Sifting The Sewer

Paul Watson has noted , stylishly, that a feature story in yesterday’s Oz looks, on the surface of it, to be a strange fit with the brief of the nation’s daily newspaper. That thought had also occurred to me.

The gist of the story is pretty unremarkable on the face of it, though there is that whiff of “flamboyant lifestyles” which is to New Ltd as truffles are to porcine foragers.

Gordon Stewart a wealthy, 75 year old Sydney lawyer, who is hardly a household name, cheats on his wife with another considerably younger party in an apartment that he owns in Darlinghurst The other party is a 31 year old hairdresser named Jason. Or as the Oz would breathlessly have it, “a hairdresser by trade, Mr Harvey relishes hardcore partying and has a penchant for interior decoration.” Naturally.

Jason claims that Stewart had orally promised him the apartment as part of their – uuhh – deal which Stewart describes as “naughty mucking around, once or twice a week.” Mercifully, he doesn’t elucidate further. Jason claims they were a couple and is reported as saying he was faithful to Stewart and “not a slut” – though what this highly subjective self-appraisal is supposed to convey isn’t clear. Jason’s reported idea of coupledom – passing round canapes at parties and purchasing “expensive artworks and antiques” (not, one assumes, from his hairdressing income) – evokes a rather post-modern take on the concept, but, no matter.

Stewart on the other hand insists that he spent every night with his good lady wife in Edgecliff and just let Jason move into the Darlo Muckarounder because Jason was having trouble paying his phone bill and needed to be close to a work assignment in North Sydney. At this point you’d be tempted to ask who cares – except perhaps for Mrs Stewart – and why this this story has made it into Mr Murdoch’s organ.

Enter Michael Kirby.

Stewart claims, in a burst of hollow-sounding solicitude, that he gave the rather more celebrated jurist – and former friend – a key to the apartment so that he could “relax” therein. The Australian helpfully points out that the Kirby “palatial” residence is also in the eastern suburbs and thus generously allows readers to draw their own conclusions about what “relax” might mean in this context. They’d no doubt prefer it if they were as prurient as possible.

For what it’s worth, my conclusions are that the story was run for no other purpose than to smear Kirby by highly tangential association with a set of circumstances to which he is so peripheral as to be otherwise invisible.

But you’d probably already guessed that and hey: what else is new?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
47 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Mm. I can understand the points you and Paul Watson make, and would agree that the only national interest in this story is the involvement of a High Court justice. But that makes me wonder.

Where I work, any controversy ends your career, pronto.

Kirby may be a gifted judge by some people’s estimate, but was he really suitable for this posting. His flamboyant lifestyle seems to be at odds with the solemn dignity of the office. It wouldn’t matter if the issue was a string of young ladyfriends, he’d still be a dubious choice

Like Richard Butler, I suspect his credentials with the Labor Party had a lot to do with his appointment.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Al, I don’t know about the “solemn dignity of the office”. Who cares what Michael Kirby may or may not get up to in a flat somewhere? Surely the point is that other (hetoresexual) High Court justices may have affairs or whatever but we (rightly) never read about it. Is anyone digging around to find out if Ian Callinan has a “string of lady friends” (not suggesting that he does)? Despite the fact that one might claim that his appointment owed a lot to his National Party connections, if this were the case, I wouldn’t care less, and neither should anyone else.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Where I work, any controversy ends your career, pronto.”

What “controversy?” There’s a picture of him sitting on a couch with Stewart and Jase – I give you, in front of an artwork that looks to be in dubious taste – and Stewart’s claim that he once gave Kirby the key to his apartment. Maybe Kirby had the decorators in at home? That’s “controversy?” I mean, his lifestyle is about as flamboyant as Tim Costello’s.

I suggest to you, Al, that the real issue here is that Kirby is a poof and some people don’t think that a High Court Justice should be. If some people perceive him to be an ideological opponent then his sexuality offers as a well-tried and odiferous means of getting him. Bill Heffernan infamously had a go at him on this basis a while back, on totally bogus charges, and the Oz is having another go on what appear to be equally
spurious grounds. The real controversy is the continuing attempt to bag Kirby by devious and dishonest smearing tactics.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I might also point out that the very same newspaper, in it’s recent bizarre expose of judicial junketing – shock! horror! Australian judges, lawyers, doctors , dentists and politicians attend conferences overseas! – suggested that Kirby had claimed reimbursement for a London Underground ticket. Presumably, if there’s one thing worse than a flamboyant poof, it’s a parsimonious one :)

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

I read the article in the Weekend Oz and thought two things; firstly I thought “Shit, Geoff would blog brilliantly on this”; and secondly I thought “Sydney”.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Oh, really, Mark and Geoff?

