Life without reputation

Featured in

  • Published 20040907
  • ISBN: 9780733314537
  • Extent: 268 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

I HAVE HEARD some significant gossip about the Howard Government Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. Or rather, since I heard it from two reliable and independent sources, I can elevate what I heard and call it a fact. This is how journalists, when we are working prudently, negotiate what is sayable and what is not. Fact, fact, fact, like bricks in a wall, each with its little footing of evidence. If an article is checked by a lawyer before publication then each fact, and the whole assemblage, will be scrutinised for unintended and unprovable meanings. Because sometimes, as we all know, a wall of bricks can be more than the sum of its parts. When you are sued for defamation you are called upon to prove the truth not of what you intended to say, but rather of any meanings the reader might have drawn. The issue is always what people thought you meant, not what you intended to say.

And so I should say at once that there was nothing improper in what I heard about Philip Ruddock – merely a collision between the personal and the institutional, between the Attorney-General and the man. Which is, of course, what makes it so fascinating.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

More from author

Sustaining a nation

EssayWE VISITED OUR relations in spring last year. They raise their living from the central western plains of New South Wales, near Forbes. This...

More from this edition

Three months in Baghdad

MemoirAUGUST 31, 2003: After three and a half years of attempting Mission Impossible – post-war reconstruction to build pluralist democracies in Kosovo, then Montenegro...

Who guards the guardians?

PolicyTODAY I WANT to talk about a difficult problem – one that all politicians seek to avoid, since it brings them into direct conflict...

An affront to democracy?

ReportageWHATEVER THEIR PARTIES or programs, prime ministers and premiers eventually get angry at the media. They complain of superficial reports, a carping tone and...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.