Two bombshells

It was a big night for the ABC. Hopefully, a good sign that Auntie is recovering her courage in the lead up to a possible change of government. Two stories, one which began on Media Watch and was also covered on Lateline, and another Lateline exclusive, both expose serious issues of malfeasance in the everyday practice of the media and the government.

The Government Gazette’s “colour writer”, Caroline Overington, may have gone a step too far and exposed the cynical manipulation of coverage in that rag in order to influence election results through her amazingly dumb email to Wentworth independent anti pulp mill candidate Danielle Ecuyer. Overington offered a front page in exchange for Ecuyer directing her preferences to Turnbull. Ecuyer pointed out on Lateline that Overington had previously sought to manufacture stories about her, and she believed that she was being offered a serious inducement to direct her preferences the Minister’s way. Overington’s flip lack of subtlety may have exposed the true nature of the News Ltd flagship – a player in the political process rather than a reporter of events – and is now the subject of a complaint from Ecuyer to the AEC.

Lateline also broke the tragic and heartrending story of Tony Tran, victim of another immigration scandal whose life has been absolutely trashed with impunity by the administrative heartlessness of DIMIA. As Tony Jones observed, immigration and “border protection” have barely surfaced as issues in this campaign. With the legacy of Hicks, Haneef, Rau and Solon coming back to haunt them, it’s no wonder they’re topics the government barely wants to discuss. But let’s hope other parties highlight Mr Tran’s plight in an attempt to hold this government accountable for the routine horrors of which it’s consistently proved capable.

Posted in federal election '07, Howardia, media, Security
80 comments on “Two bombshells
  1. silkworm says:

    Tonight’s Lateline transcript is not up yet.

    Regarding Ecuyer’s complaint to the AEC, what are the AEC going to do, and when are they going to do it? Are they going to sidestep it, just like they did with the Greens’ complaint against the Exclusive Brethren? There needs to be blogospherical focus on this story.

    This story is interesting from another angle, because Ecuyer came into the spotlight only a couple of days ago as the candidate of relevance in the “election rival gay” story scandal. That’s weird.

    Let’s not go totally postal against Overington. We have her to thank for exposing the fact that Ecuyer and Newhouse used to be lovers but had a falling out, and Newhouse and Turnbull both went to Sydney Grammar.

    Yes, this story has everything – sex, politics, Turnbull, weird coincidences…

  2. kimberella says:

    We have her to thank for exposing the fact that Ecuyer and Newhouse used to be lovers but had a falling out

    No, I don’t think so. That was out there before her first piece. I’m pretty dubious as to whether it’s actually all that relevant to the campaign, though Overington has obviously been trying to talk it up.

  3. mbahnisch says:

    I’m not so sure Ecuyer has a clear-cut case to put to the AEC, though I’m no expert on electoral law. It is important for demonstrating exactly how the GG mob see their role.

    The Tran story was horrible. Everyday heartlessness and cruelty. And probably illegal.

  4. silkworm says:

    I’m pretty dubious as to whether it’s actually all that relevant to the campaign, though Overington has obviously been trying to talk it up.

    Right. Overington is interested in the sleaze factor, in the hope that it will sell papers, but it may also be Overington’s slimy way of suggesting that Ecuyer the Independent and Newhouse the Labour candidate are politically “in bed” with each other, hoping it will work in Turnbull’s favour.

    Ecuyer has said she will not announce her preferences until next week, but has also said she will preference the minor parties, which we all knows means diddly-squat. So far Ecuyer is smelling of roses, but I’m not so sure. There is a lot more to this than meets the eye, and there’s a lot at stake here. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

  5. mick says:

    What the hell is wrong with the people working in DIMIA? How do they not get their fact-checking straight and how can they keep someone in detention for that long and still believe it’s acceptable?

  6. Enemy Combatant says:

    Caroline wants to be a player so bad it hurts. Maybe C.O. should hook up with Judith Miller next time she pops in to The Apple. Pick up a few pointers on how to handle herself in the big league. Afterall, Citizen Rupert is well established Stateside and a plush O/S posting might be just the ticket for talent like Ms Overington.

    Even if the AEC don’t pursue the matter, it’s great publicity for Danielle Ecuyer. From the clip on Lateline I don’t think she’s actually announced her prefernces yet. With Wentworth so tight the longer Ms. Ecuyer holds out, the more clout and MSM attention she’ll gain.

  7. Frank Calabrese says:

    And the Tran Story has made ABC online news as well.

    [Details have emerged about the wrongful detention of a man who remains a stateless citizen despite an Immigration Department admission of error.

    Tony Tran, who was living in Brisbane with his wife and son, was detained in December 1999 when immigration officials told him his visa had been cancelled years earlier.

    The Department admitted a mistake and released him after five-and-a-half years, but because he and his son have no permanent resident status they still face possible deportation.

    Mr Tran had been in Australia for seven years, and after applying for a spouse visa for his wife he was detained.

    This was despite the fact that a letter notifying him of his cancelled visa had never been properly delivered to him.

    David Manne, director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, says that is illegal.

    “He should never have been in there in the first place. He should never have been locked up,” he said.

    “Under Australian law, if you’re not properly notified of a decision, it is unlawful for you to be detained.”]