Mark, I wonder if you’d be leaping to the defence of Ian Callinan in similar circumstances. Call me sceptical, but I doubt it.

Geoff, Kirby’s sexuality has nothing to do with my dislike of the man. He is an activist judge, and I have some firm opinions about the judiciary interfering in the business of the executive arm of government. Consider, for example, his views on civil rights. My point being that he is noted as being strongly ‘passionate’ about all manner of human rights issues, and was actively involved with various human rights bodies and the UN. I, and sundry other reactionary conservatives, are very suspicious about his ability to dissociate himself from these positions in the decision making process.

Also, Kirby cannot seem to resist commenting on things like this, yet is well known as an outspoken critic on executive interference in the judicial process. Then there was his remarks about ‘situational paedophilia’, which a lot of people would regard as offensive. The perception is exacerbated by his willingness to do things like participate in gay activist events. None of this proves any wrongdoing on his part, or says anything about his ability to perform his duties; however, it does make for a controversial public image.

I agree with you that this is a nasty bit of guttersniping by The Oz, and that chasing him on the basis of his being gay is, excuse the term, below the belt. Gay or straight, Kirby almost seems to court controversy with his outspoken position on all sorts of issues. That is fine, but not when using his position on the High Court as a pulpit for his preaching.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

We’re agreed, I think Al, that none of your concerns about Kirby’s judicial activism are remotely at issue in the Oz piece.

BTW, I’m not sure I’d call the Gay Games a “gay activist event.” It was more a gay cultural event. A bit like, say, a Justice Kirbolopolous turning up to speak at Australian-Greek celebrations following the Greek victory in the European Cup. He’s a gay boy who has done well. Gay Australia tends to have a lot of pride in him. If you think that’s ‘controversial’ you might need to run a bit of a reality check

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

You never know, Al, you never know. I’m pretty big on the public/private thing so I may well go into bat for Justice Callinan. I agree with Geoff, though – the issues you raise about Kirby’s expression of his views on different issues are separate from the issue of the Oz making insinuations about his private life.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

I had a look at Al’s references, and I still can’t see what his beef is, unless it is as he says from a ‘reactionary conservative’ perspective.

Is it that judges should never speak out? Or that they should only speak out if they are echoing your views?

How did Al feel about Chief Justice Barwick speaking out The Dismissal events, or for that matter advising the Governor-General? It wasn’t very good law, as was shown by the trouble he had at a press conference trying to rationalise it.

About this same era, SA’s Chief Justice Sir Roderick Chamberlain had quite a bit to say, especially as the State Government was led by someone symbolising his pet dislikes: abolition of the death penalty, aboriginal rights, gay rights, abortion rights.

Among other things, Chamberlain said he’d have quite happily have pulled the rope on Max Stuart (he was prosecutor at the time of the case). He was a sort of Bruce Ruxton figure at that time, although he did try to restrict his remarks to legal-judicial matters mostly.

To my knowledge, neither Dunstan nor any other Government figure complained of Chamberlain or urged his removal.

While Kirby’s closer to my empathies, I can’t see that there’s a case for different treatment. You’re bound to get a few gadflies on the bench. Unless they clearly breach the law, there’s no case for attacking them.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Well, Don, I’m afraid that the Whitlam/Dunstan era was a bit before my time, so I can’t really comment on the performance of Barwick and friends.

I guess it comes down to what I like to think of as professionalism. By my humble standards a High Court justice leads a life of significant privilege. He is paid from the public purse, and works in the service of the public. In many respects, Justice Kirby is a very powerful man with enormous authority. With that comes responsibility.

Is it that judges should never speak out? Or that they should only speak out if they are echoing your views?

Frankly, so long as the subjects are sporting their anachronistic wigs and gowns, my answers to those questions are yes and no respectively.

After all, that’s what we have legal academics for. Isn’t it, Ken?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Generally speaking, the convention in relation to judges speaking out publicly on issues is that they shouldn’t speak about issues they might one day be called on to adjudicate. The reason for that rule is fairly obvious. The judge would be raising a reasonable apprehension as to his ability to decide that question with an unbiased mind, and might have to disqualify himself if that question ever arose for determination before him.

