Kate McClymont on dirt, death and determination

Speaker Key:

KM             Kate McClymont

AL              Andrew Leigh


KM             We are the eyes and ears of the public and we have a duty to keep doing the stories that we do, otherwise you might as well not be in the job.

AL               My name’s Andrew Leigh and welcome to The Good Life, a politics free podcast about living a happy, healthy and ethical life. In this podcast we seek out wise men and women, who have lessons to teach us about living life to the full, with humour, pleasure, meaning and love. We chat with musicians and athletes, CEOs and carers about making the most of this one precious life. If you like this podcast, please take a moment to tell your friends or rate us on Apple Podcasts. Now, sit back and enjoy the conversation.

                   Kate McClymont is one of Australia’s leading investigative journalists. She’s won five Walkley awards, delivered the prestigious Andrew Olle Lecture, and is a member of the Australian Media Hall of Fame. During her time investigating underworld figures she’s received insults, death threats, more since. But somehow she’s maintained her sense of humour, which is something we’ll explore today.

                   Now, this isn’t a political podcast, but Kate, before I start asking you questions, I have to make the point that no one who knows your work could miss the fact you’ve written a lot about political corruption. Including bypassed members of the Labour Party. So as somebody who’s been a member of the Labour Party for all of my adult life, thank you for that.

KM             I don’t know where they might be saying thank you for that.

AL               Ours is genuinely a better party for getting rid of some of the figures that you’ve helped exposed.

KM             Yes, and look, it’s not driven by any ideological bend. That’s the thing about journalism is that you have to do it without fear or favour.

AL               So let’s start with your earliest memories of writing. You grew up in Orange in New South Wales on an orchard, appropriately enough. Did you enjoy writing at school? Do you remember [overtalking]…?

KM             My passion in life then and still is English literature and that’s what I studied at university. I was doing Arts Law, but I did an Honours year in English Literature. And I just thought I’d just take a tiny break from the law and I never went back. And every now and then I have a slight twinge where I think, maybe I should have done my Law degree.

                   And then I think, life takes such serendipitous paths and I think if that had happened, I wouldn’t have been a journalist and most days I just thank my lucky stars that I do this job, because it is really such a privilege to have a job like this. It’s interesting, it’s fascinating. And to have a job where you can actually make a difference and do some public good is a reward in itself.

AL               Well, I’ve got a lot of grey but I think you’ve spent more time in courts than I have, so you may have equalised that. You did some unusual things while you were at university, including sitting on a box in Kings Cross answering people’s questions or delivering insults to them.

KM             Yes, that was… I had a busking booth at Kings Cross and I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, but I can speak. So it was questions answered, 40 cents, arguments, 50 cents, and verbal abuse, $1. And I used to make about $17 an hour, which back then was a fortune. So in fact I was driving along that same place in Kings Cross only the other night and I said to a friend of mine, that’s the corner that I used to busk on.

AL               This is near the corner of the Bourbon & Beefsteak right?

KM             Just down from there. It’s where the old Commonwealth Bank used to be, there’s a nice little curvy building. I used to be on a corner that was quite popular for prostitutes, it was the prostitutes’ corner. And they’d come along and say, you’re ruining our business, could you move along. And I’d say, well look, if you want to have an argument about it. So they’d all put their money in and start arguing about how I wasn’t good for their trade. I said, look, there’s lots more people here. So yes, interesting.

AL               And this turned out to be useful when you then went for one of the most competitive jobs in journalism which is a cadetship at the Sydney Morning Herald.

KM             Yes, I think they were far more interested in my busking than in my university degree or volunteering at the local radio station. So it’s funny how things that you don’t think might be interesting to other people often are. And I think it was that they thought, well look, if you can do that, you can probably talk to people in journalism.

AL               So do you then advise other people who are considering delving into a competitive field such as journalism to do slightly different things in order to stand out?  

KM             I think so. It’s hard these days to know what people are looking for. I look at some of the graduates that come along and they’ve got about three degrees and they’ve got PhDs and they can speak fluent Chinese. So I think things have changed as to what people are looking for.

AL               And so as you got into journalism you moved into investigative journalism fairly quickly and it wasn’t long before you found yourself covering the wedding of a family member of George Freeman. How did that work out for you?

