Did Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon shoot himself in the foot yesterday
when he described claims he was wooed with a free stay at Crown before signing off on the Betfair deal as a media smear?

It depends which paper you look at. In today’s Fairfax press, Lennon’s
allegations are given reasonable prominence. After foregrounding
Lennon’s admission that he had accepted an upgrade to a six-star suite
at the Melbourne
casino complex last November – just after his cabinet approved legislation for
the online betting exchange licence – The Age goes on to document Lennon’s side of the story:

He described splash treatment of the story in News Ltd newspapers as evidence that he had
upset powerful people in the racing establishment. But he said it would not
damage the probity of the Betfair licence application.

“If you’re in the racing establishment and you don’t
want this form of bookmaking to be licensed in Australia,
you would do anything you could to try to damage the credibility of anyone
involved in the decision,” he said. “And … that’s the motive behind
what’s happened today.”

He said News Ltd
newspapers such as the Herald Sun were the main racing papers for the
establishment racing industry.

It’s a similar story at The Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline, “Upgrades a beat-up: premier.” But over at News Ltd’s Australian,
the headline tells a very different story: “Calls for Lennon to quit.”
Although, readers who make it down to the final paragraph will discover
that “Mr Lennon said the controversy was a ‘beat-up’ by the ‘Murdoch
press’ because
several News Limited newspapers had contracts with horse-racing bodies
to
publish racing information.”

At The Mercury, the front page report
tells that Lennon has “hit back” at claims he misled parliament over
the Crown stay and goes on to document Lennon’s claims that “the latest
allegations published prominently in The Mercury and other News Limited newspapers
interstate were part of a conspiracy by the ‘Murdoch press’ to get
back at the Tasmanian Government.”

Over at the Herald Sun, which originally went to town on the story,
splashing it over the cover with a two-page spread inside, Lennon’s New Ltd theory is given little credence. Aside from a slightly odd biog, “Who is Paul Lennon?” the Hun reports
that Lennon’s stay at Crown may cost him the 2006 state election,
adding in the final par that Lennon said the issue was a “media beat-up.”

But the paper does set aside some editorial space
for the matter, laying into Lennon for his Crown stay and making light
of the Premier for attacking the media and making the “ridiculous
suggestion that the
racing establishment was behind the story.”