There might still be three weeks to go before polling day but it’s clear which yarn will win the “biggest campaign beat up” award – step forward 162cm shock jock Steve Price for turning a private Peter Garrett joke into a midget scandal.

There were only two important points to take out of the whole pathetic “look at me” episode.

  1. Journalistic trust is lower than ever. Peter Costello and Peter Garrett would be in furious agreement on that one.
  2. Steve Price is still on the take from Qantas.

Crikey triggered a minor ABA inquiry into Price four years ago when we exposed his constant plugging of Qantas – even after the cash for the comment scandal had supposedly cleaned up the industry.

When Price first moved to Sydney, he enjoyed regular trips to Melbourne “donated” by Qantas Regional General Manager Victoria, Ken Ryan, an old mate from his days running 3AW. One such business class trip was to the 2004 Qantas Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park.

Whilst Price doesn’t disclose a relationship with Qantas on his register of interests there has been no shortage of plugs and soft interviews over the years.

Despite most people believing Qantas regularly rips off customers on the Pacific route, Price has been known to trumpet Qantas cutting its prices as news. He has disclosed Qantas freebies to virtually every code of football.

Back in 2002 he did an entire broadcast, including a powder puff interview with chair Margaret Jackson, from Mt Hotham to celebrate direct flights. It was hardly relevant for a Sydney audience.

Even his long criticism of Australian soccer was tempered when Qantas became the competition sponsor.

So, why on earth is Qantas giving a controversial shock jock membership of its Chairman’s Lounge, which is supposedly to enable our elite politicians and business leaders some privacy from the hoi polloi? Qantas gave most state ministers the flick but Price remains on the A list.

The Chairman’s Lounge is meant to be all about discretion and confidentiality. Not only did Price break a confidence, he totally misconstrued the conversation, according to the only independent witness, Richard Wilkins.

Fairfax chairman Ron Walker had better start readying himself for some questions at the AGM on November 30 because Price’s Qantas freebies surely breach the venerable company’s journalistic guidelines.

Finally, there was John Howard’s claim on Insiders that Price and Charles Woolley “enjoy a good reputation, and neither could be described as a Liberal Party or a government stooge”.

Price is not in Piers Akerman’s league, but he did build 3AW into Australia’s most consistently right wing talk radio station and his wife, Wendy Black, works for Joe Hockey. Given all that, his self-important posturing should be ignored.

Contrary to our advice, Stephen Mayne is standing as an independent candidate in the Victorian seat of Higgins.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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