KM             Well, actually that wasn’t as an investigative journalism, that was as… I was actually the social reporter. This was as a cadet. I was a social reporter.

                   This was at the time when the Herald actually had outposts and there was the Eastern Herald. So I was meant to be chronicling the goings-on of Sydney society, when it was just so boring that I decided that I might pop along to the wedding of one of George Freeman’s relatives. And I thought I was being very funny by saying that perhaps the bridal party was wearing sequins because that was the closest fashion accessory to armour plating.

                   Well I was then getting death threats from George Freeman and people ringing my house saying, George isn’t happy. And I thought, oh really, so this is… So as a cadet I was on the wrong path.

AL               Wow. That is extraordinary. And how long were you at the Herald before you then moved to Four Corners?

KM             I had a couple of years at the Herald and the Times on Sunday and then I had a couple of years at Four Corners as a researcher. And I think it was about the week that I arrived, Chris Masters had just done the seminal work on the Moonlight State, which was corruption in the Queensland Police Force. And I seriously thought that I had died and gone to heaven.

                   And it was really interesting for me doing in-depth stories, actually working for six weeks on the one story, and I found that really rewarding, like being able to get your teeth into something. And I spent most of my working time there working with Paul Maley. I think we did Alan Bond, we did Laurie Connell, and it was an interesting time.

AL               And it did seem to me just in reading your accounts of that period, that that’s the stage at which journalism changes in your mind from being a craft to a calling? You speak so lovingly of those periods in cramped quarters in Gore Hill with Chris Masters and Mark Colvin and others.

KM             It was just so much fun. And I recently went to a farewell party for Deb Whitmont who was a researcher, then a producer, and has only just left as being a correspondent for Four Corners. So that was in the late 80s and she’s been there all this time. And I think that I’m still really good friends with these people that I met 30 years ago.

AL               So then you began a number of the investigations for which you’re best known. Perhaps you can tell us in broad terms the story of the murder of Michael McGurk and how that unfolded?

KM             Funnily enough stories come to you in the most bizarre ways. And I was walking the dogs in the park and someone mentioned to me that there’d been a firebombing in Wolseley Road in Point Piper. Now Wolseley Road is the wealthiest street in the entire nation. And people there are always knocking down perfectly grand homes to build even grander ones as a testament to their wealth. So a firebombing in Australia’s richest street. What is not interesting about that?

                   So a colleague and I started looking at this story and we found that the person who’d been charged with the said firebombing was one Michael McGurk, who had been charged with it. Anyway, we wrote this story and he kept telling us, there’s more to this story. You’ve got to be looking at Ron Medich, the property developer. And it turned out that Ron Medich part owned this house.

                   Anyway, the week before he was murdered Michael McGurk was saying to me, Ron Medich is going to have me murdered and he’s going to have Lucky Gattellari do it. But I’ve got a tape that could bring down the government, it could expose Ron Medich. And I kept saying, well give us the tape. And he said, well you need to write about Ron Medich. And I kept saying, it doesn’t work like that. We just don’t do stories because people like you say that these things are happening.

                   And then of course when he was murdered you have a complete crisis of confidence. Could I have done something? Did I know something? But as people know full well, you can go to the police and they’ll assess the threat as credible or not. And in that case I think there was probably lethal or anyone. And you just don’t believe that these kinds of things can or will happen. But that was in 2009 and its now nine years later and Ron Medich has only just been found guilty of masterminding this crime.

AL               And you spent quite a bit of time not just chatting with people but also on stakeouts, including on one occasion taking your dogs along in order to blend in a little more readily.

KM             I do think though that being Wolseley Road as we say, I probably would have been better to either be a construction worker or a French maid. Because at seven o’clock all the construction workers arise to knock down the said houses or the maids arrive to attend to these houses.

                   But yes, so a year after the murder I got a tip-off that there were going to be arrests. The only problem was that I didn’t know who they were going to arrest. So based on what McGurk had told me before he was killed, the Herald had organised this very top-secret stakeout of Lucky Gattellari’s house, of his associate Senad Kaminic, and of course of Ron Medich.

