Life without reputation

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  • 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.

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