A subscriber writes:

I hope you caught the extraordinary performance of Hetty Johnston on her ‘sponsors’ program this morning (Sept 29). A dummy spit of epic proportion regarding the format of the interview. Now that Hetty has slammed Sunrise, will she return the money they stumped up for her candidacy? The amusing and entertaining episode only seemed to underline the error in selecting this well known political operative for a format purportedly designed to support political unknowns having a crack at a seat in Canberra.

Given the regular contributions of David Koch to this forum I’m sure all subscribers who witnessed this morning’s ripping live TV would appreciate his views on the whole affair.

We emailed Sunrise‘s executive producer Adam Boland for an explanation and he replied:

Hi Crikey,

We invited Hetty on the show this morning to talk about issues other than child abuse. After all, any member of the house of review needs to be more than a single issue candidate.

Hetty felt she couldn’t provide answers to topics in the allocated time (the same time we allocate to any pollie or wannabe pollie appearing on our show) – so instead chose to launch an attack on the concept of Vote for Me.

Hetty is a passionate woman – which we admire. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience than she feels many people are out to “get her” – even those trying to help her.

The other Vote for Me candidates remain happy with the process. They understand that I have no intention of turning Sunrise into Lateline or The Hetty Johnston Variety Show.

She had a chance this morning to convince Queenslanders to vote for her – but if our soapbox is anything to go by, she convinced many NOT to vote for her.

Adam Boland

Hetty Johnston hits back

I feel I must respond to the bulldust posted by Adam Boland, executive producer of Channel Seven’s Sunrise on September 29. Okay, for the record here is what really happened.

Sunrise’sVote for Me was ambushed by someone or something – that much was clear to anyone with even a passing interest. Those of us considered becoming involved understood that we would compromise our credibility but, speaking for myself, I figured that the hype and potential gain was worth the risk. After all, I was trying to change the culture on how we as a society deal with child sexual assault, not an easy task and so I could use all the help I could get. David Koch was bursting with enthusiasm – this would be brilliant! I thought that what I lost on the merry-go-round, in terms of other media, I would pick up on the swings. I knew I was taking a huge leap of faith.

As it turned out, neither the swings or the merry-go-round paid dividends. None of the candidates were happy and many descriptive and angry emails transpired. I have these on record. At the end of the day however, we collectively decided, in the interests of peace, that any publicity was better than none so we buckled under and accepted less than was the hype and rhetoric of the Vote for Me concept. We defended the program in the mainstream media and tried to ignore what we saw as the betrayal that had been perpetrated upon us. This I suspect, applied especially to me since as far as I know, I did more media than others defending the Vote for Me concept.

And so the charade went on and I was complicit in it. The crunch came when on Tuesday 28th September I got a phone call from Sunrise confirming my availability for my final allotted 2.5 minutes of fame the next morning. I was told they would ask me about the issue of child care and then asked what my answer would be. I told them. Then I was asked what I had been up to in my campaign so I told them that I had launched my autobiography, In the best interests of the Child in Queensland on this day and that on the coming Sunday we had organised a Convoy for Kids which was looking like becoming an awesome event.

An hour later the same women rang back to tell me that they had changed the format (clearly they didn’t like my answer to their first question so they changed it – that is censorship from my point of view) and that now they wanted to ask me three new questions – one on child care, education and one on environment and that I had to answer succinctly in one sentence and by the way she demanded, what will your answer be? We need to know now. They wanted details prior to going to air. I was feeling like I had been intruded upon. Did they think they had some right to bully me, to intimidate me, to own me? I took a deep breath, let them know I was unhappy. Then I got home and informed my family and my campaign team. They were incensed. How dare they censor you! Was the common response? And so I went to bed but didn’t sleep a wink that night tossing and turning and tossing up what I would do the next morning.

It was early when I got out of bed, had my shower and decided that I would either not go to the interview at all or I would go and play by their rules. I didn’t have the courage to take them to task on national television particularly since they have the microphone and they have 3 hours every morning, five days a week until the election to crucify me if that is their wish. I decided to go and play by the rules they had set but I wasn’t happy.

It wasn’t until David Koch asked his first question and I started to provide my unintentional boring, parrot political type response that I suddenly found myself saying something else entirely.

Bottom line, I will not be compromised by anyone and that is why I am running as an Independent. I am not a puppet on anyone’s string. Even if this costs me the election I will sleep well at night. I did what was right. Editorial control is not appropriate – Sunrise can not and will not take these liberties with me. These are my genuine feelings on the matter.

When I read Adam Boland contribution to Crikey it makes me cringe. What a load of self-serving crap. Please tell me how anyone can make any sort of meaningful comment about the environment in one sentence, and I know the environment since this is another passion of mine. Are we talking global warning, degradation of soil, tree clearing, water quality, nuclear waste? I did not want to waste my time making some glib, ridiculous non-event split second comment on something so important as environment since that would just make me sound like all the rest of the politicians who make convenient motherhood statements. That is not why I decided to run in the Senate. I am different.

Adam Boland’s allegation that I believe “people are out to get me’ is benign and says more about Adam Boland than it does about me. Enough said. Rubbish.

The other Vote for Me candidates remain as unhappy but resigned to the situation as I am but like me, decided to accept something rather than nothing. It is untrue to say they are happy with Vote for Me and I can prove it even if their stories have changed since they have witnessed the wrath of Sunrise against those who dare to dissent. It is also untrue to suggest that I don’t think Vote For Me was a good idea – I certainly do. It was a fantastic opportunity but sadly, it never really happened and that is the shame.

I stood up for what I believe in – free, unedited speech and even if this episode costs me the election, I will sleep well with a clear conscience. I don’t ever want to compromise my position of independence and accountability.

I wish all the other candidates well in their dealings with Sunrise and in the election and I hold no grudge against anyone – to each our own. Good Luck and bring on the Independent voice for Australia.

Hetty Johnston
Independent for the Senate – Queensland
Founder and spokesperson – Bravehearts Inc.

Another perspective on Vote for Me

Now, here is a very angry email from Kane Winther (unhappy ote for Me candidate in South Aust) sent to Adam Boland.

Good morning Adam,

I am the everyday Australian I think optimised the Vote For Me search. I put my hand up because I believed that the only thing in my way to being able to contribute positively towards the running of this country and allowing the people to regain their voice was the money needed to run a campaign. I was led to believe that Channel Seven was going to give me that “National Exposure”, to use your own words, which would level the playing field. This has not happened and I am left to believe that you enticed me into the program under false pretences. I believe you had the right intentions to begin with but then backed away for no other reason than being weak and now I feel scammed.

I have received many reasons from your staff for your drop in interest in the show that it is insulting to my intelligence. Not only are you prepared to abandon the everyday Australian you lured into your world of media lies by misleading comments but you have let your viewers down. For the reasons detailed below (which are not exhaustive) I will not be watching Sunrise from this day forward. I would prefer to watch a show that has integrity and honesty as part of its values, not one that tows its own political lines and is willing to lie to the general public. (I can prove this).

Since emailing you last and withdrawing from the 2 TV spots you offered that was not equal and did not level the playing field (which has since proven itself to be a good decision) I have not said a bad word to anyone about Sunrise. I thought about it but decided it was not sporting and I did not want to bring myself down to your level.

This is about to change this morning. I understand that the contract we signed (4 times in 3 days) has you covered but as an everyday Australian I have the community on my side and also the matrix of the contract. I expected more (from what Seven told me) and so did the viewers.

I object to Koshy trying to gain points on this mornings segment by stating to Hetty that she was the only candidate who felt that the Vote For Me search has let her down when he clearly knows this is false. I have emailed your show on many occasions expressing my disgust and also to simply get information on the program. All I get in return are emails that clearly show you are trying to defend the in-defendable, attacking my intelligence and knee jerk reactions showing you are not even reading our points.

Presenter Mel said that Sunrise has lived up to the hype. I disagree and so does everyone I talk to about the show. We only need to look at tapes of the shows before and after.

In a press release by Channel Seven it stated that we were to receive extensive media training in Sydney and we would meet the press this has not happened and I would like to know why. Actually I do not want to know why as you will only insult my intelligence again and I have already lost faith in you. The idea of the show was to give us the national exposure needed to run a Senate campaign and the time allocated was lacking at best. (Again I am not the only person in the community who believes this). We were aware that we had to run our own campaigns but we expected equal time on the show.

You do not want to treat us like a party but then you get us to divide the air time between us. If we were to get equal time then I would have had the opportunity to appear once a week, not once for 4 minutes shared with someone else and then for another 4 minutes shared with 2 others, that’s it. This is not equal time. Twice is not equal time. Liberal and Labor get a spot once per week. I know I am not as news worthy as these two parties but it is you trying to tell me I was offered equal time.

It seems that maybe I was not meant to win by looking at the other candidates who won from the other states. By showing our tapes at the last minute and also only 10 seconds of it, how were the community meant to make a valid judgement on who would represent them the best? The votes would have come down to previous knowledge of the candidates. Lets look at the other candidates

Hetty – already running for the Senate before Vote for Me
Richard – already running for the Senate
James – ran for Senate before
Steve – ran for Senate before
Alicia – well look at her resume, she is destined to probably being our first female PM one day
Me – Everyday Australian who was relying on the media training

On numerous occasions different people have tried to get information on myself from Channel Seven but were told that you could not give it or did not have it. Yes you did and yes you could abiding by the authorisation that you requested from us. An excuse from Seven was that there had been a break down in communication and all those who tried to contact them would be contacted back and given the information. It has been weeks and this has not happened and now it is to late.

I thank you for the $10,000. It has gone to paying election expenses that I committed to on winning the show. I committed these expenses on the premise that I was going to get national exposure. I am serious about representing this great State but have appeared to be a novelty candidate and I blame Channel Seven for this entirely. I have tried to talk to groups and organisations but am told that they are not interested in me for 2 reasons. The first being that they think I am getting an unfair advantage by being with Channel Seven and the second is that when I tell them about the TV time spots offered they reply “Well if Seven lost interest in you maybe you are not worthy of the Senate”. This is wrong.

I believed the Vote For Me search was a great idea to allow members of the community who have the ability to represent their State to have the opportunity to do so. All I have found is that Seven desperately wanted to drop interest in the segment, offered less that they indicated they would and has been a negative aspect to my campaign rather than a positive one.

Thankyou for your (lack of) time.

Kane Winther
Independent Senate Candidate

Meanwhile, a happier Vote for Me candidate writes:

Morning all,

I missed live coverage of the Vote for Me segment this morning, but just to let you know that I am very happy to be getting the coverage I have. I am really busy and mentioning that I am the Vote for Me candidate has opened some doors anyway. We are getting miles more coverage than most independents and, for whatever reason, from my point of view both the Government and the Opposition are talking more about small business. Given that getting small business on the agenda is my main objective and having realised from day one that actually winning was like hoping to win the Melbourne Cup, I reckon we have succeeded to a certain extent anyway. One never knows of course, but I am sure that at least some of the changes in Government and Opposition interest in small business has been due to the Sunrise Vote for Me coverage. So, thanks!

Cheers, James