Now for those of you who don’t know Sydney, Senad Kaminic and Lucky Gattellari lived in Sydney’s west and south-western suburbs, probably 15km from the CBD. Ron Medich lived in the suburb next to me so I very kindly gave my colleagues Senad Kaminic and Lucky Gattellar’s house. And there’s me outside Ron Medich.

So we always think that the police do these things… You always hear of a dawn raid, so we think to get there at 5 AM. So we’re there at 5 AM and I remember the photographer was in the car in front of me and behind us was another car. So he texted, who’s that in the car behind, and I remember undoing the glovebox to get a bit of light and texting back, must be undercover police. And then before I know it my phone’s pinging saying, it’s Natalie from Online here. I’m thinking, this is meant to be top-secret and we’ve got Natalie from Online in the car behind us.

Anyway, so the hours passed, nothing happens. At eight o’clock I go and buy coffee, nothing. Nine o’clock, nothing. And then after nine I think, any police worth their salt, they’re going to have raided people before they go to business. And then suddenly I get a call from Vanda Carson who was stationed outside Lucky Gattellari’s property.

She meanwhile is starving so she’s gone to the local pie shop in nearby Chipping Norton. And then by the most amazing of coincidences the head of Homicide comes into the pie shop. So she knows that something is happening. So everyone rushes back to their station where they are. There’s gun drawn. They’re being handcuffed. There’s the anti-terrorism squad. Ron Medich’s house, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. So I remember him, Ron Medich, roaring out of his house, he’d obviously been told they’d all been arrested, in his shiny black Merc.

And so then there’s a posse of John from photography, me and the two dogs, Natalie from Online. We’re all in a car chase with Ron and he’s arrested two weeks later. So it was all a bit anti-climactic from our end of things that day.

AL               How did you feel when he was finally sentenced?

KM             He hasn’t been sentenced yet. He has been found. He’s been convicted. Look, I just think that money talks so much in this town. Because at the time Lucky Gattellari and the others were all arrested and they sought legal help from Ron Medich, who just shut them off. And so without any money they couldn’t afford to have top class barristers. So in the end they did plea deals and gave evidence against Medich.

                   Medich spent six weeks in jail and then he had a really good barrister who argued his case. So he got bail in 2010. We’re now 2018. Along the line he’s appealed every single point he could. He’s gone all the way to the High Court on whether certain evidence should be admitted. At one stage they successfully challenged… I was to be a Crown witness to say what McGurk had told me. And they were successful in getting that evidence ruled to be too prejudicial to go to the jury.

                   So I just think if he hadn’t had money a trial would have happened much earlier. As it was, this was his second trial. There was a three-month trial this time last year. So I think that as time passes a conviction becomes more difficult to achieve because people’s memories fade or they die or things happen. So I just think that it’s lucky and I think good to the jury system that this is the outcome.

AL               So then there’s Eddie Obeid. What did Eddie Obeid ever do?

KM             Well that’s what Eddie Obeid’s wife once said to waiting journalists, what did we ever do to attract the attention of that woman? And it’s not who you are, it’s what you did.

                   And I first received material about Eddie Obeid in 1999 and it was two engineers contacted me to say that they had the contract to provide the street poles on which banners were to be run up for the Sydney City Council. And they claimed two people came to see them, who were sons of Eddie Obeid and said, if you give us your City of Sydney contract we’ll make sure you get the Olympic contracts. And those two look at each other and say, who did you say you were? And they said, we’re the sons of Eddie Obeid. The two engineers said, never heard of him.

                   Anyway, they turned down that contract and then lo and behold they lost their contract at City of Sydney. And despite being the lowest ranked on the tender it was the Obeid’s who got the contract. So I think that was my first encounter.

                   I have written so much about them over the years but I think that it was slightly ironic that in some ways it was the street poles that brought them undone. Because scroll forward more than a decade, and the City of Sydney is pursuing the Obeid company for $12 million in unpaid royalty payments. And when they didn’t pay they took them to court and were successful.

                   And Moses Obeid argued that he really didn’t have the money. He was dreadfully sorry but the cupboard is bare. At which point the City of Sydney hired forensic accountants and were able to show, hold on, you’re saying the cupboard is bare but you’ve just bought a $4 million house. And you’ve told the bank that you have got the following assets. And it was, we’ve got cafés at Circular Quay. We’ve got an interest in a mining company. We’ve got this, we’ve got that.

