Holy hellfire: the Law of Unintended Consequences struck me out of right field for the first full week of the federal election campaign. After suffering sleeplessness due to nothing more than a blocked nose, I was referred by our family GP to an ear, nose and throat specialist. She gravely pronounced that my nose had ‘suffered trauma’ over the years. Oh really? Add it up: played rugby, covered police rounds, drank in gin mills and have been employed for more than 45 years in an industry where putting one’s nose into others’ affairs was a prerequisite — odds are that my nose suffered trauma on more than one occasion. Next was the anaesthetist’s requirement for a pre-op cardiac check given that I had had a minor heart problem treated with angioplasty 16 years ago. Since then I’ve tromped over Antarctica, sailed the Pacific and the Aegean, chopped cords of wood and walked on average more than 20km per week.
The cardiologist was not happy. Irregularities were discerned on the ultrasound which increased as I stepped out during a stress test. Bingo, an angiogram identified at least three blockages and a triple bypass seemed on the cards. Thoracic surgeon Alan Farnsworth viewed the video (no doubt soon to go viral on YouTube) and thought a quadruple might be in order, please check in to St Vincent’s Private Sunday for a Monday theatre appearance. Stacked some wood, cleaned the gutters and presented myself for a chest and leg shave as ordered. Just after midday on Monday I was awoken in my intensive care unit bed by the gifted surgeon to be informed that he had performed a quintuple bypass. Two-and-a-half days later, in a room on the cardiac floor surrounded by flowers and notes from well-wishers, I was being introduced to the rehab program. Bear in mind I had suffered no symptoms of cardiac distress. There’s a lesson here and it’s not just about being careful of your nose when standing up against the forces of darkness.
Though I was recumbent and drugged to a degree I watched the first debate with interest. I had always been convinced that the more the electorate saw of Kevin Rudd, the more it would be reminded of why it came to dislike him last time he was Prime Minister and why so many of his cabinet colleagues actively loathed him. It’s not just his irksome mannerisms, the flick of the hair, the lick of the lips, it’s his ability to lie with a straight face. Of course, he cheated by using notes and it was typical of his arrogance that he tried to blame his own ignorance of the rules of the debate for this breach. Putting aside my own partisan view, which is not that difficult, I gave the night to Tony Abbott. I told my old mate, Col Allan, that Rudd was slick but evasive, he had told Sydney to effectively ‘drop dead’ on the second airport issue and that, in my view, homosexual marriage is not a vote changer despite the enthusiasm for the topic displayed by the ABC’s commentators.
Enforced confinement, at least until my release last Monday, meant that I watched more television than is good for the soul. There should be health warnings before some programs, particularly the morning shows and especially the ABC1 News Breakfast program with Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland. Fortunately, I was able to laugh at most of their howlers, despite the pain it caused my recently sundered sternum. Without wishing to kill their careers by praising them, the 7.30’s Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann have an informed understanding of the issues they explore. Among the flowers I did receive was an eye-catching arrangement from the Insiders team, the first communication of any sort I had from Auntie since I last appeared on the Insiders in June and delivered some unpalatable truths. Perhaps the blooms may be a sign of rapprochement. One thing is certain: ABC managing director Mark Scott should start listening to the very valid criticisms levelled against his organisation. SBS news is, if anything, even worse than anything offered by the ABC. It can only have relevancy to its charter audience of ethnic Australians if they are overwhelmingly homosexual Green voters.
While the ABC may be marked by the ignorance of some of its commentators, and particularly those it invites to comment on the media and NewsCorp Australia for whom I work, Fairfax has done a sterling job to demonstrate its inability to understand the workings of the NBN and cable television content, a failure Rudd attempted to exploit. While it sniffed at the Daily Telegraph’s eye-catching front pages, ignoring the Age’s own attempt in this area recently, the poor old Sydney Morning Herald showed just how out of touch it is by promoting Abbott’s light-hearted remark about the young and feisty Liberal candidate Fiona Scott’s additional attribute, a ‘bit of sex appeal’. The immaterial Twitterverse went into hyper-drive but I don’t think the remark did any more than demonstrate the absurd hypocrisy that surrounds the politically correct. Five years ago, the youthful and vivacious Kate Ellis was chosen by her parliamentary peers as the sexiest MP in a poll conducted by the Courier Mail. I don’t recall the sour sisters from Emily’s List begrudging their young protégé the compliment. As Ellis said, she felt ‘quite flattered’ by the vote. No one has challenged Abbott’s view that Scott is intelligent and would be a good MP.
Piers Akerman is a columnist at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney.