When Did Prime Ministers Get So Precious?


It is not easy, finding the truth in today’s deceptive, malevolent, unnecessary windfarm-filled society. Sorting fact from fiction is a fraught and awkward pursuit, fit only for the hardiest and most leathery-skinned among us.

It is a noble calling, and a necessary one if freedom is to be maintained; but there are times, even I must admit, when being a journalist of integrity is a little like being a dog attacking a porcupine — no matter how hard you chase the truth, no matter how focused you remain on your goal, you will end up with a faceful of spines and the certain knowledge that sooner or later one will pierce your heart.

I feel this week as if a porcupine spine has pierced my heart, because I have seen the cause of truth and freedom suffer a grievous blow. My colleague and role model Andrew Bolt was this week subjected to as intense an application of the anti-democratic blowtorch as I have seen in this country.

I could hardly believe it when I read about it — that our sort-of-prime minister could do such a thing in the face of our liberal democratic Judeo-Christian western Enlightenment post-Vatican II glasnost civilisation’s traditions. As Andrew wrote, "What else would you stoop to in order to cling to power?" I repeat his question, Ms Gillard: what else? Is it not enough that you have already trashed our electoral system, bastardised our parliament, annihilated our economy and given Tony Abbott a confusing warmth in the pit of his stomach? Do you now have to seek to vomit all over our free press?

I felt devastated as I read Andrew’s plaintive howl of injustice. It was as if I myself had been violated, and I suppose, in a way, I had been, as the violation of one man’s free speech is really a violation of us all. I felt as if a dagger had been plunged into my groin, as if a bear trap had suddenly snapped shut on my face. It must be very similar to how a mother feels, when she finds out her child has had restrictions placed on his blogging.

It’s moments like these I wish Andrew and I were closer. I wish I could take him in my large, fleshy arms, and hold him tight. I want to dry his tears, stroke his hair, and whisper softly in his shell-like ear that everything will be all right.

But will it? Can anything be all right when we are subject, as supposed Australians, to the whims of a prime minister who thinks nothing of making savagely violent phone calls every time anyone so much as thinks about publishing false allegations of criminal behaviour against her. When did prime ministers get so precious?

Previous holders of the office weren’t like this. Gough Whitlam never objected to a bit of defamatory rough-and-tumble. Harold Holt was happy to laugh off all kinds of slurs. Joseph Lyons was once subject to a concerted cross-media campaign claiming that he attended cabinet meetings in a bodysuit made of women’s skin, and he took it in the spirit it was intended. But then, Gillard is of the new breed of politician, the breed that knows not dignity or grace or testes. The new breed thinks nothing of suing for defamation even if all that’s happened is they’ve been defamed.

The real question is, if politicians are going to go around making angry phone calls and threatening CEOs every time repeatedly-refuted and baseless smears are made against them, how on earth can journalists like me or Andrew or that woman from That’s Life do our jobs properly? There is a thing called the Public Interest, after all. It’s not very fashionable these days since Labor came to power, but it’s something I still believe in. And as a hard-hitting Walkey Award-mentioning journalist, it’s something I am passionately committed to serving.

But how can I? When the full might of the law, and the weight of the corrupt military-feminist complex, will be brought down upon my head if I step out of line? How can I service the public’s right to know? If this is the way our political and media landscape is going, there is a danger the electorate might never even KNOW when their elected representatives might possibly a couple of decades ago have slept in a house that may have been partially paid for by money obtained through illegal means that they had no idea about at the time.

Imagine it.

Dystopia is not just an airy-fairy concept, people. It’s here, and coming to a town near you if dark threats and importunate redheads can stop us from keeping the public fully informed about which corrupt union officials our MPs used to have sex with?

I don’t think it’s in any way far-fetched to suppose that, had we known in 2010 that Julia Gillard had pressed her naked flesh against a man who later turned out to be not very nice, literally nobody would have voted for her. Which means we would now have a 100 per cent Coalition parliament. Which means we would have no debt and all our asylum seekers would be in a tent in the Aleutian Isles, like we’ve been asking for all along. In other words, Gillard has ruined everything even more than we thought she’d ruined everything before, which was a lot.

It’s a question of judgment: how can we trust the judgment of a woman who, by her own admission, doesn’t know that someone is committing criminal acts until the moment at which she finds it out? Surely it is an indictment of her judgment that she was completely ignorant of certain pertinent facts, for no other reason than that she wasn’t aware of them? What kind of disgrace IS she? It makes me sick to my stomach to think the fate of my beloved Australia is in the hands of someone who blithely ignores any facts that don’t fit her pre-conceived ideas of what it is actually possible for her to know.

And that’s why what happened to Andrew terrifies me. I stand with you, Andrew. I applaud your courage, I endorse your outrage, I tenderly wash and press your tear-stained tunic. I’m torn between my desire to join you on the barricades of righteousness, and my desire to give you a nice cuddle. Both are necessary.

But don’t worry your pretty little head, Andrew. We shall overcome, because in the end, truth is all that matters. With the help of the People’s Liberation Front of News Ltd, and other likeminded freedom fighters, I just know we can battle our way through the walls that stand in our way.

Not right away of course, Andrew, because I understand you need a bit of time to rest and recuperate and take a few deep breaths and maybe lie in bed eating chocolates and watching Sex and the City for a few days. But when you feel ready to resume the cause of journalistic vigilantism, I am with you, Andrew. We shall defeat the Prime Harpy and her Agenda of Lies. We shall keep on exposing, and revealing, and stripping bare, and most of all, we shall keep telling the TRUTH. And it will set us free, Andrew. It will set us free.

Now, do you need to borrow my hankie?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.