                   I’m sitting in court thinking, this is unbelievable, this is the motherlode. Because Moses had to choose which lie to tell. Does he confess to lying to the bank or does he say, I’m lying now. And that lie brought down the Obeid empire because now we had conclusive proof that the Obeid’s did have a secret interest in cafés at Circular Quay. That they did have interests in coal exploration licences and the like.

                   And so now Eddie Obeid is languishing in Berrima jail having been convicted over the Circular Quay café leases. So I think it’s the circle turns as they say.

AL               It’s a five-year term as I understand it?

KM             Yes, it’s a five-year maximum term and I think three years non-parole, but in March next year he and former minister Ian Macdonald will face their second criminal trial. Ian Macdonald having been convicted of a separate matter, but also one of misconduct in public office. And they are both facing charges of misconduct in public office about Ian Macdonald as Mining Minister granting coal exploration licences, which were eventually awarded to companies associated with the Obeid family.

AL               And your main source for your reporting on Eddie Obeid, was that documentary evidence in court or was it gossip, rumour, innuendo? More old-fashioned sleuthing?

KM             For that particular one about the café leases, that was from documents tabled in court and on that occasion the Obeid’s tried to have that restricted. So I had to represent myself in court and argue that there is a public right to access such information once it’s been tendered in court, and I was very lucky that the judge agreed with me and granted me access to it.

                   But look, it’s one of those things that information comes to you in a variety of ways, and we were successfully sued by Eddie Obeid over a 2002 story in which we were told by four different sources that Eddie Obeid had asked for a $1 million bribe. Not for himself, it was to go to the Labour Party coffers. And that was to grant a piece of government land in order for the Bulldogs league team and the Liverpool Council to build combined league headquarters and council chambers.

                   And we didn’t have any documentation because there was none. And Eddie Obeid was able to successfully sue us for saying, it didn’t happen, you made it up. And even though we had four different sources, a judge ruled that that wasn’t sufficient.

AL               That must have been incredibly personally tough on you. I know you said at the time that you were absolutely devastated, that you felt like a failure. You’d won a Gold Walkley for the reporting and you had the Walkley’s saying that had they known what you…

KM             No, that wasn’t quite correct. So what happened was that we won a Walkley for our coverage of the salary cap scandal and during the coverage of the salary cap scandal, the Eddie Obeid was an incidental reporting. And what happened later was that Mark Day, who was a columnist on the Australian just said words to the effect that, maybe if the Walkley’s had known that. But they were sort of separate issues really.

AL               Thank you for correcting. I was less about nit-picking but more about how you bounce back from something like that, which is incredibly professionally tough and would have caused a lot of people to perhaps even rethink whether they were in the right profession. Is that…?

KM             Look, it is and it’s that… As you say, I just felt so devastated and also I felt that maybe I was in the wrong profession and how could we have got this wrong? But in the heart of hearts you knew it wasn’t wrong. And it was one of those things that I thought that I couldn’t now write about Eddie Obeid because it would look like we were just embittered and we had an axe to grind.

                   But after a while the stories kept coming, so you thought, I just have to get back on this horse. And so we did really. And Eddie Obeid would say in parliament, I’ve already been successful against Anne Davies and Kate McClymont. I’ve had course to sue them.

                   And we would get letters from his lawyers saying… In fact not one… This wasn’t a legal letter. But I got… Eddie Obeid said this to me on the phone, he said, I’ll go for you again. I’ll go for you, I’ll go for your jugular. And it is quite confronting when people say that to you because you think, I’ve just got to make sure this is right. I just have to. I can’t let Eddie Obeid see any chink in the armour this time around.

AL               Did that change the way in which it affected you when you had the mistake of referring to the wrong Chris Brown in the Eddie Obeid book?

KM             Yes, in the Eddie Obeid book.

AL               It turns out this is not Chris Brown the American rapper, that there is in fact two Australian Chris Brown’s which you mixed up. Had you made that earlier mistake, did that make it easier or harder still to bounce back?

