The SMH has another of its healthy internal
differences of opinion on display. After attacking the credibility of former
whistleblower cop Tim Priest on three consecutive days, this morning’s edition carries a lengthy defence of the troublesome Priest.

Unlike Crikey, the SMH headline writer
missed the obvious opportunity given the defence is written by columnist
Miranda Devine. And a nice piece it is too, by implication giving SMH colleague
Stephen Gibbs both barrels.

Earlier in the week, Tim Priest was left
floundering with mention of seeking legal opinion, but he’s clearly been
telling all to Miranda who runs his version of events in detail. Ms Devine has
been in Priest’s camp on matters of Cabramatta and Middle Eastern crime and
remains there:

On the claim that he passed himself off as a detective
sergeant, he says he had been a detective senior constable before moving to
general duties policing as a sergeant. Later in Cabramatta and later at City
Central police station he “filled the role” of a detective sergeant
and was paid as such. On claims he overstated his length of service from 15 to
20 years, he says he joined the service in 1982, left in 2002, but took three
years off in 1991 to open a pub. The nitpicking triviality of this allegation
is breathtaking, but mud sticks.

Priest has played a tough game, and it serves the
purposes of his enemies to portray him now as a Walter Mitty character in an
attempt to destroy his credibility.

The value of Devine’s column, aside
from providing balance and grist for another internal SMH battle, is in her
conclusion:

But regardless of the miserable attack, his critique of
the NSW Police and the continuing failures to deal with crime, from Cabramatta
to Cronulla, is as valid as ever and as unpalatable as ever to his enemies. His
courage in blowing the whistle in Cabramatta remains unchallenged.

The tragedy is that while Priest and his enemies try to
destroy each other, they have lost sight of the fact they are really on the
same side.

What she might be missing though is the
reality of court actions when anyone sues anyone for $2.5 million – it gets
very nasty. Tim Priest has been given just a taste of the grilling he can
expect if he proceeds with his action against the NSW Government. It’s never
about truth, it’s about winning.

Peter Fray

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