Back in October 2011, I commented on the Australian's plans to introduce pay too view, and wondered how it would affect blogging among other things. Almost twelve months later, I can report that the main impact for this little blogger is that I stopped visiting the Australian. There just wasn't enough free content on the sight to make it worthwhile. Now that hasn't been a problem until now when the Australian itself becomes the story.
It appears that some seventeen years ago, Australian PM Gillard was involved at law firm Slater & Gordon in some unwise business. This story by Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald will give you a feel. I don't think that you need to know all the details, nor do I have the time to do the investigation to give them to your properly.
The Australian has apparently been campaigning on this issue for some time in its role as an objective source of political analysis. It appears to have made one assertion three times, withdrawing it three times. Now it has come out with an editorial justifying its position that is, for the moment at least, on the public record. All this largely escaped me since I have not been reading the Australian.
All the pressure made the PM feel that she should do a full press conference to put the matter behind her. To quote the Australian:
JULIA Gillard's strong performance yesterday was a belated attempt to address questions surrounding the conclusion of her legal career at Melbourne firm Slater & Gordon in 1995. At the heart of the controversy is how she served the interests of her employer, those of her client (the Australian Workers Union) and how she has levelled with the public subsequently.
Canberra is a pressure cooker gold fish bowl. It is also an incestuous world in that everybody knows and feeds from each other.
In her press conference, the PM took a swipe at the blogosphere and especially Larry Pickering. Dear that took me back, back in fact to the seventies when Larry was the cartoonist for the Canberra Times. That, dear children, was when the Canberra Times was still a must read newspaper for those like me with some pretensions of being in touch as a member of the political classes. Larry later broadened his interests to include calendars that combined his interests in caricature and genitalia. He was a very funny man - I still remember roaring with laughter at his cartoon on the chardonnay drinking socialists of Bungendore. We all knew who he was talking about.
I knew that Larry was back on the scene, but had no idea how much he had managed to annoy the PM. This doesn't mean he is either right or entertaining. I actually don't know on either. He could be tedious sometimes. Yet in a funny way, all this does put current Australia in perspective.
Round the world, there are a few problems. Consider the case of Greece, or of Mali or of changes in China. Consider Ramana's complaints about corruption and lack of direction in India. Here in Australia, we seem to be obsessing (among other things) about the question of why the PM didn't open a file all those years ago on Slater & Gordon. Now, and as an aside, Slater & Gordon was the first law firm to list any stock exchange anywhere in the world, Australians have always been innovative in these areas!
It appears to me that the PM didn't open a file because she was doing a freeebie and didn't want to the whole thing to get caught up in the matter management systems so beloved by law firms. Now leaving aside the changes that have taken place since then including the spread of computerisation, so what? This does not, as the Australian claims, go to the question of trust.
Is the Australian telling me that its journalists - leave aside the management - don't get drunk; don't have affairs; don't help their friends? In other words, that they are not human? Is there anything in this that would make me think other of PM Gillard that she is human?
We have the luxury in this country, a luxury shared by few others, of being able to focus on the small because in a day to day sense we do not have big problems. We can obsess with our navels
Now it may be that in all this obsessive digging that has been going on people will identify important issues of principle that need to be considered. Yet I doubt it.
Like the Australian journalists or even that paper's management, I am human with flaws. I couldn't survive this type of scrutiny. It would tear me down. It's been hard enough letting some comments stand, But does that make the things that I am working on less important? Does that make my beliefs or the things that I campaign for in my limited way less important? I don't think so.
I do not support many things that PM Gillard does. I wish to debate those things. As a member of what we might call the public chattering classes, as someone interested in ideas who cares, I wish to engage. I don't want to get involved in the minutiae of a normal human life of seventeen years ago with all its normal pressures and human confusions. It's just not relevant.
So let's move on. That's all I ask.
Over on skepticslaywer, Legal Eagle in Gillard and the AWU brought up a legal process assessment of those events seventeen years ago. The post and some, not all, of the comments are worth a read. I will bring up a short companion post on another blog and then reference it here.