  8. mbahnisch says:

    The Lateline transcripts are now up. I’ll hyperlink in the post.

  9. silkworm says:

    There’s a fairly sizable Korean population in Bennelong, and they as well as other parts of the Asian community would be fairly offended by the treatment Howard has handed out to Tony Tran. This is just more damage Howard has to control in his own electorate.

    BTW, Maxine McKew is at something like $3 in the betting markets, a ridiculous amount considering other polling is saying she will win. The most likely explanation for the skew prices is that the Liberal party has plunged a large amount on Howard to create the appearance that everything is OK for him, but where there are skew prices, there are value bets. Astute progressives stand to make a lot of money if Howard loses his seat. They can then plough their winnings into worthy projects. That would be a double-bonus.

  10. Evan says:

    “Afterall, Citizen Rupert is well established Stateside and a plush O/S posting might be just the ticket for talent like Ms Overington….”

    I reckon the GG will want her out of Dodge until after the 24th at least. Once the annhilation is over, Kev is ensconced in the Lodge and the Coalition dead buried, she’ll quietly come back. By then no-one will give a rats about a grubby little attempt to influence a minor candidate.

    Look on the upside. She’ll have a great time in the US hob-nobbing with Republicans and partying-on with kindred spirits. Like Ann Coulter.

  11. silkworm says:

    That Lateline transcript is just a stub.

  12. Tony Tran? Sounds like one of those asian “balts”.

  13. gandhi says:

    It’s worth thinking about why the Murdoch hacks might be so assiduously pushing Turnbull’s barrow. Malcolm is the darling of Big Business in Oz and the great white hope of the Corporatocracy down under.

  14. Steve at the pub – are you trying to play the fool, or does it come naturally?

    I’m furious. My wife (Vietnamese, on a temporary visa – one more year before she goes permanent) is scared. DIMIA is incompetent. I don’t want the same shit to that befell Tony Trần to affect us.

    Đụ Steve chết tiệt.

  15. Katz says:

    Overington, in a customary display of obtuseness, goes at Media Watch.

    On Tuesday mornings, it’s not uncommon to find us standing in line, waiting to offer high-fives to the grinning journalist lucky enough to have been tackled by executive producer Tim Palmer.

    I guess Rupert’s amanuenses at the Government Gazette are so pleased to be noticed by their master’s bete noir that what remains of their journalistic professionalism simply melts away.

    Surely the story isn’t Tim Palmer asking questions about Overington’s and Ecuyer’s emails. The story is that these emails leaked to the outside world in the first place.

    Now, assuming that Overington herself didn’t leak them, that leaves only one prime suspect — Ecuyer.

    That being the case, then it seems that Overington’s explanation that she and Ecuyer were sharing a girlie joke loses much of its credibility.

    Now, it is possible that Ecuyer was leading Overington on in the hope of using an incident like this to fire up her own election campaign.

    But, you’d think that a journalist who is sufficiently highly regarded to share high-fives with her grizzled fellow hacks at Der Murdochbunker would be a little more cautious than this. A sensible lass would keep her sleepover chat to herself.

    OK, Ove, you’ve persuaded me that you aren’t a highly-placed Liberal agent of influence.

    No. You are a naive, unprofessional, self-indulgent dill.

  16. mick says:

    Katz – It was Ecuyer. It wasn’t a matter of “leaking”, she showed them to the ABC to prove her case.

    The story is actually gaining traction believe it or not? There were two articles in the Oz and I’ve just seen this one on the ABC:

    Overington is now claiming it was all just a bit of a joke between a couple of girls – and you can tell because she addressed Ecuyer as “sweetie” put a smiley face on the end of the email. Either way if she was serious or not it still looks grossly unprofessional and it speaks volumes about the way that the GG journalists approach their jobs.

  17. mick says:

    Oh and Katz, Overington is claiming that Ecuyer is just doing this to raise her profile, pretty much exactly as you guessed. Ecuyer on the other hand said she was shocked at how manipulative Overington was, and that’s why she went to the press.

  18. Ambigulous says:

    Down and out,

    I think Steve at Pub was making an obscure reference to an incident recounted by Clyde Cameron, in his memoir “China, ….”. He reported that the Aussie PM in April 1975, Gough Whitlam, when asked to take in a group of anti-communist potential refugees from embattled Saigon, had said “I don’t want a group of f***ing Vietnamese Balts coming in!”. Referring no doubt to the trouble he had experienced from anti-communist Australians [formerly Lithuanians, Estonians etc] when he had recognised Soviet sovereignty over their homelands.

    Clyde reported that when he heard Gough say it, he wanted to HUG him. I think Clyde was Immigration Minister at the time.


  19. John Ryan says:

    Just curious if anyone watched 4 corners,I saw the show from about half way through,I would be very interested in hearing what people thought of the people interviewed.
    I came away with the view that if they are a cross section of the voting public and the way they see the world god help us,I,m sure some of them cant read, I supprised they managed to find their way to the front door.
    Before you all jump on me about the elitist tag,I left school at 14 did an apprenticship worked on building sites done lots of other job including some that paid less than 400 a week,but the people in that show made me wonder about people and does anything sink in.