The utterances by Kirby that Al Bundy highlights, with one possible exception, don’t appear to breach that rule, in that it’s unlikely/impossible that they would come before him. One certainly couldn’t argue that his advocacy of gay rights issues generally is a problem, because most such rights are already secured in domestic law and reinforced by treaties Australia has ratified. It would certainly be problematic if Kirby has made remarks about gay marriage, however, because that is an issue that COULD conceivably come before the High Court for determination one day.

The one example of a Kirby utterance that arguably breaches the rule is his remarks about the death penalty at the time of the Bali bombers’ being sentenced to death and Howard calling for a debate about it. It is at least theoretically conceivable that a State (or the Commonwealth in relation to Commonwealth crimes) could re-institute the death penalty one day and, even though it’s pretty clear law that there is no constitutional problem with it, it would be very likely in such a situation that some clever civil liberties lawyer would dream up a constitutional argument with enough meat to get it before the High Court for determination. Thus, it would have been better had Kirby said nothing on this issue, even though his remarks seem to have been fairly general.

In any event, as Geoff Honnor noted, Kirby’s public political utterances don’t have anything to do with whether or not it’s appropriate for a broadsheet national newspaper to cover a gay palimony case that, at least so Geoff argues, has little or no national news value apart from the tenuous Kirby connection.

However, and although there’s clearly a “prurient Kirby slag” element in the editorial decision to cover the story, I’m not so sure the Oz wouldn’t have covered the story even if Kirby hadn’t been incidentally connected.

News Limited runs a feature called The Other Side that picks up strange and quirky stories from around Australia and the world. The Oz sometimes picks them up to lighten an otherwise turgid but worthy news mix. Many of those stories involve prurient sexual elements (e.g. the sex survey story I blogged about recently). Recent Other Side sex-related stories include “Govt issues manual for prostitutes”, “Debbie doing Dallas to new rhythm”, “Bonanza on bids for bar’s bras” and “New porn careers nipped in the bud “.

The story of Gordon Stewart’s palimony problems is eminently suitable for inclusion in this sort of company, and I reckon it’s entertaining enough in its own right for inclusion as “filler” in a national newspaper. I certainly found it pretty amusing, but then I’m partial to a bit of prurient gossip involving the rich and powerful. But who isn’t? And that’s the point. National newspapers are no less subject to the commercial imperative to be entertaining in order to boost circulation figures, and many of the sorts of people who read the Oz (e.g. me) ARE likely to be interested in such a story. I don’t think it’s necessary to posit some sort of “get Kirby” conspiracy to explain this editorial decision.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

By way of example, have a look at this Google search for stories about (Visyboard tycoon) Dick Pratt’s coloutful mistress Shari-lea Hitchcock. It doesn’t involve either Michael Kirby or a homosexual element (as far as I know), and yet the story was covered by that great broadsheet journal of record The Age and “our ABC” (i.e. a sober national news network). Is this a sinister left-wing media conspiracy to defame prominent right wing Liberal Party supporters? It’s at least as likely as a right-wing media conspiracy to defame left-wing poofta judges. William of Ockham was a wise man.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

If the Oz had run the story as a “strange but true” waddabout-these-tossers filler item I’d have no problem. In fact, they didn’t. And I doubt whether they would have bothered what with the number of exploding erectile prostheses, big-breasted Romanian transexual dwarf and operatic elephant stories there are to choose from.

They ran it as a headline feature with a pic of Kirby seated next to the dubious duo. They whacked it up in number 2 spot online. At not inconsiderable length, the story wove an inexorable linkage web around Kirby’s utterly insubstantial association with the detail of the tawdry saga. I think you’re being disingenuous – whatever that is.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff,

You’re probably right about the prominent placement decision, and the decision to run the Kirby photo, but I don’t have much doubt that the story itself would have been run, and in just as much length and detail, with or without the Kirby association. The whole Pratt/Hitchcock saga was run in extraordinary length and detail (and great prominence) at the time. I might be getting a bit disingenuous, but you might be getting a bit precious (but as elegantly entertaining as ever, so please keep posting).

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“By way of example, have a look at this Google search for stories about (Visyboard tycoon) Dick Pratt’s coloutful mistress Shari-lea Hitchcock. It doesn’t involve either Michael Kirby or a homosexual element (as far as I know), and yet the story was covered by that great broadsheet journal of record The Age and “our ABC” (i.e. a sober national news network).”

