In tomorrow’s Weekend Australian magazine, Phillip Adams sheds some light on just how Kerry Packer did business, revealing a man who would yell at staff like Krakatoa erupting but only because, he said, “I don’t know how to talk to people.”

Adams recalls how Packer once told him that “governments are there to do things for you, not to you,” at one stage buying NSW’s lotteries (with Murdoch and Robert Sangster) not for the money but because he “just wanted to see if Neville [Wran, former NSW premier] could deliver.”

When Packer admitted to feeling sorry for Wran and his lack of money, Adams offered to “write a column in next week’s Bulletin accusing him of a sexual deviation. He sues you and you settle out of court.” “Great!” responded Packer, at which point Adams piped up: “Only kidding.” But this sort of thing later found a precedent – “this technique was used to transmit funds from Alan Bond to Joh Bjelke-Petersen.”

One of Adams’s most interesting anecdotes reveals a bizarre irony – the media mogul was ignorant of one of the world’s most documented events:

One night I was enraged by a piece of Nine programming. Seven was screening Holocaust, the drama series with Meryl Streep et al – with Chisholm confusing the issue and the audience by screening a doco of the same name. “This is one issue you don’t trivialise!” I said. A chastened Kerry asked me to explain about the Final Solution. He hadn’t known.

And he concludes:

My regret for Packer is that he never used his great wealth for any great purpose. He leaves behind a business empire but little else. Hence my opposition to the state memorial service. Australia did a lot for Kerry but he didn’t do much for Australia. He made billions out of two government-licensed addictions – television and gambling (one of the world’s most socially destructive businesses).

Peter Fray

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