It’s fair to say the relationship with my former employer of six years, the Herald Sun,
isn’t quite what it used to be. In fact, it seems the paper’s senior
columnist Andrew Bolt is not minded to rekindle the friendship that saw
us spend five days under the same Rupert-funded roof together in Hong
Kong for the 1997 handover. In 1999 and 2000 respectively, I had a nice
time with Senator Stephen Conroy at Bolt’s 40th birthday and Bolt came
along to our wedding cocktails.

However, we’ve now fallen out and Bolt apparently can’t think of anyone in the world more objectionable than yours truly.

Bolt
is more than happy to front his critics and was at the Melbourne
Press Club earlier this month debating Phillip Knightley. He even
bullied management and stormed into the ABC studio last year to rebut
some alleged slight when I was filling in for Jon Faine. However,
Bolt’s approach now seems to have gone full circle, if what an audience
at the St Kilda Writers’ Festival last night was told can be believed.

I’ve emailed my old mate this morning as follows:

Hi Andrew, the woman introducing me at the St Kilda Writers Festival
last night said that you told her I was the only person in the world
that you would not appear with. I just wanted to check you said that.
Is there really no-one else?

Regards, Stephen

Surely someone like David Irving would be more objectionable. And what
about Martin Bryant? We await the great man’s reply who, with all the
dramas about Jake Kovco, the Tasmanian miners, AWB and the like, today
delivered one of the most off-the-pace columns of his career – a
predictable spray against some left wing artist who had been plugged in
TheAge. Talk about a repetitive broken record!

Then there was Terry McCrann’s 6,000-word spray against Crikey in 2004 which began: “Stephen, you are what is known in polite circles as a complete f*ck.”

Of course, Crikey has been banned by thin-skinned Herald Sun
editor Peter Blunden ever since I criticised him in September 1999 for
being too soft on Jeff Kennett. If you do a search of the News Ltd and
Fairfax archives for “Stephen Mayne and Crikey” since September 9,
1999, you get the following tallies:

The Australian: 121
The Age: 68
The SMH: 34
The Daily Telegraph: 12
Herald Sun: 1

Therefore, you can imagine the shock this morning when only the Herald Suncovered some of the lively exchanges at yesterday’s Alumina AGM and the following appeared in the paper:

Corporate agitator Stephen Mayne said it was “completely unacceptable”
that the pay packets of Alumina executives were compared to other
top-ranking miners given that the company’s operations were managed by
Alcoa. He also criticised the high number of board meetings the company
held in 2005.

“It sounds to me like it’s a fortnightly lunch club for a bunch of old mates in the resources game,” he said to applause.

I’m gravely concerned about the future of young Herald Sun
business reporter Mandi Zonneveldt and business editor Mal Schmidtke
this morning. Peter Blunden runs more iron-fisted bans than any other
Australian editor and doesn’t like it when they are breached by a
subordinate. Our prayers are with them at this difficult time.