Geoffrey Rush named and framed

Geoffrey Rush receives the Camera Award at this year's Berlin Film Festival

The naming and framing of actor Geoffrey Rush

The Sydney Theatre Company is responsible for naming and framing actor Geoffrey Rush as a sex predator. In doing so, it has behaved disgracefully and probably illegally.

We don’t know what offences, if any, he is accused of and we don’t know the name of his accuser. Nor does Rush, his family and friends. His legal advisers are trying to find out.

Meanwhile, by issuing an ill-advised and alarming press release, Rush has been tried and convicted by the mainstream media and feather-brained social media drones who are already comparing him with Don Burke, Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein.

His unspecified “offences” occurred two years ago during the STC production of King Lear. Without knowing his “crimes” or the person making the “charges”, Rush has lost his career and reputation.

I have no idea what Mr Rush is alleged to have done and I don’t know him, but I am not going to start burning his theatre programmes and DVDs on the basis of what an STC press release says.

Call me an old-fashioned journo but I still believe in proof and evidence. In the case of Mr Rush we still have none.

Chair of the STC board is disgraceful Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev whose take home salary last financial year was $12.3 million. Apparently he didn’t see anything going wrong at the CBA during his stewardship but it was an entirely different matter with Mr Rush.

Other STC board luminaries include Ann Johnson, Microsoft vice president and a “expert” on cyber-terrorism; Gretel Packer, daughter of the late Kerry Packer; former NSW and Federal Liberal politician Bruce Baird; PR guru John Connolly; marketing person Toni Cody and irrepressible self-promoter Daniel Petre.

In late August trail-blazers on STC’s staff joined the campaign for the legalisation of marriage equality. Their laudable action shamed the stiff-necks at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who were claiming neutrality on the vote. But following a loud public rebuke from Leo Schofield the SSO was forced to come off the fence to rescue its reputation. What can the STC do to save its own standing?

What’s in a name

My other beef with the Sydney Theatre Company is its wild spending on bureaucratic staff rather than on actors, technicians, playwrights, bursaries, a livelier programme and cheaper seats.

The theatre has a staff of hundreds. All middle class. All latte drinkers. All with the latest iPhones as a modish fashion statement. And mostly rude.

But this item is not about the STC. I want to deplore the galloping trend to greater bureaucratic management that I have noticed in both private and public organisations

These days CEOs are not content unless they have a personal staff which includes a “deputy CEO” (who is promised the top job but never gets it), a “personal assistant”, a “media adviser” and a “chief of staff”.

Executives no longer lead a company’s “strategy”. They are given the grand title of “head of strategic change”. In one case I’ve heard of a “global head of strategic change”.

In the media they are use the moniker “director of creative strategy” while some newspapers and TV stations employ a “head of content” or “head of ideas”.

Some organisations now have a “chief knowledge officer” while a university has appointed a “senior fellow in advanced leadership”.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed Putney MP Justine Greening as “Minister for Equalities” while the BBC has a “director of transformation” and a “head of talent and change” after listeners ridiculed previous titles such as “head of vision” and “controller of knowledge commissioning”.

In luvvie land, celebrities are employing “image directors” to change their hairstyle and shoes while “creative directors” are being replaced by “creategists”.

On government arts boards, the chairman or chairwoman demands to be known as “Mr President” or “Madame President”. What will happen when a transgender person is given the job?

Some of these newfangled people are talented, but most are not. They are climbing the greasy pole of entitlement, claiming ever more highfalutin titles as they go. In capitalist language it’s called “empowerment” and to be greatly applauded but I’ll take a rain check on that.

Mike Willesee v Malcolm Fraser

Mike Willesee – frank memoirs

In his own special way, journalist Mike Willesee has “maintained the rage” over the 1975 dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the unscrupulously ambitious Malcolm Fraser.

That is the only way to interpret a highly damaging anecdote that Willesee has included in his 407-page book, Memoirs, just published by Pan Macmillan Australia.

Willesee, whose father Don was foreign minister in Whitlam’s government, was both a friend and a fan of the late Labor leader. He felt deeply wounded by Fraser’s organised plot with the judiciary, Governor-General John Kerr and Buckingham Palace to oust Whitlam from office.

In mid-1994 Mike Willesee was “horrified” by the catastrophe in Rwanda where hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were being massacred by armed Hutu soldiers with the benign complicity of the French government and other world powers.

