Bismarck once compared the making of legislation to the manufacture of sausages – it was necessary if people had to eat, but fairly unpleasant to watch happening. The same might be said for the manufacture of partisan “news” – but watching it occur can be quite fascinating.

In yesterday’s Crikey, David Flint has put the workings of the story factory on display for all to see:

Piers Akerman has stepped up calls for federal action over the Heiner scandal. Saying Kevin Rudd has opened the way for a further inquiry, he argued on The Insiders that this could be “a very serious sleeper” in the election. Andrew Bolt mentioned this in his blog, and Alan Jones has discussed it at length. Michael Hodgman told the Tasmanian Parliament it was discussed recently at a meeting of shadow Attorneys General. When Piers Akerman concentrates on an issue he can be singularly effective; just recall what he did to the Kirner government.

It all sounds very cosy when put like that. Though Akerman might like to adopt the persona of the lone crusading journo on a fight for justice, the apparently co-ordinated or at least serendipitously spontaneous push by shock jocks, Liberal MPs, and right wing columnists to talk up a confusing and convoluted story about an inquiry held in 1989 and six subsequent inquiries into the destruction of the documents from the first inquiry by the Goss Government should ring some alarm bells.

It’s surely risible to suggest that the Heiner affair will be a sleeper in the election, as Akerman must know. What he really means is that a bunch of politically motivated “insiders” would like to talk it up to score some hits against Kevin Rudd.

The 1989 “scandal” had already been raked over by the Coalition Borbidge government after Goss’ fall, and there’ve been attempts to stir its embers aflame almost every time a federal election approaches. Now we see a bunch of elderly QCs and retired judges offering portentous “opinions” which fuel Akerman’s crusade. The fact that they’re all so exercised by a putative miscarriage of justice which has the potential to cause Kevin Rudd electoral harm is presumably coincidence, and not in the forefront of these distinguished and learned legal minds.

Arguably, whistleblowers who’ve lost all perspective after the harm done to their own careers are being used in this push. Rudd has played a straight bat to the confected furore, but what is more deserving of enquiry is why this total non-story is being written about using rhetoric as hyperbolic as the phrase “a stunning reversal” to describe a comment by a Rudd staffer. Andrew Bolt gave the game away in his blog when he wrote:

Piers Akerman says there is something fishy about the destruction of documents relating to a pack rape of a girl in state care – and very senior legal figures agree. Kevin Rudd won’t like Piers mentioning his connection to the government which did it.

This whole crusade is designed to generate headlines linking Rudd to child r-pe. Bolt proceeded carefully and wrote that he didn’t “know what weight to put on this”. He could, of course, find out by reading the tedious and confusing voluminous documentation on this issue if he liked. But, very few will.

If Akerman’s crusade succeeds in pushing a near incomprehensible piece of ancient history onto the election agenda, there could be an interesting case study in media and legal ethics for enquiring minds to ponder. And, perhaps, in the politics of media smears.