CONTRARY to popular belief, men enjoy a good gossip just as much as do women, though there are differences. It’s just one Bunyip’s appraisal, but your XYers do seem less inclined to critiques of a third party’s appearance. And apart from the odd “Oh, what a witch!”, generally men will not dwell on the deficiencies of other men’s wives, as women so often do about girlfriends’ husbands. But gossip men do, and one of ripest sources for speculation a few years ago in Melbourne, especially in male-dominated legal circles, was the nature of Police Commissioner Christine Nixon’s relationship with a gal called Bernice Masterson.
Now don’t be getting excited. There was nothing illegal or unnatural about their acquaintance, but the common bond certainly raised some eyebrows. As the front page of yesterday’s Phage reminds us, Commissioner Nixon ran Victoria’s police force, after a fashion. Ms Masterson chaired the Police Appeals Board, which makes sure promotions (or their denial), dismissals, transfers and various disciplinary rulings are impartial, above board and in the best interests of the force and citizenry. This is, or should be, very good for morale, as it provides officers with a forum to argue they have not been treated fairly. Petty discrimination and score-settling can happen, and the board is there to make sure they don’t.
The common link between Nixon and Masterson, the slim and single degree of separation, was a woman called Lita Bostjancic. During working hours, Ms Bostjancic laboured at Nixon’s side as her executive secretary. After work, she repaired to the home and life she shared with her partner, Ms. Masterson. While some in the force, and quite a few outside it, thought this triangular relationship sullied the board’s appearance of impartiality, the former Brumby government remained unconcerned, as it was about so many things, and the happy trio continued to enjoy each other’s company.
It was the Age’s front-page story, the one that championed Nixon’s absurd claim that girth and gender brought her down, that brought to mind that tight little knot of babes in blue. In particular this paragraph:
In her book she reflects how Herald Sun editor Simon Pristel rang her media person one night at 6 o'clock during the Bushfires Royal Commission and asked if it was true that on the night of Black Saturday she had held a party at home to celebrate her departure from Victoria Police. The spokeswoman told him it was not true, but that Ms Nixon had gone to a local hotel for a quick meal with her husband, her father and a friend.
The Phage leaves it at, which is a great pity because its list of her companions on that infamous evening is simply not accurate. According to Nixon’s own testimony before the Royal Commission, she was breaking bread with her hubby, Masterson and Bostjancic (see the Biushfires Royal Commission transcript, page 17,668). Entirely innocent, of course, but not a good look all the same.
Think about it: You are policeman who has been dismissed by the commissioner. You lodge an appeal and find that the person who chairs the body that will determine your fate and career is linked by friendship and a mutual intimate to your accuser. Not a good look at all.
All this would seem like ancient history, grist only for phallocratic gossips, except that it points to one example of the factors, one of the many, that raised all those questions about Nixon’s reign.
Expect the Phage to publish a correction in short order. Yep, you can bet on it.