Did WA Opposition Leader Colin Barnett strike a deal with The West
Australia to prevent them writing negative stories about him? And if so, why
didn’t the ABC report it when their state political reporter had the
story?
Whatever the ABC may be accused of, it certainly cannot be accused of fearless political reporting in Western Australia.

It has retracted a news item that it did not put to air.

On 1 June ABC, state political reporter Rebecca Carmody filed the
following story on a Western Australian Liberal parliamentary party
meeting:

“Mr Barnett addressed Liberal MPs at a party room meeting
this morning. It’s understood he told MPs he expected their loyalty,
after three years of speculation about a challenge to his position. The
ABC has been told Mr Barnett was challenged by at least two colleagues
who told him loyalty is a two way street. They said the Party didn’t
show loyalty to two Upper House MPs who were dumped in recent
preselections. It is also understood Mr Barnett told colleagues The
West Australian newspaper would no longer run negative stories about
him quoting unnamed senior Liberals.”

Carmody’s report of the Liberal Party room meeting was true in every
respect as a number of Liberal members have confirmed to Crikey.
Barnett most certainly did claim at the meeting that The West
Australian newspaper would no longer report negative stories about him
which were given by unnamed Liberals.

Later on the same day the ABC ran a further story in which Barnett
denied that he had struck a deal with The West Australian newspaper
to prevent negative stories about him.

Barnett of course was not accused of saying that he had done any deal
with The West Australian, but he was accused of claiming to know what
their future editorial policy was going to be in respect to unnamed
sources.

Barnett was quoted by the ABC as saying: “Other than the fact
that I certainly gave a warning to members of parliament not to speak
to the media and try and make gossip and whatever else in an anonymous
way. I’ve always said to members of parliament that if you’ve got
something to say and you really think you’re going to say it, then at
least have the courage to put your name to it.

Remarkably, first thing next morning the ABC began running the
following piece:

“In our News bulletins at 4.00 pm and 8.00 pm
yesterday we broadcast a story concerning the Opposition Leader Colin
Barnett and his address to his Liberal colleagues. In that story the
ABC reported that there was an arrangement between Mr Barnett and the
West Australian Newspaper in regard to the publishing of Newspaper
articles. The ABC now accepts there has never been any such arrangement
and the report was wrong in that regard.”

The ABC’s Carmody had never claimed “there was an arrangement between Barnett and The West Australian”.

In spite of the extraordinary run The West has been giving Barnett in
recent months, it seems remarkable that it could demand and receive
such a retraction from the ABC. Interestingly, The West neither
reported Barnett’s party room speech, not the least the exchange about
loyalty nor did it deny his absurd and clearly untrue claim that it
would not in future be quoting unnamed Liberal Party sources.

Peter Fray

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