I haven’t posted for a while, as I’ve been busy with The Observer Effect, hosted by Ellen Fanning, broadcast on SBS1 on Sunday nights at 8.30. Last night’s episode was very good, featuring Lt Gen David Morrison, Chief of Army (photo left), social commentator Jane Caro and freelance journalist Frank Thorne. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to a video on SBS On Demand http://bit.ly/12wd6nf And here’s a transcript of the program.
THE OBSERVER EFFECT EPISODE 6 SEGMENT 1
July 7, 2013
ELLEN FANNING: Good evening and welcome to The Observer Effect, viewing the events of the week through the eyes of the people who shape Australia.
Tonight, we’ll talk to Army Chief Lieutenant General David Morrison on his crusade to clean up the army and its attitude to women in the ranks. Social commentator Jane Caro tells us why Kevin Rudd is just like your daggy uncle. And we’ll meet Frank Thorne, a true British tabloid journalist.
In the past 12 months two Australian speeches went viral on the Internet resonating around the world. Both of them about misogyny and sexism. One was Julia Gillard fiery oratory directed at Tony Abbott: “I will not be lectured by this man”, she said. The other was Lieutenant General David Morrison, the chief of the Australian Army. One US publication described “a clenched jawed simmeringly furious Morrison” addressing his troops in a video about the rightful place of women in the military. It famously included the ultimatum, “If that does not suit you, then get out.”
David Morrison has agreed to give The Observer Effect his first one on one interview about that speech, why he gave it and what he’s doing to change army.
Lieutenant General, thank you so much for being our guest.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: It’s a pleasure to be here, Ellen.
ELLEN FANNING: You’re a Lieutenant General. You have spent your life in the Australian Army and now you lead it. Do you think you’ll come to this point in your career and be fighting an enemy within.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No, I certainly didn’t. I mean, I didn’t start my military career almost 35 years ago with any intention other than perhaps getting through my time as a Lieutenant …
ELLEN FANNING: Right.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: … let alone a Lieutenant General. Over the course of those 35 years, I have come to not just deeply respect the institution that I now lead, but actually to love it. I’ve seen our men and women do extraordinary things all around the world and here in Australia, and they do fantastic work. They get on well with each other. You know, our values of courage, initiative and teamwork I’ve added a new value to that which I’d like to talk about a little bit later but those values of courage, initiative and teamwork, that’s manifest in the way they serve the country.
But there is no doubt that as I came into the job just over two years ago we were being confronted, we as an institution, the army, the ADF, were being confronted by a series of disclosures as a result of reviews that were being done that could, I guess, be addressed in one of two ways.
ELLEN FANNING: Mmm hmm.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Firstly you could say, well, okay, the reviews are highlighting poor behaviour or a lack of respect or, you know, bad things happening, and you could ascribe to the actions of a couple of bad apples, you know.
Or you could take a different approach and you could say, well, we have had 13 major reviews into our culture in the last 16 years. They tend to show a consistent level of areas that we must address: Abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, the use of non prescribed drugs, alcohol. Looking at that, you can you can recognise for a start that you have got a problem, that there is a systemic issue or systemic issues that have to be addressed. And once you do that, it’s a bit like, you know, someone struggling with something, a demon in their life, and the first step in addressing that demon is to say, “Okay, well, we’ve got a problem.”
ELLEN FANNING: Yeah, and you’ve certainly done that. You have certainly front and centre said, “We have got a problem.” And I want to talk to you about them. Let’s just give some context for the latest sex scandal because I think sometimes people don’t fully understand what’s being discussed. The latest involved a Lieutenant Colonel, allegedly a major, a sergeant, the lot, all the way through, and they call themselves the Jedi Council which is supposed to be a reference to Star Wars, and the Jedi Council are the good guys. What is it that they are said to have done because they certainly don’t appear to be the good guys?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Okay. Well, they most certainly are not anything but. Now, they had distributed e mails that were very explicit in their denigration of women, often with very specific sexual connotations. There had certainly been the sharing of explicit imaginary of women, and it came to our notice in the ADF, the CDF, the Chief of the Defence Force David Hurley was briefed, and then because I was overseas I was briefed two days later, and we were both just appalled, just I mean, I the word I don’t have the words to describe my initial reaction. It was just, you know, how can a group of men who purport to live to the values of the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Army, men who have at least on the indications that we’ve got of their involvement, men who’ve been in the service for, you know, in excess of a decade, in some cases closer to two decades …
ELLEN FANNING: So they should understand the culture, they’re not young men.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No, they’re not they’re not ADFA cadets misbehaving, and behaving badly. These are men the nation looks to as custodians of its security.
ELLEN FANNING: All right. Well, what you did in response to it has become, as I said, a You Tube sensation, let’s have a look at what you said just a few weeks ago in the wake of that scandal.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: (On You Tube from Army website) Our service has been engaged in continuous operation since 1999, and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us, maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out.
