The Australian’s account of Operation Neath

Cameron Stewart writes: Re. ” How News Corp’s pursuit of ASIO made life harder for journalists” (yesterday). Marcus Priest’s claims made in Crikey in relation to the circumstances surrounding the publication of my story of the 2009 counter terror operation Operation Neath are false.

Priest claims that after hearing that terror raids were imminent, I was “begged, cajoled and pleaded with” by the government not to publish my story but that I “wouldn’t be swayed”.

This is a complete fabrication. As the court records show, the only conversation I had about publishing or not publishing was with the Australian Federal Police’s media officer. I told him that The Australian would not publish anything that compromised the operation but that the AFP needed to take this up with the editor Paul Whittaker who had final say on what we publish.

That is why AFP chief Tony Negus then contacted Whittaker to brief him further leading Whittaker and editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell to agree within 20 minutes of that first phone call to hold the story.

Which is precisely what we did, publishing the story five days later with the full agreement of the AFP which, by then, had briefed us on the whole story.

Priest’s then-boss, attorney-general Robert McClelland, later praised The Australian for the way it handled the issue.  Priest’s account of how the story unfolded is pure fiction.

Cui Bono?

Colin Cook writes: Re. “Crikey says: tougher lending will affect home buyers first” (yesterday). The Sydney Morning Herald reported a couple of weeks ago that, on average, MPs owned 2.5 houses each; makes the demise of negative gearing a bit unlikely. But just supposing the government announced that negative gearing would be scaled back by 20% each year starting in 2015, there would be an immediate cooling of speculative investment. Same too if the Reserve Bank was charged with controlling the cost of housing in the same was as it is charged with controlling the cost of living.

Nic Maclellan writes: Your editorial complains about “local government politicians who have allowed NIMBYism and hyperlocal politics to turn the development approval process into an ordeal for developers”.

What about the ordeal for residents, who have to navigate a planning process stacked against them? What about developers who refuse any social content in their mega-projects (such as affordable housing, open space, sustainable design, etc)? What about federal and state governments who refuse to make the necessary investment in public infrastructure, to cope with the doubling of population in inner city suburbs (parks, bike paths, child care, aged care services and more). The Victorian government is preparing to blow $8 billion plus on the East West tunnel, without releasing the business case for the project, at a time when the state requires $30 billion of public transport infrastructure to keep pace with urban densification over the next decade.

Blaming “NIMBYism” is a cheap shot, and looks a lot like blaming the victim.

Peter Fray

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