Tracy Grimshaw, Ed­die McGuire, Peter Hartcher and Ross Git­tins. Paul Farrell, Alex McDon­ald, Justin Hemmes and Ben Roberts-Smith.

The Saturday Paper - - The Week Contents - Richard Ack­land

Will the news­pa­pers from Nine En­ter­tain­ment Co (NEC) be­come more en­ter­tain­ing or are they go­ing to con­tin­u­ally drown us in scoops about Chi­nese in­fil­tra­tors, cor­rupt lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cil­lors and crowded rail­way plat­forms?

Can we look for­ward to a bit more of Tracy Grimshaw’s com­ments on the ozone layer or Ed­die McGuire, from Mil­lion­aire Hot Seat, on the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion’s hor­i­zon­tal fis­cal equal­i­sa­tion in­quiry?

In­evitably there will be a happy blend of en­ter­tain­ing news and views. We’ll see more of Peter Hartcher on Love Is­land and Ross Git­tins on The Block, and this cross-pol­li­na­tion will be made much eas­ier once the old Fair­fax op­er­a­tion has bed­ded down with Nine at the new highrise digs in glo­ri­ous North Syd­ney.

Nine is ne­go­ti­at­ing more space to ac­com­mo­date the news­pa­per hacks in the same build­ing. At least, that is the plan.

Then and there the fu­ture of The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and The Age as printed news­pa­pers will be nut­ted out by en­gage­ment ring heir Hugh Marks and the one-time great­est liv­ing treasure and trea­surer Peter Costello.

One is­sue on the ta­ble will likely be the Mon­day-to-Fri­day print edi­tions of the Fair­fax metro pa­pers. Hith­erto, the dif­fi­culty in shut­ting down the week­day Age and The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald had been the fact man­age­ment wanted to keep print­ing The Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view, but that only worked eco­nom­i­cally be­cause it was put on the trucks with the metropoli­tan news­pa­pers each day.

With­out The SMH and The Age,

The AFR print edi­tion would be more ex­pen­sive to de­liver. How­ever, with a joint Fair­fax-News Corp print­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion ar­range­ment, The AFR can go out on lor­ries with The Daily Tele­graph, the Hun et cetera, driven by Lord Moloch him­self, if he still has a truck li­cence.

What Gad­fly is try­ing to say is, should Greg Ply­wood want to, he would be able to shut the week­day metro pa­pers and still keep de­liv­er­ing a printed Fin Re­view through the week. If any of this does hap­pen, you read it here first.

Merivale go round

Still on the me­dia beat, there was a frosty re­sponse to the story by Paul Farrell and Alex McDon­ald on the ABC’s 7.30 the other week. They had in­ves­ti­gated the Merivale group’s work­place ar­range­ments that al­legedly see some em­ploy­ees with­out weekend penalty rates.

The pro­gram re­ported that two un­happy staffers of Justin Hemmes’ sprawl­ing food and booze em­pire are in the Fair Work Com­mis­sion try­ing to dis­en­tan­gle em­ploy­ees from a 2007 agree­ment that they claim leaves them worse off than if they were cov­ered by the cur­rent hos­pi­tal­ity award.

Not ev­ery­one thought this was a splen­did piece of re­portage, and there were pre­emp­tive shots on be­half of Hemmes from flack mer­chant Ross Coulthart of Cato & Clegg, the PR fac­tory. He has worked be­fore as part of a tag team with so­lic­i­tor Mark O’Brien.

Coulthart is also han­dling the PR for Ben Roberts-Smith, who is an­other O’Brien client in the courts, su­ing

Fair­fax over sto­ries about his con­duct in Afghanistan. The Roberts-Smith lit­i­ga­tion is ap­par­ently be­ing funded by his em­ployer, Kerry Stokes, who is a big ad­mirer of war medals.

Coulthart has been ped­dling pro Roberts-Smith sto­ries to the hacks at The Aus­tralian while at the same time Cato & Clegg col­lect the Fair­fax shilling for do­ing Greg Ply­wood’s cor­po­rate PR. It seems like a com­plex series of as­so­ci­a­tions, but Gad­fly knows next to noth­ing about the eth­i­cal bound­aries of spin doc­tor­ing.

