Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Australian Story -

View in ParlView

ASHER KEDDIE, PRESENTER: Hello, I'm Asher Keddie. And I had the incredible privilege and challenge
of playing Ita Buttrose in the acclaimed ABC drama Paper Giants. The series focused on the events
of the 70s, when Kerry Packer and an inspired young Ita made publishing history by creating a new
kind of women's magazine called Cleo. But even the best production can't always rival the drama of
real life. Now, Ita is telling her own story, starting with this recap.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: There was a bit of magic to Ita. She clearly had some
ingredient which people were drawn to.

ITA BUTTROSE: Cleo hit the newsstands in November 1972 and I can remember going into the newsagents
and just looking at it and thinking "wow".

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: Maybe the reason she was so tough on the women, she was trying to
say to us, "It's tough out here, you need to be as tough as them."

LISA WILKINSON, FMR CLEO EDITOR: Ita and Kerry obviously had an incredible personal chemistry and,
an incredible work chemistry.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: Kerry and Ita were very, very close. It was only when
they, when they, sort of uh.. fell out

ASHER KEDDIE, ACTOR: Kerry and Ita were a marvellous partnership. Fantastic, formidable clearly.
They, they were so, I think they were so energised by each other. You can't have a successful
partnership with someone, I don't think, whether it's personal or, or professional, unless there is
terrific chemistry. And we all know that.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: I think Kerry saw her resignation as, as inevitable
after they had, after they had fallen out.

ITA BUTTROSE: Oh, it's a long time ago. You know, it's a long time ago since I left Kerry and lots
of things have happened since then. Um.. look, we, we were great friends. We were best friends,
really. And um.. a long time ago we made a pact that whatever happened, neither of us would ever
talk about the other. Now real friendship is based on trust. And you expect a true friend to honour
that trust. And I always have. And I always will.

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: Ita's told people time and time again that's private. She's not going to
talk about it. She's not going to talk about it, I'm definitely not going to talk about it.

LISA WILKINSON, FMR CLEO EDITOR: The falling out that they had was also very public. From memory,
it was just before Christmas 1980. I remember vividly, I was driving in the car and it was breaking
news that Ita Buttrose was not only leaving the Women's Weekly, she was leaving the employ of Kerry
Packer and going to work for Rupert Murdoch.

ITA BUTTROSE: Look, it was very difficult telling um.. Kerry that I was going to leave because, you
know, I'd grown up in that company. Look his eyes did fill with tears. He didn't cry or anything,
he just looked a bit emotional. You know, we all get emotional sometimes. I'm sure my eyes probably
filled with tears, I can't remember. And we shook hands and that was that.

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: Oh yeah to leave ACP was a big decision. She was well looked after
because she was one of their prime assets. And they looked after her well. And I think Kerry might
have done more than just throw the telephone at the wall when she handed in her resignation.

JENNY BOUDA, BEST FRIEND: He probably saw her actions as being disloyal. And he reacted as a Packer
would.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: The next thing we heard was that she'd been turfed out of her house.
That came as a bit of a shock. And we heard that she'd lost her car, and that came as a huge shock.
I mean, here was this woman who'd basically been the most important women, not just in that company
but in Australia virtually, and suddenly she was being treated like that.

ITA BUTTROSE: Of course he was cranky, of course he was going to go ballistic, I knew that. Of
course, of course he would throw a tantrum. That's what he always did.

LISA WILKINSON, FMR CLEO EDITOR: And they didn't lay eyes on each other again until September of
1992. And I know that because it was the 20th anniversary of Cleo and I had invited both of them to
come along. And both of them called me separately to find out if the other was coming. And the
moment when they stood next to each other for the very first time, it was apparent to, not just me,
but every set of eyes in the room, that that enormous affection was still there. They still had
that chemistry. And every set of eyes in the room was on them.