Let me guess. They probably don’t involve Kirby because he’s got nothing to do with the story of Dick and Shari-Lea. My point was that he didn’t have anything much to do with the Jase and Gordy story either. Have you gone blond recently Ken :)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff

As Paul Watson’s post suggests, it seems as if Gordon Stewart is trying to drag Kirby’s name into the story for whatever vindictive reasons of his own. No doubt the Oz could have ignored that angle completely, given its obviously very peripheral relevance to the main story, but I don’t think you can really blame the editor and journo for concluding that it added an additional bit of gratuitous prurience to a story whose raison d’etre was precisely that. If Shari-Lea had been a previous mistress of Ian Callinan, for instance, and she was gleefully using the platform of her temporary notoriety to pay out on him, do you reckon the ABC or Age would have resisted mentioning the fact?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

They haven’t picked up on the Oz story, which might say something. I think that Kirby offers a quite specific vulnerability, in terms of his sexuality, which has been egregiously exploited. The example you draw in respect of Callinan is telling. The Oz story doesn’t claim the sort of linkage that you portray. It snidely insinuates for no other reason than Kirby’s sexuality ‘suggests’ a connection. The correct analogy would be if Ian Callinan had been photographed on a couch with Dick and Shari-Lea and a newspaper immediately imputed a murky sexual association based on proximity, acquaintance and shared sexuality. No newspaper would. Being heterosexual doesn’t suggest salacious rumpy-pumpy with every other heterosexual of your acquaintance. I wonder why that is?:)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

So you reckon if Shari-Lea let drop the fact that Callinan had the spare key to the love nest she shared with Pratt, and that Ian sometimes dropped around for a little relaxation, the Age wouldn’t cover it and readers wouldn’t draw the same inferences as here?

mark
2022 years ago

“Being heterosexual doesn’t suggest salacious rumpy-pumpy with every other heterosexual of your acquaintance. I wonder why that is?”

*thinks of the various attractive heterosexual females at uni of my acquaintance*

*sigh*

If the myth’s true, then I think gays have it much easier :-)

Stan
Stan
2022 years ago

Once upon a time newspapers would refer to a certain sort of person as a “colourful racing identity”

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Actually, the closest Pratt analogy to the current situation is this. Pratt, anxious to fend off a palimony suit by Shari-Lea (and settle a few old scores in the process) by establishing that Shari-Lea is a slut who’d fuck anyone rather than his de facto partner, lets slip the fact that Callinan has the spare key to the love nest and drops around for a bit of relaxation, and gives the story a bit of additional spice by handing the journo a photo showing Dick, Ian and Shari-Lea sitting cosily on a lounge together. Newspapers wouldn’t have covered it? And those porcine truffle eaters might fly too.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Do you reckon if Shari-Lea let drop the fact that Callinan had the spare key to the love nest she shared with Pratt, and that Ian sometimes dropped around for a little relaxation, the Age wouldn’t cover it and readers wouldn’t draw the same inferences as here?’

No and hence no. And the analogy would, more correctly, be Pratt letting drop. Kirby’s sexuality “form” is the key here. Callinan has no such form and I suggest that the Age would exert a quantum more pre-publication prudence in establishing what “relax” might mean. Readers would not necessarily buy the Oz imputation in this context. There would be a significant laughing out of court factor, on ‘the facts’ presented by the Oz. And the risk of significantly less humour in court were the subject of the goss to take umbrage. Being Michael Kirby apparently means having to endure continuing sleazy – and sloppy – innuendo at editorial whim. And hey, there’s no smoke without fire etc, etc.

It’s gutless, dishonest and you fill in the blanks
etc. Kirby’s activism is fair game. His sexuality
shouldn’t be the basis for continuing mudslinging.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“If the myth’s true, then I think gays have it much easier :-)’

We all have crosses to bear in life Mark.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Perhaps we might now refer to “colourful judicial identities”

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Perhaps Don had the right idea after all, Geoff.

Despite this age liberalising somewhat in its social attitudes, due in no small measure to his courage and integrity, he always refused to discuss his sexuality and personal life.

This current bit is perhaps only a sideshow issue, but when we consider that nasty little number Heffernan and Howard did on Kirby a while back, it is probably best still left out of the arena.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

To move off topic,

I was interested in this exchange:
Don-
“Is it that judges should never speak out? Or that they should only speak out if they are echoing your views?”

