was eight o'clock on Wednesday night when I got back from Newcastle.
Brushtail Café wasn't crowded and Old Possum was sitting in the
corner, scribbling in one of his fat notebooks. I leaned over the bar
and snatched a kiss from Joadja. She handed me a cider, and I pulled
up a chair at Old's table.
what are you working on?" He asked.
been hired by Newcastle University. I dunno, this one's weird. In years
of sleuthing I've never come across anything like this. I don't even
know how to describe the crime."
took a long pull on the cider, rolled it around my mouth, and waited
a couple of seconds for the alcohol to kick in.
think this bloke who works in the English department is getting money
off people by claiming he can get Imre Salusinszky to attack them in
his column, or on the radio. What do I call that: inverse influence
came over with a vegetarian foccacia and a glass of bubbly.
what's your theory?" She asked.
isn't it: they get a lot of street cred out of it, so much they're willing
to pay rather well."
I can see that. These days, if you're on the Left you can't show your
face in public if you haven't been attacked by Slutulinszky."
Is this bloke you're investigating a go-between?" Jo asked, "Does
Imre get the money? 'cos if he did, that'd be cash for unfavourable
There's no evidence that Imre gets a cent. Why would he need to take
a silly risk like that? They reckon on top of his university salary
he gets paid a thousand bucks a week for his column. No, I'm sure the
subby's a lone conman who's picked up on the fact that Imre is just
thing only came to light when this ABC producer went to the subby's
office one day and started pushing him around. When the cops arrived
the producer claimed he'd been ripped off. The cops didn't want a bar
of it so they passed the whole thing over to the University administration.
The producer said the subby gave the money back and told him Imre wouldn't
attack the ABC now that he'd got a radio spot with them. Plausible yarn,
but I don't believe a word of it."
Okay, so we're talking fraudulent inverse influence peddling. Who's
this bloke shaken down so far?" Jo asked.
the entire cast of Sea Change, a couple of leaders of the anti-globalisation
mob, some worthies from the Uniting Church ..."
some reason Old took all this rather calmly. "Of course there's
another possibility", he remarked slyly.
"Let me ask you, leaving aside Salusinszky's politics for a moment,
what do you think of his stuff?"
repetitious. Judging from his column his range of interests is incredibly
he's only got one idea: he's a rabid race-to-the-bottom market fundamentalist.
He's got about two jokes and he recycles them endlessly. Reminds me
of a young bloke who came to a couple of student parties back in the
sixties. He had one trick: he'd drop his daks, bend over and light one
of his farts with a cigarette lighter. The first couple of times it
was mildly funny in a grungy undergraduate sort of way, but people soon
got bored with it and he wasn't invited back."
he's incredibly vulgar, coarse even, and egocentric. Remember the column
where he has himself fucking the school-aged daughter of some imaginary
But in the final analysis, he isn't even funny", Joadja said.
Possum took another sip of cider and smiled. "So this is the new
doyen of right-wing columnists: a weird, repetitious, egotistical, vulgar
ex-pothead; a Bob Dylan freak who couldn't write bum on a wall. Has
it ever occurred to you that if Imre hadn't existed the Left would have
had to invent him?"
you saying what I think you're saying?" I asked.
all is not what it seems in politics".
Mother of Darwin, you might be onto something", I muttered.