The Advertiser in Adelaide a story, Tales from the trenches of a leader’s rise and fall, last week on a new book, The Natasha Factor,
by her former press secretary, Alison Rogers, that “portrays the South
Australian Senator as a reluctant leader whose bid to unify an odd-ball
band of Democrats was doomed from the start”.

“It details her bitter relationship with leadership rival Senator Meg
Lees, why she trusted few people,” journalist Craig Clarke reported.

“Natasha hasn’t offered her input for the book and I haven’t asked,” Rogers is quoted as saying.

Her old boss is firmer. “A media
adviser to the Senator said she had had no involvement with the book
and was not aware of its contents,” The Advertiser said.

Rogers, a former ABC staffer, is not
particularly highly regarded. The book is published on November 10 but
our review arrived last week and never before has Crikey received so
many name checks in print.

Crikey scores nine mentions in the book and this was one of our favourites:

“Natasha maintained that
whatever the circumstances no one was to engage with Crikey or respond
to it. As far as she was concerned if any member of her staff did we
would be stooping to the level of our opponents and that was
unacceptable.”

There is no doubt that Natasha is
intelligent, talented, engaging and a more than capable media
performer– but she is also utterly thin skinned and incapable of
withstanding criticism, no matter how it was put.

That meant her leadership of the
Australian Democrats was doomed from the start. Natasha, simply, should
never have taken the job.

It explains the events that lead to
her resignation – the dispute with former leader Meg Lees. This
climaxed when Natasha, rather than confronting Lees herself, sicked the
Democrat National Executive onto Lees via email.

That’s not what a confident, capable
party leader would have done. Ever. Lees resigned from the Democrats in
July 2002. Natasha resigned as leader the following month.

“Natasha Stott Despoja’s turbulent
Democrats’ leadership began on her electorate office floor sick with
worry – and ended in tears 16 months later,” The Advertiser reported.

It’s sad it finished that way.

The complete list of Crikey mentions runs as follows:

Page 102: “One media outlet that ran
many stories on Natasha at the time was crikey.com.au, the internet
gossip site run by former Kennett adviser and business journalist
Stephen Mayne. He was helped by the fact there were plenty of people –
many Democrats who were supported by Meg – who were constantly willing
to leak, or fabricate, stories about Natasha.”

Page 123: “Those opposed to Natasha got a good bit of mileage out of writing to Crikey and briefing journalists.”

Page 125: “Perhaps the trickiest
subject to discuss with Natasha was dealing with negative media. On
some levels she had a policy of non-engagement – for instance with
crikey.com.au – but then she would let other things that it was
pointless to become upset about get under her skin.”

Page 126: “It was becoming clear we were going to need all the friends
we could get in the Press Gallery. So much animosity was being actively
fuelled by crikey.com.au and selective briefings from other Democrats
that the journalists needed to be able to meet her and understand her.”

Page 158: “The email (Natasha’s complaint to the National Executive
about Meg Lees) was leaked to crikey.com.au by someone with access to
the National Executive email list.”

Page 160: “Given the constant stream of gossip and inaccuracies, which
must have been designed to damage Natasha, that was appearing on
Crikey’s website, it seemed a bit rich that we were being portrayed as
the baddies who were out to do Meg over. Natasha maintained that
whatever the circumstances no one was to engage with with Crikey or
respond to it. As far as she was concerned if any member of her staff
did we would be stooping to the level of our opponents and that was
unacceptable.”

Page 163: “It (the Meg Lees response attacking Natasha) was an
extraordinary document, with, one might think, only one aim: to cause
maximum damage. We knew it would only be a matter of time before it was
leaked, if it hadn’t been already. The Monday morning after the
National Executive meeting in Canberra it was reproduced in full on
crikey.com.au.”

Page 169: “One of Meg’s staff members was being investigated for the
leaking of the letter, though Meg maintained that she knew nothing
about its leak. There was also come question about who had actually
written the letter, with Crikey.com.au revealing that the author’s name
on the electoronic file was Murray.”

Page 205: “Every day the Democrats were the main political story in the
newspapers, on the radio and television – and our old friedns
crikey.com.au was having a field day.”