Okay, it’s confession time. While subscribers will have noticed the odd bylined piece from Liberal powerbroker and Brian Burke co-conspirator Noel Crichton-Browne in Crikey over the past two years, many political insiders know that he also wrote anonymously for us up until the sale in March 2005.
In the ordinary course of events, this is not something you would disclose. However, revelations coming out of the CCC have changed all that.
While happy to publish NCB’s often excellent-but-brutal contributions, I made sure that Crikey carried a stream of anti-NCB material as a counter-balance. Indeed, Christian Kerr regularly referred to his power grouping as “Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters”.
When NCB complained, I would profess innocence and declare that Christian, aka the mysterious Hillary Bray, had no idea he was writing for us and I could not control what Christian wrote.
This kept my conscience clear but I’m now troubled by a couple of pieces that NCB wrote for us. In March 2003, before Burke-friendly editor Paul Armstrong took the reins at The West Australian, the paper’s new political reporter Sean Pennells was running hard against lobbyists. At one stage he sent out a survey to all sitting MPs.
Fast forward four years and now we learn that NCB was part of Burke’s racket pocketing cash for influencing Liberals. Did Burke pay NCB for those Crikey pieces hosing down The West Australian and then ABC morning presenter Liam Bartlett for pursuing lobbyists? We really should have been encouraging such an examination of lobbyists.
That said, The West Australian has a lot to answer for in its pro-Burke coverage over the Armstrong years. Hedley Thomas took a bit of a swipe at the paper in a Weekend Australian feature last Saturday but there’s a lot more to this story. Burke and Grill have been behind numerous stories over the years and it appears likely that even Crikey carried some of them through NCB.
Burke’s power was partly thanks to his ability to manipulate the media, yet so far the CCC coverage would suggest he was an amazingly successful lobbyist who never once spoke to a reporter.
It’s time for a few more hacks follow this lead and come clean. If you want us to do it for them, please email [email protected].