Category Archives: Media

Alan Jones

Alan Jones, the Grand Inquisitor of Radio Talkback, is now in a firestorm of his own making. His loathsome comments about the death of the Prime Minister’s father, John Gillard, have blown up in his face with a number of key advertisers now deserting his top-rating breakfast show and a growing social media backlash showing no signs of abating. Jones has been here before: the infamous London toilet incident in 1988, the Cash for Comments scandal a decade later, his inflammatory remarks during the Cronulla riots, in fact a lifetime of controversy and divisiveness. In 1998 I wrote an article for Good Weekend on the broadcaster called, appropriately: `Who’s Afraid of Alan Jones?’ The answer: A lot of people. This article was later re-published in my book “The Whites of their Eyes.”

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Gina and Rose: A Battle of Wills

Gina Rinehart is on her way to becoming the richest person on the planet and gaining control of the highly influential Fairfax Media, publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age and Australian Financial Review. A new book has just been published on Rinehart and an ABC Four Corners profile aired this week. Rinehart’s looming presence is everywhere.
Fourteen years ago David Leser interviewed Rinehart at the height of her poisonous decade-long struggle with her former step-mother, Rose Porteous. She hated the story, and has since declined almost every interview request.
The story that follows is a Shakespearean drama of the highest order – a family feud to end them all, the lonely rich girl daughter versus the garrulous, Filipino widow, claims of deathbed bullying, stolen wills, adulterous plottings and an endless trail of litigation. At stake, then and now? The vast minerals empire of the late Lang Hancock, so-called “King of the Pilbara.”

Gina_Rinehart_and_Rose_Hancock_by_David_Leser

NO-ONE DESERVES TO DIE LIKE Lang Hancock died. Put aside
the cystic kidneys and renal failure, his near-gangrenous legs, and the heart disease and pulmonary congestion that eventually caused him to drown in his own fluids on the morning of March 27, 1992. It was the psychological anguish more than the physical disintegration that so tormented the old man in his last days; the knowledge that whatever control he might have exercised over people and minerals during a ‘rogue bull’s’ lifetime was about to be extinguished in the most perverse of ways.

This was Lang Hancock’s worst nightmare: a fight for the spoils between the two women in his life; in this case, his only daughter, Gina Rinehart, and his third wife, Rose Hancock. They had been limbering up for battle almost from the day Gina hired Rose as the family housekeeper. Now, in his death throes, the fog was lifting and old Lang could see the grotesque outlines of war. He could also see the lawyers dancing on his grave. That’s why – according to Rose-he let out a scream that reverberated through the guesthouse of his Perth mansion in the seconds before his heart stopped. He realised he’d been betrayed by his daughter into depriving his estate of any assets, and that Rose, his love object, his china doll, his youth drug for nine-and-a-half years, had been disinherited, along with the other beneficiaries of his last will and testament.
On the other hand, if you listen to Gina, Lang Hancock might have experienced a different epiphany. If he screamed at all-which she seriously doubts-it would have been because he’d finally twigged to the fact that his wife never loved him. It had been a confidence trick from day one.
The animal cry from the bedroom was, therefore, the howl of a man who’d taken out a restraining order against his wife too late.

To download this chapter from David’s book ‘In the Whites of their Eyes‘, click here.

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Lady Mary Fairfax

Lady Mary FairfaxThere’s been blood on the floor of the Fairfax newsrooms this week with the announcement of nearly 2000 job losses amongst journalists and printers over the next three years, and the scaling down of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age from broadsheets to tabloids. Many blame Fairfax’s sliding fortunes on the internet revolution and the slowness by the Fairfax board to respond to changing technology. But as David Leser writes, the rot set in during the late 1980s when young Warwick Fairfax returned from America brandishing an MBA from Harvard University and strong Christian convictions to take over John Fairfax Ltd, the company his father, Sir Warwick had run in one position or another for the better part of 50 years. Young Warwick’s ambitions were aided and abetted by his mother (Lady) Mary Fairfax in what became both tragedy and farce for the House of Fairfax.

THE TEARS HAVE DRIED AND Lady (Mary) Fairfax is leaning forward
on the sofa clutching her letters and photographs. The butler is
hovering just beyond the reception room and her PR man is looking
anxiously at the floor. ‘Now, do I seem like a person who is interested in
revenge?’ she asks in a deep whisper. The question comes tumbling out
at the end of a two-hour talk-fest brimming with gushy memories and
savage recriminations. Later, serving a lunch of braised chicken and apricot
souffle, she pursues her defence: ‘What sort of character do you think I
am? You tell me.’

What can one say? After 32 years in the public eye; after a rumoured
love affair that scandalised society; after a harrowing divorce trial, a cele-
brated remarriage; after a welter of extraordinary parties with an endless
array of famous guests; and, now, with an Australian media empire in ruin
and a family filled with bad blood, it is no simple question to answer.

Is she one of the most monstrously misunderstood Women in Australian
history, or is she as deceptive as she is clever? Is she the instigator of a
company takeover gone disastrously wrong or the victim of markets, rnale
chauvinism, banks, bad advice, bad luck-and a son, Warwick, who was
always hopelessly out of his depth?

Is she a manipulative, scheming woman, hungry for power, wealth and
status? Or a tireless worker for the arts and charity, as well as a generous,
fun-loving hostess and friend? Is she a family maker or an empire breaker?
A proud matriarch who frequently owns up to only three children or a
tormented mother of four? Is she a Jewess or a Christian? Does she sit
atop staggering wealth or horrendous losses? Is she a figure of romance or
of vengeance?

And is it Mary or Marie?

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