  20. Katz says:

    Katz – It was Ecuyer. It wasn’t a matter of “leaking”, she showed them to the ABC to prove her case.

    But the point is that these originally private emails were divulged by Ecuyer to Media Watch.

    Ecuyer had her own agenda for doing this. But for Ecuyer publicising her correspondence with Overington, there would be no story.

  21. amused says:

    No. You are a naive, unprofessional, self-indulgent dill.

    And that is the probem. The real story after the sound and fury dies away on the 25th November ought to be the woeful performance of the Press Gallery. Whether it’s ambitious wannabees like like OV or shameless partians like Dennis the Menace, or just the general run of ‘heavies’, the lack of any attempt to unpack the spin, go through detail and actually challenge either the governemnt or the Opposition for that matter, is giving me the sh@ts bigtime.

    These people are paid a packet. If any other group of wage or salary earners (and that is what they are after all) performed as poorly as this lot, there would be public outrage. But just because they are who they are, the organs of outrage are actually run by them, and turned regularly on targets much more worthy of condemnation, because after all, they run it don’t they?

  22. mick says:

    Sorry Katz, wasn’t having a go – was just trying to point out that you were on the money with your guesswork. Most of what you said is pretty much in that ABC article I linked to.

  23. pablo says:

    Am I correct in thinking there are some 11 candidates chasing the prize in Wentworth. Ocuyer is allegedly some environmentalist who has seized the main chance of opposing a pulp mill a thousand kilometres away to up the ante on the Seinfeld candidates. Now she’s been given a free kick by the GG and she’s using it for all its worth.
    The AEC risks being ‘used’ and I just hope they find some arcane rule that raps Rupert – a blanket ban on any further election reporting? – and reduces the candidate list by one.

  24. Ambigulous says:

    Canberra Press Gallery – suffering from Delusions of Adequacy.

  25. Spiros says:

    Enemy Combatant at @7 has it right. Overington is a light weight, an Albrechtson wannabe, who wants to play with the big boys and girls.

  26. gandhi says:

    Kevin Rudd said he was outraged by the revelations:

    “I phoned Rupert Murdoch this morning to express my disgust at this blatant abuse of journalistic standards. Mister Murdoch apologised and admitted that his editorial team in The Australian had become rather over-zealous in their support for the Coalition. He said Ms Overington, Ms Albrechtsen, Greg Sheridan, Glenn Milne and Dennis Shanahan would immediately cease writing on political issues, pending a full investigation into their activities.”

    Rudd has promised a full review of media ownership laws in Australia.

    In other news, a dozen flying pigs were captured on video flying over Sydney Harbour Bridge.

  27. Paul Burns says:

    John Ryan,
    I thought some of the interviewees on 4 Corners last night were a trifle inarticulate too. (I left school at 15, failed to matriculate through my Leaving Certificate because I was, and still am, viretually innumerate- thank God for calculators.Finally did various levels of Arts degrees as a mature age student. There too, my innumercay persuaded me not to go on with archaeology – I think I wasa the only person in Environmental Studies who got a minus for open book statistics exams. At which stage I withdrew from that course.) The point of which is that I don’t think I’m elitist either. In fact, over the years I’ve developed a very healthy contempt for the middle class. I just like reading and writing, especially history, though eons ago I used to be a bit of a poet.
    Some of the people on 4 Corners may not have been very bright, the couple in particular, but the others were thinking through the issues. Because they aren’t political tragics, they are likely to get fazed by dirty tactics played by the Libs. I think I was, over Peter Garrett. But one can’t blame them for that, especially when you realisae these people used to really like Howard. Perhaps JWH will learn Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned. Lets hope so.

  28. With friends like Ovaringtone you don’t need enemies. As for Ringtone being an Albrechtsen clone that is laughable. Ms Tone has much more talent than the one tone Albrechted. That her and AdolfBrechtsen form a tag team is indisputable. I’s say Turnbull’s ship is now sunk and the AEC review of Ms Ecuyer’s complaint will be the nail in his political coffin. Ms Ecuyer’s compalint goes to a pattern of attempted inducement rather than just one email. This is not the the behaviour of a naive light weight , but more likely of a conspiracy at the Australian with Tone as the patsy. Newhouse is $2.65 at the moment : good odds.

  29. gandhi says:

    Worth considering what if Ms Ecuyer had done just as Overington suggested, and preferenced Turnbull in return for the promised front-page exposure at Teh Oz?

    Ecuyer would have been colluding with Overington to further her political career, and the two would have a shared dirty secret. Overington could then share that secret with her GG colleagues, who could use the threat of exposure to pressure Ecuyer in future…

    Ecuyer becomes a Murdoch asset. Provided she behaves, Los Del Murdoch push her career. Doors suddenly start opening for her. Etc, etc…

    Couldn’t happen, right? Right?

  30. jethro says:

    Ms Overington: “The emails, which I’m happy to provide to anyone, are obviously happy, lighthearted banter.”

    It wuz just a joke! Can’t youse take a joke? Anyone can see that.

    But strewth that Peter Garret bloke was dead serious and mendacious and very ominously revealed (with sinister string section in the background even!)that Labor’s gunna change it all after the election. Pulling Steve Price’s leg? I don’t think so!