Coulthart was one of the world’s lead­ing in­ves­tiga­tive re­porters when he worked for Nine En­ter­tain­ment’s

60 Jun­kets. There’s noth­ing quite like a su­per­an­nu­ated in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter earn­ing a liv­ing un­der­min­ing the work of in­ves­tiga­tive re­porters.

Demp­ster div­ing

Re­cently, Gad­fly was beck­oned to Tet­suya’s eatery in Syd­ney by former ABC staff-elected direc­tor and jour­nal­ist of dis­tinc­tion Quentin Demp­ster.

He and his wife, Beth, had suc­cess­fully bid at a char­ity auc­tion for a night with Ra­dio Na­tional’s break­fast host­ess Fran Kelly, and colum­nist Peter van Onse­len, who also has a weekly spot on Fran’s show. So it turned out to be a night with Quentin, Beth, Peter and Fran, Gad­fly and Mrs Gad­fly, plus ABC ex­ec­u­tive John Lyons and his wife, doc­u­men­tary-maker Sylvie Le Clezio.

Just to be clear, the night was con­fined to Tet­suya’s restau­rant, where many of the prob­lems of the world and the pub­lic broad­caster were solved over seven cour­ses, in­clud­ing roasted scampi tail with vanilla, con­fit of ocean trout, tiger abalone, short rib with heir­loom car­rots, yuzu pos­set et cetera.

There are so many ac­com­pa­ny­ing wines that Gad­fly can’t re­mem­ber the details of what was ac­tu­ally dis­cussed.

Im­por­tantly, it is re­called that

Demp­ster, af­ter four years at the head of the Walk­ley Foun­da­tion and many more years in­volve­ment, is stand­ing down as chair of the out­fit that pro­motes press free­dom and hands out the yearly prizes to the fairest and bright­est re­porters, pho­tog­ra­phers, video and ra­dio jour­nal­ists, head­line writ­ers, in­no­va­tors and scoop mer­chants.

He’ll be re­placed by an­other great jour­nal­ist, Kerry O’Brien, which is just as well – good jour­nal­ism needs all the in­spi­ra­tion it can muster.

Cul­ture war­riors

One of Gad­fly’s field agents tour­ing Ger­many and Den­mark brings back re­ports of Aus­tralia’s global con­nec­tions.

She vis­ited an ex­hi­bi­tion of the works of Max Beck­mann at the Staatliche Museen zu Ber­lin. Mainly draw­ings, they had been col­lected by Bar­bara Göpel who, be­fore she was mar­ried to Herr Göpel, was known as Bar­bara Sper­ling.

In 1941, Bar­bara worked as a stenog­ra­pher at the Ger­man em­bassy in Paris, where the Ger­man am­bas­sador was Otto Abetz, great-un­cle of our own beloved Tas­ma­nian se­na­tor Otto “Erich” Abetz.

The in­for­ma­tion that was pro­vided by the gallery is in­struc­tive. The am­bas­sador “used his res­i­dence near the Lou­vre, the Palais Beauhar­nais, as a ware­house and trans­fer site for art trea­sures stolen from Jewish own­ers. Here for the first time, Bar­bara Sper­ling met Erhard Göpel as well as a num­ber of the lat­ter’s su­per­vi­sors who were in­volved in the art theft ini­ti­ated by Adolf Hitler for the Führermu­seum in Linz”.

What a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cov­ery, but it doesn’t end there. Our field agent trav­els on to Den­mark for an­other help­ing of cul­ture at that coun­try’s na­tional gallery, which she finds is hap­pily lo­cated on Ge­org Bran­des Plads.

Ge­org was born Mor­ris Co­hen and was the the­o­rist be­hind the “Mod­ern Break­through” of Scan­di­na­vian cul­ture. With his brother, he started the news­pa­per Poli­tiken, whose motto is “the pa­per of greater en­light­en­ment”. Ob­vi­ously, Mor­ris chose his new name know­ing that one day it would have global sig­nif­i­cance.

It’s ex­cit­ing to dis­cover so many Aus­tralian con­nec­tions in the cul­tural cen­tres of Europe.

And there’s a fur­ther dis­cov­ery – Fish­nets Downer, Ge­orge Bran­dis’s pre­de­ces­sor as high com­mis­sioner to the United King­dom, has landed a job as the ex­ec­u­tive chair of a new in­ter­na­tional school for gov­ern­ment at King’s Col­lege Lon­don.

