Glenn Dyer writes:


It was the day Kerry Stokes had been
looking forward to for years, his chance to explain how he came to
be the victim of a massive conspiracy that forced him to close down his
C7 pay television station.

The gallery was packed with
journalists when Stokes arrived at the Federal Court this morning to
face an AFL-sized grand final team of opponents, barristers and
solicitors and PRs for the 22 respondents to his conspiracy
allegations. He wore a dark business suit, blue shirt and blue tie and
seemed calm and relaxed as he was sworn in at 10.15am.

But by 10.40 the court was thoroughly confused. Stokes was being
cross-examined by News Limited’s lead barrister, Noel Hutley SC. Hutley
produced the first of what will be a large number of cross examination
“bundles” of documents for Mr Stokes to refer to over the next two to
three weeks. Justice Ronald Sackville asked how many bundles would be
produced. “You don’t want to know your Honour,” Hutley replied.

It
didn’t take long for a reply favoured in certain West Australian court
circles to appear. “I have a vague recollection of that,” said Stokes
at one point. “I do not recall,” he said at another when quizzed about
his activities as Seven’s executive chairman in 1997.

Then, at
12.15, two hours into his cross-examination, Stokes faced his first
major test: justifying his claim there was a plot to “Kill C7.” This is
the phrase Stokes and Seven allege was used by the opposition in their
attempts to close down the C7 pay TV business, and during ten minutes
of relentless cross-examination Mr Hutley probed Stokes on where and
when he had heard this phrase. Stokes side-stepped and batted away
Hutley’s questions until he relented in one reply:

“My
recollection is that Mr Nick Falloon (the then CEO of PBL) used that
term,” he told the court. Stokes – who wasn’t alleging that Falloon had
made the comment direct to him, but that he’d heard it had come from
Falloon – had started to name names.

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Peter Fray
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