When the best part of Fairfax embarrasses itself with nonsensical claims from a union boss once talked up by tabloids but increasingly seen as a bad joke and the worst of it reminds us why patriots everywhere hate it, should anyone wonder why very many Australians will dance a VEXNEWS jig when the company is put out of its misery some time very soon. Viva Los Gina!
This week, Fairfax’s most credible newspaper, the Fin, bravely, boldly, courageously, perhaps just a little madly, ran uncorroborated allegations peddled by the notorious nefarious HSU chief-thief Kathy Jackson in an affidavit sworn by her but rejected by a Federal Court judge as irrelevant and scandalous.
The Business Spectator, which dutifully, if not somewhat corruptly rips off ever Fin Review yarn, with attribution and a link, also ran the story, for a few hours at least before thinking better of it and pulling it.
Few picked up the yarn, some mentioning it in a disparaging way or in passing. Jackson had peddled the yarn to many people but it seemed only the Fin Review were buying.
YOUNG LABOR WILL DO THAT TO YOU
The reporter, Aaron Patrick, who wrote it has a long-running enmity with the subject of the claims relating to disappointments when the reporter was involved with Young Labor (we think the only people to have enjoyed Young Labor were ex-PM Paul Keating and current office-holder Ben Maxfield, the SDA-aligned yoof who recently delighted in the irony of attending an all-expenses paid junket the Grand Intergalactic Conference of the International Union of Socialist Youth or some vile thing in a tin-pot little South American nation recently) and Aaron is writing a book about the subject of the claims that will probably test the courage of his publishers, if yesterday’s effort was any guide. It’s a shame he’d risk his credibility in this way.
It’s a shame because the reporter appeared to have recovered gamely from youthful disappointments and has been well-regarded as a good business reporter, the paper has been improving and we really wanted to find one part of Fairfax to love, in the interests of being fair and balanced. Whether it’s former One Nation MPs on the radio, its two failing left-wing journals, the Israel-hating Canberra Times or even the Fin under Stutchbury, it really is one big foul slag heap.
STUTCHBURY IS A “COWBOY” – NORMALLY HIGH PRAISE HERE BUT IS HE ALSO A GOAT?
When Stutchbury was being denounced by some in the lefty fraternity of scribes as a cowboy and right-winger, naturally we interpreted this as high praise indeed and immediately looked positively upon him. His messy desk impressed us. When we heard he was fond of using military analogies, and spoke of ripping out hearts and such among his more docile somnolent and politically correct colleagues, we thought, wow, here’s a feisty Fairfax editor we could believe in. Now, we’re left feeling like we bought one of Jeff Jackson’s dodgy, arguably stolen convertibles. Looked good from the outside, but when it starts raining, will the roof work? How will it pull up after the inevitable crash?
There is a strange comfort in one’s exotic and emphatically held prejudices being constantly re-confirmed by events. Fairfax indeed continues to be a source of evil in the modern world, to adapt a President Reagan exhortation.
Adding to the pile of venom was a despicable report on a local council in Melbourne, Darebin.
THE AGE GOING DOWN DISGRACEFULLY
Essentially The Age and its state-sponsored cousin the ABC has accused its councillors of taking bribes in return for planning approvals.
As you’ll see, it’s a nonsensical story they had essentially ripped from conspiracy theorist and serial political pest candidate local councillor Stephen Mayne’s email newsletter.
Peddling the tall tale originally has been councillor Tim Laurence, an old-school council rogue of the kind historically written up in reports of inquiry into old Labor councils. He always has a twinkle in his eye, evidencing that he’s up to something. This is high praise, in the VEXNEWS parlance. Laurence, we consider to be a friend, so, dobbing him in for getting up to dirty tricks isn’t something we like doing but he’s done the crime so he’ll get the slime.
Motivated by a disappointment of not getting elected Mayor of all Darebin in this election year, Laurence apparently threatened those not voting for him – Diana Asmar in particular – with all kinds of pain, including “getting the council sacked” as a reprisal for their failure to appreciate his mayoral potential. Asmar and Laurence had been allies for a time, before a breakdown in communications.
Laurence has form for this sort of grand-scale misinformation and disruption too. He told me years ago about his exploits on the old Darebin council in the 1990s, and while we won’t go into that, we are reminded by a copy of the David Elsum Commission of Inquiry report into Darebin Council from April 1997 (page 77) (yes, we just happened to have a copy handy) that “the actions of Councillor Laurence… contribute to the ongoing instability at Darebin” in that he repeatedly threatened to sack the CEO at the time. The council was itself sacked, as a result of the misadventures and frolics of the councillors including Laurence. So our friend Tim’s expertise in these matters is undisputed.