Al replied

“Frankly, so long as the subjects are sporting their anachronistic wigs and gowns, my answers to those questions are yes and no respectively.”

Al when you described wigs and gowns as “anachronistic” were you being ironic? I often preach against “mere” symbolism when it suits; luvvies on so called peace marches, academics signing “sorry’ petitions, back turning on primeministers etc. The symbolism of wigs and gowns says to me that there is a sense that a judge moves beyond a pure sense of self. So to barristers as officers of the court, the speaker of the house etc. I’m sure there is a proper discussion on this somewherer if I bothered to look.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

James

There was quite a lot of academic and other discussion some years ago of the symbolic value of wigs and gowns in depersonalising judges and making it clear that they are the instruments of impersonal state justice (rather than personal enemies), after a couple of Family Court judges and their wives (Pearl Watson) were gunned down/threatened by disgruntled litigants. It was hypothesised that the fact that Family Court judges at that time DIDN’T wear wigs and gowns (unlike most other judges at the time) might have contributed to their being seen as fair game. Gowns (but not wigs as far as I know – I always studiously avoided practising in the Family Court) were subsequently re-introduced and, coincidentally or not, the incidents of violence against the judges appeared to stop.

Tony.T
2022 years ago

I like “flamboyant”.

mark
2022 years ago

The reason a Callinan angle in a beat-up story about a heterosexual “sex scandal” wouldn’t fly is simple: Callinan doesn’t exactly have a reputation as someone who’d fuck anything on two legs. The typical reaction to the sort of story Ken hypothesises would be a shrug and a “well, they were good friends for a time”.

Nobody capable of thinking clearly would consider Kirby J someone who’d fuck anything on two legs either, but as a poof he’s inherently fair game to the Murdoch sleazemongers. Which says more about The Australian and anyone bloody stupid enough to defend it than about Michael Kirby!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

Apparently daring to gossip about poofs is still a taboo in politically-correct circles. Luckily I don’t move in them. I have no idea whether either Callinan or Kirby has a penchant for marital infidelity. And I don’t care in anything other than an idly prurient sense on a public holiday in Darwin. I certainly don’t know enough about either of them to dismiss the possibility out of hand, however. Apparently you know both of them personally, otherwise how are you able to assure us of that fact? As I said, I don’t really care.

My sole point was that it’s both wrong and precious to posit an anti-gay or anti-Kirby conspiracy when it’s patently obvious that a story with these sorts of salacious elements would be covered by the media even in the absence of gay/Kirby elements.

I’m in no way suggesting that Heffernan’s attack of a year or two ago was anything but disgraceful and utterly improper. But media coverage of a lurid gossip story of marital infidelity that happens to peripherally involve Kirby is in a different category. It isn’t alleging any illegal or improper behaviour. Marital infidelity (even of it did occur on Kirby’s part) isn’t an occasion for major public censure in twenty first century Australia (in contrast to Heffernan’s allegations of trawling for under-age boys), but it remains a titillating subject for idle gossip, both in hetero and homosexual circles.

BTW Callinan writes salacious sexy potboiler novels in his spare time, and there HAS been occasional prurient newspaper gossip/speculation about his sexual habits as a result. Of course, the idea of a whale-like figure like Callinan having sex at all isn’t one I want to think about, but sleazy speculation about public figures and sex is by no means confined to those of gay persuasion (as David Beckham knows – and that series of stories was covered in the broadsheet media as well), and the media doesn’t need much of an opening to gleefully engage in it. I have no doubt the media would cover sleazy innuendo about Callinan if given half a chance, even if it WAS peripehrally relevant to some other story. Anyone who seriously doubts it just hasn’t been paying attention to the media.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Geoff is dead right. What Ken’s original comment missed is that Kirby is very vulnerable here, and the editors have exploited this without scruple.

By the way, Geoff, I think the point about the Underground was not to do with parsimony: rather, the mixture of judges and railway station evokes Yeldham.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Kirby is less vulnerable than most public figures. He enjoys guaranteed (in the absence of gross misbehaviour) judicial tenure to age 70, and the behaviour suggested by innuendo here involves no threat to his judicial office and little or none to his personal reputation (given that marital infidelity isn’t seen as an occasion for public censure in modern Australia). Heffernan’s allegations were totally discredited, so the fact of their having been published doesn’t make Kirby “vulnerable” in any meaningful sense. The sorts of people minded to believe those allegations despite their having been comprehensively debunked will no doubt do so in any event, and irrespective of the Oz publishing Kirby’s name in connection with the Gordon and Jason saga.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Mark, Kirby has had a long term partner for about the last 30 years. It’s in ‘Who’s Who’ – that’s how he came out – if I remember correctly. I’m with Geoff – homophobia is the crux of this story.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Apparently daring to gossip about poofs is still a taboo in politically-correct circles. Luckily I don’t move in them’

LOL. Oh please! Now who’s being precious? You know exactly the point that’s being made here and it’s nothing to do with a “taboo on gossiping about poofs.”