  31. Jenny says:

    I found the 4 Corners show very disheartening. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that elections are decided by people that are under huge financial pressure (largely because of their own poor decisions) but have little understanding of the policies of either party.

    I was particularly horrified at the woman that was going to vote for Howard because ‘Rudd is going to take funding away from private schools’ and because there was ‘no difference’ between ALP and LNP on signing the Kyoto protocol. I noted too that it made no difference to her when she was told that she had her facts wrong. Like, ‘don’t bother me with facts, my mind is made up’.

    For the first time I understand why the election campaign is conducted in baby-speak. And why the Tampa sillyness and Howard’s undeliverable interest-rate promises were so effective. Because so many of the people that decide elections have little capacity to absorb anything more complex than a slogan.

    Scary stuff.

  32. mbahnisch says:

    It was no great surprise to me – having been involved in campaigns and done qualitative polling and focus groups in the past. But it’s wrong to think that uninformed voters necessarily decide elections. As Kim pointed out, if sufficient people in a seat like Lindsay (or any seat in play) have swung to Labor, then where the undecideds break is of no relevance to the outcome. It’s also usual for the undecideds to break in similar proportions to those who made their mind up earlier. I think the majority of those interviewed will end up voting Labor. The couple who you refer to, Jenny, are exactly the type of voter that the Howard rhetoric is aimed at – note their position – the AWA, the kid at the private school. It’s also worth noting that implicitly most have ideological commitments, even though they’re not stated (or perhaps conscious).

    There are two other caveats I’d enter:

    (1) A majority of voters in any election don’t vote for any other reason than they have always voted the same way, even if that cohort is smaller than it used to be.

    (2) The “rational choice” model of voting is more of an ideological construct than any reflection of the truth. Almost no one attempts to analyse all the parties’ policies and decide in favour of the greater good. What depresses me, more than anything, is that so little attention is paid to any public or other-directed motivation but rather on “how it will affect me”.

    I disagree with your comment about “largely because of their own poor decisions”. I think that vastly over-rates the degree of choice most people have, and I don’t think it’s a helpful judgement.

  33. Guido says:

    I think that people who are on the left and whinge about the ALP ‘solding out its principles’ and ‘being another Liberal party’ etc. should have a look at Four Corners.

    If you want to win elections you need to gets votes from people like that. People that have no much time to read about all the issues etc.

    Some inner suburban educated lefties believe that if Labor would do what they want it to do they would get their votes, and that’s delusional.

    There is a Party that does that and it’s called the Greens. And they get 10% of the vote, at best.

  34. amused says:

    I think that vastly over-rates the degree of choice most people have, and I don’t think it’s a helpful judgement.

    True, as far as it goes. But the point with the couple under discussion, is that while their decisions on spending are entirely theirs to make, it was interesting to observe the things they felt enabled them to ‘mark’ themselves off from others; ie; provide their own identity through exercising the ‘choices’ they are constantly told, they now have.

    Dad is on an AWA (I’ll bet the $600 pa difference was explained as the mark of this guy reaching ‘front line supervision’-a common tactic when offering AWAs at that level of the labour market), and his partner’s determined to ensure that their child attends ‘an expensive private school’. Nothing wrong with any of it in itself, but it does give a fascinating insight into the types of ‘social identity’ that have been assiduously developed by both the government and the corporate sector over the last twenty years. This kind of appeal appears to be much harder to turn into a permanent ‘cultural revolution’ though.

    For example, I detected a faint brow furrowing on the part of dad, as he contemplated a further round of IR changes, that might mean he rose to the ranks of Manager, Level 1, should the coalition be returned! He should be worried, because even if the $600 pa difference is real, (and if it is, how he thought approximately $11.50 a week was worth forgoing the next couple of pay rates on his award based classification scale is his business) he needn’t worry. In three years time the market for what he does, will reflect exactly the kind of deals that thousands of people like him are able to strike, from the security of the rent paying, school fee paying, private health fund paying and credit card debt paying basis on which he and his family now operate. I am glad we have got rid of the entitlement mentality, and we have moved to the open and exciting vistas of the ‘opportunity society’. It makes sense to me for a parent to believe that they are entitled to government assistance with school fees, as opposed to an entitlement to good public schools, and the right to work(for Dad) free of any danger that a third party might insist on access to pay scales and payments that will now reamin ‘locked away’ from this guy whilever he works in that company. I hope his reward is rapid promotion. He’ll need it.

    It was both familiar and depressing.

  35. joe2 says:

    Dont Put Your Daughter On The Stage Mrs. Overington.. apology to Noel.

    How many times in this continual election mode has the ‘journalist’ become the story? There is no longer any need for the middle part. Let’s stop mucking around and hand over all decisions of government and theatre to the people who know best for us, conservative pundits running agendas.

    Mark you say…”what depresses me, more than anything, is that so little attention is paid to any public or other-directed motivation but rather on “how it will affect me”.

    It’s all about the media pushing this stuff about ‘competition best’ and ‘me first’ that works well, when selling wheat-bix and lexus, but is dangerous when our fledgling democracy is concerned.

  36. gandhi says:


    It’s increasingly obvious that “news” outlets like the GG are moving towards FOX-style entertainment-dressed-as-news models, and they are expanding their profits by embracing business-to-business mutual propaganda dressed as advertising.

