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Open threads

Jun 26, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Tim Blair

Jun 25, 2009

5 comments

One thing that’s always amusing about the role-swap between Government and Opposition is how both sides suddenly find themselves reversing their earlier positions: defending and arguing the opposite sides of a procedural argument. Where previous utterances were based less on principle than politics (which, clearly, is most of them), this is inevitable, and both sides start producing quotes that can be contrasted revealingly with their earlier words.

The trick appears to be to point out that the other side is doing it, FIRST:

MALCOLM TURNBULL: But if the Government wants to use – if this Government, this Labor Government that used to boast about all the leaks it had from the public service and appraise the heroism of the whistleblowers that it said used to provide it with information – now wants to use the full force of the Federal Police to silence any public servant from leaking information to the current Opposition, we’re not going to be very sympathetic.

It’s hypocrisy which deserves pointing out, but you’re getting to the meta level of hypocrisy when the person pointing it out is guilty of the same sort of hypocrisy that they are hypocritically condemning. In this case, unsurprisingly, the Coalition took quite a different view of these sorts of leaks when it was in Government; very similar to the ALP’s present attitude that it now condemns. It is hypocritically arguing the reverse of what it used to argue; to launch an attack on Labor for doing the same is, well, hypocrisy about hypocrisy.

And, sure, you can get your enthusiastic hacks to bang on in a very one-sided fashion about the other side’s hypocrisy, but it’s always going to look a bit silly – because everyone older than ten knows the game, can see what they’re clearly doing and what the obvious counter is, and no-one older than that is impressed by it.

Here’s a suggestion for the commentariat: note that both sides are being inconsistent, that their passionately-argued positions today are clearly not genuine, considering how recently they came to them and how, if their prior conduct is any guide, how quickly they’ll abandon them when they cease to be politically convenient – but don’t try to sell us that one side’s more guilty of it than the other.

You’ll look just as ridiculous as they do.

Piers Akerman

Jun 25, 2009

5 comments

Piers Akerman has finally twigged that he’s all alone.

Much of the media has already decided Turnbull has the most to lose from this affair …

And Malcolm Turnbull has decided. And the opposition front bench. And the backbench. Just observe their facial expressions and watch them scurry to and fro making panicked, contradictory statements.

But instead of focussing on the known facts of the UteGate saga, Piers throws his hands in the air and declares that we can’t possibly make a call until all of the other facts are known. Here are the list of questions that Piers asks in his article; see if you can work out what facts Piers most wants to emerge:

  • [Did] Treasurer Wayne Swan [mislead] Parliament about his relationship with car dealer John Grant[?]
  • What is the exact relationship between Rudd and Grant?
  • Why did the wealthiest prime minister in Australian history need a free ute?
  • Why did Swan brief only one car dealer in the country, John Grant, about his request for assistance?
  • Why did the Treasurer’s staff bring Grant’s plight to the notice of officials dealing with the OzCar scheme when (a) it had not even been approved and (b) it did not cover individual dealers such as Grant?
  • Why did Treasury officials bring Grant’s situation to the attention of Ford Credit executives seeking $500 million?
  • Why did Treasury officials give those executives Grant’s mobile number?
  • Let’s have IT experts tell us how Rudd knew that that one email was a fake and explain why that particular email could not be found by the Government’s experts last week, though AFP experts this week found that it had been generated within Treasury.
  • Why has the AFP offered a running commentary on its investigation into the faked email when it normally maintains a communication blackout during inquiries? Was it placed under any political pressure?
  • Was the muzzling of a public servant last week contempt of Parliament?
  • What safeguards can be installed to ensure that witnesses appearing before parliamentary committees are never again harassed and bullied into silence?
  • The fake email deserves special attention. Who composed it? Was it an in-house prank ginned up by bored Treasury officers to embarrass colleague Godwin Grech?
  • Rudd has implied the Opposition was complicit in its creation. What does he know about its genesis? Someone knows whether it was designed to smear the PM or undercut the Opposition’s attack. Expose them.

Credit where it’s due, though — not a single mention of the Heiner Affair.

Open threads

Jun 25, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

David Penberthy

Jun 24, 2009

5 comments

The Punch’s editor, David Penberthy, tells our MPs that the public is sick of the ute saga and the cheap point-scoring attempts. He notes that:

It’s not as if there’s a shortage of important issues to be discussed by our parliamentarians at the moment.

There’s this thing called the global financial crisis that the public is much more interested in. Especially those who have been sacked from their jobs.

A lot of people are interested in the emissions trading scheme, whether the nation has done enough to adjust its behaviour to deal with climate change, or whether we risk blindly supporting a faddish and iffy scientific theory at tremendous cost to workers in the mining and energy industries.

We’re at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our biggest bank is thumbing its nose at the Reserve over interest rates. Our hospitals continue to struggle, amid an ongoing debate over whether a federal takeover of the health system could deliver better patient care.

There are a few things there that we should probably be concentrating on.

And he has a point. But which topics have received the most attention on his own web site?

  • Utegate
  • Peter Costello
  • Swine flu
  • Gordon Ramsay

And the list of Penberthy’s editorials shows a trend toward commentary about the sensational stories rather than digging into that meaty list of issues he pointed to.

Every news outlet in every medium is paying great attention to the Utegate saga. Just like the politicians’ handling of the issues, some of the media’s coverage is substantial and solid, while some of it is tawdry and absurd. There is a legitimate debate about how much importance should be given to the different parts of this sequence of events, but for an opinion editor to lay the blame for sensationalism and shallow discourse squarely on the politicians seems hypocritical in the extreme.

