Crikey, is wrong in its assertions, riddled with inaccuracy, and libellous. In the first place, I never once lifted a finger to have Paul Lyneham removed from his 7.30 Report job. Secondly, whether or not there is any truth at all in the Crikey story that Paul missed an interview with then Opposition Leader John Hewson on Mabo policy because he was out of town on a private engagement, I haven’t got the faintest recollection of it.

Thirdly, Paul Lyneham remained in his 7.30 Report job for 18 months after John Hewson lost his leadership (in mid-1994) so the incident (if it happened at all) could hardly be said to have hastened Paul’s departure. I happily remained in my Lateline job until December 1995. My move to the new National 7.30 Report based in Sydney as editor and compere, was initiated and strongly pushed by senior ABC management, primarily by then managing director Brian Johns. It was a position I did not seek, and accepted with some misgiving.

Finally, the suggestion that I “presumably went completely berserk over Lyneham’s unreliability” is contemptible as well as stupid. Although sadly, my very close personal relationship with Paul broke down for reasons very few people know or understand, I still regard him as one of the finest journalists this country has produced. I was instrumental in persuading him to accept the 7.30 Report Canberra job in the first place, back in 1987, when he was working at the Seven Network’s Canberra bureau.

This is the second time I have been gravely libelled on Crikey. I can’t for the life of me understand how you can justify running such poisonous, irresponsible and anonymously-authored cr*p.

Stephen Mayne responds:

The piece came directly to me from someone with a record for reliability inside Aunty. That said, Kerry has demolished the theory with the time line and I accept his recollection as being accurate. I added the “presumably went completely berserk” line in a reference to Alan Kohler’s since-recanted line about Kerry’s temper. It certainly didn’t help. Why would the Lateline presenter have cared what was happening on The 7.30 Report?

The forthcoming Crikey-driven debate about speakers’ fees and conflicts is not going to be easy and tempers will fray. I actually first met Lyneham at a paid speaking gig for him in Melbourne when Reuters was hosting a dinner in Carlton and Paul was an excellent raconteur.

I then spent a bit of time with him during the 1999 Victorian election campaign when he latched on to Jeffed.com for what turned out to be a damaging 60 Minutes profile that rated well the Sunday before Jeff Kennett’s shock defeat.

After that, there was occasional contact. Paul suggested some tough piggery questions for the Commonwealth Bank AGM and another time I dropped in to pick up an interesting ATO document related to the piggery at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre where he was doing another paid gig.

After cancer took hold, he even rang and asked if I could fill in for him at one gig, but I palmed it off to occasional Crikey correspondent and former ABC arts reporter Stephen Fennely.

Lyneham was seemingly prolific on the speakers’ circuit and probably made an extra $1 million-plus out of it over the final ten years of his life. Was this appropriate? Probably not, but it did allow the ABC to keep him for longer than would have been the case without the moonlighting.

Doing 60 Minutes and Nightline obviously provided more flexibility for speaking gigs and Nine’s then boss of news and current affairs, Peter Meakin, clearly didn’t have a problem with the practice but probably also didn’t realise how big a business Lyneham was running on the side.

We shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but it would certainly have been desirable if Lyneham had maintained a public register of those groups that paid him given the power of his generally excellent political journalism and commentary.

If you have a tale of paid journalistic speaking gigs, email it through to [email protected]