats has told Crikey? We look forward to Bolter
clearing this one up because, given the current public debate about
pharmacists, the Guild is looking around for every friend it can find
at the moment.

Bolt laid down the challenge for Crikey to disclose all previous third party fees. No problem, your honour, it’s on the website here
and we look forward to him doing likewise. Now it’s over to all
journalists, particularly those who express strong opinions and wield
considerable influence, to come clean. We’re encouraging
self-disclosure and for third parties to disclose what they know so we
can put together a comprehensive list, because this is an area that
needs to be cleaned up and it’s not fair that only the radio shock
jocks have to reveal this information. All contributions, mea culpas
and whistle-blowing to [email protected]

Help needed for speech tomorrow

All
the fees I have received have been suggested by the other party, as I
usually agree to speak for free or for the standard fee that others are
being paid. One reason for not charging is the seat-of-the-pants
approach that comes from not having time to prepare properly. Sure,
after you’ve given hundreds of speeches you get used to winging it, but
some audiences are more sophisticated than others and you need to do
some research.

Tomorrow, I’m giving a 30-minute luncheon address to the Finance and Treasurers Association at its public sector conference
in Melbourne. The topic is nice and broad – “What taxpayers really want
from Government” – but it will need to be more than just sledging
Costello over unfunded super, so if you’ve got any thoughts on PPPs,
polling, and punter priorities or how to entertain the bean counters,
drop me a line on [email protected]

Peter Fray

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