ABC jewel in the crown

OPINION

By Barry Tucker                    September 1, 2015

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is a jewel in the crown of Australia’s democracy. It’s under threat again.

On the ABC’s Radio National breakfast program this morning federal immigration Minister Peter Dutton complained that Fairfax Media was campaigning “to bring down the government” and Fairfax “was being helped by the ABC”. He didn’t complain when ALL of Australia’s news and entertainment media campaigned relentlessly against the former Labor federal government during its six years in office. The hypocrisy of Liberal MPs and government supporters is almost beyond belief.

The ABC is under threat from the present extreme Right-wing “Liberal” government of Tony Abbott, his policy advisers the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and media mogul Rupert Murdoch (News Corp).

Tony Abbott has said the ABC will not be privatised. Abbott says a lot of things and often goes back on his word. On the eve of the 2013 federal election he made several promises. One was “No cuts to the ABC”.

Abbotts lies and promisesAlso prior to the 2013 election, Abbott’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said ABC won’t be sold, but “waste will be cut”. His 2014 Budget used the former John Howard government trick of “efficiency dividends” to cut $254 million from the ABC’s budget over the next five years, resulting in program cuts and staff retrenchments. Other government departments, non-government agencies, programs and commissions also suffered funding cuts, efficiency dividends or defunding.

The IPA has recommended that the Abbott government break up and sell the ABC and its sister operation the SBS (basically an ethnic language broadcaster).

IPA ABCIn the UK, Rupert Murdoch and his son James campaigned against the taxpayer funding of the BBC. They are in reality objecting to public financing of news, comment and public affairs organisations that compete with their News Corp interests in radio, TV and the Press. The situation is exactly the same in Australia, where News Corp journalists and Liberal supporters constantly campaign against the ABC, claiming it is riddled with Left-wing commentators without ever providing a shred of evidence or naming anyone.

Criticism, even occasional criticism, from the Left or the Right, is seen by the recipients as bias.

That is the background and the reality of the situation. I like to provide these details because the MSM, in its relentless grind of deadlines and the 24-hour media cycle, largely processes the Press Release and moves on to the next item, digressing occasionally to deal with the latest scandal. It rarely takes the time to join the dots.

Today’s scandal is that Peter Dutton sees Fairfax and the ABC as running a witch hunt against the federal government. The real scandal is that Dutton should criticise the news media for doing its job. In Egypt today, such journalists would be jailed. The government Dutton represents intends to do the same to journalists, whistleblowers even medical staff who dare release
details of inhumane treatment of asylum-seeking refugees jailed in offshore detention centres. There was some indication today that the government might reconsider its detention centre policy, so the criticism Dutton complains about may ultimately have a positive effect.

The nut of the situation is two-fold. On one hand we have a federal government that cannot tolerate opposition or criticism. That immediately brings to mind a Fascist regime and the government only has itself to blame if that is the impression people have.

A meme that circulates on social media.

A meme that circulates on social media.

The aborted Operation Fortitude in Melbourne last Friday is a pertinent example of this government’s thinking (a Border Force raid on workplaces went ahead in Darwin, almost unnoticed). In fact, what Dutton is complaining about is a direct result of many of his government’s policies. And it is not only some journalists who are complaining. There’s a widely held view that the federal LNP government is failing, is chaotic, lacks cohesion, leaks and is putting out confusing messages about the economy. The evidence is in consecutive opinion polls that have the government and its leader trailing the Opposition.

On the other hand we have a media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who cannot abide opposition either. His approach is to buy up the opposition, incorporate it into his empire, strip some of the assets and improve productivity, efficiency and profitability by merging and minimizing production units. One other thing Hockey’s 2014 Budget did was to defund the Australia Network, which the ABC was operating to broadcast TV into SE-Asia. Murdoch originally won the tender for this service but it was taken off him by the Gillard government.

In this continuing war against the ABC no one is asking what the alternative would look like. With the ABC broken up and probably gobbled up by Murdoch (who can afford it) we would be left essentially with an ailing Fairfax Media, still reeling from the after-effects of young Warwick Fairfax’s catastrophic privatisation bid while trying to adjust to social media and online publishing.

How many would be happy to read the Right Wing views of Piers Akerman, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt and others of that club spread wide across the nation — to the exclusion of almost all Left Wing views, even moderate and Centrist views?

Apart from that, the ABC is more than news, RN brekkie, the 7.30 Report, Lateline and Q&A. It is a multi-faceted beast, involving city and regional radio broadcasts on various channels and covering a staggering array of programs. Likewise TV, on four channels designed to cater to various tastes, including 24 hours of news and commentary. In addition there is on-line publishing content of news and opinion, another thing that rankles the ABC’s opponents.

All of this costs the community very little, around 14 cents a day. Perhaps we get it too cheaply. One commercial alternative, Foxtel Platinum, costs subscribers $4 a day, and that’s for TV only.

The cost is not the great issue. The range of content and the freedom to express an opinion — even to criticise a government and its policies — is far more important. We must never lose this jewel from our crown.

PS: Meanwhile, a clamour continues for the loosening of cross-media ownership laws (another IPA recommendation). See the ABC’s Media Watch of August 31, 2015, for some background on what’s happening to regional TV stations.

More reporting on Australia’s news media is available on the ABC’s Media Report and mUmBRELLA on-line.

To see what a Fascist government would look like and how it would behave see this long but fascinating article in NewMatilda.com.

Commercial grab of media assets begins

By Barry Tucker                  8 November, 2014

We have what seems to be the opening shot in the commercial news and entertainment media’s campaign for consolidation of outlets.

It came in a statement to the annual general meeting by Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett on Thursday, 6 November, 2014.

The Right wing “think tank” Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), in reality the policy-forming arm of the Liberal party, supports the move. See M Media, item 27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

Further media consolidation (buying up, merging, selling off excess assets, increasing market share, eliminating costs, competition and diversity) is the newspaper industry’s solution to a failing business model.

It has been failing mainly because advertising has moved from newspapers to the interwebs, to manufacturer’s and retailer’s websites and other forms of web advertising. Newspapers were too slow to follow the shift, although some set up sectional advertising (like job vacancies, used cars or real estate), with mixed success. Online versions of newspapers still struggle to get readers to buy subscriptions or pay to read.

The answer is to get the law changed so they can buy up what they can and flog the bits they don’t want. Existing laws prevent a newspaper having more than 75 percent of readers, or any company having a newspaper, TV and radio outlet in the same city.

If they get their way (and under the present regime and “opposition” in Canberra they will) the loss will be to jobs, variety and diversity.

Federal “Liberal” government ministers (Attorney-General George Brandis and communication minister Malcolm Turnbull) say further consolidation is justified because the interwebs have provided greater diversity.

This is a shallow lie because an internet edition of a newspaper is not more diverse than its parent and it is not a second newspaper. While potentially it may be available to millions around the world, its circulation is limited to those who use the interwebs to read their daily paper.

Radio and TV stations are also on the interwebs, and the same principles apply.

Where the internet has made things more diverse is in a product like Youtube (which did not exist before and has no commercial equivalent anywhere else) and the usually privately-owned, not very profitable and limited readership newspaper magazines and blogs of the Fifth Estate.

It’s ironic then (or perhaps it is just another lie) that News Corp joint chairman Rupert Murdoch’s main argument for more consolidation is that it will allow companies to be more diversified — to the public’s benefit.

At the same time he argues that the BBC in the UK and the ABC/SBS complex in Australia should be privatised because the taxpayer should not be supporting media and entertainment outlets. The reality is they compete with his business and you don’t have to be too bright to figure that out.

It will be a tragedy if the ABC/SBS complex is ever privatised because the commercial operators would not bother to provide the type and variety of program that these outlets provide. They also provide the main alternative point of view to the very obvious, biased, materialistic and opinion-forming and moulding of private enterprise. Honesty, I would go mad if I had to watch commercial TV and listen to rowdy commercial radio day and night. They might be to blame for the madness that seems to surround us today.

Those who think you are easily fooled continue to claim that the ABC, in particular, is a rat’s nest of Left wing loonies but — in a spectacular fail — they struggle to name one or two. They just go on repeating the lie in the hope that eventually it will be accepted as the truth. Honesty, if you had a stick you could wear yourself out poking it at all the Right wingers who infest ABC radio interview and talk shows, news presenters and interviewers and panel show hosts and their guests.

I could name a bunch of apparent Right-leaning ABC radio and TV journos and presenters but — frankly — they can surprise you at times. I’ll name one: the boss Mark Scott — a died in the wool, true blue Liberal — and, frankly, he sometimes surprises me too. See: Dangers for public debate in media war — Mark Scott.

