Mark Latham has taken over the AFR lunch interview – that is where someone from the AFR takes a celebrity/personality to lunch and then writes up the experience. This week he took Andrew Bolt to lunch ($).
But throughout lunch, the food, while superb, is secondary to the intensity of the conversation. As with his writing, Bolt’s dialogue is crisp and punchy with barely a word wasted. He focuses relentlessly on argument and the use of supporting statistics and quotations. It is a long while since this man has lost a debate.
Although he describes himself as a conservative, Bolt’s views are better understood as libertarian. He has an instinctive, at times furious, distrust of collectivism, whether expressed through government, political parties or mob behaviour. He reaches out to me as a fellow traveller in this ideological crusade.
It is a good write up. But I was struck by two things. First I think I learned more about Latham than I did Bolt. Latham was a terrible politician – but he is a fantastic public intellectual and his columns are always well worth reading.
The second point is far more interesting and important. Andrew Bolt is not a libertarian and neither is Mark Latham; nonetheless they are fellow travellers. Both have a respect for civil society and western civilisation.* Both can see scope for improvement and imagine a better future and while they may not agree on that better future they do agree on the process for public discourse and debate.
Last year, the basket weavers struck back. Bolt lost a Federal Court case in September, brought against him by a group of Aborigines under the Racial Discrimination Act. In two Herald Sun columns in 2009 he suggested these activists, some of whom are fair-skinned, had identified themselves as Aboriginal for the purpose of obtaining government grants and career opportunities. Justice Mordy Bromberg found that “fair-skinned Aboriginal people were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed in the articles”.
I regard the case as an example of judicial over-reach. If every time people were offended by media comment they decided to initiate Federal Court action, the nation’s taxpayers would need scores of new courthouses – and that’s just for my matters.
At a time when government is trying to shut down that process we need more public intellectuals like Andrew Bolt and Mark Latham.
Anyway read the whole thing.
* Yes, I know – Latham broke a cabbies arm and paid out his former ALP friends.