The News Ltd press have been whipping the butt of Fairfax on the scoops and influence stakes over the past few days in Federal politics. Whilst Andrew Bolt joined Glenn Milne in the Costello camp three months ago, it was the switch of The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen last Friday which will go down in history as one of the most impactful columns of all time.

Most political leaders leave office bitter with the media and you can expect John Howard will be no different after Albrechtsen literally spoiled his APEC. Dennis Shanahan’s page one read yesterday provided the following excellent insight:

Albrechtsen is an unashamed and long-term Howard supporter who decided to write a special column for Friday’s newspaper urging Howard to go.

On Wednesday and Thursday the columnist – a strong supporter of Turnbull, and whose husband, John O’Sullivan, campaigns for the Environment Minister in his Sydney electorate of Wentworth – told Turnbull, as well as Tony Abbott, Nick Minchin and Downer, of her plans. 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. But she went ahead and gave media lift-off to the speculation. Cabinet ministers and Liberal figures immediately blamed Turnbull for Albrechtsen’s emotional intervention, which dogged Howard at his meetings with Bush, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Janet Albrechtsen is not short of a quid. The latest Commonwealth Bank annual report (pages 39-45) reveals John O’Sullivan collected $2.4 million in 2006-07 for his work as chief legal officer. Whilst Janet’s husband does owe the bank $1.5 million, his 114,000 shares are worth a tidy $6.27 million.

O’Sullivan was the senior Freehills partner who married the blonde summer clerk within four years of her arrival from Adelaide. His Commonwealth Bank profile boasts of his work on all the big Federal privatisations in the following terms:

Prior to joining the Bank, John had been a partner of Freehills since 1983. He acted for the Bank in its acquisition of State Bank of Victoria and the Colonial Group, as well as on the three stages of the Bank’s privatisation. He also led the legal team for the Commonwealth of Australia on Telstra 1, Telstra 2 and the sale of Sydney Airport.

Peter Costello recently took the long handle to the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of aggrieved customer and former Liberal candidate Lana McLean. John O’Sullivan was forced to publicly rebut the Treasurer, but now his wife has suddenly attempted to put him into The Lodge. Interesting! Was the Treasurer enjoying causing trouble for a key Turnbull backer. After all, he’s never before publicly stood up for a banking consumer.

Peter Fray

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