It’s not often a politician gets a second
bite of the cherry on breakfast radio, but NSW opposition leader Peter Debnam
did this morning.

Debnam had spoken on air to Terry
Willesee – who’s filling in at 2GB for Alan Jones – accusing the state’s Labor
government of directing police to go soft on “middle eastern types” involved in
reprisal attacks on Cronulla last month, after police said no arrests had yet
been made.

Willesee asked him
to reveal who had instructed the police to go soft. Debnam
stumbled, ducked, weaved and basically couldn’t do so. Soon after,
Willesee delivered a strong editorial calling on the Liberal leader to
put up or shut up.

Debnam was quickly back on
the blower to Willesee’s producer seeking a right to respond and this
time the opposition leader came out swinging. “I won’t be verballed by
you,” Debnam told Willesee before repeating his allegations and talking
over the host. Under a Debnam government, he said,
there would be more resources and “police will be told to get in their
face and
get them [Middle-Eastern miscreants] arrested and locked up.”

Willesee again asked him to come forth
with names. Again Debnam didn’t.

Acting Premier John Watkins sniffed the blood in the water and hit the
airwaves soon after to describe Debnam’s accusations as “outrageous,
abhorrent and plainly ridiculous.” He then reminded Debnam that if he knew
something as a public official and hadn’t reported it to either of the
corruption watchdogs – the Police Integrity Commission or the Independent
Commission Against Corruption – then he too was on the wrong side of the law.

It was a bad end to a less than successful week for Debnam that also saw The Sydney
Morning Herald
reveal that he didn’t have the support of Prime Minister John Howard when he
ran for the NSW opposition top job. Adding to Debnam’s woes is a report in
The Daily Tele that there could be another outbreak of factional brawling
with the NSW Liberal party.

Peter Fray

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