Dec 17, 2012

Time discrepancies and the strange lack of interest in Ashby affair

A peculiar double standard seems to apply in coverage of the Ashby affair versus the AWU scandal, with a blogger the one unveiling possible issues for Tony Abbott.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

While many in the mainstream media seemingly preferred to skip the James Ashby story over the weekend, some bloggers were a little more interested. In particular, there's an issue of when, and what, Tony Abbott knew about the impending claims about Peter Slipper by James Ashby, before they were lodged in court. AAP's Paul Osborne reported on Thursday about a discrepancy between the timing of the writing of Tony Abbott's press release and the appearance of media reports about Ashby lodging his claims. Abbott's office dismissed the discrepancy by saying there was a system flaw that meant document timestamps were out by ten hours during that period. This, inevitably, drew the attention of IT professionals. IT industry veteran Sortius proceeded to investigate the claim from Abbott's office at his blog and found some fairly substantial flaws with it. The claim that the entire APH IT system was out by ten hours appears impossible -- the system wouldn't be able to operate if that was the case -- but that more likely reflects a lay person's understanding and phrasing on the part of Abbott's spokesperson. More significantly, Sortius explains why the originating documents for Abbott's Saturday morning Slipper press release couldn't have been created at the time they were supposed to have been created. Where I disagree with Sortius is on his interpretation of this: I don't think it's a particularly major gotcha, and it's still possible that the media release could have been created on a machine with a clock out by ten hours and then emailed to a machine on the APH system. Nor does the fact that Abbott's office might have known of major revelations about Slipper the following day (after all, it seems quite a few LNP MPs or prospective MPs did) amount to evidence Abbott himself was involved in any way in what became an abuse of court processes and an attempt to politically damage Slipper via legal means. It does, however, raise questions that don't fit the explanation from Abbott's office, and on the Ashby affair there has been a persistent pattern of Coalition figures -- particularly but not only Mal Brough and Christopher Pyne -- being less than forthcoming about their role in events leading up to the lodgement of Ashby's claim. As Lenore Taylor noted on Saturday, there are some serious questions to be answered, particularly by Brough. On that basis, one would assume the mainstream media would have been anxious to clear up the issue of the timing discrepancy. After all, for months we've been treated to the minutiae of Julia Gillard's legal work 20 years ago, with ancient documents pored over, memories dredged and wild claims made. This relates to an issue not 20-years-old, but nine-months-old. But, strangely, there's been nothing. No acres of newsprint from that fine forensic mind of Hedley Thomas. No editorial from The Australian demanding Abbott and Brough allow themselves to be grilled at length. No columns in The Age from Mark Baker. No complaints from Jonathan Holmes about the ABC not following the story up. No interviews on 7.30 with discredited figures making wild allegations against Abbott and then refusing to detail them, let alone back them up. Perhaps it's the time of year and everyone's in holiday mode. But it's curious that, after so many resources were devoted this year by The Australian and The Age to unsuccessfully finding a single substantial question to raise about the Prime Minister on the AWU matter, it's a blogger that has done exactly that about Abbott on the Slipper case.

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71 thoughts on “Time discrepancies and the strange lack of interest in Ashby affair

  1. Daniel Young

    10 hours is a reasonable amount of time for a computer’s clock to be out by. Given that our timezone (in Winter) is GMT+10, it’s possible the PC clock was set to GMT.

    All that aside, it’s a real shame that the MSM seem to be ignoring the coalition’s role in this whole sad affair.

  2. Brad Sprigg

    Bernard I would suggest to have a look at Sortius’s later updates to the article, he has found some evidence that the timestamps on the file may have been altered to hide the true time the document was created.

  3. john willoughby

    The Lib/Nats are in danger of following the same path as the tea party in the U.S .
    When you dwell to long in a parallel universe reality becomes skewed.
    The tea party had Fox News the Lib/nats have News limited.
    Who knows, Rupert might save the country yet..

