Who is Tim Mathieson and why does he matter?

This is a part of a long piece published prominently in two of Australia’s “quality” newspapers, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, on Saturday:

“… who is the man behind the mask?

One answer is that he is a target for rumours that first surfaced before the 2007 election. Some might call it a smear campaign.

The rumours are mostly libellous and unsubstantiated: try to track down the most salacious and ”sources” evaporate.

The article then proceeds to rehash every “libellous”, “unsubstantiated”, “salacious” unsourced tale.

As the new Prime Minister’s partner, and our first First Man, Tim Mathieson deserves media coverage. He shouldn’t be off-limits, either as a subject of human interest or conflict-of-interest.

But when newspapers become receptacles for what they themselves describe as “mostly libellous and unsubstantiated” rumours, including references to our favourite term — “gay handbag” — you begin to wonder whether they can still lay claim to their self-proclaimed, and much treasured, tag of responsible and respectable.

Peter Fray

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