Correction: In Media Briefs yesterday, Crikey stated that Paul Bailey (the Fin’s new editor) was opinion editor when Mark Latham was writing his columns. He wasn’t: he was editor-in-chief of business at Fairfax at the time.

On Australian Progressives

Australian Progressives Media Officer Aaron Lee writes: Re. “Tips and rumours: Progressives in formation” (Tuesday). The events described in “Progressives in formation” haven’t influenced the outlook or strategy of the party. Ideally, these kinds of distractions wouldn’t occur, and we’ve certainly learned some valuable lessons. But we have 1365 members. Sixty-one of them are particularly active and 31 members hold official roles in the party. Any organisation of that size will experience human resources issues from time to time. What matters is how they’re handled.

When our leadership group received a complaint from a member early in the year, it undertook an investigation as per its obligations under the Constitution. The member named in the complaint was given the right to respond. Unfortunately, once it was determined that our code of ethics had been breached, we had no choice but to expel the member.

A code of ethics breach is much more than a human resources issue. Our long-term strategy requires our members to strive to conduct every discussion and every activity with utmost respect to our values: Ethics, Empathy, Equality, Evidence, Engagement and Empowerment.

We can’t expect our membership to uphold these values if we don’t. Ethics is our first value so there was no room for flexibility on this. Unfortunately in this case, the disciplinary action resulted in an unexpected retaliation from the expelled member and and that resulted in some negative press.

However, our membership continues to grow, and our active member ratio continues to improve. We have physical chapters in place or being set up across the country and we hope to field candidates in both houses this election. This momentum exists because people share our values and because they appreciate how seriously we take them. We believe our values will deliver us competitive advantage over the existing major parties, over the long term, so we can’t afford to let some short term road bumps change our outlook.

On Credlin, Savva and Abbott

Barrie Cassidy writes: Re. “Dangerous liaisons: why Savva brought up affair rumours where others feared to tread” (yesterday). It’s not true to say Piers Akerman never appeared on Insiders again after mentioning rumours Mathieson was gay. He appeared at least twice after that. He “fell off the couch” some months later when he defamed Martin Parkinson. He admitted as much in a statement on our website at the time. There was no double standard on our part. I had a go at him on air and that was it. He passed on gossip. Niki reported that a minister had gone to the PM with her concerns. Big difference.

Jock Webb writes: What I find particularly ridiculous in all this is the notion that the  private “affairs” of those in high office are not for the public and have never been so. What bilge! Have we all forgotten Ainslie Gotto and John Gorton, Junie Morosi and Jim Cairns? It is dangerous for politicians to get this close to each other, because it opens the way for blackmail, misconception or undue pressure. I do not know if Credlin and Abbott had an affair and I do not know that I care. What is truly alarming to me is the picture of Abbott being fed by Credlin and doing the head on the shoulder bit. It would be no different if the roles were reversed. That a prime minister of this country appears to have given an unelected staffer control of his life and intellect, as well as whatever common sense he is alleged to have had is most disturbing.

Richard Zachariah writes: Louise Adler’s notion that prior to the Credlin-Abbott imbroglio the sex lives of politicians have been off limits brought a wry smile across my dial. A Menzies Cabinet minister told me when I arrived in Canberra for The Age in 1966 to never forget that Parliament House offices were “fuelled by sex and booze”.

In a 1987 Channel Seven interview recorded after a speech given by the now-Mrs Hawke I broached the subject with Blanche d’Alpuget of an affair with Bob Hawke while she was writing his biography in the early 1980s. “Why was there a persistent rumour that you were having an affair with Hawke while writing his biography?” I ventured. Blanche stiffened her back and told me that was “the price a woman biographer paid for getting close to a subject” and left it at that.

After the interview I received unsparing abuse from Blanche saying, among other things, I had been disrespectful to Hazel, Hawke’s cuckolded late wife. Truth is always inconvenient in love and politics.

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Peter Fray
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