ITA BUTTROSE: To think that the feud lasted forever, that he, that, you know, we never spoke, we
never this, we never that. It's all absolute nonsense. You know, once you get over the thing, you
know, life goes on. When Kerry Packer said he was the only man that I, that I would ever meet that
wouldn't be jealous of my success, I think he was trying to warn me about the male ego. And I
didn't realise how fragile that ego was. But, you know, the moment I ventured outside the
traditional women's realm, I met opposition. And, and I, and I realised that I, that perhaps I
wasn't always welcome in some of the areas in which I wanted to tread.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: Ita had a dream run. And because of her hard work and her abilities.
But she had had power and status and glamour for a very, very, very long time. And there's always a
danger when that happens, that you start thinking, that all belongs to me, that's intrinsic to me.
Whereas in fact, probably 90 per cent of that came from ACP. And I think when she left ACP and she
went to News Limited, I think she suddenly realised that. The rug was just pulled from underneath
her feet. That would have been a huge and terrible shock for her.

GERALDINE PATON, FMR NEWS LTD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Ita joined News Limited about 18 months after I
had joined the company and was appointed editor-in-chief of the Sunday and Daily Telegraphs. And
subsequently a member of the board. It was the first time a female had been appointed to lead a
metropolitan newspaper.

ITA BUTTROSE: It was quite a shock though, News Limited. Because it is a very, it was and I suspect
it still is, a very male company. You know, I, I laugh but it's true. The testosterone smell almost
knocks you out as you walk in the front door.

GERALDINE PATON, FMR NEWS LTD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: News Limited had a pretty robust culture. And the
men there would take no prisoners. They would have judged her not to be equipped to be taking
decisions on financial and political journalism, because that wasn't her background.

ITA BUTTROSE: Oh, one time, yeah, I was hissed at as I walked through the fourth floor, the
editorial open plan floor. But it, it's most unpleasant. And you have to, you sort of pretend you
don't hear, you don't mind. But you do mind. You do mind and it does hurt.

GERALDINE PATON, FMR NEWS LTD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: If you want to lead and want, and if you want to
be followed, you've got to manage the negative and unpleased aspects of a job, as well as those
things that come to you um.. in a perfect state.

ITA BUTTROSE: When you put your hand up and you want to go into places where women haven't been
before, you'll find obstacles. But, but you're entitled to be there. You're entitled to be there.
Thinking about the News of the World case that's been getting a lot of publicity this year. There
were times when I thought I was asked, as editor-in-chief, to go beyond what I thought I should do.
There was an incidence of someone that Rupert wanted some material on. And I assigned a reporter to
do it. But he wasn't happy with the result. And, and said no, no that wasn't good enough, you know,
have you followed this person? And I thought about this and I went to see Ken Cowley and I said,
look, I'm sorry, I can't give this instruction, I'm not having anybody that works for me, for whom
I'm responsible, follow anybody. I can't do this. I can't do this assignment and I can't do this
story, and I don't want to be a part of it. And it was dropped. We didn't go on. So, you know,
editors, if you, if you run a newspaper as I said, there's a responsibility that goes with it and
sometimes you have to be able to say to the boss, no, I don't think we should go down this path. I
stayed at News Limited for four years, which was quite a record, for someone who's editor-in-chief.
Rupert once said to me that he's got everything he wants out of an editor in 18 months. I think
there comes a time in your life where you realise you're just not going any further working for
someone else. So you think, well, okay, what are the options? You think, well, I'll start my own
business. I started Capricorn Publishing and I decided I'd create a magazine called Ita. A magazine
for the woman who wasn't born yesterday. In other words, the older woman. Gasp. Older. Not a good
word for women.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: I think it was an amazing move when Ita set up Ita magazine. But by
then, we have very few publishers in this country, she had pretty much run out of options. And, but
it was gutsy to actually put her name on the magazine.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: It was a courageous move to go and do her own thing. I
always thought it was far too high risk. Because she didn't have the financing that was really
required to, to launch a publication like that.

ITA BUTTROSE: I think Ita Magazine may have been ahead of its time. And we were going through the
recession we had to have and I think people have forgotten how tough that was. And in the end I
couldn't see that the economy was going to improve soon enough. And you think oh I think I'm worn
out. You lose your puff sometimes.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: I do remember feeling sad. Sad for her. It would have been a very
public humiliation for Ita.

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: When Ita had to close that magazine, it hurt. You know, it was like her
third baby and she lost it. It hurts.

