Diary Australia


11 January 2014

9:00 AM

11 January 2014

9:00 AM

‘A bunch of Y-front wearing pansies’ is how one of my conservative friends describes the Abbott government. It’s an interesting observation, built around a common right-wing view that Team Abbott aren’t going in hard enough or fast enough to dismantle Labor’s sinister legacy of socialist public sector unionised patronage, nor gutting partisan outfits such as the ABC. My prediction — not universally shared — is that Abbott’s cautious, non-confrontational approach will prevail. Most Aussies prefer a calm, measured and competent administration over hysterical ideological jihad, of whatever variety. Abbott will win the next election because he will have met the core measures we set for him: stopping the boats, scrapping the taxes and getting the budget heading back towards surplus. In all likelihood, our economy will be in a lot better shape thanks to the Coalition’s efforts on numerous fronts and it won’t hurt that the global economy is on the mend. The rest of it — regardless of whatever this week is frenetically trending on twitter — will count for little.

Just as I’m pondering this phenomenon (which I shall call the Y-front Wearing Pansies Doctrine) Tony Abbott phones me up. I can hear rowdy Christmas karaoke songs in the background as he begs for me to interview him on 2UE and ask him how well he’s doing. He is keen to start speaking to the media and wishes to dispel the notion that a) he doesn’t speak to the media and b) he isn’t a Y-front wearing pansy for having given those cushy jobs to Natasha Stott-Despoja and Greg Combet.

Actually, I made that last para up. But this being the Speccie Diary, I am reliably informed readers crave behind-the-scenes titillation so I’d hate to disappoint. In reality, I contact Mr Abbott’s media people and plead with them to allow me to do a radio interview with him. 2UE’s Content Director Clinton Maynard has been kind enough to allocate me several slots over the Christmas break; the first show — normally hosted by Brian Carlton — is called The Stir. I draw up my wish list of ‘stirrers’, on the not unreasonable premise that if I’ve got to do two hours of non-stop stirring and chatting, I’d rather it be with people I’d genuinely like to talk to. Apart from Paul McCartney and Boris Johnson (neither of whom return my calls, the miserable sods) the rest all come good, including two Prime Ministers (JH promises he’ll be free in February), two potential future Prime Ministers (Ed Husic and Josh Frydenberg), two of the best shit-stirring journalists around (Grace Collier and Matt Ridley) and two of the best shit-stirring cartoonists around (Bill Leak and Warren Brown). The Stir is ready to, um, stir.

I am a bundle of nerves, but Mr Abbott quickly puts me at ease by laughing at my first gag. Phew. We cover numerous topics, and the ten minutes goes in a blur. Numerous callers congratulate me afterwards, with one woman almost in tears as she says it is the first decent, respectful interview she has heard with our Prime Minister. Others berate me for being a toadying sycophant.

Ed Husic — Labor, outer western suburbs Sydney, Muslim — and Josh Frydenberg — Liberal, eastern inner-city Melbourne, Jewish — both good-naturedly play along with my game of getting each to praise the other’s credentials as a future PM. Bill Leak and Warren Brown hilariously explain their long-lasting feud. Matt Ridley, live from the frozen wastelands of Northumberland, talks common sense about global warming. And Grace Collier dons her Doc Martens and — as she does so successfully every week in the Oz — puts the boot where it firmly belongs.

Grace Collier, to my mind, will be one of the most important journalists of this coming year. Where Kate McClymont brought down Eddie Obeid, where Hedley Thomas and Michael Smith helped expose the AWU scandal, Grace is shining a light ‘up the jacksi’ of the stupid, lazy corporate management and relentless union greed that has done so much to destroy this country’s productivity. The scandal of enterprise bargaining. Thanks to her work, it will be the marketplace — rather than the Abbott government — who will disempower the unions; as shareholders, investors and fund managers realise EBAs are every bit as telling as assets, pending lawsuits, technological advances, market innovation and so on in determining the long-term health of a given firm.

After the show, Grace and I sneak into the 2UE dunnies and snort copious amounts of cocaine, before having wild sex on the desk once occupied by John Laws and his famous golden microphone. Actually, I made that last sentence up, but needed to do so because when I told Ms Collier I was mentioning our on-air chat on industrial relations and enterprise bargaining in my Speccie Diary she was aghast. ‘You’ll need to spice it up a bit,’ she said. ‘Speccie Diary readers expect a bit of behind-the-scenes titillation, you know.’

The trouble with doing a trial show over the summer is that it all-too-soon comes to an end. I need to find a way to take over Clinton’s weekend breakfast shows, so I sneak into his garage and plant a home-made bomb made out of chlorine and water which blows up in his face and sends him to Intensive Care. Actually, I didn’t entirely make up that last sentence. Clinton is lucky to be alive after a horrible accident which should give anyone who owns a swimming pool pause for thought. (Although I normally eschew nanny-state activities, perhaps warnings on packs of chlorine or a small ad campaign mightn’t go astray.) Clinton is back at his desk now. And so is Tony Abbott. I’m confident both 2UE and Australia will prosper accordingly.

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