Features Australia


5 October 2013

9:00 AM

5 October 2013

9:00 AM

Sam’s Abbott, not Anton’s

Sir: Sam Roggeveen’s article (‘Abbott is not a neocon,’ 28 September) is a useful analysis of Tony Abbott’s potential as a realist in relations with Asia and the US. But Anton Emdin’s accompanying cover is of a smug-looking Abbott, overdressed, even in spats and gloves, dangling an Uncle Sam hat as if he is about to wear it. And he is reclining above a stupid-looking Sumo wrestler, a passive panda and a rather dopey-looking caricature of President Yudhoyono.

The illustration gives me, at least, the impression that The Spectator seems to think Abbott is going to dominate China, Japan and Indonesia through his alignment with the US (and the UK, judging by the pocket handkerchief). It illustrates just what some in ASEAN think about Australia’s self-delusion in relation to Asia. This is definitely not what Mr Roggeveen’s article suggests.

As a reader since the 1980s, I know The Spectator is a quirky, witty and irreverent magazine. I also remember many provocative covers, Nick Garland’s in particular. Still, I don’t think this picture properly reflected the author’s argument. The post-election cover art was bad enough — waking up in bed with Abbott. Surely there is more to The Spectator Australia than Abbott-worship?.
Mark Allerton
Huntley’s Cove, NSW

Oborne’s ideas of ethics

Sir: Your edition of 28 September included a 1,500-word demand from the journalist Peter Oborne to the effect that the Times, the newspaper that I work for, should sack its columnist Danny Finkelstein. The reason given by Oborne for this view is that

Finkelstein is too parti pris and close to people in power to be a ‘proper’ journalist. He is wrong in his argument and also, I believe, deficient in his journalism.

Oborne deploys the veteran cliché about true journalists ‘speaking truth unto power’. Yet the history of British newspapers is full of ‘political’ journalists such as Finkelstein. At the Telegraph there were great figures such as Bill Deedes and T.E. Utley and here at The Spectator ideological editors have included Nigel Lawson, Iain MacLeod and Boris Johnson. Indeed Peter Oborne served as Johnson’s political editor. Was that a problem? Oborne does not tell us, since the one power he seems never quite to speak truth unto is the one that employs him.

Oborne’s strictures on journalistic values would also have had more authority had he demonstrated faithfulness to them himself. Instead he opted to repeat a series of claims from anonymous sources about Finkelstein’s ‘hidden’ relationship with George Osborne. These estimated a Finkelstein-Osborne phone -call rate of seven a day and claimed that Osborne’s speeches were written by the Times man. Well, a source so close to Daniel Finkelstein that he is Daniel Finkelstein told me that such claims were nonsense. He would have told Oborne the same thing had Oborne followed Journalist Ethics 101 and actually contacted him. It must have slipped his mind.

The irony is that it is Oborne — with his conviction that an Edenic world was destroyed by the Satanic Tony Blair — who is guilty of imposing ideology on journalism. This fixation has led him in the past to entertain ludicrous conspiracy theories about the death of Dr David Kelly. And last week the collateral in his battle with Evil included Finkelstein as well as the former editor ‘the wretched’ James Harding, one of the best journalists I have worked with, under whose aegis the Times was praised for its investigative journalism. For shame, Peter.
David Aaronovitch
Wapping, London E1

No end to Aids yet

Sir: If only it were ‘The end of Aids’ (28 September). In Britain, let alone the rest of the world, more new diagnoses of HIV infection are being made than ever, and HIV transmissions are probably continuing on a significant scale. By diagnosing HIV infection and initiating treatment early, both the further transmission of infection and the development of Aids can be interrupted; but only when there are no further transmissions of HIV will it be possible to assert that ‘the end of Aids’ is in sight.

It is humiliating that an impoverished postwar Britain managed to see off pulmonary tuberculosis with combined drug therapy in less than five years, while modern Britain has hardly begun to do so for HIV in the ten years for which comparable therapy has been available.
Philip Mortimer
By email

A case defended

Sir: Apropos Sophia Waugh’s reminiscences of her father’s cellar (21 September), I recall as a young man buying a case of white wine that Auberon Waugh had recommended in The Spectator. I did not like it and wrote and told him so. He invited me to bring the remaining bottles to his office in Soho. We drank one bottle together — and then he insisted on buying the rest off me.
Mark Palmer
London SW6

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