I well remember a farcical Neil Simon play called Rumors. Wasn’t his best, but it stuck in my memory, probably more than in most people’s, because the Australian production, at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre, starred my then-wife Jacki Weaver and former fiancee Lynda Stoner.
I imagine they could have started some rumours of their own.
Somebody should write a political version and base it in Canberra. The place thrives on rumours, survives on rumours.
I harvested a few this week, even though neither the Senate nor “the other place” were sitting. (We’re back on Monday for estimates committee public hearings. Can’t wait.)
The most serious rumour actually came from inside Crikey! The email said:
“I have heard from a very reliable source that ‘Senator Hinch has a doc naming a former [party leader], a former premier and several actors in a child trafficking ring.
“As a journo, I thought I should at least ask the rude question: Do you? And if you do what do you plan to do with it?
“Of course, I understand if you don’t want to tell me, but I figured it could not hurt to ask.”
My response: “Wish I did. There has been an unverified letter floating around for several years naming everybody from [deleted] to [deleted]. I guess that’s the one they’re referring to. DH”
I think it can be traced back to the John Marsden days in Sydney and unsubstantiated (if credible) allegations about rent boys around the El Alamein Fountain in the Cross.
The problem, then and now, is that whenever I have got close to publication no source would agree to be identified and step into the witness box in my defence when the inevitable defamation writs hit me. No proof. No story.
One rumour I hope is true: With the government’s new-found love for “clean” coal, and ScoMo taking a chunk of it into “the other place” as an accessory, there is scuttlebutt that Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg is looking for some way to keep Hazelwood open. Would save 800 jobs.
Problem is the pollution-belching plant was built (in environmentally ignorant days) with a life expectancy of 50 years. And that deadline ran out in the late 1990s.
Late last year, in the final days of sittings, the House Speaker and the Senate President pushed through measures to build an expensive new security fence across the majestic Parliament House lawns.
The House passed it unanimously. Only the Greens and moi spoke against it in the Senate. I said it was like “putting barbed wire on the Opera House”. I have since learned from Senate President Stephen Parry that the contract has gone out. So sad.
At the time an Age journalist called me to follow up on a rumour that there was a plan to build a moat around the joint. I laughed. I have since found out it was true. Prime minister Tony Abbott had to be talked out of it.
Bit like President Nixon when he wanted new uniforms to make White House guards look like they were from Ruritania.
Another rumour, closer to home, which one journo passed back, was sort of my own doing: had Hinch been seen “falling down drunk”?
I actually predicted the rumour. One night, my staff waited back while I gave an adjournment speech on Victoria needing a new number plate. Not “Victoria: The Garden State” or “Victoria: The Place To Be” but “Victoria: The Crime State”.
(We put the video up on the Justice Party Facebook page and it reached more than 500,000 people. It was viewed by more than 200,000. Are you listening, Premier Dan Andrews?)
Afterwards we repaired, as they say, to the Ostani Restaurant at the Realm Hotel, for a late pizza. They have the best, freshest-tasting pizza dough in Canberra.
The place has one drawback: lots of low, deceptive, badly lit steps. Ten minutes after warning a newcomer of the hazard, I stepped out to take a phone call and made a spectacular pratfall.
My immediate reaction was not that I’d hurt my knee-braced leg — as mentioned last week. It was: “Great, now somebody will say ‘Hinch is back on the sauce’.”
Ah, Canberra. Ah, rumours. It’s the capital’s currency.