Jul 27, 2012

‘I think Steve Lewis would agree’: Tele silent on Ashby case

The Daily Telegraph has failed to cover a bombshell barrage of secret correspondence between its most-read journalist, LNP political hack James Ashby, and a cabal of operatives hell-bent on knifing House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Australia's second-highest selling daily newspaper failed to cover a bombshell barrage of secret correspondence between its most-read journalist, LNP flack James Ashby and a cabal of operatives apparently hell-bent on knifing House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper. The Daily Telegraph, an influential tabloid edited by powerful media executive Paul Whittaker, did not include any reference to the texts and emails -- contained in Federal Court documents released yesterday -- that appear to graphically illustrate how former Howard government minister Mal Brough and turncoats inside Slipper's office conspired to bring down the speaker and the Gillard government. News Limited national political correspondent Steve Lewis was a key player in the saga -- when the original Slipper story broke on Saturday April 21, The Daily Telegraph and its sister tabloids splashed with s-xually suggestive text messages from Slipper to Ashby on its front page in a story under Lewis' byline. But today, the Sydney paper -- and its Queensland counterpart The Courier Mail  (that covers many South East Queensland locales where the action took place) -- went silent. Yesterday's treasure trove included (read selected highlights here and here) amazing revelations showing how a cancerous cell allegedly connived to depose Slipper, topple Julia Gillard and insert Brough into Slipper's seat of Fisher. Ashby assumed he held the future of Australia in his hands, at one point asking an associate whether he would "put a bullet in my head to save the nation?". And in an apparent flagrant misreading of the constitution, Ashby came up with a brainwave last year to insert Slipper in the speaker's chair to allow him "to stay in parliament without having to have a seat". The court documents also reveal that another dissident staffer, Karen Doane, asked Brough to forward her resume to Clive Palmer and Queensland sports minister Steve Dickson as Lewis' scoop date neared. Contact between Queensland energy minister Mark McArdle was documented; he apparently counselled Ashby not to proceed with the king hit on his former boss. The unfolding drama is compelling in its detail and seems tailor made for the Tele's scandal-reared readership. On March 8, local party official Valerie Bradford was contacted over email by Lewis for information on the 2010 election campaign. Bradford didn’t reply but instead forwarded the email to Ashby who then passed it on to Karen Doane. Doane replied to Ashby exclaiming: "Awesome -- What a tangled web this all is!". On March 29, Lewis emailed Brough asking for diary extracts on certain dates, as well as information about Slipper’s travels to New Zealand. Lewis followed up 34 minutes later requesting more information on Slipper’s cab charge expenditures and his relationship with the Oaklimo hire car company. Four days later Doane texted Ashby to tell him she had "the most lengthy convo" with Lewis, before adding that she wanted to "balance" her harassment charge with Ashby’s. "As you said last night, both claims may strengthen the case," she texted. "I might look for a lawyer if we don’t have contact soon." Asbhy replied that he would contact Brough, to which Doane said he had been in contact with her and confirmed he had forwarded her CV. "He also said if I wasn’t successful to contact him again," she wrote. "Great result." Between April 6 and 9, Ashby and Doane had a series of text exchanges with Lewis, including one from Ashby asking Lewis for his email address. Ashby sent back his personal email address, informing Lewis he had a daily printout of Slipper’s diary. After that Lewis responded asking for more diary extracts on a series of dates, which Ashby forwarded on to Doane asking: "Would u be able to photograph with your iphone and message the following dates to me?  I’ll then email to Steve if u like otherwise if u wouldn’t mind sending them directly to him that would be great." On April 10, Doane kept Brough in the loop via email telling him that Ashby was going to have his deposition taken before Lewis went to press: "This ensures there are no legalities breached, which is very important for a solid case!" she wrote. "I think Steve Lewis would agree another day of waiting to ensure everything is as it should be is worth it." In an undated SMS exchange, Doane told Brough that things had gotten "scary" and that she had stopped answering her phone. She said she would tell Brough if she heard anything. Brough: "Cheers. The media bloke has just agreed to meet Steve this morning. Everything will be fine. Regard Mal." Doane: "Great news!! Definitely relieved for all.  Just want this out ;-) Chrs Karen." On April 10 Slipper sent two texts to Ashby about Doane being off work on sick leave, which Ashby sent on to Lewis. The News Limited-owned Australian and Fairfax publications The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age all covered the revelations in impressive detail today. To its credit, News' Herald Sun managed to cover the yarn in a small brief on page 28. Talented Herald Sun freshman editor Damon Johnston explained to Crikey this morning that "it was a big news day yesterday ... everything is assessed on merit on the day that it breaks". The Tele's Whittaker did not respond to a request for comment this morning.

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14 thoughts on “‘I think Steve Lewis would agree’: Tele silent on Ashby case

  1. geomac62

    What I find odd is the claim by the right wing types that Ashby should be protected from the media , let the courts do their job . Ashby in collaboration with others made sure that the case received maximum publicity while Slipper was abroad ignoring normal procedure for claiming harassment . Brough it seems has the same qualities of political nous as Dutton , none .

  2. klewso

    “Limited News” ….. again?
    Contact their editors and ask for explanation re their “selective negativity campaign”.

  3. rubiginosa

    Oh. That means Whittaker has read the “minds” of Daily Telegraph “readers” and found they are no longer interested in the adventures of King Rat. Amirite?

  4. klewso

    They’re so blatant in their preferencing.
    The “Curry or Maul” devoted a whole editorial to trying to save Brough in his seat of Longman on the Tuesday (or Thursday? And Boswell the other) before the “Rudd-slide” swept “their Howard” away.

    [“Chairman Kim’s” assertions about some “devotion to freedom of speech” (used to campaign against “the evils of government regulation” – against their self-) are a sick joke, against the reality of their partisan political activities, the way they wield their political clout, and the way their press edits out the embarrassing tit-bits which it doesn’t think the voting public should know.
    Much as they operate in the UK and the way they “FUX News” in the US – throwing their weight behind one side and bad-mouthing the other to influence public perception of fitness to govern – “selling protection”. Especially when they dominate our “viewsmedia” as they do.]

  5. zut alors

    The old saying ‘publish and be damned’ takes an interesting twist in this tale ie: The Daily Telegraph and Courier-Mail didn’t publish thereby are exposed, damned for all to see.

  6. drmick

    Public interest? Self regulation? Not with this trash. Unfair and Unbalanced – perfect masthead for the lot of em.

  7. Liz45

    Notice how quiet the Opposition is now? And where’s SB, PATRIOT and others? All gone to ground. Gutless bunch aren’t they? This was very smelly from the beginning. It had the smell of the Libs all over it. The Telegraph is probably quiet about the two in Britain who’ve just been charged? Funny that?

  8. AR

    Goblin Wretch #2, as sussed by many on these threads for several months.

  9. Mack the Knife

    Democracy American style.

  10. izatso?

    sb and geewiz over at williamson article, their only hiding place …..

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