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 QLD 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’ 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 PR’s alike, so it’s not as if this is 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’ 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 devil’s pact, but it will inevitably tear them
apart.

Peter Fray

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