“Councillor Laurence seems unaware or uncaring that his words damage the Darebin City Council and its CEO and those working to improve its governance. Councillor Laurence demonstrated inexperience, irresponsibility masquerading as free speech, a naive idealism and an aggressive attitude. These characteristic adversely affect governance at Darebin.”
Perhaps some of those edgy attributes explained in the inquiry report explain our fondness for him. But they also explain that when he makes a threat to wreck a council, he means it and he has the means to deliver.
So he, and the nasty little grub “comedian” Greens councillor Trent McCarthy, whose supposed comic rants mock Sudanese people and whose hypocritical acceptance of money from mining giant Rio Tinto during the last state election was the stuff of scandal, and perhaps explains his new housing purchase, have been peddling the following tall tale, that as we noted initially appeared on Stephen Mayne’s email newsletter (Crikey refused to publish it apparently). Shamefully, as part of their attack on Labor, the Greens Leader Greg Barber, himself recently in receipt of a large financial gift from ex-Soviet linked NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, repeated elements of their claim under Parliamentary privilege this week.
With some variations, the yarn goes something like this.
A developer, Chaid Kairouz got an eight story development approved by the Darebin council in a five-storey area because he is a relative of Labor MP Marlene Kairouz and a friend of Labor MLC Nazih Elasmar and that there was some kind of bribery going on too.
Because Darebin Labor councillor Diana Asmar was on the council and Nazih is her uncle and Marlene is Lebanese too that she voted for it as part of this dodgy scheme.
■ Diana Asmar didn’t vote on the application in question in a Planning meeting, because she thought she had a conflict of interest in that one of her actual relatives lives near the site in question but had no direct financial interest in it, legal advice from the council lawyers, said there was no conflict, which meant she was required to cast a vote so she did vote against the motion to revoke the permit;
■ Far from being allies with Mr Elasmar and Ms Kairouz, they are not close with Diana Asmar at all, with sources familiar with the situation telling VEXNEWS Diana last spoke with Nazih on or around 2009 about ALP matters and with Marlene as long ago as a decade ago. Diana is a member of the Labor Unity faction of the Victorian Right while the other two are part of what has been disparagingly called “The Taliban” linked to the SDA. It’s not unreasonable to say they are competitors and rivals, despite recent efforts by some in Labor Unity to forgive Taliban excesses;
■ Not all members of the ALP of Lebanese descent are necessarily allies. While this sounds obvious to the non-bigoted, it seems to have escaped The Age (It’s this part that I find most disturbing about Laurence’s role – he’s done much to fight for Indian students and victims of racism in Melbourne and yet seems willing to rely on a racial smear to achieve his political object. Not good. Not good at all);
■ While the developer Kairouz is a friend of Nazih Elasmar, he is not related to Marlene Kairouz at all, he merely shares the same surname. A puzzled Kairouz (MP) apparently has instructed lawyers to remedy this falsehood;
■ The development itself is not especially controversial in planning terms, with VCAT approving neighbouring developments of similar height on the same street. Indeed, an objector (one of 14 – considered very small in the area full of NIMBYs) took the application to VCAT and VCAT ratified the council’s decision as within planning guidelines because it’s very well served by trams and other public transport and because of other design attributes including setbacks;
■ VEXNEWS has learned that McCarthy, Laurence and a former senior council officer who has since been promoted to run a Greens-controlled council in the inner-city were knowingly involved in peddling this tall story to the Local Government department for investigation, despite all three almost certainly knowing all elements of the above. If an email trail exists between the conspirators, it seems almost certain it will emerge in legal proceedings. The officer may have to make use of Fairfax-killer seek.com some time very soon;
■ The only person particularly well-known around the Preston area for soliciting improper payments for planning applications is a long-serving councillor (not Tim Laurence) who would probably not greatly benefit from a forensic investigation of his financial arrangements, VEXNEWS has been told (we’ve had tip-offs on this bloke for years, in fact, and haven’t yet pursued). The fact that he has also been involved in peddling this story speaks volumes about its integrity. We think it will be worthwhile reviewing all past planning matters in which he has been involved, over the years. He is – if the rumours are correct – a major public scandal time-bomb.
Which brings us back to the splendours and glories of our defamation laws.
We receive more threats of writs than most.
This makes us more sympathetic to the sued than we once were.
But in this article, we see that one national newspaper has relied on the word of a self-admitted psychiatrically-ill vengeful and almost certainly corrupt union boss in making rather staggeringly unlikely claims against a federal cabinet minister (that many witnesses can address) and that The Age newspaper, on its last legs, complete with pictures of a hand taking cash, clearly implies corruption occurred in relation to the above, when that’s pretty clearly not the case.
And we hear that while many politicians let defamatory claims go through to the keeper, they won’t be on this occasion. You can hardly blame them.