He sent $40,000 to World Vision and another $40,000 to CARE Australia to play his part in easing the humanitarian crisis.

Malcolm Fraser – private plane

Fraser, the founder and chairman of CARE Australia, travelled to Rwanda to inspect the tragedy and then flew to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. As there was no immediate connecting flight from Harare to Johannesburg, the eminent visitor was advised he would have to wait a day until the next flight out.

“Rather than spend a night at Harare’s top hotel, he hired a private jet,” wrote Willesee. “It was revealed in the papers that the flight cost $40,000 which he billed back to CARE.

“Fraser had been asking Australians to donate to the cause and people had contributed their $10, or even $20 or $50, and together it made a difference. It takes a lot of $10 donations to raise the $40,000 that Fraser had spent to avoid a night in a five-star hotel.

“The fact that it was exactly the amount that I’d contributed stuck in my throat. Every cent of it spent on Fraser’s jet.”

Angry falling-out

Later when CARE phoned to ask for another donation, Willesee refused point blank and explained why. Then Fraser phoned saying: “I understand you are upset about me hiring that jet.” Willesee recalled that the former Liberal PM spoke in “his best Oxford-educated tones”.

Willesee launched into a verbal attack on Fraser saying: “Yes, I think every Australian who knows the story is upset. I think it’s disgusting, Malcolm, I’ll give it to you straight.”

Fraser asked Willesee to continue supporting CARE if he repaid the $40,000, to which the TV host replied: “If you repay that $40,000, I’ll put CARE back into my consideration.”

Much later Willesee established that Fraser had billed CARE for $80,000 for flights and not $40,000 as initially thought and when they met in London Willesee told him: “Malcolm, you haven’t changed. You are still a shit.”

Fraser: “You can’t talk to me like that.”

Willesee: “Mate, I just did.”

He recalled that the former PM had reinvented himself as a “globe-trotting super-statesman saving the world” and Willesee concluded: “But he stole $80,000. Full stop.”

His father Don would have been proud of him, so would the whole clan Willesee and so would Gough.

Murdoch’s parrots

In the 24 hours prior to the State Election in Queensland on Saturday, 25 November 2017, Rupert Murdoch’s media assets across Australia all started to crank out their editorial policy.

Miraculously, whether it was a daily newspaper in a capital city, a weekly paper in the bush or the pay TV organ based in Sydney, they all came to the same conclusion – Queenslanders should dump Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government and support a change of government. Their hero of the hour was the LNP’s Tim Nicholls and they unanimously called for his election.

Annastacia Palaszczuk – still Queensland Premier

How is it possible that from one end of our vast country to the other, News Ltd editors, both male and female, who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, came to exactly the same conclusion at precisely the same time – Vote LNP and elect Tim Nicholls as Queensland’s next Premier.

The unanimity of the News Ltd policy defies logic and all understanding. Senior News Ltd executives insist on telling us with a straight face that Murdoch’s company does not issue an “editorial line” to its editors who, they claim, are as free as frolicking lambs to take their own individual decisions.

This makes the unanimity of the papers’ pre-election editorials even more puzzling: are we to believe that News Ltd editors – without exception – simultaneously reached the same political conclusion from Tasmania to Perth? A university mathematician informed me that the chance of such a unanimous verdict was an arithmetical impossibility, or “millions to one”.

Sam Weir, editor of Murdoch’s Brisbane Courier-Mail, penned a pre-election editorial, “Vital chance to restore our state to greatness”, in which he said: “Queenslanders deserve better than three more years of a ‘do nothing’ government. A vote for the LNP is the best chance we have of uniting our state, putting it on track to prosperity and restoring Queensland to its rightful place as the envy of Australia and the world.” (Courier Mail, 24 Nov 2017)

At precisely the same time, The Australian’s editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker was putting the finishing touches to his editorial, “Queenslanders’ critical economic crossroads”, which concluded: “Mr Nicholls has the experience and policies to position the state well. He deserves the chance to govern but must do so more boldly.” (The Australian, 24 Nov 2017).

Meanwhile, at the Gold Coast Bulletin editor Ben English was fine-tuning his editorial, “In our best interests” urging Gold Coasters to vote LNP. He wrote: “On balance, the LNP has shown through its policy announcements and in response to the Bulletin’s Going for Gold campaign that its proposals will benefit us the most.”