Alison Rehn

Jun 24, 2009

5 comments

The Daily Telegraph is responsible for publishing an email, later showed to be fraudulent, that has seriously compromised the career of opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. The email was possessed and possibly created by a public servant by the name of Godwin Grech. So what does the Tele do? Apologise for running a false email? Analyse the scandal? Add to the serious ongoing commentary about UteGate?

No. They make fun of Grech’s garden.

Godwin Grech is no longer one of those faceless public servants.

The man who overnight became a political hot potato has two Facebook fan pages, is known for living in a house with a big and amusing palm tree in the front garden …

How proud you must be to have your bylines slapped on this tabloid trash, Janet Fife-Yeomans and Alison Rehn.

Open threads

Jun 24, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Piers Akerman

Jun 23, 2009

5 comments

Tim Blair:

It would be wrong to describe Turnbull as a jolly bloke before yesterday’s AFP raid, but at least he was giving as good as he got … After the news [about the fake email] broke, however, the Opposition’s mood visibly plunged.

[…]

Rudd may not have many mates within federal Labor, but he has a lot of colleagues who hate the same people he does … They were lining up yesterday to alternatively hector and humiliate the Opposition Leader.

It was an ALP victory dance. By the end of the day, Kevin Rudd was giving live interviews to TV news broadcasts.

This is the behaviour of a winner.

Turnbull, a few hours earlier, may have imagined himself making the same triumphant appearance.

Now he’s likely counting the minutes until this week is over.

Piers Akerman:

Stripped of its obfuscation and persiflage, Labor looks rattled. The Labor benches sounded like a busload of losing league players returning from the pub. Rudd in particular looked uneasy because he knows that the greatest political crime a Member of Parliament can commit is to mislead the House.

But the louder the ruckus from the Labor benches, the more desperate they seemed to be to keep hidden a culture of cronyism and patronage.

[…]

Forget false emails and protestations of threats to staffers, they don’t mean a thing.

Is Piers Akerman the only journalist in Australia who thinks Labor “lost” yesterday’s debate?

ps/- Yesterday’s Heiner Lotto was won by Ben Callinan whose answer of nine paragraphs was closest to the correct answer of eight.

Daily Telegraph

Jun 23, 2009

5 comments

This was published in yesterday’s Crikey subscriber email. It raises some interesting questions that are worthy of discussion here at Pure Poison.

Utegate raises no end of questions for the media too
Here’s Crikey’s own Bernard Keane thinking out loud via Twitter on Saturday:

Not sure how both Rudd and Turnbull can still be leaders after this. One or other is in deep trouble.

And it’s starting to look quite that serious. Both men are calling aggressively for the other to stand down, and both are standing firmly by their stories. It’s a Mexican stand-off that will end with egg on face if nobody pulls the trigger. One (or possibly both) of the two men will certainly be seriously compromised when the truth does finally out.

Fairly amazing when you think about it. That political leaders withstand the political pressure exerted by wars, global financial crises, and overboard children, but the question of the existence of a single email, and the genuineness of that email, can threaten to end political careers

While there are many aspects to this saga, clearly the most central is the question of that email from the Prime Minister’s office to a public servant by the name of Gordan Godwin Grech (brainfart corrected.) The Daily Telegraph printed the email in last Saturday’s newspaper, later conceding that it was never actually sighted. The reporter in question, Steve Lewis, claims that it was read to him over the phone by a “primary source”. Kevin Rudd flatly denies the existence of the email and searches of the relevant IT infrastructure seem to suggest that no such email was ever sent.

Malcolm Turnbull has been hinting none-too-subtly since 4 June that he’s known about some sort of correspondence believed to be “smoking gun” evidence of Kevin Rudd’s dodgy dealings. Reading his statements in the context of the last few days (great summary by Possum) makes this clearer than it was at the time. Turnbull says that he had not seen the email prior to its publication in the Tele; unfortunately for Malcolm he blew that charade apart this morning when he said Senator Eric Abetz was reading the email from the newspaper a day before it went to print.

All in all it’s a tangled web of minutiae that promises to be explosive in its untangling. But the politics aside for a moment, whichever way you look at this whole thing the media is up to its armpits in it, and some serious questions have been raised.

Firstly, is Steve Lewis telling the truth about the manner in which he received this email? A cynic might suggest that the “read over the phone” story is a bit far fetched given that there’s an awful lot of information to be read out, what with email addresses, CC’s, timestamps and the rest. Is Steve Lewis trying to keep his informant at arm’s length to protect his or her anonymity?

Secondly, is it ethical for the Daily Telegraph to mock-up for display an email using the text read to one of its reporters over the phone, implying rather boldly that it is in possession of the electronic or printed version of the email? Shouldn’t the fact that the email has not been sighted be disclosed to readers who will otherwise interpret the mock-up as proof of possession?

Thirdly, and most seriously, should Steve Lewis and the Tele protect a source that has fed them an allegedly fraudulent email, now the subject of an AFP criminal investigation, that may possibly be the catalyst for the Prime Minister or Opposition leader of the nation quitting their job? While most people would agree that it’s important for journalists to be able to afford their sources a certain level of protection, surely there comes a point at which the interests of the nation override that protection. While the Tele deserves a certain amount of credit for breaking a story of significance, perhaps there are now greater priorities than an extra day at the centre of attention.

Steve Lewis has today written an article calling for “full transparency” from the Rudd government over Utegate. The thing is, if Lewis was a little more transparent himself the whole controversy would instantly become a lot clearer. And let’s put this in perspective one more time: the bona-fides of a single email, the source of which is likely known to a newspaper journalist, will either end the career of the nation’s Prime Minister or Opposition leader, or cause them significant damage. A heavy burden of responsibility for a reporter and newspaper who hold the key to the truth.

Open threads

Jun 23, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!