big kevs bookUntil the BoM’s warmists have tickled their temperature readings and declared, as is inevitable, that the current winter was the hottest Melbourne has ever experienced, the chief source of heat in the City on the Yarra has been the friction between a Has Been and a Has Excuses. That’s ex-premier Jeff Kennett in the former instance and Ms Christine Nixon, once Victoria’s police commissioner, in the latter.

The catalyst for this discord has been Ms Nixon’s new book Women Leading, in the course of whose promotion she has accused Mr Kennett of sexism and misogyny. Given that we haven’t had a good AFL scandal for at least a week, this contretemps is keeping Melbourne entertained, not least for its irony.

It was only recently that Kennett elevated Ms Julia Gillard to head Beyond Blue, the mental-health charity he led until April. As the ex-Prime Minister blamed the patriarchy for the world’s failure to recognise the magnificence of her achievements in office, it cannot be said that attempting to obscure incompetence behind the clutched straws of feminist victimology is a foible to which he takes particular exception. Yet Ms Nixon, who has failed upward and into a deputy-chancellor’s gig at Monash University, brands him one of her testosterone-poisoned tormentors.

“I have been a very strong critic of hers since the [Black Saturday] bushfires, for what I consider to be a desertion of her post,” Mr Kennett told The Australian.

“It was unforgivable, it remain­s unforgivable.

“That she is now giving lectures­ on leadership I find an absolute affront.”

On that February day in 2009 when Victoria burned and 173 lives were lost, Ms Nixon was the state’s most senior emergency official. In that capacity she fought the inferno by having her hair done, chatting about her accomplishments with a biographer and, as Marysville and some 36 of its residents were consumed by a fireball, enjoying a stylish meal at an inner-city gastro pub. As the Royal Commission into the bushfire disaster observed, she received no calls during that time from her subordinates at the control centre, presumably because they realised it would be a waste of time seeking leadership from someone preoccupied with shepherd’s pie.

Yet somehow, by Ms Nixon’s reckoning, all criticism of her conduct on that dreadful day is denominated by sexist chauvinism. Give her points, though, for sticking to the gendered narrative because she acknowledged Kennett’s “missing in action” slam only to the extent that it provided an excuse to push a favourite barrow.

“She called for gender quotas to be more widely adopted,” The Australian reports, “saying women were still not allowed into senior management roles.”

Alas that one particular woman had been denied a “senior management role” on Black Saturday. As the Royal Commission put it,

“The Commission considers that Ms Nixon’s approach to emergency coordination was inadequate. Ms Nixon herself acknowledged that leaving the integrated Emergency Coordination Centre and going home at about 6.00 pm on 7 February was an error of judgment. The Commission shares this view.”

Ms Nixon’s latest book is titled Women Leading. What chance the next tome off the Nixon rank will be ‘Brazen’?

The Royal Commission’s thoughts on the sad performance of Victoria’s public guardians on Black Saturday can be read via the link below.

– roger franklin


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