In The Age on Saturday, it was alleged that the ‘prominent real estate figure’ John Mc Grath owes $16.2 million in gambling debts to the betting company William Hill Australia. Mr Mc Grath has since denied that allegation, but according to The Age, he did not bother to respond to their written questions on the subject. The paper said that the British parent is trying to sell William Hill. That company is run by Tom Waterhouse, a figure of some colour and controversy in his own right. Not surprisingly, some prospective purchasers have some questions about such a large debt. Equally unsurprisingly, some of the shareholders of McGrath Real Estate Ltd have some questions about the impact of such a debt on the capacity of Mr McGrath to run a company that has attracted its own colour and controversy – all of the worst kind.
When asked about the debt of Mr McGrath, Mr Waterhouse said:
I am not aware of any individual client in terms of betting or whether they are a client, or not a client, whether it is Joe Bloggs or John whatever.
When it was put to him that the identity of such a gambler would be of critical interest to the betting company, Mr Waterhouse said that he would not say who the gambler was – if the company did in fact have a debt of that amount. The identity of their clients is confidential.
He might be right on the last point, but the rest is pure bullshit. It may remind us of the advice given to politicians – never tell a barefaced lie if you can bullshit your way through. It’s just another indication of how the very idea of truth is sinking in the Trump sunset.
Should Mr McGrath have disclosed his gambling position to the publicly listed company, and should that company have disclosed it to the Stock Exchange? Let me say two things. If I was a shareholder – and I thank heaven I am not – I would like to have been told that the moving force of the company had what that distinguished football commentator Crackers Keenan called ‘attitudinal issues.’ Then, about twenty-five years ago, I was acting for a very large gaming entity that was subject to very close scrutiny from gaming and corporate regulators. One regulator said that the company should disclose big losses to professional gamblers. Had it done that, it may have had to disclose that disclosure to the other regulator. This could have led to an infinite regress. So, we issued serial greetings from Her Majesty to clear the air.
It is rare in the Inquirer in The Saturday Australian to find an assertion of verifiable fact. It’s all just boxes, labels, and tribal grouping. On Saturday, Mr Paul Kelly was ruminating on the kind of things that that stable chews on.
The left continues to win the battle on defining issues. With Shorten having embraced the integrity commission concept this week, it will be near impossible for the government to resist this initiative. It is popular, populist, sanctified by retired judges, beloved by the progressive media and justified by a grand and fraudulent argument that it will restore trust to politics, a result not evident in any jurisdiction in this country where such commissions have long operated.
So, we get the same old tribal labels – left, populist, and progressive media – and no evidence. Since I hardly know what left means, I cannot see why an integrity commission should be a left initiative. Since I hardly know what populist means, I cannot see how it is different to popular. But if the proposal for an integrity commission is as popular as Mr Kelly suggests, to the point where resistance is ‘near impossible’, why should the government resist it? Isn’t it the function of democracy that government reflects the mood and purpose of the majority of the people? Some states have introduced such bodies and their working has shown why they were needed. No sane party in those states would propose getting rid of them. Are federal government people somehow different or cleaner?
People who use labels like left, progressive and populist do not often say what labels they would accept – right, regressive, elite or doctrinaire puritan? – and it remains a mystery to me why the people who were so dogmatic about climate change are now equally dogmatic about integrity commissions. They are like cattle lowing in a herd. They are almost indecently out of touch, but does that make them conservative – whatever that means?
But the reason I cited that passage can be found in one word – fraudulent. That’s an allegation of dishonesty. The only identified targets are retired judges and progressive media. (You will have seen the graffiti smear of sanctified.) Well, I couldn’t give a bugger if the target was the queen or the pope, or Donald Trump. I don’t know whether the allegation derives from malice or laziness, but it was grossly unprofessional, and it would not be allowed by a decent newspaper. It is another symptom of the decline in standards that must accompany any partisan divide. And that paper is almost as loaded with fire and fury as Fox News.
Ah, well, on the facing page, Mr Kenny has found the answer for the Liberal Party – ‘their most bankable political asset, still, is that they are not Labor.’
Quod erat demonstrandum. And may God give the rest of us strength.