Jeff Kennett was a surprise guest on 774 ABC Melbourne’s Conversation Hour
yesterday and made headlines with his comments about Mark Latham being
depressed. But there was an intriguing connection with fill-in presenter
Virginia Hausegger that didn’t get an airing.

Kennett’s opening line could have been: “Thanks for the tax free $400,000!” This is because it was Hausegger’s story on A Current Affair
in 1993 that led Kennett to sue Channel Nine and eventually settle in a
secret deal approved by Kerry Packer that had some pundits making
comparisons with Alan Bond’s $400,000 settlement with Joh Bjelke
Petersen in the late 1980s.

The key mistake was not Hausegger’s – it was made by a producer and it
involved suggesting Kennett’s WorkCover changes had caused a bloke to
commit suicide. Unfortunately for Nine, he did this five days before
Kennett was even elected Premier.

Hausegger has moved on and now reads the news for the ABC in Canberra and has written a book, Wonder Women: The Myth of ‘Having it all’ which is explained by this recent column she wrote in The Age.

Hausegger and Kennett have quite a history, as listeners were told yesterday she
had to terminate a 1998 interview with Kennett for Seven’s Witness
program, when comments about Jeff’s marital struggles with wife
Felicity left the interviewer in tears because her own marriage had
just broken down.

“I really appreciated the fact you were so kind and said some comforting things at the time,” Hausegger confided.

don’t want to be seen as soft and jelly-like,” came the typically gruff
Kennett reply.

Kennett’s gruffness also got a major airing on Virginia Trioli’s
ABC Drive program yesterday when Robert Dean, the former shadow attorney general who
destroyed his political career by not being on the electoral roll
before the 2002 Victorian election, launched arguably the most
vitriolic personal attack the former Victorian premier has ever

Dean said it was outrageous that Kennett was commenting on Latham’s
mental health and challenged whether he should be in charge of Beyond
Blue when his own record was to mercilessly kick people when they were
down, as he did to Robert Dean on 3AK when the enrolment bungle blew

Kennett also revealed yesterday that he had given up his lucrative
promotion business in March and was now spending up to three days a
week focusing on fighting depression. Surely he would have realised by
now that depression is a private matter that only the person involved
should choose to disclose. This sentiment was picked up by The Age today as you can see here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey