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Honest sleaze or bigoted shock jock?

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Friday, 19 May 2006

Rex Hunt is a respected AFL commentator and fishing guru. His most recent exploits involved a somewhat amusing spat with residents of the New South Wales alternative lifestyle hub of Byron Bay following an alleged assault by local youths.

In rather colourful fashion, Hunt described Byron (popularly regarded as an idyllic haunt for backpackers, yoga instructors, schoolies and cashed-up gurus) as worse than Baghdad. Locals were furious. The rest of Australia was most amused.

Yet Mr Hunt’s recent public exposure has had far more serious consequences than verbal exchanges with Byron Bay locals. A frequent commentator on moral as well as sporting issues, Mr Hunt has been forced to admit sexual indiscretions on public radio.


Hunt has condemned himself as a “sleaze” and a “hypocrite” for paying women to provide sexual favours (or at least to keep silent about them) while lecturing others on sexual morality. His wife has also appeared on radio to comment on his activities.

Some media outlets report Mrs Hunt suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that afflicts at least 5 per cent of the community. If this is the case, perhaps she is the real hero of this sordid tale. She has shown enormous courage to stand by her husband in a situation which will undoubtedly strain her own health as well as their marriage.

Yes, we can condemn Mr Hunt in the same terms as he has condemned himself. But it is also an opportunity to give credit where credit is due. In media terms, for a man constantly in the public eye, Rex Hunt is a uniquely brave man.

In the world of talkback radio, it is rare to find a man prepared to admit his own humanity to his listeners. Mr Hunt’s behaviour may have been disgraceful. But compare Mr Hunt’s conduct and his response to the scandal to the behaviour of other media personalities.

Shock jocks are known for their flagrant disregard of the reputations of others. How often do we hear talkback hosts insult, malign and defame not just individuals but entire communities?

In the lead-up to the Cronulla riots, a number of Sydney talkback hosts openly encouraged frustrated rioters to take the law into their own hands. They used the worst racial and religious stereotypes to generate hatred towards persons presumed by their appearance to belong to a supposedly offending group.


Rex Hunt may be an unfaithful husband, but his words certainly were not an essential ingredient of one of the nastiest race riots this country has seen since the end of the World War II. Mr Hunt’s indiscretions did not lead to a breakdown of law and order of such proportions that entire beaches had to be closed up and down the New South Wales coast over summer.

One can only imagine how some notoriously racist Sydney shock jocks would react if their own sexuality was made the subject of public scrutiny. One wonders whether their claims to being protectors and defenders of decent conservative values would survive examination should their known past indiscretions be aired.

I wonder if they would even allow scrutiny of their sexual activities to be even mentioned without reaching for their lawyers and threatening the alleged offenders with expensive legal proceedings.

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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