  4. klewso

    Who oversees/controls/mitigates/manages, sets, the agenda/flow of that “mainstream media irrig(t?)ation system”?
    Where were they when the grits were being flung at that fan?
    Where are they now? Ducked for cover?

  5. el tel

    The other issue here is that closer scrutiny fot eh Ashby affair leads to the role of Canberra press gallery figure Steve Lewis. Katherine Murphy’s column today is indicative. In an otherwise interesting piece on social media and political communications, she is careful to preface comments on Lewis’s role in the Ashby affair with “Steve is a friend of mine, and one of the most assiduous newshounds I know”. Such disclaimers towards Lewis were also routine in any discussion of this matter on Insiders.


  6. SusieQ

    Its all very predictable really and sadly, the weekends events in the USA will certainly make sure the story disappears altogether. The really rotten part is that Mal Brough will be re-elected to Parliament – I hope he gets a barrage of questions a la AWU when he does.

  7. klewso

    Our self-obsessed mainstream viewsmedia is more an impediment (an amorphous lump of aggregated detritus) to the flow of our democracy – being in it’s free-flowing way.
    “Diverting the flow of information” to suit it’s own politicised agenda.

  8. Bill Hilliger

    The last paragraph say’s it all; that’s why many people have just ceased buying or listening to the crappy MSM products and rely on blogger’s to do what the MSM fails to do – be honest and objective. May the MSM slowly sink into oblivion because given the lack of quality of the MSM product nowadays, that where it belongs.

  9. tonyfunnywalker

    Thanks Bernard there is many thinking the same – perhaps the “Coalition of Silence” is evidence of involvement? What did Lewis know?

    This was orchestrated by a PR company and its time line was synchronised to gain maximum effect in the media 24 hr cycle. The perpetrators never thought that this would get far as it did and News Ltd said so. They expected the Government and Slipper would capitulate and Ashby would be awarded millions of dollars of settlement through mediation. Their Pro Bono would end with all taking their cut and their costs recovered.

    They expected the DAVID JONES effect – of a capitulation. When mediation was out of the question and the late release of emails/texts was designed to up the ante on the Government and Slipper.

    Gillard did not take the bait and the Misogyny Speech was the outcome.

    The standard strategy and tactics of any beat up and repeated by Michael Smith et al with the sudden appearance of the key players in the AWU affair was to put added pressure on Gillard.

    Again a misjudgement it would appear from today’s Nielsen poll.

    The judge was sound in his judgement and I believe that the Government is not walking away from this is bigger than Watergate. – ( that was to ensure a new government wasn’t elected — the Slipper affair was designed to bring down a legally elected Government– a Regime Change ) — it is even more serious than the Dismissal of 1975.

    The demand for Brough’s head is only the beginning and things will ramp up prior to the new session of Parliament in February.

    The electorate is fed up with all this, but the air needs to be cleared as to who knew what and when.

    This has happened on Abbott’s watch and not 20 years ago, so memory lapses are not an excuse.

    In the meantime I assume the Select All – Delete buttons on a few email accounts will be working overtime as I can assure you nothing has been documented.

    The ball is back in Slipper’s court and if his attack on Bishop has anything to go by (the press missed this one too as did the Coalition front bench); he will be primed for settling some old and new scores with the Coalition. He has nothing to lose – they have already taken it all, except for his personal pride and dignity and they even tried to demonise that.

    Have a good Christmas Peter.

  10. Iskandar

    Please! Give this political trivial pursuits game a rest. Why did a couple of actual or would-be gay lovers exchanging wink-wink, nudge-nudge emails become an issue of obsessive national importance? It reminds me of that other trivial pursuits game, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair. A couple of consenting adults goofing around in private was elevated to a crime against the state which warranted impeachment. Well, I know the accusation was actually that Clinton “lied to the people of the United States”. Better that he should have had the courage to say “judge me by my performance as your president, and stay out of my private life”. Either way, in both cases the base purpose was blatant political assassination by opposition parties. Better to use your inquisitive mind to analyse this creeping Americanisation of Australian politics, Bernard, than splitting hairs about who knew what and when.

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