ITA BUTTROSE: Well I suppose I licked my wounds for a few, for a few months, because, you know, I'd
given so much of myself to that project. But, you know, not everything you do in life works. You've
just got to accept that.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: She was damaged goods at that stage. And of course, as
people say, there aren't that many employers in this industry.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: She'd been through ACP, she'd been through News Limited, she'd been
through Fairfax and now her own magazine had closed. And the hardest thing would have been that she
had been so powerful. She was so well-known. Where were the people who could have come up to her
and said, here's a board position, here's a little sinecure. Because, you know what? The guys do
that for the guys. When the guys fall on their faces, the little network comes along and picks them
up. And, from what I can see, that didn't happen to Ita.

ITA BUTTROSE: People often think that someone like me doesn't want a job or need a job. So they
don't, they actually don't consider me. And so after I closed Ita I did, I did write off a few
applications and I didn't even get a response and I thought, that's a bit crook.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: The way she worked so hard, the way she achieved, and then the way
society kind of spat her out and nobody came to her aid, is almost like a novel or a movie version
of what happens to so many women.

ITA BUTTROSE: Everyone who's successful has made some errors along the way. And really it's how you
pick yourself up from those things and keep on going on that is crucial to your success. I guess
after Ita, I took on what's called a portfolio of interests. So, you know, I wrote columns, I
edited magazines for people, um.. I produced books, I did a lot of speaking and MC work.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: I think, you can basically say her life fell in a bit of a heap, but
she kept on going. She did ads, she did this, she did that, she did speaking, she just kept on
going. And I think that is, shows really remarkable tenacity, endurance and real grit.

JENNY BOUDA, BEST FRIEND: I sometimes think she does feel alone. I think it's, it's something we
have talked about as we get older. You, you get to stage where you think, it would be nice to have
someone around, someone to share things with. But then you think, do I want to share my space with
someone all the time?

ITA BUTTROSE: Because I live alone, people often assume I'm lonely. And I do sometimes say, yeah,
sure, there are some lonely moments. But, you know, everybody's lonely from time to time. I am
really not lonely because my life is absolutely full.

JENNY BOUDA, BEST FRIEND: She's enough of her own person to, to be by herself. And she's got good
friends, she's got family.

GERALDINE PATON, FMR NEWS LTD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: She's fiercely loyal to her family. It is the
bedrock for her. When her nephew was up for drug trafficking, I felt the media had a feasting on
that particular case, because she was his aunt.

ITA BUTTROSE: If it had been any other boy, none of this nonsense would have happened.

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: It's just pathetic, they keep saying that, "The nephew of Ita Buttrose".
It's pathetic.

ITA BUTTROSE: Why would I not support my nephew, Richard? I mean, yes, he's done something really
stupid, yes, he's admitted his guilt and yes, he's serving his time. I, I'm his aunt. I've loved
him since he was a little boy. And I'll always love him. My brother, Will, Richie's father, died.
And I, and I told Will that I'd always keep an eye on his kids.

GERALDINE PATON, FMR NEWS LTD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: When the crunch comes to stand up and support and
be there for those that are going through hell, I think is a very meaningful insight into a
personality.

ITA BUTTROSE: My family does mean a lot to me. When your career is over, and you're sitting in the
rocking chair, you're not going to be thinking, wow, that was a fantastic board room coup back in
the 70s. Oh ho, ho. Being a grandmother is everything anyone ever told me about. I now have four
grandchildren all under three. There's Samantha, Claire, Byron and Elise and they're all
delightful.

KATE MACDONALD, DAUGHTER: Mum's always said we can do anything that we want to do and I think that
with my kids she's starting to do that already. She pushes them to do things and she's not
frightened of giving them more skills or, or to try them out on different things. And, and I think
that's important.

JENNY BOUDA, BEST FRIEND: When Ita found out that they were going to do Paper Giants, she was
initially, I think, rather sceptical on how it would go. Not overly enthusiastic with the idea, I
don't think. But prepared to just see what happened.

ITA BUTTROSE: I had what was called a consulting role in Paper Giants. I must have seen the script,
goodness me, well, half a dozen, a dozen times. There were always changes being made. I'd say to
the writer, Christopher, I'd say, "Well, no, this didn't happen, no we weren't drinking wine back
then. If I was drinking I'd be having gin and tonic."

ASHER KEDDIE, ACTOR: When Ita first came to the production office of Paper Giants, in our
preproduction period, there was probably 25, 30 people in, in the room. Everybody's jaw was on the
ground. She just has that presence, which is, it's what makes her so special, I guess. And I
thought, oh god, here we go. This is, these are the shoes I have to walk in. Very exciting
challenge.

