Poor old Mark “Biff” Latham can’t seem to hold down a job these days. The former professional hater was once the darling of the Canberra press gallery. He could do no wrong in the chamber. Even a misogynist slur at (conservative) newspaper columnist Janet Albrechtson (‘skanky ho’), cowardly uttered under the veil of parliamentary privilege, could not rouse the sisterhood in the press gallery, most of whom look perpetually on the cusp of outrage and some of whom look like they might have gone alright in the back pocket at an AFL legends game. No, the gallery were uninterested in Biff’s actual sexism, whilst only too eager to call out the current Prime Minister, and anyone else on the conservative side of politics, for any hint of it, real or imagined. Overlooked too was Biff’s penchant for rewarding taxi drivers for their services by breaking their arms. All a bit of friendly rough and tumble of course. Boys will be boys and all that. And if Biff rearranged the molecules in your left humerus or clavicle, it would be done with such grace and charm you would be obliged to smile and thank him before taking yourself off to the nearest emergency department.
Biff didn’t hold down the role of politician for very long either. A conga line of union and Labor party types were only too eager to compose a running hagiography for him before he had even achieved much at all. He was anointed by Saint Gough himself no less, and that should have told them something – Saint Gough’s judgement was so off he sent the nation broke in record time, had to be sacked for gross incompetence, and then had the distinction of losing, not once, but twice, in electoral landslides of mind numbing magnitude. After blazing across the political scene, handing out an election ending chainsaw handshake, and crashing to an inglorious defeat, a grateful Biff rewarded his dear comrades by writing a toxic memoir that exposed most of their secrets and advised the public of what a caustic mob of in-fighters they all were. Gillard and Rudd then acted it all out live in real time during the six years of ALP rule, a period in Australian political history lamented now as a six year interregnum from something resembling actual government.
None of this, however, warned the Fairfax press away from Biff, and things seemed to be going all too well over at the Fin. There are few things, really, that can get you dismissed, or put you in a ‘no option but to resign’ position over at Fairfax when it comes to insults, name calling, and juvenile political point scoring – one Age columnist even proudly sells t-shirts with unflattering captions featuring the F word and the name of the current Prime Minister.
But one thing that will certainly have a Fairfax columnist calling their lawyer to check in on current unfair dismissal legislation is an offence against the gender police. Biff could call conservative female columnists ‘skanky hos’ all he wanted, but he was never going to get away with referring to a transgender air force reservist (yes, really) as a “he/she.” Transgressions against the gender police will have most public figures reaching for their resignation letters these days, even before the twitter hashtag campaign gets going. Having roused the LGBTITGFWTRSEF (I think that has them all covered) lobby, Biff was persona non grata in the Fairfax lunch room, and that was it for his most successful career to date.
I don’t particularly like Mark Latham, but what would he care about that. If given a choice between casting a vote for him and having my left index finger amputated with bolt cutters, I would have asked them to take the one on the other hand off too. I have never read a word he has written for the Fin, and never want to. But, by hell, I support his right to fill his columns with whatever dross his editor and the newspaper’s lawyers will allow. If we have reached a state in this country that the gender of a person who has had their genitalia bolted on by a surgeon must be shielded from being referred to in such a way as to imply gender uncertainty, then free speech is great peril indeed.
If the Fin compelled Biff to resign they are cowards, and the editor in chief is fair game for one of those famous bone-crushing handshakes too. Bring back the Biff I say!