KM             No, shocking. I know and it’s…

AL               I know I’m getting into quite painful stuff but I think it’s important.

KM             No, it is terrible. And look, the only thing that you can do is say, this is a mistake. It’s my mistake. I made it. I have no one to blame but myself and just try to be as honest as you can and say, yes, it is a mistake and I’ve made it. So it never helps though.

AL               In an emotional sense, did you have a group of friends that you reached out to? Were there things that you did in an exercise sense or meditation? Were there other ways in which you dealt with that quite harrowing experience?

KM             In those circumstances you just don’t sleep. You can’t eat. You just feel physically sick. I think it has a really deleterious effect on your health and it’s one of those things you just feel like, I just wish I could go to sleep, wake up in a month and this is all behind me. And I’m sure it happens to people in public life, to all sorts of people. But it’s one of those things where it’s your family and friends that get you through. And they put it in perspective of, no one has died. Think, the caravan will move on.

                   And I walk every morning. I’ve got two dogs, my accomplices and I find that that is a really therapeutic way to get up. And it gives you a chance to think about things, like as you walk, you think… Not that you talk to yourself, but you go over things that are on your mind or things that you might have to do. And I just find it one of the most enjoyable aspects of life really.

AL               Do you go out in bad weather as well?

KM             Yes. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, I go out. I have a towel waiting at home to dry the…

AL               Dry the dogs.

KM             But there is nothing worse than the smell of a wet dog. And sometimes I try to walk along the streets where there’s awnings. If it’s in wet weather.

AL               You’ve also suffered the awful experience of getting death threats not once but multiple times. How did that affect you and how did you deal with that in a practical and an emotional sense?

KM             Look, I think it’s always more worrying. I always worry about my family and not about myself. And I worried… When the children were small, I never let them know that we had to move house because there were death threats. I would always say, we’re going on a little holiday. And they always thought this was wonderful even though we were in some horrible unit in the centre of the city that had bottle tops under the bed and...

                   Those things can be disconcerting but I am a bit of an optimist. And I think that… I rationalise it by saying, people don’t actually want to kill you. They want you to stop what you are doing. And I think that’s bullying. So I think that it’s our obligation as a journalist to go twice as hard to not be intimidated by these things. And I also think that we are the eyes and ears of the public and we have a duty to keep doing the stories that we do, otherwise you might as well not be in the job if you’re going to be cowered by those things or cowered, then don’t do it.

                   That’s not to say that it doesn’t sometimes make you feel a little bit sick with worry, but it’s part of the job.

AL               You seem to have also used humour very deftly. Particularly with the… You have a lovely little routine in which you talk about the number of undercover figures who have referred to your personal hygiene, your attire. Do you find that helps to publicise some of these things? To make fun of them?

KM             And also you have to make fun of yourself. I often laugh with my family about what a complete idiot I am sometimes. I’m really good with some technology and others. I had my phone in my pocket and I accidentally tweeted a whole lot of jumbled, random words and then when I looked somebody had said, are you being kidnapped? Is this code? And I said, no, it’s just a pocket dial. I still don’t know how I do this but sometimes I accidentally send a Google Map with a red pin that says, Kate McClymont’s location. And I send it to the head of the Hell’s Angels.

                   It’s like saying, come and get me. And I think that social media also allows you to call people out. Like only recently I was covering an ICAC case and one of the barristers who’s acting for one of the people I’d been writing about, I just said, oh hello, how are you? And he said, I see you’re still as ugly as ever. And I just thought, really? I just think that’s completely unnecessary. So I put it up on Twitter and it has the effect… You don’t make a comment, you just put it up and say, lawyers can be so witty and charming and here’s what this person said.

                   And I think that’s, in some way, is a really effective way of calling people out. Because I just think that there’s civil discourse that is happening in our society at the moment. It’s just really beyond appalling and especially on social media. I was going to say that if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face but he actually did say it to my face. But my rule of thumb on Twitter is that if you wouldn’t say that to someone’s face when you are talking to them, don’t put it up on Twitter. Don’t say all these vile things.

                   Disagree with people by all means. But I just think our civil commentary is just pretty horrible at the moment.