ELLEN FANNING: You look furious. Were you?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I was yes, I still am. I mean, you can be angry forever if you want to be, it doesn’t solve too much, but I think it was there was certainly very genuine emotion there. The the just to put the video into context because I have been taken aback by the public reaction complete …
ELLEN FANNING: Have you?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Oh, completely, because it wasn’t it wasn’t designed to be anything more than a message to the Army.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, I I looked at it on Thursday on You Tube and there had been 1,317,487 views.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yeah. I do find it … look, the public support as a result of people watching it has been exceptionally heartening. You know, at a personal level, you can’t be uninfluenced by that public reaction, and that’s been great and it has …
ELLEN FANNING: But why did it surprise you?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, because at its at its essence it is simply someone in a leadership position saying to his workforce that treating your colleagues with respect and decency is a precondition of your employment. What I had been given on the evidence I found abhorrent.
ELLEN FANNING: A lot of people saw that on saw one bit of commentary that someone said, I don’t know if I can say it on television, but they can bleep, I suppose: “Holy crap”, somebody said in the United States. “Wow, that’s” “that’s telling it like it is.” Did the Minister or anybody senior around you have that response when they saw it?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No, no, but they probably know me better than most. So, no, that wasn’t the case. Again, you know, I have been surprised at the reaction because and I do want to make the point again, it … the message is a pretty straightforward one. There’s a level of behaviour that is absolutely essential if you want to be a soldier … or in this case a soldier. So live up to it. And when you live up to it, you’ll respect yourself, you’ll respect your colleagues, and guess what? The nation will respect you. If you can’t do that, then bugger off.
ELLEN FANNING: And has anyone said to you before or since, you shouldn’t have done that, that you broke ranks somehow by doing that”.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No, no one has. In the wake of what happened at ADFA in 2011, there has been a real commitment by the government and by the leader in the ADF, certainly, you know, under the directional leadership of David Hurley, to be as transparent as we possibly can be with the Australian public. You know, it goes to the point I made, we are funded by their taxes and we recruit from their families.
ELLEN FANNING: When you took over as you say, when you took over as the chief of army in 2011, the news had just broken of that Skype scandal of where it’s alleged that Army cadets used Skype, it’s a computer program, to stream pictures of a male cadet having sex with a female cadet, allegedly, at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Now, the public were shocked by that, but I wonder whether after 40 years in the Army that still had the power to shock you.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I was taken aback by the very rapidly escalating media scrutiny of this. Now, that says perhaps something about me.
ELLEN FANNING: What does it say?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, it says, perhaps in early 2011 I was somewhat naive about these issues.
ELLEN FANNING: Mmm.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: And I think that there was a reaction across the defence force in early 2011, and I’ll put my hand up and say that I was I was part of this camp, that said, well, you know this is really bad. It clearly the victim of this alleged action has been made to suffer in a humiliating and degrading way and so there was a genuine level of human empathy and compassion for her in her circumstances.
ELLEN FANNING: But?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: But nonetheless, the media commentary was drawing a great deal from it actions that had been alleged to have been performed by people who had been in our military for less than 10 weeks. Is that “Was that fair?”, this is me thinking this through. Was that a fair reflection of what …
ELLEN FANNING: Should this act reflect …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yeah.
ELLEN FANNING: … on the military more generally.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Now, I have changed my mind. I changed my mind pretty quickly as I came into the job as the chief of Army and there …
ELLEN FANNING: So at that point in time, you didn’t see that as flagging a major strategic problem. It was a significant personnel issue, but maybe not a major strategic problem for Army.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I probably wouldn’t put it as as categorically as that. I don’t think my thoughts had been as fully thought through has they are now.
ELLEN FANNING: Okay.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I am certainly of a view now, though, that these instances, when you ally them to 13 major reviews in 16 years point to systemic issues
ELLEN FANNING: Yes.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: … and that view has been formed, I have got to say, by the discussions and I have had and the influence that I have received from people such as Elizabeth Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, let’s go to that. As you say, that one scandal itself led to six or seven separate lines of inquiry, and then you describe this key moment when you came face to face with female victims. It was organised by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Can you tell us about that moment?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yeah. Liz asked all three service chiefs to spend some time with women in their particular service who had been who had come forward to speak to her. I met with three women sequentially, not all together. They were accompanied by a partner or or someone in support and it was just them, me, Elizabeth Broderick and the support that they had, in a room up in Sydney in the Human Rights Commission. And it was … I have described it publicly, and I say it very genuinely, the most distressing day of my Army career because they told me things … all three women had different stories to tell and I don’t want to go into if specifics of of their issues
ELLEN FANNING: But they had been mistreated by their …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Oh, yes.
ELLEN FANNING: … male colleagues in the Army.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yes. And in one case, it had been a sexual assault, which was proven in a court of law, and yet in dealing with the circumstance after the judicial decision, I think that the woman, the victim, her hurt and pain was not taken in any way appropriately into account in how we dealt with the person who was found guilty of perpetrating this act of violence.
