The controversial Craig Bildstein files
It is not often that a journalist becomes a politician, then a spin doctor and then a journalist again but that is exactly what Craig Bildstein has done in Adelaide creating plenty of waves along the way. Here is a sample of our recent subscriber-only sealed section material on the lad.
THE RISE AND FALL OF CRAIG BILDSTEIN
How's this for a CV:
Craig Bildstein: Tiser journo, member of parliament, political adviser (state), political adviser (federal), media adviser (city council), night sub Tiser, Tiser journo.
And to think, if he'd held Mildura and kept Russell Savage out of the Victorian Parliament he might be a senior Minister in the fourth Kennett government by now.
Will the cyle continue? Are there any political seats up for grabs? Will Bildo succeed as the Tiser's newest roving reporter. There aren't too many former politicians who actually end up as humble reporters.
Further to yesterday's item on journo-turned-polly-turned-journo Craig Bildstein, a political journo has pointed out that his new reporting gig is his first stint at The Advertiser because he was previously state political reporter at Rupert's now defunct Adelaide News.
Then Labor Premier John Bannon is said to have described him as a good operator and that he couldn't believe he became a Liberal MP.
Bildo cut his teeth at The Sunraysia Daily in Mildura and then returned to become the local MP in the Victorian Parliament before getting rolled by Russell Savage.
More follow up to Monday’s peculiar story in the Adelaide Advertiser from Mildura MP turned Tizer journo Craig Bildstein alleging that his former boss, Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison, got more than a little stroppy with the previous incumbent Jane Lomax Smith, now a state cabinet minister at a function five years ago.
ANOTHER BILDO CONFLICT AS HOWARD FACES BLOW
"HOWARD LOSES KEY MP: Gallus to stand down in Hindmarsh" the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser screams today.
And the by-line? Craig Bildstein - Gallus' press secretary until only recently. No mention of that, of course - all we've come to expect from Bildstein and the Tizer.
Gallus' resignation is a problem for Howard. Hindmarsh is the second most marginal Liberal seat in SA, held by just over one per cent - and Gallus' has shown that she has had the right stuff for winning
marginals since she took Hawker, the only Labor seat won by the Libs outside Victoria in 1990, by 14 votes, the narrowest ever margin in a federal seat.
Hawker was abolished at the following redistribution and she went on to win Hindmarsh, a seat once held by Labor giant Clyde Cameron and Labor ever since it was first contested at the second federal
election in 1903.
As the PM has said himself, there are only eight seats between him and oblivion. Hindmarsh is one of them.
Crows player Nigel Smart is being tipped as a possible preselection starter, but he appears to think that because he can play football he deserves a safe seat in Parliament. The attempt to draft him as the
candidate for the most marginal Labor seat in South Australia, Kingston, has failed.
Labor has not yet got a candidate on the ground - great work in a marginal, comrades - and Aileen Shannon, a country girl who now works as Gallus' electorate PA, will be the preselection candidate to
watch. Sorry for the Crikey kiss of death, Aileen!
SHOCK JOCK OFFERED COUNCIL CASH FOR STORIES
Adelaide's reigning king shock-jock, 5AA's Leon Byner, has followed in the footsteps of his Sydney colleagues to found himself embroiled in scandal and controversy.
The Adelaide Advertiser today alleges that Byner offered Adelaide's Lord Mayor Michael Harbison cash for positive stories.
Byner would use his morning talkback show to "road test" proposed council policy on his listeners, offer positive comment on what the council and the Lord Mayor were doing and present a positive side to negative stories about the council.
As a result Byner would finally be able to knock his radio-rival Jeremy Cordeaux, Andrew Peacock's son-in-law, from his position as Adelaide's top rating jock, and Harbison could fulfil his political dreams.
Harbison is wealthy Adelaidian who failed as a Liberal candidate for state seat of Adelaide that basically takes in Adelaide City Council area. He tried to succeed retiring Liberal MP Michael Armitage, but was knocked off by former Lord Mayor Jane-Lomax Smith running for ALP.
For someone who seemed to have had a rather rocky relationship with the media, Byner's offer must have seemed like a great solution.
Since he became mayor in 2002, Harbison is said to have gone through two waves of sackings of Town Hall spin doctors, with ex-journo and ex-Liberal MP Craig Bildstein one of the poor sods who has come and gone in this time.
And only the weekend before last, Harbison was advertising through headhunters for a new communications professional".
CASH FOR NO COMMENT IN ADELAIDE
The Adelaide Advertiser leads page one today with details of how suspended 5AA shock-jock Leon Byner ran a substantial cash for no comment operation.
