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Aug 23, 2012

Gillard secures apology from The Oz over AWU story

The PM approached senior News Ltd executives today to complain about a story in The Australian that claimed she had set up a "trust fund" for a former boyfriend -- and she won.

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The Prime Minister approached senior News Limited executives today to complain about a story in The Australian that claimed she had set up a “trust fund” for her former boyfriend 17 years ago. And she won — at least this round.

The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell told Crikey this morning that Gillard had “dealt at group level rather than anyone on The Oz” in relation to the story, which ran in the paper and on its website, and has now been spiked. The PM’s approach resulted in a grovelling online apology, with the imperious headline “Apology to the Prime Minister” that has run on News Limited sites around the country. Mitchell said reporter Ean Higgins had got one wrong word in the yarn, which richly recounted former AWU official Bruce Wilson’s current life as a chef on the NSW north coast.

The original story, headlined “An old flame faded into black”, was removed from the web but has been preserved for posterity below. It appeared to have incorrectly substituted the word “trust” for “slush” in reference to the fund overseen by Wilson and set-up by the PM.

It is the second time Gillard has intervened directly to complain about a story relating to the saga. Last year, she called then-News CEO John Hartigan at 8am to arc up about a Glenn Milne opinion piece that alleged that the PM had “shared a home” with Wilson in Fitzroy. In fact, Gillard had her own house in Abbotsford at the time. The paper pulled an opinion piece and acknowledged that the “assertions are untrue” and that no one from The Australian had attempted to contact the PM to clarify the basis of the story.

News Ltd spokesman Stephen Browning said the “apology speaks for itself”, when asked to comment, but declined to reveal internal communications between the PM and current News CEO Kim Williams.

Today’s move suggests sensitivities remain high inside the PMO over the issue, which the PM has not chosen to address in Parliament.

Gillard communications director John McTernan did not respond to queries over the News approach. But as Crikey hit the button today, the PM was fronting a press conference to explain her role. She accused “misogynist nut jobs on the internet” of spreading lies and said she was the victim of a “sexist smear campaign”.

By 10am today, after the PM’s intervention, the story was gone and the apology was running as a related story on the front page of The Australian‘s website. Crikey understands that the story will soon be resurrected with the word “trust” replaced with “slush” — as suggested by Crikey to Mitchell this morning.

The Australian‘s national chief correspondent Hedley Thomas has produced an unprecedented series of front page splashes over the past week aided by some leaks from Seattle-based former Slater & Gordon partner Nick Styant-Browne. Styant-Browne told Crikey earlier this week that Thomas had been sicced on to him by retired personal injury lawyer Harry Nowicki, who has spent years researching a book on the era.

Today, Thomas quoted Styant-Browne saying the serious news coverage should be counterposed with the “florid allegations” made in the online campaign against Gillard. Some of those are becoming more florid by the day. Crikey can reveal that former cartoonist with The Oz Larry Pickering, the convicted con man blamed by the government for re-igniting the Gillard saga, has removed an anti-Semitic rant from his website posted under his name.

The post, scrubbed from the web but available on Google’s cache here, refers to “the bleating Jews who actually believe they are God’s people are still combing the world looking for war-crime culprits”.

“Of course the “holocaust” happened but it was one of the many episodes of war and far from the worst in terms of human life. But Jews believe they are God’s people … so they are more important,” the blog post ran.

“The vanity-driven, thieving Jews did not have a country so they stole someone else’s with the West’s (and the East’s) blessing … and we wonder why we are hated  … Sure, the Jews are more industrious and inventive than the lazy Arabs. The Arabs have used receipts from the West’s addiction to oil to build crass monuments to themselves.

“An oil drunk Arab’s benchmark of success is to have a hundred more Rolls Royces than his cousin. The Jews have built a highly sophisticated nation from worthless rocky ground … without the aid of oil reserves, but so what? It’s not their land to succeed with.”

So-called “Asians” also come in for a spray on the blog. “Asians actually believe that because they don’t have hairy bodies and we do, we are closer to the apes. They don’t say that to us but they say that among themselves.”

Andrew Crook —

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

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33 thoughts on “Gillard secures apology from The Oz over AWU story

  1. Liz45

    There’s a huge difference between disagreeing with someone, even passionately and angrily, without the sort of absolute misogynist behaviour of some in the media. Allan Jone’s suggestion that the PM should be put in a bag and dumped at sea; the placards during the anti carbon tax rallies where she was referred to as ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’ that’s a step too far, that demeans the country and the role of PM. Some men have a very difficult time dealing with, conversing with a woman in a position of power – some immature males just can’t cope! It’s time they caught up with 2012.

    The ‘little boys’ in the Federal Parlt are only showing themselves in a poor light by their demeaning and offensive behaviour. Abbott has a patronising/abusive attitude to women – even his own daughter has chastised him. Goodness knows what he’s like to live with, as his language to Nicola Roxon at the National Press Club that time, plus his consistent and persistent behaviour which I find offensive – he’s certainly not a role model to the young men in the country. He rarely even refers to Julia Gillard as PM – it’s usually she or her! Even in his opening remarks he does. You just keep an eye on him! Watch Parlt a couple of times.

    It was so bad a few days ago that the Labor women complained. I’ve also heard men say similar things as I have, so it’s not just a female ‘thing’? The last time was Sunday morning after Background Briefing – his name escapes me, but he’s often on the program with others discussing the week’s political happenings!

    @BILL HILLEGER – I find it quite remarkable that the Australian had in their employ a man who, on live national TV, in a drunken condition lunged at another person, I think that person was Stephen Mayne, the alleged culprit was Glen Milne. His behavour was appalling, and yet as far as I know, no action was taken! That’s the sort of person they have in their employ. A company where the man in charge hits the media for revolting reasons – they’re the last mob to dare take the high moral ground on anything! And certainly not from repeating skuttle butt and bs in an offensive and demeaning manner!

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