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Australian Financial Review readers must be wondering how long they have to endure Aaron Patrick’s months-long vendetta against Emma Alberici after yet another attempt at a hatchet job today on the ABC journalist. Patrick has doubled down on previous attacks on Alberici in which he has variously criticised her university degree, noted typos in her articles (a dangerous game for any media outlet these days, as typos in Patrick’s articles attest) and called for her to be censored.

Today’s rant goes on, and on … and on for 1900 words, in which sins such as having a public speaking career are forensically dissected. Why is Patrick so obsessed with Alberici? There is a clue in a recurring theme in the thousands of words he has typed about her. Alberici is “a woman of considerable self-belief”, Patrick opined back in February. He’s repeatedly noted her “defiance” of criticism. Today’s rant starts off about “the determination that propelled her through the fiercely competitive world of commercial and public television” and suggests the ABC’s Ian Verrender “surrendered to the force of the younger woman’s personality”. 

When Patrick’s colleague Joe Aston does this sort of thing, it’s succinct and hilarious, even if you disagree entirely with what he’s saying. With Patrick, it’s long-winded and painful. Maybe he should sit down with Aston for a Hatchet Job 101?

But this isn’t just about Patrick’s obsession with an articulate, confident female journalist (and, by the way, AFR readers don’t like it). In a bizarre piece in February, Patrick argued that the tax debate showed how “a small think tank, aided by a group of politicised commentators, can undermine government policy and disrupt long-term economic planning”. The think tank was The Australia Institute.

… which has emerged as probably the most effective opponent of business-friendly economic policies… repeated and amplified by union leader Sally McManus and sympathetic commentators in The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. What is remarkable is how potent this loose coalition has been in the face of institutional power.

In March, he went further and declared modern politics was a disaster:

Against the might of the cabinet, the business lobby, the Treasury, mainstream economics and Australia’s deteriorating international position, a modest adjustment in corporate income tax was defeated by the tiny Australian Institute, a few anti-free market media commentators (a couple with eager, angry followers) and the relentless opportunism of Labor…

Patrick seriously believes that the government, the nation’s powerful business lobbies — one of which has literally been given their own show on News Corp’s pay TV network to flog its ideology, but that’s not “politicised” at all, eh, Aaron? — and the entire economics profession is the victim of a “tiny” think tank, some bolshie hacks and a few angry tweeters.

Rarely has the privilege of powerful elites been so entirely flipped into a narrative of victimhood. It’s one of the more remarkable conspiracy theories ventured in the mainstream media in recent years.

Perhaps Patrick doesn’t want to accept that neither he, nor the Business Council, nor the government, have faced up to the challenge of tax cut critics, wherever they are: justify the loss of tens of billions of dollars with hard evidence (and sorry, but just because the tax cuts are “in the budget” doesn’t mean that, magically, they have no fiscal impact).

For all of Patrick’s forensic analysis of Alberici’s speaking career and Lateline interviews, not once — not once — in his thousands of words has he attempted to counter her central argument, that the evidence from countries that have cut company taxes is that the promised wages and investment growth never eventuated.

Indeed, it’s funny how the AFR has stopped reporting what’s happened in the US in the aftermath of the Trump tax cuts, with investors “showered with a record amount of share buybacks” (the phrase of the raving socialists at the Financial Times) and workers seeing little wage growth. Much easier to slag off ABC journalists and engage in conspiracy theories, apparently.

Peter Fray

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