The Channel Seven newsroom has split this morning over the ethics of state political reporter Adam Walters’ icky scoop exposing transport minister David Campbell’s “double life” as a bisexual man.
Campbell, whose wife is battling cancer, resigned immediately after Walters informed the government that Seven was running with the story last night. Apparently acting on a tip-off, Walters and producer Steve Barrett had tailed Campbell to the salubrious gay sauna Ken’s of Kensington on Tuesday, using a concealed camera to snag footage of him exiting the premises.
On Wednesday, Seven led its news with a Freedom of Information scoop on the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) report into the hold-up, but absent from the report was any reference to Campbell’s whereabouts. The minister’s private life had been an open secret in state government and media circles for years. So why did Walters decide to pull the trigger now?
On April 20 in state parliament, Campbell was repeatedly questioned by shadow roads minister Andrew Stoner over his movements on April 12 — specifically what he was doing between 11:40am, when the F3 truck smash occurred, and when the RTA’s ‘contra-flow system’ was finally activated later that evening.
Campbell joked and ducked the question: “As I’ve said, I have absolute confidence in the work that I was doing that day.”
A follow-up inquiry by former police commissioner Ken Moroney is likely to shed more light into the minister’s movements. But speculation is now swirling that Walters will reprise his yarn tonight, claiming Campbell may have been at Ken’s while 20,000 motorists sweated in their cars south of Gosford.
In a brief press conference held as Crikey went to press, Campbell said that while his decision to frequent Ken’s had hurt his family, there had been no impact on his professional life in parliament. On the night of the F3 debacle, Campbell said he was at his ministerial offices and his apartment in Potts Point, from where he conducted several media interviews. His office would release a statement with phone records proving his location later this afternoon.
In 2008, Walters famously endured a “short but bruising” stint as the state government’s most senior spin doctor in former premier Morris Iemma’s ‘strategy unit’, where his tryst with Meagher began.
Walters later told the Daily Telegraph, which he would join months later as a staff reporter, that Iemma’s office was “a circus full of clowns” and that he was planning his departure from his first day in the job. The ill-will began after his planned appointment as Iemma’s communication director was nixed when incumbent Glen Byers announced he would be staying on.
There is also a factional dimension. Walters lost his job in September 2008 after the strategy unit was disbanded under Iemma’s successor Nathan Rees. At the time, Campbell was part of a group of ministers, including Meagher, that had moved against Iemma. While his girlfriend stayed on, the former premier’s treachery had left Walters without a gig.
David Koch picked up on this obvious conflict this morning, producing this amazing exchange on Seven’s Sunrise:
Koch: “Yeah, Adam, he [Campbell] has led a double life. Let me play devil’s advocate here: yes, he should apologise to his family, there’s no doubt about that. But is it a hanging offence? People make mistakes … to be polite you were involved in a similar situation when you worked at state parliament …”
Walters: “Very briefly.”
Koch: “… with a minister and things like that. Private things happened. So, should they have to resign? Yes they’ve got a lot of explaining to do to their family, but shouldn’t it be left at that?”
Walters, who is paid $250,000 a year by Seven, has also been accused of attempting to protect his journalistic integrity by cloaking the headline-grabbing same-sex elements of the story in a sub-plot over Campbell’s use of a “ministerial vehicle”. But as premier Kristina Keneally remarked this morning, ministers routinely use their ministerial vehicles for private tasks, including picking up the kids from school.