  37. silkworm says:

    Where is Kevin Andrews?

  38. joe2 says:

    Gandhi ,since this thread is flipping this way and that, I wonder if anybody saw “Enough Rope” and the interview with John Laws?

    The ol’ kinda creepy fella was ready to speak up about the extraordinary influence of some sections of the meedja in this country and Denton ran away from it , I reckon.

  39. Anna Winter says:

    I think it’s plausible that Overington’s story is true. Not the “woo hoo I’ve been Media Watched, it’s a badge of honour” shit. But GG gags aside, journos seek out stories, the more exciting the better. Candidate’s ex runs against him and preferences his opponent is a good story.

    Given the naivete of her actions, surely any “offer” of a front page story would have been far less subtle than that.

  40. joe2 says:

    Anna, she has been sprung.

    Why would the editor so obviously distance himself from her if this wasn’t the case? colour?

  41. Anna Winter says:

    Because she looked like an idiot, joe2. I don’t doubt this has hurt her reputation.

    But my reading of her words support her general story – that she was jokingly or not trying to influence someone for a story, not to assist Turnbull.

    Otherwise, you have to believe that she was clever enough to make a subtle offer of a front page story that isn’t really an offer, but that she did it via email using punctuation smiley faces?

  42. Anna Winter says:

    To clarify, I’m not defending her, or suggesting that trying to influence someone’s behaviour to make a story more interesting is in keeping with journalistic ethics.

  43. Gaz says:

    “Just curious if anyone watched 4 corners,I saw the show from about half way through,I would be very interested in hearing what people thought of the people interviewed.”

    I agree with your comments John,there is no mystery here on why we have had to suffer John Howard for eleven long years.I”m no elitist John,but for mine, apart from one family,none of them were much brighter than a five watt globe.

    The families concerned are all mortgaged up to the hilt,and still their only concern was “what’s in it for moi” If you payed off their houses for them,it would do no good, it would then be the boat or the caravan, they’d be bleating about paying for.

    That is why they are scared to death of a change,all that bollicks about Oh I’m not really sure who I am going to vote for was a laugh.Apart from the old Greek man who has had some life experience and could see through the bullshit,they are gonna tick John 1. end of

  44. gandhi says:

    Sure, Anna, it’s OK for journos to fish for stories. But this was clearly more than that: it was totally inappropriate on two counts. First, pushing one candidate to support another. Secondly, offering a front page story as reward.

    Here’s the giveaway: Ms O. is trying to pass it off as a joke. If someone can explain the humor here, I’m all ears…

    joe2, I missed Denton but Lawsy’s revelations are usually just spiteful payback anyway.

    Also worth noting here: most of Rupert’s straight news outlets run a loss and are subsidized by the entertainment stuff. Last year’s big earner for News Corp was The Simpsons Movie – so switch off Homer if you want to cut off Rupert’s oxygen supply.

  45. gandhi says:

    NB: A nod and a wink is NOT humor!

  46. joe2 says:

    Anna, you cannot be a serious journalist and a groupie at the same time.

    Another, so called ‘journalist’ with the oz has a similar conflict of interest with a prospective leader.

    The two hat arrangement cannot work.

  47. Ambigulous says:

    There was a T-shirt: “Abbott, get your Rosaries off my Ovaries!”
    How about: “Attard, get your Scrutinies off my Overington!” Nuh? Ah well.

    I just found some Ovaringtone quotes on ABC news online, taken from “AM” perhaps:

    “It’s the most divine thing. I really do, I really do wonder whether Danielle thinks that she has that much power. I find it extraordinary.”
    “Well if I was worried about it, I wouldn’t have put it in writing.”
    “To be honest with you, I think it’s the most hilarious thing that has happened to me this week. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

    Does she flick a switch and go into public-schoolgirl-speak when under stress, or does she always express herself like this? Does her tone qualify her as a specialist reporter for trendy, wealth-dripping-from-the-leafy-suburban-streets electorate of Wentworth?

  48. FDB says:

    “switch off Homer if you want to cut off Rupert’s oxygen supply.”

    Yeah right. If I’m ever surveyed for ratings, I’ll just lie.

    BTW, has anyone (or anyone they know) EVER filled in a ratings form?

  49. Anna Winter says:

    joe2, you’re responding to something I didn’t say. As is gandhi.

    Overington’s style is relationships, gossip, intrigue, personal motivations. Like this for example. Costello beaming, Howard desperately trying to remain relevant. (“Yes, John, but it’s not all about you.”) Touching moment with grandchild…

    She tried to manipulate a story to suit these objectives, not to try and get Turnbull re-elected.

    I said nothing about whether or not I agreed with her “it’s a joke” thing. I think it was probably half-joking, half-serious, but that isn’t my point. I don’t know where I said she was a groupie, or defended her status as “journalist”.

    All I’m saying is that her behaviour was bad enough without looking for more serious, democracy-threatening motives. Her goal was far lower, and stupider, than that.

  50. mbahnisch says:

    True, as far as it goes. But the point with the couple under discussion, is that while their decisions on spending are entirely theirs to make, it was interesting to observe the things they felt enabled them to ‘mark’ themselves off from others; ie; provide their own identity through exercising the ‘choices’ they are constantly told, they now have.

