Clive Palmer saves the world. That was how his media conference was touted in advance to the Canberra press gallery on Wednesday. Dazzling new policies on climate change would offer hope to all mankind.
Speculation shot to fever pitch. Twitter was abuzz. High on the Andes Altiplano, on the vast plains of the Serengeti, beside the mighty Yangtze, from teeming Mumbai to the towering citadels of Manhattan and the storied capitals of old Europe, the huddled billions watched and waited for their deliverance.
All they got was Al Gore. Somehow the fatocrat – as I like to think of Clive – had lured the Climate Changer-in-Chief to stand shoulder to shoulder and to endorse him, wrongly, as a "national leader". Lavishing praise as travelling politicians will do, Gore declared that here was an “extraordinary moment in which Australia, the United States and the world is [sic] finally beginning to confront the climate crisis in a meaningful way".
Eh? Look, it might have been meaningful to you, Al, but I haven't a clue what it was all about. I tried to make some sense of it but failed. And anybody who says they do get it is having a lend, I think. Palmer wittered on in that snuffling, adenoidal way he has, tossing up the jargon that inevitably strangles the climate change debate and hurling in some populist blather about lower electricity prices, but as a vision for rescuing the planet it was incomprehensible. All 12 minutes of it. No time for media questions, of course. There was an "urgent" dinner to attend, said the global saviour, and off they went into the chilly Canberra night.
At least they were on the side of the angels. And on the side of rational science. The climate change deniers grow madder with each passing week: "The wheels are starting to fall off the anthropogenic global warming bandwagon," declared Maurice Newman on Monday, in an article for guess-which-newspaper. "The world is wearying of catastrophism and is noticing the mounting contrary evidence. Not least, it has observed there has been no global warming since September 1996."
This idiocy would not matter a toss but for the fact that Newman is chairman of the prime minister's Business Advisory Council and, therefore, presumably in Tony Abbott's shell-like ear. Publicly, Abbott has held more positions on climate change than there are sexual acrobatics in the Kama Sutra but you know that, deep down, he believes it's "crap". His word.
The fatocrat had a cuppa with him on Thursday morning, their first meeting in two years. "I personally think he is a good guy," said Palmer afterwards. "He is not an evil person."
That's a relief to hear.
AND NOW the hotly contested, highly coveted award for Tyrant of the Month. (Crackle of opening envelope, roll of drums.) And the winner is ... come on down, Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi, President of Egypt!
They are depressingly familiar, these people. The presidential palaces of the Middle East are rife with them: the clipped moustaches, the bemedalled uniforms and field marshal's batons, the dogged propensity to jail or slaughter their own people. And, if they play their cards right, the enthusiastic backing of the United States.
Al-Sisi has eschewed the moustache but otherwise has done his hand very well. A graduate of both Britain's Joint Services Staff College and the US Army War College, he is the archetypal proxy for American and Western power plays in the Middle East. When he overthrew Egypt's elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi last year, that repository of European smugness and duplicity, Tony Blair, was all over him like a dose of smallpox.
So, too, the US Secretary of State. The timing was excruciating. John Kerry was in Cairo as that kangaroo court jailed the Australian journalist Peter Greste for seven years, along with two of his colleagues from the Al Jazeera English TV network. Kerry did make a pro-forma protest – a "chilling and draconian sentence ... a disturbing setback to Egypt's transition," he said. But that was it.
Transition to what, exactly? Hardly to freedom and justice. Poor Peter Greste is but one of tens of thousands of wretched souls imprisoned by the regime, many without even a show trial. Hundreds or perhaps thousands more have been sentenced to death, often in absentia.
It is barbaric, but not enough to stop Kerry showering al-Sisi with money and arms: $580 million in military aid frozen since the coup and, for good measure, a brace of 10 Apache attack helicopters. All to keep down "insurgents", of course.
It generally ends in tears before bedtime, though. Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, one Donald Rumsfeld, was also schmoozing one of these brutal Arab despots: none other than Saddam Hussein.
We all know how that turned out. Not well.
TO THE surprise of many people – perhaps even herself – Rebekah Brooks beat the rap. On Tuesday the flame-haired siren of Rupert Murdoch's British media empire walked free from London's phone-hacking trial, along with her husband Charlie and a few other odds and sods. It was her one-time lover and former editor at the now extinct News of The World newspaper, Andy Coulson, who took the fall. He will go to jail. She will not.
An old friend of mine in London who knows this stuff intimately tells me that Scotland Yard and the prosecution simply did not have the goods on her. There was no hard evidence that linked her to the hacking. And recognising that he was in effect on trial as well, Murdoch (ever so 'umbled, m'lud) threw millions at her defence, with serried ranks of silks and solicitors stretching as far as the eye could see. It worked.
Yet one fact remains. Ironclad. Brooks presided over a "newspaper" which cynically trawled the sewers for no other reason than to make money for Rupert. Even as she and Coulson were bonking their bums off they were hypocritically "exposing" the sexual antics of politicians and pop stars or wallowing in the private agony of the family of a missing schoolgirl, Millie Dowler. They wrecked lives and careers without compunction.
It was not journalism. It was filth. And Rebekah Brooks remains covered in it.