Like many Australians I was greatly affected by the news that James Packer has decided he is not well enough to continue in his role of chairman of Crown Resorts. Depression is a terrible thing for anyone to deal with, but it takes a particular toll on those who, due to their enormous personal wealth, cannot rely on the need to go out and earn a living to distract them from their problems, and who must instead seek some sort of respite by traveling – often in the miserable isolation of a private jet –between their various enormous homes around the world. It is only to be hoped that Mr Packer’s brave and selfless decision won’t affect the huge profitability of the company which has been his principal focus since he abandoned the iconic broadcasting and publishing brands built up so carefully by his father and grandfather. And that his quest for healing and happiness won’t delay the construction of the building which will provide him with the fifth home he so desperately needs, and at the same time give the city of his birth the second gigantic city-centre casino it so conspicuously lacks. In the meantime, I have no doubt that many ordinary Australians – perhaps because they have mental problems of their own – will show their support for Mr Packer at this difficult time by continuing to push their wages, savings and pensions into his slot machines and across his card tables at every opportunity. Given certain regrettable incidents in Mr Packer’s personal life, his role in some of the country’s biggest corporate debacles and his sometimes pugilistic approach to business, it would have been easy for certain elements in the Australian media to be less than sympathetic in their coverage of last week’s announcement. But most journos channelled public sentiment well, and none more feelingly than those at the Australian (‘Inside the private pain haunting Packer’) and the Daily Telegraph (‘The inside story of James Packer’s battle with mental illness’).
The fact that both these newspapers are in large part owned by one of Mr James Packer’s best mates is surely irrelevant.
While I’ve still got my Paul Barry mask on…
A few years ago, the mainstream British media fell into the habit of referring to gangs accused of grooming schoolgirls for sexual abuse in northern English towns as being ‘Asian’ or ‘of Asian descent’. Given that all the men subsequently convicted in these appalling cases came from either Pakistan or Bangladesh I wondered, at the time, how members of the Chinese, Thai and Indian communities in Rotherham and Rochdale felt about being tarred with such an odious brush. Today, for much the same reasons, I find myself sympathising with members of Australia’s Senegalese, Ghanaian and Egyptian communities when I read or hear that the young men and women who’ve recently been making life so unpleasant for the residents of Dandenong and Werribee are ‘of African appearance’. Like their pommy counterparts, the journos responsible for these euphemisms are clearly too terrified of the racist tag to deploy a less nuanced and more informative descriptor such as ‘Sudanese’, ‘South Sudanese’ or even ‘of Sudanese or South Sudanese appearance’. Apart from being deeply offensive to immigrants from any of the 53 other African countries which have not the slightest connection with Victorian gang violence, this is lazy, gutless journalism. But what can be said about the colonial-era ethnic homogenisation of the editorial direction behind it?
As I write it is still not clear what – if any – disciplinary action will be taken following last week’s shocking admission by an Australian leader of ballot-tampering. Responding to suggestions that his side had cheated its way to victory in last year’s Victorian state election, Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged that what his team had done was certainly wrong, but said that neither he or any of this leadership group would be stepping down as a result. There are many ways to describe this kind of behaviour.
Cricket isn’t one of them.