News & Commentary, Screen, TV Jackson and Lawler on Four Corners: there is no stranger — or greater — fiction By Ben Neutze | October 20, 2015 | This week really did get off to a cracking start in the bizarre scandals of Australian public life. When #tablegate broke yesterday afternoon — the fantastic story of a smashed parliamentary marble table which was the victim of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s wild farewell party — things couldn’t get any better. That was, until they did. Not even the greatest episode of Libs Gone Wild could compare to conspiracy/espionage melodrama that was former union boss Kathy Jackson and Fair Work Commission Vice President, Michael Lawler’s appearance on Four Corners. For many months, journalists have wanted the inside story on this former-power couple’s relationship and the scandals which have engulfed them. Nobody could have expected that the real story would be quite so juicy or that the conspiracy theories the pair have established would be quite so breathtakingly elaborate. From the revelation that Lawler has been manually recording hours and hours of phone conversations (via what was a very laborious method) over the last several years in an attempt to clear himself and his wife from their troubles, through to their, erm, colourful use of language, this was TV at its most real and most unbelievable. Between the pair is an invisible but undeniable bond — an electricity which defies explanation and made their conflicts of interest practically unavoidable. That their romantic entanglement is at the very centre of their professional troubles is a rare and endlessly fascinating thing — these are two people who you constantly expect should know better, but their relationship has clearly become an echo chamber in which delusion can roam freely. Of course, Four Corners has long been Australia’s most influential long-form current affairs programs, and this episode doesn’t rank amongst the series’ most politically or socially significant investigations. But in terms of sheer entertainment value and storytelling, this is amongst the best 45 minutes of TV you’re ever likely to see. Reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna clearly did an extraordinary job in obtaining the access and the trust which she did, and the story was told with great clarity and a strong sense of drama (whoever is responsible for the soundtrack of this episode deserves all the possible awards available in that field). But you almost get the impression that you could just sit back with these two and let them run with their stories and end up with solid television gold. For Meldrum-Hanna, it was almost entirely a case of “give them enough rope” — and it turned out they didn’t really need all that much to hang themselves anyway. Lawler quite quickly offered up the term “cunt-struck”, which isn’t even a particularly common exclamation, and went on and on with references to some Orwellian “machine” determined to rip the pair down. You find me a writer who could dream up a relationship with the same kind of extraordinary tensions and stretched co-dependancy, and I’ll give them all the Emmys. What was perhaps most extraordinary about this episode of Four Corners was seeing what happened when their relationship was tested. As more evidence emerged about Jackson’s wrongdoing, Lawler’s previous loyalty clearly wavered. That subtle shifting and rearranging of human relationships has echoes of all of culture’s great power couples — Macbeth and Lady M, Frank and Claire Underwood — but is near impossible for any writer to capture with that level of nuance. Thank god the cameras were there to capture it. [box]The Jackson-Lawler episode of Four Corners is available to view on iview[/box] Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email About the Author: Ben Neutze Ben Neutze is Deputy Editor of Daily Review. He has previously written for Time Out Sydney, The Guardian Australia and Limelight Magazine.