I finished the day just feeling two things. Really upset for what had happened to these women. They had been stripped of their self respect by people that should be their mates, you know. We have these values of courage, initiative and teamwork, and yet there had been none of that on display either by the institution or by, you know, superiors or peers. So that affected me at a personal level. But …
ELLEN FANNING: You were distressed by it.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yes, absolutely, and I was, you know, I wondered what I could do about it. Now, I did feel as I worked through that with the team of great support that I have in Army headquarters, a large number of whom are women, and I discussed it with the most important person in my life, who’s my wife, you know, to get her view on this, I it was like it was a bit like a Paul on the Road to Damascus revelation.
This is a cultural issue and it’s a systemic cultural issue and, therefore, you have got to tackle it in a systemic way, and the way you do that is you start a very open dialogue, conversation, with your workforce, which in my case is 50,000 people so, you know, sometimes it’s a bit hard to try to get that message across, which goes back to the reason for the video, you know. But having said that, Ellen, I am absolutely certain that we here not just on the right path. We’re actually getting the results we need.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, we have seen your reaction to that latest sex scandal. I want to take you to the reaction of a woman just called Kate who’s at the centre of that Skype scandal, the one that the cadet back 2011. Now, she was interviewed last month and she made the point that the latest sex scandal, the Jedi Council one, the abuse dates back before her abuse, it started before her abuse, and allegedly continued after you’d taken a strong stand against it. Here’s what she had to say.
“KATE” (Meet the Press June 16): This particular incident had been going on since 2010 which predates my incident. If there had been a change, somebody would have come forward before now. I think that the Chief of the Army is saying all the right words, but I think we still need to see more action.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, I’d agree with her. I am saying the right words, but words don’t count for much. It’s it’s changing the way we treat each other. It’s about focus on who we are as soldiers or members of the defence force and a recognition on our part that we are held to a higher level of account in some ways than society.
ELLEN FANNING: But, I guess what she’s saying is …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yep.
ELLEN FANNING: … that you’d come out after Skype, the the leadership of Army had come out of the Skype scandal at ADFA and said, “This will not stand. These are the values, folks.” And yet here we have the latest scandal, not of a couple of cadets at the Australian Defence Force Academy, but allegedly right through the military. If it was going to change, why wouldn’t it have changed?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I think you’re absolutely right in taking that view, but I would also say that in the wake of what happened at ADFA in 2011, there was a commitment made by the government, by the Minister for Defence, by the CDF and the service chiefs that we would deal these matters should they occur again in the future in as open and as a transparent a way as possible, and I would hope that while you would you’re absolutely right saying your actions speak much louder than words.
In this case we have Australia hopefully, the world perhaps in part, have seen the leadership of the ADF stand up and say, “Well, look we’re being held to account now. We know we have got to do something better. We know we have got to be open as we we possibly can be and we will be, and we’ll take action as a result.”
ELLEN FANNING: We’ll take a break, when we return, the legacy of ANZAC, why the Chief of Army says the idealised image of the bronzed Aussie is a double edged sword.
And you can join the conversation online using #observersbs or find us upon Facebook. We’ll be right back.
ELLEN FANNING: Welcome back. My guest is Lieutenant General David Morrison, the Chief of the Australian Army.
I wonder what you learnt from your father. He was a famous General, Alan “Alby” Morrison, and when I rang around this week to talk to various people who knew him or had served under him, and they all said the same thing. The first thing they said was “gentleman”. “Oh, he was a gentleman.” A lot of them said he was a fatherly figure to them, and all of them said, “But he could be ferocious.” How do you combine all of those things?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Look, he was just a natural, he was oh, gosh, I didn’t know you had that photo.
ELLEN FANNING: What do you think seeing that?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Oh, well, I’m a bit lost for words. Look, he was he was the most wonderful man in my life and he had all of what you have just said, great sense of humour, a great empathy with other people, but he was tough. You know, he was he was a Lieutenant and a captain in Korea. He commanded 9 RAR, 9th battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam. In a year they had over 30 soldiers killed just from that one unit.
He could be as demanding and as strict with an errant 14 year old me as any person who’s ever walked the planet. But once the rocket was over, we were back to being best of mates. Now, I didn’t just love him. I respected him, and that’s what I’m talking about. A great man.
ELLEN FANNING: What did you learn about leadership from him, do you think?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: That you can you can get a huge amount from listening and learning from other people listening to and learning from other people, but the most important lessons in life are those that you probably learn for yourself. And so if you’re going to make a mistake, then that’s okay.
So, you know, back on treatment of of colleagues, you know, people do make mistakes. I’m not setting the bar impossibly high here. I know that there will be people who will behave imperfectly. I’ll behave imperfectly, you know. We’re all just human beings. But don’t make the same mistake twice, or don’t make a mistake that goes to the heart of the values that we, as an Army, want: You know, courage, initiative, respect and teamwork. If you traduce those, then we don’t want you. You know, you’re not up to the mark. Leave. Go now.
ELLEN FANNING: And Alby wouldn’t have wanted them either.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No, he wouldn’t have been … he soldiered in a different age. You know, there was no social media. Dad left the Army in 1981, but he would have been horrified at the alleged actions of this group, and his reaction would have been visceral. It would have been no different to mine and so, you know, I’m absolutely a product of my parents, as we all; I’m also a product of the the career that I have made, that’s the Army, and I think that I’m pretty pleased with the outcome from the influence of both of those, you know, family and national institution.
ELLEN FANNING: The big news this week was the event that appeared very much like a military coup in Egypt. There was some dispute about whether it was, but the democratically elected president was, in fact, detained by the Army after a major protest in the capital Cairo, and during that protest, dozens of women were raped.
REPORTER MATT BROWN ABC: There’s a foreign journalist who’s reportedly being raped allegedly by five men. Unfortunately, the rape of women here in Tahrir Square has not been uncommon over the past months. This is said to be an organised campaign of intimidation against people involved in the protests. So rapes, sexual intimidation, sexual harassment of women and also of men who have come in to help women.
ELLEN FANNING: Yeah, that’s Matt Brown there …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yeah.
ELLEN FANNING: … from the ABC. Now, what is it about conflict zones, social upheaval, that somehow leads to rape?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I don’t know. I mean, I have been asked this question in a number of forums during the time that not just the time that I have been chief, but a more senior officer, by women who who’ve made the point about rape as a weapon in war, and all the literature all the studies go to the heart of that, that it had been used and it is used and I can’t … I’m just not qualified to make any comment on what Matt Brown’s reporting there but, you know, those sorts of actions go to the heart of broader societal issues not just in Australia, but globally in terms of how women are treated.
ELLEN FANNING: We talk about nation building and democracy, the great project that Australia has been involved in has been Afghanistan and this week you went to the funeral of Cameron Stewart Baird, the 40th Australian soldier who died in that conflict.
I want to read you what your colleague, Major General John Cantwell, who commanded troops in that conflict has said: “We achieved some good things, and it had been achieved at enormous costs”, and he talked about roads being fixed and security getting better and more schools. “But when I stood down and gazed on the body of Australian soldier, I wondered, ‘Is this a reasonable exchange?’ I just don’t think it’s a reasonable exchange.” Is it a reasonable exchange?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I have known John as a friend and professional colleague for decades, and I admire him deeply and I respect him. He’s had a lot of operational service and he is certainly well qualified to talk about the matters that he’s speaking about. He’s a man of great propriety and courage.
I don’t agree with him on this. I do think that well I haven’t served in Afghanistan, I have been there to see what our soldiers do, and it is always well, it’s impossible to make a comment about the loss of an Australian soldier against, you know, the longer term benefits to another country and I don’t feel qualified to do that even though I’m the Chief of the Army other than to say that the soldiers that I speak to believe in what they are doing. They are absolutely certain that they have contributed to not just Australia’s security and Afghan security, but global security through their actions. They are very proud of what they’ve achieved and I am very proud of them.
And we will keep the faith. The Army will keep the faith as the defence force will keep the faith as long as the government wants to us to have committed to Afghanistan.
ELLEN FANNING: We’re looking here …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yep.
ELLEN FANNING: … at the funeral …
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yep.
ELLEN FANNING: … of Stewart Baird Cameron Stewart Baird there. You attended that funeral. Is that is that your hardest day as the chief?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Yes, I I think that dealing with the death of an Australian soldier on operations, particularly, it brings it into sharper focus, but the death of an Australian soldier who is is trying their best to be a servant of this nation is the the worst of the days that confronts you as a leader in the organisation, and when you reach out to the families of those soldiers and you see their their grief, but also their pride too in what their sons have done, that affects you as a person. Of course it does.
ELLEN FANNING: As my final question to you is about who is an Australian soldier. You gave a speech in New York for International Women’s Day, and you talked about the ANZAC legend being a double edged sword. Do you remember what you said?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Pretty much. I mean, I probably couldn’t quote it verbatim, but it goes to the …
ELLEN FANNING: It was a heck of a speech.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, thank you, thank you. I had some some help from another very influential woman in my life, who is my speech writer, Cate McGregor, but the point there is that, you know, if you have a perception of the Australian soldier as some sort of Mel Gibson clone from Gallipoli, straight off the farm, able to deal it up to to the biggest and the worst, who fights best with a hangover and never salutes officers, particularly the Poms, then it’s a really distorted view in from my perspective of the men and women who have sacrificed themselves in the service of the nation. You know, they are human beings.
So this, you know, this view of the ANZAC soldier as someone who does it naturally and doesn’t have to work hard at it isn’t fair to them, you know, because they did. They in some cases they died doing it. In many cases they died doing it. Same with those that fought in the Second World War and in Korea and Vietnam.
ELLEN FANNING: No one is a natural.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: No one is a natural. Well, some people I think are naturally more able to pick up and deal with the rigours of soldiering. Some people, I think, are probably more naturally able to deal with the sometimes horrific circumstances that face men and women in war, just have a natural resilience, but no one is a natural to the types of things that a nation requires of its Army, which means so much focus has to be given on preparing the soldiers that Australia needs.
