Nine years ago, a young man allegedly had consensual sex with a 15-year-old minor. The boy didn’t made a complaint to police. It’s grubby — and illegal if charged and proven — but is it news? Now? Is it the lead on the ABC’s nightly current affairs program?

It seems anything to do with former Parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper, his former adviser James Ashby, and the sewer of sexual innuendo around the pair, is worthy of a headline. There’s no bottom to this barrel.

Slipper received the claims and sent them to Queensland Police. Police are now, according to 7.30, “in the process of determining whether any person authorised to do so wishes to make a complaint”.

The court will decide Slipper’s guilt or innocence on the harassment allegations; a judge and perhaps a jury would decide on the character of Ashby. In the meantime they want us to decide who’s telling the truth.

What Slipper and Ashby are clearly guilty of already is manipulating the media to suit their cases. And journalists are happy to play along, eager to report the next sordid text message, Facebook status update and leaked dirt file.

That two servants of the public are destroying each other in the media is unfortunate. That it goes to the heart of Canberra and public trust in government — and is splashed across front pages and program promos as a result — is very unfortunate indeed.

Peter Fray

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