Janet Albrechtsen, columnist for The Australian, rang John Howard’s office before she had even written her column about why it was time for him to step down last week, to let him know what was coming.

She called other Howard ministers as well, making sure there was no nasty surprise waiting for them when they picked up The Australian on 7 September.

How do we know all this? Because it’s right there in the pages of The Australian newspaper today. She told Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Alexander Downer what she was planning to write:

She also told the Prime Minister’s office. She said yesterday she talked to the ministers “as a courtesy”.

Turnbull says he urged her not to write it, as did Abbott and Howard’s office.

Any sliver of credibility that Janet Albrechtsen may have had is now completely gone.

She’s not an independent columnist, with scant regard for the impact of her opinion, as a truly fearless and uncompromising columnist must be. She is a propaganda outlet for John Howard, and has been a key player in the current game of “Howard Must Quit”/”Howard Must Stay” that has dominated political media coverage for the past eight days. The Game that is meant to show just how tough and resilient Howard can be, and how ready he is for the Big Fight in the coming election. And it all took place just when Howard needed it the most, when he is absolutely tanking in the polls.

Howard, Downer, Abbott and Turnbull knew Albrechtsen was publishing a column telling the prime minister it was time to hand over to Peter Costello before she had even finished writing it.

Of course, Albrechtsen’s column came at a very opportune time for The Australian newspaper as well.

Murdoch’s national broadsheet is widely mocked and ridiculed across the Australian media, the public and within political circles for being the “Government Gazette”. There was a joke that went around last year for a few days:

Why don’t you ever see John Howard reading The Australian newspaper? Because he already knows what it will say about him.

Albrechtsen has proved the joke is actually reality.

Her column advising Howard to pack it in was seen as proof that The Australian was not packed with Howard-huggers and federal government propagandists.

And the timing was perfect. On the brink of an election, when The Australian most surely needs to regain its credibility and give the appearance of being unbiased, up pops Albrechtsen, the “unashamed… long-time Howard supporter”, demanding he step aside. Well, not demanding. Suggesting he step aside would be more accurate.

Albrechtsen didn’t voice her opinion, boldly, honestly, and without regard for who may be offended by her thoughts, she actually tipped off the key players in the Howard government, and Howard himself, before she “dared” to say it was time for him to go. Before she even typed the words.