ELLEN FANNING: I was surprised when you said it because you went on to say, look, it breeds this dangerous complacency, as you have said. It underestimates that soldiering is a professional thing to do, it’s a discipline thing to do.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Absolutely.
ELLEN FANNING: Is there a link between that sort of dangerous complacency around that myth of of the bloke fighting with the hangover, refusing to salute, and the sort of nonsense you’re having to deal with in terms of the treatment of women sometimes in the Army?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Look, I think it is. I mean, no one is prouder of Australia military’s history or Army history than I am. The stories about our military successes can be distorted by people who want to use that to, you know, through bullying or through harassment or through exclusion, propagate this idea that, you know, we’re we’re the toughest of the tough and we’ve got, you know if you’re white, male, Anglo Saxon then, you know, “It’s okay, that’s great, we want you on board, mate, because you’re a natural soldier”; but if you’re a woman or if you come from a different ethnic background, well, you know, there’s question marks over you. Well, that’s just absolute rubbish.
ELLEN FANNING: And that’s the risk you think of that mythologising.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I think it is a risk. Now, I think I don’t think it plays out to a great extent. I think we have got the best training system military training system in the world but clearly, you know, with instances of workplace bullying and harassment as well as, you know, sexual harassment as well, there are problems that have to be attended to, and the conclusion that I have drawn along with the leadership in the ADF is there are systemic issues and they have got to be faced.
ELLEN FANNING: What is Australian masculinity at its best?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, I think let me be let me be non gender specific. I think, you know, what is the who is the best Australian?
ELLEN FANNING: Okay.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: I think it’s …
ELLEN FANNING: Much better question.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Well, I think it is because, you know what is who is the best Australian? I think it is someone who has respect for themselves, for their place in their family and their society; who is prepared to struggle to make their family circumstances or their nation a better place; and you don’t need to judge how much they make it a better place because it falls to some to do more than others because they had the tools to achieve more than others. If we all just went to that idea of respecting ourselves, those we share our domestic environment with, those we share our workplace with, those that we share our nation with, then that’s pretty good start, isn’t it?
ELLEN FANNING: It’s a wonderful way to conclude Lieutenant General David Morrison.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Thank you very much, Ellen.
ELLEN FANNING: Thank you so much for being my guest.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MORRISON: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
ELLEN FANNING: We’ll be back to talk to social commentator Jane Caro in just a moment.
ELLEN FANNING: My next guest describes herself as having a low boredom threshold. As a result, she likes to wear as many hats as she can at any one time. She describes herself as a feminist, atheist, writer, Gruen chick, mother and stirrer.
She had 30 years as a very successful copywriter in advertising and now has her own consultancy. She knows what sells and why. She specialised in being a generalist, something she says Australians are uncomfortable with. She is Jane Caro. Thank you so much for being my guest.
JANE CARO: Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you for asking me.
ELLEN FANNING: I want to talk to you about Kevin Rudd. I want to talk to you about “brand Kevin”. How is “brand Kevin” different from “brand Julia”?
JANE CARO: Well, “brand Kevin” at the moment is a unique political brand. I have never seen anything like it. I have to think it’s fascinating. I don’t know how it will play out, but I think it’s really interesting because he able to combine just at this moment, the advantages of an incumbent in that we know him, he was Prime Minister for two years, he’s familiar to us, so he feels safe and we we you know, we feel like we have a handle on who Kevin Rudd is.
But he’s also combining the attributes of a challenger, of someone fresh and exciting and new and we haven’t seen him for a while. I have never seen this before in a political contest and it is a powerful combination of the freshness of the challenger and the security of the incumbent.
And also I think the thing about Kevin Rudd which absolutely shines through, love him or hate him, is that this is a man who just loves being Prime Minister, and that gives us some confidence actually. We like a leader who likes to be in the job.
ELLEN FANNING: I read this week an article by Peter Hartcher from the Sydney Morning Herald, that Kevin Rudd was the number 1 search term on Google news in the last 30 days, more than Nelson Mandela.
JANE CARO: Wow.
ELLEN FANNING: Why does Kevin Rudd sell?
JANE CARO: I think it is he’s he’s a fascinating character and he is very much himself. I loved it actually when he said, “I’m the nerdy kid in the library with the glasses”, because that is exactly who he is. He and he’s embracing that, and there’s something quite we don’t feel threatened by him but we also feel this is a smart guy. He’s putting those two things together rather well.
He he, you know, I find him a bit too folksy for my taste, to tell you the truth, but I can see the way he’s resonating with the public, and a lot of it is he’s kind of like your daggy uncle, you know, who makes the bad jokes at Christmas, but when he’s not there, it’s not quite the same. Australians have gone into a major sulk. They wanted Kevin Rudd to be Prime Minister, they voted for him, they didn’t feel they got any say in whether he stayed or not, and they’ve been sulking for three years and now they have got him back.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, let’s have a look at who they’ve got back.
PRIME MINSTER KEVIN RUDD: This has been a busy first week for the government. We have sworn in a new ministry. Yesterday I spent the time on the telephone to each of the Premiers and Chief Ministers. I’ve also, as you know, had meetings with the heads of the ACTU and the heads of the Business Council of Australia. On top of that, as you know, we have extended the deadline for the States and Territories to sign up to the Better Schools plan. We have also, of course, launched Disability Care Australia. We have been also preparing for the visit to Indonesia.
