Chapter 25...... Ron Casey Throws a
In those hectic days of 1988, the phone it seemed never stopped ringing. My time was taken up preparing material, writing and at this time in particular, being involved with an election, that tended to get very much in the way. The telephone was becoming a damned nuisance. This morning it rang, it was preceded by the STD pips.
“Craig Walsh, from a Current Affair here. May I speak with Bruce Whiteside.”
“Speaking” I replied.
It transpired that Walsh was Jana Wendt’s producer. They
were he said putting a program to air that would interest me and
essentially covered much of what I had been talking about. It
immediately came to air that the producers of A Current Affair,
were having some pangs of remorse about the way I had been
treated earlier. Needless to say I was a little weary of what
they might be up to and was not too enthusiastic. Walsh sensed
this and told me that I should not miss the opportunity of
getting my message across and that since the program attracted
an audience of some four million viewers, it was too good an
opportunity to miss. Along with that my wife and I would be
flown to Sydney and put up at a nice hotel. As if to
remove any doubts Walsh went on to say that I would be appearing
on the program with Bruce Ruxton and Ron Casey. Now I’m not one
of those people who go agar over rubbing shoulders with
celebrities. To me people are people and position, rank or
station don’t cut much ice. Some of the biggest ignoramuses
around hold down position through no other criteria than birth,
family or political convenience. However I do respect
individuals who have the courage of their convictions or rise to
positions by sheer application of their ability. One such man
was outspoken Victorian RSL President Bruce Ruxton. Ruxton,
although not known to me personally, had often been at the
forefront of public opinion, which appeared to me to have people
secretly in agreement with much of what he said as long as they
did not have to identify with his comments. In many ways Ruxton
sees things in the context of black and white, typical of many of his and my generation, but at least he did not lack the
patriotism and guts to say them . Not surprisingly then I had a soft spot for the man.
Ron Casey’s name, rang no bells for me. Had I lived in
Sydney, then this New Zealander would have identified him as
being equally and even more controversial, than Ruxton. Talk-
radio host at 2GB, Casey’s profile was high and it seemed
as I was later to find out, high on the ‘bleeding hearts hit
list’. Casey apparently did not mince his words either and in
the days when the Japanese were pushing to eradicate Darwin from
the face of the map, his rhetoric would have not only have been
the norm for most Australians, but would not have raised an
eyebrow. Today as our country ‘suffers, the policy of racial
integration’, it harbours not only those who came here by
invitation formatting what should and should not be tolerated,
but also has spawned university idealists who run in tandem with
those who are at the vanguard of change. Just as the industrial
and class prejudices were introduced into the Australian
workforce by ‘pommy and Irish’, agitators, because Australian
were too bloody indifferent to become involved in the fashioning
of their destiny, preferring to leave it to others, so too has the ethnic fraternity shaped the Australian future. Even the
writer, has been allowed to slot into this ‘groove of apathy’ that allows foreigners to write your history. Ruxton and Casey were the exception; I have admiration for them both. For the moment however I told Walsh , that I would consider the matter and give him an answer the following day.
Casey, was the factor that intrigued me , so I set out to find out more about the man. It was true that I had read of him being involved with some disciplinary action, but the name had not registered. I was left in no doubt by those I rang. “Oh Ron is one of your mob” said a friend. “Didn’t you know he’s the biggest bloody racist in the country, and added with a laugh, “doesn’t that take the winds out of your sails’. I don’t know that I appreciated the his sense of humour, but the point was as clear as glass.
“I smell a rat”.
“I’m afraid so, said my friend. “There out to crucify you by association. Whatever you may think of Casey, the media have cast him in the role of racist, and if they can get you on stage with him, they’ll cut you to pieces. Thats how it works. Your fighting big money and they will not stop at anything”. Had I honestly believed that the program aimed to invite legitimate debate, I would have gone into the lions den. Ruxton and Casey, by their very profile would guarantee a top ratings program, but they spoke out on a range of issues, whilst if all in the general mould, were certainly not as specific as the issue I had raised..I was concerned that Casey probably would broaden the wider debate and as this was not really what I wanted, I began to go cold on the idea.
If Casey was the outspoken character that I was being led to believe, then the spectre of Bruce Ruxton and myself, on National television was a marvellous ingredient for ratings. Casey was obviously known to tens of thousands of Sydneysider’s with many from afar having memories of his earlier days. A likeable character he invoked fierce passions on many topics, that our politicians, our leaders, our clergy tend to shy away from. Casey given the right bait , would fire any program and if the platform was in the national spotlight, so much the better. Throw in this fellow Whiteside ‘the new kid off the block’, among the academics, the politicians and a lived ‘stacked audience’, give it plenty of promotion and channel nine would be on a winner.
