The Bolt retort:Police won’t cop ‘fanciful’ claims of flag arrest

Police are mad as hell,and they’re not going to take it any more. That’s right,after Chief CommissionerShane Patton stood his ground – to say the least – after Sunday’s LGBTQ Pride March, at which activists robustly objectedto police participation in the event,Victoria’s finest now have a bone to pick withAndrew Bolt,firebrand columnist with Melbourne’s US-owned tabloid,theHerald Sun.

The Bolter had quite the tale to tell late last month,in his newspaper column and on his Sky News TV show,about a chap calledFrank Strazdins,who claimed a police officer arrested him in Swanston Street on Australia Day.

Victoria's top cop Shane Patton has slammed a violent attack on police at the Melbourne Midsumma Pride March.

Strazdins’ crime? Having two small Australian flags protruding from his baseball cap,he reckons. Cue the standard outrage from Andrew.

But there was nothing standard about what happened on Tuesday. Coming off a two-week run-up,Victoria Police’s communications unit put out a lengthy statement blasting Bolt’s broadcast and column as “inaccurate”,“nonsensical” and “fanciful”.

Our favourite bit of the saga is that the police – like most Australians probably – were blissfully unaware of Bolt’s TV show and column until theDaily Mail,of all outlets,called to see if the story checked out.

The cops insist that it most certainly did not.

Tens of thousands of people descended on Melbourne to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Australians on January 26.

Tens of thousands of people descended on Melbourne to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Australians on January 26.Chris Hopkins

The police version of events is that an officer approached Strazdins as he stood in the middle of the busy thoroughfare and advised him that his attire might be provocative tothe 30,000-odd Invasion Day protesters who were approaching. The officer was apparently even so kind as to advise Strazdins and his partner about the safest route to take to their stated destination,Southbank.

“It is nonsensical to suggest any police officer would threaten to arrest someone for wearing any national flag,let alone an Australian flag,” police communications director Beck Angel said.

Angel said no attempt was made to seek comment from police or fact-check Strazdins’ claims before they were broadcast and published by Bolt.

“We will not tolerate our police officers being subject to fanciful stories that have not been fact-checked. We will not cop that,” said Angel.

Nice touch,Beck.

Neither Sky News nor News Corp Australia,publisher of theHerald Sun, responded to our requests for comment. Strazdins could not be contacted for comment.


This week in CBD book club,we’re delighted to feature a new tome fromRichard Alston,the communications minister inJohn Howard’s Coalition government,probably most famous for his groundbreaking – and widely imitated – work weaponising the ABC’s complaints process against the broadcaster.

Richard Alston knows a thing or two about elites.

Richard Alston knows a thing or two about elites.John Shakespeare

The title of Richard’s new paperback,The Trouble with Elites,and the Anti-Democratic Impulse,should give us a decent clue what to expect of the 106-pager.

The basic problem,Alston’s blurb explains,is that “just because you are a famous film star,sporting hero or business tycoon,let alone a wealthy retiree,doesn’t entitle you to pontificate,often on subjects you know little about”.

We’re delighted to confirm there’s no danger of Alston falling into that error.

He grew up in upmarket Brighton and was educated at Xavier College – 37 grand a year these days – and the University of Melbourne before completing his legal training at blue-blooded law firm Mallesons.

He was federal president of the Liberal Party and high commissioner to the United Kingdom,has chaired the boards of three publicly listed companies in Australia and been a director of a number of others here and overseas,and also sits on the board of the National Gallery of Australia.

Former prime minister John Howard with former senator Richard Alston in 2014.

Former prime minister John Howard with former senator Richard Alston in 2014.Supplied

So you’d expect Alston to have accumulated more than passing knowledge of “elites” in their natural habitats. Let’s call it a lifetime of research in the field. Now look,we haven’t read the book,but are prepared to recommend it nonetheless on the basis that the former minister has stuck,with his subject,to that hardy old literary tenet:write what you know.

We gave Alston a shout on Tuesday,hoping for an elite-level quote or two. Never heard back.


It’s all the rage these days for Labor-aligned union types to step into the world of big business and wind up breaking bread with their former big-end-of-town adversaries.

Take the latest case of former ACTU presidentSharan Burrow,who also co-chairs with Malcolm Turnbullthe campaign for a royal commission intoRupert Murdoch’sNews Corp,a push which has been,let’s face it,a bit of a flop so far. Burrow on Monday joined the board of global battery technology company Novonix,where she’ll be among a different crowd from her union comrades.

Novonix is closely linked to former Dow Chemical bossAndrew Liveris,also a past adviser to bothDonald TrumpandBarack Obama. And by closely linked,we mean it’s practically a family affair for Liveris,who is also the Brisbane Olympic Games honcho.

Novonix chairAnthony Bellas is Andrew’s brother-in-law. Chief financial officerNick Leveris is his son.Andrew Liveris,also known for being the architect of then-PMScott Morrison’s “gas-led recovery” policy,is taking an unaccustomed lesser role,as a mere non-executive director.

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Noel Towell is Economics Editor for The Age

Kishor Napier-Raman is a CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Previously he worked as a reporter for Crikey,covering federal politics from the Canberra Press Gallery.

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