ELLEN FANNING: He’s polished his shoes, he’s conjugated his his you know, Chinese verbs. What have you been doing all week, Jane?
JANE CARO: Yes.
ELLEN FANNING: How does that brand, “brand Kevin”, differed from “brand Labor” which is still on the nose? I mean, the opinion poll shows that while the Labor vote’s come up a bit, it’s nowhere near the personal support for Kevin.
JANE CARO: I think that what we have got at the moment is presidential politics in Australia, and the reason for that is both parties have become focus group-led so their policies are so close as to be very hard for the public to really pick much of a difference between the actual policy offerings of the two parties.
ELLEN FANNING: Particularly if Kevin Rudd manages to convince people that he will repeal the carbon tax and go to an emissions trading system, then then that differentiation is gone as well.
JANE CARO: Absolutely. So what have they got to pick on? They’ve got to pick between the two the personalities of the two candidates, and I think we’ve been moving more and more in that direction.
And the problem for “brand Labor”, and to an extent for “brand Liberal”, is we’re no longer sure what they actually stand for when we look at them side by side. I think the Labor Party is still far too busy trying to please everybody instead of working out who it is now, and we’ll be harsh on it until we know that. Until we can say, “The Labor Party stands for this.”
ELLEN FANNING: I can’t keep going without asking your view of what went wrong with the Gillard Prime Ministership, was it her or us?
JANE CARO: A combination of both. I think it was mostly us, to be honest. I do think we’re uncomfortable about women in positions of power. I think a lot of people are. I think one of the things that Kevin Rudd is flying on at the moment, “Oh, good, two blokes, that feels more normal”, even if we don’t articulate that. You know, there is that going on.
I think a lot of her problem was that we just looked at her and she was such an outlier in terms of what a Prime Minister looks like. This to be a woman in a position of power is always a disadvantage. Gillard’s problem was that I think in the Parliament, which is an area which clearly feels at home and feels safe she performs brilliantly, but as soon as she got in front of the camera she felt stiff and slightly woody, as if she was carefully picking her words quite a lot of the time. I think she has got a bit of a tin air in terms of communications.
I think she has great strengths, clearly, made of the sternest stuff I think of any Prime Minister we’ve ever seen. Had she been a man with those weaknesses, I think we would have gone fine. But women, we still have a binary view of women. You are either brilliant, unbelievable; or you are terrible or dreadful. In a way we’re still saying to ourselves, “If you want that bloke’s job, girly, you better be bloody good at it because otherwise you don’t deserve to be there.”
So I think I don’t think her weaknesses were particularly awful. I think they were fairly normal human weaknesses and we all have them. It’s just when we look at the first woman in a position like that, we judge her very harshly. She has to prove that she’s exceptional or else we just say she’s terrible. Both are wrong.
ELLEN FANNING: And so we can come to the Liberal Party. Their focus obviously is to turn the focus not only on Kevin but beyond Kevin to who stands behind him. I think again it was reflected by Peter Hartcher, a line that has been floated around is, “Vote Rudd, get Labor”, and here is what they say you’ll get.
LIBERAL PARTY AD:
GRAPHIC: Labor’s newest minister, Julie Collins, talks tax
REPORTER: Can you explain the tax to us, how does it work?
LABOR BACKBENCHER JULIE COLLINS (New Gillard Minister Sic): We’re we’re consulting the mining companies to ensure that we get the structure of this tax right, and we’re out there talking to communities and talking to the mining companies and people that have … a bit of sorry. GRAPHIC: Julie Collins is now responsible for government departments with multi-billion dollar budgets. Julie Collins: “And people that have … a bit of um …”
ELLEN FANNING: Does that ad work?
JANE CARO: Probably. Probably. Sadly because it’s a very nasty ad, but that’s what political advertising is now, it’s incredibly nasty.
ELLEN FANNING: Why does it work?
JANE CARO: Well, because we do expect Ministers and leaders to be across their portfolio or at least be able to look like they are. To be able to dance in public, it’s part of what we want from them. I feel terribly sorry for her, that’s an awful situation to find yourself in.
ELLEN FANNING: Advertising has very specific targets, they talk about grocery buyers, parents whose kids have left home, like you …
JANE CARO: Yep.
ELLEN FANNING: … a key market. Is that a good place to be or do you find yourself becoming invisible in your own world?
JANE CARO: I don’t care if I’m invisible in my own in advertising anymore, sorry, guys. (Audience laughs). Advertising dividing up the world into markets like that is idiotic. Those groups do not exist. I don’t think of myself as a woman whose children have left home. Nobody thinks of themselves as, “Hi, how are you? I’m a grocery buyer.” Nah, it just doesn’t exist. These are constructs made to charge clients extra money.