The ABC producers are a more obscure bunch and their opinions and attitudes are not so easy to determine.

The new federal “Liberal” government has lost no time implementing its traditional fear, law and order, public control program — even finding itself a real shooting war to get involved in.

Rupert Murdoch’s co-chairman and son Lachlan has spoken out against the government’s new security legislation, which raises the possibility that whistleblowers and journalists could be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing details of “special security operations”. Attorney-General Brandis says it is not likely to happen and he would have to authorise it in any case (I am not reassured because Brandis is a dissembler in the Liberal mould).

It seems odd to me that Lachlan has criticised a program of the government that his father had a big hand in installing. Anyway, Lachlan has done a better job than any media outlet or even the Labor opposition, which merely waved the legislation through, followed by a belated “Hey, hang on a bit”.

Some may remember the howls of protest that greeted the former Labor government’s clumsy bid to change some aspects of news media regulation early in 2013. The government wanted to introduce a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA). This person (independent of government) would oversee the codes of conduct the newspapers had already agree to. The PIMA would also rule on the advisability of further media consolidation.

I was fascinated, but not fooled, by the newspaper barons’ screams of Freedom of the Press [barons]. “Censorship!” Accompanied by Photoshopped pictures of Labor government ministers as dictators or Nazis. There was no censorship or further control, in effect, than already existed.

There’s plenty more in this blog under Newspapers and Inside Journalism. See: Labor too gutless to fight media laws.

The real fear, which the newspaper proprietors and their cowering journalists failed to mention, was the PIMA’s oversight and ruling on media consolidation.

Now that those same newspaper proprietors have got the proposed legislation squashed and the Labor government defeated (who are the censors, who are the Nazis?) the consolidation can begin.

Daily Telegraph slips up in sleazy stunt

By Barry Tucker                    19 September, 2014

The Daily Telegraph’s gossip columnist Annette Sharp sought unflattering pictures of TV presenter Samantha Armytage.

The pictures were published in the paper’s Sydney Confidential, accompanying an article on channel 7’s Bringing Sexy Back, which Armytage presents and which is low in the ratings. The article was critical of Armytage’s style off-screen, showing her off duty and in casual clothes.

The incident has caused outrage in newspaper articles and on social media.

Sharri Markson, Media Editor for News Corp sister publication The Australian, published this email that was circulated to picture agencies:

“Looking for sam armytage looking scruffy/too casual/not sexy/bad for asap please — OK to go back and send older pics — dates on them would be good

Thanks v much

Amanda”

The email was sent by Amanda Wynne-Williams, Nationwide News’ Network Picture Editor, on behalf of Sharp, for an article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph today.

Markson wrote a story about the incident for The Australian (see here and here) and was critical of Sharp on her Twitter account.

Sharp responded to some of the criticism with these tweets:

Sharp tweets

Later in the day Tweeters began to make comparisons with the social media bullying of TV presenter Charlotte Dawson, who took her own life last February. Dawson had been prominent in a campaign against social media bullying.

You can follow versions of the story in this Google search result.

Annette Sharp on Twitter  |  Sharri Markson on Twitter  |  Samantha Armytage on Twitter

Murdoch makes a bold move

18 July, 2014

Rupert Murdoch has made a bold move to add Time Warner to his US news and entertainment media empire.

The bid, currently worth at least $100 billion, involves massive interest payments and attendant risks.

Murdoch watcher and investor Stephen Mayne has been looking at the sums.

Terry Flew, Professor of Media and Communications at Queensland University of Technology, has a different take. He sees Murdoch’s bid as a defence against encroaching giants Google and Apple.

Update, 8 August, 2014

Early in August Murdoch announced he had withdrawn his bid. He said Time Warner had refused to engage with him.

Who’s really running Australia?

Comment and compilation

By Barry Tucker                    31 May, 2014

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) is not a secret organisation, it’s just that no one wants to talk about it.

By no one, I mean our main source of news and current affairs: the mainstream news media (MSM), commercial newspapers, radio and TV and the ABC/SBS.

Now that it’s too late, some bloggers and journalists who have migrated from the MSM to online newspapers and magazines are beginning to reveal more about the IPA.

By too late, I mean the dreaded Mad Monk (Tony Two Face, the IPA Hit Man) is now running the country and steadily implementing the IPA’s policy program.

What has happened since the 7 September, 2013 federal election makes it clear why Abbott did not reveal his policies before the election. His policies are those of the IPA and they are not the kind of thing you would want to talk about in an election campaign.

They are not the kind of thing the MSM advised the voters about prior to, during or since the election campaign. Talks of savage cuts here, there and everywhere were spoken of as necessary to deal with a “Budget Emergency!”

To a large degree, the MSM does not want to talk about the fact that the “Budget Emergency!” is totally false and created in order to justify the savage, ideological, cuts contained in the new government’s first Budget.

Such is the nature of the commercially operated MSM (ABC/SBS excepted), the IPA and the “Liberal”, neoConservative, Libertarian or Tea Party whatevers who are now in charge of our economy and our once-decent society.

The real crisis is structural — how our governments go about taxing things, the archaic structure of taxation policy and the fact that the politicians haven’t got the guts or the will to modernise the entire system. The “Liberals” are working on a taxation White Paper — I’ll make sure I have my seat belt fastened before I read that one.

The job of revealing and discussing the true budgetary position has been largely left to expert commentators in the alternative news media, the Fifth Estate, especially the academically sourced TheConversation.com.

The IPA, formed in 1943, was instrumental in helping launch the Liberal Party of Australia the following year. The IPA is funded by memberships, donations and corporate sponsorships. It is today rightly seen as the policy formation wing of the Liberal party, as stories in this blog, in The Sniper and the items listed below show.

Although the IPA has a public face via the frequent appearances of its spokespersons on ABC programs and websites, the tragedy is that the ABC has only once taken the trouble to make it clear who and what the IPA is and what it represents (in a Media Watch segment).

The latest revelations on the IPA come from former MSM journalist Mike Seccombe, in an article in today’s The Saturday Paper. Seccombe reveals some of the IPA’s other nefarious activities, such as posing as a friendly representative of the environment movement and trucking owner/operators.

On 25 August, 2013 Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age published a lengthy story claiming some of the world’s largest companies have dropped financial support and membership of the IPA. The story said the changed attitude towards the IPA was due to “concern at its vociferous campaign against action on climate change”.

On the same day The Age published a detailed article on the IPA’s development* over the decades and its present position.

At the IPA’s 70th anniversary dinner last year, Abbott told guests he would adopt 10 of the then 75 items on the IPA’s agenda to change the shape of Australian society.

These items were not put before the electorate for its consideration. Instead, voters were promised a number of items that would not be changed. Abbott has since reneged on every single thing he promised not to cut and has so far failed to deliver on some things he promised to do.

Broken promises

Work has started on some of his “roads of the 21st Century” and while the boats have slowed (due to Labor’s policy of denying settlement in Australia) or been turned back (due to the Liberal’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy) they are still coming, but not “arriving”.

On 6 September, 2013 Crikey’s Andrew Crooke surveyed the IPA’s agenda list (which had grown to 100 items) and wrote about what might happen to each item.

Earlier this week, Glen Murray produced a blog on the IPA that is similar to Andrew Crooke’s story, but shows (with links) which of the IPA’s 100 items have been endorsed or enacted by the LNP coalition government.

Murray’s blog makes it clear that the IPA is the policy forming wing of the Liberal party.

It’s way past time for the commercially operated MSM to do the job that’s expected of it and inform its readers, listeners and viewers of who and what the IPA is and who is now really running this country.

It would be helpful if the ABC would describe the IPA as a Right-wing Liberal party policy formation unit and provide a suitably descriptive caption for its other guests on current affairs programs on radio and TV.

More information on people past and present involved in the shadowy world of the IPA is contained in Tim Wilson and the Institute of Public Smokescreens, an article published by Independent Australia.

Update, 31 August, 2014

I have asked the IPA’s policy director, Chris Berg, for his notes or research on IPA item 77: Allow the appointment of Ministers from outside the parliament. I asked only once and I have had no reply.

This federal LNP government, like the LNP state government in Queensland, has adopted the practice of setting up commissions to inform the government on policy alternatives. Commission members tend to be LNP cronies who largely tell the government what it wants to hear. Their reports are described as “reports to the government, not reports of the government”. The practice allows a certain amount of hand-washing when it comes to implementing policy.

A possible source for IPA policy is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC believes in limited government, free markets and federalism. It claims almost 2,000 members and says it is the USA’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.

The USA Centre for Media and Democracy has a website devoted to exposing ALEC.

Another source of IPA policies could be the USA’s right-wing think tank the National Centre for Policy Analysis (NCPA), an organisation that is similar to the IPA.

Here are the results of two Google searches for ALEC and NCPA, if you want to conduct further research: ALEC | NCPA

ALEC and NCPA are just two of a collection of lobbyists that are influencing government policy formation in the USA. These organisations are more organised and more powerful than anything a political party or citizens group can organise. Their founders and members exhibit a “blood-lust” and determination that I have often seen in corporate executives. This may be why they are winning the game. Corporates have a win by any means mentality while ordinary citizens are just too busy coping with life to do much about it.

Two years ago an American web site, Truthout, produced a lengthy article describing several of these US lobbyists and the methods they use. We can see this is beginning to happen in Australia.

The academically based and authored TheConversation.com has produced a series of articles under the general heading Remaking Australia on the eve of the federal LNP government’s first year in office. Not part of that series, but equally relevant, is another TheConversation article: Changing the soul: are conservatives the new radicals?

* The Age article has been archived. I’m trying to get access to it (15/01/2015).

 

Ten slashes news production

By Barry Tucker                    21 May, 2014

Channel 10 today announced it was axing its Wake Up early breakfast show, its early and late news and retrenching some 150 staff. Local editions of the main evening news bulletin will continue.

As I recall, Channel Ten was making inroads on the more established 7 and 9 only a few years ago. A series of executive hirings has resulted in chaos, culminating recently in the departure of part owner Lachlan Murdoch, who joined his father Rupert as co-chairman of News Corp.

The latest changes follow the poaching last year of Peter Meakin, who was on the point of retiring. Meakin came from South Australia to head Channel Ten’s Sydney news department in the late ’60s. Meakin’s original tour of duty at Ten is not mentioned in his Wikipedia bio. Meakin has worked on all three Sydney commercial networks. He has a fondness for sacking incumbent staff and hiring his favourites. He is now back where he began, at least as far as east coast TV is concerned. See pages 6 and 12 for more.

It seems Ten just can’t hire good executive staff or get its programming right. News and advertising media on-line magazine mUmBRELLA has many stories on Ten in its archives. See Ten axes Wake Up for its coverage of the latest fiasco at Ten.

 

What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?

Comment

By Barry Tucker                    7 April, 2014

Something strange is going on in the world of Andrew Bolt. The federal government, commercial media and the tax-payer funded ABC (which he loathes) are going out of their way to promote him.

It’s strange because Bolt has been convicted under Section 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act for remarks he made about fair-skinned persons who he claimed were describing themselves as Indigenous in order to claim financial benefit and kudos. It’s strange because the word “controversial” usually accompanies any mention of him. It’s strange because while he says he’s a climate change doubter he pushes the lines of the climate change deniers, those who have framed the “doubt over reason” campaign.

It’s strange because Bolt generally pushes “Liberal” party policies, which are increasingly like those of the USA’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. And it’s strange because Bolt, with radio, TV and newspaper column spots, hardly needs any additional publicity.

Or does he? After all, his friend Attorney-General Senator George Brandis is attempting to rewrite the Sections 18C and 18D that Bolt fell foul of. In addition to saying he believes in free speech (after trying to get a book banned), Brandis told the Senate “Everyone has the right to be a bigot.” Ouch! Everyone agrees that he is right, in principle, but wouldn’t it be best for all if bigots kept their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves?

The judge who found Bolt guilty of racial discrimination really nailed him for sloppy journalism and failing to check his facts. In his TV show, The Bolt Report, Bolt tries to give the impression he is impartial and merely searching for the truth, with neither fear nor favour. You have to watch the show to see what a joke that is. Bolt’s technique is to throw his Liberal guests a cue, like “people say your education policy stinks”, and sit back while they go to town plugging the policy line. He allows his Leftie guests to have a say, then contradicts everything they have said. Fair dinkum, no favour at all.

During last year’s federal election campaign a row developed over a claimed lack of Conservative presenters on the ABC’s news and current affairs programs. I cannot recall that any names, facts or data were produced to support the claims. That affair was part of Murdoch’s campaign to tear down the ABC. Towards the end of it, Bolt suggested that he should be the next presenter of the ABC’s Media Watch. I hope he was joking.

Channel Ten, party owned by Bolt’s employer, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, through his son Lachlan, and Gina Rinehart, has this year dropped Meet the Press (a counter to the ABC’s Insiders) and extended Bolt’s report to one hour. The new format includes a media watch segment. News Corp paid for the production of both shows. Why would News Corp do that? Maybe because Ten’s going broke, maybe because Murdoch thinks Bolt is more effective, more focused on the party line.

The first guest commentator on Bolt’s media watch segment was Gerard Henderson, creator of The Sydney Institute, a current affairs forum that is overwhelmingly a platform for Conservative views. Henderson’s institute publishes a quarterly media watch review. His newspaper column (which moved from The Sydney Morning Herald to The Australian last December) includes Media Watch Dog, news media criticism written from the point of view of Lucy, a Blue Heeler canine. A Conservative, Henderson was a director of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in South Australia and NSW before he resigned and formed The Sydney Institute. He served as Chief of Staff to former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

For some reason I probably will never understand, the ABC’s One Plus One recently interviewed Bolt. Jane Hutcheon is an excellent interviewer. She manages to draw her guests out with her relaxed and gentle style. The Bolt interview was a waste of taxpayer’s money. It came at a time when Bolt was in the news again (talk of repeal of 18C), but the interview gave us little, apart from the fact that Bolt had parents and a childhood.

He was questioned on climate change. Actually, the subject was mentioned. He said he was a doubter, he believed in doubt and was worried about those who didn’t. He’s not a doubter on climate change. As I wrote above, he pushes the campaign of “doubt over reason” — a dangerously deluded campaign. It’s not actually deluded. It cherry-picks facts, focuses on errors and flogs them far and wide. It is dangerous.

I hit the roof! I asked Hutcheon why she had wasted oxygen on Bolt. “I’d hate to think our program was predictable,” she said. That’s not a serious attempt to answer what was a serious question. The interview is on the record, people can judge for themselves. The Right wing generally loves Bolt, the Left generally disregards his work.

This was going to be about something else, about Labor identity Mark Latham and what he’s up to. I’ve been itching to write something about Bolt, and got carried away.

Mark Latham recently got carried away too. He’s doing a series of articles on figures in Australian politics and he met You Know Who for lunch. It was supposed to be a profile of Bolt, but it reads more like a restaurant review. There’s practically nothing in it. It’s so bland I can’t recall what was in it. Which begs the question of why Latham bothered in the first place. Which brings me back to my first point: What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?

Why is this clown being promoted all over the place? I wouldn’t describe him as a respectable opinion maker, but it’s pretty obvious that someone is opening doors for Bolt in an effort to present a clean-cut image and attract a wider audience for his views. I’m sure it’s also part of the Murdoch/IPA/Liberal party push against the ABC, to have it cut up and sold off, or at least to have its budget slashed.

Bolt is especially critical of the ABC’s taxpayer-funded status. He also pushes the absolutely absurd line that the ABC is infested with Left-wing loonies who never say anything nice about the Liberal party. It’s all part of the campaign to denigrate the ABC in the eyes and ears of the public, preparing them for its flogging off. If the Liberal party attempts that it will get a sudden shock from a wide section of the community that loves the ABC to death.

The next item on Mark Latham’s menu was Michael Smith. And this is where my weird story gets weirder. Michael Smith is another not very nice character who insists that he is. In his latest profile Latham takes him apart. Why Latham found Bolt’s views less interesting than his sirloin steak and coffee beats me, but what he has to say about Smith is almost unrepeatable. Now that is a good read.

Latham is known as a colourful character. After the Labor party fell apart, wandering around in a confused state, it appointed Latham as its federal Opposition Leader. Those were fun times as the loose cannon rocked the House. He did punch a cabbie’s lights out once and nearly scared Prime Minister John Howard to death with an aggressive handshake, but that was nothing compared to the violence of Tony Abbott. Latham has even written about himself, in The Latham Diaries, which kicked off another fuss. When I discussed Latham’s Bolt story with a colleague he said Latham had “mellowed”. He might have mellowed, but has he found his direction yet?

Latham Howard

Latham Diaries

For more on Mark Latham

Update, 3 May, 2014

Having lunch with Bolt must be trending. Fairfax journalist Gay Alcorn had lunch with him recently. She had to dig deep to get Bolt to go along with it and she dug deeper than Latham. Bolt expounded on what he was trying to achieve with his articles on racial identity.

His claim that it is divisive of people to identify themselves as a certain race is idiotic. It is a fact that there are different races, different cultures. This diversity is natural and it is a good thing. I suspect Bolt wants to continue writing about race because he knows it is an issue that appeals to his rather red-necked audience.