The Burke Report

Liz Burke* rounds out the week in news and current affairs...

While last week trying to strike up conversation with fellow Gen-Yers about media bad boy of the moment Julian Assange, they seemed about as dumbstruck as K-Rudd when confronted with the news of the embarrassing revelations concerning the former PM. Now, it’s all that’s being talked about.

When news broke that Assange had been arrested and later jailed on controversial rape charges after meeting with London police, and surrendered to a Swedish issued arrest warrant, it flooded Twitter streams, attracted a flurry of headlines and a few clever quips with McCafe mentions a plenty.

Since then, an open letter to Julia Gillard demanding support and assistance for Assange in response her inaccurate comments that he had acted illegally according to Australian law published on The Drum has attracted more than 5000 comments, and the exclusive op ed piece that Assange penned for The Australian in the hours before his arrest garnered more than 200 comments, 26,700 Facebook recommendations and almost 4000 re-tweets in less than 24 hours.

It came out during the week that Kevin Rudd was regarded by the US as an abrasive, impulsive “control freak”, famed faceless Labor senator Mark Arbib acted as an insider for the US government, and the latest revelations published in today’s Fairfax papers reveal Rudd told US politicians the outlook in Afghanistan “scared the hell out of him”.

The media debate over Wikileaks continues, and I’ve been switching sides as quickly as the leaks keep coming.

One of the most convincing arguments to switch to Team Assange was a passionate defence from one of the nation’s media gods at last night’s Walkley awards (aka the Logies for journos).

Nine’s political editor and press gallery stalwart Laurie Oakes – obviously a fan of leaks – was last night awarded the highest accolade in Australian journalism when he picked up the Gold Walkley.

His acceptance speech spanned a lot of ground, criticising the election campaign that dominated news this year with a tongue-in-cheek thanks Julia Gillard for “making it all possible” (he labelled her and Abbott “political pygmies”). Hey, it’s Laurie Oakes, this guy can get away with anything.

But Oakes also made use of his time on the podium to defend Wikileaks and shame the government’s handling of the case.

“What they said was ridiculous. To brand what the Wikileaks site has done as illegal when there’s no evidence of any breach of the law, I think is demeaning... I think as journalists we should make that our view,” he said.

A notable honour went to David Marr who was awarded the Walkley for Magazine Feature Writing for his Quarterly Essay, “Power Trip: The Political Journey of Keving Rudd”.

Leaving the building with two Walkleys in hand, now former 7:30 Report host Kerry O’Brien was given the Australian media equivalent of a Hall of Fame induction picking up the prize for Leadership in Journalism.

An all-round top night for Red Kerry, who said goodnight to the 7:30 Report audience earlier in the evening. “I’ve enjoyed your company and I hope you’ve enjoyed mine. The time has come to say good night.” Classy.

Another TV legend dominating headlines this week is, of course, Oprah Winfrey, who is not a lesbian, but has been enjoying her time down under accompanied by Best Friend Gayle and 300 odd American fans as they’ve been making the rounds around the nation.

Oprah has had some fun in the sun on Hamilton Island, got cuddly with a couple of koalas, been awe-struck by Uluru and is today taking a tour of Melbourne where she will later appear alongside Julia Gillard in Federation Square.

While it’s been all Wiki and Winfrey in the Australian papers, apparently the talk show queen’s visit to Oz is hardly registering on the radars of Americans - the main crowd Tourism Australia is hoping to attract with the $2.8 million it took to lure Oprah down here.

Scott Spark reported on 612 ABC radio this morning Oprah’s Aussie Adventure had not yet caused a spike in tourism to Australia, and that some top US travel agents were not even aware she was here.

Tourism Australia is certainly hoping to see an impact after the shows being filmed in Sydney next week in front of a live audience of 12,000 Aussies and 300 lucky Americans hit the airwarves in January.

But some people don’t need convincing from the world’s favourite talk show host to visit down under. During the week, the boys from U2 had their own Aussie adventure as they started their sold out stadium tour in Melbourne and Brisbane (an Oprah appearance is also rumoured; how Aussie would that be!).

While the (arguably) over-the-hill frontman and tiring stadium antics were a disappointment to some, die-hard fans were more than satisfied as they treated crowds to a catalogue of hits and a pretty impressive space station set. One woman, who chose not to be named in The Courier Mail (fair enough), had bought tickets to all of their Southern Hemisphere shows, and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one.

I was more interested in support act Jay-Z and have been on round-the-clock Beyonce-watch shifts as the blingy couple have been in Brisbane. Sydney, you’re next.

Senior GWAS contributor Liz Burke* has Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Business (QUT) and has written for The Courier Mail, The Sunday Mail and ABC News Online.