Best the best advertising in the word, the best films, the best programs, the best books, the best everything, connect with everybody because they connect on an emotional level and it doesn’t matter what gender you are, what race you are, what education you have, what party you vote for, we all feel the same emotions.
When you go to the cinema and you watch a comedy and there’s a whole lot of people sitting in the cinema and they’re from all different demographics and all different psychographics and segments and all that nonsense, do they laugh according to their demographic or their role? No, they do not. They laugh when it’s funny, usually all together. Advertising should stop it. Stop breaking people up into stupid groups.
ELLEN FANNING: You have talked about the joys of ageing. What are the joys of ageing by the way for a lady …
JANE CARO: I’ll be able to say stuff like that. (Audience laughs). Not caring so much anymore. Not not having to be approved of in the way that when particularly when you’re a young woman and, you know, believe it or not looking at me now, I was a quite a pretty young woman when I was, you know, 30 years ago.
ELLEN FANNING: You’re a great looking woman.
JANE CARO: For my age. But they they you know, I spent a lot of time in the early days where people would just stare at my tits instead of listening to what I had to say, and I always wanted them to listen to what I had to say. Now, they listen to what I have to say, and I’d much prefer it.
There are other things that are great about being a woman over 50. You do not get periods anymore. There is no downside to this. (Laughter). The amount of energy it releases, the matter of head space it frees up, the renewed burst of energy that people talk about. They go, “Oh, isn’t it amazing, women over 50 get this burst of energy.”
ELLEN FANNING: It’s true you do, do you?
JANE CARO: Oh, yes.
ELLEN FANNING: Really?
JANE CARO: And your kids are grown up. You’re no longer a life support system for other human beings. (Audience laughs)It’s just wonderful.
I mean, my kids ring me up and tell me things and I spend a lot of the time I go, “Shame, dear. Oh, dear. Shame, mmm hmm”, while I’m doing something else. (Ellen laughs). They have to say, “Mum are you on Twitter?” “Oh, yeah, sorry.” (Audience laughs).
ELLEN FANNING: There they are there.
JANE CARO: And, you know, I just I love my daughters, but I love the fact that they’re independent. Oh, that’s my whole family being silly at Christmas.
ELLEN FANNING: That’s lovely. That’s so they’ve grown up and left.
JANE CARO: They’ve grown up and left and they’re lovely, contributing, robust, resilient, not perfect, sometimes irritating, lovely people.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, you’ll no doubt have something to contribute in two nice ordinary kids and you have made a nice contribution tonight. Thank you very much.
JANE CARO: My pleasure.
ELLEN FANNING: We’ll be right back after the break with a look inside the world of British tabloids.
ELLEN FANNING: Welcome back. And now to our foreign correspondent.
Frank Thorne wound up in Australia 20 years ago after the notorious British newspaper boss Robert Maxwell went overboard with his superannuation funds, literally. Maxwell, the head of the Mirror group where Frank worked, fell overboard from his yacht do you remember after stealing pension money from his employees to keep his companies afloat. Well, it forced Thorne to seek employment here in Australia with his wife, and it’s the best move he’s ever made. So now he’s filing stories for nine British and Irish newspapers, and magazines in the UK, the US and Australia.
So thanks for joining us. Have you recovered from the from the British Lions victory or are you still celebrating?
FRANK THORNE: No, I’m going straight back out to the pub to party now. I mean, this party, I think, and I’m hoping, will go on until I get to Dublin for New Year’s Eve in January.
ELLEN FANNING: Right. We’ll brace ourselves shall we?
FRANK THORNE: So will my liver.
ELLEN FANNING: All right. I want to talk to you about Rupert Murdoch. Rupert has been in the news rather than making the news this week. Now, you have filed for his Sun newspaper in the UK and that’s been a centre of a bit of discussion this week and it goes back to Rupert’s attitude when he started to get in strife with these tabloids two years ago. It was the News of the World and they were hacking phones. Just remind us of what went on.
FRANK THORNE: It all began with a guy called Clive Goodman, the royal correspondent, who was put under such pressure at the News of the World, he found a private detective who was able to listen into to hack into people’s voicemails, and the worse thing that happened was the accusation that journalists from the News of the World had hacked the voicemail of a girl called Milly Dowler who was murdered in England. Her mum thought because her voicemails had been accessed she was still alive, so that was an horrendous things to have happened.
ELLEN FANNING: And I think Rupert’s reaction was was really quite he was quite stunned, I think it’s fair to say. He shut the newspaper. He later told the Parliamentary inquiry, “This is the most humble day of my life.” He took out full page newspaper ad saying sorry, there had been serious wrongdoing and he’d work with the police.
But I think you’d have to say that after the release this week of of a secret recording made of Rupert in his Sun newsroom, you’d have to conclude that he wasn’t that sorry at all. We’re going to have a look at it. This is the secret recording made in the Sun newsroom in March this year and Rupert, you will hear him talking about the police investigation into the hacking scandal; you’ll hear him say it was a disgrace; and then he talks about how terrible it was that his staff have been arrested. Let’s have a listen.
RUPERT MURDOCH: (Recording) “This is a disgrace. Here we are two years later and the cops are totally incompetent.
