The media spent eight months vilifying Peter Slipper over the James Ashby accusations, but when the Federal Court ruled it was a political set-up — suddenly they weren’t interested. Margo Kingston comments on the scandal behind the conspiracy.
Click on the image to see @geeksrulz‘s Storify: ‘The Daily Telegraph coverage of the Slipper Scandal’
ON THE 12th of December 2012, the Federal Court handed down its judgement in James Ashby’s sexual harassment case against the Speaker Peter Slipper. It was sensational — a political conspiracy to abuse the court system with vexatious litigation to destroy a political opponent.
The mind boggled.
I’d just joined Twitter, and was surprised to get a tweet predicting there would be little coverage.
Nonsense, I replied. There’ll be intensive investigation by journos — ‘they will go for it after being conned by Libs twice’. The first time, of course, was the just completed torrent of publicity on the Prime Minister’s pre-politics role in setting up a fund later used for fraud, which ended with nothing of substance proved.
I was wrong.
No page one splashes. No page ones at all in the Murdoch tabloids, which had broken Ashby’s allegations to the Court with a splash and then kept splashing. In the Daily Telegraph, a small news story on, wait for it, page 17, with the misleading headline ‘Court rejects SLIPPER case’.
I was horrified, but Saturday’s coverage put me in shock.
PM Gillard had called on Abbott to disendorse Mal Brough, who the court found had been part of the conspiracy. Other Labor figures had called for an inquiry. Tony Abbott said they were ‘hyperventilating’, and repeated his never deconstructed ‘I had no specific knowledge’ line. Yet there was NO news story in the DT. They’d moved on. I’d bought all the papers at the airport to read all about Ashby on my flight home. There was virtually nothing to read. I tweeted: ‘Bought the papers today. Where are the news features, the reads, the analysis, the questions on Ashby’s funding? In my day Ashby would have filled pages in news and features. What has happened and why? Please explain!’
‘Useful Design’ tweeted:
‘If it bleeds it leads, if it’s smear let’s hear, if it’s the truth, strewth how uncouth.’
Murdoch papers you can understand — they’ve gone feral against the PM and don’t care a fig for subtlety in their bias any more, as ALP frontbencher Craig Emerson wrote in an essay published in new media and ignored by the MSM.
Fairfax, well, big staff cuts, low morale and fear of reprisal under an Abbott government could be in play.
The ABC? Breathtakingly, ABC reporter Latika Bourke asked deputy liberal leader Julie Bishop not one question on Ashby in a long interview on Saturday morning, and days later Chris Uhlmann also failed to raise the matter. What matter?
Where are the stakeouts of Ashby and Brough to get some answers? Where are the detailed written questions to the key players? Perhaps the media has predicted the death of Gillard and her government for so long they won’t change their narrative, and have lost their news judgement. Or perhaps when the A team of journos and editors go on holidays the B team isn’t up to the job.
(Read Richard Ackland’s take on the indolence of Australia’s mainstream “investigative plods” in reporting Ashbygate by clicking here.)
Meanwhile In the Twitterverse, people have created timelines, Ashby archives and Ashby newspapers, listed Ashby questions and started a petition to force an inquiry. Independent media have bemoaned the ‘scandalous lack of curiosity’ of the MSM, and Independent Australia has continued its standout news, analysis and investigative reporting.
Me, I’ve made a complaint about the Daily Telegraph’scoverage to the Press Council, signed the inquiry petition, and broken the story that the recent court summons against Slipper for old travel claims defies normal practice. I got that scoop because my sources didn’t think the MSM was interested.
When it sticks in twitter’s craw, Twitter makes the running.
See Independent Australia’s dedicated Ashbygate page.
This is the transcript of a ‘What’s stuck in my craw’ monologue podcast by Something Wonky on 18 January 2012. You can read Independent Australia’s full investigation into Ashbygate by clicking here, or on the image above.