From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Spy games: Bernard Collaery’s case. One of Australia’s most ignored spying scandals may not yet be finished. Crikey understands that Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery, who is representing East Timor at the International Court of Justice over its case against Australia in relation to the Timor Sea Treaty, will not return to Australia out of concern the government will seize his passport.
As part of his evidence in the case, a former Australian Security and Intelligence Service officer last year revealed the Australian Secret Intelligence Service had used the cover of an Australian aid program in order to bug the East Timorese cabinet during negotiations over the treaty. The whistleblower was subsequently raided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, as well as having his passport seized to prevent him from travelling to the Hague to give evidence. At the same time, Collaery’s Canberra office was raided and documents seized — in effect meaning Collaery’s opponents in the Hague had access to his case notes. According to our source, Collaery has been tipped off that if he returns to Australia, he’ll be prevented from leaving again.
A clue to all this may lie in the statement made after the raids by the ever more right-leaning Attorney-General George Brandis, whose chief of staff is former ASIO head Paul O’Sullivan. Brandis rose in Parliament on December 4 and, in justifying the raids, said “merely because Mr Collaery is a lawyer, that fact alone does not excuse him from the ordinary law of the land. In particular, no lawyer can invoke the principles of lawyer-client privilege to excuse participation, whether as principal or accessory, in offences against the Commonwealth.”
It’s clear now that there was an implicit threat in those words that Collaery would be targeted for “offences against the Commonwealth” — the offences, of course, being the embarrassing revelation of a cowboy intelligence agency engaged in commercial espionage against a barely economically viable micro-state.
Yesterday, Collaery was permitted by the Senate Privileges Committee to have incorporated in Hansard his response to Brandis’ smear. His statement provides evidence of the ASIS agent’s correspondence with the then-Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell, that shows how disingenuous the current IGIS, Vivienne Thom, was when she issued a statement denying anyone had contacted her office about the matter.
Collaery’s office says he has been working from a London office and is remaining there to handle the East Timor case for the time being. Unsurprisingly, they could shed no light on the government’s intentions about his passport.
Hockey’s beer index test. Joe Hockey’s in a bit of hot water over comments that the government’s new $7 co-payment for bulk-billing GP costs less than two beers. Hockey told Chris Uhlmann on AM: “You can spend just over $3 on a middy of beer, so that’s two middies of beer to go to the doctor.” We don’t know where the dapper Treasurer is drinking, but we can’t find middies (called pots in Melbourne, or handles in Darwin) for just over $3 almost anywhere.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average price for 285ml of beer was $3.74 in 2011 (and thanks to Crikey alum-turned-Fairfax young gun Matthew Knott for doing the research). We couldn’t find a pot of Boag’s for less $4.50 in Melbourne (at Captain Melville), it’s $4.40 for a middy of Carlton or VB at PJ O’Brien’s in Sydney, and you’d shell out $5.50 for a pot of Carlton at The Windsor in Perth. We don’t know where Hockey’s doing his drinking, but if he feels like sharing Canberra’s cheap watering holes, we’re all ears …
Schoolkids heard the curse, at least. A few hours before “grubgate” blew up in the media, Crikey received this anonymous tip on the email:
“A number of Canberra schoolboys attended question time at Parliament House yesterday as part of their economics class. Apparently, it was quite enjoyable and educational, with everyone shouting and carrying on, and Clive Palmer asleep in the middle of the chaos, as has been reported widely. However, the most notable event was hearing Christopher Pyne calling Bill Shorten a cunt without censure …”
It now seems he didn’t. But a shock for the sensitive ears of those economics students, no doubt.
New and old at The Courier-Mail. Chris Dore continues to impress the right people — including in his newsroom — as editor of The Courier-Mail. Indeed, there’s whispers out of News Corporation’s Queensland bunker that bigger things are ahead — perhaps an editor-in-chief role overseeing both the Courier and its Sunday Mail sister. Circulation is holding up in Queensland, and newsroom spies report Dore’s mix of tabloid sensibilities and news sense is taking the paper in the right direction.
The editor-in-chief role has been vacant since David Fagan was unceremoniously dumped last year. Fagan has a new life as an adjunct professor at Queensland University of Technology’s Business School, has taken to Twitter with aplomb, and is offering his thoughts on the world via LinkedIn (“Today is only the third time in 31 years I haven’t spent hours (if not the whole afternoon and night) in some form of federal budget lockup,” he wrote on Wednesday). His wife, Madonna King, another News Corp refugee, has taken to filing columns for Fairfax’s Brisbane Times.
Hartigan finally lands on his feet. Speaking of media old-timers, Rupert Murdoch’s former top Australian lieutenant John Hartigan has secured the most high-profile media gig since he was forced out of Holt Street. He was named chairman of the Prime Media Group this morning, replacing founder Paul Ramsay, who died a fortnight ago. Prime is the regional affiliate for Seven West Media. “In my mind there is no person better suited or better qualified than John Hartigan to lead the board and the company into the future,” CEO Ian Audsley said. Try telling that to Rupert. In March Hartigan was made chairman of government tourism body Destination NSW.
Permanent sleep for Wake Up? Wake Up, Channel Ten’s expensive breakfast-show disaster, can’t be long for this world. Rumours today focus on a plan to ditch the seaside Manly location — which Ten spent big on — and anchor a more newsy show from Pyrmont HQ. One blogger got tongues wagging with the entirely reasonable suggestion that Matthew White — a recent recruit to Ten — might be installed as host. And TV Tonight, a reliable industry watcher, reckons he could be joined by none other than Kerri-Anne Kennerley — under a revived Good Morning Australia banner. KAK for breakfast? We’d watch that …