LISA WILKINSON, FMR CLEO EDITOR: Asher Keddie just nailed her. I remember finding out that the
Paper Giants was going to be filmed and thinking, no-one's going to be able to get Ita, she's so
unique.

ASHER KEDDIE, ACTOR: I enjoyed walking in her shoes immensely. I mean, literally, between action
and cut, I had a blast playing her and delivering that energy that I found so infectious. I very
much wanted to be true to the way she felt. And so I, I had to ask her some fairly tricky
questions. The things that Ita and I discussed will always remain with me. She's an intensely
private person, as am I, so I understand that and yeah, so our conversations were, are ours and
always will be ours.

SHELLEY GARE, FMR CLEO EDITOR: And I don't think that living well is the best revenge, I think that
keeping ongoing is the best revenge. It really drives your enemies mad. And I think it's a huge
achievement the way she just picked herself up, kept on going, still keeps on going, ends up with
Paper Giants on TV and it's a smash success because everybody wants to watch it because of Ita,
that's terrific. People must be grinding their teeth.

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: There's Ita everywhere, there's Ita here, Ita there, Ita over there. I
can't believe. And Ita said to me, she said, they've found me again. The difficulty with Ita being
everywhere is that we've got to see it. There's compulsory viewing, there's compulsory listening.
There are big egos in my family, they loved to be massaged.

ITA BUTTROSE: When the Cold Chisel song came out in the 70's I was knocked out by it. They're
re-releasing all their albums and they rang up and asked if I'd write some lined notes and I did.

LISA WILKINSON, FMR CLEO EDITOR: I know very few men that don't find Ita sexy. She's 69 years of
age, and she really does now, in Australia, fit into a category that Europe has, has plenty
populating, you know, the, the Catherine Deneuve's, the Helen Mirren's, you know, those women who
are living full, rich lives, who've got that twinkle in their eye. There's this incredible
naughtiness just under the surface. And she plays it. She knows the power that she's got and I love
the way she uses it.

ITA BUTTROSE: I don't date a lot of men. Well, first of all, they don't ask me. And secondly, I'm
probably fussy. (laughs)

JULIAN BUTTROSE, BROTHER: It's said that guys haven't, haven't got the nerve to ask Ita out, out
for a date or approach her. They think that she might eat them. I don't know. She's not a vampire.
She's not a piranha. She's a very intelligent, very gorgeous woman. You want a date with Ita, ring
her up. It's only a yes or a no, nothing to be afraid of.

JIMMY BARNES, SINGER: If I was a single man, I'd be asking Ita on a date. I don't care how strong
she is, you know. You know, she's a cracker. She's a fire cracker, in fact. She's hot. (laughs)

ADAM HILLS, COMEDIAN: I still do have a crush on Ita. What's weird is, I've interviewed Asher
Keddie and I have a bit of a crush on her as Ita as well. If I ever see the two of them in a room
together, my head will explode.

KATE MACDONALD: Oh, look, Mum, Mum keeps reinventing herself. She moves with the times and, to be
honest, she loves it.

ITA BUTTROSE: I'm taking part in a play written by David Williamson, especially for all of us, for
all the charities for whom we work for. I've never forgotten my Dad's advice about always watching
out for opportunities. And I never say never, either. You know, because you don't know. Life has a
habit of taking you by surprise.

TREVOR KENNEDY, FMR ACP MANAGING DIRECTOR: Ita's always had a major eye for the main chance and
she'll be pursuing that with some vigour. She's a great stayer. She's a great stayer. She's a real
survivor.

ITA BUTTROSE: You're only here once and I don't want to waste one minute of life. There's so much
to do.

ASHER KEDDIE, ACTOR: She is so busy now, and I'm so thrilled for her and not at all surprised. I,
for one, can't wait to see what she does next.

END CAPTIONS:

Commenting on Ms Buttrose's time at News Limited, a spokesman said Mr Murdoch had never asked any
journalist to do anything improper.

Mr Cowley had never been asked by Mr Murdoch to have a reporter conduct surveillance of any kind on
any individual, nor would he have agreed to it had he been asked.