Good Reading : March 2011
MARCH 2011 ı goodreading 23 All the stories in Rip Off, I'm confident, could be made into movies. They begin in the early 19th-century with the Grate Bank Robbery, when Sudden Solomon, master safecracker sent to Sydney at His Majesty's pleasure, almost tripped in a grate covering a drain that led to the Bank of Australia. It also led Sudden's agile mind to what would be Australia's first bank robbery.The gang got away with a fortune and delighted most of Sydney -- most of Sydney then being composed of convicts and old lags only too happy to see the bank busted.The Grate Bank Robbery is a classic caper movie waiting to be made. More than 150 years later, in 1976, Melbourne's Great Bookie Robbery -- the heist that inspired a successful caper movie -- thrilled Australia once again.The aftermath of the Great Bookie was violent: by 1987 nea all of those involved in the robbery had been murdered. These two stories share the common denominator of Rip Off: deception. At the heart of all the stories in this book is deceit, but not all of it is malevolent or criminal. Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey was a man whose cunning allowed him to escape the scandals that threatened to undo him. He was despicable, but he was not a criminal. Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, comes out of this book as a hero. Murdoch is the centrepiece of two stories.The first is an account of how he conducted a campaign, in his first newspaper in Adelaide, to save an Aborigine from the gallows. 'If we hadn't had Rupert Murdoch, I would have been down in Adelaide Gaol now,' said Rupert Stuart, 'and been buried there in an unmarked grave. But thank Christ he came in.' The second story with Murdoch at the centre traces the elaborate hide-and- seek game he played with the British print unions. Had he not won the game it's certain that most of the great London newspaper titles would now be history, and Murdoch would probably own the few survivors. Murdoch also has a tenuous link with another story -- the evacuation of Gallipoli. His father, Sir Keith Murdoch, played an important role in the decision to abandon this military campaign; the departure from he Gallipoli peninsula was a brilliant deception on a grand scale. Two years later, another grand eception was perpetrated, this one lmost unobserved at the time. In 1918 Lieutenant General Har ry Chauvel and he Australian Light Horse swept into Damascus, winning a race that Allenby, he supreme commander in the Middle ast campaign called, 'the greatest cavalry at the world has ever known'. Alas, hanks to T E Lawrence, the diminutive ritish agent who scrupulously cultivated a legend around himself, the world came to believe that the honour belonged to 'Lawrence of Arabia' -- and Hollywood and Peter O'Toole confir med it. Lawrence, however, is overshadowed by another who delighted in his self-made myth: Al Grassby, the olourful 'father' of Australian multiculturalism, as the media liked style him. Grassby was a vile and eeply cor rupt politician, in the ay of the Griffith drug lords for ecades. There are the classic stings, f course, like Ern Malley, the ictional modernist poet dreamed up to embar rass the avant-garde rtists of the 1940s. But Er n, like Frankenstein's monster turned on his creators. And Fine Cotton, the racehorse who never was. He too brought his creators down. Daisy Bates and her husband Breaker Morant both fabricated a past built on wishful thinking. And Horrie the Wog Dog, who hoodwinked the nation that mour ned for him. here's a movie! Hugh Jackman could play Horrie's master, Jim, and as Horrie ... well you could cast just about any Jack Russell with the head of the proverbial robber's dog -- a Russell Crowe-type dog. Anyone out there with a lazy $15 million? Rip Off!: Australian fraud, deception and dirty tricks by Paul Taylor is published by Five Mile Press, r rp $29.95. behind the book 2 Above: Trainer Hayden Haitana with the ring-in ‘Fine Cotton’, the horse that won a minor race that will be remembered long after most Melbourne Cup champions are forgotten, ensuring that its name is secure in racing lore. The almost hilarious mishaps that accompanied the inept ring-in, however, obscured a darker story. © Newspix Below: Carnival hand Rupert Stuart, in custody and facing execution for the rape and murder of a young girl. Rupert Murdoch’s campaign to re-examine the evidence that led to his conviction – particularly the confession he was said to have dictated – almost led to Murdoch being charged with treason. But it saved Stuart. © Newspix Murdoch in Fleet Street sees his new paper, The Sun, come hot off the presses.