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Clive Palmer? Three weeks ago he was a mere pest, an omnipresent image on our billboards, radios and TV screens. Two weeks ago, as the frequency ramped up further, he became a feral pest, killing off life forms all around. And this week, it bordered on HARASSMENT, as people all over the country started receiving unsolicited text messages from him – somehow configured so they could neither send back their own thoughts on the matter, or even block him. How a man who still owes the laid-off workers of his old nickel refinery so much money can spend tens of millions on this I will never know. But here’s the thing. In this week’s round of advertisements, Palmer boasted of having been “voted by the Australian people as a National Living Treasure” back in 2012.
Look who's calling .... Clive Palmer. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Ahem. I have previously written on this. Palmer’s “election” to that formerly illustrious list pretty much killed the franchise – as people rightly said, if he is on it, something is wrong with the process. And there was. It was established, for starters, that Palmer touted for votes on his company’s website. I wrote at the time: “There, at voting time, for every employee and visitor to the website to see, was the banner VOTE FOR CLIVE, above a photo of Mr Palmer (with a soft focus lens), above promotional spiel on why he should become a National Living Treasure and how it would be good for mining.” (I know. Go figure.)
And then I put in my column a request for anyone who did vote for him to contact me, so I could establish there was at least one bona fide vote out there. No takers. Advertisement Alice in fake-news wonderland
Fake news, as you know, emerged during the last American presidential election campaign. It was the deliberate placing of false information on the internet about political enemies, in the hope that it would go viral and damage them, the most infamous being a purported news story that Hillary Clinton ran a child-sex ring out of a Washington pizza parlour. Yes, obvious nonsense to you and me – but that story really did circulate and damage her. For the most part the Australian political process has been spared that, but it looks like the barest whiff of it has shown up this week, with a fake Facebook page having been established with the name and image of Alice Thompson, the independent candidate for Mackellar. In the words of Thompson, who contacted me, “It is attributing to me views I do not hold and is designed discredit and marginalise my campaign. Features of the page suggest a level of sophistication including blocking my ability to report, identify the page owner or contributors. Additional fake accounts have been created and linked to the page. We have seen these kind of dirty tactics deployed in the US and Brexit, but now we are seeing the beginning of this in a grass-roots campaign in Mackellar.”
For the record, I know her Liberal opponent, Jason Falinski, quite well and don’t believe for a single second – and I really mean it – that as good a man as him would have been involved in such skulduggery. But it looks like someone out there is playing hard ball. Murdoch comes up Shorten
“I never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel,” a former governor of Indiana once said, elucidating a principle that has seen politicians, as a breed, bow down before newspaper barons – and no-one more than Rupert Murdoch.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Friday. Credit: DEAN LEWINS
It was why there was considerable surprise last week when Bill Shorten let it be known that he wouldn’t be making the now-traditional pilgrimage of Australian prime ministerial aspirants to sup with Mr Murdoch in New York. When I asked the ALP leader about it, he laughed lightly. “I don’t see the need to go to America to talk to the heads of News Limited,” he said. “If there are any issues that arise, I can deal with its representatives here.” Out of order
Last week, TFF published what was intended as a very light-hearted piece about the "colourful" Sydney names showing up in a class at a very elite Sydney private school. The theme was, "how very Sydney", and no ill-will was intended. And it is very Sydney. Now, while it is problematical to publish a correction when no names were mentioned in the first place, there were two problems. The piece had a harsh headline, not of my making, that implied the presence at the school was powered by ongoing colourful activities. And I described one student as the grandson of a notorious name, when he was the grand-nephew, and in fact comes from the impeccable side of the family. In any case, they have my abject apologies. And for the record, having talked to the patriarch of family concerned, he proved to be very understanding, and a lovely bloke!
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