Of all the responses to Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay on The Australian — a defence from Weekend Oz editor Nick Cater, more criticism from Jay Rosen, Ian Lowe, Rodney Tiffen, Jack Waterford and Mark Latham — it is the letter from Tim Flannery published in the latest edition (in bookshops and online this month) that adds the juiciest grist to the mill.
The environmental activist reveals for the first time how he was set up by radio shock jock Ray Hadley, who fuelled a fierce campaign from News Limited papers against the Australian of the Year.
In July, Hadley took a call on his 2GB program from “David” proclaiming to be a neighbour of Flannery’s. Flannery owned a waterfront home, the caller said, detailing its precise location and highlighting his apparent hypocrisy on sea level rises.
The story took off: Andrew Bolt took to his blog with further details of the house (including a Google map) and its value, The Daily Telegraph went to print with a story, and after promising an “intelligent article” on the issue of sea level rises, Flannery claims, The Australian’s Ean Higgins wrote a piece rehashing the Hadley revelations.
Flannery did his own investigation. He found an address for “David” and made a house call. Flannery writes:
“His stammering voice was so unlike the smart-alec tone I’d heard on the radio that at first I thought I had the wrong person. But he soon admitted that he knew Ray Hadley. In fact, he worked for him.
“David then stated emphatically that he had not called Ray Hadley at all. Instead Hadley had asked him to appear on the show, and had called him. David said that Hadley had sought him out after learning that I lived nearby. The story, and all of the supposed ‘facts’ that David was to raise during the interview, had, according to David, been assembled beforehand by Hadley and his team … David stated: ‘You’re on the other side of the fence [regarding climate change] … they hate you … they’re out to get you.’”
As Flannery pointed out to any journalist who asked, his house in fact sits above the most radical projections of sea level rises.
He launched legal action against The Oz and won a withdrawal of the article, publication of a page-three apology and $5000 in legal costs. He writes:
“The experience has taught me several things about the hate media in Australia. First, as they seek to slur those they hate, they do not hesitate to manufacture a story if one does not exist. Second, as the story is picked up by other opinionists, they are prone to weave ever more scandalous fictional tidbits from the blogosphere into the story. Third, in their efforts to obtain an interview some journalists will lie and ignore the truth when it’s inconvenient to them.”
Crikey left a message on Hadley’s phone while he was on air this morning which has so far not be returned.