This month we drew attention to News Ltd columnist Glenn Milne’s
nascent plans to combine journalism with punditry. Now it seems his
wife, lobbyist Jannette Cotterell, is blurring her own lines of
responsibility.

When is a journalist not a journalist? When she’s a lobbyist for a gambling monopoly while pretending to be a journalist.

That’s
the situation Jannette Cotterell – a former TV journalist turned
influence peddler for Liberal lobbyists Crosby Textor – found
herself in last Friday.

Probably
the most dishonest PR campaign being run at the moment is the attempt
by the TAB tote betting monopolies to get Governments to ban
competition from internet betting exchanges.

And
Cotterell is in the thick of things, orchestrating a media conference
in Parliament House Canberra on behalf of the NSW TAB,using
the Wesley Mission and the Salvation Army to run an attack on betting
exchanges (specifically the UK-based company, Betfair).

But things turned nasty when Betfair hijacked the press conference, and Cotterell responded venemously.

For
the record, your correspondent agrees with Terry McCrann in his
syndicated News Ltd column last week that the principles of fair
competition directs that “any suggestion of banning exchanges would be an outrage”.

His
words are worth quoting: “Whenever a monopoly demands that politicians
ban potential competitors (conveniently citing some public
benefit) I’m reminded of Nazi Herman Goering’s most famous quote. In
his case, it was the mention of ‘culture’ that made himwant to
reach for his revolver. In the case of the NSW TAB’s frenzied, even
hyperbolic, campaign against betting exchanges (actually, just
potential exchanges) I want to reach for my hypocrisy meter.”

Crikey doesn’t quote Nazis, but it’s a point well made.

While
the betting behemoths run a campaign claiming exchanges will ruin the
social fabric, destroy the industry and bring down pestilence
from the sky, they have been quietly making plans to create their own
exchages – which allow punters to bet direct with each other without
the middle man TAB taking out their 15%.

We thought the
height of the hypocrisy was reached last week when the TABs wheeled out
illegal bookies’ friend, Mark Waugh, to back theircampaign. Talk about pots and kettles.

But Friday’s performance by Cotterell even outdid Waugh.

First,
some context. The worthy Wesleyans wheeled out by Cotterell to support
her gabmling clients’ campaign accept juicy funding dollars from the
TABs. And it soon became clear that the man from the Salvos, John
Dalziel, did not even know what a betting exchange was – or howit worked.

The
betting exchange issue is reaching boiling point, with Cabinet
deliberating about the TAB’s attempts to ban them. On Friday, Betfair
communications director Mark Davies was in Parliament House doing some
lobbying of his own at the time and wandered into theconference.

After
listening to the two Church advocates speak, he introduced himself to
the assembled media at a point when an explanation about how a betting
exchange worked was sought by journalists.

Davies’ intervention suddenly made a ho-hum story much bigger.

Davies outlined Betfair’s operations and the company’s work in
relation to problem gambling with Gamcare in the UK, and expressed
Betfair’s desire to undertake similar work with the Salvos and WesleyMission in Australia.

Wesley’s
Reverend Chester Carter and the Salvo’s Dalziel then conceded that
their issue was really with internet gambling per se, not just exchanges.

Then,
extraordinarily, Cotterell (assuming the personae of reporter) then
began to level accusatory questions of Davies, suggesting that Betfair was not dissimilar to the suppliers of porn.

She
was incandescent with rage. She asked Davies to confirm that NSW
Senator Bill Heffernan had told Davies during a meeting the daybefore that Betfair was worse than porn on the Net.

All this for the benefit of the assembled media. She had not declared who she was or that she was not a reporter.

For the record, Crikey will do this on her behalf.

Aside
from her apparent view that she can “buy” space in the People’s House
and seek to silence those with opposing opinions, Cotterell’scasual morphing between “journalist” and lobbyist is a worry.

Jannette
Cotterell is an influence peddler who used to be a journalist who seems
to think that she can move between the two rolesat a whim, depending on who’s barrow she’s being paid to push.

It is an identity crisis her husband Glenn Milne seems to share.

Before
this gets nasty for the Milne/Cotterell family, Glenn and Janet need to
sit down over dinner and work out just where the ethical line lies.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW