My next stop is Melbourne, where I’m scheduled to speak at a few events for the free-market Institute of Public Affairs, run by the capable John Roskam. On the road into town, we pass the Age’s modern, multi-million-dollar newspaper printing facility, which sits unused most of the time. ‘A perfect illustration of missing a market shift,’ a banker friend quips, noting how media is migrating quickly to digital platforms. I quietly thank my lucky stars I’m now hosting an online show for wsj.com, OpinionJournal.
The IPA crowd that evening is riotously good-humoured and eager to hear a red-meat speech about the virtues of capitalism and freedom. I’m touched, too, by the diverse crowd that turns up. (One fellow drove 200 kilometres to attend the speech.) I kick off by ribbing Malcolm Turnbull and the crowd boos loudly, which takes me aback. Isn’t Melbourne the seat of progressivism? Later, by pure chance, I run into Malcolm in the lobby of the Sofitel. He looks stunned to see me exit the lift and smile at him. The last time we met was in 2010, in the green room of Q&A program. He enjoyed a much kinder reception there.
Victorian premier Ted Baillieu resigns that night while I’m at a dinner of IPA donors and board members, including Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger, who rushes off periodically to give comment on radio. He finally leaves altogether for a paid TV gig. The room is disappointed not to hear the inside scoop, but not to worry: the IPA’s James Paterson capably steps in to fill in the details. He speaks so well I wonder if he has a future in politics. (If he wants one, that is.)