    Amused, I agree with most of your analysis, and as I said, they had an implicit ideological position which makes them the perfect targets for Howard’s rhetoric. I have no doubt it’s been reinforced by the material situation in which they now find themselves as a result of having taken the “choices” on offer. That’s how it works. But we only ever pick from certain menus offered to us, and you don’t have to be an aspirational to have lots of credit card debt. As I said wrt the interest rate rise, it’s a necessary thing for many of us who aren’t in standard employment. And most all of us are affected to some degree or other by the desire to consume. It’s the times we live in.

    As Marx said – we make history, but not just as we please.

  51. Pollytickedofff says:

    “BTW, has anyone (or anyone they know) EVER filled in a ratings form?:”

    NO-ONE fills in a form. They have the Peoplemeter instead.

  52. Ophuph Hucksake says:

    Yerk, my house mate of way back when decided to get a people meter for us. I think he wanted to game the system by continually programming it to say that we always watched ABC and SBS.

  53. Frank Calabrese says:

    [Yerk, my house mate of way back when decided to get a people meter for us. I think he wanted to game the system by continually programming it to say that we always watched ABC and SBS.]

    and of course you will be denied a meter if disclose thst you only watch SBS & THe ABC and they will remove said meter if you only watchg those 2 networks exclusively.

  54. CFQ says:

    Re: comments 7 and 27 – unless I’m mistaken, Caroline Overington was a foreign correspondent based in NYC for Fairfax at one point. Unless this kind of thing is par for the course and this is a rare occasion where someone’s been sprung, she should surely know better.

    Re: 45 – sadly, I can’t help but agree with you there, Gaz.

  55. johnl says:

    In the Australian on November 5 under the heading “Garrett’s loose lip may sink ship” Caroline Overington dismissed the idea that Peter Garrett could have been making a joking aside to 2UE disc jockey Steve Price.

    Overington described Price as a “witness of truth”, which seemed a conclusion at odds with the fact that the only other witness to the conversation backed Garrett’s claim that he was making a jocular remark.

    Overington went on to say about the Garrett episode: “Garrett says he was only joking. He wasn’t joking. He was getting cocky, which is different. It’s also a mistake.”

    Now, Overington is aboard her own sinking ship. Her claim that she was writing in jest when she asked Danielle Ecuyer, an Independent candidate for Wentworth, to please preference Malcolm Turnbull rings hollow.

    The evidence in black and white against Overington leads to the conclusion: “Overington says she was only joking. She wasn’t joking. She was getting bossy, which is different. It’s also a mistake.”

    The story begins on October 13, when Overington wrote in The Weekend Australian that Ecuyer was planning to run against her former beau (ALP candidate George Newhouse) in the seat of Wentworth and planned to direct her preferences against him.

    Nearly two weeks passed before Overington sent an email on October 26 to Ecuyer asking: “Have you decided how to preference yet??”

    Ecuyer replied: “no sweetie it is way too early, let’s see what happens on policy from the major parties – if anything!!!!!!”

    Overington’s reply the same day included the plea to preference Turnbull and that it would be such a good front page story. This is important because Overington claims Ecuyer was “loving the publicity” just before the emails were sent.

    Fast forward to November 11 when Glenn Milne, reporting on a Galaxy poll in The Sunday Telegraph under the heading “Turnbull on the edge”, points out that the preferences of “green” candidates in Wentworth would be important and that one of these “green candidates”, Danielle Ecuyer, was, until a few weeks ago, the lover of Mr Newhouse.

    Milne also said it was looking likely that preferences from Ecuyer could decide which way Wentworth fell.

    The next day Overington writes in The Australian under the heading “Climate hunks leave independent exposed” that “…Mr Newhouse could win the seat of Wentworth, not least because of the acid rain sent down by Ms Ecuyer, whose preferences will likely go his way.”

    Overington’s explanation on November 13 provides no clue as to why she could write on November 12 that Ecuyer’s preferences were likely to go Newhouse’s way. What happened between October 26 and November 12 for Overington to decide this.? What happened between October 26 and November 11, when Media Watch received copies of Overington’s emails?

    In her November 13 explanation, Overington claims that when she went to Ecuyer’s house “a few days” before she sent her the emails on October 26: “We’d joked about her failed relationship with Labor’s candidate for Wentworth, George Newhouse. She was loving the publicity, and the fact it described her as glamorous.

    “I asked whether she’d direct her preferences away from George and she laughed, and said she wouldn’t preference anyone who supported Tasmania’s pulp mill.

    “The idea that she would instead give her preferences to Turnbull to spite George was also raised. It was so absurd, I kept the joke up in emails to her a few days later.”

    There was no joke being kept up in the first email on October 26. That simply asked if Ecuyer had made a decision on preferences.

    Ecuyer replied: “no sweetie it is way too early, let’s see what happens on policy from the major parties – if anything!!!!!!”

    Overington replied the same day: “Too early! My girl, you’ve got four weeks!! Please preference Malcolm. It would be such a good front page story. Also he’d be a loss to the parliament and George – forgive me – would be no gain.;)

    Overington’s claim that in this second email she was carrying on with the absurd joke of a few days earlier does not ring true. For instance, which part of this email is a joke: That Malcolm would be a loss to the Parliament. That George would be no gain.