AL               Particularly for powerful women in Australia there’s that really nasty undercurrent of misogynistic messages directed to public figures. Whether they’re in the media, whether they’re in politics on either side. I’m just struck sometimes by how vile all these messages can be.

KM              I know and it’s interesting. But so much of the discourse about women is also about appearance and I think it was really interesting when Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit for an entire year and no one noticed. And yet people like Leigh Sales on 7.30 and Karl’s then colleague, Lisa Wilkinson, are always being called out by what they’re wearing. What they look like.

                   I just found it interesting Catherine Brenner, who recently had to stand down as the chairwoman of AMP. There was even discourse, not about her just doing her job badly as the accusations were, but doing it badly because she was a woman. Why can’t you just be held to the same account as anyone else because of your job not because of your gender?

                   And there was commentary even by female reporters about how much she was spending, had spent on her hair. Or that she had hitched herself to mentors. I thought, well, isn’t that what people do to get ahead? So I just thought even the downfall of a prominent woman was interesting in the way in which it was covered.

AL               When you see so much of this sort of nastiness both in terms of the issues we’ve talked about but also some of what you’ve covered as an investigative reporter, do you find it hard not to become embittered and overly cynical about politics? About the way the country is going? Do you find yourself walking around Sydney playing spot the underworld figure or pick the bribe?

KM             Honestly I do that all the time and I do have an amazing ability to be talking to somebody and eavesdropping on another table at the same time. It’s a skill that I have developed. But people often ask me if I’m cynical about politics and I think, no. There are so many people in politics that go into it for the right reason. Not everyone. I’m more disappointed by the quality of our political debate. And I think it’s a great sadness to the general public.

                   But I think that the media is partly to blame for that as well or maybe largely to blame. And I look back and I think, it’s this 24-hour media cycle. It’s when things should be off the record and they’re not. And I think politicians are not overly confident in engaging with reporters in case they accidentally slip up. And that is reverberated throughout Twitter.

                   For instance, I was talking to an American journalist today who was covering the Trump campaign and she said that there was one occasion when a baby was crying. And she said, Donald Trump was clearly joking when he said, get that baby out of here. He said it in a humorous way and the audience took it in a humorous way. But reporting it on Twitter, Donald Trump said, get that baby out of here.

                   Well Twitter erupted. Look how callous this man is. I’m not saying it in any way to defend Donald Trump because heavens knows how careless he is with the truth. All I’m using is it for an example to show how the context of things is often missing these days. You just get one line and you don’t get the rest of how it was said, where it was said, what was in the context. And I think that the media is largely to blame for our gotcha reporting.

                   It is looking for that moment of destruction. And I think that it does become a feeding frenzy in the moment somebody is slightly wounded. We’re like a pack of sharks circling, waiting for the complete destruction of that person. Which I think can be… I think it’s upsetting for everyone really. That’s not to say they… Someone might not deserve that. But it is the feeding frenzy of the media. I think must be shocking to be in the middle of it.

AL               You have a terrific reputation within journalism for being a good mentor. What does one do to be a good mentor?

KM             Look, I think all you can do to be a good mentor is be a good listener. What you’re trying to do is to listen to what your mentee’s… What their career goals and aspirations are. To try to help them to get there. Try to give them good advice. And sometimes just to give them your experiences. Like, I don’t think it’s quite a good idea for you… Going to pitch for that job, maybe do it this way or… Especially with women.

                   It’s trying to get people not to under sell themselves. Because I still think that men will go in there and say, I can do this job, and will oversell themselves. And women will undersell themselves. They won’t take credit for the fabulous things that they have done because they think it sounds like boasting. So it’s trying to get them to give a good account of themselves. Be honest to themselves. But don’t sell yourself short.

AL               How many people would you be mentoring at the moment?

KM             I’ve got four mentees at the moment but they keep going and getting fabulous jobs and they don’t need me so much anymore. But look, I really… I like doing it and I wish that there had been people doing that when I was around. Because it doesn’t take up much of your time. And you can just be on the end of a phone. But I just think it’s a great thing to try to help.

                   And look, I’d be happy to help young men as well but I just think it’s a great thing if you can try to give back to other people. And even people coming and saying, I’ve reached an impasse in my story. What do you think I should do next? Even being able to help in that way is always great.

