After Monday’s admission of lies and other things that aren’t nice,
life in the witness box didn’t improve much yesterday for News Ltd
chief general Ian Philip.

As you can see from the Smage report,
Philip was put through the hoops in the Kerry Stokes v The World case
trying to explain how consorting didn’t a consortium make. The Philip’s
evidence makes obvious why Channel 7 didn’t want to take up Justice
Ronald Sackville’s earlier invitation to try mediation.

But Philip’s performance has led my former colleague John Durie to make
a serious error of judgment in this morning’s Chanticleer column. To
wit:

Ian Philip’s position as News Ltd’s top lawyer is now
untenable. After his extraordinary admission of lying and arguably
breaching his duties to the National Rugby League in 2000.

If for no other reason, his clumsy attempt to talk Telstra into paying
another $13 million to win the rugby league television rights must make
the powers that be at News question his suitability for the position.
Having admitted to lying once and being forced to amend his affidavits
to the court, he is clearly damaged goods.

The company is backing Philip for the moment, arguing his misjudgement
was born from frustration and – while not said – no doubt the
extraordinary pressure, given the hundreds of millions of dollars News
Corp lost with its ill-fated takeover of rugby league.

His position is no doubt safe for the course of the Seven Network
action, but his admissions sadly diminish his value to the company
longer term.

Philip will be the first victim of Seven’s $1.2 billion damages claim,
which to date has struggled to get to square one – allegations of a
conspiracy between News, Nine Network and Foxtel to kill Seven’s pay TV
company. The News Ltd lawyer’s admissions don’t get Seven far along
that path, either, but it is a victory in one battle as opposed to the
war.

The admissions are clearly a personal tragedy for Philip and his many admirers as he is a highly regarded corporate lawyer.

John, John, I would think Philip’s success is squeezing Telstra for
another dozen million or so and his preparedness to lie for Murdoch would
see him in line for a promotion at News Corp, not sacking. Quite the
perfect corporate lawyer.

Meanwhile we have correspondence from The Australian’s business editor, Andrew White, over yesterday’s Crikey item on how the Oz went soft on Philip’s lies, preferring “mislead” in the headline and introduction:

The “mislead” headline and intro appeared only in the
first edition of the paper. It was changed to “lied ” in the second and
third editions of the newspaper that count for most of the circulation.

What a pleasant surprise. I suppose I was just lucky to see a first edition – though the online version remains “misleading.” I wonder if Justice Sackville’s interest in The Australian’s coverage might be improving editorial standards?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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