The Australian has given undue prominence to a sorry tale about two deservedly oscure gents for no obvious reason other than to chuck a bit of mud at Kirby, whose association with the story is so peripheral that it’s laughable – or would be if the malevolent intent of the Oz wasn’t so obvious. They’ve even got airhead Jase running a line about not being a slut “like some of those (rent boys) down at the Wall (a known pick-up spot for male prostitutes in Sydney’s inner-eastern suburb of Darlinghurst).” Where, you know – nudge, nudge – the odd Commonwealth car was once alleged to be trawling.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

You’re right, Geoff. It wasn’t just a chance for a bit of sleaze. It was a sneaky way of dragging Kirby into an otherwise palimony story of moderate interest (otherwise, why the photo and the sneaky references to the rent boys? A sneaky little reminder of the Heffernan accusations? Scurrilous they might have been, but such fun to have Kirby squirming,eh?)

It wasn’t as cowardly as the Heffernan attack, but it was well beyond the bounds of fairness. It is trite to call any reaction to it ‘political correctness’.

As to the implication that The Age or Fairfax are leftist journals, I think that is a long way from proven. Ken obviously didn’t read the SMH article on Latham a few weeks ago purporting to be an investigation of his past. As Mungo McCallum said, that sort of garbage is expected from Piers Ackerman but not of broadsheets or of serious reporters.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Wigs and gowns are fine, as long as the wearers are prepared to accept the fact that they look silly.

And, Ken’s right, Kirby’s ‘vulnerability’ is massively overstated. Heffernen’s stupidity never even looked like ungluing Kirby from his spot on the Bench. Moreover, compare and contrast the treatment afforded to Kirby in the light of the events following the Heffernan allegations to the media crucifixion of Peter Hollingworth.

I, for one, believe that Heffernen acted in good, if misguided, faith. He was a zealot, and exhibited very poor judgement in his attack, but I think he believed in what he was doing (in a Franka Arena kind of way). And there is a big question mark over whether he was set up by parties unknown who provided the bogus ComCar document. And I could accept that the commentariat rose up as one to rage about Heffernen hiding behind the skirts of parliamentary privilege. That is, until I compare the media’s behaviour in that episode to the the collective shrug at the malevolent bastardry of Lindsay Tanner when he ran roughshod over a Victorian Supreme Court suppression order in the flimsy rape case against the Governor General.

Let me make myself clear. I am commenting only on the relative ‘vulnerability’ of a gay, left-wing appointee to the High Court, compared to an arch conservative right wing appointment to the Head of State. I didn’t personally think much of Hollingsworth, and even less of Howard’s provocative blurring of church and state in that appointment.

But, certainly in the era of Queer as Folk, Queer Eye, The Block and sundry US sitcoms featuring gay roles, homosexuality is becoming mainstream. Gays are not ‘special’ anymore, and I find many claims of homophobia to be an increasingly ragged straw man called upon to impugn the motives of anybody who dares to call a gay or lesbian to account over completely unrelated matters. Salacious innuendo leveled at Kirby might arouse the prurient interests of The Australian’s readership, but it is hardly likely to threaten Kirby’s career or reputation.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff

I think my disagreement with you really comes down to your belief that the story was an insignficant one that wouldn’t have been published (at least at such length and so prominently) had it not been for the Kirby factor.

I, on the other hand, say it would have been published, and almost as prominently, even without the Kirby factor. Gordon Stewart may not be quite as prominent a citizen as Dick Pratt, but he was a senior partner of one of Sydney’s larger law firms, and the story has all the other elements needed for a tabloid extravaganza, with or without Kirby.

I agree that the “rent boy” reference was sleazy, and I agree that the prominent use of the photo with Kirby in it also gives him undue prominence in a story to which he’s only marginally relevant.

