Herald Sun Insight editor Keith Moor threw the book at former Whitlam immigration minister Al Grassby in this morning’s paper, alleging
all sorts of dodgy mafia behaviour, political cover-ups and outrageous
acts. It was a good effort and exactly the sort of material
investigative reporters should do.

The Herald Sun’seditorial
included the following line: “Some will today see the renewed claims of
Mr Grassby’s criminality as a pointless corpse-kicking exercise. But
the dead, regardless of their clout in life, are owed nothing but the
truth”.

If only the Melbourne tabloid adopted the same approach
to dead sportsmen. The eulogising of Collingwood star Darren Millane,
who killed himself drink driving in the early 1990s, was a disgraceful
episode in the paper’s history where breaking records for death notices
was more important than the truth. Similarly, last year’s portrayal of
David Hookes as a happily married and devoted family man was just as
misleading.

The paper, and particularly Hookes’s mate and 3AW colleague Jon Anderson, will be nervously awaiting tonight’s Australian Story when Hookes’s girlfiend Christine Padfield tells her side of the story.

Anderson wrote stories in the Herald Sun
that suggested Hookes was still happily married to wife Robyn and
completely cut Padfield out of the picture when they had been together
for two years. Derryn Hinch told the truth and was subjected to a
vicious campaign by the blokey Hookes mates at 3AW, and was even
viciously defamed by Steve Price whose bosses then had to shell out to
settle the resulting litigation. Crikey was the first to name Padfield
and she deserves to be publicly acknowledged.

A similar
situation existed with journalist Greg Shackleton, one of the Balibo
five murdered by the Indonesians in 1975, who had split with his wife
Shirley well before his death. But even today it has been Shirley who
has publicly played the grieving wife without acknowledging that the
relationship was over before he naively put himself and his colleagues
in the firing line of the ruthless Indonesian invaders of East Timor.

Unfortunately
the big loser in that episode was Greg Shackleton’s partner Madeline,
who has never been given the right to grieve in public. She has been
totally blacked out of the story, and the same thing would have
happened to Christine Padfield, but for her decision to go public on Australian Story.

Hookes’s
brother has also used the program to lash out at all the Murdoch and
Packer associated heavyweights, including John Singleton and Alan
Jones, who latched on to the Hookes tragedy and refused to let him
attend the launch of what ended up being a commercial venture to
promote organ donations.

Given that Kerry Packer helped put Australian Story on the map in 2001 when he spoke
to them about his helicopter pilot Nick Ross, who donated a kidney for
his boss, it’s ironic indeed that Australia’s richest man is now about
to get a whack by the same program on the same topic.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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