What a lovely outing. Buried in the bowels of the terminally unread business section of the lamentable Courier-Mail
in Brisbane lies a small reference to Queensland Transport Minister
Paul Lucas, spied with “new girlfriend,” Allison Smith, who also
happens to be his former flak catcher, and now chief spinner for Police
Minister Judy Spence.

A wide range of rumours of the talented Lucas’s domestic life had been
swirling around Brisbane business and social circles for some time –
including among Brisbane’s notoriously incestuous and pack-hunting
media. Allison is well known to and respected by journos and PRs
alike, so it’s not as if this has all been kept quiet.

Which begs the question – given current debate, and the Courier-Mail‘s
propensity to publish any garbage dressed up as news, why haven’t they
mentioned the relationship in the months everyone has been talking
about it? Given recent definitions from News Ltd editors, surely this
qualifies as “public interest”?

Or is this perhaps a brilliant little PR coup executed through the
willing taste buds of the famously lunchable James McCulloch, whose
desk is split between News’s Bowen Hills office and the wine-stained
troughs of Eagle Street’s blokey, vegetable-free eateries?

If you apply the Latham-Brogden Index, the Lucas private life was news
months ago, yet no-one covered it in this one-paper town. Lucas is
arguably the most senior minister beneath Beattie, has been fingered as
a possible successor, and has a high profile and demanding portfolio.
If it was Beattie – or even his deputy, Anna Bligh, I am sure it would
have been news.

Given the precedent set in other (southern) cases, Queensland taxpayers
might have begun to assume everything is for the record when it comes
to the lives of their politicians – and what sort of relationships
their taxes are nurturing. Speaking theoretically only, a relationship
between a politician and advisor puts overseas trips, holidays,
junkets, conferences and other public largesse under the microscope.

And given the feeble “public interest” excuses used by media to roll
out the discredited Brogden trash, readers can only be more confused
about the meaning of this abused term.

In different ways, Mark Latham and John Brogden have completely shaken
the foundations of the principle of private lives versus public
interest. Journalists and politicians share an unfortunate
characteristic: neither species should ever be trusted with a
confidence. The fact that they deal in confidences inevitably brings
them together in something of a devil’s pact, but it will inevitably tear
them apart.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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