When the media want something or want you, they usually meet prearranged appointments. When the boot is on the other foot, they don’t want to know. Working with the media is very much a oneway street, you exist for them, not them for you. Walsh rang back. He obviously had not counted on response. “Craig, I thought this program that you are planning, was about foreign land ownership”.
He was quite casual, “well, sort off; foreign investment is a part of it”.
“Foreign investment Craig, is not about the right of foreigners to by land. I get sick of telling people that. “But your argument ties in with this debate.”
“From what I can gather, this program has nothing to do with the foreign land ownership question and everything to do with immigration.”
“But you can handle that.” Craig said.
“Oh no,” I said , not wishing to be drawn into this
argument, “I won’t have a bar of that.”
Immediately Walshes demeanour changed. “Why is it , that when we want to get speakers on controversial subjects, that people lack the guts to want to say it on television.” It was the wrong approach and I think he realised it . “I’m the last person in this country that you should be levelling that sort of talk at.”
“O.K. then, I’m sorry, but the fact is people are listening to what you are saying.”
“And that Craig, is precisely why I won’t. I have a grasp of the issue that I spoke of at Miami and will co-operate with you on that, but immigration, is a subject that I am not qualified to speak on. If people rest on every word I say, then I have a duty to refrain. “
I went on, “Immigration is all about emotions and prejudices. Academics, politicians and those so called ‘qualified experts’ do no more than proffer opinion. I’m sorry Craig, but I will not be a starter.”
His plan, if thats what it was to be fell apart and there seemed little point in prolonging the discussion.
For the first time I rang Bruce Ruxton and told him of what had happened. Yes he was aware of who I was and in the style that we have become acquainted with, “Yes, I know who you are and your doing a great job.”
Bruce noted my concern, but remained non committal to how he would play it. The rest of course is history. What people remember is Ron Casey, smashing a glass on the floor. In his colorful narrative, ‘Confessions of a Larrikin’, Casey covers the event with all the passion and emotion that provoked the episode. Some months later I had a call from Ron Casey’s secretary at 2KY, “Would I like to speak to Ron about the treatment I had suffered at the hands of Channel Nine in Cairns”?. Yes I would and arrangements were made for me to speak with him the following day. To that point I had never spoken to Ron,.....nor have I to this day.
“Hello, Ron Casey, here . Drive time radio 2KY” Thats what I heard over the telephone as I picked up the receiver. The voice went on, “I have on the line with me Bruce Whiteside, from the Gold Coast. Bruce has been taking a stand against the foreign buy-up and especially Japanese buy-up of Australian land and has been creating something of a furore,” he told his listening audience.
“Welcome to the program Bruce’, he paused long enough for me to acknowledge him.
“Bruce you had a rough time with Sixty minutes in Cairns over the weekend. Would you care to tell our listeners about it.”
No warning, it came out of the blue just like that, but I immediately recalled the mauling that Casey himself had suffered at the hands of channel Nine, that in those days was a toy of Alan Bond.. For something like twenty minutes, Casey listened without even an interruption. When it was over it was simply “Thanks Bruce,” and the line was terminated.
I could not believe that after all that I had heard about
the ‘mouth from the south’ that Casey could conduct an interview
with out a word. I can only assume that what I had said servedto support the type of ‘abuse’ that channel nine had dished up
to Casey. In a sense I felt used, yet I had no qualms about supporting Casey, if thats what he wanted.
Casey’s ‘altercation’ with Jana Wendt raised in my view, the responsibility of producers. There is no doubt in my mind that Walsh set out to sensationalise. Given the subject matter it was both reckless and inflammatory. For my money Jana Wendt is sold short. She is too intelligent a person to be wasted on the sort of theatre, that this particular episode presented. Casey said in his book that she had prostituted herself to the industry. Yet with the three undeniable qualities of intelligence, brains and sophisticated beauty, theatrics is an unnecessary ingredient.
I don’t suppose that it ever occurred to anyone , what would have been the fallout had Casey or anyone else for that matter, trapped into the same provocative situation, had thrown the glass not at the floor, but in the heat of the moment at the interviewer. Who would have accepted the responsibility for that action. Casey? Wendt? Walsh? or Channel Nine?
Given Casey's reputation, Wendt's cult following and the capacity for television stations to coax violence as a means of adult entertainment, there is no doubt in my mind who would have copped the rap. Casey, by the proverbial mile.
But if Casey, was on the receiving end of rough treatment by Channel Nine, then what happened to me in Cairns, deserves to be aired. One question, that was never answered, nor asked by the media ‘Why did Sixty Minutes, fly Bruce Whiteside to Cairns at a cost of well over $1000, pull the rug at the last moment, threaten to withdraw his return fare to the Gold Coast, whilst depriving this citizen of his natural freedom by a forced sojourn .”