AL               So what advice would you give to your teenaged self?

KM             I think the best advice is to have confidence in yourself and to have self-belief. And if you don’t have it, pretend you have it. Because I just think you look at life and you think people get so far by just having confidence. And also, don’t be afraid of failing. And don’t ever compare yourself to your colleagues. Don’t try to run your life by saying, someone’s got a promotion and I didn’t do that. Set your own goals, set your own standards.

                   But in the middle of that I just think one of the crucial things is to have an ethical framework. And that will always stand you in good stead. If you can go to sleep at night feeling that even if you missed an absolutely fantastic story, you didn’t break your word. That is more important than gold.

AL               What’s something you used to believe but no longer do?

KM             I don’t know. I still believe in basic human decency although I’ve seen a lot of the other side. But I just think you couldn’t ask for a better or more interesting time to be alive. Whatever side of politics you are on, the world is an incredibly interesting place. Slightly depressing at times but it’s nevertheless absolutely fascinating.

AL               When are you most happy?

KM             I think my happiest moment of the day is two moments. Walking in the morning and every night I read a book. Every, single night without fail I cannot go to sleep unless I have read part of a book.

AL               Fiction? Or can be non-fiction as well?

KM             Fiction, non-fiction but English literature is still as I said, one of the great joys of my life and I just think… I look at my children and I think, if there’s one thing I’m thrilled that I’ve given them is just a passion for reading. It just opens so many worlds outside what we know in our own narrow world. Whether it is escapism, learning something new or learning how people work, I think that’s a really fantastic thing.

AL               What have you enjoyed reading lately?

KM             Well, I’ve just finished reading Katy Tur’s book. She’s the NBC correspondent who covered the Trump campaign and her book is called Unbelievable. And it’s a really riveting first-hand account of being in the press corp from the very early stages.

                   And she was one of the journalists saying to her headquarters, he has a good chance of winning this. Just from being part of the Trump crowd. Like hearing what they were saying. Because I think in the outside world you’d think when you heard some of the things Trump said on tape about women you thought, this has got to be the end of him.

                   And it never was because the true Trump believers I think then as now, they just disregard those things that other people might think would be the end of you. And I just think, I wonder what would happen if any of our politicians had said such things. What would happen to them?

AL               Do you have any guilty pleasures?

KM             Guilty? Well apart from chocolate, no. One of my guilty pleasures is in fact playing bridge. I’m an absolute bridge fanatic. And in fact I think when the Obeid’s hired someone to investigate me, they must have been completely beside themselves that in the evenings I would go off to book club or to go and play bridge.

                   They must have felt, is this woman so tedious beyond belief? Why isn’t she go-go dancing in a cage or sniffing cocaine in a back bar somewhere? No, she’s bidding six notrumps at the bridge club.

AL               Your guilty pleasures weren’t guilty enough for them.

KM             No, sadly not.

AL               And finally Kate, which person or which experience has most shaped your view of living an ethical life?

KM             That’s a horrible question. Which person…? I really don’t know whether I can answer that. I don’t think there’s… I think growing up in a household where honesty and acting ethically, maybe you get that from your parents? I don’t know. But it’s something that I’ve always been taught to believe and I hopefully have taught my children.

                   And it’s also the thing is to treat people as you would hope to be treated by them. And it’s one of those things that you must always treat everyone, from the taxi driver to the Prime Minister, the same. In fact I can remember once having a very robust conversation on the phone saying to somebody, if you could believe, which I sincerely doubt, you can read.

                   And afterwards the person said, I was going to ask you if you want to call the police about that phone call. I said, don’t worry I was just with the Prime Minister. And I thought, if you… Sometimes you have to just give as good as you get. So treat them all the same.

AL               Well, Kate McClymont, investigative journalist extraordinaire, thanks very much for taking the time to share your wisdom on The Good Life podcast.

KM             Well, it was my pleasure to talk to you.

AL               Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of The Good Life. We love getting feedback so please leave us a rating or a comment on Apple Podcasts, formally known as iTunes.

                   Next week I’ll be back with another inspiring guest to discuss living a happier, healthier and more ethical life.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.