This is not re-assuring — not at all, not about the Reserve Bank, Sky News or the state of Rupert Murdoch’s commercial acumen. And on top of that there is the tough call, a deeply personal matter, of whether to forego a couch potato’s pleasure in watching the Western Bulldogs march toward 2017’s AFL Premiership flag. Let me explain.
Yesterday, much to the delight of the people you would expect, Sky News sacked Mark Latham for being, well, Mark Latham. He was Mark Latham when they hired him and Mark Latham when they fired him, and apparently that was the problem.
For those who haven’t been following events, it seems his remarks about the 15-year-old daughter of the Reserve Bank’s Philip Lowe were the last straw. Or perhaps it was because he took a schoolboy to be gay upon first seeing a wince-worthy video in which he and other lads are put up to addressing the camera as if they were girls — girls of the sort who hector men and boys and the other sort of girls, the ones who just want to have fun.
Then there was Wendy Harmer, who became very tetchy at his observation that, by one of those great strokes of fortune which seem so often to bless the left’s reliable gabblers, the shuttering of her commercial enterprise was followed by the happy coincidence of a lovely new job with the ABC.
Oh, and then there was fellow Sky presenter Kristina Keneally, ardent multiculturalist, who took exception to Latham’s reference to her multicultural “Yankee” background. She was even less happy at being branded the “protege” of jailbird and convicted corruptocrat Eddie Obeid, a man she told a court she “did not like”, who nevertheless assembled the numbers to install her as premier.
For one or all of these reasons, Latham is gone. It is not known if he was escorted from the premises by a security guard, but it does appear no arms were broken in the extraction. That is something for which to give thanks, yet many worries remain on other fronts.
Consider Reserve Bank Governor Lowe, a very big cog in the machinery of Australia’s economy, yet who might be seen by some as having a few teeth that are less than sharp, certainly where human resources come into play. Central bankers are famously opaque, so we can only go by the Bloomberg interview he gave, the one that inspired Latham’s comments:
Lowe’s 15-year-old daughter came home from school with a burning question that would leave an impression on the RBA chief: what was he doing to make sure women have equal chances at the central bank?
“I didn’t have a really good answer at first and she said ‘that’s not good enough,”’ 55-year-old Lowe said in his first interview after taking over as governor four months ago. “So that made me think about where we’re going.”
A remarkable tack soon followed! One gathers it did not strike Lowe to tell his daughter that he regards merit as the best qualification for any job, that competence alone would always be the guiding light of his managerial style. He might also have noted, albeit more delicately, that it is not “the shape of the genitalia” that matters, to use Latham’s words, but the content of a mind. As his daughter’s father, why did he not simply assure her that he would never, ever filter his appointments and promotions by way of chauvinism and chromosome?
Instead Lowe did this, as Bloomberg reported
Since then, Lowe has promoted women to two of three RBA assistant governor roles focused on monetary policy — the first time females have held such positions. The institution has struggled to lift its share of women managers to a third — mirroring a similar challenge throughout Australia’s workforce.
What must the corridor gossip be like at the Reserve Bank? Could there be men on the premises who think themselves better qualified to fill those posts? How must they feel to learn from the lips of the boss that their aspirations were pipped in part or whole by the modern executive job market’s yen for that special je ne sais quoi of femininity. If such men exist, one could perhaps grant them them the right to harbour just a tinge of bitterness — not the best thing for promoting team cohesion.
And what of the ladies who were elevated, how must they feel? Experts in their fields, undoubtedly worthy of the offices they now hold, their success must always now be shadowed by the Governor’s extraordinarily large and thoughtless mouth. It is every good father’s delight to make his child happy, but a quiet word over the breakfast table to the effect that Papa had favoured two women with plum promotions would have been a far more diplomatic way of appeasing his daughter than announcing his gender preferences to the business press. One can easily imagine that young Ms Lowe’s joy now far exceeds that of certain Reserve Bank employees.
And the greater joke, of course, is that man or woman, gender is of small consequence when economists of each sex and everything in between are each and every one a Keynes cultist.
Life is full of moral dilemmas and Latham’s expulsion from the realm of acceptable opinion presents another. Damn me for a bogan if you wish, but he made for entertaining TV and I seldom reached for the channel changer when that ugly mug filled the screen. That should concern Rupert Murdoch, who has a substantial interest in Sky News and Foxtel, the cable service that delivers the news channel. My first reaction was to cancel my subscription by way of protest, but then self-interest kicked in. No more Andrew Bolt at 7pm. No more Peta Credlin, who would make a better and far smarter prime minister than the man who knifed her former boss and found, much to his surprise, that effective leadership demands rather more than presenting oneself for the admiration of the press gallery’s faithless hacks.
So I stayed my hand, took no action, didn’t cancel my Foxtel subscription. Not yet anyway, not until the AFL season concludes and the Bulldogs have secured their third flag. In the meantime there will be a lot less watching of Sky because, without Latham, there is a lot less to watch — and probably even less to watch in future. Other of Sky’s talking heads will have noted that, yes, there is so far they can go and no further. They’ll be thinking of their pay cheques, watching Twitter and hoping they don’t spark one of those social-media “storms” that can get a fellow into trouble with a boss who is first a weather vane, ratings-hound coming a poor second.
Perhaps Murdoch, who has never shied from controversy and criticism, is for the moment lost so deeply in the arms of new bride Jerry Hall that he isn’t paying attention. He should be. He most definitely should be, especially to those who follow the advice of the link blow.
Editor’s note: Normally, in order to better inform readers, the above article would have included inset footage of those five lads making with the girl talk. They are young, were undoubtedly dragooned into making spectacles of themselves by some feminist with a master’s degree in advanced child-minding, and they do do not deserve to have their video link more widely propagated. One guesses they should also make plans for careers at places other than the Reserve Bank.