Latham’s Bachelor love letter. Mark Latham refuses to be pigeon-holed. Just when you’ve got the former Labor leader pegged as one of the most fearless and insightful political commentators in the country he dishes up one of the more bizarre comment pieces published this year: a love letter to The Bachelor Australia. Latham’s ode, published in The Sun-Herald yesterday, is brief, but it is full of treasures. First, he explains he has been driven to trashy television by the “annoying superficiality” of 7.30 host Leigh Sales. He then writes: “To young men reading this, if any of the show’s chickie-babes come your way in nightclubs or darkened bars, be careful to avoid future issues with the RSPCA. Lock up your bunnies.” Latham may well be the only person to use the phrase “chickie-babes” unironically this century.

But wait, there’s more. He then accuses the two remaining contestants in this year’s season of “emotional retardation”. Latham finishes by giving the women of Australia a reason for cheer: “Even if you’re a two-bagger, or worse, the host of the Ernie Awards, you’re not without hope in the meat market of life.” According to slang bible Urban Dictionary, a “two-bagger” is “a chick so ugly that you put a bag over your head just in case hers falls off”. We’ll give the final word to Sydney Morning Herald education editor Josephine Tovey:

— Matthew Knott

Hedley on his grassy knoll. Excellent rewriting of history attempt from News Corporation attack hack Hedley Thomas in the Weekend Oz‘s famed Inquirer section. On the lift-out’s front page, Thomas hatched a sordid conspiracy theory, bizarrely accusing ex-PM Julia Gillard of proposing new media regulations to shut down his reporting of the then 16-year-old Bruce Wilson AWU affair. The trigger? Walkley’s brawler Glenn Milne’s error-filled Oz op-ed from August 29, 2011, which claimed “Gillard had shared a home in Fitzroy bought by Wilson using the embezzled funds”. As we noted on the day in question, that line is completely erroneous and after a call from Gillard the piece was ripped offline, with The Oz forced to issue a grovelling apology. Andrew Bolt wrote a blog post on the subject, admitting that “I am not sure that Gillard did share a home with Wilson. My own understanding is that she maintained her own house.” In his Inquirer piece, Thomas failed to mention Milne’s errors, preferring to argue he was the victim of government bullying. More seriously, planning for the Finkelstein Inquiry, announced two weeks later on September 14, 2011, was in train well before Milne’s op-ed. He also accuses unnamed “naive and partisan” media commentators of “pusillanimous conduct” for mocking Milne and ex-2UE commentator Michael Smith, who both lost their jobs over the non-scandal. — Andrew Crook

Sloan and squeeze lash industry super. There’s “growing condemnation”, according to a report in this morning’s Australian, about the role of industry super funds in Bruce Guthrie and Eric Beecher’s (publisher of Crikey) new online news venture, The New Daily. Now it’s true that The Oz‘s dry-as-dust economics editor, Judith Sloan, was peeved about her fund AustralianSuper’s decision to back the site, devoting an incediary 2000-word column in The Weekend Oz to the subject, complete with a cut-and-paste form letter to AustralianSuper chair Heather Ridout. So where had the “growing” condemnation come from? Sloan’s partner, Tony Hinton, of course, “a former Treasury secretary, productivity commissioner [like Sloan] and Australian ambassador to the OECD”, who’d also written to Ridout. Writes Sloan: “Do the trustees consider they are meeting the sole-purpose test by investing in such a marginal investment in an industry that is generating such poor returns?”. Writes Hinton: “”There are reports The New Daily is not expected to make any profits for quite some years, but may make a profit after that. How does that mesh in with the requirement for AustralianSuper to promote the best financial outcomes for members (the so-called ‘sole purpose’ test)?”  Oh, and “respected finance journalist Michael Laurence” also weighed in.  Never accuse The Oz of failing to jag open fresh angles when they’ve ripped the lid off a red-hot, ball-tearing yarn  — Andrew Crook

Murdoch offloads Fox shares. James Murdoch is up for re-election to the BSkyB board at the company’s AGM in Scotland this week. But don’t worry, he won’t have any problems. Dad’s company, 21st Century Fox, is sure to vote its 39.1% of BSkyB to make sure he gets re-elected. The BSkyB meeting, usually held in London, has been moved to Edinburgh this Friday. That, of course, is also well away from the first major phone-hacking trial in London, whose defendants include Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of News International when James was chairman.

Meanwhile, James Murdoch has sold his second tranche of shares in the family company this year, taking the amount raised to more than $US40 million. A filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Saturday morning, our time, revealed that he sold 455,000 A-class shares of 21st Century Fox last week at an average price of $US32.97. The sale was for financial planning purposes, according to a company spokesman, and raised around $US15 million.

In May James Murdoch got rid of around $25 million worth of News Corp A-class shares (the sale was before the split in the empire in late June). He still has nearly 2 million A-class shares in 21st Century Fox, worth around $US68 million. The company’s shares closed at $US34.19 in New York on Saturday morning, our time.

The recent proxy statement for 21st Century Fox revealed that James Murdoch was paid more than $US17 million in cash and share awards for the year June 30. All up, James Murdoch will have received or made more than $US57 million in cash and shares and receipts from News Corp/21st Century Fox share sales this year. — Glenn Dyer

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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