Neville Wran and The Big League:

Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes writes: Re. “The shadows of ’75 are creeping across an angry political landscape” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane writes: “That’s what Neville Wran did in the face of the ABC’s confection of corruption claims, which Wran referred to a Royal Commission, in 1983.” I can’t let that pass without comment.

The ABC confected nothing. In “The Big League”, Four Corners accurately reported that, prior to the committal hearing into a fraud charge brought against the secretary of a NRL club, a serving magistrate had been told by the Chief Magistrate of NSW that “the Premier wants the case dismissed”.  The case was indeed dismissed. The subsequent Royal Commission found that all those things had happened precisely as reported.

Kevin Humphreys was recommitted for trial and found guilty. Murray Farquhar, the Chief Magistrate, went to gaol for perverting the course of justice.  Some “confection”. Of course, the Royal Commissioner, Sir Laurence Street, also found that Farquhar had “confected” his claim that the Premier had anything to do with it. Street entirely exonerated Neville Wran. But he had the benefit of a Royal Commissioner’s powers.

Four Corners could not prove that the premier was involved, or that he wasn’t. But our sources, including two senior magistrates, all believed (wrongly, as it turned out) that he probably was. I am still at a loss to know how we could have reported a matter which was tearing apart the morale of the NSW magistracy, without naming, and in the process defaming, the Premier.

I was the Executive Producer of Four Corners at the time. “The Big League” is still one of the programs I’m proudest of.

An angry political landscape:

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “The shadows of ’75 are creeping across an angry political landscape” (yesterday, item 1). I trust the Liberal Party has not forgotten the misuse of Peter Reith’s government phone card by his son and his son’s flat mate. I think that about $50,000 of tax payers ‘ money was involved. Reith was not sacked by Howard and indeed was not prosecuted for what may appear to be outright fraud. The current concerns about the Member for Dobell’s credit card  does not relate to government funds. I hope that there are no double standards involved.

Nick Place writes: Applause, Bernard Keane, for this sentence: “It was indicative of Howard’s luck at that stage that that particular missile went wide of its target and circled back, Warner Bros cartoon-style, to plunge straight into his own ranks.” Gold.

Kim Lockwood writes: Is it just me, or is anyone else heartily sick of the stomach-churning soap opera of self-interest that is Australian federal politics? Is anyone in Canberra still interested in constructive, rational discussion about good public policy? It seems not.


Glen Frost writes: Re. “Rundle: Libya endgame … why it’s important for one big win” (yesterday, item 2). When Guy Rundle says Gaddafi “was an unpredictable free agent who had swung in every direction during 40 years in power” — he’s wrong; Gaddafi was very predictable — he always acted in his own self interest. Dictators have that predictability and describing Gaddafi as a mystery wrapped up in an enigma is wasting words.

A key problem for all us non-ASIO folks is that we don’t have access to the inside info, and neither do journalists, who are, effectively, embedded in the foreign office, or their foreign office supplied source at the University of Essex (I know Rundle has a thing for Essex).

Reds, Greens and Greys:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Danby tells Rhiannon to reject Stalin ahead of her maiden speech” (yesterday, item 4).It’s unfortunate that Crikey‘s headline on the Danby-Rhiannon clash defines the issue as “Stalin”.

Yes, Lee Rhiannon was a member of the Socialist Party of Australia, which was allied with the USSR, having split from the Communist Party of Australia which took an independent “Eurocommunist” line after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. But the SPA always accepted Khrushchev’s condemnation of Stalin, and in fact Rhiannon’s father, Bill Brown, a leader of the SPA, was an enthusiastic supporter of “de-Stalinization”. If we are going to delve into the past, let’s be historically accurate.

Gay marriage:

David Byrnes writes: Re. “MPs report on gay marriage: a ‘good day for love’ if most are opposed?” (yesterday, item 9). Would it be possible for George Christensen, the Member for Dawson, to explain how exactly GetUp is attempting to skew public opinion and “subvert the democratic process” by encouraging people to send emails in to MPs. I suspect he couldn’t, largely because sending an email to your elected representative is an integral part of the democratic process.

Perhaps he means that people are only able to subvert the democratic process when they are organised lefties. Organised rightwingers trying to skew public opinion are just making their voices heard according to George. Pots and kettles, glass houses and all that.

For fun, Crikey‘s readers can play the progressive game Christensen-style. Take the sentence “Changing the definition of marriage would weaken the foundations of our society” and replace the words “changing the definition of marriage” with any other progressive social change from the past centuries. Giving women the vote would weaken the foundations of our society. Introducing child labour laws will weaken the foundations of our society. Etc, etc. Play it with your friends.


Linda Ethell writes: John Taylor’s claims (yesterday, comments) that the stridency of the objections to Julia Gillard rests on her voice, not misogyny, are incoherent.

First, that women are among the protesters does not prove there is no misogyny involved: women can be just as misogynistic as men and often are (I remember a well-known female academic objecting to the fact that “stupid women” were being employed at her university; I can’t see why it’s worse than employing stupid men). Secondly, John Howard had a similarly nasal and “whiny” voice and no-one held it against him.

Taylor seems to believe that women should speak in soft, low tones with an educated accent, a demand that does not apply to men. He is thereby showing himself to be expressing perfectly the misogyny he claims not to motivate the viciousness of the attacks on Gillard; their hysterical tone seems pretty misogynistic to me.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey