Diary

Gadfly
Murdoch in a blather

Maureen Dowd’s New York Times interview in her garden with James Murdoch didn’t exactly set the world on fire with searing insights into the greenie billionaire who is now on the loose from his father and brother’s “hate-for-profit racket”.

There was plenty of hedging from the younger Murdoch heir amid the ducking and weaving, yet also moments that revealed James drowning in search for words. For instance, on the TV series Succession, which is inspired by the dynastic jockeying of the offspring of a brutish and controlling media mogul, he tried to explain why he didn’t watch it:

“I think the reality, my reality anyways, is that I’ve never felt that comfortable drawing any parallels, because I don’t feel as if I live solely in a needy orbit of approval or whatever from the charismatic mega-fauna.”

Right on.

When it came to Trump and Fox, James was uncertain which one is the dog and which one the tail: “It looks to me, anyway, like it’s going to be a hard thing to understand because it probably goes back and forth. I don’t think you’re going to get one pristine, consistent analysis of that phenomenon.”

On global warming, he was much more direct – “Climate is also a public health crisis” – and he laughed when asked whether he did his best thinking about climate change on his father’s yacht.

Rupert, for the record, is called “Pops” by his sons.

The hacking scandal in Britain got short shrift, even though James was running the show when hush money was being doled out to victims: “Going through something so intense like that, you definitely learn a lot of different lessons. It was very much about some stuff that had gone on at the newspapers before I was there, by the way.”

Other need-to-know revelations: he has an honorary doctorate from the American University of Rome and continues to ask his children to call him “Dottore”; plus, he has a light bulb tattooed somewhere on his body.

Dowd put to him that Wendi Deng dated Vladimir Putin, but James insisted: “You can’t ask me those questions.”

Making cents of climate change

We got a refresher on Pops’ views on global warming in the recent BBC series about the Murdochs. There was a grab from the 2014 interview where Father Paul Kelly spoonfed pureed questions to the ancient Titan to mark the 50th birthday of The Catholic Boys Daily.

Asked about the tension between the environment and the need to keep costs down for a “competitive economy”, Pops said we should be sceptical about warming. Maybe the temperature will go up “three cents” in a hundred years, and the sea will rise six inches.

We can’t mitigate it, he said, we just have to stop building large houses by the sea. Problem solved.

Climate has been changing for thousands and thousands of years, and it’s very expensive to do anything about it, Pops added.

Next question.

No News is good news

In Queensland, there’s a special state election offer for the Murdoch rags.

If you buy a copy of The Australian for $3.50, you are also offered The Courier-Mail free. At the weekend, the joint cost of the two papers is $5 at participating outlets.

One of Gadfly’s banana-bending field agents reports that the local newsagent explained the arrangement to a shopper, who quickly said “no thanks” to the generous discount.

Increasingly frustrated by the lack of customer enthusiasm, the wretched paper vendor blurted out: “Jeez. I can’t even give these things away.”

Craven honours

Happy news for Chuckles Henderson and his lady wife, Anne. Both have been made honorary dottores by the Australian Catholic University.

ACU vice-chancellor Greg Craven, AO, GCSG, announced the baubles in recognition of the Hendos’ “intellectual leadership” and the couple’s contribution to “Australian history, public affairs and civil discourse”.

Craven said the Hendersons’ Sydney Institute is a “remarkable institution and a remarkable achievement”. It is remarkable it has survived for so long without revealing whose barrow it is pushing in exchange for the moolah.

As chance would have it, Chuckles already has a doctor of philosophy from La Trobe University. Now he’s Doctor Doctor Henderson.

A loose Bannon

Gadfly was chuffed that Steve Bannon reached out to him with a special message about Covid-19.

There in the letterbox was a message from the Bannon WarRoom and something called Himalaya Australia, on behalf of the New Federal State of China.

The message is that Covid-19 was specially crafted in a Chinese Communist Party laboratory. It is a “weaponisation program for attacking humans”, deliberately spread by the CCP.

The whole thing could have been written by Sharri Markson in the Sky News laboratory.

Steve, who is busy fighting federal fraud charges, recommends hydroxychloroquine, with zinc and vitamin C for prevention and treatment.

In a fake-news world, the WarRoom says it is delivering the “truth about Covid-19”.

Himalaya Australia is also a feisty organisation. According to its Facebook presence, the CCP is a “gangster organization that needs to be removed from the planet”.

Good luck with that.

NQXT cab off the rank

China has ordered its state-owned energy companies and steel mills to stop importing coal from Australia. In other words, the Chinese are giving us added encouragement to defossilise.

The Adani coalmining and export people are also attempting to defossilise their image – from now on its Abbot Point coal terminal has been rebranded as North Queensland Export Terminal, or NQXT.

It follows the Queensland Supreme Court decision by Justice Jean Dalton, who awarded damages of $106.8 million against Adani Abbot Point Terminal Pty Ltd in favour of four other port users that had been diddled in the berthing and mooring fees charged for using the facility.

The judge described the conduct of Adani’s coal terminal operators as “dishonest ... [and] unconscionable”.

The company had “pleaded matters which were false”, the judge said, and engaged in “disguising and camouflaging behaviour ... The behaviour in this litigation ... was a dishonest attempt to defeat the respondents’ exercise of their legal rights.”

Nowhere on the NQXT website is the word “coal” mentioned – instead it refers only to the “product”. So much cleaner.

Driven to despair

Hats off to Anne Ruston, the hitherto unheralded minister for Families and Social Services. She rushed to the defence of Schmo Morrison as he tried to defend the government’s splendid budget, even though people were scratching around trying to work out what it did for retirees and women.

Schmo brushed off the “voices of division that will undermine the future economic prosperity of all Australians”.

On hand was La Ruston, who clinched the case: “Every single measure in the budget is available for women ... Women can take advantage of, you know, driving on the new infrastructure and roads.” 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 17, 2020 as "Gadfly: Murdoch in a blather".

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Richard Ackland is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.