Moreover, one might well think, in the wake of the Heffernan sleaze, that it’s about time to give poor old Michael Kirby a rest. That’s certainly my own view (despite an unworthy curiosity about prurient gossip). But that isn’t the way the media works – never was, never will be. Yes, they’re ruthless, sleazy bastards who’ll do anything to sell newspapers. Is the Pope a Catholic?

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Dress-ups old men (I love old men)wigs gowns, Darling little hideaways and lawyers and judges and sex, sex, sex you lot have got to be wanking Am I right? Has any one come yet?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Is the Pope a Catholic?”

Pru Goward seems to think so:)

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

You’d better stop there, Ken. Concede any more ground and you’ll find yourself agreeing two weeks running with David Marr, who’s bound to say somethong about this.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“And there is a big question mark over whether he was set up by parties unknown who provided the bogus ComCar document.”

Poor old Bill. But, I guess it’s easy to set a bloke up when his morbidly unhealthy obsession with poofters is constantly waiting to be unleashed, Al. I particularly liked the truly heroic way that he ended up blaming some nameless driver for the whole vile fiasco. Gutsy bloke Bill :)

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

It’s likely that Heffernan’s naive zealotry helped set him up on that issue, Al. But I’d be more amenable to the ‘honest mistake’ explanation if Howard hadn’t fanned the issue along a bit on talkback radio by speculating about legislation to remove Kirby. Qualified as always by the ‘if true’, sure, but hardly prime ministerial.

And if Williams had taken up the offer to deplore attacks on the judiciary under privilege. And if Heffernan wasn’t renowned as Howard’ numbers man.

Contrast Heffernan’s behaviour with that of another social conservative, Harradine, who has never been afraid to answer questions about his views.

If it had been a leftist/media sting as Al implies, I think they’d have gone for the jugular while the heat was on. An interview with Neil Brown ( a former Lib deputy and Attorney-General spokesman) on how he felt about the govt silence on the Heffernan attacks might’ve been very interesting.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Here’s an edited copy of a comment I posted on Rob Corr’s blog. I suspect we’ve just about exhausted the possibilities of this thread, though.

it certainly isn’t ‘news’. (quote from previous comment)

Newspapers have always carried lots of stuff that isn’t ‘news’ in the strict sense – gossip, cooking recipes, lifestyle stuff etc etc.

This is an abysmal smear on all concerned(quote from previous comment)

It’s not a smear on either of the two main protagonists, who willingly participated in it for their own purposes. In fact it’s a reasonable inference that Gordon Stewart (rather than the Oz) initiated the story.

It’s certainly a smear on Kirby, and that was Geoff’s point. Mine was that you don’t need to posit any form of calculated animus against Kirby (or gays in general) on the part of the Oz to explain publication. Stewart clearly has it in for Kirby for some private reason, and served up material that the Oz didn’t resist publishing (given its gratuitously petty, salacious but circulation-boosting implications). In a nice, civil world you’d hope they would have resisted, but the world of media isn’t nice and civil, and probably never will be.

Geoff’s point is a reasonable one in that sense, but seriously overstated in terms of the significance one ought to attach to publication by the Oz (“the story was run for no other purpose than to smear Kirby”). It isn’t analogous to Heffernan’s attack under Parliamentary privilege, which was clearly a calculated attempt to get rid of Kirby from the Bench, perpetrated with Howard’s sly approval, nor do you need to posit the Kirby angle as a primary motivation for publication per se – although one would be hard-pressed to argue that it wasn’t the motivation for the editorial decision to run it on page 1. The Oz story is just a sleazy, opportunistic sideswipe in the course of a typical tabloid gossip story that would have been published anyway (although not on page 1). It’s tawdry but it’s no big deal.

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

Ken, far from having “just about exhausted the possibilities of this thread”

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Paul

You’re right, the topic wasn’t exhausted at all. And all very interesting too. Not really my area, though, and reading your comment is about as close as I want to come to family law, if I can possibly manage it.

trackback
2022 years ago

the river has more colours at sunset than my sock drawer ever dreamed of

If one believed that you could judge a person by the quality of their enemies, then scumbags like Bill Heffernan and Janet Albrechtsen would be very impressive people indeed. Although they would be flattering themselves by thinking of Kirby J as an “…

trackback
2022 years ago

What’s civil about this?

There’s an interesting debate going on over at Troppo Armadillo, about a story that ran on the front page of The Australian. Tipping his hat to Paul Watson, Geoff Honnor explains how irrelevant Hon Justice Michael Kirby is to the…