Elsewhere in the Murdoch empire, which owns 70% of Australia’s print media, other scribblers were writing variations of the same clarion call. Are these dummies under instruction to write “the line”? No, they are tried and trusted Murdoch editors who know the pathway to executive salaries and expenses. If Murdoch dropped dead tomorrow, these zombie editors would continue to churn out pro-capitalist and pro-Western chaff.

PS: The LNP’s primary vote in Queensland has dropped spectacularly to 33.7%; Ms Palaszczuk remains Premier; Nicholls is likely to be dumped as Opposition leader; the LNP’s coalition agreement in Queensland is falling apart; and the anti-LNP vote in Queensland has broadsided Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government in Canberra. None of the Murdoch editors have resigned for giving hopelessly wrong advice, although many of them are shamelessly calling for “Torrential Tim” Nicholls to be sacked. The moral of the story? Voters should take no notice of advice from Murdoch’s scribblers!

Cricket and the PLO

Since the Ashes Tests began I’ve gained much respect for the English all-rounder Moeen Ali who is a fine left-handed batsman as well as a competent right-arm spinner.

England cricketer Moeen Ali

Nicknamed “the beard that’s feared” Ali is a third generation Pakistani Englander born in Birmingham. His grandmother, Betty Cox, was English and his brothers, Kadeer and Omar, are also good cricketers. He grew up in the same street as fellow First Grade cricketers, Kabir Ali, Naqaash Tahir and Rawait Khan. England’s Test team, once the preserve of privately-educated toffs selected by the MCC, seems to be diving headlong into multi-culturalism but I’d still like to see more English-born Bengalis, Indians, Africans and West Indians in the side. (Perhaps they’ve given up trying and Premier League soccer is now their sport of choice).

Moeen Ali was involved in a controversy at the start of his Test career when he wore “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” wristbands during Day 2 of the third Test against India in 2014.

Contrary to International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) gave Moeen Ali permission to wear the wristbands saying his protest gesture was “humanitarian, not political” and a spokesman said “the ECB do not believe he has committed any offence”. The ECB’s placatory decision was not unexpected; if Moeen had been charged and disciplined England’s cricket world would have exploded with angry recriminations from players and fans. There was also the very real danger that teams from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand would have imposed a boycott on Tests with England. Even Australia’s historic support for the MCC would have been rattled.

The ICC’s presiding match official overruled the ECB decision and banned Moeen Ali from wearing the wristbands for the rest of the series.

So which cricket official decided to ban Moeen Ali’s wristbands? Step forward ICC match referee David Boon MBE, the former Australian Test batsman from Tasmania.

News of the Week

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir

Katrin Jakobsdottir, a 41-year-old anti-war feminist, socialist and crime literature buff, is the new Prime Minister of Iceland.

Her Left-Green Movement is the junior partner in a coalition government led the conservative Independence Party and the centrist Progressive Party. The Coalition holds 35 of the 63 seats in the Althing (Parliament).

Although her prime ministership will be controlled by a Cabinet dominated by ministers from other parties, Ms Jakobsdottir, whose parents are prominent poets, has promised a tilt towards clean government, anti-corruption measures in the small business community and a sustainable environment.

She is married with three sons. In 1996 she appeared in a rock music video playing the role of a femme fatale to music by the Icelandic band Bang Gang.

Would someone call First Aid: Miranda Devine and Janet Albrechtsen have just fainted.

Quote of the Week

The PLO’s Dr Hanan Ashrawi

“Despite repeated words of advice and caution from all concerned and from global leaders, President Trump seems to be hell-bent on annihilating the chances of peace and destroying the stability and security of the entire region and beyond, provoking violence and playing into the hands of extremists and terrorists around the world. He is wilfully committing an act of the utmost folly which is not only illegal but also designed to inflame religious and spiritual sentiments, and raise the spectre of sectarianism and religious strife. It simultaneously emboldens the most aggressive, hardline and warmongering elements in Israel to guarantee the destruction of the two-state solution.”

– PLO Executive Committee member Dr Hanan Ashrawi condemning President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state and to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient Holy City for Christians, Moslems and Jews.

One comment

  1. Well said Alex re STC. Having just seen the Uptonian/Williamsesque treatment of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” (no Chekhov for mine, more Checkmate), they would seem to use re-creategists.

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