The idea that the cops then started coming after you, kick you out of bed, and your families, at six in the morning, is unbelievable. Why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing.”
ELLEN FANNING: There you are: “The biggest inquiry ever other over next to nothing.” What an extraordinary thing to say. It wasn’t nothing.
FRANK THORNE: Well, there is it wasn’t nothing, but there is a reason I can understand why he’s now got that attitude because following his absolute collapse and and worldwide disgrace over the Milly Dowler Milly Dowler allegations, it turned out in fact, that they that hadn’t happened.
The solicitor for Scotland Yard later got up in a courtroom and said, “We were wrong. Journalists had not deleted messages from Milly Dowler’s voicemail. They’d deleted themselves because after a certain period of time that’s what happens.” By then Murdoch had overreacted; he’d made mistakes; he panicked; he admits he panicked now; and on that same tape recording, he admits to the staff that he he did things wrong because he panicked.
ELLEN FANNING: What does it say about Rupert Murdoch’s status that some upstart in the newsroom is recording all of this that the great almighty Rupert is saying and broadcasting it?
FRANK THORNE: Well, to me it says that Rupert Murdoch broke the first rule of journalism: “Nothing is off the record, especially when somebody who has got an iPhone turned on and they’re recording every word you say.”
But to answer your question, I think it says it speaks volumes to the status of of the Rupert Murdochs of the world, that the once, you know, feared proprietor/owner has been seen by his own staff to have feet of clay. They’ll be the ones going to prison, not Rupert Murdoch. Not his son James who to me is the most culpable person here.
ELLEN FANNING: Now to the fun part. As a freelance journalist in Australia, presumably to keep your editors happy back to Britain, you have got to have a lot of crocodile and shark stories and we don’t disappoint, do we, Down Under?
FRANK THORNE: One …
ELLEN FANNING: Look at this one: “Giant croc had me by the head”.
FRANK THORNE: Yeah.
ELLEN FANNING: Really?
FRANK THORNE: Yeah, absolutely. You know, he he he was I think he was just bending down and having a wash or a swim in the Northern Territory and, chomp, next minute …
ELLEN FANNING: Wow.
FRANK THORNE: … his head’s in the croc’s mouth. But that’s a Sun story I did, and that those stories are so unbelievable that they’d have to be true. (Audience laughs).
ELLEN FANNING: And what’s your favourite animal story?
FRANK THORNE: Well, I have done hundreds over 20 years. One of my favourites in the early days, which is somewhere buried in history, sounds like the plot from a Skippy movie. It was a farm farmer and his family used to feed a roo, most days looked after it, it was in the paddock, it was a wild kangaroo, and then one day this kangaroo came banging at the shed door, and it kept kicking and kicking the back door of the farmhouse, until it the the wife and children were alerted and then it it led them to a fallen tree. The guy had been chopping trees on his property and he was trapped by a tree, and in typical Skippy fashion, it led these the family to this trapped guy (audience laughing)
ELLEN FANNING: Wow.
FRANK THORNE: and they saved his life.
ELLEN FANNING: Isn’t that extraordinary?
FRANK THORNE: Yeah. Well, you know, things like that, you know, just you can’t believe it, but that’s that’s true. There was a famous one where a lady had a pet camel and it ended in tragedy.
ELLEN FANNING: Yes. Now, this was the headline I think that was produced was, “Camel killed woman by trying to have sex with her”, is that possibly true?
FRANK THORNE: Well, that was a true story as well. I mean, these stories are so extreme but they’re they’re like, one after another.
ELLEN FANNING: That was the camel in question, was it?
FRANK THORNE: Well, it was
ELLEN FANNING: It was a camel.
FRANK THORNE: I think the camel was a bit younger than that one.
ELLEN FANNING: Right.
FRANK THORNE: But basically it was a lady who was about 86 years old, animal lover in the nicest sense of the word and (audience laughs) and she was looking after this very feisty young male camel and it started chasing her one day, feeling a bit feisty, obviously coming to that time of his life, and wanted to make love to something and, in fact, in the process
ELLEN FANNING: I don’t [indistinct].
FRANK THORNE: … it attacked her and and trampled her to death.
ELLEN FANNING: Oh, my goodness. All these stories pass us by in Sydney. You’ll have to start filing for our newspapers. That’s extraordinary. That is so much better than reading the political shenanigans in Canberra, wouldn’t it? (Laughs). Well, thank you so much for coming in and interrupting the celebrations. Let’s hope the Lions sleep tonight, wherever they are. Thank you.
FRANK THORNE: Well, I hope they don’t. I’ll be there.
ELLEN FANNING: Thanks, Frank.
FRANK THORNE: Thank you.
ELLEN FANNING: And that’s all we have time for tonight. You can continue the conversation on Twitter using the #observersbs and follow us on Facebook where you can check out Paul Daley’s excellent column, Effectively Observed which this week features some extraordinary insights from Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor, the most senior transgendered person in the Australian Army who also happens to be General Morrison’s speech writer. I’ll see you next week.