“Radio talkback host Leon Byner has told companies he can help prevent public issues festering into media debate in return for thousands of dollars.
“Details of Byner's so-called job applications are revealed for the first time in a letter the Radio 5AA host sent to SA Water - an offer which was subsequently refused.
“The letter, obtained by The Advertiser, is dated November 3, 2003, and offers the services of Byner's private company Bilote Pty Ltd for $10,000 – payable in advance.
“The letter is signed by Byner but makes no reference to his role as a top-rating morning broadcaster.
“The letter offers three two-hour seminars over three weeks to address such issues as:
· HOW to deal with media inquiries.
· HOW to prevent customer issues festering into media debate.
· HOW to respond to customers who have gone to the media.
· HOW to be proactive in preventing public duress from impacting on SA Water's image as a can-do utility.
· HOW to handle operational issues publicly.
· HOW to handle the politics of water issues without stepping on ministerial toes.
· PREVENTING a customer becoming a political football.
“The letter also requests SA Water provide ‘a list of their concerns and issues so that we can target these seminars with pinpoint effectiveness in our service to you’. ”
The Tizer also carries the yarn you, dear subscriber, have known for donkey’s – how Byner offered to sell interviewees tapes of their own appearances on his show – as well as a few other examples of what you might call “a nice little earner”.
The paper also links him to another electricity company, AGL – electricity prices being the most sensitive state political issue in South Australia at the moment.
With Byner currently suspended and inquires left right and centre, today’s front page is being seen in some circles as the last nail in the coffin his radio career suddenly turned into.
On the other hand, the Advertiser is emerging as the big winner from all of this as it gains an unexpected credibility.
When the news broke last year that senior journalist Colin James was leaving to head up the Adelaide office of spinners CPR, the few hacks left in town started reading the last rites over the city’s only daily.
However, word is that the paper has had a mountain of stuff ready to go on the skanky shock-jock and have been drip feeding it to the punters for a week now.
But how did they get it? Civic reporter Andrew Hough had the by-line on the first article and has been in on the rest, but more and more the name of former Adelaide Town Hall spinner Craig Bildstein keeps popping up alongside Hough. Today Bildstein had the lead. Don’t say that Bildo, rather than emptying the stationery cabinet when he left, was noble enough to only take home papers that had already been used one side?
ADELAIDE LORD MAYOR “CLEARED” IN CASH FOR COMMENT ROW
Millionaire Lord Mayor of Adelaide Michael Harbison has been cleared by an internal review of any wrongdoing in his dealings with 5AA shock-jock Leon Byner, according to an internal memo obtained by the Advertiser newspaper.
The memo, by Adelaide City Council CEO Mal Hemmerling, says “I can confirm that there have been no arrangements, contracts, employment or payments between the council and Mr Byner… Neither the
legalisation nor council policy requires the Lord Mayor and/or councillors to disclose arrangements they have in seeking advice that is of a private nature”.
Not that private? Harbison spent big on PR and media advice in his unsuccessful bid to win the state seat of Adelaide for the Libs in 2002 and to get his current job.
The ABA will still have to examine Byner’s dealings – and Harbison refused to answer any questions last night about his involvement with the shock-jock, according to the Tiser.
Questions are also flowing thicker and faster than ever over the part played in the breaking of the story by Advertiser journo Craig Bildstein – a former strategic communications adviser at the Town Hall.
Bildstein has produced many articles on politics since he rejoined the Tiser last year without any declaration that he was chief of staff to former Liberal Premier John Olsen and a Liberal minister,
Ian Evans, who is tipped to be challenging for the party leadership at a time when the paper has run several critical opinion pieces on incumbent Rob Kerin.
While Civic Reporter Andrew Hough has had most of the bylines, there is much speculation over Bildstein’s role.
CRAIG BILDSTEIN - HIDING HIS LIGHT?
Former Victorian Liberal MP and chief of staff to South Australian Liberal Premier John Olsen, Craig Bildstein, seems to have come over all humble since he returned to his old career as a journalist at the Adelaide Advertiser.
He's produced all sorts of stuff for the Tizer over the last couple of weeks: front-page stories, comment pieces, opinion columns - you name it. Most have featured politics - but none of them have mentioned his involvement in shaping the issues he is writing on.
Is he hiding his light under a bushel?
BILDO AT IT AGAIN
Former Mildura MP turned humble Adelaide Advertiser journo Craig Bildstein is at it again.
His love affair with his former boss, Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison, is still raging hot and strong on page one of today’s Tizer.
