When I was about 10 or 11 I won a literary prize. It was sponsored by The Australian, and Robert Drewe came to interview me at my school for a short piece that appeared in the Saturday edition of that paper together with an extract of my prize-winning work. Drewe’s story was charming but had little inaccuracies and exaggerations – almost inevitable, I’ve come to realise, from the journalistic process.

The ABC’s This Day Tonight contacted my parents asking to come to our home to do a story on me. My mother declined. At the time I was disappointed: she never asked me. Later I came to appreciate why she decided to protect me from this. To mix a few metaphors, if you get into bed with the press you will soon learn that fame is an unruly horse.

When I was practising as a solicitor in Sydney at around the turn of the century I came to know Michael Lawler when I instructed him on the introduction of a friend from law school who had already gone to the bar. For a while we had a friendship of sorts – I say of sorts because any friendship which starts in the barrister-solicitor relationship can never shake free of its professional origin. Barristers have too many reasons to be nice to solicitors.

Nevertheless, when I went to the bar, Michael was helpful to me.

Tony Abbott’s appointment in 2002 of Michael Lawler as Vice President of the then Industrial Relations Commission came as a surprise to many. Though capable, he had yet to be appointed senior counsel.

In retrospect I have always wondered whether, despite Tony Abbott’s claims that he opposed the Howard government’s introduction of Workchoices, some kind of emasculation of the Commission’s jurisdiction was already in contemplation, in which case it would have been “OK” to appoint a relatively obscure candidate who should be grateful for the appointment regardless of what was subsequently done to the jurisdiction. Not so much a poisoned chalice as an empty one.

I went to Michael’s swearing in and caught up with him a few times after that before we drifted apart.

I suppose that once the substratum of the professional association fell away it was almost inevitable that the friendship would also fall away. Most friendships and especially friendships formed through work turn out to be situational.

So I have watched from afar the gathering storm around him.

It is a pity for his sake that Michael Lawler is an adult and could not have been prevented by his mother from inviting Four Corners into his and Kathy Jackson’s house for last night’s program.

3 Responses to “Starstruck”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Clever wrap!

  2. David Tennis Pro Wang Says:

    Awesome wrap!

  3. Victor Says:

    Nice post. Reminds me of the style of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America.

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