Colourful former prime ministerial aspirant Mark Latham has re-engaged in his slanging match with News Limited after what he calls “premeditated” attack by The Sunday Telegraph that framed him as an elderly women hater.
The former Labor leader, who famously clashed with The Daily Telegraph in 2006 after it photographed him leaving Campbelltown Hungry Jacks, is irate over a yarn that’s run over the last two Sundays reporting allegations he bullied and intimidated his children’s swimming instructor, Bev Waugh, at Camden pool.
Latham reckons Tele reporter Jennifer Sexton breached his privacy and reported the story unethically — especially given the journo’s mother is a swim teacher at the same pool where the incident occurred, and seemed to be the primary source. The familial ties weren’t disclosed in the article.
Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen is in vigorous disagreement. He told us that given Latham’s political history and constant stream of political commentary in The Australian Financial Review and The Spectator, his target’s actions deserve to be scrutinised.
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Breen admitted that Sexton’s mother does work at the pool but couldn’t see the relevance. “She does. So what? That’s how we find out stories,” he said, adding that “the man is unhinged.”
Latham was reluctant to comment but when pressed referred us to a piece he’s written for publication in the next edition of The Spectator.
In it, he offers his version of the conversation that took place with the swimming teacher. He does not deny that he questioned the progress of the swimming lessons to Waugh, who is the mother of famous former cricketers Mark and Steve. But he has taken issue with the way in which Sexton sourced her material.
He claims that upon picking his kids up from the pool three days after the incident, he found Sexton waiting at the rear of his car requesting an interview, as well as a photographer “hiding in the bushes” (although, as Breen points out, the photograph published does not appear to have been snapped unnoticed).
“Sexton’s article (on December 11) was premeditated, depicting me as an ogre who ‘intimidated’ a little old lady,” writes Latham. “To write it any other way would have been to betray the tabloid template of selling sensationalised stories to the public.”
As for the incident itself, its seriousness is questionable. A spokesperson from the NSW Department of Education and Training, which runs the free Swim Scheme program, said that while the department was aware of the situation and is currently making enquiries regarding it, no official complaint has been made.
When asked what would be the appropriate course of action if a parent was witnessed acting in an intimidating way towards a swim teacher, the spokesperson said: “If an issue arises, the pool’s management can request that any person leave the pool grounds and can contact the police if required. No such action was taken against any parties on the day by pool management.”
*Additional reporting from Angela Priestley