“Revealed: Lord Mayor's angry history”, the Tizer screams.
“Former lord mayor Jane Lomax-Smith was yelled at and physically intimidated by Michael Harbison when he was a city councillor.
“A visibly angry Mr Harbison confronted Dr Lomax-Smith after a media conference, shouting and shaking his fist at her.
“Witnesses to the confrontation on North Tce feared Mr Harbison – now the Lord Mayor – was going to turn violent.
“Sensing her fear as the incident escalated, Dr Lomax-Smith's then chief-of-staff Mick Petrovski stood between the pair.
“A passerby, Peter Goers – now the ABC's evening radio presenter – made several gestures to Mr Harbison to back off before he tried to pull him away. Dr Lomax-Smith – now a State Cabinet minister – returned immediately to the Town Hall to report the incident to the then chief executive Jude Munro…”
Read on, however, and you discover that all this happened five years ago. So why is it the lead? Why is it even news in 2004?
Why is there – yet again – no mention that Bildstien left a job at the Town Hall when Harbison became Lord Mayor?
BILDO, HARBISON AND ABC ADELAIDE'S MORNING DUO
How Adelaide Advertiser journalist Craig Bildstein (a fromer press secretary at the Adelaide City Council) created havoc at the Town Hall.
Adelaide’s two biggest Crikey fans, ABC Radio’s didactic duo of Matt Abraham and David Bevan, discussed the issue with the Lord Mayor after one of Bildo’s piece appeared.
Here is what we are told is paraphrased summary of their conversation. Oddly, Harbison’s recollections and Bildo’s account appear to disagree:
Host: Are you an angry man?
Harbison: No, no, I'm not an angry man.
Host: Were you an angry man at a media event with Jane Lomax-Smith four, five years ago now at the proposed announcement of a skate park?
Harbison No. It was a long time ago, but I wasn't an angry man. One of the things that was bubbling along on that day… There was a difficulty in that there was a police investigation into the activities of paedophiles at a council facility, this was an investigation that I didn't want to compromise perhaps that might explain why I was reluctant to answer some questions on the day
Host: As you explained it to me this morning there'd been a bit of argy-bargy going on. Jane Lomax-Smith wanted the skate park at a location that was effectively on the outskirts of the CBD, you wanted it in what you regarded as a more visible location inside the CBD. Is that correct?
Host: She was Mayor at the time?
Host: She had made an announcement out at the site - her preferred site. You bounced along there, I assume…
Harbison: That's right, yes.
Host: And you weren't happy?
Harbison: No, I was not happy with the location of the skate park.
Host: That's not a crime, by the way, being unhappy
Harbison: Thank you.
Host: But if you read this article by Craig Bildstien, he was, until recently, communications person with the council…
Harbison: The chap that's written this article worked for the council media department.
Host: Yeah. And he's come to events with you. I think he accompanied you to one of our museum outside broadcasts at the library you rated him highly.
Harbison: Yes I did. I thought he was quite good at council. I'm certainly concerned about his activities now.
Host: Yeah. According to the 'Tiser witnesses to the confrontation on North Terrace feared that Mr Harbison was going to turn violent and that Dr Lomax-Smith's then Chief of Staff, Mick Petrovski, stood between the pair… a passer-by, Peter Goers ... now the ABC's evening radio presenter, made several gestures to Mr Harbison to back off before he tried to pull him away.
Harbison: Peter Goers has just called me to say that he's appalled by the article… said nothing of the kind.
Host So there was no… Did you shake your fist?
Harbison: Absolutely not. There were plenty of journalists there. If this was case ... would have been said so at the time.
Host: So did you behave poorly at all during this disagreement?
Harbison: I don't believe so.
Host: What's going on? Why is this on the front page of our daily newspaper?
Harbison: It does all the attributes of a smear campaign. I've attempted to call the Editor of The Advertiser. He has not returned my call.
Host: But you want an explanation?
Harbison: I do think it's very disappointing journalism it has so much that's without attribution. Peter Goers has called me to say he's also appalled.
Host: Well do you think there's perhaps a feeling, editorially, at The Advertiser that you got off lightly out of the Byner issue. [Editor] Melvin Mansell said this to us on Friday he editorialised along those lines very clearly.
Harbison: I do think that's inappropriate too. This is a matter that's under investigation by the ABA. I'm certainly very happy to assist that inquiry.
Host: Where to from here?
Harbison: I guess life goes on. The pages of The Advertiser will continue to be filled by interesting stories. Perhaps tomorrow Martians Eat My Baby. That’s the tradition of these sorts of tabloid.