The school’s ethos puts “cit­i­zens at the heart of pol­icy and the po­lit­i­cal process”. Who bet­ter for that mis­sion than Fish­nets?

Vale Spinak

It’s Sun­day morn­ing and the day starts with a trip to the Emanuel Syn­a­gogue in Wool­lahra for the fu­neral ser­vice of a young men­sch.

Jeremy Spinak died last week from a rare can­cer. He was 36 and with his wife, Rhi­an­non, had in­fant twins, Grace and Michael.

Only a few months be­fore his death he had stepped down as pres­i­dent of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. Gad­fly knew him when he was at the forefront of the cam­paign against the de­fen­es­tra­tion of sec­tion 18C of the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act. Uniquely, he brought the Jewish and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties to­gether in a joint en­ter­prise to pre­vent the po­lit­i­cally di­vi­sive ef­forts to un­der­mine pro­tec­tions against race dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The syn­a­gogue was packed, re­plete with politi­cians and com­mu­nity lead­ers of all stripes. Luke Fo­ley was there, in an early out­ing since his hur­ried de­par­ture as leader of the NSW op­po­si­tion. So, too, his re­place­ment, Michael Da­ley, with gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Gabrielle Up­ton, Jus­tice Stephen Roth­man, former race dis­crim­i­na­tion com­mis­sioner Tim Sout­phom­masane, fed­eral Lib­eral MP Ju­lian Leeser and mem­ber for Went­worth Ker­ryn Phelps.

Jeremy was an acute ob­server of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and his­tory, and a guest of Bob Carr’s at meet­ings of the Ch­ester A. Arthur So­ci­ety at the United States em­bassy in Can­berra. Not long be­fore he died he said that his 13-month-old twins would be all right be­cause the great­est of US pres­i­dents never knew their own fa­thers.

He was a man who packed so much into life and did a tremen­dous amount of good in the process. Next to the bema was a sin­gle wreath of white roses from the Eth­nic Com­mu­ni­ties Coun­cil of NSW. Sim­ple, solemn and in­cred­i­bly mov­ing.

Trum­pette #96

Lisa Lerer, who has been writ­ing a pol­i­tics guide for The New York Times, this week pub­lished some timely warn­ings about fam­i­lies get­ting to­gether for Thanks­giv­ing on Thurs­day.

She re­ported that a study in June found cel­e­bra­tions for the hol­i­day were about 30 to 50 min­utes shorter for Amer­i­cans who “crossed par­ti­san lines”. Fam­i­lies were be­ing torn apart with blaz­ing rows about the Pussy Grab­ber, the Tiny Toad­stool, the SnarlingTwit­terer-in-Chief.

The study showed, ap­par­ently, that the fam­ily di­vi­sions were worse in bat­tle­ground states and that for ev­ery 1000 po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tise­ments broad­cast in an area, it took 2.6 min­utes off the length of a Thanks­giv­ing dinner.

Af­ter anal­y­sis of lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion from more than 10 mil­lion smart­phones, it was found that the in­ten­sity of TV and ra­dio po­lit­i­cal broad­casts added up to 34 mil­lion hours of lost dis­course at Thanks­giv­ing din­ners in 2016.

And the Repub­li­cans are the party of fam­ily val­ues.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what this year’s fig­ures pro­duce, what with so many fresh di­vi­sive is­sues: Ivanka’s of­fi­cial emails on a non-gov­ern­ment server and whether they were dif­fer­ent to the sort of emails sent by Hil­lary, who should be locked up; whether the for­est floor was swept prop­erly in Cal­i­for­nia; why James Comey wasn’t pros­e­cuted for some un­spe­cific crimes; that crazy Mueller guy et cetera.

Maybe the les­son is to try to have dinner with­out men­tion­ing Trump. Ap­par­ently that’s what the judges of the deeply di­vided US Supreme Court do. The jus­tices get to­gether for elab­o­rate birth­day lunches, din­ners for re­tir­ing mem­bers of the court and “weekend bagel spreads”.

“We can’t talk about cases,” said Jus­tice Sonia So­tomayor. “That’s our

• ab­so­lute rule.”

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