Today Tonight demolishes Draper

By Crikey editor Stephen Mayne

Well,
Today Tonight certainly delivered the big blows against Trish Draper
and all those who have tried to protect her over the past week. You can
imagine the anger that people like the PM and Special Minister of State
Erica Betz are now feeling having seen the full revelations courtesy of
the female Draper staffer turned whistleblower who delivered all the
smoking guns.

Derek Sands wasn’t even Draper’s boyfriend at
the time of the junket, she was a free holiday to Europe and a bit on
the side for one of Rupert Murdoch’s saucier Australian photographers.
If the News Ltd papers had the smarts, they would turn the embarrassing
saga into a positive with the exclusive insight from their employee,
“My $10,000 dirty fortnight in Europe on the taxpayer tab”.

However,
we get the impression Derek is not keen to talk. And why would you when
you’ve just been outed on national television cheating on your
long-term girlfriend with someone you dealt with on a professional
basis? Not only has Sands been looking for a politically-connected PR
firm in Adelaide over the past week, he also has been running his own
legal campaign against Today Tonight. Shortly after one judge lifted
the injunction granted to Draper last Friday, lawyers for Sands
apparently lobbed their own new application for the injunction to be
reinstated.

A suppression order apparently remains in place
over part of the story which relates to an old criminal investigation.
Under the South Australian Evidence Act, suppression orders usually
only apply to ongoing criminal investigations or court cases and there
is no ongoing criminal investigation involving Sands at the moment. Ah
Adelaide, once it against its judiciary is confirming its status as the
suppression capital of Australia, despite the best efforts of a variety
of Victorian Supreme Court judges in recent months.

Whilst
most observers have been attacking Draper’s strategic decision to
injunct Today Tonight eight days ago, her legal assault extended to
launching defamation proceedings against the program last Friday before
the story had even gone to air. How so? Apparently the promo was
defamatory.

Gee, this doesn’t give one much confidence as
Draper’s Liberal colleague and federal Attorney General, Philip
Ruddock, puts up these new national defamation laws which have been
unanimously condemned for taking Australia’s anti-free speech
defamation laws even further into the dark ages.

Finally,
don’t forget Mrs Draper (as she always calls herself!) is a member of a
group of Federal MPs called the Lyons Forum, which supports
“conservative family values”. Does this include junkets with toyboys?

Expect
this story to run for much of the rest of the week. The PM, Senator
Betz and everyone else will have to admit the line run on Seven News
and The 7.30 Report last night – that the definition of spouse on
overseas trips is much tougher than for domestic travel and the
Sands-Draper relationship in no way fell within those guidelines.

Draper’s
chances of holding Makin are now dashed. The Liberals should think long
and hard about preselecting a new candidate. But what what would this
mean for Draper’s life-time pension if she walked voluntarily?

Then
you have the new travel entitlements rules which John Howard will
unveil to his colleagues tomorrow and the inevitable details of several
Labor MPs who also broke the overseas spousal travel rules and should
now pay the money back.

Draper goes spinning down the drainpipe

By Hugo Kelly ( Hugo @crikey.com.au )
Crikey’s man in the Canberra press gallery

As
Trish Draper’s political life unfolded on TV before the nation last
night you could only wonder why, instead of taking action to prevent
Today Tonight running the travel rorts story, she didn’t simply gag
herself. Her fumbling, foolish attempts to cover her tracks when she
learned that tabloid TV was onto her just got her into more quicksand.

Hers
is a classic case of too much spin, and not enough truth. Ironic,
really, for a pollie whose political career was built on conservative
family values.

One lesson to be learned from her saga is
beware the tabloid TV journo scorned. Ganging up with her ex-partner
and an ex-staffer, and freed from Draper’s attempts to gag the story in
the courts, Today Tonight’s Graham Archer lifted the lid on her use of
public funds to advance her private love life.

Or, as he put it: “The pro-family pollie could turn out to be two-timing Trish”.

Ouch.

Is
there anything else to know about the member for Makin and her travel
buddy ex-boyfriend Derek Sands? Hopefully not. But there’s plenty to
learn from this about the deceptive way this government handles damage
control. It’s almost as clumsy as Draper’s own attempt at public
affairs.

This is Draper today on Adelaide ABC radio: “I actually took the trip, ummmm, under the entitlements”. Righto.

And Draper with John Laws:

Draper: “(Under the travel guidlines set down by the Remuneration tribunal) you can’t take anyone you like…”

Laws: “Well you did.”

Draper: “Well John, you can say that from your point of view, but that was not my viewpoint at the time.”

And here was how her senior colleagues came to her rescue over the past 24 hours:

Amanda Vanstone: “She has followed the rules. You’re not suggesting she didn’t?”

Well,
yes Minister. It’s clear she breached the Parliamentary Entitlements
Act 1990, setting out that an MP can only be accompanied by a husband
or wife, a bona fide spouse, on taxpayer-funded international travel.

Then
she got Special Minister of State Erica Betz to write her a letter
backing up he claims letter – despite the fact the letter only covered
domestic travel guidelines, when hers was an international jaunt.

And
finally, earlier today, she received sneaky backdoor support from PM,
who finally persuaded her to fork out five grand for Derek Sands’ share
of the trip.

Then there was Liberal backbencher Warren
Entsch, who chose to shoot the messenger: “I just find it interesting
that suddenly you raise an issue now and from my understanding what the
member (has) done was totally and perfectly within her entitlement.”

According
to Entsch, there may need to be scrutiny of the accuracy of the media’s
portrayal of the Draper story and whether media organisations or
journalists were pursuing particular agendas.

“Sometimes, you know, the scrutineers need to be scrutinised as well.”

We
prefer Independent MP Peter Andren’s answer: “Wind up any entitlement
to taxpayers trips to anyone bar perhaps the PM’s wife on certain
circumstances. And publish the reasons for travel in advance on the
Internet. Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab for what is a
publicly-paid nanny by the partner?”

For the record, this was what Draper said in a personal explanation to Parliament today:

“I
refer to newspaper reports and television promotions regarding my
overseas study travel that I undertook in the year 2000. It has been
claimed that it did not fall within the rules pertaining to MPs travel
entitlements, such claims are false and defamatory. These claims have
further been used to make personal attacks on me and my family, which
are again false and defamatory.”

She also used the phrase
“cheque book journalism” when chatting to, of all people, reinstated
5AA morning host Leon Byner at 10.10am Adelaide time today. The only
time that Seven pulled out the cheque book was to pay its lawyers
fighting Draper and to pay for the FOI request which yielded so little.

Seven
is to be applauded for going national with an important 13-minute story
on politics instead of the usual tabloid TV diet of miracle cures and
new diets. Let’s hope it rates well and they are encouraged to pursue
more good investigative journalism as this exercise most certainly was.

Nine tries a stopper on TT

By Terry Television

Nine
tried a half-hearted stopper to the Today Tonight effort with a promo
in the news for a quick, simple yarn that was nothing more than
spackhiller at the end of the progam. Peter Andren, the independent
from NSW and Ted Mack, the former independent from North Sydney
provided comment.

Today Tonight should have tried for
either to bolster its yarn, which was a good effort nevertheless. Nine
tied their effort to a poll, which is what Seven could have done at the
end of their report. An interesting feature was that Nine ran
considerably overtime, the program finishing closer to 7.05 pm rather
than the usual out time of just before 7pm.

Nine’s other
efforts came from Queensland, a brave boy, statues weeping rose oil
tears in southern Brisbane and another example of medical incompetence
at a Queensland hospital. A good show except for the gaping hole on
Trish Draper. Which is Nine and A Current Affairs fault. In the cuts of
the past few years, Adelaide and Perth have been downgraded in the ACA
empire, with more resources devoted to Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Henry Thornton on Trish Draper

No
jokes please. Henry Thornton thinks this story on Today Tonight and the
broader issue of Parliamentary travel raises a serious issue: http://www.henrythornton.com/article.asp?article_id=2598

Today Tonight’s Trish triumph

Terry Television looks at the ratings for Today Tonight on Monday night

It’s amazing what a good, solid story will do for the ratings, with the
help of a publicity campaign paid for by a political party and
indirectly, the long-suffering taxpayer. And so it was with Today
Tonight’s expose on Trish Draper, her then ‘friend’ and their travels
to Europe. Or as TT promos on the Seven network blared, “Two Timing
Trish!”

TT finished second nationally with 1.54 million viewers, just behind
the favourite, National Nine News. And in Sydney it was first with
467,901 people watching, beating Friends and Who Wants to be a
Millionaire.

Of course its not every day you get help from a dumbo like Trish
Draper, the South Australian branch of the Liberal Party who financed
her first legal action, a judge, or the Liberal Party-driven Federal
Government which supported her. Dream publicity and to its credit the
TT story lived up to the hype and blew the opposition away.

Poor Ray Martin and A Current Affair, with a pathetic stopper/spoiler
piece of spackfiller was ninth in Sydney with 391,539 people and eighth
nationally with 1.344 million, almost 200,000 shy of TT.

ACA had a heart-tugging mix of stories from Queensland that on a normal
night would have worked well, but the Trish Draper story on TT was just
too powerful, as was the exclusive interview with the mother of
hyperactive rugby league player, Willie Mason.That was a heart tugger.

The Trish Draper story was a solid piece of journalism and should be a
reminder to the managements of Today Tonight and A Current Affair that
people will watch good, hard news stories. Cracking 1.5 million viewers
nationally was the biggest audience TT has pulled since buying the
Craig Stevens story and the only place where they were beaten by ACA
was in Brisbane.

The accepted wisdom at the moment is diet and consumer-based drivel
that has sent viewers to the kitchen or gym but the experiment of 13
minutes of uninterrupted investigative journalism clearly worked and
would have delighted the bosses in Sydney.

So will TT hold the winning edge over ACA? Probably not. ACA with Ray
is still a ‘habit’ type of viewing experience for many viewers. But
nationally, more than 230,000 people switched from Nine News to other
programs at 6.30pm. More than 70,000 return at 7 pm to watch Frasier.
That’s not a vote of confidence in Ray.

Elsewhere on Monday night, Nine’s move to switch Donald Trump’s The
Apprentice to 9.30 pm from the same time Tuesday worked in that it did
better than the new time slot for the Seven program 24. But overall it
failed and Nine appears to have lost the gamble with ABC’s Andrew
Denton and his Enough Rope interview program outperforming everyone at
9.30 pm Monday. It finished tenth in Sydney with 387,002 viewers, well
ahead of Trump and 10th nationally, with a very healthy 1.29 million
viewers. That for a program with an oldish interview with cricketer
Glenn McGrath and his wife which featured discussion about her battle
with cancer.

Nine won Monday night in Sydney and Nationally thanks to the
performance of the news, Millionaire, Friends and Frasier. The latter
were both repeat episodes, showing how ‘rusted on’ viewers have become
to these programs. Both have high production values, appeal to the
audience and are very well written.

But one feature again evident last night that while Nine still wins,
its share is now peaking under the 30 per cent share mark it held
earlier in the year, both nationally and in the critical Sydney market.
That’s a sign that Ten and Seven are both chipping away, while viewing
numbers seem to be down a little.

What Crikey told subscribers before the TT story went to air

Check it all out here: http://www.crikey.com.au/politics/2004/05/21-0007.html

Peter Fray

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