Monday night's Four Corners was not the puff piece managing editor David Donovan expected, but nor did it provide any substantial revelations.
I didn't have very high expectations for the show. In fact, I was told by some usually reliable sources that the programme was set to be a puff piece, allowing a platform for the pair to strike back at their enemies.
Indeed, after airing these fears on Twitter I even attracted a profane tirade from dyspeptic former broadcaster and columnist Mike Carlton (do you know who his wife is!?).
Anyway, these fears proved to be unfounded. Everyone is now talking about Kathy Jackson and her de facto hubby Michael Lawler, and that is bound to be a good thing, I suppose, overall. Memes are being made about manic Lawler's weird phone recording technique, and people were discussing how out of touch and entitled they both are. Now, at least, the whole Jacksonville affair, which we have been investigating and exposing since 2012, is firmly in the public spotlight and cannot continue to be ignored. And, also, Michael Lawler is surely finished in his position as vice president of the Fair Work Commission. This man has made an absolute embarrassment to himself, his profession, the Liberal Party and the man who appointed him as an industrial judge — his old family friend, Tony Abbott. Sayonara, Tricky Mick.
So, the piece was not a puff piece — that I will happily admit. Rather, what it turned out to be was a fluff piece. Full of froth and bubble but, once all the cacaphony dies down, set to leave very little of any real substance. Yes, the ABC promised revelations, but there was really nothing much exposed apart from Lawler's bizarre obsession with recording every conversation he's involved in — something that is apparently not illegal under Commonwealth law and was probably, in truth, a poorly concealed shot across the bows of his contacts in the legal and political fraternity.
Yes, the show revealed a great deal of narcissism, entitlement, poor judgment and bad ethics, but I didn't spot any notable criminality we, or others, hadn't covered in the past. It was rather like an excruciating reality TV show, where you deplore all the contestants, but can't stop watching just to see how they are all voted off and which one of the drongoes is left standing.
But reality TV lacks substance and depth, and so nothing much has emerged for us to build on in terms of further investigations. I would have expected, for instance, after ten days of giving the pair more than enough rope to hang themselves, the final part of the "investigation" would have involved reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna throwing off the cloak of superficial friendship and giving Bonnie and Clyde a serious grilling over their years of alleged rorting and misconduct. That does not appear to have occurred to any real, significant or substantial extent.
The revelations, such as they were, simply showed the pair up as a pair of dirtbags, thereby completely destroying their credibility in the process. But then, they really didn't have much to begin with if you have been following our 154 stories on this matter since May 2012
Call me old school, but I would have been much happier for the pair to have retained a few shreds of their dignity, while having their allegedly vast criminality exposed. This was great reality television, don't get me wrong, but was it investigative journalism? Not in my book. It was more 'Sylvania Waters' than 'Moonlight State'.
Just off the top of my head, where were the questions about Jackson allegedly rorting health care workers at the Peter Mac cancer hospital? Where were the questions to Kathy Jackson about the prostitute who said Craig Thomson sometimes called himself "Jeff", noting her former husband's verifiable use of prostitutes at the same named brothel? Where were the questions about Lawler's children being employed by the union during their school holidays? About the Volvo and childcare fees being paid for by the HSU? Kathy's flagrant spending on electronic goods, alcohol, fashion accessories and other very non-union items? On Michael Lawler's computer allegedly accessing the HSU system? On Lawler's friendship with Tony Abbott? On Eric Abetz's phone calls to Kathy Jackson? And hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of others questions we have been looking for the answers to and that could have easily been asked over a ten day sojourn in someone's house, but appear not to have been.
Yes, now we know Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler are arrogant, entitled oddballs, and they probably won't be able to walk the streets now without attracting catcalls and scorn, but being out of touch with reality is not a crime in this society. Except maybe in the eyes of the media and for shallow numbskulls. Totally destroying people's credibility and character, like Kate McClymont did with Craig Thomson, is not something I would regard as a Walkley award winning achievement. I am more interested in the substance of the pair's wrongdoing, not whether or not they are nice, or entitled, or out of touch with reality, or vulgar.
The show was hard to watch and was not a puff piece, but it wasn't very much more. Yes, it has attracted attention to the Jacksonville affair and probably spelled the end of Michael Lawler's judicial career, but it hasn't uncovered anything much that you haven't read on Independent Australia and/or other publications before.
As Peter Wicks said, it was car crash television at its finest. But I don't slow down to look at car crashes. Do you?
You can read IA's full Jacksonville investigation HERE. Don't want to trawl through hundreds of stories to get the full picture? Well, investigative supremo Peter Wicks is writing the Jacksonville book. You can assist him get this book, which will be full of actual revelations and will put the who, done sooner by contributing to the Jacksonville book project HERE.
You can also order Independent Australia's new ASHBYGATE book by clicking HERE.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Bizarre telephone conversation recorder wants Peters Wicks and other journalists prosecuted. https://t.co/Dpappur55E— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) October 20, 2015
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