    The one thing that isn’t a joke that if Ecuyer, whose reason for standing is opposition to the Tasmanian pulp mill, gave her preferences to Turnbull it would be a front page story for a newspaper with The Australian’s bias.

    Overington’s attempt to dismiss the revelations in Media Watch is unimpressive. Subsequent interviews show Danielle Ecuyer does not think she was joking.

  56. David says:

    I once shared a house (in 1972, I think) where we got a TV ratings book. After about two days we couldn’t be bothered making stuff up any more (weed does terrible things to your motivation), so we handed it back more or less empty. They really should have known better than to have given it to a bunch of hippies. However, now that I’ve grown up I feel _terrible_ that I failed in my civic duty …

  57. mick says:

    gandhi makes a very good point in comment #31. If Ecuyer had taken Overington up on her offer this whole story would have evolved a very different way. Would Overington have said, “Oh no, wait. That was just a joke!” or would she have tried to get that front page article?

  58. joe2 says:

    “All I’m saying is that her behaviour was bad enough without looking for more serious, democracy-threatening motives. Her goal was far lower, and stupider, than that.”

    Fair enough, Anna, if it is your wish to let Overington ‘off the hook’ as “stupider than that”. She looks like a partisan/attempted powerbroker to me. Johnl has covered things well. Media Watch website has sourced this final fling, brilliantly.

    The paper she writes for, both acknowledged her as a crack journo and now as only adding ‘colour’. She, like Milne and the majority of Newsdestort cannot be given the benefit of the doubt, all the time, especially when an election is imminent.

    They appear more often to be attempting to shape the news rather than report it. And “democracy-threatening motives” amongst THAT collective? Give me good reason not to think the worst of them.

  59. Anna Winter says:

    joe2, when you’re saying something, don’t put it in quote marks as if I’d said it. I’ve given you an argument outlining why I think you’re wrong about what Overington’s motivations are, and all you’ve responded with is accusations that I’m defending her.

    Whatever. I guess the idea of a great monolithic newspaper working as one to determine the outcome of elections is more fun to imagine than a building full of individuals with various, sometimes contradictory ambitions, trying in their various ways to get a good story.

    I still say she believed it would be an interesting story and tried to manipulate a publicity-seeking candidate to create it for her. To answer Mick’s question, she clearly doesn’t have the clout to make something a front page story that isn’t already considered front page material. She was just making the call that she thought it was. Whether she would have been right is a whole other question.

  60. joe2 says:

    ” joe2, when you’re saying something, don’t put it in quote marks as if I’d said it.”

    Not sorry Anna, the convention is that if you written something as part of a discussion another punter may well quote what you have said.

  61. Anna Winter says:

    Where did I write “off the hook”?

  62. joe2 says:

    Anna, with love, i never said that you did.

  63. joe2 says:

    Anna, ‘off the hook’ is completely different to “off the hook”.
    The first about ’emphasis’ and the second a quote.

    Maybe in my world only and chheers.

  64. Paul Burns says:

    Tonight’s Lateline has provided us with an extraordinary revelation. Kevin Andrews, with John Howard’s backing, of course, has refused to observe caretaker convention and give Tony Kelly, the Shadow Minister forImmigration a relevant briefing in the caretaker period.

  65. Sir Henry says:

    Tony Jones reprised the Tran story tonight and invited the Labor immigration spokesthingo, Tony Bourke, to comment. I must say, while Bourkie is somewhat of an improvement on Amnesty Phil, Amanda and Kevin Andrews, it was still a pathetic, mealy-mouthed, weak-as-piss performance.

    Bourke arcanely intimated, in response to what was a gift from Tony Jones to shine in the national spotlight, and make a universal humane gesture and say that if he becomes an immigration minister he would grant Tran some sort permanent resident status after 14 years, 5 1/2 of them getting a zebra suntan, the best he could do was mouth some platitudes and dribble on about national security implications of havnig Tran here, and then unconvincingly tried to flog a political point against Howard.

    But this was not the place nor the time. No partisan applause there.

    It just required a glimmer of humanity and a straight answer with regard to that and to agree to a general proposition that if ever a royal commission was required into the immigration department, this was one.

    I wished, I hoped, I shouted at the telly eyes out on stalks and getting red in the face in impotent rage and frustration, trying to will him to say it, but my brain waves and shouted obscenities could not penetrate across the ether and Bourkie’s thick hide and skull.

    Instead we got some weird mandible movement that seemed to go side to side like a ruminant chewing cud. Was it too much to hope for to get a human response with a straight answer? Fair dinkum, I effing give up. The joint is rooted. This, ladies and genetlemen was the alternative gumment speaking.

  66. Sir Henry says:

    And what’s changed? Bourkie was all for a royal commission into the immigration department in the wake of the Cornelia Rau case see:
    but now he is going all marshmallow. Could someone explain this? Has Kevvie heavvied him, warned him off not to make waves? Or as he’s contemplating the possibility of real power, the feet have turned to clay?

