Good Reading : March 2011
22 goodreading ı MARCH 2011 It was the laugh heard around the world. True, it was a derisive laugh, but hey, if you can make the world laugh you've left a lovely legacy. Elle Macpherson's celebrated comment -- that she only read books she had written -- may seem monumen idiotic. But there's a ger m of sanity there. If she had only added, 'I only write books on subjects that interest me,' she would have had the last laugh. If she wrote books ... When I'm writing a book -- as distinct from hack writing for a fee -- I ask myself if the subject of the stories (always Australiana) could be made into a movie. With this in mind, I knew what I was not going to do when I embarked on Rip Off: Australian fraud, deception and dirty tricks. And a conversation I had with the wily News Limited financial sage, Terry McCrann, confir med my feelings. 'Rip off?' he said. 'Have there been any rip offs in Australia?' This was accompanied by a sly smile. As a journalist, McCrann has rubbed shoulders with some of Australia's biggest financial fraudsters -- he wa one of the mentors of the young cadet journalist Christopher Skase -- and his knowledge of the market underbelly is encyclopedic. But can you make movies out of crooked paper shufflers? I didn't think so. I looked instead for subjects who were true to the title, Rip Off, but did not necessarily involve manipulation for money and nothing else. Stories of greed can hold your interest only for so long -- they are not necessarily thralling. Christopher Skase is ld in some reverence in Port ouglas, where he transfor med a epy fishing town -- over night into a glamorous tourist resort. ut the rest of his story -- the GM farce, the exile with Pixie a rundown arid landscape Spain, the emphysema, the ursuit by the gover nment and e final, dismal end -- is a sorry ga that, although made into movie, proves my point. It was a story, but it was not an ngrossing story. Abe Goldberg, who fled Australia with $1.5 billion missing from his rag trade business and was found 15 years ater in Poland, is of interest o those he owes money, but otherwise he's just another businessman from the Golden Rip Off Age, when banks fell over themselves to shovel millions at people like him. Al Grassby, more decorously dressed than usual, poses before the Australian flag. His real loyalty was to the murderers of Donald Mackay. Michael Jones © Newspix behind the book 2 We might like to think of ourselves as the nation of the ‘fair go’, but as PAUL TAYLOR points out in his new book, Rip Off: Australian fraud, deception and dirty tricks, since the earliest days of European settlement many of us have been only too willing to cheat and hoodwink our fellow citizens.