Melbourne’s
Right came out in force last night to hear neo-con court jester Mark
Steyn provide plenty of entertainment, but not a huge amount of
insight, at the IPA’s CJ Kemp lecture at the Park Hyatt. All the Kemps
were there, including CJ’s three children Rod, David and Rosemary and
four of his grandchildren. I sat next to David’s son, a student who
works part-time at the IPA, which CJ established in 1943.

Whilst
Steyn cracked gags about Halliburton’s push to corner the Persian rug
market, mad Muslims and diving European birth rates during his “end of
the world” tour Down Under, the more interesting aspect of the night
was the table arrangements and networking.

News Ltd’s Terry McCrann hosted ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel and his partner, Jill Davies, who was listed as being from the Herald Sun.
On the very next table was Tabcorp chairman Michael Robinson, a former
IPA chairman, who has just seen the regulator block his takeover bid
for Unitab. We had a brief chat about tactics to be deployed at the big
Unitab-Tattersall’s merger vote in Brisbane on Monday.

Michael
Kroger was seated next to Steyn and gave a glowing vote of thanks.
Others on the head table included IPA chairman Alan Stockdale, Sam
Lipski and Dame Margaret Guildfoyle. Kroger even came over to say hello
while I was studiously taking notes of the table arrangements and in
our brief conversation we talked about what he could do to lift Peter
Costello’s ban on Crikey from attending the Budget lock-up.

The Herald Sun
table wouldn’t have enjoyed hearing Steyn describe the tabloid as
“Melbourne’s least worst paper” and it was odd to see Transurban CEO
Kim Edwards and his wife as the only outsiders amongst the Murdoch
heavies, who included Andrew Bolt, just back from the management
love-in with Tony Blair and friends in California.

Don Morley,
chairman of the $7 billion post-box company Alumina, came over for a
polite chat and we did a secret grubby deal – he’ll vote for me in the
Victorian election and I won’t hassle him at next year’s AGM. Could
this be the first step towards an Alan Jones-style protection racket –
forget cash for comment, this is “political votes for shareholder
silence”.

Other big names attending included Federal Liberal
Party director Brian Loughnane, who was also up for a friendly chat,
Woodside and ANZ chairman Charles Goode, and Rupert’s brother-in-law
and retiring Liberal Party treasurer, John Calvert-Jones.

Some
of the Steyn commentary bordered on racism but the audience lapped it
up. Only three questions were asked. Former Federal Liberal MP Louise
Staley wanted to know about Australia’s ability to cope with south-east
Asian immigration, right wing Svengali Ray Evans unloaded on Greens for
not having kids and wanted commentary on the extraordinary correlation
between Republican states and birth rates in the US, and a third
questioner wanted Steyn’s three minutes of advice to George Bush on
Iran.

On the green question, Steyn decried the approach of “we
are so polluting that we owe it to ourselves not to be born” and with
Iran he wanted “major destabilisation” such as creating a Sunni
triangle so the mad mullahs would have “less time to monkey around with
other businesses”.

All up, it was an entertaining and
wide-ranging spray – but Steyn offered nothing on the major issues of
the day, such as peace in the Middle East, the emergence of China and
America’s troubled foreign policy. At its core, Steyn’s message was to
be upbeat about Western liberal democracies and to keep procreating to
avoid being swamped by Muslims.

The Singapore Government-owned
Park Hyatt certainly wasn’t swamped by Muslims last night, but then the
audience wasn’t dominated by old white males either.

Peter Fray

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