  67. jo says:

    sir henry,
    if anna can give caroline overington the benefit of the doubt : ) – then i’m going to extend it to labor –

    with the amount of hysterical wall to wall liberal advertising and a totally pro-howard cheer squad OZ media – being honest about anything – will just get you a big fat wedge, bullshite headlines and the next day liberal party talking points, this close to the poll.

    the liberals have gone completely feral.

    i get 7, 9 & 10 broadcast from down the coast – (better reception than i get from over on the north shore) so i’m getting eden-monaro marginal electorate adverts on the Prime TV channel & the ads are the most hysterical attack ads i’ve ever seen.

    there are about 10 different anti-union advert ones now – tonight’s was hair-raising.

    (dont know if sydney tv is getting them too?) and they’ve been running NFF adverts for a month too about labor spending the future fund.

    and where are all the ACTU/ALP adverts – it’s like 20 to 1 on my reading….

    not feeling confident at all.

    i’d normally agree with you Sir Henry, and i wish bourke was smart enough to chew gun and walk at the same time – but it seems that only gillard and rudd are capable of doing that. the others are keeping to the script prepared beforehand, and keeping shtum until 25 nov.

  68. mbahnisch says:

    I didn’t see Bourke like that at all, Sir Henry. I think you’re putting the worst possible construction on everything he said. I’ve been no fan of Labor’s timidity when it comes to issues like Haneef, but it seemed to me to be entirely appropriate for him to say – because Andrews had forbidden access to information, he couldn’t make a definitive pronouncement. He made it crystal clear he thought Tran had a strong case, and that there appeared to be no national security implications in his case. What is he meant to do? Act as an ethical Minister or make a riproaring speech of denunciation?

    He also didn’t close the door on a Royal Commission.

  69. Futt Bucker says:

    Yeah I agree totally with Mark on this. Bourke did as best as he could without making too much of a scene. As we’ve seen with Howard’s “rebates for all” crap they’re looking for a wedge and big time. If Bourke popped his head up too far the Libs with News Ltd. would try as hard as possible to stick a knife in, anywhere.

    Andrews and the Howard Government are usurping democracy once again with this revelation as they know they’re toast. Bourke will make a very fine Minister and I personally consider him one of the better performers in the Labor party. I’ve seen him a few times on Sky’s Agenda program and he takes them to the cleaners.

    On a non-related note did anyone catch Andrew Robb’s performance on Agenda today? Even David Speers of all people was confused by his non-sensical ramblings. This Robb character always comes off looking like some bum drunk on the show.

  70. cj says:

    Offering front-page publicity for Ecuyer’s campaign in a national newspaper in exchange for preferences is a joke is it? Let’s see, if Ecuyer had accepted the ‘joke’ offer, would the story have been on the Oz’s front page? I think we can safely say the answer to this question is ‘yes’.

    Ecuyer has shown herself to be quite shrewd, exploiting the incident for the promised publicity without compromising herself. But Overington wasn’t to know that. If by chance she had accepted, this incident would not look nearly as innocent. In fact, if Ecuyer HAD accepted, it would be in neither party’s interest to ‘leek’, and nobody would be the wiser that it had happened at all.

    Overington has not explained what the joke was. Could it be one of those ‘jokes’ where you offer something in jest so that if the offer is rejected you can back away from it, saying you were only joking?

  71. Sam Clifford says:

    Caroline Overington, you’re a top-notch journalist. 😉

  72. Paul Burns says:

    To all of you defending Tony Bourke, I utterly agree with you. Sir Henry, I take your point, and it would have been uplifting for Bourke to grant Tranh permanent residency (w3hich he should have regardless) but clearly there are political issues with his past conduct re an AVO which Howard and his thugs would exploit ruthlessly.
    One can’t help wondering if Andrews’ refusal to grant Bourke a briefing with Immigration was part of some sordid trap the Libs planned, hoping to catch Bourke out with something he said, then attack him with “unknown” facts.
    Though I atill maintain what Howard and Andrews have done is an anti-democratic breach of the caretaker convention.

  73. anthony says:

    “Could it be one of those ‘jokes’ where you offer something in jest so that if the offer is rejected you can back away from it, saying you were only joking?”

    Ironic Story Making Leads To Unironic Lobbying

  74. FDB says:

    Anthony, that is funny.

  75. Sir Henry says:

    Mark and others, I am as aware as all of you about the Howard wedge. And Arthur Calwell did make a principled and correct stand on the Vietnam war and got flogged in the 1966 general election by Holt. But, but… you can be just too careful. I am sure the ALP could have taken this issue to the people – yes, we stand by what we said, yes, we are for the fair go, judge us on that. Remember careful and pontificating Kim Beazley? Where did it get him?

  76. Yes Anthony I think the expert witness nailed it.

  77. Sharkbait says:

    Caroline Overington – Big Mouth Strikes Again?
    Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
    When I said I’d like to smash every tooth
    In your head

    Oh … sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking
    When I said by rights you should be
    Bludgeoned in your bed

  78. nasking says:

    I think Burke deserves credit for just showing up. The fact he got stuck in a bit, referred to Andrews as “arrogant”…discussed compensation, motivates me to give him a ‘thumbs up’. At least he didn’t opt out like Costello & Minchin who ran for the hills the other day when asked to go on the 7:30 report.

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