Malcolm Turnbull told Sky News’ David Speers he would not appear on the channel as long as Peta Credlin remained a key commentator, Australian journalist Pamela Williams has written in a behind-the-scenes piece on the Liberal campaign today.

“On June 1, a senior member of Turnbull’s staff approached David Speers at Parliament House in Canberra … It was made clear to Speers that while Sky might want to host more debates (after a first ‘people’s forum’ conducted on May 13), there would be none on Sky involving the Prime Minister so long as ­Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, ­remained on the payroll as an election commentator.

“It was a threat as clear as a sledgehammer, and taken as such. Speers immediately contacted his boss, Sky chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos. It was clear the Prime Minister’s Office regarded Credlin with deadly venom. While she was on Sky, Turnbull would not appear.”

According to the piece, Frangopoulos said he raised the matter with the prime minister’s office, and had nothing else to say.

Turnbull did participate in a debate hosted by Sky News — the first of the campaign. But he refused participation in a second, instead opting to speak to the ABC’s 7.30 that night and scheduling another Facebook debate with Turnbull did not give any one-on-one campaign interviews to Sky News during the campaign — or to any television apart from the ABC. Most of his interviews were with local radio.

Tensions between the Turnbull camp and Sky were first revealed during the campaign when the Prime Minister said Sky had issued him with a “decree” about attending the network’s people’s forum. Sky hosts dismissed this characterisation, saying it had been merely an invitation.

If Turnbull did ask Sky to sack Credlin, his actions would mirror those of Tony Abbott, who asked the editor of The Australian to sack Nikki Savva, a critic of Abbott’s government and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Credlin.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey