Senator Andrew Bartlett has responded to Crikey item on the frenzy surrounding the spy who loved Ruddock’s daughter and calls on the media to call it what it really is – a beat up.

The spy who loved Ruddock’s daughter
Subscriber email – 18 February

The strange story of Israeli diplomat/lothario Amir Laty just keeps getting better. Today’s reports by the Australian Jewish News and News Ltd of Caitlyn Ruddock’s “friendship” with the deported diplomat have thickened the plot.

Caitlin is the second daughter to get Ruddock into strife – who will forget his other daughter, Kirsty, threatening to flee Australia in 2002, upset at her father’s hard line, as Immigration Minister, on asylum-seekers. Check out that Australian Story transcript here.

As Malcolm Farr points out in The Daily Telegraph, Ruddock has been potentially compromised before in his dealings with visas. It’s interesting the further leap hasn’t been made in the media that a guy with links to passport fraud apparently had an inside line for years to the Minister for Immigration and then Attorney-General. Check out the speculation on this ACT blog:

Meanwhile, both side of politics are treading softly-softly on this issue. Neither wants to get into a diplomatic fight with Israel, perhaps reflecting the breakdown of political donations in Australia.

Kim Beazley spent much of the second Iraq war embedded in the Israeli security apparatus. Check out his long-winded way of saying “no comment” on ABC radio this morning:

STEVE CRITTENDEN: Did that situation compromise Australia’s security?

BEAZLEY: I would love to have a feisty, bouncy answer to set your interview with me off on the right track but I’m going to have to pour cold water on this immediately. I have been briefed on the circumstances of this gentleman, so guess what? I can neither confirm nor deny any of the things that are in the media nor add to your speculation.

CRITTENDEN: You had to sign an agreement like everyone else?

BEAZLEY: That’s the basis on which I answer, so we’ll move on to something else.

CRIKEY: You’ve got to hand it to the Israeli spy agencies. The really know how to infiltrate and influence.

Fancy an Israeli spy scoring an invitation to Christmas lunch with the nation’s top law officer by befriending his daughter.

The spooks have predictably frightened both sides of politics into saying nothing so it is up to others such as Crikey to call a spade a spade. Was this a case of the spy who loved her? Was there pillow talk?

Could Amir Laty have planted listening devices in the Ruddock home? Surely the public deserves some more answers.

Senator Andrew Bartlett responds:

Dear Crikey,

Your item on Friday about the deported Israeli spy makes the statement that “both sides of politics are treading softly-softly on the issue”, suggesting this approach was something to do with not wanting to offend Israel or because we had been frightened into silence by the ‘spooks’. I suggest it’s more to do with politicians not wanting to give such a blatant beat-up some extra legs, knowing the story is just an excuse to put some salacious and prurient gossip on the front pages under the pretence of ‘news’.

Writing gossip about politicians whilst pretending its political news is not my idea of good journalism, but using gossip that targets a member of a politician’s family is much worse. They cannot answer for themselves (or if they do, they will usually just escalate the story). Even if there was any truth behind the insinuations in this spy story (which I believe has been publicly denied), I can’t see what relevance it could really have on national security. I doubt anyone in Parliament has more frequently and strongly criticised Philip Ruddock than I have, but while he may be plenty of other things, he’s no fool. And his daughters certainly don’t deserve this sort of muck, regardless of what you might think of his policies and what his policies have done to other people’s families.

Of course, gossip is usually impossible to disprove and if it’s found to be categorically incorrect, the excuse that they were only ‘allegations’ is used to avoid correcting the record or making an apology.

This story provided a few juicy headlines and has now pretty much moved on, but the slur will remain. If people think these sorts of media flurries are just fleeting events that never have any lasting impact on the people targeted, they are wrong. The wider impact is that there will be yet another bunch of people around Australia who will look at this manufactured “scandal” and decide never to get involved in politics.

Andrew Bartlett

Peter Fray

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